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The East Africa Experience (the belated trip report)

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Well it has been over six months since my trip to Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania (October 2005). I think of the trip every day. Even more than that because of the wonderful exposure to all of you I have had on this board. it is a neat little family here. ;) I truly love this group. ((L))

When I came back, I was still getting hooked on the Fodor's group and the idea of posting a detailed trip report wasn't as big as deal to me. So I posted a quick 5 minute trip report. But after months of salivating over all of your great reports and checking the report index, I feel like I want to be part of the party.

I typically create my own trip reports in the form of a journal in MS Publisher and it is at my web site, (thanks to those that read it) but I still think the text should be here. So during this week I will post most of that text here, bit by bit.


With the power of color and obnoxious formatting I hope you enjoy following along on a Hazle Family Adventure...

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    OK, I am putting the first few entries in the journal in one LONG POST.

    <CENTER>Editor’s Desk</CENTER>

    "India was piece of cake compared to East Africa"

    Welcome to the latest edition of the Hazle Journal. ... (some text deleted)

    My African Safari was truly the trip of a lifetime and I am glad to be able to share it with you, both the agony and the ecstasy of it all.

    This trip rapidly brought me to thrilling heights of joy, and then just as quickly, hurled me into pits of anguish. Then, just before I could give up the last drop of hope, it once again lifted me to the heavens. I now have an emotional whiplash that I will probably never recover from.

    I struggled in trying to come up with a title for this edition. India was a fiery test and the toughest trip I had ever been on, therefore, it became “The Crucible”. You will soon see that India was a piece of cake compared to East Africa. As we were going through this whole experience, I tried to find a word that would summarize the whole thing. Perhaps there was some Swahili word that would capture the highs and lows of what we were experiencing. And there it was, that word again. Every time something happened good or bad on this trip I thought “Well this is definitely an… experience”.

    Hearing the word “Africa” can invoke your wildest dreams and your darkest nightmares. It is a land filled with promise, hope and beauty. It is also a place of despair, corruption and endless suffering. On our journey we were awed by the beauty of God’s creation, and chilled by the evil that men can bring forth. The trip was long and arduous. However, when you survive a difficult journey you are changed forever inside. That is how we all felt at the end. I hope that “The East Africa Experience” does the same for you.

    ========================================
    <CENTER>Making Plans</CENTER>

    In all my journeys, the one trip that had always eluded me and yet had been my greatest desire was an African Safari. The very term “African Safari” combined with Kenya or Tanzania conjures up many thoughts and feelings of rugged adventure and classic natural beauty. We’ve all seen those nature shows with a lion chasing a zebra or a herd of elephants trampling across the savannah or a sole rhino standing proudly in high grass. It is nature the way God intended it to be!

    Perhaps you’ve heard the names Masai Mara, Tsavo, Kilimanjaro, Tangire, Lake Victoria, Amboseli, Serengeti, Samburu, Ngorongoro. They are stuff of legend whether it is Ernest Hemingway writing of a great hunt, Meryl Streep and Robert Redford falling in love (the movie Out of Africa) or Marlon Perkins on Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom tracking down an elusive predator. But the more I read about Africa, the more I learned about countries like Botswana, Zambia, South Africa, Rwanda and Uganda. And each had their own areas and legendary names, including Kruger, Chobe, Okavango, Virungas, Bwindi, Zambezi, Queen Elizabeth Park, Victoria Falls. My head would spin whenever I tried to make plans because I wanted to see everything, which of course is impossible in one trip. So each time, I would give up in confusion and travel somewhere else.

    For a wedding present, my friend Linda Herd from Washington, gave Mary Ellen and I, a painting of a lone elephant in silhouette, standing by a lake, with the sun setting behind it. That painting is in our bedroom. This elephant view from the African wild, calls out to me every morning when I wake up. I had to make this painting become real.

    Last year, I started doing research again, and then my dear sister Elain passed away. So everything went on hold. Early 2005, I decided it was now or never to make this trip. Once Mary Ellen and I started a family (yes we are thinking, stop asking ) exotic travel would get traded in for Chuckie Cheese, Disneyland, etc. So I started scanning the web again. I found a “Best of Kenya and Tanzania” tour with AfricaPoint Travel that hit some of the major parks and was reasonably priced. But by this time I had also done research on the famed mountain gorillas popularized in Diane Fossey’s book Gorillas in the Mist, and the movie of the same name. So with a second company R&NXplorer, I planned an 8 day excursion to Rwanda to see the gorillas and to visit the genocide memorial centers. Mary Ellen always said she would travel the world with me and so she was game. (Though she always hinted that Italy would be just fine too )

    But the part of the trip that really changed everything began to take form sometime in May. I thought how wonderful it would be to have my parents come with us! My Dad watches wildlife/nature shows religiously and could probably run his own game park. I thought it would be a wonderful pick-me-up given how rough the last 12 months or so have been for the family. There was a bit of hemming and hawing in the beginning about flying overseas, fears of terrorism and just the unknown in general. But with the help of my sister Sara, we nudged them along through wiring money to Nairobi, buying international airline tickets and getting shots for diseases you don’t even want to think of getting. Mary Ellen and I decided to fly to Georgia and meet up with my parents and then we would all fly together. So on Wednesday September 28th Mary Ellen and I boarded a plane to Rincon, Georgia.

    As always, I had my Lonely Planet guidebook with me. Ironically, I had done the least reading for any trip I had ever taken. More than 10 years earlier I had bought version 3 of the Lonely Planet East Africa and I read it cover to cover, and then proceeded to let it collect dust for a decade. So I dutifully bought version 6, but somehow never felt as driven to read it. (I sure hoped that wouldn’t come back to haunt me…)

    I always like to bring good reading material on a trip. I had recently heard about a book entitled A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks In The Conquered City. It is the true life diary of an anonymous woman, living in Berlin during World War II as the city crumbled and Hitler faced defeat from the advancing Allied army. Starvation and disease ran rampant through the beleaguered city, as well as the rumors of the horrible things the Russian soldiers were doing to women in cities they conquered…. no light reading for me. I also packed two murder mysteries from my favorite authors Sue Grafton (R is for Ricochet) and Patricia Cornwell (Unnatural Exposure). I dug out my old Banana Republic™ photojournalist vest that I have worn around the world since 1989. Last and certainly not least, I donned my trusty brown fedora.

    It was great to see my parent’s new home in Georgia. They had settled in nicely and were enjoying their retirement. Sara drove down from Atlanta and the whole family was together…almost. It was something that remained between us all, often unspoken. Without our sweet Elain, there will always be this huge void in the family. Sometimes just looking at an empty chair and wishing she was sitting there, is enough to make me gloomy. Yet, somehow, we know that while we miss her terribly, we have to find some measure of happiness in our lives and do our best to go forward. Elain would want that for us.

    So we spent a few casual days making sure we had everything together and readied ourselves for the journey of a lifetime.



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    Saturday October 1st – Beginning the Flights

    On Saturday evening we headed to the wonderfully clean Hilton Head Airport in Savannah. Sara helped us get our suitcases out of the car. For weeks Mom had been giving her the “If anything happens to us…” information. You hate to be morbid when leaving for a trip, but things had changed in our family, we couldn’t avoid talking about the worst anymore. I looked at my not-so-little-anymore-sister. I was so proud of Sara and wished she could be coming with us. But she had school to finish. Plus, she isn’t the biggest nature fan. “Nature is what you pass by, on the way to the shopping mall.” ;) I looked at my beautiful sister, all grown up and doing so well and was filled with pride and happiness. I hugged Sara and told her we would see her again soon and that we would email her when we got there.

    We were going to fly Delta from Savannah to JFK in New York. From there we were flying Emirates Airlines, the official airline of the United Arab Emirates. We would fly into the city of Dubai, spend the night there and then fly to Nairobi, Kenya the next afternoon. At the ticket counter in Savannah, the lady told us that at JFK we could go directly to the Emirates gate and check in there and get our boarding passes with seat assignments. At 5:30 PM our plane took off for JFK in New York. We landed at JFK and rather than pulling up to a gate, we got off the plane boarded a shuttle and drove what seemed like five feet to a door to enter the airport. (It was like something out of a Marx Brothers movie!)

    We went through international security. I love when you cross that zone, because your U.S. driver’s license becomes meaningless. Your passport is everything. Also the English/U.S. measurement system disappears and you have to deal with that annoying metric system. So pay attention, this is the one primer I will give you and then you can expect most everything to be in metric after this and without any help.
    1 inch = 2.54 centimeters
    1 centimeter = 0.3937008 inch
    1 mile = 1.6 kilometers
    1 kilometer = 0.6213712 mile
    1 yard = 0.9144 meter
    1 meter = 3 feet
    1 pound = 2.2 Kilogram
    1 kilogram = .5 pounds
    1 sq. mile = 2.59 sq kilometers
    1 sq Kilometer = .39 Sq mile
    1 gallon = 3.79 liters
    1 liter = .26 gallon

    We had more than 3 hours to kill before our 11:30 PM flight. I started A Woman in Berlin. What a fascinating book! Our unknown woman struggled to find some measure of dignity. The German people were battered and disillusioned. Hitler refused to surrender, and told German men to fight to the death. Berlin was cut off as it was bombed by Americans, while Russian troops advanced block by block. We think of all Germans at the time as fanatic Nazis, yet their feelings were complex, most were not card carrying members of the Nazi Party. They bought into the promises of prosperity from the Third Reich. These madmen had thrown the world into chaos and Germany into utter destruction. Once they spoke the name Adolph Hitler with the reverence reserved for a deity. Now he was only referred to in disgust as “that man”.

    Everyone else was getting anxious, ready to get flying. I looked around with a Zen-like calmness, nonchalance, almost indifference. Why be anxious about anything? What will be, will be. Perhaps my calmness was due to all my experience with international travel. Who knows?

    Finally, I looked up and saw the counter agents setting up the Emirates desk. I sauntered over to them casually. I showed them the tickets. The agent told me that we needed to check-in at the counter all the way back out front… and that we should hurry, they were boarding in a few minutes and he didn’t want us to miss the plane! Aaaarrrggghhhh! I dashed over to the group and told them we needed to run back out to the main counter and get seats and that we had very little time! We scooped up our stuff and went running through the airport, back upstairs and to the Emirates desk. We showed the attendant our tickets. He said “I’m not sure we can get four seats on this plane. I’ll try.”

    What?!?! I can’t believe this! All the Zen calm was gone. We waited while he typed and typed and typed. This might end up being the shortest safari in history. Thoughts started rushing through my head. What if they could only get two tickets? Should we send my parents ahead and then Mary Ellen and I catch the next flight tomorrow? We would just meet them in Africa. Or should Mary Ellen and I go… my head was aching! Finally, he found four seats, in different parts of the plane. He printed out boarding passes. We took them and dashed back across the airport, through security and made it onto the plane just in time. Sweat dripped down my face as I collapsed in my seat.

    Yep. What will be, will be.

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    Text from flight deleted
    =======================

    Monday October 3rd – Dubai

    ...waking up in Dubai

    We arranged for a city tour of Dubai, which would finish with plenty of time for us to board our 2:30 flight to Nairobi.

    ... blah blah blah on Dubai deleted

    Our few hours in Dubai was quite enlightening, but we were ready to move on to the main event: Africa. So we went back to the airport and boarded our flight to Kenya.

    The flight to Kenya was also smooth. As we descended, we saw the African savannah, acacia trees covered the brown soil landscape. Now I could almost exhale. I was landing in Africa! Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi is a little less “gleaming” than the airport in Dubai, but we were excited to be there. One of the greatest sights of the whole trip was after we went through baggage claim and customs, stepping outside and seeing a man waiting with a sign that said “Africa Point Wayne H. Family”

    Simon Mwanza would be our guide and driver for the next 17 days. Simon helped us through the gamut of young men waiting outside the airport wanting to help us with our bags.

    He drove us to the Panafric hotel. There we found Sara online and Instant Messaged her, letting her know we were OK. She had been going crazy after not hearing from us for three days.

    We settled in for the evening. Tomorrow would be a big day.


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    Tuesday October 4th – Nairobi Tour

    I woke very early the next morning, unable to sleep. I was anxious to get the day started. As the sun came up, I looked out at the street and could see the masses of Kenyans heading off to work, like any other city.

    We checked out of the Panafric and started our tour of Nairobi. Our first stop was the Kenya Bethel home. This is the headquarters of Jehovah’s Witnesses in the country. We received a wonderful tour of the facilities and learned of the work going on there.

    Then we went to the Daphne Sheldrick Animal Center. This was an orphanage for elephants. Their mothers may have been killed by poachers or they may have gotten separated from their herd. After this we went to a giraffe center. We were able to feed giraffes by hand. Both places were closer to zoos than safari parks, but it was a nice warm-up to get us used to seeing animals. Also in both places, local Kenyans were able to explain the conservation work that they did.

    For lunch, we went to the world famous Carnivore Restaurant where we were able to try exotic meats like ostrich, alligator and camel. (and none of them taste like chicken) After this we saw a dance production, drove through the city center and checked into the Nairobi Safari Club hotel. Starting tomorrow our safari would begin with our drive to the Masai Mara.

    From my previous worldwide travels. I learned that the most important item in the world is water. In the States, many drink bottled water because they don’t like the taste of tap water. In other countries clean drinking water is a life and death issue. So stocking up on bottled water was essential. In most hotels each guest is typically given one complimentary liter bottle of water each day. Anything additional must be purchased. A one liter bottle was approximately 200 Kenya Shillings. (FYI $1 US = 72 Kenya Shillings.) And we would need to use that water for drinking and for brushing our teeth.

    I knew that tomorrow we would be on the road all day and we needed extra water. The thought of paying that ridiculous price for water irritated me. It was evening time. Mary Ellen was catching a nap. I thought certainly there must be a place close by, outside of the hotel, to purchase water!

    So now we come to that regularly scheduled part of my trips where I ignore the advice of my guides who say don’t wander out on your own. I have often found the part of my journeys where I wander around and try to blend in like a local the most exhilarating. Here in Africa I had a better chance of blending in than in Cambodia. However, I often read of Nairobi’s horrible reputation for crime. It is jokingly referred to as Nai-Robbery or NightRobbery in some tour books.

    But undaunted, I went down to the lobby and asked the doorman if there was a market close by. He told me there was a place called Nakumat’s about 3 blocks down. I took a deep breath and let my feet hit the pavement. It was the end of the work day on the busy streets of Nairobi. I mingled in with the crowd. At Nakumat’s I got SIX 1½ liter bottles for 300 shillings. Yes, it was a satisfying feeling. I could wax on and on, and dislocate my shoulder patting myself on the back. But really, all I did was walk three blocks to a supermarket and buy water. Yet, I felt like Alexander the Great.

    I sure hope the rest of the trip goes this smoothly…

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    this is where it gets good ;)

    Wednesday October 5th – Big Trouble in the Rift Valley

    We were up again early for our buffet breakfast. Then we checked out of the Nairobi Safari Club and left for the Masai Mara. The drive would take about 4 hours. It was more than 200 kilometers. (Come on, do that math!)

    We were going to drive through the Rift Valley. The valley is literally a tear in the earth’s surface, a geological fault line that stretches 6500 km across the African continent. The entire rift system is marked by diverse topography including calderas, volcanoes, mountains, lakes, ravines, etc. When we reached the road at the top of the valley, we saw a sign saying “Welcome to the Rift Valley”. We also hit our first store. Thus began the typical travel tradition of going into stores and dealing with aggressive merchants trying to sell you stuff. For many tourists, aggressive merchants and peddlers can ruin the spirit of the vacation. I have learned over the years to take it with a grain of salt. You are coming to their country. They are businesspeople and as an average American, the camera equipment you are carrying on your body is almost certainly worth more than the yearly income for many people. So of course they’re going to work extremely hard to make a sale with you.

    The view looking out over the valley was beautiful. It stretched as long as the eye could see. Slowly, we started making our descent. As we made our way down we were all silently thinking the same thing: “I wonder if we will see a Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses anywhere along here?” Mary Ellen spotted one when we hit the base of the valley. We all screamed out and told Simon he had to stop. We pulled up to the Hall and honked. A Sister, who was also a special pioneer, came out and welcomed us. She and her husband lived in a tiny home on the premises. It was wonderful to see her and to hear how the evangelizing work was going in the Rift Valley!

    We drove onwards, feeling excited. Now somewhere in this area, something changed, something that would have a profound effect on the rest of the trip. We left the smooth city roads we were used to in Nairobi and hit the bumpy unfixed roads of Kenya. I had been warned that the roads in Kenya were horrible, but horrible is the understatement of the millennium. The roads are so bad they are soul-killing. Yes they actually kill the soul! So for kilometer after kilometer, we jarred and bumped along on rocks and dirt, our teeth and bones rattling.

    At some point, I noticed that the van was feeling a little funny. I saw Simon looking out the window and down at the tires. He stopped the van and got out. At this point we were on a dusty hill waaaaay out in the valley. Simon looked at the rear right wheel and saw that the springs for the suspension had broken. The rear section of the car was resting on the tire and rubbing against it. All that bumping had taken its toll. Now what? As Simon tinkered under the van, other safari jeeps would pull up and stop. There is an unwritten code that all the guides try to help each other, since one week someone else breaks down, and the next week it could be you. Simon figured out that if he borrowed the smaller spare tire from another driver and put that one on the van, it would leave room for the tire to turn and we could hobble into the next town and get the spring fixed.

    So a few minutes later we were bumping along on the road, albeit at a much slower pace. Within a few more minutes Simon was looking out the window again. With the weight of 5 passengers and multiple suitcases on the broken suspension, the car was struggling to move. We all got out this time. Simon spent the next hour or so trying to rig together a MacGyver-like contraption of wood, rubber and metal, to hold the suspension together. At some point, he realized it wasn’t going to work. So he arranged for another driver passing by to pick us up, take us to the next town and drop us at a local restaurant where we could eat and wait. Simon could then drive the much lighter vehicle into town slowly.

    We arrived in the next town and waited. Eventually we saw Simon arrive with our van. The mechanic shop was right next to the rest area where we sat. Mary Ellen and my Dad took lots of time preaching and witnessing to the local townspeople. By the way, when you go overseas to developing nations (the term “Third World Nation” is out), you’d better be ready for much “sparser” accommodations, especially as you get further away from the city. I think from this time on, we rarely saw a toilet bowl in the restrooms. Instead there was a simple hole in the ground. Time to use those leg muscles ladies! The only question was would it be a “nice” porcelain covered hole in the ground or an “ugly” hole in the ground?

    After about 2 hours, the car was fixed and we were on our way again. By this time it was late afternoon/early evening. We were supposed to have arrived at the Masai Mara midday, have lunch and have a game drive on our way to the hotel.

    It was getting dusky when we got onto a “private toll road” that would take us on a shortcut directly into the Masai Mara. I swore this private road was even bumpier than the regular road. Soon, we saw a few scattered antelope and other animals. Suddenly, I noticed Simon was doing “that looking thing” again. He stopped the van. Unbelievable, but we had a flat tire! Here we were in the middle of the ‘jungle’ getting out of the car and changing the tire. Simon told us not to worry, that there weren’t any predators in this area. We just couldn’t believe how this day was going. We were so anxious to get to our hotel and just lie down. But I did feel a tiny tinge of excitement standing at the side of the road with nothing but African grassland on every side of us! Simon changed the tire and we climbed back into the car.

    Soon it was pitch black outside. I couldn’t wait to get to the hotel, the Ilkena Lodge. We would sleep and start our safari in the morning. Eventually we reached a spot and Simon stopped the car. ‘Here we go’ he said. We looked around. I didn’t see any hotel, or any sign for a hotel, just lots of bushes. Suddenly the car was surrounded by about a dozen young Masai men with machetes and spears! Simon got out and opened the back of the van. Soon all our luggage was being lifted out. Simon said, ‘Ok, everyone out here.’ We were all totally confused. What is going on? Where is the hotel? We got out slowly and followed the men (and more importantly our suitcases) down a path through the bushes which seemed like we were heading to the Batcave. Meanwhile, I was still looking around for the hotel we would be staying in. Mary Ellen, Mom and Dad were looking at me like “What is going on?”

    We arrived at a large tent structure. There were several chairs and some tables. A woman sat at one of the chairs. People gave us juice and hot wet towels to wipe our faces and hands. She invited us to sit. We sat, still very confused. She welcomed us to Ilkena and gave us some very brief background information. I barely heard a word, except the sentence “The guides will show you to your tents now.”

    There are moments in your life where time simply stands still, where everything in the present gets frozen and your entire life flashes before your eyes. Did she just say tent? Mom, Dad and Mary Ellen looked at me. “You didn’t tell us we were sleeping in a tent!” I said nothing. I was paralyzed. My heart sank to my feet. I thought back on the months of planning this safari and carefully looking up everything on Internet. I remember seeing plush lodges with grand dining rooms, Internet connections, and workout rooms. The bedrooms were luxurious colonial and African styled. Didn’t I see that? Did I just imagine looking everything up? Did I just become the victim on a bait and switch? They show lush rooms on the Internet, but once you fly out they change everything on you? My legs were trembling. My insides were in knots. :((

    Now unfortunately in this story, I must ruin it a little and skip ahead to the ending for a second, only because some of my African hosts may read this, not get some of my American sarcasm and feel offended. My stay at the Ilkena TENTED Lodge turned out to be one of the greatest staying experiences I have ever had on any trip. I just wasn’t expecting a tent.

    Now back to our story: The hostess explained that the whole lodge was solar powered and that the power was on from 6AM – 10AM and again at 6PM – 10PM. Each tent had its own sink, toilet and shower. She told us how to get the hot water. Masai guards (with spears!) would guide us to our tents. They would stand guard outside our tents at night. Sometimes, animals wandered through the campsite, but we were perfectly safe.

    After a few other bits of info, she asked if we had any other questions. I wanted to raise my hand and say “This is a joke right? The Four Seasons is down the street right?” But, I decided against it. Somehow, my legs supported me enough to follow the guide to our tent. Another guide led my parents to another tent. I could barely look at them. I didn’t want to answer any questions. Mary Ellen didn’t say a word. (And guys, you know it is usually even more trouble when the little lady is so silent.)
    :'(

    The guides zipped open our tent. Just to clarify, this wasn’t a little pup tent, but what is called a permanent tent, sometimes also called a luxury tent. There was a large queen sized bed, space to hang clothes and plenty of room otherwise. There was an enclosed toilet, a sink and a shower. But it was still a tent! :&

    After the guides left, Mary Ellen started looking around. Her jaw dropped down to the floor. Then it happened. She began laughing. Not little chuckles, but a maniacal laughing unlike anything I have ever heard on this earth. She then took out her flashlight and began shining it in every crevice and corner. Of course my wife, deathly afraid of spiders and other insects, managed to find every insect possible. She dashed from one corner of the tent to the next shining her flashlight and laughing and cackling uncontrollably. All I could do is stand there helplessly. I think I feebly mumbled something like “This isn’t too bad!” I must say that many wives might have started screaming “You brought me out into the middle of *&^% Africa to stay in a $#@! tent!” and demanded to go back home immediately. I’m glad Mary Ellen didn’t do that… though I am sure that somewhere in the middle of all that laughing those words were being subliminally sent. :-? When I couldn’t take it anymore, I realized I needed to go over and see how my parents were doing. We had the Masai bring us to my parents’ tent.

    As soon as my Mom and Mary Ellen saw each other they started laughing and laughing… I mean loud earsplitting laughing that brought them to tears! I could barely speak. I was thinking, I just made my parents spend a couple thousand dollars of their retirement money to come to Africa and sleep in a tent! My Dad mentioned that on the itinerary that they gave us when we first arrived he noticed the word “tent” next to this lodge, but he never really thought about it. I said, I never looked at that itinerary because I read the one they sent me weeks ago. (No, I didn’t remember what it said.) I looked up all the places we were to stay the next two weeks and they were all luxury lodges. My Mom asked if I was sure and if we were just going to spend the next two weeks in tents. I was so weak and dizzy at this point I barely got any words out. I needed to talk to someone from the tour company ASAP.

    We decided to try to make the best of everything and go to eat. We had the guides lead us to the dining room, which of course was another large tent. (Just to make sure it is clear here, there was nothing but tents everywhere. No buildings at all!) We stepped into the tent and saw two women at one table eating. We joined them.

    Linda and Belinda were from Australia. They had been in the Mara and at Ilkena for a few days. They welcomed us and began to tell us how wonderful a time they were having. They regaled us on the wonderful service at the lodge and how great the accommodations and the food were. They said of all the places they stayed in Africa, this was the best. There was personal attention unmatched. They ranted and raved to the point that I wondered if they secretly worked for the lodge, but they assured us they weren’t getting a kickback. I must say that the appearance of Linda and Melinda was just short of divine. It was like two angels had been sent to comfort us in our hour of need. My stomach was still deeply tied in knots. I sat there mostly quiet and Mary Ellen talked to the ladies. They also talked to my parents, assuring them that they were going to have a wonderful time. They told us that at night we could hear the hippos at the river right next to the camp. They also said you can hear lions roaring at night. It was now close to 9PM and soon the power was going to go out. Linda and Belinda told us not to worry; they had torches in the room that we could use for lighting.

    I kept thinking to myself, “Man those animals better be good tomorrow so I can be redeemed in everyone’s eyes!”

    Simon stopped by just to check in on us. I pulled him aside privately and said, “I, um, didn’t realize this place was going to be tented.” He chuckled and said only the first place was tented, the rest were lodges. WHEW! A load came off my mind and heart like you wouldn’t believe. It was just a relief to know that I didn’t imagine all the lodges I saw on the Internet. I knew I wasn’t crazy… at least not because of this reason.

    I went to my parents’ tent and told them what I had discovered. I just had to admit I messed up a bit and didn’t notice the first place we were staying was tented. They were relieved, even though they were starting to settle in to their accommodations. I went back to the dining room where Mary Ellen and Melinda were still talking. I told Mary Ellen what I found out from Simon. I sat down and sipped some tea. My nerves were still frayed, but I was feeling much better. It was getting close to 10 PM and the power was going to go off. We hadn’t showered or unpacked. Linda and Belinda reminded me that we had torches in the room. Then Mary Ellen told me that Australians refer to flashlights as “torches”. The floodgates opened. I started laughing uncontrollably, and then I started crying. I mean full scale tears like a little girl. All along I had been thinking “Oh great on top of everything else I need to go light a torch like in one of those Mummy movies.” I sat there laughing and crying for a good ten minutes, till I soaked the front of my shirt. Tiredness, delirium, hunger, nausea, relief and pain racked my body. NOW I could slowly come back to normal.

    Mary Ellen and I went to our tent and showered by flashlight. The staff gave us hot water bottles to help us stay warm in bed. I told Mary Ellen to imagine that we were missionaries, sent from the States to preach the Good News in Africa, this was our first night in our assignment. We had to pray to Jehovah for strength and be optimistic.

    I listened to the sounds of Africa at night. Only a thin sheet of plastic separated us from whatever creatures were moving around. Well, this was the African Safari I had dreamed of for 15 years. Those animals better be good tomorrow or I’m in deep you-know-what! I laughed and cried myself to sleep.


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    Wayne, You are sadistic.... I have just spent all evening reading your report and then real all Panecots report and looked thru' her photos and was just off to bed when now I find.... you have posted another installment... sadistic :D

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    Wayne: Oh I am so glad you did this - I admit, I'm too lazy (and my dial up is too slow) to go to many other pages, so I have not read your report - and I am laughing out loud at your predicaments. When you wrote the line about starting the torches like in those mummy movies, I literally snorted!

    Thank you!

    Cyn

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    This was a great idea Wayne, I am glad you did it! I, of course, read your whole trip report cover to cover from your web site, but am enjoying reading it a second time! (and as I printed it out in colour, I still have it, it's even bound)
    I had to call the computer expert over (Jim) in order to get your report from your web site, so this is good -the people who have dial up can now read it here!
    And, I will link this new link into the trip report index, I have gone through it and re-organized it in Word (according to date order) and made sure that all camps and lodges were named. So, I will add this thread into yours, and then, once I catch up on the reports from Feb onward, I will repost the whole NEW & IMPROVED index under a new thread.

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    Thursday October 6th – Redemption: The Masai Mara

    "Hey Simon was doing that looking that again!"

    The sun was just starting to peek out when I woke up. We slept great. The bed was warm and comfortable. I hadn’t heard any lions or hippos, but I thought I would peak my head outside the tent. I zipped it open a little, pushed my head out and I saw, just a couple of dozen yards from me, a bunch of giraffes slowly and majestically walking through the brush! Their heads gently bobbed as they walked. OK, this is working for me! This is the Africa that Hemingway wrote about.

    My parents also had a great night’s sleep. We were all in high spirits. Though I admit I did have another laughing/crying spell. The breakfast that was served was wonderful and the staff was great. We also finally got to see the grounds of where we were staying. Simon came to get us and we headed off to our first day of safari on the legendary Masai Mara.

    The Masai Mara is the reason many people come to Kenya. This is the classic African savannah that you see in magazines and in movies. Virtually every type of wildlife you could dream of seeing is somewhere in the Masai Mara. In one morning it is possible to see all of “The Big Five”. These are lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant. Yet the greatest attraction on the park is the annual wildebeest migration. In July and August millions of wildebeest and zebra move north from the Serengeti in Tanzania in order to finder better grass and water in the Masai Mara.

    As we entered the park we saw zebras and wildebeest and far as the eye could see. We “oooh and aaaahed” and started snapping pictures. Simon told us that soon we wouldn’t even take pictures of zebras anymore since there are so many of them. We slowly moved along gazing.

    We came up to a group of hyenas. They were all fighting over something in some high grass at the edge of the road. Simon edged our vehicle closer. As we got closer, I detected a damp musky smell in the air. Suddenly the lead hyena stood up and tilted his/her head back. In its mouth was a bloody spinal column! This was probably a zebra or wildebeest killed by a lion. Hyenas are scavengers that will eat what the lion doesn’t. The hyena shook its prize back and forth. Blood and little chunks of flesh dripped from it. Revolting and yet incredibly fascinating at the same time. This was the African wild!

    We also noticed that when we saw hyenas, all the impalas, antelope, etc. in the area stood perfectly still, watching every move that they made. Hey if you had the chance of being eaten, you would be paying attention too. But this became a good indicator to help us know if predators were in the area. If the impalas, antelope, zebras and wildebeests were grazing and looked relaxed, then you knew no carnivores were close by.

    We continued our trek and saw a lone giraffe walking among trees, and then a second came by.

    Just a few minutes later we saw a herd of elephants! They were so majestic slowly walking through the grass with the sun blazing behind them. Two years ago I read a book called The White Bone. It told a story of a group of elephants trying to survive, but it told it from the point of view of the elephants, actually letting us into how they think about their world. As I watched this group slowly make their way past us, I felt like I understood them on a different level. Simon wanted us to get a front view of these magnificent creatures. He drove our car around and parked not quite directly in their path, but close enough that we could see their faces. But we were also close enough to tick off one of the large matriarchs. She pulled away from the group and headed toward us, letting us know we had taken quite enough pictures. Simon quickly pulled us away. A few more seconds and she would have charged.

    We continued our drive, getting more confident and excited by the minute. We looking several hundred yards ahead and could see several minibuses and jeeps gathered around an area. People were looking up into a tree. Simon told us there was probably a leopard there. We rushed over, looked up and there she was. Nestled in the tree resting was a beautiful leopard! Leopards are excellent climbers. In fact they spend a great deal of time in trees, even dragging their kills up there to keep them away from lions and hyenas.

    I was feeling redeemed! Everyone was smiling. I felt like one of the great military generals who had just led his troops through a successful battle. Now the men were confident and celebrating. But as happy as we were, we know that no African safari is complete without seeing lions. Nothing represents the splendor of Africa like a beautiful maned lion. After seeing the leopard, my Dad said “Now all we need is to see some lions.” Simon said he would try to find us a lion. We drove and drove, peering and peeking into high grasses where lions would lurk. It was getting hot and close to noon. Animal activity slows to a halt as it gets hot.

    But just before it was time to turn back, Simon drove us to an area of high grass and trees. We pulled right into it. There resting on the ground were three young male lions! Their manes were still forming. They were doing what lions do best: absolutely nothing. But even still, being with 10 feet of them was a heart racing experience. They looked at us with extreme indifference. ‘Bunch of humans want to watch us sleep, so what?’ We watched for a while and then drove off.

    We headed back to our lodge. I was so excited! We had done it. We saw so much in our first morning of safari, anything else after this point was gravy. And to think we had 2 more weeks off… Hey Simon was doing that looking that again!

    Believe it or not we had another flat! I was still high from the lions, so it really didn’t faze me the way it should have. Simon quickly patched it up. But before we could even get going, he was doing the looking thing again! (And I’m not making this up) One of the other tires was also flat. Now we had no more spare tires. One more flat and we were stranded.

    We continued heading back to camp. We told Simon to drive carefully please. Thank goodness we didn’t get the flats while we were next to the lions! On the way back we saw another herd of elephants, but didn’t get in their way this time.

    We returned to Ilkena as victorious conquerors. Our tents felt like home now. In half a day we were seasoned safari vets. They served us a magnificent lunch with chicken salad, beef soup and tilapia. We napped and then did some laundry, by hand of course. We also had a serious talk with Simon. We simply could not endure any more vehicle problems. We wanted new tires on the vehicles before we made our drive to Lake Nakuru tomorrow. Really we would have liked new tires before we headed on our afternoon game drive, but they just didn’t happen to have a Goodyear store in the middle of the Masai Mara. Simon told us he was confident that we would be fine on the afternoon game drive and that we could make it to the nearest town and get new tires. This calmed us a bit. We said we would go on the afternoon game drive & hold our breath.

    So in the late afternoon, as it started to cool, we headed back out to the Mara, this time to a different section with high brush. Soon we came upon another group of cars watching something. This time it turned out to be a lone cheetah sitting in the grass. We all gathered around in hushed excitement. Eventually the cheetah jumped up on the hood of one of the jeeps. We were all delirious with excitement, though I suppose the people in the jeep the cheetah jumped on were just a bit concerned. The hood of their jeep was open. But the cheetah wasn’t looking for human flesh. She was watching a group of impalas far in the distance. Eventually the cheetah got off the hood of the jeep and started inching her way closer to the impalas. We licked our lips in anticipation. Were we about to witness the cheetah’s incredible burst of speed which can reach up to eighty miles per hour?

    But the impalas weren’t fooled for a minute. Every time the cheetah crawled forwards a foot, they moved twenty feet. Once a cheetah makes its incredibly fast run, it has to rest for hours, so she didn’t want to waste a good run. Eventually we saw that the impalas were so far away that the cheetah would never catch them. We moved on. We came upon a pride of lions. There was a male and female in full heat. We were “treated” to them mating less than ten feet away from us.

    We returned to rooms quite “full”. We had seen so much in just one day. Tonight we had our last glorious dinner at the Ilkena Lodge. The next morning we would be moving on.

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    Friday October 7th – Lake Nakuru

    I wanted to jump up and down like a ten year old and scream “This is the place I saw on the Internet!”

    We were up bright and early this morning. We had a very full day ahead of us. Our itinerary had us doing a game drive in the Masai Mara as we left. Then we were to drive about 4 hours to Lake Nakuru. There we would have lunch and then do a game drive through the national park around the lake. Then we would drive to Lake Naivasha (another 2 hours or more) to sleep for the night. But, because of our tire issues, we wanted Simon to stop at the first town, once we left the Mara and get brand new tires… in fact we insisted on it. We were worried that we would break down again before we even left the Mara.

    We bid a truly fond farewell to the Ilkena Tented Lodge. We all got one more chuckle out of the whole experience. As we left the Mara, we were treated to more beautiful landscapes. Giraffes were everywhere, picking from the tops of the acacia trees.

    We got out of the Mara without a flat. We returned to the town where we had spent a few hours, two days ago. While Simon worked on the car, we mingled in the center of town. It had an untamed outlaw sort’ve feeling to it. We fended off more hawkers selling necklaces and other items. Of course we preached to people while waiting.

    After I think, two hours (no they didn’t build the tires from scratch), we were on our way. We bounced and shook and bumped our way across Kenya. At least we knew we had good tires and the suspension was all checked out.

    All along, I had been cringing whenever we stopped by a merchant’s store. I really hate haggling and even more so I hate haggling over little, tiny knick-knacks. I had resolved myself to do none of that on this trip, if I could help it. However, there was one item that did grab my eye: a five foot tall giraffe made out of one solid piece of wood. With Mary Ellen’s fine negotiating skills we got a good price for him and arranged for shipping back to the States. I think I will call him “Leonard”, after the store manager. His Swahili name will be “Umaré”, meaning “peace”.

    It wasn’t until mid-afternoon that we arrived at Lake Nakuru National Park. The park was established in 1961 and covers approximately 180 sq km. After the Masai Mara, it may be Kenya’s most visited park. It contains hippo, rhino, African Buffalo, warthogs, gazelles, baboons and even a leopard or two. But the real claim to fame of Nakuru, is the thousands and thousands of pink flamingos that settle around the shallow soda lake on the inside.

    We went right to a lunch buffet inside the park. We got there just before 2PM, when lunch was to end. We ate quickly and then got on the road for the safari. The pink flamingos were breathtaking. Groups would fly in formation. Others would walk in a synchronized pace on the ground.

    Then we drove around the park and saw the final two of the Big Five that we were missing. First we saw a white rhino munching on grass. As you may know the rhino was nearly wiped from the face of this earth by poaching. Rhino horns were once prized by trophy hunters. In some Asian countries the ground up powder from a rhino horn is considered an aphrodisiac. So being able to see one of these endangered creatures in the wild is a rare privilege.

    Then we saw some Cape Horn Buffalo. These creatures are known for being the meanest animal in all of Africa. More people are gored by buffalo every year than are attacked by lions. Simon told us that the chance of seeing one of the few leopards in this park, was pretty much zero. Though there was much more to see, we knew we needed to leave the park. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get rooms in the hotels inside Lake Nakuru, so we were going to stay at Lake Naivasha. We had a couple of hours (!) drive to get to our destination for the night.

    So kilometer after butt numbing kilometer we jostled and shook on the Kenya roads. You may be thinking “We get it already the roads are bad, move on!” But I really can’t emphasize to you enough how stunningly awful it all was. It seems that many of the highways were built to handle vehicles up to 40,000 kilos, but they are allowing trucks through that weigh 100,000 kilos. So the roads are just being massacred in every way. Soon it was pitch black outside and we were still driving.

    At some point we turned through a gate that said Lake Naivasha Sopa. We didn’t really see anything as we pulled in. My Mom said “Oh, is this another tent?” Everyone laughed. This was of course now the running joke of the trip.

    But as we pulled up, we saw a building! We stepped inside the lobby and saw plush exotic décor. I wanted to jump up and down like a ten year old and scream “This is the place I saw on the Internet!” Our rooms were huge. There were steps that led down from the bedroom to a sitting area by large windows. It turns out that the hotel is very close to the lake and that often during the day, hippos come out of the lake and walk around the grounds. You can sit on the couch in your room and watch them. Sometimes they will even walk around at night.

    But it was also a good news/bad news thing. We were only spending the night at this hotel. Tomorrow morning we were checking out and heading to Aberdares National Park and the famous Treetops Lodge. Simon told us that at Treetops, we should only each bring the tiniest amount possible. The rooms were very small, it really was a treehouse. He would hold on to most of our things and pick us up after we left the hotel Sunday morning.

    A tree house hotel? I’m sure this will be an… experience…

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    Addendum, I left Nakuru thinking, 'OK the flamingos were nice, but I would never come back here again.' Since then I have seen wonderful pictures from many of you. Apparently EVERYONE got to see beautiful leopards at Nakuru, except ME :(

    But I should also be grateful that we went to Nakuru, because this was the only way I would have completed the Big Five. All my views of rhino were in this park. Now if ever I was going back to Kenya I would go to Nakuru, but I would make sure I stayed within the park.


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    Saturday October 8th – Treetops

    The next morning we were on our way by 10AM. I got up a few times in the night, but there were no hippos anywhere.

    As we jostled along, we continued the game of who could spot the Kingdom Hall first. Within a few minutes of leaving the hotel we spotted a sign for another one. Of course we asked Simon if he could pull into the village and take us to the Hall. In a few minutes we were at the Lake Naivasha Congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. A brother, who is an elder, was working on the fence. He also lives in a tiny caretaker’s home on the property.

    We stayed less then ten minutes because we knew we had another long day of driving ahead of us. We crossed beautiful Kenyan countryside with fields of corn, wheat, coffee, potatoes and many other types of vegetation. As we drove along, little kids came out and waved to us.

    The road suddenly got smooth enough that I could read. I finished A Woman In Berlin. What a magnificent and fascinating book! The heroine had survived the destruction of Berlin. We are so used to the World War II images of the German people fanatically saluting Hitler. People were taught during that time, that whenever anything good was provided for them they were to say “And for this we thank the Führer.”

    When he came to power, “that man” promised that his Reich would last a thousand years. There was to be prosperity and world domination for Germany. Twelve years later, most German cities were in shambles. American, British and Russian troops had occupied most of the country. Germany was to become a world pariah. In Berlin, starvation as well as typhus, and other diseases ran rampant. It seemed like the vast majority of Berlin women young and old had been raped by marauding Russian soldiers. And for this we thank the Führer. :'(

    I picked up Unnatural Exposure by Patricia Cornwell.

    The Treetops Hotel is one of the more unique lodging facilities in all of Africa. Its first visitors were in 1932 when it really was a 2 room tree house nestled among some fig trees. In 1952 a young English girl, Princess Elizabeth, climbed into the tree house one afternoon. When she came down the next morning she was a Queen. Her father, King George VI died during the night. Since then, the tree house has been upgraded significantly to a large lodge nestled among trees, but also supported by strong wooden beams.

    By early afternoon, we arrived at the base site and reception area for the Treetops hotel where we would eat lunch. The actual hotel was another 30 minutes away inside the Aberdares Park. We would need to be driven there by their private shuttle since no cars were allowed inside. We kept our tiny bags with us, Simon took care of the rest of our luggage. The shuttle would take us up to the hotel at… I could swear they said 4PM.

    By the way, as we were pulling up to the gate for the reception area we saw a sign for a Kingdom Hall! We figured after we finished eating, around 2ish, we would have time to walk to the Hall, visit and come back and get the shuttle. So after a quick lunch, the four of us walked back to the road and then headed down the road that led to the Kingdom Hall. This was no simple road, but a steep, rocky, long hill. Someone told us that the Kingdom Hall was several hundred meters away. We soon realized this walk was way too much for my Dad. So Mom and Dad decided to head back to the reception area.

    After a GREAT deal of walking & passing many houses, Mary Ellen and I found the Kingdom Hall. The Service Meeting had just a few minutes to go. By this time it was after 3:30PM, the meeting would end a little before 4PM. At first Mary Ellen and I figured we would stay about 5 minutes and then slip out. However, we were so caught up in the meeting, even though we couldn’t understand a word of the Swahili being spoken, that we stayed right to the end. We hugged and kissed our Brothers and Sisters and then quickly headed back up that steep road.

    We walked into the lot for the reception area at about 4:15 and saw nothing. The bus was gone. I guess we were hoping things would run on Africa time and be ½ hour late, but not this time. I thought to myself, well at least my parents went ahead to the hotel and are there relaxing. Just as I thought that, my Mom and Dad stepped outside. They explained that the bus had left at 3:30. So no matter what, we missed it. Sigh… The next bus was due at 5:30PM. It was also the last one, so we knew not to miss it. We waited patiently and soon enough we were on a shuttle heading through Aberdare National Park.

    This park was established in 1950 and has a wide variety of animals. Primarily there are elephants, buffalo, black rhinos, various types of monkeys, antelopes and hyenas. Somewhere in there, is allegedly an elusive black leopard.

    Before long, we checked into our tiny room and we then sat before the lodge host and he explained how it all worked. There was a salt lick as well as a pond, very close to the base of the hotel. Animals of all kinds would come up to the salt lick day and night. We could sit on the top of the hotel and watch for them. Also, at night, you can turn on the alert system in your room which buzzes if an animal came to the salt lick. 1 buzz was a hyena, 2 buzzes was for a leopard, 3 for buffalo, 4 for rhino and 5 for elephant. I really only wanted to wake up at this point for a leopard.

    We had a nice dinner in the dining room and then sat upstairs for a while. It was pretty much all elephants and buffaloes that came to the lick. We were bombarded with all kinds of mosquitoes. Yet there was still something nice about sitting there and looking out at Africa. I sat with my Dad for a while. At one point he said “Who would have ever thought that in my lifetime I would have seen Africa?” I will admit to getting a little misty-eyed about that later on. :-S It was good to feel that despite all the difficulties, the trip was worth it.

    During the night I heard one buzz for a hyena. I didn’t even look out my window

    I was getting spoiled…


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    I have had some Aberdares fans show me some great pictures of the park and slightly raise my opinions about it... slightly. I haven't heard from the legions of Treetops Hotel fans though ((A))

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    TreeTops Fan.............:-(

    Had a few drinks at the "lodge", I said that lightly. I am 6'4" and at that time weighted 235.

    Well the "beds" in the rooms were meant for the African pygmy.

    It was the only night that we stayed awake the whole night. Also, one shower and communal at that...:-)

    Thank goodness for the breakfast and shower at the country club the following morning.

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    Sunday October 9th – Drive to Amboseli

    It was time to hit the road again. This time we were headed to Amboseli National Park. It was to be another long day of driving. (Thank goodness everyone in the car liked each other:) )

    I must say that most of this day was a blur to me. In fact, looking in the notebook I kept while we traveled, I see that there is virtually nothing there for this day. Of course we saw a Kingdom Hall just a few kilometers from our hotel; of course we stopped.

    We actually headed back to Nairobi and had lunch at the Panafric. Then we headed on to Amboseli. Kilometer, after kilometer, bump after bump, pothole after pothole we soldiered on. In time we noticed the ground was hardened. Dust was flying everywhere. There were little cyclones of dust in the distance. This land was barren and empty.

    Now just repeat those last four sentences for about four hours and that will cover the rest of the day, except for the brief and heavy rain shower that engulfed us as we drove in the middle of nowhere. We were glad it was raining, the land needed it.

    We arrived at the Amboseli Sopa just as the sun was going down. At least we got a tiny glimpse of our surroundings as we checked into our rooms, which seemed so far from the main building that I thought we crossed the equator.

    I know I know, whiny Americans…

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    Monday October 10th –Amboseli

    We rose early for our safari in Amboseli. We were so glad that we didn’t have to change hotels again.

    At 392 sq km, Amboseli National Park is much smaller than the Mara. While it has a variety of animal life, people go to Amboseli for the elephants.

    As we headed to the park, we saw a family of giraffes. We also saw something new: ostriches! These gallant, huge birds were a beautiful sight. Due to incredible erosion, Amboseli is horribly dusty and bare. This can make it is easier to see animals, if they are relatively close to the road. But, most animals stayed close to the few water holes, which were further from the roads.

    We kept seeing hippos, but the watering holes were so far from the road, that we could only see the tops of their backs. After another hour or so, we saw a lone hippo, far from his waterhole right at the side of the road. As we headed back to our hotel, we saw a lone baby hyena. It was cute in a hideous hyena sort’ve way. It quickly scampered across the road and into its hyena den, under some rocks.

    We went to see a Masai Village. We were told our safari wouldn’t be complete without seeing the lifestyle of this tribe which dominates Kenya. When people see pictures of the “primitive tribal” Kenya, they are most certainly looking at pictures of the Masai. The Masai are a nomadic people that herd cattle. They are noted for being tall and lean and are often dressed in bright colors.

    When we first arrived outside the village, they performed a traditional dance and welcomed us. The village itself is a group of huts, made of mud and cow dung. The entire place is enclosed with thorny brush for protection. The enclosure is large enough that their cattle can be brought inside at night. We followed our guide, one of the group leaders, into the village. They showed us how they are able to quickly make fire and then explained a great deal about their style of living.

    We went inside one of the homes. It was dark, but the mud and other materials kept it from getting hot inside. The Masai life is a tough one, especially so for the women, who even have to build the homes themselves!

    Then we got to that point at the end, where they wanted us to go through their “market” and purchase beads, necklaces, sculpture and assorted knick knacks. I always dread this. The way that they want it to work is that you go around the huge circle, where each person sits with their wares. You point to whatever you want to buy and your handler picks it up. At the end, they take all the stuff you are interested in and you go to the village center and negotiate. They made the process seem like such a big deal, you’d think you were ‘negotiating’ peace in the Middle East. I prefer to look at everything quickly, and then decide if I want to buy anything. I had already decided I really didn’t want anything, except to go back to the car.

    But eventually, all of us picked out a few minimal things: a bracelet or two, a necklace or two and a little wooden animal of some kind. About ten (!) of the village men gathered around us. “OK, let us go to the center and negotiate.” So we walked and walked. We got to the center. The men all gathered together and mumbled among themselves. Let me just emphasize again this was not the Hope Diamond we had picked up. They came back with a price that was just astronomical. The gulf between our price, where we thought we were generous at $10 and what they wanted, over $100 was too big. I guess they were a bit insulted when we counter-offered. We were hot and tired and angry too. Yes, I know we are the “rich Americans”, but I am not paying $100 for four pieces of string! So, we bid them adieu.

    At the end of the day we went back to our rooms covered with dust. It was great to jump into the shower. We again packed up our clothes. Tomorrow, we would not only change hotels, but we would change countries. By mid-day, we would cross the border for Tanzania. The Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater still lay ahead of us!

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    Did I mention that Amboseli was dusty? I did get a great shot of a hippo that came out of the water all the way to the road, and yes the elephants were great but... I would need to come back hear during the rainy season.

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    Tuesday October 11th –Just When You Think You’re Out of the Woods….


    “HUH? I thought she was with you!” =-O

    I got up at 5:30 AM in order to see Mt. Kilimanjaro. By mid-morning, clouds would cover up the magnificent view of Africa’s highest peak. A feeling of peace came over me as I stared at the snow-capped peak. I remembered the Hemingway short story, “The Snows of Kilimanjaro”...OK, I’ve never read it, but now I felt like I needed to. ;;)

    As we drove through Amboseli, we saw a lone lion guarding a kill. A jackal and a hyena hovered nearby, hoping to get leftovers. We bumped and bounced as we continued through Amboseli. We were going to bounce our way all the way to the Tanzania border in a few short hours. We were already covered with dust again. Amboseli wasn’t nearly as exciting as the Masai Mara, but it was one more part of the experience. I thought about the—

    Hey wait, Simon is doing the looking thing again! :-@ The car was feeling funny, like it was losing power. Simon checked underneath and basically something for the clutch was bouncing loose. No, I can’t explain it exactly, but it was bad and it was because of all the shaking. We hobbled along in the lower gears, and I do mean hobbled until somehow, by God’s grace we got to the exit for Amboseli. Simon got out to see if he could fix it. Now here is a tip for someone who wants to make money. Set up a mobile repair center around these parks. The shops can be at the gates, and if you break down inside, they send someone to fix you up right on the spot.

    We stood by the gate waiting. I really wasn’t even sure what to feel at this point. I did feel bad for Simon. He had been trying to show us a great time and I am sure even he was frustrated by all of this. We were bombarded by more peddlers and those just asking for money.

    Simon soon realized our vehicle was finished for the day. He knew he had to keep us going to meet our contacts at the Tanzania border. So he talked to some other jeep drivers who had clients and were taking them to the border. Mary Ellen and I would hitch a ride with one vehicle. Mom and Dad would go in another. We quickly packed our suitcases into our new rides. I barely saw Mom and Dad as I screamed out “See you at the border!”

    Our new ride was a Land Rover and this thing was built for these horrible roads. We moved along faster and smoother than ever before. We met Alistair a young med school student from the U.K. He told us that he was doing a program where he would spend several weeks at different areas throughout Africa helping to take care of the sick. We griped to him about all the roads and he told us the roads were even worse in Botswana! He also told us that in Tanzania, the road leading to the Ngorongoro Crater was built by a Japanese firm and is the best road in all of Africa. I salivated as I thought about that road. :-X

    It seemed like no time at all before we were at the Tanzania border. Mary Ellen and I jumped out when the car stopped. We thanked Alistair and his driver for helping us and got our bags out. I didn’t see Mom & Dad’s jeep but I was sure they were right behind us. The Kenya-Tanzania border had a Wild West feeling to it. I couldn’t quite place it, but there was something in the air. Mary Ellen and I decided to get stamped at Kenya customs while we waited for my parents to arrive. The process was very quick. We came back outside and saw my Dad getting out of a van. He looked at us, smiled and said “Where’s Mom?”

    “HUH? I thought she was with you!” Dad said that they got put in different cars. Her car was AHEAD of his, so she should already be here. We walked around a bit and didn’t see her. Hmmm… Don’t panic yet, don’t panic… We walked around the area as all kinds of characters milled back and forth. There was no sign of Mom. I said to my Father are you sure your jeep didn’t pass hers? He told me that his jeep never passed anyone the whole time they were driving. We even saw the arrival of a vehicle of Korean tourists who were behind my Dad’s jeep. They arrived at the border a few minutes after my Dad did. What is going on?

    Now I could feel myself getting anxious. For split second I imagined my Mom being ‘held’ in some Masai village and becoming one of the Chief’s wives. With the way that Mom likes to, ahem, express her opinions, she would not do well. Masai men aren’t known for their support of women’s lib.

    OK, we were starting to get a little panicky. I swear I’m not a girlie-man or anything, but I was about to run around crying “They took my Mommy!” >:O Just before I could go into my breakdown, a jeep pulled up and there was my Mother. I’m not the least bit ashamed to say tears flowed from everyone as we all hugged. It turns out my Mom’s jeep was ahead of my Father’s. But they pulled way off the road because someone had to go to the bathroom. While in his vehicle, Dad didn’t see my Mom’s jeep pull off the road. So they drove to the border thinking Mom’s jeep was just further ahead. (Got that?) To top things off, none of the other passengers in my mother’s car spoke English. So the whole ride she couldn’t even talk to anyone! Well we thought, this is just one more experience and one more entry in the Journal.

    The Beatdown
    Once we were all checked out of Kenya, we went to the Tanzania side for entry. We waited outside while one of the women processed our passports. Suddenly we heard a loud commotion and screaming. A crowd was forming around the entrance to the Tanzania center. I could sense anger in the commotion. Uh oh…. This is just the type of situation you get warned about in those State Department travel advisories. Were we about to get caught up in some sort’ve angry mob demonstration or a violent coup d’etat? :">

    A group of people dragged a young man from inside the building. People were slapping him on the head, shaking him and kicking him. Everyone was joining in. A few people took the man to a building back on the Kenya side. It turns out the man was a pickpocket. He was caught trying to pick some tourist’s pocket and the locals were beating him silly. Then they dragged him off to the Kenya police center where they would… well let’s put it this way, there would be no defense lawyers, no reading of rights. The Kenya police would take him to an enclosed room and ‘educate’ him on the error of his ways.

    A New Beginning
    We met Ali of Leopard Tours, the sister company to Africa Point Travel. For the next several days, he would be our guide and driver. So we said a fond farewell to Simon, packed into our new jeep and entered Tanzania. Our new vehicle was a Land Rover 4WD, there was a little less storage space for our bags, but, oh the suspension! :D This was a great safari vehicle. I felt better already. The road leaving the border and heading to the town of Arusha was awesome.

    Tanzania definitely had a different feel than Kenya did. I can’t quite place my finger on it. Soon enough we arrived in the town of Arusha. Arusha is the gateway to all Tanzania safaris and therefore it is the tourism centre of the country. We ate lunch and then met with the representatives from Leopard Tours. Looking at our itinerary, we were going to drive to Lake Manyara and stay at a hotel there for the night. The next morning, we would check out, do a game drive through Lake Manyara, have lunch and then make the long drive to the Serengeti. We probably wouldn’t arrive in the Serengeti till night time. If there was one thing we couldn’t take more of was arriving at hotels late at night and not even being able to see where we were. So I talked to my group. I was sure Lake Manyara was beautiful, but we already saw Lake Naivasha and Lake Nakuru. The Serengeti was going to be a highlight. So we decided that in the morning we would drive straight to the Serengeti and be able to get there during the day. At first the Leopard Tours people were a little confused, “Why don’t you want to see Lake Manyara?”. I assured them it was no insult to their country and explained our feelings. In the end they understood and agreed.

    We stocked up on more water at a local market and then drove hours more to the Lake Manyara Serena Lodge. The rooms were romantic and lush. The view overlooked the beautiful lake. There was a mosquito net over the bed and it wasn’t just for decorations. Tomorrow, I knew I would be heading to the Serengeti. Back in the early nineties, I bought a book entitled simply “Serengeti”. It was filled with incredible photos from this legendary park. I have paged through that book dozens of times over more than a decade. I couldn’t believe I was finally going to see it. >:D<

    So what exactly is this “Serengeti” I am babbling about? The word is taken from Swahili meaning “endless plain”. It covers 14,763 sq km and is the largest national park in Tanzania and one of the largest in Africa. It connects with the Masai Mara in Kenya and shares the wildebeest migration. The opportunities to view all kinds of wildlife here, are said to be unparalleled by any other place on earth.

    Yeah, I was, ready for that… 8-)

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    Wednesday October 12th –Drive to the Serengeti

    Who stole the Serengeti?

    How fitting that my Crusade to travel the world should end here

    I had an excited, yet serene feeling as we got on the road the next morning. We kept joking that this could have ended up being my Mom’s first day as a Masai woman if someone had decided to hold on to her. When we passed by women on the road, carrying things on their heads, we said “See Mom, that could be you right now.” =:)

    I was extra thrilled that we made the decision to skip the morning game drive and make our beeline for the Serengeti. We bumped along on the road from Manyara. We passed through a few townships. Then, something truly spectacular happened… we reached the Japanese road! This was the road that led to the Ngorongoro Crater area. The road was smoother than most roads in the States. If I could have gotten out of the car and kissed the asphalt, I would have. We praised ‘the Japanese’ many times as we glided along. =D> I felt like a great military general, full of bravado, leading his troops off to battle. (I know, not good Christian imagery.)

    I was more than halfway through Unnatural Exposure. An evil mastermind was threatening to release a smallpox like virus across the country and our heroine has trying to track him down. Yes, I know it is quite bizarre to read about Nazis and smallpox serial killers, while seeing the beauty of nature.

    We reached the entrance to the Ngorongoro Conservation area and bid adieu to our smooth sailing. The road through the conservation area was back to being bumpy… though as our guide Ali told us, not like the horrible ones in Kenya. ;) A conservation area allows people to live inside, while a reserve is for animals only. So as we drove through the Ngorongoro Conservation area, we would see Masai villages. People were not allowed to live in the Serengeti. We stopped at a lookout point and got our first view of the crater. It was magnificent! The entire Ngorongoro Conservation area is over 8300 sq km. The Crater is about 20 km wide. It is one of the world’s largest volcanic craters. It is teeming with a huge variety of wildlife.

    As time went on, my confidence and bravado began to ebb. :"> It wasn’t the bumpy roads, it was the return of our friend from Amboseli: Dust! Horrendous unbelievable amounts of dust showered down upon us. A double portion came whenever a car drove past us in the opposite direction. Back in Georgia, my Mom bought those face masks because she heard the roads were dusty. I said “Oh Mom, you’ll never need those.” Well you know the saying, Mother is always right. Soon, we were all wearing our face masks. I tried to keep everyone’s spirits up, but I was down in the dumps. Finally we left the Conservation area and reached the border of the Serengeti. I was able to crack a smile when I saw the sign.

    There was a picnic area at the entrance. We stopped, grabbed a table and ate our boxed lunches. We tried to cough up and blow out as much dust as possible, though it was tough with all the dust still blowing around us. I looked around at the dusty barren land. This didn’t look like the picture book. After eating, we donned our masks and got back in the car. We continued our drive across desolate, empty wasteland. A huge knot was growing my stomach. Each time a car was coming toward us, we rolled up our windows quickly and yet somehow dust seemed to just pour in.

    I felt like someone had taken my insides and was just wringing them, the way someone wrings a washcloth to get the water out. I brought my wife and parents out here to see this desert and to swallow a gallon of dust? :(( I know the sign said “Welcome to the Serengeti”, but where were the plush fertile lands teeming with animals? There was nothing here. Who stole the Serengeti?

    Now I felt like one of those military generals who leads his troops into a disastrous battle where they are hopelessly outnumbered and get wiped out. I didn’t say a word to anyone. Ali, our guide and driver noticed how quiet we were back there, except for the occasional coughing spasms. He went off the road and down one path. He found a tiny watering hole with some antelope around it, perhaps hoping it would raise our spirits. No offense, but we have antelope back in the States. ;)

    Reversal of Fortune
    Mile after mile… excuse me kilometer after kilometer we drove. NOTHING. We weren’t even looking anymore. I think Ali was just trying to hurry us to the hotel at this point. Suddenly, Mary Ellen called out “Is that a lion?” Ali stopped quickly. We all looked to the far left. Yes, way off in the distance, was a lone female lion walking along lazily. We stopped the car and watched her. Eventually, she made her way across the huge field and crossed the road five feet in front of us. Blood was on her face and at least one of her paws. She had just recently had a kill. She went over into the higher grass on the other side. We watched her for several more minutes.

    It is amazing how the sight of a lion changes everything! I was all charged up again! O-) Mary Ellen had saved the day. I wish we could have teleported to the hotel at that moment. I could have ended the day on that high. We decided to drive on. But, less than a quarter mile away, both Mary Ellen and Ali spotted something in the far grass: another lion under a tree! It was hard to see, then we realized why: it was a baby. About 100 meters away we could see the same female lion we just passed. Aah A mother and child. The mother sat down and waited for Junior to come over to her. We watched as the little tyke skipped over to Mom and lay down and nursed. Ali told us we were very lucky to see that. I could feel the blood flowing again to all my vital organs.

    A little further Mary Ellen saw a lone hyena with a vulture close by. The hyena was chewing on the carcass of a gazelle. Most likely this was the leftover kill of a lion.

    As we drove along, the land started to get more fertile and green. There were watering holes, lots of trees and beautiful color. This was what I had looked at in that book for the last decade! \:D/ Some of my bravado even returned as I told everyone “That first part was only the entrance, this is more like the stuff we’ll be seeing tomorrow, with lots of animals.” I then whispered to Ali, “That’s right isn’t it?” He told us all not to worry, that we would be seeing plenty of virtually every animal tomorrow. There were tons of lions in the Serengeti. It’s so funny, you have to remind yourself on safari, that the space in which you are doing things is on a gigantic scale, and it is unpredictable. Can you imagine going to a zoo, seeing a “Welcome to the Zoo!” sign and then driving another thirty miles before you see a thing?

    Soon enough, we were deep into the heart of the Serengeti. We arrived at our hotel The Serengeti Sopa. We checked in and washed off some dust. The view from our room was magnificent. But I wanted to go down to the observation deck and sit there for a while.

    Journey’s End
    An unbelievable tsunami of emotions overtook me as I sat in one of the chairs on the deck and over looked the magnificent Serengeti Plains. It was like when I was sitting on a deck looking at the Taj Mahal in India, only greater. I felt myself getting choked up, and no it wasn’t the dust. Somehow, it was as if all my dreams, all my travels in life had led me to this very spot.

    How fitting that my Crusade to travel the world should end here , not in some man-made temple of marble or stone, but in a monument of Nature carved by the very finger of Almighty God Himself. I was moved, beyond my control, but I fought off the tears this time since there were a bunch of other tourists around. What is with all this crying? I realized what an emotional basket case I was after this day. I ordered a whiskey sour and stared out across the land, with the beautiful sun ever so slowly setting behind it. It was certainly not that I would never travel again, there are so many places I would still like to tick off the list: the Great Wall, the Amazon, the Forbidden City, Gibraltar, Easter Island, Tokyo, the Great Barrier Reef, the hills of Tuscany, the Parthenon, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Mt. Everest Base Camp, Hong Kong, St. Petersburg, the Grand Canyon, Zanzibar, Egypt, Mecca, Mongolia, Katmandu, Prague, Morocco, Tibet, Vietnam, Madrid, Red Square, Jerusalem and Petra. But no other trip would be as necessary, as urgent. If any of them happened then fine, if not, life goes on.

    One of the people sitting close to me told me they had been out yesterday and saw an incredible amount of animals. I got excited, but also tried to temper my hopes just in case.

    We all cleaned up for a wonderful dinner and then called it an early night. You know, I forgot to check the tires on this new vehicle….

    --------------------------
    Addendum:
    There is a thread right now on favorite pictures of ourselves in Africa. Just might be this one:
    http://www.kodakgallery.com/PhotoView.jsp?&collid=903577913105.784598197305.1152732690689&photoid=164309197305&folderid=0&view=1&page=&sort_order=&albumsperpage=&navfolderid=2005
    Here I was looking at the place I was destined to be my whole life.

    This one is also good:
    http://www.kodakgallery.com/PhotoView.jsp?collid=903577913105.167839197305.1152732765745&photoid=351849197305&folderid=0&
    After any great epiphany it is nice to have a good drink. ((H))

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    Thursday October 13th – TRIUMPH!

    We started our big safari day with muted anticipation. I hoped for great things, but I was afraid to hope at the same time.

    For the first hour we saw many zebras, gazelles, antelopes, giraffes, etc. Ali would constantly ask us if we wanted to stop and take pictures. We kept saying “No”. I could see the confusion on his face. “Don’t you want to take pictures of my country’s beauty?” We told him we had been at this over a week and had seen plenty of these animals already. We told Ali to only stop for lions, leopards and cheetahs. ;)

    We drove another hour and saw the tell-tale signs: a group of more than ½ dozen jeeps in one area gathered around something. We raced over there and saw a few female lions, with their cubs lying under a tree. Cool! But it got even cooler. The more we looked around the area, the more lions we saw. It was a pride of easily a dozen females and multiple young ones. Quite a few were sleeping. Some young ones were playing with their mothers. It was so exciting we could have watched them for hours. Out of the corner of our eyes, we saw another group of jeeps gathered around something, they were about a couple of hundred meters away. Ali told us it was probably the male lion. Of course we asked him to head over there right away.

    We pulled up to the second group of jeeps. Everyone stared at a large tree just a few meters away. There were hushed oohs and aahs in the air. There he was in all his regal glory and splendor, the King himself. A mature male lion rested in the shade. This was one of the most splendid things I had ever seen in my life. He would open his eyes once in a while glance at us with indifference, then close his eyes again. He knew that his pride was just a short distance away and he could quickly be over there in case another male tried to fiddle with his ladies-in-waiting. He was so gorgeous we wanted to run our fingers through his mane. If the trip was to end at that moment, I think we would have all been satisfied. In fact I almost wanted it to end on this high note, before anymore low ones could hit us. :d

    After this, we saw several groups of hippos in a swamp. Then, we saw a huge herd of Cape Horn Buffalo, possibly numbering 300. They surrounded us on both sides of the road. We drove through the midst of the group. For the most part, they shied away from our jeep. But if they ever wanted to stampede us, we wouldn’t have stood a chance.

    We saw a herd of elephants including young ones nursing. The matriarchs watched us carefully, but never seemed threatened. We saw several large giraffes galloping. Even the zebras and antelopes seemed more interesting now that we had seen the lions! \:D/

    We saw some people photographing something in high grass. It was a cheetah and the photographers were from National Geographic. It turns out we couldn’t get close enough to see it. Unlike the Masai Mara, in Tanzania parks you are not allowed to go off the designated road. A little birdie told us this is why Tanzania parks are so much better than Kenya ones. :)>-

    At lunchtime, we stopped at a picnic area inside the park. We were assured that wild animals weren’t going to attack us in this area. We talked about whether or not we should continue much longer. Perhaps we should just accept that we had done well, and head back to the hotel early. We hadn’t had a vehicle break down in Tanzania and so maybe we shouldn’t push it. But the taste of success was in our mouths and we decided to do a full afternoon safari. Let’s get out there and see what we could find. And boy oh boy, did our eyes get filled! ((R))

    We saw elephants, giraffes, hippos, buffalos and yes, more lions. We marveled at the sheer beauty of the land itself. But the highlight of the afternoon was when we could see people around another tree. This time, they were looking up… a leopard must be there. We pulled up to the rest of the jeeps and there she was, sitting in the tree relaxed as ever. We could see the spots of the leopard bright and clear. But we noticed something next to the gorgeous animal… an impala it had recently killed. A little birdie also told us that in Kenya if you see a leopard in a tree with an impala, the park rangers probably shot the impala then put it in the tree. The leopard then goes up the tree. This is just a setup for tourists. ((A)) But if you see a leopard in a tree in a Tanzania park, you know it’s not a setup; everything is real in Tanzania! :-P

    We drove back to the hotel like conquering heroes. This had been the greatest day yet. The Serengeti fulfilled my fifteen year dreams. @};- I was sad to be leaving tomorrow. I wish we had a few more days here. I felt so satisfied that I thought maybe we didn’t even need to go to the Ngorongoro Crater. I figured anything else that we saw at this point was gravy.

    Little did I know how much gravy was coming…

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    I will get a new link up soon. I am bummed because I think posting that link screwed up the formatting of my report. :(
    Is the screen ridiculously wide for anyone else out there?

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    Friday October 14th – It’s Always Better on the Way Back


    We woke up and checked out of the magnificent Serengeti Serena. I took one last look at the endless plains from the observation deck. I knew we were going back on the same dusty roads we came here on just two days ago. But we were changed people after all we had seen. And since we knew how long it would take, we wouldn’t have anticipation to make it all seem longer. We readied our dust masks and set off on the road out of the Serengeti.

    As we made our way, we started seeing wildebeest, impalas, waterbucks, giraffes. Ali dutifully asked if we wanted to stop and take a picture. “No keep going, we only stop for lions!” I really wasn’t expecting to see any lions at this point. At best we might see that lone female lion and her cub walking across the dusty barren wilderness.

    At some point, Mary Ellen said she needed to use the bathroom. (Now who would have expected that to happen? :) ) We were the only car on a long apparently empty stretch of plains area. After the last several days, we had lost most sense of shame. She was ready to jump out and go next to a large rock. Ali said, “Let me just drive a ten more minutes and see if I can find a more private area.” And I am telling you less than two minutes after saying that, he looked to his left and pointed out two female lions sitting on a rock sunning themselves! My darling wife could have been a tasty morsel for this pair. O:)

    This was a nice way to accentuate our drive. The pair just sat and watched for any prey that may wander by. We continued our drive and we came upon a large group of rocks. There sprawled across all the rocks was a huge pride of lions! We lost count of how many. We were not just happy, but thrilled. Before we exited the Serengeti, we saw yet another pair of females. I said anything after yesterday was gravy. Our cup was certainly running over.

    Even the dust and the bumps didn’t seem as bad as we went back on the roads we came from. We passed several Masai Villages. We found out from someone who will not be named that even the Masai villages are better in Tanzania! :S- After several hours we came to the road that would lead us to the Ngorongoro Serena. Soon enough we had checked in. We would be at this hotel for two days before returning to Nairobi. The view of the crater was amazing.

    We were in a state of intoxication from all that we had seen. At first I thought, any animals we see tomorrow, is just more gravy. Then I thought “Wait a minute, why should it be gravy? I don’t want gravy; I want filet mignon and lobster. I mean I flew around the world to do an African Safari, shouldn’t I expect to see some animals?” The Ngorongoro Crater has perhaps the highest concentration of wildlife in all of East Africa. I said to everyone with bravado, that tomorrow should be really great.

    There’s an old saying “Fortune favors the bold.” <):) There’s another saying, “Beware he that thinks he is standing....” :((


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    Saturday October 15th – The Ngorongoro Crater

    If the lions wanted to get one of them, they were going to have to work for it.

    Ali asked us to wake up extra early, because the best time to see animal activity in the Crater was early when it was colder. But to tell you the truth Mary Ellen and my Father felt pretty whipped at this point. They were both seriously considering skipping the Crater and just sleeping in. But somehow, we all answered our 5:15 AM wakeup call and by 6:30 we were driving down into the crater.

    The road was rough (of course) and winding. An unskilled driver would take his vehicle right off the edge. But Ali was pretty sure behind the wheel. The view as we drove down into the crater was magnificent. A lot of the places that looked like desert from far away, were clearer as we went further down. This was anything but an abandoned desert! Almost as soon as we hit the bottom, we saw gazelles, baboons, ostriches, buffalo and several hyenas pacing around.

    We drove further and saw various types of monkeys, elephants and hippos. The landscape was very different, even the air itself had a different feel… Of course that was probably the early morning cold. We passed a huge herd of buffalo munching away on grass. We made our way down a fairly straight road and then we saw them… a large pride of lions old and young. Several females led the way. The chief male was missing. We stopped the jeep and watched them walk by us slowly, casually. They seemed to be hurrying to go nowhere at all. We watched them continue past us. We realized we needed to follow them and see what they were up to. They were headed to an area right across from where the buffalo were grazing. Were we about to see what I thought?

    The Battle Royale
    We whirled our jeep around and headed back. By this time there were about 10 other vehicles gathered at the crossroads. All the lions were crouching and were setting up some sort’ve formation. Excitement was popping in the air. The hunt was on!
    The lions were crouching in the grass, probably less than 50 meters was between them and their quarry. It was fascinating to watch their formation. The cubs stayed way, way in the back and out of the action. The few experienced lionesses made their way to the front. In between were far too many adolescent lions, male and female. Some seemed ready to be part of the hunt, others stayed back with the cubs. And a few mingled around, not sure what exactly to do.

    I also noticed on the far left and right flanks were other lions, crouching in the grass.

    Inch by inch, the true hunters made their way closer. I was worried that all our cars in the road would interfere with the lions. They didn’t seem the least bit bothered. The lions went between our cars, never taking their eyes off their prey. Some lions even used our vehicles for cover. They moved forward a few feet and then lay in the foot high grass.

    But no one was being fooled here. The buffalo knew the lions were there. They stared over at the hunters as if to say “You realize we can see you don’t you?” Meanwhile, it seemed that all the animals in the forest were lining up for the show. Birds flew overhead. Monkeys scampered up to the tops of trees and were screeching, letting the whole crater know what was about to happen. The buffalo were more than ready. They gathered together tightly. Young ones stayed in the middle. Older, large defenders with massive horns stayed up front. If the lions wanted to get one of them, they were going to have to work for it.

    When two masters play chess, it is a subtle, psychological game. Each move represents many different combinations. The players think dozens of moves ahead. When an attack comes it is sudden, yet well thought out and often fatal. We were witnessing this match between grandmaster hunters and grandmaster defenders. The lead lioness slowly took her team forward, her eyes honing in on the one buffalo she thought was weak enough to bring down. The lead buffalo, kept the circle tight “Hold the line boys!”

    In order for this to work out (for the lions), the main hunters would need to draw closer while the flankers would come around behind, and create pandemonium in the buffalo ranks, causing the herd to break apart. Then, they would all close on a baby or an old buffalo that got separated from the herd. All the buffalo had to do was hold together. Their horns are huge and sharp. An adult buffalo could gore a lion to death without a second thought. A group of adults working together was an impenetrable wall.

    I don’t know who blinked first, but at some point I saw buffalo running and lions going after them. But it was all haphazard. The flankers never came in. Were they flanking or just hiding from the action? ;;) The few, brave, hunters that dared to come close were met with thousands of pounds of buffalo muscle with horns on top. Within seconds the hunter became the hunted. The buffalo were driving the lions away! Pandemonium broke out among the lions as they scattered everywhere, hauling you-know-what to get out of there.

    Sorry boys, no buffalo meat on the menu today!

    As the lions fled, the buffalo began making a loud bellowing sound. It was thrilling and horrifying. Chills went up and down my spine. They were letting the lions know in no uncertain terms: DO NOT COME BACK! Try telling those buffalo that lions are the king of the jungle. On that morning, the Ngorongoro Crater had new rulers. This certainly was better than gravy, this was the filet mignon, lobster and champagne, I had been hoping for. =D>

    For a little while, we thought that the lions would regroup and try for one of the antelopes lingering around. But I think they were just way too frazzled to do anymore hunting for the day.

    We drove a bit more and Ali saw something in the high brush. We looked and there was a cheetah peeking up its beautiful head. We parked and waited. Eventually the cheetah passed right in front of the car and crossed the road. Several hundred yards away were some impala grazing. The impala always kept their distance even as the cheetah tried to inch forwards. Soon enough the cheetah realized it was over, and so did we.

    We ate lunch at an area by a lake with hippos swimming in it. They stayed at the center of the lake and we stayed far from them.

    In the afternoon we saw two, dark brown, male lions with a female. The valley in front of them was empty. We also saw wildebeest, jackals, hyenas and more. By the end of the day, our hearts and souls were filled. We made our way back up the steep jagged road leading out of the Crater. We were so revved up we didn’t feel the bumps… almost.

    ------------------------------

    Once again I apologize for the horrible formatting. If there is anyone in Fodor's Admin is there any chance you can help me out? I think the post that messed it all up is the one where I posted the link to the photo. It is such a long link and I think that this site doesn't wrap well and it threw off the alignment. If the links to those photos could be deleted things would get normal again

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    Sunday October 16th/Monday October 17th (Morning) – The End is the Beginning


    The ride back to Nairobi seemed better than it had any right to. We were now Africa Safari Veterans. We said goodbye to the magnificent Japanese Road of Ngorongoro. =D> It was four hours to get to Arusha. In Arusha, we said goodbye to Ali. Another driver would take us to the border in another car.

    Even though I could’ve sworn I saw this new guy do a looking thing once or twice I stayed calm. The road leading to the Tanzania border was also smooth. We saw random giraffes and ostriches in unclaimed land. Going through customs and crossing the border was smooth this time.

    Several hours later we arrived at the Nairobi Hilton. We were going to stay at the Nairobi Safari Club, but because of all our difficulties, AfricaPoint upgraded us to a nicer hotel for our last night. Tomorrow, my parents and I would go our separate ways. They would begin the long flight back to Georgia, Mary Ellen and I would head to Rwanda.

    We were told that for the flight to Rwanda, each of our suitcases could weigh no more than 22 kilograms. So Mary Ellen and I dutifully balanced out our two suitcases to a correct weight. I asked my Mom to bring a few of my things back to Georgia and mail it home to me in California. We had a nice buffet dinner and slept.

    Don’t Call It Good-Bye…
    The next morning Mom, Dad Mary Ellen and I had breakfast with our tour organizer Shadrach Masinde. Shadrach apologized profusely for the car troubles. We told him that we weren’t angry. There was good will all around. ((B))

    The time came to say goodbye to Mom and Dad. Now both Mary Ellen and I wished they were coming with us. But I knew the strenuous hiking to see gorillas would have been too much for them.

    I looked at my parents with greater love and admiration than ever before. @};- They had survived their own crucible and even flourished. Seventeen days in the heart of East Africa and they were still going strong. My parents made it through one of my adventures. I knew that no matter what happened in our future, these precious moments could never be taken away from us. This last year, more than ever before, the importance of those moments with family has been driven home to me. Even as we hugged and kissed goodbye, I was thinking about seeing them again. ((r))

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    Sunday October 16th/Monday October 17th (Afternoon) – That Which Does Not Kill Me…

    “Ya’ll ain’t gonna believe what happened to them Duke Boys next.”

    Our ride to the airport was short and smooth as silk. We got there with plenty of time to spare for our flight. The driver dropped us off. We sailed through the first security barrier… OK, we didn’t sail, it took a trillion years for me to take off all kinds of clothing, have them go through my shoes and then argue with them about my film going through their machines. They swore the film would be fine, Eventually, we made it through. I didn’t even get upset, we had plenty of time, the world was my oyster.

    We approached the woman at the ticket counter to check our bags. She looked at our bags. “Are you sure that will be a total of 22 kilograms?” I clarified to her that each bag was under 22 kg. She then clarified my clarification. The total of all our luggage needed to be under 22 kg per person. Say what?!?! This was just unbelievable. Whenever I started to feel secure, the rug would get pulled out from under me. $)

    We had a little less than two hours before our plane took off. The cost to bring the extra weight would have been hundreds of dollars. I called Shadrach frantically, trying to figure out what to do. He said that his company had an office in the airport and that we could each leave one of our bags there for the next eight days while we went on to Rwanda. What choice did we have? So out we went, past security and Across the street to where the office was. In the middle of the crowded terminal area, Mary Ellen and I, pulled open our suitcases and began moving around clean underwear and other clothing into one, hopefully-not-too-heavy suitcase, for each of us. We locked and checked in the suitcases that would stay behind. Then we dashed back across the airport and through security again.

    We went to the Rwanda Air ticket counter and each of our bags weighed less than 22 kilos! Our one issue was that the carry on limit was 1 small bag per person. Mary Ellen had two bags, I had a huge camera bag, a bag with about 100 rolls of film plus another bag with books, etc. Of course, the attendant told us we had too many bags. Somehow our annoying crying and whining must have really made them want to get rid of us, because the woman just waved us through. WHEW! O-)

    We then had to go through at least two more security checkpoints where I once again had to struggle to get through. Apparently, some big mucky-muck in charge of airport security was there and all the attendants were being ridiculously vigilant They pulled out virtually every single roll of film and video tape that I had and studied them... individually! >:O They assured me that the scanning machines weren’t going to ruin my film, but at this point who knew anything? I was sweaty and irritated.

    Finally, we made it on the plane for our one hour flight. The bad news was, it would be an hour of turbulence. We were going to fly through lots of clouds and rain. I was frazzled on the plane. I fought vigorously to fight off the sinking feeling that was coming over me again. And then, another bringer of good news appeared. We were sitting next to a Kenyan man of Indian descent, Amarjit. He had traveled to Rwanda often and he told us that we were going to love the country. He praised its beauty and cleanliness. I felt that either he was another angel sent our way, or someone who worked for the Rwanda Chamber of Commerce. By the time the plane landed, I was feeling pretty calm again.

    There was no entry fee and we were pretty much all the way through customs, when one airport worker out of nowhere started questioning me about my number of cameras. She looked in my bag, with all my film and said in a thick French-African accent “Excuse me Sir, how many films do you have?” This nearly made my head explode. :-@ I wanted to get Ugly American™ on her and scream out “Do you know what I just went through to come to your BLANKITY-BLANK country?!?! Don’t question me! And by the way it’s ‘How many rolls of film?’ Not, ‘How many films?’ Got that sweetheart? But, I felt pretty certain they didn’t have Miranda Rights in this country. So I just smiled & said “Not too many”, and was quickly waved through. ((A))

    We stepped through customs and I saw my favorite sight in a foreign country: a sign with my name on it. Our new guide and driver Richard was waiting for us. He quickly ushered us to the car. The Rwanda airport is small, but very clean. In fact it was beautiful. A wave of calm overtook me like the sweet smell of pine in a forest. Kigali was quiet and serene. OK, I thought, this is going to be a different vacation from the other. I was feeling calm and yes confident.

    Within minutes, we were driving along the smooth paved roads of Kigali. Mary Ellen and I looked out at the beautiful hills, valleys and mountains everywhere. Rwanda is referred to as “the land of a thousand hills” and is often called the Switzerland of Africa. I’ve been to Switzerland and I preferred what I was seeing now.

    Richard began telling us about his country. My heart was feeling...wait a minute… now this new guy is doing the looking thing! The car was sounding funny too. Richard pulled off the side of the road. He walked all around, no flat tires. I half joking/half serious said <BROWDN>“Is everything tightened?”</BROWDN> He nodded “Of course”. We were off again but we drove much slower…. listening to the car sound very strange.

    SCREECH, BANG!

    The noise surprised me. So did the sight of a tire bouncing ahead of us. I noticed the tire bouncing off the road and down a gully. Then, I noticed that the front end of our car was tipped down. Then my brain came out of its fog. That was our tire that just flew off! Remember “What Will Be, Will Be”? That seemed like a lifetime ago. I didn’t know if I should scream or cry at that point. :-< I feel like the narrarator on The Dukes of Hazzard telling you all this. “Ya’ll ain’t gonna believe what happened to them Duke Boys next.”

    By the way, there was a kid on a hammock down at the bottom of the gully. The tire missed hitting and killing him by inches. [I’m trying to find something positive.] Soon enough, the company sent another car and took us to the Mille Collines Hotel.

    The Mille Collines is the hotel made famous in the movie “Hotel Rwanda”. Thousands of Tutsi refugees fled here during the 1994 massacre. They were kept safe by Paul Russabaginga, a hotel manager. Like Oscar Schindler, he wheeled and dealed and kept his refugees from being killed. (The hotel shown in the movie was not the real one.)

    By the time we checked into the Mille Collines, I was feeling lower than a snake's belly in a wagon rut. (That’s more Dukes of Hazzard talk.) :-[ I just couldn’t figure out why these things were happening to us. I tried to pull my spirits up and concentrate on the gorillas we would be seeing in a week.

    We arranged to link up with some local missionaries of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It turns out that Daniel and Karen Hanau lived right down the street from the hotel. They came up and we ate some finger food at the hotel restaurant. Just talking to them lifted my spirits and I was up again. We would see them again at the end of the trip when we returned to Kigali. An interesting note while talking to them: They kept mentioning “The War”. They told us that Rwandans don’t call it The Genocide, they call it The War. He also said that it is not a subject people that wish to talk about, especially to outsiders. They are trying to put it behind them and move forward. I asked, “How can they move forward when there is no punishment for the guilty? The people that committed the genocide, are waltzing around in public, unpenalized, how can that work? “ There was no way to explain it. It just does. That left me with a cold empty feeling.

    Tomorrow, bright and early, we would start our drive across Southern Rwanda till we hit the Nyungwe forest. We would spend two days there tracking monkees and chimpanzees.

    , All right Indy, pull it together, you can do this…

    --------------------------
    By the way, I do know ab out the 'tribunals' they have had for those who participated in the genocide. Still not enough :(



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    Tuesday October 18th– Across Southern Rwanda

    The original plan was to leave Kigali at 8AM sharp. On our itinerary was the King’s Palace, the Rwanda National Museum, the Murambi Genocide Center and then finally driving into the Nyungwe Forest to the ORPTN Guesthouse. The one thing we knew was that we didn’t want to find ourselves driving to another hotel in the middle of the night.

    However, after the tire incident, my tour company was a little panicked. They wanted to make sure that the car we would be driving in, was checked out from top to bottom. I appreciated the thoroughness, but was also anxious to get on the road and get to Nyungwe early, because the last thing I wanted was to get to another hotel in the middle of the night. Mary Ellen and I had our breakfast looking out at the pool of the Mille Collines.

    We met an Aussie couple, Barbara and Peter, who were having the time of their lives traveling across Africa together.

    Soon enough, we were on the road leading out of Kigali. Once again, I cannot rave enough about the beauty of Rwanda. I was just in awe of the countryside’s splendor. There were rolling misty hills, tiny lakes, and farms with bananas, potatoes, corn and coffee. Richard told us about his life and his country. Richard is a genocide survivor. Two of his older brothers and a sister were killed in 1994. Richard promised us that before the trip ended he would tell us about his surviving The War. I was going to hold him to that promise.

    We reached the King’s Palace and saw the home of the first King of Rwanda. Then we went to the Rwanda National Museum. We learned more of Rwanda’s history, pre and post colonial. At both stops we kept moving, always aware of time, because the last thing I wanted was to get to another hotel in the middle of the night.

    As we went along on our drive, we passed several Kingdom Halls. All were empty at the time. But, it was wonderful to see these simple clean buildings and to realize what our donations to the work was being used to build.

    Like Sheep to the Slaughter
    We then reached the Murambi Genocide Memorial. Virtually every town and village in Rwanda has some sort’ve memorial to the genocide. It can be a building, a church or a simple small plot of land with a cross on it. The Murambi site was to be a large secondary school. It was still under construction when Aprill 1994 came along.

    The Visitor’s Center was still being constructed, but the museum curator took us past that and to some small buildings in the back. I knew what was coming, and yet nothing could prepare me for actually seeing it. Inside were the petrified remains of genocide victims! When they were massacred, their bodies were thrown into large mass graves. Their killers thought that by throwing lime on the bodies, they would be dissolved quickly and all evidence of their crimes would go away. Instead the bodies became petrified with flesh still on the bones, their faces still frozen in horrible anguish, as they were hacked to death with machetes. Many arms were still outstretched trying to fend off the blows. Many skulls had holes in them from bullets or machetes. The bodies were unearthed so that the world could see what happened here. No one could deny there was a genocide.

    The stench in the rooms was beyond comprehension. The realization that these were real people was overwhelming. It reminded me of the mountains of skulls I saw in the Killing Fields of Cambodia. This was one of the most necessary moments of the trip for me. But that didn’t prevent it from being horrifying and utterly depressing. We met another man walking the grounds who was also a genocide survivor. He showed us the hole in his head where he was shot.

    What happened at Murambi was this: the genocide was taking place, Tutsis were being slaughtered everywhere. People were told by the Hutu militia to go to the grounds at the Murambi secondary school. They would be safe there. Like sheep to the slaughter, thousands of terrified Tutsis fled there. But there was no food, no water, and no electricity. Also, the grounds were surrounded by the militias so no one could leave. After a few days, people were too weak to fight. The slaughter began. By the hundreds the militia hacked and shot. They didn’t want anyone to survive.

    The Murambi Secondary School was to be on a beautiful piece of land overlooking rolling hills and farmland. But the sounds of playing school children’s voices will never be here. Instead, it will stand as a horrible awful monument to the evil that men do.

    The sky started to get gray. We rushed back to the car because the last thing…(you know the rest)

    Soon we entered the Nyungwe Forest. This was a thick rain forest with huge full trees. I asked Richard how long we had to go as we passed the entry sign, my heart was already sinking again, because I knew it wasn’t going to be ten minutes. He told me it would be something more like two hours! So yes, it would be pitch black by the time we arrived where we were going to stay. Sigh… :-[

    An hour later, we were snaking our way through windy roads, with maybe three or four meters visibility in front of us. I was nauseous from the curving back and forth. Mary Ellen and I didn’t say much of anything, except encouraging Richard to drive slowly, so we didn’t go flying off the road.

    After some confusion, we did arrive at the ORPTN Guest House, I think around 9PM. It was pitch black and we couldn’t see a thing! It seems they had shut down all the lights for the night. As we drove in, a light came on. No, it wasn’t another tent, but it wasn’t a Sopa or Serena either. Richard ran up to the steps and talked to the proprietor.

    They took us quickly to our room. It was quite…ahem, sparse. In fact, it was just a little too sparse for me. That combined with the long drive, my nausea and the remote location, caused me to rearrange our itinerary on the spot. The original plan was tomorrow morning (Wednesday) we were to track for the colubus monkey and stay again at ORPTN. Then the next day (Thursday), we would track for chimpanzees then drive to Kibuye and stay in the Bethanie Guest House.

    The new plan was that we would track chimpanzees tomorrow morning and then get out of the forest and head to Kibuye. We didn’t know much about Kibuye either, except that it was a little less remote than being in the middle of the rainforest. The only downside was that to track for the chimpanzees we would need to be up at 4AM (!) and it was getting late.

    Mary Ellen and I split a bowl of soup that they warmed up for us. We then did some sort’ve half-hearted cleansing routine (don’t even focus on that) and crawled into bed fully clothed...

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    For those who are wondering, the trip ends on the 24th.

    <PURPLEWednesday October 19th– Nyungwe</PURPLE

    It was only adrenaline that allowed us to get up when the alarm rang at 4AM. Our bodies didn’t have much left. We got out of bed and dragged ourselves to the car. Richard drove us to the waiting area.

    Even though we were already in the middle of the forest, the trip down to the area from where we would begin our hike was an hour drive down a bumpy road. We drove through a village and the local kids were lining up to see us. OK, not us, Mary Ellen. It was very rare in this remote area to see a white person. They were constantly crying out “Mzunga!” meaning white woman (or something to that effect). In Chile, I was the star, now it was Mary Ellen’s turn.

    We parked the jeep in the village, leaving a local porter to watch it. Our trek began. First we hiked out of the village, then through farmland, until we reached the thick edge of the forest.

    Anticipation pulsed through my veins. We were about to hike through a rainforest with wild chimpanzees in it! We walked along the trails. Thick brush was on both sides of us. We went further and further till we were enveloped in the mist and the thick growth. Mary Ellen and I huffed and puffed to keep up with our seasoned guides. Eventually, we hit the end of the trail. To reach the chimpanzees, we would need to break our own trail and go deep into the forest. One of the guides went ahead of us to find where the chimps were.

    What followed for the next several hours was simply the most difficult, physical thing, I have ever done. We hacked our way through jungle. We forced our way through brush so incredibly thick, visibility was down to only a few inches in front of us. Mary Ellen and I were constantly sliding and falling. We walked on ridges which were on the edges of deep gullies. Several times we tumbled and nearly fell down into an abyss. Only a last second grab of a branch saved us. We couldn’t even see the ground, just thick overgrowth. At the same time we rationed our water. Each of us brought two bottles. There was no way to carry more. We had to take careful sips.

    Finally, just when I thought my chest would explode, we heard several loud screeches. The guide told us the chimpanzees were over the next hill. I summoned every ounce of strength I could and forced myself to keep walking. I reached an area and the guide quietly pointed ahead and up to the top of some tall trees. In the distance, I could see them quickly going up and down the trees. It was just a brief blip, so brief, that by the time Mary Ellen caught up, they were gone.

    We tried to catch them for another hour, but we were struggling to hack through vines, while they were easily skipping among the treetops. We heard the screeching several times, but never got close enough to get a good view.

    All through the hike, we worried about breaking a limb in this forest. There was no way to get a helicopter there to get us out. Not to mention that Rwanda doesn’t exactly have a bunch of helicopters just sitting there waiting to rescue tourists. So despite the fact that we were tired beyond imagination and bruised and battered to a pulp, we had to make our way all the way back out. Will power has a way of taking over. After another hour of hacking and climbing we made it back out of the forest, past the farmlands and back to the village and our cars.

    It seems the entire village was there waiting for the Mzunga. I collapsed into the car as I downed my last sip of water. I was banged around so much that my video camera, my film camera and Elain’s camera were busted and out of commission! My body ached. I had chills and was coughing and sneezing. Uh oh…

    We got our suitcases from the ORPTN Guesthouse and continued on our journey. Richard told us he was going to take us on the scenic route to Kibuye. It was also a shorter route, but the road was bad. Remember Bad in AfricaSpeak= Unearthly Horrible. So we banged and bounced along through the Rwandan countryside. There were more rolling, mist covered hills, rich red soil, and beautiful lakes. Women walked with sacks of bananas or potatoes on their heads. If I wasn’t coughing, sneezing, shivering and two inches away from throwing up, I would really have appreciated all of this!

    Richard proudly pointed out the beauty of his country. Hey wait a minute… he’s doing the looking thing! The car seemed to struggle to make it up a hill. We stopped and he went out to check under the hood. He fiddled with some stuff (yes, I know I should be more manly and be able to tell you what he did) and soon we were back on the road soon.

    At some point we decided we wanted to pick up some food so that we wouldn’t be at the mercy of the hotel at our next place. All I will say, is we must never forget how spoiled we are, when we can go into a supermarket and pick up any type of food we want. I think we ended up buying a pack of crackers and some sort of concentrated juice that you add water to. Whatever, just get me to the hotel.

    We arrived in Kibuye and at the Bethanie Guest House before it got dark. We were actually able to see everything as we checked in. Of course, just as we checked in there was a power failure. The rooms were less sparse than ORPTN, but still not a Sopa or Serena. Actually, the tent from the Masai was looking amazing right now.

    We really didn’t have any itinerary for tomorrow. The guest house was right on a lake and we could charter a boat to row out to a little island. But that was about it. That old blue feeling settled in on me again. I was lower than … well you just go ahead and make up your own!

    We went to dinner and we ran into Barbara and Peter, that Aussie couple from the Mille Collines. I moaned about the bad roads, the hike through Nyungwe, sparse rooms, blah blah. They were so cheerful, once again like angels sent to just set things right. No matter how much I whined, they said, “Well that’s Africa for you.” They had been going through Africa together for months, seen much worse than we had and were still beaming. They were also a good twenty years older than us.

    We ate a great meal, with seafood bisque and chicken. We went back to our rooms, got out of our soaking wet, mud covered clothing, showered and collapsed.


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    Thursday October 20th – Much Ado About Nothing

    After keeping a breakneck pace for more than twenty days today was going to be our day off. I had no agenda except to fight off the impending cold/flu that was attacking my body. I was going down, I could feel it. My body ached, I was sneezing and my nose was running. But I wouldn’t give in without a fight.

    We lounged around the beautiful grounds of the Bethanie Guest house. Eventually Richard told us that he did find a Kingdom Hall in the area and that there was a meeting in the afternoon....

    [went to meeting at Kingdom Hall]

    I’m not sure if you’ve had enough of my whining yet. But I will spare you a long drawn out saga of the geckos everywhere in our room and no TV and no hot water in the rooms. Somewhere in the main office of the hotel, they were able to heat up water and brought Mary Ellen and I a bucket each. So we bathed out of a bucket and brushed out teeth with bottled water. I wrapped the mosquito net around us. The body aches were stronger and my sneezing was getting out of control.

    Friday October 21th – Breaking Point (aka Please Don’t Sneeze on the Gorillas)

    I woke up at probably around 2 AM. I never had a sound moment of sleep from that point on. There was coughing, sneezing, aching and a runny nose. I coughed until my chest hurt. I couldn’t find a side to lie on to be comfortable. I don’t know how, but Mary Ellen managed to sleep through some of my ruckus.

    By the time sunlight started to peek out, I felt I was beaten. :(( I couldn’t do anymore. I told Mary Ellen that if she wanted to, we could tell Richard to take us back to Kigali and we would take the first plane home. Yes I had dreamed all my life of seeing the gorillas but I think my body couldn’t take anymore. Thankfully Mary Ellen said that we had come this far and we should just try to push through and finish it. ((K)) So it was decided, let us complete the voyage. We checked out after 10AM rather than at 8AM. I poured myself into the front seat and we were off the Rhungeri, home of the Volcanoes National Park and the last 300 mountain gorillas in the world.

    We stopped in the resort town of _____ and ate lunch. The town is right on the border of Congo and for a split second I thought of just checking in and out just to get the Congo stamp on my passport. However, I wasn’t exactly sure of the human rights situation and I wasn’t sure if they might “invite” me to stay indefinitely. :-o We found a pharmacy (!) and we picked up some cold medicine. Both Richard and I were really worried about my illness. I had read that if you were really ill, they recommend that you don’t see the gorillas. The last thing they want is for the gorillas to pick up some human germs. (and since they share around 98% of our DNA that is very easy) It could wipe out the entire population very quickly.

    We got on the road again. The driving was actually pretty smooth. The medicine was at least suppressing the coughing and some of the sneezing. I reminded Richard that he still owed us his story about The War and how he survived. He promised us that he would make time to get to it.

    By late afternoon we arrived at the Gorilla’s Nest Hotel in Rhungeri. The beautiful, misty Volcanoes Mountains lined the background. I was feeling a tad better. Somehow, The Force was with me and my camcorder started working again! \:D/ So I would be able to take video of the gorillas.

    The room was nice, but it was an icebox! We requested 2 extra heavy blankets and slept fully clothed. I tried to think positive; at least there would be no mosquitoes or geckos in this room. Though I wouldn’t be surprised if I saw a polar bear wander through… O:)

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    (Yeah the gorillas at last!)


    Saturday October 22th – The Amaharo Family


    The day had finally arrived. As much as I had looked forward to Kenya and Tanzania and all we saw there, seeing the mountain gorillas had a special allure all of its own. The few of these exotic creatures left in the world, are all concentrated in the mountains between Rwanda and Uganda.

    Many of you have heard of Diane Fossey and her book Gorillas in the Mist. Sigourney Weaver starred in the movie version of Fossey’s life. Fossey went to Rwanda in 1967 to begin counting and studying the mountain gorillas in the Parc National des Volcans in Rwanda. She was the first known person to establish friendly contact with the gorillas. She spent thousands of hours gaining the trust of the various families within the park. Her research led to incredible knowledge about these magnificent creatures.

    There is a marvelous question and answer on how the gorillas live at the Diane Fossey Gorilla Fund page (www.goriillafund.org in particular http://www.gorillafund.org/005_gorilla_frmset.html ) In short they eat celery nettles, bamboo and thistles. A full grown gorilla can eat up to sixty pounds of vegetation a day! An adult male can reach up to four hundred pounds, while a female can be two hundred. The dominant male in charge is the silverback, named so because of the gleaming silver hair on his back

    By the time you get this journal, KING KONG will have been one of the huge movie hits of this season. Most of us have seen the original version and will probably see this new one. In the movie, Kong is a monstrous rampaging beast several stories tall. He climbs the Empire State building and swats planes from the sky. In reality, the mountain gorillas are peaceful, social, creatures that typically don’t attack humans. I certainly hoped so, because we were going to walk into their homes and be within ten feet of them.

    So we left the Gorilla’s Nest Hotel and went to the meeting site. There were five different families that are available to be observed. Eight people can visit a family for one hour only. It would be too stressful for the gorillas to have people around them all day. It is an interesting conflict, even our being there for the hour changes the gorilla’s behavior; however the money that is paid by tourists, takes care of the gorilla’s habitat. It also pays for trackers and protection from poachers. If the tourism doesn’t continue, the gorillas will be killed.

    We were randomly selected to be with the Amaharo group. This was a small group of less than 15 gorillas, including babies. Each of the five families tended to stay in different sections of Volcanoes Park. However, within each section there was a wide range that they moved around in every night. Finding the gorillas, could take twenty minutes or two hours!

    We drove 30 – 45 minutes to our launching point from where we would walk. (Don’t ask about the roads). I was nicely “drugged up” from the medications I was taking. My coughing and sneezing were at a minimum. But, I was cold and a little achy. I felt weak, so I really hoped the Amaharos decided to sleep close to our launching point. At the launching point we paid porters to carry our bags. We were each given a walking stick and we went into the forest. We soon reached a stone wall about four feet high. This was primarily built to keep in the buffalo that would come down and trample people’s farms. When we climbed over the fence, it was like crossing a point of no return, stepping into the land of the lost. There were heavy vines and thick trees everywhere, blocking out much of the sun. Bamboo trees, the gorilla’s favorite food, was the primary vegetation.

    The guide reminded us the gorillas will not harm us, but that we should stay close to him and his assistants and do EVERYTHING they say. If a gorilla comes toward us, DO NOT RUN! There is no way on earth we could outrun one of them.

    At this moment, my cold ravaged body was bursting with excitement. It reminded me of the moment in King Kong where the natives started chanting “KONG! KONG!”, because they knew the great beast was coming. The ground literally trembled beneath them.

    We made our way over the muddy trail. Then we started going up hill. My legs were weak, I was dizzy, but I kept hearing the ringing in my ear “KONG! KONG!” and it drove me forward. I stopped several times to catch my breath.

    “KONG! KONG!”

    Then the lookout at the top of the hill, pointed. A black furry shape moved quickly through brush at the top of the hill. “KONG! KONG!” The guides told us to leave our walking sticks and our bags with the porters. They would wait at this spot, while we got closer. The gorillas get a little concerned when a bunch of humans show up with sticks. We were waved up the hill and they pointed us to the left. And there they were!
    =-O

    What I saw when I rounded the corner was not some ferocious “beasts”. I saw a family, a family of about 13 gorillas. This included mothers, babies and of course the mighty silverback. It was an amazing hushed moment when we first saw them lying in the wet grass and leaves. They rolled around, ate bamboo and groomed each other constantly. They certainly saw us, we were about ten to fifteen feet away, but they didn’t pay us much attention. Every day for years, they have had people coming to see them and watch them do nothing special.

    Once in a while, our guides made strange groaning and grunting noises. They said that hearing these noises relaxed the gorillas and let them know that we would do them no harm. Anything that told the gorillas that we were their friends, was OK with me. B-)

    The silverback in the Amaharo group was the oldest of all the silverbacks in all the groups. This guy hardly seemed like the mighty KONG at all. He was more like grandpa sleeping in a hammock. Once in a while he opened an eye and watched us, but not much else. The guide told us that if there was any gorilla to keep an eye on it was the blackback. This was the adolescent male, waiting one day to be in charge. Like adolescent human males, they were anxious to prove themselves and more likely to feel challenged. At one point the blackback came within four feet of me, I cautiously stepped to the side and he sauntered right past me.

    I was thrilled and utterly miserable at the same time. I was seeing something so rare, few humans on earth would ever get to see. On the other hand I was still fighting off illness. At times I had to struggle to hold myself up. But I enjoyed sitting, my rear end soaking wet from the grass and just enjoying watching their antics.

    Our hour went up quicker than I expected. We said goodbye to the Amaharo Group. As great a time as I just had, I couldn’t wait to get back to the hotel and pass out. While I coughed, sneezed, shivered and slept, Mary Ellen wandered the grounds. Eventually, I woke up and we wandered out to eat some lunch. Richard was sitting over in the lounge area. We sat with him and made a few minutes of small talk. But we both knew the time had come: tell us about The War.

    Richard let out a sigh, as he literally brought the bad memories back up to the surface. Once in a while on the trip he would briefly mention the ideology that was preached in the country by radical Hutu fanatics: that Tutsis were “snakes”, “insects” or “cockroaches” and that to kill one of them was nothing. You could turn on the radio and hear this being preached by Hutu extremists.

    In April of 1994, Richard was visiting one of his brothers in Kigali. The tension in the country was incredibly high. Rumors abounded that the Hutus were planning to murder all the Tutsis. Yet many, including Richard’s brother felt that it was all just talk. Then on April 6th President Habyalimana’s plane was shot down. Richard remembers hearing the news report. He remembered thinking “Now What?” Almost instantly the killings began. Screaming and gunfire could be heard through the night. Richard’s brother went out to check on someone, and was never seen again.

    After a few days of hiding, Richard went out into Kigali. The streets were eerily quiet. No one was moving. Richard found himself on a main road. Suddenly men in a truck spotted him. They yelled at him and began firing their guns at him. Richard fled with the men in hot pursuit. Richard crossed a bridge and made the decision to jump to the ground thirty meters below. He shattered his shin bone, causing bone to pierce through his flesh. He was able to crawl into hiding as the men went past.

    Somehow, with the help of someone else in hiding, Richard was able to get to a hospital. But even the hospital was not safe. The militias were dragging people out and slaughtering them. Richard said every night when he went to sleep, he wasn’t sure if he would ever wake up and every morning when he woke up, he wasn’t sure if it would be his last day. Richard was one of the “lucky ones”. He stayed in the hospital until the genocide was ended. He went back home to learn that his family was decimated.

    When Richard stopped talking, he let out another long sigh. I think the pain will always be fresh. Mary Ellen and I just sat quietly. I had to tell Richard, that as we drove around the country and saw men I wondered what they did during the genocide. Were they killers walking around unpunished? I actually felt angry.

    Richard said that he decided to let go of the anger, that getting revenge will not accomplish anything. Richard lives with his sister and sometimes, she sees someone that she knows was a killer. Richard tells her she can’t be sure and that it is best to let it go. “I don’t want to think about the past. I think about the future. I just want to have a family, work hard and be happy. No more fighting.”

    Men like Richard are the heart and soul of Rwanda today, perhaps of Africa itself. His goal of forgiveness and thinking of the future, is a lofty one. But we told him that only in a world under Jehovah God’s rule will all men live in peace as brothers. Only under that kingdom will we see his siblings and my sister Elain again.


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    Sunday October 23rd – The Sabinyo Family

    When I woke up this morning, I knew I had beaten my illness. It wasn’t totally gone, but I was ready for a serious hike. We were fortunate yesterday that the trek to see the Amaharo family took less than ½ hour. People in one of the other groups, told us it took them two very difficult hours of trekking to find their group. Today, if it came to that, I was ready.

    Soon enough we were driving into the forest to our launch site, to trek out and find the Sabinyo group. This was a group of around fifteen. It actually had two silverbacks. The dominant silverback was one of the largest on record.

    We began our trek, and hadn’t even made it to the stone fence when we saw them. The Sabinyos, had climbed the fence themselves and were sitting on the edge of the farmland of local villagers. Several young children were watching. Ordinarily, they don’t even get to see the gorillas, so this was a treat for them.

    Immediately, we saw the chief silverback. He was huge! (I believe his name is Guhundra) This was as close to Kong as we were going to get. He was much more active than grandpa silverback from yesterday. The group was busy breaking bamboo trees and eating the soft center. While the Amaharos were concentrated in a small leafy area, the Sabinyos were spread out across a large hilly low growth area.

    At some point, the silverback stood up on a high mound and just stared out. A guide told us he was looking for everyone in the group. You could almost see him counting! He didn’t move until he made visual contact with the whole family. What a protective Dad!

    We followed them (but not too closely) as they moved around the hill. At one point the silverback came within 15 feet of us and broke several bamboo trees with an easy flick of his mighty arm. Then he walked away. The guides told us he was marking his territory, letting us know he was in charge. We weren’t going to question that for a minute!

    I didn’t mention the strong, musky smell that the gorillas give off. It was even more pronounced today, especially since the silverback had this tendency to bend over in front of us. Even at twenty feet away it was quite powerful.

    For an hour we got our fill of the Sabinyos. Mothers and their children played and ate. Even the big males got involved. I imagined the joy that Diane Fossey got from seeing these amazing creatures. How sad that they are constantly under threat by poachers! Some of these very poachers took Diane Fossey’s life. Her grave is far up in the mountains, right next to the grave of her favorite gorilla Digit, that was murdered by poachers. I wish we had had the time to go up there.

    I credit the Rwandan people for their diligent work in keeping the mountain gorillas alive.

    Mary Ellen and I went back the office and got our certificates for both treks. We went to a nearby shop. I knew I needed one momento of this visit. I saw what I wanted right away, a gorilla carved from hardwood. I immediately saw the mother and child I wanted. She would be called Hope, (Tumaini in Swahil.) Her male child would be Ilkeliani, (You won’t find out why till the end of the Journal. ;) ) They would fit nicely in my office at home.

    When we went outside the shop, there was a crowd of young boys trailing Mary Ellen around. “Mzunga Mzunga!”

    We said goodbye to the Gorilla’s Nest and goodbye to the Volacanoes mountains. Within a few hours, we were heading into Kigali. Yes, we did have another looking thing experience. We nearly lost all power going up a long hill. But somehow Richard kept the car going and we made it back to the Mille Collines. A week earlier this hotel had seemed like a nice average place, perhaps like an American, Best Western. After a few days in guest houses, it was like Versailles. We reveled in the “luxury”. There were no geckos in the room, it wasn’t freezing, there was TV, the power stayed on, and there would be a buffet breakfast. I better not let this get to my head. ((A))

    We called Danny and Karen and made plans to see them tomorrow.

    ---------------------------------
    My biggest regret now is that I didn't just MAKE the time to go up to see Diane Fossey's grave and the remnants of her research center. At the time it was just impossible.

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    Monday October 24th – The Way to End It


    The next morning we had breakfast. And Richard took us to see the genocide museum in Kigali. This was the one that would explain The War, the Genocide and the entire history of Hutus and Tutsis. We got to the site and wouldn’t you know it, it was closed for renovations Monday through Thursday. This may be the greatest regret of the entire trip. The center does have a web site and I highly recommend checking it out. http://www.kigalimemorialcentre.org/

    {Spent day visiting missionaries and doing religious tours of Jehovah's Witnesses Sites}
    When I went to bed this night, I thought of this magnificent month of my life, all the planning, waiting, hoping. Now I could say “It has been accomplished!”

    ----------------

    Tuesday October 25t h - Wednesday 26th Unbreakable: The Voyage Home

    There was a general feeling of calm (or was that numbness?) over us when we got up the final morning. It was done. I had been to Africa! ;;) I felt invincible, unbreakable. Though some of you may think I am pretty breakable with all that sissy crying I did for the last month! ((A))

    We began our return home. We got to the Rwanda airport at about 10AM for our 2PM flight. We were very concerned that we had even more weight in our suitcases plus I still had all those carry-ons and my new pet gorilla. Yet somehow the angels were with us and we sailed through the check-in process. We touched down in Nairobi a little before 4PM. Our flights weren’t till midnight.

    Those angels racked up some serious overtime in Nairobi. We were supposed to get our bags at baggage claim, go out through customs in Nairobi, pay the customs fee, get our suitcases from the AfricaPoint desk, then go back through security and customs and check our bags. But a little birdie helped us out with a few back doors (that is all I will say) and we were secretly spared almost all hassle. They couldn’t spare us the hours of sitting there waiting for the flight, but soon enough we boarded our beautiful, comfortable Emirates Airlines jumbo jet. Wednesday morning we arrived at the gleaming Dubai airport.

    Just as I was getting better, Mary Ellen was getting worse. It was now her turn to sneeze and cough and ache. The fourteen hour flight from Dubai to JFK in New York was triumphant for me and torturous for her. We missed our connecting flight at JFK, but fortunately there was another one two hours later. While we waited, we called my parents and Mary Ellen’s parents to let them know we were back on American Soil.

    By late Wednesday evening my father-in-law Gary Pugh pulled us into the driveway of our home. Everything stood just as we had left it.

    So much had been seen and felt these last four weeks. I was overwhelmed with emotion and yet totally calm. I stuck my head under the kitchen faucet and drank half a gallon of tap water. Yep, what will be will be…

    =======================
    I am still going to post my wife and parent's comments and my final epilogue

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    You got me laughing right from the start with your initial boarding fiasco. Then the play on the word Nairobi and your conquest of the bottled water, the lodge/tent misconception, the tearful reunion with mommy!

    Your details and honesty made for a fantastic report. The references to your current reading material that put you over the weight limit were an interesting touch.

    I didn't see any leopards in Nakuru either and I even missed the rhino.

    From your first brief post when you returned, I recall you said the hike Nyungwe was the toughest thing you ever did. After reading the more detailed account I can certainly understand why.

    What an effect the Serengeti had on you to end your crusade of world travel. It is amazing what Africa can do to you.

    I'll be checking out the photos soon, though I've already seen 3 of you on the "fav photo" thread.

    Who have created quite the reading experience here!

    Looking forward to your final comments and those of your wife and parents.


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    My African Experience
    Mary Ellen Hazle



    I have always told Wayne, “I don’t care where I am in the world, as long as I am with you, I will be happy.” Well, Wayne took me seriously and made me live up to my promise. One of the things I have admired in Wayne is his adventurous personality. I have always loved traveling, but my travels have been less rugged than Wayne’s. I have been to Aruba in the Caribbean, spent a month in Australia with friends traveling up the eastern coast, traveled to Peru and Chile for the International Jehovah’s Witnesses convention, and I have been to about 16 states across the U.S.A. My dream travel destinations are more islands in the Caribbean (including Wayne’s homeland of Jamaica) and a two-week tour of Europe, including Italy, Greece, England, and France. I would also like to visit Bulgaria to meet some of my cousins and get in touch with my heritage. Additionally, I would like to go to Guatemala to visit my Mom’s homeland. So as you can see, my idea of a vacation is different than Wayne’s ideals of Cambodia, India, Thailand, and now Africa.

    Nevertheless, I was game for the African Adventure. We had been planning the trip for so long, that when the time came to go, all was set. We got all our vaccines, I saved up all the vacation days I needed, we bought TiVo to record all of our TV shows while we were gone, and even went on a shopping spree for all the quick drying, non-cotton clothing, that we were recommended to wear. Even Wayne’s lay-off from work, didn’t hold us back from our plans.

    When I found out that my in-laws were coming, I was thrilled. I felt, at least we would be safer in numbers. I knew Wayne had done plenty of planning and research, so we had our full confidence in our Indiana Jones.

    We all take different things away from trips, for me my experience in Africa was spiritually and mentally expanding. It also had a great maturing effect on me. It’s almost hard to put into words, but I will try since it will probably be therapeutic for me.

    We think we know what we know, but until we see the way others live in other parts of the world, especially Africa, where the majority have just enough to sustain life, we don’t really know what life is all about. Okay, this is a glimpse into the mind of Mary Ellen, so fasten your seat belts. ;)

    I feel I have returned from Africa a changed person. You have to feel this way, after experiencing what we have. The images that flash in my brain make me realize what the true human spirit can endure. For me, Kenya and Tanzania were fun, but Rwanda is where a piece of my heart was left. [Tears are filling my eyes even now as I type.] Rwanda is a country that has been thrown the worst of the worst of human animalistic, genocidal behavior. The people have food and shelter, but very little else. A day’s wage is about $1.50 for hard labor (we saw women digging and building gutters from stone and cement for the coming rainy season). Yet, these people smile at you and fight on to the next day.

    The image that has changed me the most is that of a woman that I saw walking by as we drove up that long 6 hour drive from the Nyungwe forest to the Bethanie Guest house on Lake Kibuye. This woman was carrying at least 40lbs of bananas and sweet potatoes on her head, walking up a steep hill barefoot in the rain, with a baby no more than 8 months old, on her back. In the moment that our eyes met and we smiled at one another, I felt like kin to her, as we shared that moment in time. We were both women in this world, yet living such enormously different lives. [The feelings are so strong that I am now sobbing as I type this. :-[ I was never like this till I met Wayne……you know whimsically shedding tears.] She lived in a house made of mud walls, no bigger than my living room, with at least 3 more children and a husband. There were no doors or glass windows, just cut out holes in the walls covered with cloth curtains. No running water, no stove, no refrigerators, no ice, no flushing toilets, and no electricity. Every day, she went to fetch water from the river, to wash her family’s clothes, to boil potatoes to feed her family, and to give to her children for drink. When she went to make dinner, she first had to go cut down a tree for firewood. Just in that second in time, my whole view of life did a 180-degree turn. I was humbled, yet at the same time, gratitude for my life increased. I realized what a life of privilege I lead. Not even the last Rwandan king lived with the luxuries I take for granted.

    Women in these countries do ALL the work. Many even build their own houses. I kept thinking this lady and I are the same, yet how can life be so different for us? From that moment on, I decided to take what I experienced in Africa and apply it in my daily life. No longer will I complain about housework with my vacuum and washing clothes with my washing machine and dryer. Nor will I gripe about having to put dishes in the dishwasher. What a privileged life I live! Indeed, American, Western women, are the most privileged women in the world. We have opportunities right in our hands, if only we use them.

    Two other experiences that I will hold on to forever are that of the Rwandan children and the experience with the Rwandan missionaries. The children in Rwanda stole my heart. They ran around in torn, grey colored, hand-me-down clothing, with no shoes (very few people have shoes; some don’t like them, but most can’t afford them.) I would start to feel sorry for them, but then I would see these beautiful smiling kids, playing with a soccer ball out of plastic bags and having so much fun playing. Their living conditions saddened me, but their zeal for life and it’s simple pleasures, made me almost envious. The children in the U.S. have it all, yet so many are not happy. Outside the forest, after we finished tracking the chimpanzees, we were greeted by the village children, nearly 40 kids. We brought pencils and pens to give away. We gave each child a pencil for school and the gratitude these children showed with their smiles was as if we had given them all an X-box video game unit. These memories are still so vivid to me. I hope that I can instill a little bit of that gratitude for the small things in my children one day.

    The experience with the missionaries is also one that will always stick with me. These wonderful people have sacrificed so very much for Jehovah’s worldwide kingdom preaching work and he has blessed them with extreme joy and satisfaction. On our last full day in Rwanda, as we sat in the missionary home with three missionary couples and had a home made lunch, I prayed that I would remember the joy I was experiencing at that moment, forever. I felt as if I was in the company of angels, like Lot experienced in the Bible. I am using that feeling of joy and inner satisfaction to spur me on to greater things in my own spiritual growth.

    As you can see, my African Experience was soul changing. I will always remember the adventure I shared with my in-laws and Wayne in seeing all the animals, the roads we drove on, the beautiful Kingdom Halls we saw, yet, what will stand out to me are the most, are the feelings and memories that I have brought back with me. These are a greater love of humanity, without country boundaries, a feeling of empowerment to make the world around me a better place by giving of myself to others even more, and a greater sense of the need to keep spiritual things first in my life, because Jehovah is truly the only one who will be able to solve the inequality in the world. Along with this, not taking for granted the life I lead living in a heated home, having drinkable running water, flushing toilets, washing machines, dish washers, a variety of clothing, and shoes. All the things we Americans call the basic necessities of life.

    Mary Ellen Hazle


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    From Beryl Hazle

    I often thought about going on a safari in Africa. I also thought how interesting it would be to meet the Brothers and Sisters over there. But never in my wildest dreams did I think that would become a reality.

    Wayne made it a reality. Dorrel was ready to go almost immediately, but I needed my daughter Sara to prod me along. We had three days to make up our minds and pay the fare. We then had one month to get our vaccines. We got our travel bags ready and read books and magazines on Kenya and Tanzania. I fell in love with the places described. I thought about Mt. Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro, Amboseli and Lake Manyara. I needed to go to Africa and see these places for myself.

    We had long flights from Savannah to New York and from New York to Dubai. I became more anxious with each flight. Finally we arrived in Nairobi, Kenya and the adventure began. We started the tour with visiting the Bethel branch of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nairobi. From there each day became more and more exciting.

    As much as I loved the trip, I couldn’t wait to come back home and see my beautiful daughter Sara again. I am sure you all understand.

    Now when I watch those nature shows about Africa on TV, I can say “I’ve been there!” I’ve seen lions, leopards, cheetahs, gazelles, rhino, elephants, giraffes and so much more. Jehovah is truly an incredible God who loves variety in all his creation. I hope that some of you out there can make plans and have your own Africa Experience!

    Beryl Hazle
    -------------------------------------

    From Dorrel Hazle

    There is a commercial where a little boy was asked “Have you ever seen a real bull?” The little boy said he had. When he was asked where, he said “On TV!”

    For many years I religiously watched all the animal shows, especially those on Africa. I never thought that one day I would find myself in the jungles of Africa seeing the real thing.

    Who would have thought I would have gotten close enough to lions to touch them, or Cape Horn Buffalo with the menacing horns, or a stately elephant staring at us as if to say “Get out of my way!”, or wildebeest in the thousands grazing on the plains, or hippos in their watering hole, munching away without the least bit of fear?

    These magnificent sights are what safari is all about. For seventeen days, we traveled through Kenya and Tanzania. It was an experience we will never forget. We truly appreciate the marvels of Jehovah’s creation.

    Africa is a beautiful continent with disturbing poverty. As always, greed and corruption allow a few to prosper while many suffer. Yes, the contrast is terrible, but people with very little do their best to make a life for themselves.

    We were very excited to see several Kingdom Halls and meet a few of our Christian Brothers and Sisters. We learned that the Kingdom Work is moving ahead despite the difficulties that they face.

    Before you pack your bags to leave for Africa, a word of caution: an African safari is not for the weak hearted. When we drove down into the Ngorongoro Crater, the road was steep, narrow and bumpy. I thought for sure we would go tumbling over the side and that would be the end of us. We were inches from the edge! :-O I prayed to Jehovah and swore that if we made it out alive, I would never again put Him to the test. Yet, at the same time, it was an amazing trip that was well worth all that we went through.

    To watch the Masai people shepherd their goats and cows reminded me of the responsibility of Christian overseers to shepherd and protect the sheep in the Christian Congregation. Their nomadic way of life reminds me of the simple life of the Nazarites of ancient Israel.

    It was nice to spend seventeen days with Wayne and Mary Ellen. I must admit that I did not know that Beryl could endure such a grueling seventeen days.

    I loved my new status as “the Chief” as some of the workers started calling me.

    Thanks to Wayne & Mary Ellen for arranging the trip, to Beryl for going along with it and for my daughter Sara for encouraging us to go.

    Dorrel Hazle

    -------------

    The workers at Ilkeliani started calling my Dad "Chief" and it stuck throughout the trip!

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    Epilogue: The Long and the Short of It


    It took a few weeks for Mary Ellen and I to get past our various sicknesses and for our sleep to get back to normal. Leonard, Hope, Ilkeliani and I are getting along famously, as one says in the U.K.

    Some days I have to get up and pinch myself. Did I really go to Africa? But those memories are real. I will never forget what I saw and what I felt. Since coming back, I have seen dozens of images of Africa on TV, and they make a warm smile comes over me. Yeah, I’ve been there. :-d

    A little piece of my heart will always be with the lions of the Serengeti, the mighty buffalo of Ngorongoro, the elephants of Amboseli, the rhinos and flamingos of Nakuru and the cheetahs and leopards of the Mara. (Even though someone might tell me the ones in Tanzania are better 8-) ). I will always think about all the Witnesses at those little Kingdom Halls in Kenya and the missionaries in Rwanda working to spread the message.

    And here is the last tidbit. Someone in one of my travel groups was proofreading an early version of the Journal. They saw mention of the Ilkena Tented lodge and they said “No it’s called Ilkeliani. I stayed there a few months ago.” I immediately looked it up on the Itnernet and found www.ilkeliani.com. Ilkeliani is the word for a young Masai warrior. It represents their courage, fearlessness and wisdom. This is a fitting name for my young future silverback. So if I had just spelled the name right I would have known… oh never mind..

    When I think of the time spent in Africa and drawing close to people so far away from me, a few Scriptures come to mind:

    “For a certainty I perceive that God is not partial, but in every nation the man that fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him” Acts 10:34, 35

    And also:

    “And he made out of one [man] every nation of men, to dwell upon the entire surface of the earth, … in fact, he is not far off from each one of us.” Acts 17:26,27

    Finally:

    “You are opening your hand and satisfying the desire of every living thing.” Psalm 141:16

    Have no fear, The Hazle Journal will return…

    ------------------------
    matnikstym, OnlyMeOirish, cynstalker, LyndaS, dssxxxx, favor, cindysafari, nevermind, atravelynn

    Thanks for the encouraging comments, ((F)) it has been great posting this on this board over the last week ;)
    It allowed me to relive the trip yet again. Africa will be in my blood forever.


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    Wayne:

    Really outstanding! Thankyou for taking the time to do this! From now on, every time I see a "torch", I'm going to think of you worrying about lighting it like in one of those mummy movie - that really tickled my funny bone!

    still smilin'...

    Cyn



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    Wayne, Your trip report was wonderful. I loved reading it from start to finish, and Mary Ellen's comments brought tears to my eyes. I am so envious that you were able to stop at several Kingdom Halls, and attend a meeting no less! We are going in September, but we will be flying to each camp, so we will not have that privlige, sorry to say. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a heartfelt and beautifully described trip. It really makes me look forward to ours in September!

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    Thank you both again.

    CindySafari, flying from camp to camp sounds great now :)

    By the way, I wasn't going to post this here, but I decided I might as well be completed. In my journal I included a qucik summary of "The War" and what happened. I know the subject is MUCH MUCH more complex than what I wrote, but a lot of my friends knew so little about the genocide that I wanted to at least give them a 1 page primer.

    By the way, think this week I am going to post my Cambodia journal over on the Asia board this week and then maybe India next week.

    -------------
    The War: The Rwandan Genocide

    So just what was all that madness about anyway? Sad to say, for so many of us in America, the Rwandan Genocide was a blur back in the nineties. There was something about some “tribes” in Rwanda and one “tribe” killing off the other.

    By now, many Americans have seen the movie “Hotel Rwanda” and at least have gotten a Cliff Notes review what happened in April 1994. This is better than nothing. It is simply impossible for me, in this tiny space to do complete justice to the forces before, during and after the genocide, yet I will provide a little more information, especially for those who have not seen “Hotel Rwanda”. (I really recommend "Sometimes in April" similar to "Hotel Rwanda" but I think a superior film. While HR stayed inside the hotel, this shows what went on outside.)

    Rwanda, like other Africa countries, and even countries in other continents, has always had various “ethnic groups” in its lands. The majority group was the Hutus. The Tutsis were the minority, yet they were the ruling group. Despite some general difference in appearance, the Tutsis being somewhat taller and leaner, the two groups had much in common including shared traditions, language, geography and even intermarriage. So it is a great myth that these were “tribes” that have been at war for thousands of years, though of course there was some tension.

    During their colonization of Rwanda, the Belgians gave great preference and power to the Tutsis. The resentment from the Hutu majority grew. In the late fifties, colonization was drawing to a close. Rwanda prepared to become independent. The ultra-nationalist Party of the Hutu Emancipation Movement (PARMEHUTU) came to power in 1959. They exacerbated the tension and resentment against their former Tutsi rulers and violence broke out, 20,000 Tutsi were killed and an additional 200,000 fled to neighboring countries. In 1964 and again in 1974, violence broke out and a large number of Tutsi were killed and forced into exile. In 1973 a Hutu, Juvénal Habyarimana seized the Presidency in a military coup, ousting the PARMEHUTU, but continuing to rely on Hutu nationalism to stay in power.

    The mainly Tutsi, Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) was formed in 1985 under Paul Kagame in order to fight for the rights of the many Tutsis who had been expelled from Rwanda. On October 1, 1990, RPF forces invaded Rwanda.

    President Habyarimana proclaimed that the Tutsis were trying to come back to power and enslave the Hutu race. Tutsi and sympathetic Hutu, were repressed. War dragged on for two years. Finally, peace accords were signed in Arusha, Tanzania on August 4th 1993. However, Hutu nationalism reached a fanatic feverish pitch during the months after the accord. Radio stations, particularly Radio Télévision Libre de Mille Collines (RTLM), owned by top government leaders, and newspapers, began a campaign of hate and fear. They broadcasted and published material referring to the Tutsi as snakes, insects and cockroaches. They hinted that soon it would be time to “cut the tall trees”.

    Radical Hutu groups, organized and funded by members of the government, started to amass weapons and conduct training programs. This is important: months later when the genocide was happening, in many Western countries the understanding was that there was some “tribal warfare” going on in Rwanda. Many envisioned people in loincloths with spears randomly going after each other. (like out of a Tarzan movie) This was a planned liquidation of a people, no different than the Nazi regime. Machetes and grenades were ordered months ahead of time.

    Lists were made of Tutsi lawyers, doctors, politicians and businessmen who were to be killed first. Government leaders met in secret with youth group leaders, forming and arming militias called Interahamwe, which means, "coming together" in Kinyarwanda. Local leaders, mayors and policemen were all involved in the planning.

    On April 6th, 1994, President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down as it approached Kigali. On RTLM, it was proclaimed that the Tutsi’s had killed the President. Almost instantly, the slaughter began. The U.N. peacekeeping forces were told to stand down, to not interfere in anything going on in the country. Eventually, they all pulled out, leaving Tutsis to fend for themselves.

    Meanwhile in America, the country was still smarting from the failed situation in Mogadishu, Somalia. The U.S. didn’t want to send American soldiers to another African country and see the bodies of American soldiers getting dragged through the streets. America didn’t have “vital interests” in Rwanda (that means oil). Besides this is some “tribal war”, who can stop it? (can you tell yet I hate the use of the term "tribe"? at least in this context)

    So for 100 days, the slaughter went on day and night. Radio RTLM continued spurring the mobs on to more killing. The great world powers stood by indifferently, not sure what to do about this “local conflict” between these two “tribes”. By the tens of thousands, Tutsi bodies were piled up in each city and village. Those who thought they could flee to churches to be safe, turned out to be sadly mistaken as violent mobs threw grenades at them, fired guns into churches and then used machetes to slaughter those still breathing, all at the behest of the priests! Tens of thousands, fled into Zaire and Uganda. Many more would die of disease in refugee sites. Eventually, the RPF, aided by Ugandan forces would overthrow the Hutu militias and end the genocide.

    In the nearly twelve years since the genocide, a lot has been written and learned. Those of you who are interested, can find a mountain of reading material including heartbreaking stories of survivors.

    Armenia, Nazi Germany, Cambodia, Bosnia, the Sudan, every time another genocide happens the world beats its breast and says “Never again!” … until the next time. We know there is only one solution.


    “But there are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” 2 Pet 3:13

    “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out” John 5:28,29



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    I really have to say that this was one of the best trip reports I have ever read.........:-)

    But, I had to C&P into word because of the scrolling back and forth.

    It reminded me of our first safari and make me look forward to our next.

    Thanks for an entertaining read.

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    By the way, for those interested, last week I posted my India trip report on the Asia board. Some similar styles and themes. Of course it includes my very first safari: tigers in Ranthambore.

    and the formatting didn't get screwed up on that report.

    http://fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=27&tid=34838942

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    Wayne - I am glad you decided to post your brief description of the Rwandan genocide. It is a event we all need to understand and never forget.

    For those wanting to know more about America's reaction to this genocide ,I suggest Samantha Powers book, "A Problem from Hell", which chronicles the American government's reactions to cases of genocide in the 20th century. Samantha Power is a Professor of Human Rights Practice at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. The book was awarded the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for general non-fiction,foreign policy.

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    Oh and finally,

    I have also posted some other reports:

    Southeast Asia search on Asia board for my name, Cambodia or "South East Asian Adventure"

    I am just posting these two now:
    Chile Peru Adventure, on Latin America, my name and "Andean Adventure"

    Europe, on Europe, my name and "My First Adventure"

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    by Emily_D Fodor's Editor | Posted on Dec 19, 14 at 05:08 PM
View all Africa & the Middle East activity »
  1. 1 Trip Report Zanzibar - from a resident's perspective
  2. 2 Now is the Time fo Egypt...
  3. 3 Magnificent wedding in the Masai Mara
  4. 4 Johannesburg to Cape Town
  5. 5 Trip Report Zambia Impressions
  6. 6 Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania
  7. 7 Trip Report Travel Report for Malawi - A Great Place To Relax
  8. 8 Serengeti Photo Safari - April 2015
  9. 9 Johannesburg to Cape Town
  10. 10 Comments on Botswana itinerary with Wilderness Travel
  11. 11 Trip Report SOUTH AFRICA WESTERN CAPE TRIP REPORT: SEPT/OCT 2013
  12. 12 Morocco floods - areas affected
  13. 13 Dubai first time
  14. 14 Mauritius September 2015 - Silver Beach Resort or Emeraude Beach Attitude?
  15. 15 Taste of Dubai
  16. 16 Trip Report Don't go to Morrocco!
  17. 17 Where to spend extra night; Merzouga or Skoura?
  18. 18 Canoe Safari Jan - Feb
  19. 19 Dubai and/or Oman
  20. 20 Good travel company to book an 8 day trip to Egypt
  21. 21 Need advice on which camera lenses for safari
  22. 22 Morocco Advice
  23. 23 Trip Report MOROCCO SOLO
  24. 24 Guide for Serengeti Wildebeest Migration Jan 2015
  25. 25 Suggestions for a group tour
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