#2 of the Africa Top 5 Most Memorable Moments is a sharp contrast to the beauty and serenity of the courting flamingos. But in its exoticness, it's hard to beat!
The Masai (or Maasai) are a warrior tribe living in Kenya and Tanzania. They live in mud huts and spend most of their time grazing cattle. Their wealth is measured in cows; the more cows you own, the richer you are. They subsist almost entirely on the meat, milk, and blood from their cattle, drinking blood directly from their cows and goats. Our guide arranged for us to watch the blood-drinking ritual.
Five or six Maasai men wrangle a cow and hold it in place. The blood will be taken from the jugular vein of the neck, so a tourniquet is tied above this vein.
One of the warriors then shoots a very sharp-tipped arrow directly into the jugular vein (above). It was kind of like the way a phlebotomist would insert a needle into a human's arm to do a blood draw.
When the arrow is pulled out, blood gushes out of the vein and is collected in a bucket. It looked like they got at least a gallon of blood from this animal.
When they were done, they smeared a bit of cow dung over the wound to stop the flow, and the cow was released. Just like with a human blood donation, this cow will not be bled again for the next 4-6 weeks.
When they offered us a sip, how could I resist? Yes, three or four of us tourists joined them in the blood-drinking.
Photos of me taken by Ian
I know I'm looking kind of bug-eyed in these photos, but it actually wasn't that bad. It was very thin and bland. It tasted just like human blood. (Not that I'm in the habit of drinking human blood. But if you've ever cut your lip or had a tooth bleed, you know the taste). There was actually very little taste as I was drinking it, but for several minutes afterwards I had strong blood aftertaste.
If you saw Survivor Africa a couple seasons ago, you might recall that this was one of the challenges on that show. So this was good practice for when I get on Survivor...
The blood-drinking was followed by some milk porridge (above), with fresh milk straight from a cow being boiled together with (I think?) some cornmeal. It tasted a little better than the blood, but it was very hot, so I didn't drink too much of it. Sometimes, the Masai mix the milk and the blood together to make a blood milkshake.
OK. Go ahead. Bring on the EEEEWWWWWWW THAT'S DISGUSTING I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU DID THAT comments....
I have lots more to say about the Masai, in future entries. Such as why they are a feminist's nightmare...