Day 132, Wed, Sept 13, 2000 – Since we had to get
up early for the flight to Zanzibar, I set the alarm for 5:30 to try to see the
sunrise over the Indian Ocean. I
then surprised myself and actually got up.
I went out past the pool to the beach but unfortunately it was very
overcast and instead of a bright spot on the horizon there was the gradual
change of black to dark blue to gray. I
decided to swim anyway. The water
was just right for a brisk wake up and I swam out to a pontoon platform and got
a wonderful look at the beach from there. Just
then it started to rain – it felt great being a part of nature, getting soaked
just like the palm trees on shore.
We took a taxi to the nearly empty airport and ran into Richard and Joanna again. It was pretty funny – they had been staying in Diani Beach south of Mombassa. The flight was short and we shared a taxi with them and an Israeli couple into the Stone Town. We didn't have the heart to talk politics with them since they were on vacation. The taxi parked and we checked out a few hotels in the area (with the help of several local “tourist guides” who gather in town waiting for taxis to arrive) before settling on Blue Ocean Hotel, a small converted house with heavy carved door and wood beam ceilings. It must be owned by Muslims because there is a sign at reception saying “unmarried guests will not be entertained” and “no alcohol is allowed in the room” (we were guilty on both counts). Incidentally, Lonely Planet also said that shorts, bare shoulders, bathing suits and kissing in public would be severely frowned upon. Anyway, we got the best room – on the top floor in a separate building by itself like a little guesthouse. It had three beds with mosquito nets, eight shuttered windows and a corner converted to a shower that dripped sort-of-hot water. The views over the stone houses, mosques and alleyways were wonderful. We changed some money and had an excellent fresh seafood lunch at the Dolphin Restaurant, then went exploring. The narrow crumbling alleyways and twisting roads reminded us of medieval Europe – like Venice without the water. Every turn was a surprise of beautiful kids in Muslim scarves or hats, vendors with carts of various goods, spice markets, colorfully robed women, tiny gardens surrounded by “coral rag” stone walls, and exotically carved wooden doors. The doors are a Zanzibar specialty – famed as status symbols for the wealthy. The bigger, brassier, more elaborately carved the door – the more successful and important the resident of the house (not much different from the 21st century).
Unfortunately, much wealth was brought to Zanzibar by the slave trade, as it became the primary supply and departure point for caravans into the interior of the continent and the market for exported slaves to Arabia and Asia. English missionaries like Livingston fought the trade on religious and moral grounds while politicians fought it on economic grounds before it was finally abolished in Zanzibar in 1873. We visited the sight of the old slave market, with its dank dungeon (complete with leg chains) where they were kept until led to the auction block. In 1877 the United Mission to Central Africa built a church over the market, with the high altar placed over the site of the “whipping post” used to determine the value of a slave (the more the captive cried out, the lower the price became). The slave history in Zanzibar is very moving, but what is most important to understand is that slavery is not confined to musty monuments and history books. The trade is unfortunately still alive and well in many parts of the world. The church also contains a wooden cross made from a branch of the tree under which Livingston’s heart was buried when he died in the bush in Zambia (the rest of his body is buried in Westminster Abbey alongside other British heroes). Outside the church is a moving statue commemorating the slave market that once stood there. Our guide, Joseph, was excellent. He offered the following comments:
"Education and jobs – we are a very poor country and this is the only way to improve our condition."
the sun was setting we went to the waterfront on the west side of town.
views of the distinctive triangle-sailed dhows plying the waves against the red
sky were evocative of the city’s incredible history.
At night, the area by the fort comes alive with dozens of food vendors
grilling seafood and deep-frying potatoes and vegetables over open fires.
We had delicious grilled kingfish skewers for 1,000 shillings (US$1.25).
Day 133, Th, Sept 14, 2000 – Breakfast was pretty good, considering
it was included in the $20 room rate. We decided to try the famed scuba
diving on this side of the island. We took a boat out about 30 minutes,
where I dived a small tugboat shipwreck and Naomi snorkeled the shallow reefs
had lunch of egg rolls and samosas bought on shore, then had a second uneventful
reef dive. We were somewhat disappointed because the dive shop did not
provide a guide or lead diver to show us the dive site – naturally we got lost
and saw nothing but sand for a while. Back on shore we took a long walk
along the shore to the old dispensary, along creek road with its colorful local
markets, to a neighborhood girls basketball game, then back through Stone Town.
The sights are exotic at every turn, from amazing colorful silk dresses to
wrought iron balconies, to fragrant spice shops. By sunset, we made it to
the Africa House Hotel for the famous “sundowner” cocktail with every other
mzungu (whitey) in town. It was odd seeing them all together in one place
since we saw maybe two others
all day long. We went down to the seaside for dinner again, but this time
I tried the “Zanzibar Pizza” – an apparent specialty of at least six of
the food stalls. It’s made in about ten seconds with smashed down dough,
spicy ground beef, sliced vegetables, mayonnaise, butter, and a raw egg, all
mixed together before being folded over and thrown on the grill for browning.
We highly recommend it, with some spicy red sauce and salad.
Good world news today:
the previous “deadline” the Palestinians had for unilaterally
declaring their nation came and went yesterday.
They have apparently had second thoughts about the reaction they would
get from the world community. I
suppose there is a glimmer of hope left for peace.
Day 134, Fri, Sept 15, 2000 – Today
we joined the famous (so says the proprietor) “Mr. Muti’s Original Spice
Tour”. We wanted to see a bit
more of the island and learn something in the process
and we were not disappointed.
We started at the ruins of the Omani Sultan’s pleasure palace of
Maruhubi. Our guide, Raj, told us about the 99 “wives” in the
Sultan’s harem. He frolicked
beside them here with swimming pools, baths and massages - all with the blessing
of his “official” wife as long as all of his children from the others were
kept as slaves too. Raj explained
the two derivations of the name Zanzibar – “island of black people in
chains” (Arabic) and “bowl of fruit and spices” (local).
We stopped at an incredible palm tree that grew in a corkscrew after
being struck by lightning, then continued to the interior where we stopped
several times to learn about the local plant sources of some of the
common spices and ingredients we take for granted when bought at the
supermarket: cinnamon, nutmeg, coriander, sesame, pepper, cardamom, and curry.
Medicine was also well represented as we were shown the natural
treatments for cold, flu, rashes, headache, toothache, and malaria (quinine).
Ironically, the same papaya seeds cure diarrhea when dried and constipation when
wet (or is it the other way around?). We
also saw natural aloe, makeup, clothes dye, rope, basket materials and the
all-important clove (Zanzibar controls 75% of the world market).
Then came the fruits: banana, pineapple, cassava, sweet lime, star apple,
papaya, jackfruit, durian, avocado, and mandarin.
Raj showed us the odd paradoxes of the cocoa tree, which produces a
bitter bean used to make a sweet drink (after roasting and adding sugar) and the
coffee bean which is sweet and
used to make a bitter drink (after roasting and grinding).
The amount of information was overwhelming, but was entertaining at the
same time – especially with the taste samples.
Anyone interested in cooking or eating (as we are) would be amazed.
After the tour we had a delicious lunch prepared on the spice farm which
included many of the ingredients we had just learned about.
We then headed for the coast through beautiful palm plantations and
visited a coral cave that some say housed slaves prior to their auction, and
relaxed on the beach at Mungapwani for an hour.
I traded some shells with two local boys fishing off the rocks.
They were talking to me, but I suspect they were more interested in the
girls in swimsuits nearby which they don’t get to see very often.
On the drive back, the mud and stick houses and scrap wood
shacks were much like those in the Kenyan countryside.
We saw a group of kids playing modified soccer with a coconut.
in Stone Town, we bought our tickets to Arusha, cancelled tomorrow’s scuba
dive and watched the sun set from the porch swing at the ritzy Serena Hotel (the
prices here – room and food – are ridiculous, so e “smuggled” in some
ice cream from the new Italian gelato restaurant up the street. It was great, but not quite as good as Italy).
We had great grilled fish on the seafront again, this time washed down
with the local sugarcane concoction. They
take long green
canes, beat them with a stick and press it over and over through hand-cranked
rollers as the white frothy juice trickles into a bucket below.
They yell something like “juicia mua” at the crowd, then a strainer
and a twist of lemon later it is a delicious fresh sweet refresher.
Afterward we followed the advertising flyers to the “beach party” at
Pichy’s Restaurant hoping to hear some good reggae or African music.
Unfortunately only 5 people were there and they didn’t seem to be music
fans. That was fine since we get
more local atmosphere at the waterfront anyway.
Day 135, Sat, Sept 16, 2000 – Since
we cancelled the dive trip, we had the whole day to wander around getting lost
in the historic sights and exotic corners of Stone Town. We went in the old Arab Fort that previously guarded the port
and the lucrative trading center. There
was a great art gallery full of batik, oil and watercolor paintings.
We liked many of the pieces, but did not want to travel with them (or
spend any more money). We talked to the manager (and artist), Japonen who said:
be together and to find time to solve problems for all, not just for one.
It is difficult in Africa now because some have and some have not, and it
is easy for those that have not to see the others. Technology should be
used to benefit all, not just put people out of work."
Next to the fort is the old Sultan’s palace, the “House of Wonders”. It was the first building in East Africa with electricity and modern plumbing. It also had the most elaborate carved doors in town that included phrases from the Koran. Outside was an impressive craft market where Naomi looked around while I interviewed some of the vendors:
Salem: "To help other people in life – Africans, white people, it doesn’t matter."
Mahud: "To be healthy and successful in our life and
to reduce the level of apathy in the world."
We continued through the town to the history museum.
It is small and somewhat musty, but it contains fascinating exhibits on
the colonial period, the slave trade, the clove industry
European explorers. It even has
some of Livingston’s letters and his actual medicine chest. After lunch with our friend James Taylor (a different one), I
wrote for a bit, then we watched kids playing beach soccer at sunset.
We went to one of the (surprisingly) many internet cafes to check email
and surf a bit. Apparently, Gore is
still ahead in the polls and the USA is ahead in medals at the Olympics in
Day 136, Sun, Sept 17, 2000 - Took a half-hour boat to Changuu Island, formerly famous as the site of a prison for “recalcitrant” slaves, but now home to a land tortoise sanctuary. The tortoises originally came from the Seychelles at the turn of the century, but are now endangered and can be found in only a few places in the world. They are amazing creatures – essentially the same as they were 180 million years ago (compared to 2 million for humans). Watching them move their massive bodies (up to 300 kg) and shells (up to a meter long) ever so slowly and purposefully is like stepping back in time (or watching “Jurassic Park”). We actually fell in love while feeding the gentle giants an apple and some flowers. Naomi was particularly enamored – and pleasantly surprised because reptiles are not usually her favorites. Afterward we hiked around the small island and watched local fishermen patrolling the shallows with spears, then went snorkeling in the surrounding coral reefs. There were some good coral colonies with fish feeding around and some amazingly colorful starfish amongst the anemones, sea urchins and grasses. We lay in the broken-shell sand for our first real relaxation in a while until the tide came in nearly 20 meters toward our towel. We looked for some shells, then had to join the crew for the boat ride back. We had a great lunch back at the Dolphin Restaurant again, where we were the only customers. They have a mascot parrot, Billy, who speaks English and Swahili – we talked to him a while, although his Swahili is much better than ours. The owner of the restaurant gave us some insight into the odd political structure that requires upcoming votes for presidents of both Tanzania and Zanzibar (Tanzania is actually the hybrid name when mainland Tanganyika was joined with the island as a republic in 1963). We went for another photo-walk around town, acquiring Salnede by accident as a guide. He was able to lead us to some of the more interesting doors and views since he now does that for a living (as do many other Zanzibarians). We continue to be surprised by what may be around each new turn. We stopped at an internet café, then headed back for seafood grill and taped our friends at the “Zanzibar Pizza” stand.
"I don't want to be a big man - just to have a
good position so I can provide for my family."
Day 137, Mon, Sept 18, 2000 – Our last day in
Zanzibar saddens us. We went to the
bank to get cash to
settle our bill - $100 for 5 days
(the best deal we’ve had). We
went for a final walk around Stone Town to film the sights, then met another
prearranged guide, Mohammed Ali (similar in name only), for our taxi ride to the
airport. The Precision Air flight
was delayed, but no announcement was made. When we asked some uniformed guys at the gate they said the
flight had not arrived from Dar es Salaam yet but they only smiled when we asked
if there was any chance that it would be cancelled. The prop plane finally
arrived and we took off about an hour late – not bad actually.
Arriving in Arusha, we are now in Tanzania proper, or more specifically
Tanganyika. This country has all
the poverty, drought, AIDS and economic issues that most of Africa has, but they
have thankfully escaped the paralyzing tribalism that handicaps Kenya’s
development. This is primarily attributable to their “founding father”,
Julius Nyerere, who like Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya preached unity among tribes
after independence from Britain in 1961. For
some reason it took in Tanzania, but failed in Kenya.
Nyerere was one of the most Socialist of the new African leaders,
experimenting with various forms of command economic measures. Some worked and
some didn’t, but Nyerere tolerated no dissent.
According to Lonely Planet, Tanzania’s prisons held more political
prisoners than South Africa in 1979. As
in Kenya, corruption and repression caused donors to withdraw funds in the
1980’s until multiparty elections were held.
The next election is scheduled for October 29 and is heating up as this
is the first time the opposition might actually have a chance to unseat the
ruling party, CCM, which has been in control since independence.
They have taken heart from Mexico’s ability to throw out the only
ruling party they had this century, but have a severe uphill battle.
In desperation, their presidential candidate in Zanzibar recently warned
of bloodshed if he lost. This did
not enamor him with cool-headed voters. There
is also a fairly active independence movement in Zanzibar, arguing that their
differing culture and economy warrants a separate nation.
They did have a more difficult fight for independence, including a bloody
Afro-Shirazi revolution against the British-supported sultan and the expulsion
of many of the island’s Arabs.
Although crowded, Arusha is a pleasant small town.
It is the center of most of the safari companies heading into the parks
and acquired recent fame as the site of the signing of a peace agreement between
the warring factions in neighboring Burundi.
The much-respected South African Nelson Mandela was the de facto leader
of the diplomatic group, but US President Clinton made the biggest splash.
Much to the dismay of locals, his secret service took over the town for
the half day he was there. According
to local papers, a convoy of 50 vehicles was flown in from the US, a military
helicopter followed the caravan from the airport, the airport was closed, and
communications were electronically jammed.
They also bought out many of the businesses attached to the Arusha
International Conference Center to set up satellite communications and security
teams. In the press, the US was
blamed for 250 journalists getting locked out of the AICC and Tanzanian TV
stations could not even broadcast. Some
of the security provisions could be understood since he is “the most powerful
man in the world” (and if situations were reversed, most African presidents
would probably take the same precautions) but some measures were considered
insensitive and insulting, like reshuffling the seating arrangement of other
presidents, searching the Tanzanian President’s limo for bombs, and replacing
the conference center’s water and soda bottles with a can of Coke flown in
from the US. Anyway, the conference
ended with the signing of the accords, but only time will tell if there will be
lasting peace, which is a prerequisite for any type of poverty relief in
We took the shuttle from the tiny airport to a hotel,
Arusha By Night, near the central market on a dirt road called Swahili Street.
It was a small local hotel with a soft bed, duct-taped screen windows and
a view of the huge Mt. Meru just outside town.
We did some shopping for videotape, water, snacks, and got some dinner at
a little samosa joint. We also
picked up an English language paper. The
whining about the increase in petrol prices has reached a fever pitch.
Although the price of raw crude has increased significantly in the past
year, OPEC is not taking the blame for a change. Truckers and farmers have brought European capitals to a
standstill demanding reductions in energy taxes, which make up the majority of
the pump price. The French protesters
were particularly effective gaining them tax breaks from the government (maybe
since the last time French (textile) workers protested they poured sulphuric
acid into a river and threatened to blow up the factory they were laid off
from). Maybe this will be the final
wake-up call before the West finally stirs and dedicates resources to improve
the viability of alternative means of energy.
If the current crisis does not convince you, then how about this:
The greenhouse effect caused by burning of fossil fuels has raised the
average temperature in the arctic by 4 degrees Celsius and the thickness of
arctic ice has reduced 40% in the last 20 years.
At this rate, truckers in island nations like the UK will have to switch
to boats soon enough. Also in the news the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of
the Faith took a huge step backward in religious tolerance by issuing a
statement that followers of other religions were in a “gravely deficient
situation” spiritually. This was
not received warmly by non-Catholics, at least not in Tanzania.
After a cold bath and a search and kill exercise that
nabbed nine mosquitoes, we turned in to the sounds of market voices and the
barking of neighborhood stray dogs.
Day 138, Tues, Sept 19, 2000 – Had a great quick
breakfast at Dolly’s Patisserie and waited for the Gametrackers truck to pick
us up. The typical morning bustle
was engulfing the town as we sat on the porch of the hotel.
The truck was late, so we decided to call the office.
I asked for a public telephone and was led through a maze of booths and
makeshift stalls in the rain-muddied market.
Like some other countries, there are certain phones and certain calling
cards for certain purposes so we
had to look a while to find a card seller that had cards for both the local
phones and the international phones in case we needed to call the Nairobi
office. By the time we did, the
truck was pulling up. For this trip
we are the only two people going – as if it was a private safari.
We were disappointed because part of the fun last time was interacting
with the other participants. It
does make the truck a lot more comfortable, but it also reduces the
number of eyes spotting game. Our
driver’s name is Paul again and the cook is Henry.
We drove for three hours on reasonable roads to Lake Manyara.
When we pitched tents in the grassy Jambo Campground we discovered they
were a lot smaller than the ones we had in Kenya.
Henry made ham sandwiches and fries before we went into the park.
On the drive we
saw impala, gazelle, zebra, baboon, dik dik, a giraffe with so many markings it
looked black, and a baby elephant that was very skinny from lack of milk from
its mother. We missed out on any of
the famous tree-climbing Manyara lions. Back
at camp, we had carrot soup and chicken and rice.
The camp had a troupe of dancers and musicians who put on a show – it
was actually better than expected (although I’m not sure how traditional the
acrobat portion of the show was). Unlike
Kenya, this camp is far from the reserve so there is no risk (fun) of wild
animals in the camp at night. We
are looking forward to a good sleep.
Day 139, Wed, Sept 20, 2000 – I got up early to surprise Naomi in the tent with some of the local wildflowers (and other gifts) for her birthday. We each slept great, although I continued with the freaky Larium dreams. We had a (surprise) hot shower and a breakfast of eggs, crepes, sausage and toast, then started the drive to Olduvai Gorge. On the way out we saw dozens of kids with their tools headed out to work in the fields – I was reminded of myself at their age headed to the corn fields before the sun rose. When we got to the gorge, we heard a lecture on the history of the archeological finds in the area and toured the museum dedicated to the work of the pioneering Leakeys. In this gorge they found the first example of Homo Habilis, the ancestor of Homo Sapiens from 1.8 million years ago. In nearby Laetoli they uncovered footprints of an early family of ancestors made in fresh volcanic ash that hardened and remained covered for 3.5 million years. The placement of the big toe and the arch proved that the makers walked upright. In this gorge the cliché “cradle of civilization” is actually true; we have all descended from the beings found here. It took millions of years, but scientists have now determined that all humans share 99.9% of the same genetic material, DNA. It is the 0.1% of differences that make the world interesting, but it’s the overwhelming similarities that should keep us from self-destruction.
The drive to Serengeti was cold and cloudy and when we
arrived at the gate we had a delay since
Paul is Kenyan and the guard claimed he did not have the appropriate work visa
for Tanzania. We killed time by
taking the nature hike and talking to the lizards.
We finally got in the park and saw giraffes, antelopes, warthogs,
ostrich, buffalo, waterbuck, topi, zebra, hippo, dik dik, hyrax, and hyena
on the way to the campsite. We
pitched our tent in soil so rocky it was hard to get the spikes in and watched
another brilliant sunset glowing through sausage and acacia trees.
During spaghetti dinner, another camper (a rather nervous Englishman)
rushed over having seen some eyes glowing in the surrounding bush.
The camp watchman said it was only a bunch of hyenas.
Old news to us Kenya veterans, but we wanted to see for ourselves, so we
walked around the perimeter and saw at least eight pairs of yellow eyes
reflected in the flashlight beam. Nothing
to worry about, but then the Serengeti game warden stopped by in his truck to
tell us a pride of lions was heading our way tonight.
We decided not to tell the English guy because he was nervous enough
Day 140, Thur, Sept 21, 2000 – We
woke to the story of the lions passing right through camp. One of the cooks shined his flashlight on them as they
sauntered through between the tents (right in front of ours!). Naomi swears she woke seeing the light on our tent – good
thing she didn’t unzip to see what the fuss was or my ears would still be
ringing. On the 6:30 game drive we
headed toward the river first to check morning kills and saw a group of four
lions lounging under a tree grooming themselves and each other.
A hundred meters away a female was sitting on a rock just off the road.
There was also a pride of 10 across the river eyeing herds of zebra and
impala. The animals did not seem to
them since they were all lying down, but the lions never started hunting
behavior. When we left this group
we spotted a single lioness carrying a small Tommy gazelle by the head strolling
along the river. It was really
awesome seeing her carry it in her muscular jaws without the slightest of strain
in her movements. We had a
hodge-podge brunch, then had to find the immigration officer so Paul could make
his case for staying (and not being thrown in jail).
I guess it worked somehow and
after a siesta break we were allowed another game drive in the afternoon.
We set out to prove the Masai name for the park – siringet - which
means “endless plains”. We went
in search of cheetah in the wide flat grasslands of their hunting grounds, but
had no luck after a couple hours. We
finally saw some commotion back towards the river and followed
it to discover a leopard walking in the bush.
Unfortunately he was outnumbered by vans 12 to 1 so he climbed a tree for
a snooze sending all of us away. We
saw two more lions sleeping by the river on the way home.
At camp we had the old-fashioned cold splash shower in buckets, then pork
chops, beef stew and banana fritters before turning in.
No carnivore spottings tonight.
Day 141, Fri, Sept 22, 2000 - We left
Serengeti a little disappointed since it was the most famous park we had been
too. Apparently the migration into
Mara had been completed – as we had witnessed there
– and the drought was taking its toll too.
Like all game viewing, however, it all depends on luck.
Someone can come by ten minutes after you saw nothing and see a kill in
process. Before we left camp we
heard others talk about a cheetah family with multiple kills, which is very
rare. C’est la vie. As we left the park we saw three hyenas finishing off a zebra
carcass so close to the truck we could nearly pet the nasty
critters if the smell wasn’t so bad. The
video can’t pick up scents, but it did get some serious
gnawing sounds. Outside the park we
encountered some Masai teenagers with white-painted faces.
They looked much scarier than the standard ochre coloring and
were apparently on their way to the circumcision ceremonies.
Unlike in the west, the procedure here takes place when the kids are
older and fully aware of what is happening.
I’d have a pale face too if I were in their place.
As we climbed higher toward Ngorongoro crater it was
freezing – we had all of our layers on for the first time.
It got foggy as we went through the clouds that hug the lip of the
crater. We tried to look down the
crater from the road, but it was like looking from a plane window as you enter
clouds. The precipitation makes the
slopes along the narrow road very lush and tropical as if you were in Hawaii.
Once you reach the crater floor the abundance of life becomes clear as
the herds are everywhere as advertised.
There are probably more per square kilo
here than anywhere else – there is said to be every animal from East Africa
represented except giraffe. From
the floor you can see why most animals spend their entire life without leaving
the crater area when you view the 600 meter sides of the 20-km crater – we
wouldn’t want to walk up those walls. There’s
also more carcasses than anywhere else (in varying degrees of decomposition).
The animals here are very accustomed to humans and trucks as they just
stand in the road and have to be practically nudged off with the truck at the
last minute. At the lake in the
crater there were hundreds of flamingos and a family of hippos.
We drove around herds of zebra, gazelle,
buffalo, wildebeest, waterbuck, hartebeest, and a couple of elephants.
Paul said there are no female elephants left in the crater - the poor old
males just wander around, eat and shit. We
followed some vans to a very fresh lion kill – the dominant male was still
feeding on the insides (the best part apparently) of a buffalo very near the
road. We could hear the breathing
and chewing and smell the blood – it was a pretty visceral example of the
natural world. Four females were
lounging 20 meters away awaiting their turn and vultures were swinging down to
watch with hunched shoulders a little further away.
We went into the rhino area, but found a den of young hyena instead
yapping and laughing at each other. We
stopped for lunch at the designated picnic area.
Buffalo and elephant passed nearby to get to the watering hole.
We had to take care as stealthy black kites have a habit of swooping down
to steal food. On the way back we
saw an injured older
male lion limping near the road. He was bleeding from wounds on his back and hindquarters and
really dragging his leg. He must
have lost a fight and been kicked out of a pride by a dominant male.
He was now in serious trouble because a lion that cannot hunt cannot eat
and will probably not survive. We
watched his labored breathing as he struggled up a rock to rest and look out
over the plain. We left him and
found a lioness hiding in the grass near the bank of a river.
She had her eye on a herd of zebra thinking about having a drink.
The zebras did not notice her and soon she started to stalk, crouching
and slinking along the bank. The
talk in the trucks fell to a whispered hush as everyone thought a chase was
imminent. As she slowly poked
her head out of the bank we noticed that she was very pregnant.
We wandered why she was there alone and thought a run would be very hard
on her. She finally left the bank
and crouched down in the grass scooting on her fat belly – by now the zebra
had noticed something and started to move slowly away.
It was now or never. She
took one last look and gave up, we assume she thought better of her condition.
As we left, some hippos were standing up from the river.
We headed towards a rolling woodlands area where we saw a huge old
elephant with the longest tusks Paul had ever seen.
They must have been three meters – almost meeting at the ends.
variety of scenery is incredible – the crater was like a small example of
every type of environment we had seen in East Africa:
the plains of Serengeti, the savannah of Samburu, the woodlands and
grasslands of Tsavo, the swamps of Amboseli, the forest of Manyara, the fresh
lake of Baringo, the soda lake of Nakuru, and the river of Masai Mara.
On our way home, we passed the river again and the lioness was now out of
the water and passed right by our truck, her huge belly sagging.
She flopped down next to us as if she would give birth any minute.
We waited a while, but she did not cooperate – I imagine she would
probably rather have kids alone (or back at the den), so we respected her
privacy. We passed by the injured
male and he was now lying down – maybe sleeping, maybe dying.
Within two minutes we had nearly seen the beginning and end of the circle
of life for the king of beasts. We
climbed the edge of the crater, which added another environment, more like rain
forest. Just as we approached the exit gate of the park, the engine
started sputtering. Paul took the
cover off the transmission and determined that it was a clogged fuel filter.
Of course we had a spare and were soon on our way for the long drive to
the Jambo camp again. We passed on the dancers this time, but I did have the last
of the safari rum after a spaghetti dinner.
In the tent, we had a typical bug scare although Naomi has been pretty
good during the trip, as long as we spray the tent with “Doom” before
dinner, keep the zippers closed and do an all-out search with the flashlight
before turning in. There was the
one time I felt something in my hair but it flew away when I pulled it out to
take a look at it – I wonder what that was?
Day 142, Sat, Sept 23, 2000 – Had an incredible Larium-induced dream
about three rhinos attacking our truck. One came from the right and
slammed into Naomi’s door, one came through the windshield at Paul and I was
fighting one off out the back of the truck – which was kind of weird since the
back of the truck is not open, but hey, it was a dream. I had the video
camera in my left hand and the rhino by the horn with my right, kicking with my
legs as I woke up. Yesterday we had decided
to change the schedule a bit and replace Arusha Park with Tarangire since Paul
and Henry said they usually see next to nothing in Arusha (which did make us
wonder why it was on the schedule). Anyway, we headed out after omelets
for the two-hour drive. We pulled into an incredibly dusty and windy camp
(due to the lack of rain) and pitched our tent in very soft soil.
Paul told us his tent actually blew away here last time!
After lunch which included an African bean and corn specialty that was
delicious, we drove through the park. It is more sparse than Ngorongoro,
but there were some elephant, zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, gazelle and impala.
In addition to the usual acacia, sausage, thorn, ebony, mahogany and palm trees,
this park is the home to the famous baobab tree which has been called the
“tree of life”. It is very eerie looking, with a huge thick trunk and
funky skewed branches like some tree monster in a Grimm fairy tale – it is our
new favorite. Near the river we saw small reddish reedbuck and big,
handsome-faced waterbuck who jerk their head horizontally every few seconds as
we drove by. On the ground we even made out some banded mongoose scurrying
along. There was the cute little dik-dik that always seems nervous –
either frozen stiff acting like a fallen branch or jumping away in a panic.
We saw two lions rolling on their backs, spread eagle more like dogs than cats.
As the day ended, we noticed a group of trucks looking in a tree and immediately
thought leopard. When we got there the yellow color gave away
two lions doing leopard impressions in the branches. Throughout the day,
we had our worst experience yet with the dreaded biting tsetse fly. The
bites hurt more than a mosquito bite – but they don’t particularly itch
afterward. The flies used to transmit the infamous “sleeping sickness”
that wiped out entire herds of cattle, devastated some villages and afflicted
some Europeans. According to Paul and Henry, the threat area is now
restricted to the South of Tanzania so we have nothing to worry about – gee,
we hope they’re right since we were feasting grounds for them.
When we returned to camp we found a group of tents pitched
literally two feet from ours when they had the whole site to choose from.
We thought it was very rude, but let it go. The camp staff heated a huge
barrel of water over a fire, then hauled buckets up to the top of the shower
stalls to fill the gravity buckets. It felt great! Dinner was beef
stew with mashed potatoes and veggies and ice cold (!) Coke. That is one
of the great things we’ve found in Africa (besides the people, sights and
wildlife) – that you can still get Coke in bottles rather than cans.
There’s something about the taste from the bottle that takes us back to the
“good old days” of our youth. Well, we are now in our tent and Naomi
is scratching her many mosquito bites; I’ll sign off now because I’m feeling
a bit slee...
Day 143, Sun, Sept 24, 2000 – Well, the good news is we don’t have
sleeping sickness, the bad news is our concerns about the proximity and rudeness
of our neighbors were confirmed when we were awakened at 4:30 by laughing and
talking in German right outside our tent. We actually had to ask them to
tone it down and respect the rest of the campers. I guess in hindsight we
had been pretty lucky with camp-mates until now, but this was (ironically) our
We realized it was Sunday from the church choir music from Paul’s portable
radio and thought it was fitting to have our safaris end on a day of rest and
reflection. We were in the park before the
sun, watching it rise red through the massive silhouettes of the baobab trees.
Any sunrise is nice, but it’s an especially beautiful feeling to greet the day
with your head out the top of a truck, brisk wind in your
hair, and the anticipation of never knowing what sights may await you. We
were getting very nostalgic about the whole safari experience when we nearly
drove right by a lioness next to the road. Paul put the truck in reverse
and came right up to her. She passed by us to sit on a rock on the other
side of the road. She was proud and stately, almost showing off for us.
Later we saw another tree-lion from a distance and more elephant, giraffe
gazelle, reedbuck, waterbuck and dik-dik. We were looking for a hunt, but
only came across three lionesses walking lazily across the grass near the river.
sadly said goodbye to game drives and went back to camp for lunch of vegetable
curry, rice, and grilled cheese sandwiches. After packing for the last
time, we started the drive back to Arusha. Paul and Henry dropped us off
at Arusha Resort Center. We booked our shuttle for tomorrow morning – it
was a fiasco since it was supposed to be arranged by Gametrackers but was not.
We tried to get cash from the only Visa office in town, but they wanted 25%
commission (such is the abusive power of monopoly over competition) so we passed
and used some reserve US$. I went for newspapers in the main clock
tower square and was mobbed by newsboys. I had to turn them away after
getting Time Magazine, Nation, and East African. On the way back I heard
the old familiar sounds of a basketball dribbling at the school across the
street from the hotel. I unloaded the newspapers and headed over.
There were three kids shooting around a net-less hoop with a volleyball.
They all spoke English and knew the best NBA players so I nicknamed them
Michael, Shaq and Kobe. We played three-on-one and they were smoking me
9-3. They were probably more used to shooting a volleyball than I was (of
course my horrendous physical condition had nothing to do with it). Their
teacher came out and stopped the massacre by calling them to dinner. The
teacher explained they were boarding students at this former missionary school.
He told of the difficulties in financing and class size (about 60 kids per
class) and showed me his living quarters (converted from the priest’s) with a
small bed, wash basin and heating coil. These conditions are still better
than the dirt-floor “schools” we saw in the small bush villages. I had
to say goodbye to sundown to get back to the hotel. We had a small dinner
and turned in.
Day 144, Mon, Sept 25, 2000 - Well, up until now we have been blessed with good health
during this trip. That all changed
last night. We knew it was only a
matter of time and wondered when one of us would get hit. Luckily for Naomi, it was me. I had felt a little off when we got to Arusha, but we still
had dinner and went to bed early due to our early shuttle to Nairobi.
An hour later, my stomach started to grumble in ways that would make the
producers of “A Perfect Storm” proud. Turning
and rolling with so much movement I felt like a combination of a 9-month
expectant mother and the scientist housing a reptilian space creature in his
chest in “Alien”. I spent the remainder of the evening in the bathroom,
involved in various purging activities. Modesty
prevents me from going into details, but suffice to say, it was a very busy and
extremely unpleasant evening. Unfortunately
for Naomi, this kept her awake most of the night as well – she was a real
angel about it.
We eventually got out of bed in time for the 7:15 shuttle.
I was not looking forward to a 6-hour ride with my insides in very
questionable condition. We were
glad that it was a fairly comfortable van, unlike the overstuffed raucous local
matatus. Unfortunately, the road
was not a relief. Although it was
technically covered by tarmac (most of the time), it felt more like off-road
dirt tracks with constant vibrations, dips, bumps, holes, and huge speed bumps
that the driver may or may not slow down for.
We spent the whole time wondering what upcoming jolt would put me over
the edge – we had a plastic bag handy just in case.
Reading the Olympics coverage in the Herald Tribune was out of the
question and talking was impossible because every word was punctuated by a
hiccup and every sentence interrupted by an airborne bounce.
We were once launched so high I hit my head on the top of the van.
Throughout the journey, the grumbling continued but there was a saving
toilet break just over the border in Namanga, Kenya – the same place we had
stopped on the way to Amboseli. After
that, the Kenyan roads were slightly better than in Tanzania and we amazingly
made it to Nairobi without losing any fluids.
We got Wheely Beast at the Intercontinental and moved to the cheaper
Ambassadeur Hotel. The hotel has
seen much better days – particularly in the 60’s when it was built. It has a moldy historic feel to it, with Floridian turquoise
and coral colored tile. The room is
huge, but unfortunately, the drought has now affected not only farmers and
ranchers, but also hotels. We have
no water in the room, so the staff carries buckets up from somewhere (we were
afraid to ask) and dumps them into the tub.
In that respect, it’s kind of like we are still camping. The room has a view of one of the busiest intersections in
Nairobi, with the constant noise of horns filling the street.
We relaxed and watched Olympics for a while – cheering on Cathy
Freeman, the Aborigine Australian runner, to a gold medal.
Other than that, the 70s-era Blaupunkt UHF TV only received four
channels, two of which had the same “Days of Our Lives” episode from the
80’s. My mom would have been in
heaven as that is her favorite American soap opera.
Although it wasn’t Naomi’s favorite, she somehow knew all the main
characters and storylines.
We had to run some errands around town, most importantly to
a camera shop. We were really
unlucky with cameras on safari. The
Fuji black and white stopped working altogether, the Olympus would freeze up
about 50% of the time, and worst of all, the video lens got chipped and
scratched during the game drives. We
didn’t notice when it happened, but we assume it was during one of the
rumbling chases through gravel and rocks. We
went to three camera shops, but unfortunately they all said the lens needs
replacing. The only authorized Sony
repair shop said it would take a week, so we are out of luck.
We will have to go through Mauritius and Seychelles and try again in
Delhi. The effect is that there is
a very noticeable blemish on all of the video beginning sometime in Kenya.
We are very disappointed since these were some of our best shots.
For stills, we may be able to use photo-editing software to correct them,
but the video (at 18 frames per second) is impossible to fix. Anyway, we left
the two still cameras at a shop for pickup tomorrow, went to Uchumi to get dry
crackers for me to try to eat and Wimpy burger for Naomi’s dinner.
I was feverish and felt weak the whole time and was very happy to get
back to the hotel. We just relaxed,
watched TV and read the newspaper before turning in early using earplugs for the
Day 145, Tues, Sept 26, 2000 – We tried to sleep
in, but it was impossible. The matatu and bus drivers are the rudest and most
uncivilized we’ve seen. They lean
on their horns from the time they stop until the time they start again five
minutes later. We were told that
they are only trying to increase business, as if people who did not want to get
in could be coerced into their vehicles with horn blasts. Apparently, they also used to blast music at concert-level
volumes, but that was outlawed – the law obviously did not go far enough.
The good news is, I’m feeling much better, which makes us think it was
either food poisoning from the camping trip or some 24-hour flu.
Naomi’s suggested drug cocktail (Imodium, Tylenol, Tums, Pepto Bismol,
cold/flu tablets, tea and crackers) also helped.
After breakfast we went shopping for gifts and souvenirs, stopped at the
Amex office, checked emails and paid some bills online.
We would have liked to spend the day interviewing people, but we still do
not feel safe whipping out the video camera in public – even in daylight.
It’s a pity as this is certainly one of the most interesting places and
some people have given some great insight verbally.
We stopped by the Gametrackers office to obtain our refund (since we had
to arrange our own transfer from Arusha). We also returned our evaluation
questionnaires that included some suggested policy changes to prevent the two
problems we had on safari (the lack of contingency funds in Kenya and the
immigration issue in Tanzania). At
the camera shop, they had cleaned the Olympus, but the Fuji needed a new switch
that would take a few days to repair. We
picked up a whole roasted chicken and chips for dinner and returned to the hotel
before dark. The guy at the front
desk told us that Naomi’s surname is also a very popular name in the Bantu
tribe – he expected her to be African when we arrived.
We watched the Olympics on TV most of the night.
There was an incredible race today when Ethiopian
Halle Gabresalesse waited almost the entire 10,000 meters to catch and
edge ahead of Kenyan Paul Tegat by one step at the wire.
It was the closest long distance races we’d ever seen – and all of
Kenya groaned in disappointment. Not
that we could hear it over the traffic noise, but the guys at the hotel told us
about the reaction. The viewing
started us reminiscing about our favorite Olympics moments – including the
good (energetic Olga Korbut and perfect Nadia Comaneci, dominating Mark Spitz
with 7 world records and 7 gold medals, the duels between Brits Coe and Ovett,
the amazing Finnish runner Lasse Viren, the young US hockey team’s upset of
the mighty and favored veteran Russians, the incredible Japanese gymnast’s
courageous dismounting from rings with an already shattered knee, Eric Heiden
and Bonnie Blair speed skating, the US basketball “Dream Team”, the grunts
of the amazing Russian and Turkish weightlifters and Keri Strug sticking the
vault landing with a sprained ankle); the bad (Flo-Jo’s outfits, jewellery and
fingernails, Carl Lewis’ makeup, Zola Bud’s bare feet tripping Mary Decker,
,the judging in Seoul); and the ugly (the tragic murder of Israeli athletes by
terrorists, Tonya Harding hiring a hit man to injure rival Nancy Kerrigan, the
bomb in Atlanta, and Ben Johnson’s steroid-enhanced gold medal).
Unfortunately, steroids and other dangerous drugs/methods are now a fact of life
in world sports, with most countries having their fair share of scandals,
withdrawals, punishments, and shame. As
if we weren’t homesick enough after the Olympics, there was a TV special on
the NBA afterward. We went to bed
thinking of Wilt, Bill, Julius, Michael, Magic and Larry.
To Follow us to Mauritius, please click here: Photojournal September 27 - October 18.
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