Friday, July 9, 2010

"I slept like a hippo in a pool"

picture taking
our awesome land cruiser
dinner time
humble abode
view from the campsite

We left for safari on Tuesday morning. Our guide Bonaface ‘bonny’ came to pick us up at the home and we headed towards Arusha. We had to go pick up our supplies and our cook, Jacob, in Arusha. We headed to Tarangire National Park first which is about 70 miles from Arusha. It was a pretty drive with lots of Maasai sightings on the way. We dropped Jacob off at a stop that headed towards Lake Manyara so that he could go ahead to the campsite and start our dinner.

Tarangire was really pretty and upon entering the park we saw wildebeests and zebras running across the road in front of us so we got some great pictures of them crossing the road. Apparently this is the most popular time of the year for safaris because it is the migration period of most animals in the parks. We learned that they are very often together because the zebras have good eyesight so they can tell if a predator is coming and the wildebeest provide more protection since the zebra have no defenses. We also saw some elephants really close up when we were driving by Tarangire River. There were baby elephants that the larger ones were surrounding to provide protection. We stopped for lunch at the picnic site on this cliff where we could see down to the Tarangire River and see the elephants again.

After a full day of the game drive we made our way towards Lake Manyara, where the campsite was that we stayed at. We really had no clue what to expect with it and were pleasantly surprised. It was a permanent tented campsite and our tent had 2 twin beds in there so we didn’t have to sleep on the ground in sleeping bags. It had bathrooms with running hot and cold water so we could have showered if we brought anything to do that with. Our cook, Jacob, must have thought that he was feeding 12 people because the amount of food that he brought us unreal! He didn’t speak very good English either so we couldn’t adequately express how much we liked what he had prepared so the fact that we didn’t eat everything made him think that we didn’t like it. We both pretty much had a major meltdown on the top of a mountain in a campsite that night. It was the first time that we had really had the time to sit and think about where we were and what we were doing and being able to do. It was and is still so hard to comprehend what an amazing experience we have been able to have here. It’s also just so seemingly unfair that we get the opportunities that we have just because we are from America and truly Rachel and I are rich in their eyes. At the same time though, I am so happy to be from a country that has enabled me to have the opportunity to go to Tanzania.

That night at the campsite there were a bunch of young people who were from different places and here for different reasons. As Rachel and I sat and watched soccer with everyone else around us talking we had this strange feeling that all this stuff was going on around us and that we were like invisible. We had no interest in talking to people and really just wanted to go to bed. I think it was really weird to be without the kids for the first time in 30 something days and it was the beginning of our separation from them. One thing I loved doing was looking out at the stars. Seeing a million stars always makes me think of how big and great God is. I’ve always been fascinated with stars and especially since I don’t get to see them that much in Atlanta and certainly not as many. We were concerned at first about being able to sleep outside but we were both so tired that it was no problem at all.

The following day we went to Ngorongoro Crater National Park. We were supposed to leave pretty early because it was going to be the longest drive and the longest day because there was so much to see. When we got to the rim of the crater we realized how cold it was! It was also super foggy, we couldn’t even see when cars were driving towards us, and it was crazy! We saw a lot of Maasai herding their cattle or goats on the way. We also learned that they are allowed to bring the herds into the crater during the day to graze (which I don’t know why you would want to do that when there is essentially every predator there). They have to take them out of the crater at the end of the day though. As the clouds and fog began to lift when we got to the bottom of the crater we saw our first cheetah. It was just laying about 150 feet off the road and thankfully our guide is awesome and can spot animals from a far because there is no way I would have been able to see it due to the fur matching the grass. I can safely say that being down there it was the prettiest place I have ever been. The combination of the different ecosystems; the forest, the grassland, the lakes, the streams, the lush, and the bare. It was incredible. It was also deceptively large. You could always see the entire outside edge of the crater and it looked like you could be there in a minute when actually it was so large.

We went to the hippo pool and saw a baby hippo as well. It was so funny looking! I don’t think I have ever actually seen a hippo as an adult. I probably saw one as a child in the zoo but not in a long time. They are funny animals, they just lay in the water and sometimes they would roll over and they would use the bathroom in the pools as well.

Biggest news of the whole trip to the crater was that we finally saw lions, which was my whole reason for wanting to go on safari in the first place. I LOVE lions! They are the most fascinating animals to me. They are beautiful and look so sweet but are essentially the greatest predator in the crater. We only saw females, because likely the males were all being lazy and hiding in the bush somewhere. That was ok though, as long as I saw a lion. They were just stunning!

The place we ate lunch at by another hippo pool was beautiful as well. It was on this hill and we were forced to eat in the car because apparently there were these birds that would steal your food and unless we were willing to fight for it then it was best that we ate in the car.

After we ate lunch we saw 2 more lions lying in the grass watching an entire herd of zebra and wildebeest. It was crazy how close we were to them and how they were essentially just doing what they always do. After that we saw some water buffalo and another cheetah. During the day we also saw a hyena, gazelles, monkeys, and lots of different birds.

That night at the campsite we had another delicious dinner prepared by Jacob, and had possibly the funniest night at the dinner table ever. We had decided that since we felt bad about the night before that we would eat every single bit of food that he prepared for us. Since we both seemed to not like everything we would trade for eating entire plates of food. Rachel was very tired of eating carrots and I had no desire to eat rice so we decided that I would eat all the carrots and she was going to eat all the rice. I don’t think I have ever been more full in my entire life. We both stuffed ourselves so full of food! There was also the hilarity of the largest bug we have ever seen flying around and being a suicide bomber towards our table. After gorging ourselves on so much food and from the long day we decided to go to bed early so we would be bright and cheerful for our last day of the safari.

The final day of the safari was Lake Manyara National Park. It is famous for tree climbing lions (though we didn’t see any). It was a great park for seeing the animals closer than in the crater. We saw lots of giraffes, elephants, hippos, gazelles, baboons, impalas, dik dik’s, and monkeys. We did see 2 lions that wanted to go after baby giraffes and there was a standoff of sorts that we did get to see. The lions were behind the bush and there were 2 huge male giraffes that were standing directly facing the lions and essentially they were having a staring contest. The 2 baby giraffes that they were interested in were being protected by their mothers in a semi-circle a little further away. As soon as the lion got up and began walking in the direction of the baby giraffes, the large males began walking towards the lion. Nothing actually happened but it was really awesome to be so close to this showdown of sorts between the animals, especially animals that I never see.

After we left the park we headed back to the home. It was the last night that we were going to have in the home because we left the next morning to go to Zanzibar.

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