National Geographic : 2009 Dec
provoke them. e Hadza are armed with bows and arrows. I have a pocketknife. We move higher. Maduru and I break out of the undergrowth and onto the rocks. I feel as though I ve emerged from beneath a blanket. ere is a sickle of moon, a breeze. We are near the summit---the top is just over a stack of boul- ders, maybe 20 feet above our head. e baboon tree is up there, barely out of eyesight. en I hear it---a crazed screeching sound. e baboons are aware that something is amiss. e sound is piercing, panicked. I do not speak baboon, but it is not di cult to interpret. Go away! Do not come closer! But Maduru clambers farther, up onto a at rock. I follow. e baboons are surrounded, and they seem to sense it. Abruptly, there s a new sound. e crack of branches snapping overhead. e baboons are descending, shrieking. Maduru freezes, drops to one knee, slides an arrow into position, pulls back the bowstring. He is ready. I m hiding behind him. I hope, I fervently hope, that no baboons run at us. I reach into my pocket, pull out my knife, unfold it. e blade is maybe two inches long. It feels ridiculous, but that is what I do. e screeching intensi es. And then, directly over us, in stark silhouette against the backdrop of stars, is a baboon. Scrambling. Moving along the rock s lip. Maduru stands, takes aim, track- ing the baboon from le to right, the arrow slot- ted, the bowstring at maximum stretch. Every muscle in my body tenses. My head pulses with panic. I grip my knife. T he chief reason the Hadza have been able to maintain their lifestyle so long is that their homeland has never been an inviting place. e soil is briny; fresh water is scarce; the bugs can be intolerable. For tens of thousands of years, it seems, no one else wanted to live here. So the Hadza were le alone. Recently, however, escalating population pressures have brought a camp. Maduru is a solid outdoorsman, an especially good honey nder, but something of a Hadza mis t. When a natural snakebite rem- edy was passed around camp, Maduru was le out of the distribution. is upset him greatly, and Onwas had to spend an hour beside him, an arm slung avuncularly over his shoulder, calming him down. M aduru is the one who assumes respon- sibility for me during the nighttime baboon quest. As we move through the bush, he snaps o eye-level acacia branches with thorns the size of toothpicks and repeatedly checks to make sure I m keeping pace. Onwas leads us to the hill where he d seen the tree full of baboons. Here we stop. erearehandsignals,some clipped chatter. I m unsure of what is going on--- my translator has remained back at camp. e hunt is only for men. But Maduru taps me on the shoulder and motions for me to follow. e other hunters begin fanning out around the base of the hill, and I tail Maduru as he plunges into the brush and starts to climb. e slope seems practically vertical---hands are required to haul yourself up---and the thickets are as dense as Brillo pads. Thorns slice into my hands, my face. A trickle of blood oozes into my eye. We climb. I follow Maduru closely; I do not want to become separated. Finally, I understand. We are climbing up, from all sides, toward the baboons. We are try- ing to startle them, to make them run. From the baboons perch atop the hill, there is no place to go but down. e Hadza have encircled the hill; therefore, the baboons will be running toward the hunters. Possibly toward Maduru and me. Have you ever seen a baboon up close? ey have teeth designed for ripping esh. An adult male can weigh more than 80 pounds. And here we are, marching upward, purposely trying to A rugged life in the bush shows on the face of Mokoa, a skilled hunter. The striking genet-tail headdress could be a flourish to impress outsiders, or it may be a local fad---Hadza aren't immune to fashion.