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Tanzania and the Crater- Land Time Forgot

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Our ten day journal to Tanzania. Hope it is helpful but a long read.

Days 1 & 2
Wednesday, May 18th,
Departure from Birmingham to Atlanta was early afternoon (12:40). Ladd drove us to the airport. We've been packed for three days, which is unheard of for us.
We had a brief layover in Atlanta (~2 hours) before switching from Delta to KLM Dutch flight to Amsterdam. The flight to Amsterdam is over 4,000 miles and will take just over 8 hours to complete.
We've packed for the two weeks in our large duffel bags with detachable day packs. That way we could use it as carry-on, since KLM has a reputation for not getting luggage to its destination in a timely manner. So we're carrying camera cases as well as bags that weigh approximately 35 pounds each. Sure glad we've been building up our strength at the gym!!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

We had a layover of approximately 2-2 1/2 hours in Amsterdam. Flying into Amsterdam, it was interesting to note the mixture of agricultural (farms) with industrial, as well as a couple of golf courses.
The airport in Amsterdam was extremely clean, and seemed much quieter than most we've been in, although it was quite busy.
The flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro is more than 4,000 miles and 8-9 hours long. It's difficult to keep up with all of the time changes.
The staff on the KLM flights have been pleasant, the food, okay. The planes are older, so while we are more comfortable in business class than those flying coach, the seats are not very comfortable--especially for this long of a flight. {Larry traded in sky mileage/frequent flyer miles, so we flew business class free of charge}.
We have flown over the Alps as well as the Sahara Desert. The flights (all of them) have been smooth and uneventful.

10:00pm. We arrived in Kilimanjaro at 8:00 p.m. It gets dark earlier here than at home, and the area was pitch black when we landed--aside from the obvious runway lights! William met us upon arrival, got our visas for us and walked us through (literally) immigration. It is about 70 degrees here and very humid. The drive from the airport to the KIA (Kilimanjaro International Airport) lodge was brief. Larry signed papers at the registration desk and we were given a key on a soft leather strap for room 19. We followed two Masaai men, who carried our luggage, to the room.
The lodge is comprised of a number of round buildings. Walking paths wind through the area, and from what I see in the dark, the vegetation will be beautiful.
We had a nice dinner: tomato soup, trout (whole), parsley potatoes, and cooked veggie mix: cauliflower, carrots and snow peas. We had an almond tart with a papaya sauce that was light an good.
(Oh, when we arrived at the inn, we were given cold cloths to use to freshen up and glasses of mango juice.)
It's amazing to be sitting in this open dining area, look up and see Masaais walking past. They're very quiet and it's a bit eerie!!
Our room is spartan, but nice: a rattan chair, twin beds pushed together and turned down, a long desk, two end tables. The air conditioning has a remote control, that they have conveniently preset the temperature for us for a comfortable temperature. It's still a bit stuffy.....
We're going to lay out clothes for tomorrow, shower and go to sleep. Up at 5:45 am to look around the lodge area, have a quick breakfast and off to the airport to catch our flight to Arusha!

Friday, May 20, 2005

We slept fitfully, pretty much wide awake around 2:00 am. Needless to say, we didn't need the wake up call we requested! In the information for guests in the room, there is a bird-watching list for the inn. It lists 57 different species of birds that can be observed here. We've heard some throughout the night. It's 6:00 am, now and just getting daylight. There is a multitude of birds chirping. When Larry opened the door this morning, A Masaai was standing there waiting for us.
Larry has walked out, stood under a tree and just listened too all of the sounds of nature. *The only others here that we've seen is a French tour group that traveled with us from Amsterdam.
The breakfast buffet was good: Tanzanian coffee, fresh fruit, different types of bread, cereal, yogurt, omelet (plain), sausage and bacon. An assortment of fruit juices was provided as well: Passion fruit, pineapple and mango.
William, who picked us up at the airport last night, met us and drove us to the airport in Arusha. We learned that Tanzania's cash crop is coffee. Their two other main crops are bananas and corn. There were large fields of sunflowers, many people were walking or riding bicycles (some, two to a bike). Masaai were herding their cattle, taking them through villages to areas where they can feed.
Women were seen carrying large bundles of bananas and baskets on their heads. Buses were small (large van sized) and absolutely packed!! Sometimes people were standing on the running boards hanging on. The villages had hardware stores ("nuts and bolts"), lumber, furniture making, concrete blocks were being made.
We saw women washing clothes and children in the river. We did observe a hospital and signs for a dental clinic. In Tanzania, there are now private schools in addition to public schools. Children start public school when they are 7 years old. They can start private school at the age of 3. Private schools are very expensive.
Arusha seemed to be a small city, but they have a population of 1 million. There was LOTS of traffic at 7:30am, and NO traffic signals. It was perilous at best! At one intersection, William bumped into a bicyclist. Everyone was going slowly, and the cyclist wasn't hurt. He just picked his bike up, got back on and rode away.

The plane we took from Arusha to the West Serengeti plains was a small 12 passenger plane. There were 6 passengers on it and three stops were made. Our stop was the last one. There was good coffee at the airport. It was French Pressed and cost $2.00 for a pot for the two of us. All the people seem very pleasant.
It's a pretty day and we flew smoothly above the clouds. Mountains peek above the clouds periodically; and from time to time, the clouds part a bit, giving us a window to see the land below.
The runways are basically dirt, gravel and grass!
The land changes from lush vegetation to plains to farmland. We've flown over Ngorongoro Crater, which we'll spend some time on later in the trip.
The plains changed from sandy tan to brown to lush green. The closer we get to Serenera (2nd stop), the greener it became with more vegetation. Larry saw a giraffe from his window just prior to landing on the grass runway. He also saw a dead hippo. We see something in the distance that could be an elephant, but it's too hard to tell how much is real and how much is wishful thinking. The pilot confirmed that it's elephants. Larry also saw a herd of wildebeests.
The pilot (Muhammed) has to fly over the landing strip first, prior to landing, to check for animals on the runway.

Simon picked us up in a rather desolated area. Muhammed asked if he could ride to the lodge with us. Instead of coming straight to the lodge, we went driving looking for animals.
What we saw: Hamerkop (a small bird that builds HUGE nests), impala, hippos, baboons, verret monkey, crocodiles, warthogs, giraffes, elephants, buffalo, ostrich, tortoise, small turtle in a puddle, several types of herrons and other birds. And that was in just under two hours!!
We arrived at the lodge, were greeted by staff waiting with cold, damp cloths to freshen up with and a choice of mango juice or sparkling wine. We sat in the lounge area talking to Simon and Muhammed. Muhammed also joined us for lunch which was good, but decidedly an un-African menu with the exception of the fish entree possibly.
We're in a beautiful tent (#2) with hardwood floors and a deck overlooking the Serengeti. The tent is zippered shut--no key. The furniture is English and appears to be antique. There is a fruit plate and bottled water on the vanity. There's a flashlight to use going back and forth to dinner and a whistle to blow if animals are outside the tent. They do have 24 hour security.
The bed is comprised of twin beds, separated by a bedside table, but connected by a common headboard. It is four poster and has curtains to draw around the whole thing.
We organized and rested a bit before going out on another drive.
At one point this morning, Simon and Muhammed showed us a narrow swinging foot bridge that people have to use when the road is flooded and they have to get to the airstrip. Both said it was really scary and that crocodiles were in the river below. Simon started walking across it, and I followed him just for fun. I was going to go across the whole thing--I was just looking to see. But I did cross it with no problem, although I did have to be careful to avoid stepping in all of the baboon poop!!
After organizing ourselves a bit, we met Simon at 3:30 for another safari drive. It started out fairly uneventful--mostly birds, then lots of impala, a few warthogs, and baboons and the vervet monkeys. We saw banded mongoose which kills snakes, and Tanzania has MANY snakes. We saw topi, giraffe and elephants in the distance. Larry wished out loud that we could see an elephant close up. We heard hippos, but didn't see them. Saw a flocks of ostriches and some kind of large storks and really massive crocodiles.
As the drive was winding down, we saw an elephant not too far away. We watched it as it came out of the bush, turned and walked down the road right in front of us. It was absolutely incredible!! It was an older male (bull) which tends to leave the family and go live alone when old. So he ambled by himself, down the road, flapping his ears, and periodically looking over his shoulder to see if we were still there.
I mentioned to Larry that he got what he wanted. He replied that he hadn't seen a giraffe up close. Wouldn't you know that in less than 20 minutes, just a short distance away from the camp's entrance, Simon stops quickly and backs up. And there, just feet from the road is a giraffe, standing there, looking at us and eating leaves!!
The bad thing this afternoon was the attack of the tse tse flies. It was pretty miserable, but mostly annoying as they darte around our faces.
Back to our room to clean up after a 3 1/4 hour ride. Had a nice dinner, was escorted by security back to the room where housekeeping did a good job with their turn down service. And not a moment too soon!!! Good night!

Friday, May 20, 2005

We slept fitfully, pretty much wide awake around 2:00 am. Needless to say, we didn't need the wake up call we requested! In the information for guests in the room, there is a bird-watching list for the inn. It lists 57 different species of birds that can be observed here. We've heard some throughout the night. It's 6:00 am, now and just getting daylight. There is a multitude of birds chirping. When Larry opened the door this morning, A Masaai was standing there waiting for us.
Larry has walked out, stood under a tree and just listened too all of the sounds of nature. *The only others here that we've seen is a French tour group that traveled with us from Amsterdam.
The breakfast buffet was good: Tanzanian coffee, fresh fruit, different types of bread, cereal, yogurt, omelet (plain), sausage and bacon. An assortment of fruit juices was provided as well: Passion fruit, pineapple and mango.
William, who picked us up at the airport last night, met us and drove us to the airport in Arusha. We learned that Tanzania's cash crop is coffee. Their two other main crops are bananas and corn. There were large fields of sunflowers, many people were walking or riding bicycles (some, two to a bike). Masaai were herding their cattle, taking them through villages to areas where they can feed.
Women were seen carrying large bundles of bananas and baskets on their heads. Buses were small (large van sized) and absolutely packed!! Sometimes people were standing on the running boards hanging on. The villages had hardware stores ("nuts and bolts"), lumber, furniture making, concrete blocks were being made.
We saw women washing clothes and children in the river. We did observe a hospital and signs for a dental clinic. In Tanzania, there are now private schools in addition to public schools. Children start public school when they are 7 years old. They can start private school at the age of 3. Private schools are very expensive.
Arusha seemed to be a small city, but they have a population of 1 million. There was LOTS of traffic at 7:30am, and NO traffic signals. It was perilous at best! At one intersection, William bumped into a bicyclist. Everyone was going slowly, and the cyclist wasn't hurt. He just picked his bike up, got back on and rode away.

The plane we took from Arusha to the West Serengeti plains was a small 12 passenger plane. There were 6 passengers on it and three stops were made. Our stop was the last one. There was good coffee at the airport. It was French Pressed and cost $2.00 for a pot for the two of us. All the people seem very pleasant.
It's a pretty day and we flew smoothly above the clouds. Mountains peek above the clouds periodically; and from time to time, the clouds part a bit, giving us a window to see the land below.
The runways are basically dirt, gravel and grass!
The land changes from lush vegetation to plains to farmland. We've flown over Ngorongoro Crater, which we'll spend some time on later in the trip.
The plains changed from sandy tan to brown to lush green. The closer we get to Serenera (2nd stop), the greener it became with more vegetation. Larry saw a giraffe from his window just prior to landing on the grass runway. He also saw a dead hippo. We see something in the distance that could be an elephant, but it's too hard to tell how much is real and how much is wishful thinking. The pilot confirmed that it's elephants. Larry also saw a herd of wildebeests.
The pilot (Muhammed) has to fly over the landing strip first, prior to landing, to check for animals on the runway.

Simon picked us up in a rather desolated area. Muhammed asked if he could ride to the lodge with us. Instead of coming straight to the lodge, we went driving looking for animals.
What we saw: Hamerkop (a small bird that builds HUGE nests), impala, hippos, baboons, verret monkey, crocodiles, warthogs, giraffes, elephants, buffalo, ostrich, tortoise, small turtle in a puddle, several types of herrons and other birds. And that was in just under two hours!!
We arrived at the lodge, were greeted by staff waiting with cold, damp cloths to freshen up with and a choice of mango juice or sparkling wine. We sat in the lounge area talking to Simon and Muhammed. Muhammed also joined us for lunch which was good, but decidedly an un-African menu with the exception of the fish entree possibly.
We're in a beautiful tent (#2) with hardwood floors and a deck overlooking the Serengeti. The tent is zippered shut--no key. The furniture is English and appears to be antique. There is a fruit plate and bottled water on the vanity. There's a flashlight to use going back and forth to dinner and a whistle to blow if animals are outside the tent. They do have 24 hour security.
The bed is comprised of twin beds, separated by a bedside table, but connected by a common headboard. It is four poster and has curtains to draw around the whole thing.
We organized and rested a bit before going out on another drive.
At one point this morning, Simon and Muhammed showed us a narrow swinging foot bridge that people have to use when the road is flooded and they have to get to the airstrip. Both said it was really scary and that crocodiles were in the river below. Simon started walking across it, and I followed him just for fun. I was going to go across the whole thing--I was just looking to see. But I did cross it with no problem, although I did have to be careful to avoid stepping in all of the baboon poop!!
After organizing ourselves a bit, we met Simon at 3:30 for another safari drive. It started out fairly uneventful--mostly birds, then lots of impala, a few warthogs, and baboons and the vervet monkeys. We saw banded mongoose which kills snakes, and Tanzania has MANY snakes. We saw topi, giraffe and elephants in the distance. Larry wished out loud that we could see an elephant close up. We heard hippos, but didn't see them. Saw a flocks of ostriches and some kind of large storks and really massive crocodiles.
As the drive was winding down, we saw an elephant not too far away. We watched it as it came out of the bush, turned and walked down the road right in front of us. It was absolutely incredible!! It was an older male (bull) which tends to leave the family and go live alone when old. So he ambled by himself, down the road, flapping his ears, and periodically looking over his shoulder to see if we were still there.
I mentioned to Larry that he got what he wanted. He replied that he hadn't seen a giraffe up close. Wouldn't you know that in less than 20 minutes, just a short distance away from the camp's entrance, Simon stops quickly and backs up. And there, just feet from the road is a giraffe, standing there, looking at us and eating leaves!!
The bad thing this afternoon was the attack of the tse tse flies. It was pretty miserable, but mostly annoying as they darte around our faces.
Back to our room to clean up after a 3 1/4 hour ride. Had a nice dinner, was escorted by security back to the room where housekeeping did a good job with their turn down service. And not a moment too soon!!! Good night!

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