A Place with no Name

23 December 2010

Three days ago we drove into an area that doesn't even have a name. And I don't mean in the old explorer's definition of "discovery," claiming and naming something which local people have known for centuries. I mean a place which is nameless, locally and otherwise. Not to say that no one has ever been there, but even so, whoever it was didn't stay long enough to name it.

We were driving through some thick miombo woodland (Katavi is protected partly because of this valuable habitat type) trying to follow what might have once been a road or something, when we started to see a lightening of shadows ahead. You know that subtle change that tells you you're approaching open space, like driving toward the ocean. Then, not only was there open space, but we were sitting on a ridge looking down into it. A huge plain with zebra and eland grazing, warthogs kneeling, prancing, wallowing, and a single, rare Lichtenstein's hartebeeste strolling through the midst of it all. This plain was spectacular, surrounded on all sides by woodland, making it a sort of giant but hidden clearing.

No one had a name for it. The maps don't have a name for this place either. We even consulted our old map called "The Original Villages of the Pimbwe in 1927" that lists all the place names in Katavi when small bands of hunter-gatherers roamed the area before it became a national park. Nothing. It was a very great day. It was very Livingstonesque, a taste of what the old explorers of the continent must have felt on a daily basis.

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