Sock it to me, sock it to me…
Looking back on our African Adventure, it is hard to grasp its fullness, its essence, in one short piece. After all, Africa is a wonder of contrasts, great expanses of pristine beauty sporadically punctuated by pockets of extreme poverty. Yet, one senses an indomitable spirit of its people; a cheerfulness that belies a hard life lived every day.
Harder yet is to pull out those precious moments which make up the sum of the whole and underscore them. I mean let’s face it; there was no shortage of great moments and lots of laughs to go with them. But, what the hell. Let’s see what went on and take it from the top.
In Arusha, where we all gathered to begin our journey, we got our first real taste of the safari experience. No, it wasn’t just our exciting first day of sightings in the bush which included Bush Bucks, Zebras, Buffalos, Giraffes, Warthogs, Hippos, and Baboons, doing what Baboons do best – Monkey love, what else. That first full day was in fact capped off at dinner that night, at Rivertrees Country Inn when we heard some memorable story telling. Yup! Holly telling us about her weird dating experiences. Now there’s adventure.
Holly’s hilarious descriptions defied logic and we were all practically on the floor laughing our asses off. In that moment I think we all knew or felt that this was going to be one hell of a safari, and that the members of our group didn’t take themselves too seriously. This can be a good thing for a close knit group. Details of Holly’s story, of course, have been suppressed to protect the guilty. Anyway, I note this because in a way it set the tone for the rest of the trip.
The next day, while on the way to Tarangire National Park, we were entertained by Laurel who had a few love-life stories of her own. I believe it was Kendra, Diane, Laurel and myself who were in one of the Land Rovers. Marco, who always looked a little grim, was driving. Or was it Kisali? Possibly Peter was in our vehicle as well. Anyway, the long drive went fast and even the bad roads were taken in stride as we laughed our way along. Again, no details of Laurel’s story will be divulged here. This is not Hollywood Confidential.
Our stay at the Plantation Lodge for two nights was certainly a highlight. I had to teach the bartender how to make a whiskey sour, which I believe he is adding to his repertoire. The lodge was a beautiful, friendly place and frankly if we’d stayed there for the rest of the time I would not have been terribly unhappy. I know the whiskey sours could have been perfected.
However, Suyan camp was nothing to sneeze at. Set on a plateau in the midst of trees, rolling green hills, and vast valleys it seemed to me to be the pinnacle of tent living. Our tents looked like they were set up by the Ritz Carlton. The showers were a trip though.
I think I should note here Africa’s obsession with cold toast, and hard eggs that were supposed to be soft. Just a sidebar. Nothing to be concerned about in the universe. Hakuna Matata. Anyway, the coffee was always good. It was even hot. And the food throughout was generally spectacular, though the box lunches seemed a little tired at times. And an honorable mention for desserts.
On day four we saw a family of lions, and a small herd of elephants. Also popular were Warthogs (cute little guys), Gazelles by the zillions, and spotted Hyenas.
Another major highlight was our trek to the painted gorge with Lucas, and our Masaai warrior guide, not Lamaji. The other one- Kalinga? I believe we walked some seven kilometers. Along the way we passed Masaai bomas, and warriors tending to their herds, mostly cattle, some goats, and donkeys. This was the second such trek in two days. On the first one, which was with Lamaji we visited a boma and haggled with a Masaai woman to purchase a jeweled gourd. She was tough. Driving back to the camp across grassy savannahs, down gullies and up steep hillsides was an adventure all on its own. More laughter as we bounced around. It seemed like everyone was a comedian as we shared these experiences.
Another spectacular highlight was hearing the guides sing their traditional songs at one of our sundowner events, and our group countering with the Hokey Pokey. Everyone got into the act. The course line included Holly, who came up with just the right song and joined by Maureen, Joan, Kendra, Priscilla, Peter, Fred, Mike, the Masaai Warrior, Lucas, and Diane. What a show!
We ended the safari with our last two days in the vast Serengeti. Saw a family of Cheetahs lounging on a plateau of rocks, and few Lions in a another location as we crossed the plain. Herds of Wildebeests roamed adjacent to the road and of course Gazelles everywhere.
Ah yes, as the sun sets in the west we bid adieu to Africa. In the final analysis, against the wonderful sights, sounds and even smells of Africa, the group itself was the highlight. There was a special, unspoken camaraderie that I think we all felt at the end of the trip. And I know for Joan and I we made some new friends.
Highlights from Fellow Sojourners:
Getting off of the airplane on African soil again and breathing a huge sigh of relief at being back …long, luxurious massages—the figure-eight on my chest and flashing the local Rotarians …waking up to the call to prayer …17 giraffe in one veld …hearing about Holly’s dating adventures nearly killed me …16 lions in one day …fly camp—the fire, the stars, the mirror banging against the tent all night long, hiking to the Maasai boma the next day …late nights star gazing and talking about life …sundowners atop the mountain with the giraffe, zebra and wildebeest silhouetted against the horizon, the guides and staff singing, clapping and smiling, and Laurel’s wine going down as smooth as silk …swallowing a fly on the game drive (“flies are nature’s croutons.”) …the Hokey Pokey and catching peanuts in our mouths …dead wildebeests stuck in the mud—like someone froze time …American Maasai—or is it Maasai Gaucho?! …the great Kisalini …learning to swear in Swahili …spotting a leopard in the distant tree line only to have it joined by its mate and retire to the tall grass for some privacy …saying goodbye on the airstrip …laughing each day until I actually cried …watching the boats at sunrise with Priscilla in Zanzibar …the Kempinski—with no Peter.
Driving down into the primordial bowl (Ngorongoro Crater), seeing the mix of animals, and recognizing everything we saw had been going on for more millenniums than I could count. Seeing birth – life – death makes one acutely aware of life’s cycle in the most basic form.
Absolutely fascinating seeing the myriad of animal life forms, everything out in the open. There was no hidding for the hunters nor the hunted.
The huge open space took my breath away — as far as one could see in all directions, no buildings, wires, or any signs of modern human life. Walking with the Maasai was walking in history and present day all at once.
The most emotional trip I have taken: tearful joy at seeing the animals at home; tearful sadness when leaving the Serengeti — flying away from wonderful new friends, the fabulous people of Africa. I went to Africa to see the animals and countryside of Africa, I left knowing the true beauty of Africa are the people.
I went for the animals, what made the trip was the people.
Dust, so much dust.
Coffee served in the tent
Sunset conversation at the Fly Camp
Hill-top birthday bash
Walking with Maasai
Bonding with Peter over “Stoney Tangawizi”
Great S. African wines…Amarula
“Checking the tires”
“We are not stopping for any more freakin’ birds…”
And, of course, buns up kneeling.
What stood out to me was my run, through the countryside peppered with everything from zebras to lions, with a Masai Warrior! From the cross-cultural stretching exercise before we took off, which set the tone for “white man geek meets powerful warrior”, to finishing a few steps behind the warrior after four miles, it was one of those experiences of a lifetime. Knowing that there were predators (to me) behind every corner was enough impetus to stay closely behind the warrior, except on two occasions where I could not keep up towards the top of the hills where the warrior seemed to defy gravity.
Lore has it that lions are afraid of the Masai since (and this is not lore) Masai are not afraid of lions or killing lions when they need to. So, from the rear I followed VERY closely behind the red-clad warrior, armed only with a knife and club, as he leaped over stones and small bushes, across streams and over the vleis of our run. I remember thinking how pathetic I was in my expensive running shoes barely keeping up with this skinny warrior running in sandals. Needless to say, I would not be writing this had we been attacked and instead it was quite memorable running past the beautiful scenery of Tanzania, the wildlife under a dark blue and cool Tanzania sky. It is a memory never to fade with time.
I really think that Laurel’s “Buns Up” quote was my verbal highlight.
Are all Mom’s as nice and tolerant as Diane? Mine wasn’t.
Adding to Kendra’s exclusive libation list: Perfect Sundowner -Gordon’s Gin (Hemingway’s brand) and tonic. $9 a fifth at you local liquor store.
New Birthday serenade- “Cutty the Cakey”. Thanks to all for a great birthday, especially the fabulous Ms –P-
Last day Nirvana- Air Conditioning at the Kia Lodge.
Dr. Frank, the Gasman, and his wife were definitely M.A.S.H characters. Bigger then life personalities doing great work.
What was really going on during those so-called massages?
The Bay Area couples (Joan/Mike, Maureen/Mike) brought a fine sense of refinement (normalcy) as well as experienced cocktail hour participation.
Peter Macy “Honey, is it possible for us to have a bed at the next lodge.”
Fred “It was hard to convince the Maasai that alcohol, fruits and vegetables could produce such a well rounded body.”
Banana plantation lunch- Tasty and the rest of my pharmaceuticals were utilized.
Secret’s out– Martina and I have been carrying on over the internet. Who knows, I may be managing Rivertrees Country Inn next season. Ah nothing quite like a full bodied Germanic women. Remember Marlena Dietrich?- a few of us do.
Nice Rivertrees story- On my last day, I stopped at the Rivertrees on my way into Arusha to see if I had left my ultra light raingear and sure enough they had it in housekeeping and were glad I returned to pick it up.
Nicer story- On my extra day in Arusha, I was guided around by Herman. After high school in Arusha he had no money and was waiting tables. He was interested in studying nature, wildlife and becoming a guide. While waiting tables, an Australian tourist was impressed with Herman’s attitude and asked him about his life. Herman told him his dreams and the short of it is that the Australian paid Herman’s full three year costs of $12,000 for his advanced education. Herman (32) hopes to marry soon and go on to a master’s degree. I gave him a $20 tip. The dollar doesn’t go very far these days.
The French will never be the same after Holly’s thoughtful gesture. I’m sure other’s have documented and commented on Ms Holly’s Ostrich interpretation. Mike’s video will become a “rite of spring.”
Once again Priscilla organized an amazing trip with a classic group of people! I’m soooo glad I was the baby and boy did I learn a lot!
I had to quickly turn my “oh just another zebra” attitude upside down as to not be a buzzkill to Maureen and Mike. Mom snored like a hippo and I’m still catching up on my beauty sleep. Kendra tried to get me to give Elissa my camera, she’s so manipulative. I really miss those ginger snaps and am bummed I was not able to effectively “seal the deal” with either/both Ethan and Gian at Suyan Camp. –Laurel
Some of my favorite things: First sight of lions, so close;
Ngorongoro Crater at dawn – our Garden of Eden;
School children miming the Giraffe Song;
Camp Suyan, with fly camp and trekking;
Wide-eyed Maasai kids, inspecting our forearms;
The Tanzanian people, hospitable and kind;
New friends, laughs and being in Holly’s speed-dial support group.
-the variety of accommodations we experienced
-the wonderful “garden house” at Plantation Lodge
-the great massages by Amina in Arusha
-Laurel kicking her leg over Holly’s head (twice) while dancing at the campfire
-having a different combination of people in the various vehicles for each day’s adventure
-sundowners at Suyan… especially for Fred’s birthday; nothing better than watching the sun set over the plains of Africa with a 360 degree view, giraffe passing by, and a great group of people with which to celebrate life and the beauty of this land
-walking at Suyan… with the zebra, wildebeest and gazelle around us and a Maasai guiding us
-seeing the new born gazelle
-the large herds of wildebeest, gazelle and zebra and the wildebeest lining up and snorting at the pride of lions
-the many giraffe that we saw, especially at the sunset hour when the lighting was so warm and they appeared so peaceful
-the outstanding group we had! Our group trips are designed for “fun, flexible, adventurous souls” and that’s definitely what we gathered for this trip; thank you to all of you for your enthusiasm, your interest in the wildlife, the culture and the places we visited, being down to earth and having a great “go with flow” attitude, and for all the laughter!