Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Tanzania, March 2011

My heart sank as we drove through Arusha on our first morning in Tanzania. I was reminded of Caribbean shanty towns, only dirtier and, somehow, much more "foreign".

Apparently, I grew new eyes, because two weeks later, it no longer looked dirty or "foreign". :-)
Though there were moments I felt homesick for the familiar comforts of my home, and was actually ready to go home after two weeks, I would not have wanted to miss the thrill of seeing the first cheetah, the fist monkeys, the first, the second and...they just kept coming! Lions lying in the road, oblivious to being surrounded by jeeps of sightseers...magnificent, and yet behaving like contented domestic cats. There's so much magic in seeing animals in the wild, protected! I think it's fear which makes them...and us....screwy and, often, mean.

Visiting the Maasai boma was a most interesting part of the trip. The Maasai man has been all but worshiped by their many wives who do the work of the household. Those who have been converted to Christianity now take only one wife, and as a single wife, all the work falls on her, including the building of the hut. So, I chuckle, Christianity has made the Maasai's life harder.

wanted to be a good sport and help my group plaster a hut with mud and cow-dung, but was in danger of throwing up. It's not like the women needed our help. Our being expected to put our hands in poop must have either been someone's idea of a "cultural experience" or a joke on the tourists. The Maasai sang and sang and then danced with us...men with men, and women with women, and at the end of our visit, laid out their jewelry for us to buy. Nothing was priced, a lump price negotiated by our group leader in Swahili.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tanzania, March 2011

Elephants have impressive ears! They also have an impressive social structure. There is always at least one "look-out", the matriarch and the next oldest. The young are kept in between the large ones and watched closely.

My favorite animals were the zebras, I think. Elegant, peaceful, and...in this close-up...funny. They fascinated me, as the striping is different on each and every one! And, they were plentiful! Alone or, usually, in small or large groups...frequently with other animals. They rest their heads on each other and I saw several clusters of 4, each resting its head on the other's rear in a big group hug! The two you see in the distance were by a lake of pink flamingos at the Ngogora Crater.

I try to travel without expectations, but don't have enough control over my mind to keep it from not conjuring up anything at all. I imagined Tanzania to be mostly barren, dusty... but even the vast expanses of the Serengeti had ever changing vegetation and kept my interest. I found it magical. All of it!
And animals in their natural habitat, unafraid.....all beautiful and absolutely perfect. Warthogs, hyenas cleaning up a kill, ostriches kick-boxing.....all beautiful. I was filled with a sense of wonder and awe as well as deep yearning for safety and freedom for ALL creatures of the world.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tanzania, March 2011

Everyone of us enjoyed the visit to Njiapanda Primary School in the village of Karatu. I attempted reading in Swahili, bringing smiles and then laughter. We watched in amazement as the children, lined up in orderly rows, quietly and efficiently received a snack of hot porridge. The older children helped the younger ones and no one complained. One even stopped to tie my shoelaces for me! We ended our visit by teaching a fifth grade class to do the Hokey-Pokey.

I loved seeing so many monkeys! At the entrance to one of the parks the monkeys were so cheeky that someone in my group lost her picnic lunch to one. Rangers tried their best to keep them away from people by throwing rocks at them. They also kept a close eye on us, or I might have gotten myself in trouble. I would gladly have shared my lunch!

There were so many giraffes that when someone in our group said "giraffe, 3 o'clock!", it required some self-control to keep from saying "Sooo?"

Whether solitary or in groups, giraffes looked like extra-terrestrials towering over most trees.

Huge termite mounds dotted the landscape. These offer homes to some of the smaller creatures.

Our accommodations in lodges were beautiful, and dining was informal yet elegant. There were organic vegetable gardens and manicured lawns.

The tropical appearance reminded many of my group of 16 travelers of Hawaii.

I did not care for our tent accommodations in the Serengeti where we spent 4 damp nights. There was a flush (well, some of the time, anyway) toilet and showers were possible (5 gallon buckets of warm water). I think everyone tried showering once, at least...deciding after that one experience that it was too cold, too damp, or just too much trouble.

Everything was comfortable enough, but I just have never been much of a camper! I appreciate comfort! The meals, served in a separate large tent, were amazing, though, and so were the evening views!

Cape Buffalo and elephants were in plain sight of our camp, and we could hear, but not see many others.

While in the Serengeti, we witnessed the wildebeest migration. Our trip leader estimated that over a period of two days, about 800,000 wildebeests had gone through. It is not an ever moving herd, although from a distance it looks somewhat like a moving train. Wildebeests stop and start, grazing and even playing in between moving on. The migrating wildebeests are sporadically flanked by zebras....I was unable to find out why. The zebras did seem to get along well with everyone!

I found the people I encountered in Tanzania to be friendly and helpful. They also had a good sense of humor and plenty of patience.

The roads are narrow and once out of the national parks, very crowded. Cars pass within inches of each other, but I never saw a discourteous or impatient driver. We Americans, by contrast, have many melt-downs. We need some of that "Hakuna Matata" (no worries) spirit.

Our trip leader and drivers

Two days of travel going and again when coming home wasn't nearly as difficult as I had expected. It's a matter of mind-set. Hakuna Matata! Now, I can travel anywhere.