Ann's Adventures in Africa

Old Nov 12th, 2006, 06:07 AM
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NAIROBI TO SWEETWATERS TENTED CAMP, CULTURAL VILLAGE, NIGHT GAME DRIVE, CHIMPANZEE SANCTUARY, SPINNING & WEAVING FACTORY

Photos in Sweetwaters folder at: http://www.winkflash.com/photo/publi...?u=ajennerjahn

Day 4 Nairobi to Sweetwaters Oct 13.
After breakfast we check out of the Stanley Hotel. Our vehicles this morning are the minibuses we will use for the rest of our stay in Kenya. For some reason we need to change vehicles at the Tanzania border. We each have a window seat, and the hatch goes up for better viewing during the game drives.

After we pass the suburbs we get into farmland. We pass the Del Monte pineapple farm the 3rd largest in the world. And we also pass small farms with people working in the fields, bending from the waist. Backbreaking work. We have our first sight of what will be common: people riding bicycles by the side of the road, often carrying huge loads. It is hilly enough that they have to dismount and push on the ascents. Sometimes the loads are so big they cant ride at all. I find myself wondering why they dont get a cart instead theyd still have to pull it, but at least they wouldnt have to hold it up.

We also pass papyrus, greenhouses filled with roses; coffee plantations, bananas, charcoal, papaya, and tea. Even though we havent seen any game yet, Im continually reminded that Im not at home.
On the highway we are stopped frequently by roadblocks heavy duty spikes on the road. Sometimes we are just waved on, and sometimes they examine all the paperwork of the vehicle and the driver. Its all pretty low keyed and quick, nevertheless.

In addition to the people with bikes, we also see people carrying odd loads sometimes bulky bundles, and once we see two guys actually carrying what looks like the hood of a big truck. I dont think I could even lift it, and I wonder where they are taking it, and why the truck cant carry its own hood. On a totally undistinguished road we cross the equator. I was dozing, and the guide points it out, and Im not sure where to look I think I was expecting a big stripe on the ground, LOL.

On the road in to the Sweetwaters Tented Camp, we see our first game. I was so excited to see a zebra I didnt know or care that they are seen all over the place, I was thrilled. We also saw defassa waterbuck, grants gazelles, olive baboons, and reticulated giraffe. We arrive at Sweetwaters, and are greeted with warm damp towels and fresh juice I had one called tree tomato. It was kind of odd but not unpleasant tart, thick, and mildly sweet.
Porters carry our duffels to our tent. Esther carries my room-mates and mine 2 duffels at once. I feel bad because Im not used to women carrying loads like that. I feel stupid walking behind her while she carries the bags. Finally I say to her you must be very strong. She stopped to face me, and was proud to answer: African women are VERY STRONG! Her nose was beaded with sweat, and she was breathing heavily, but she was confident and proud and strong! Can you imagine the sob story you would likely get from an American women in that situation? When I saw the women working in the fields I was glad I was not an African woman, and when I saw Esther carrying the bags I was really glad (and there were other occasions later on that made me gladder still!). But I could really learn from her positive attitude.

Our tent was raised up from the ground, sort of like a second floor. That would have been fine, but there was no view, which was disappointing, since the water hole is such a wonderful feature of this camp. Hoti said hed switch us tomorrow.

The tent [see picture] is tall enough to stand up in, and has 2 twin beds and a bathroom alcove, complete with sink, shower, and a semi-flushing toilet. Im not sure if it was actually broken or if we just hadnt learned the African pump technique yet. My roommate has a great idea she suggests that we choose sides for the rooms, instead of having to discuss each detail at each camp. So for now on, I get the bed on the right, and the towels on the right. This is simple and works beautifully. We automatically dump our day bags on our own bed at each new camp, and I know which towel is mine. Of course, we end up with a running joke, because I have told her the stories about Arielle. So whoevers bed is near the entrance, we say I guess the lion is going to eat you first tonight. I threaten her that if she is not a good room-mate Ill post stories about her, and she makes me promise that Ill teach her how so she can have equal time if Im a problem. As a result we are both on our best behavior, and fortunately (or unfortunately!) there are no juicy stories to relate.

Lunch was nice a buffet with an amazing view across the savannah. While eating we watch zebras, warthogs, and some impala. We also see a superb warbler iridescent blue with shades of green or purple depending on the light. Im fascinated by the beautiful bird, and dont realize that it is very common we will see it again and again wherever we go. On the way to and from our tents we see marabou stork, rock hyrax, and guinea fowl.

After lunch we go to a cultural village [pictures] where 3 tribes live together: Turcana, Samburu, Pocat. (Im not sure how you spell them). One of the men acted as our guide and interpreter. He had been educated by a missionary school, and spoke English quite well. There are 3 kinds of huts, different for each tribe. They are pastoral they have to pick up and move when the drought is too bad. First we see the children sitting in the dirt. A woman is there with her baby and is asking the medicine man for a consultation. Apparently he decides the baby is ok. I cant figure out if the appointment is staged for our benefit or not. We also saw a warrior, who had 3 scars on his shoulder indicating that he had killed a hippo. If he had killed lion it would be 4 lines of scars. The men have both decorative scars and also medicinal scars, inflicted by the witchdoctor.

Each tribe also danced for us, different dances for the different tribes. The men of the second tribe are playing a game together, but are not joined by the other tribes. The children, however, play all together. This strikes me as a sad worldwide principle children start out accepting each other, but then segregate themselves when they become grownups. In this case, there is clearly respect and cooperation between the tribes, but the fact that they dont play together still struck me. It also struck me that we do not see any games that women play.

We visited inside each type of hut. The huts are dark, lit only by a tiny hole serving as a window. There is no furniture, and almost no belongings. For the second two tribes, the husband and wife dont share a bed, but have separate sleeping platforms. I didnt quite understand the explanation, it had something to do with the warrior not wanting the smell of children on him, which could attract wild animals or something like that. In the third hut we are invited to note how smooth the mud on the walls is. The wife works hard on this, to keep her husband interested, otherwise he might move on to another of his wives. Meanwhile, the elaborate beaded necklaces on the wall are a sign that the wife is in residence. It sounds sort of like the flag flying over Buckingham palace to indicate that the Queen is there. If the wife returns to her parents, they will know the difference between a visit and a domestic upheaval by whether she brings all her necklaces with her.

On the way to the village we saw game all around: buffalo, giraffes, impala, grant gazelles, zebra, warthogs, and waterbuck. At one point, the giraffe necks undulating in front of the trees look like something out of Jurassic park but giraffes are exotic enough, I dont need dinosaurs!

The night game drive [pictures, but they are not too good, since it is dark, of course!] starts slowly at first, just some African hares and some zebra. It picks up a little interest with some cape buffalo truly ominous looking in the dark. And suddenly a lion! No, it is two lions, no, it is three. What are they looking at? Im transfixed my first lions! They are standing, they are walking. No! They are stalking a white rhino. The lions separate and approach from different directions. The rhino is unaware at first. Just as he senses them, we realize there are a 4th and 5th lion approaching from behind. The circle tightens and we barely breathe. The rhino slowly backs up were afraid he will actually back into one of the lions behind him, which he doesnt seem to have noticed yet. The circle draws tighter and he backs some more. Suddenly the table is turned -- the rhino has had enough and trots forward at one of the lions, who turns tail and bounds away. The intricate dance continues back and forth, but we are not sure who is choreographing it, the lions or the rhino. Eventually we realize that the rhino is less worried than we are, as he lowers his head and starts to eat, not even deigning to pay attention any more. Meanwhile, the lions appear oblivious to easier prey a Grants gazelle less than 50 yards away, on the other side of a small hill.

We return to camp still thrilled with the dance of the lions and the rhino. My bed is peculiarly hard, but I dont care, Im just happy to be here. And even happier when I notice a wonderful surprise: someone has put a hot water bottle in my bed! Im very chilly after the night game drive, and Im happy both for my silk long johns and the hot water bottle.

Day 5. Sweetwaters
Today we visit the chimpanzee sanctuary [plictures], with game drives on the way there and back. They have 41 chimps there right now.. Most are orphans because their parents were killed for bush meat. These chimps were not taught by their parents, so they need supplemental feeding. We also learn that chimps are also susceptible to all human diseases except malaria.
The sanctuary has room for 100, and is protected by an electric fence. One of the chimps runs back and forth in front of us, whacking the fence hard with a stick. Apparently, theyve learned not to touch the electric wires, and instead they use the stick since it does not conduct electricity. Thats way more knowledge of physics than I expected a chimp to have!

Suddenly we hear a great commotion screeching and chattering. The ranger urgently shooed us back to the van hurry! Hurry! What is going on? The chimp Paco is loose. The rangers run into the bush calling his name. Meanwhile our own little drama was unfolding at the van, as Stephen, our driver, couldnt find his keys. Good to know were not the only ones who get flustered, LOL. Faye left her pocketbook in the van last night, and lost her camera the night before. She explained that she didnt mind buying a new camera, but she was really distressed to have lost the picture of herself kissing a giraffe! Anyway, Stephen finally found the keys (they were in his pocket after all), so we continued on a short game drive, where we see olive baboons, reticulated giraffe, defassa waterbuck, impala, sacred Ibis, saddle billed stork, grey heron, grants gazelle, Thompson gazelle, impala, and a distant hartebeest. We ask Stephen why the one impala is chasing the other and he tries to be delicate: I think she has a headache.. Were disappointed that Mt Kenya is still shrouded in the clouds. Im going to have to settle for a picture of a giraffe by the shoulder of the mountain instead of the classic pose.

We visit a Spinning and Weaving factory [pictures], founded by the USA Presbyterian church. 107 women now work there. It supports them and their children. Primary school is free in Kenya, but secondary school you have to pay for. We watch them sinning and weaving by hand, and many in our group buy rugs. They are relatively small, but I still cant figure out how they will fit them into their duffles. The woman who shows us around the factory is an excellent guide. Her accent is funny, but she is a great presenter. For some reason, she has trouble with the letter W, so it takes us a while to catch on to what ool is. She keeps stressing that the ool is washed in Ivory Soap, until it is pure white. White, it turns out, is a relative term.

Back at camp, we find that our tent was indeed changed. This one is perfect, with a great view of the water hole! Lunch was another buffet. I kept jumping up from my seat to take pictures of the giraffes at the water hole [pictures]. We also see an oryx. After lunch I have a shower. It was waaaaaaaay too cold to take one this morning (although my brave roommate did). And now Im sitting on the patio in front of the tent watching the giraffes. One has especially dark and defined markings. Beautiful!

We visit a rescued black rhino [pictures]. They are even bigger close up. He is semi-tame, so we are told we can take pictures with him (while the sign warns we do it at our own risk). We are told to promptly move out of the way if he starts to move! On the way back to camp we see some black-backed jackals and hartebeest, but still no elephants (which are a favorite of my roommate, so we are on the lookout). We also see some oryx, with those peculiarly straight horns. Then dinner and bed. Hurrah for the hot water bottle!

My overall reactions to the Sweetwaters tented camp: The tents are not as luxurious as mbuzi mawe, but have everything you need. The water is hot in the afternoon, but not the morning. The tents in the front row have a terrific view, but those in the back dont have much view at all. But I would definitely go back there in a flash, because watching the animals at the water hole is an incredible treat. In addition to the view from the tents and the restaurant, there are benches where you can comfortably sit and watch the wonderful progression of animals unfold, like a never-ending movie. For safetys sake there is a fence, but it is lowered in a ditch, so you dont notice it when viewing the animals.
ann_nyc is offline  
Old Nov 12th, 2006, 06:56 AM
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Great report and photos. Wonderful attention to detail. Your enthusiasm is infectious, and we're traveling right along with you. Keep it coming. Glad for you and your room-mate that all went well for the two of you. Wow! You got to see the women at the rug place "sinning and weaving by hand"! Now that's truly a rare sight. LOL.
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Old Nov 12th, 2006, 08:49 AM
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I like your use of Fodors as a threat between roommates. A sort of cyber threat cold war. Glad you two got along.

Those were some helpful observations about Sweetwaters. Lately it seems that questions about that place have cropped up a lot. Did you see the chimp on the loose? One poster stated that they felt the chimp sanctuary was very zoo-like and a disappointment. The other Jane Goodall chimp sanctuary that I've seen would not fit that description in my opinion. Can you elaborate on the chimp enclosure at Sweetwaters? I did see a couple of good chimp shots.

You have some other striking photos. Lots of good sweeping landscapes and sky. I especially liked the rhino closeups, the ele eye, hyena in the den, and a variety of zebras. The pair of cheetahs is a great find.

Before you are done, please tell me how to make the square dots that you placed between the parks in your 1st sentence. Also the square that serve as bullets.

Are we going to Amboseli next?
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Old Nov 12th, 2006, 09:16 AM
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Glad you like it. I know some people will get bored with the detail, but I figure they can just skip the boring parts.

Bo2642: OOOPS, I didn't realize I was accusing the women of 'sinning and weaving'. I bet everyone really wants to check out those photos now.

atravelynn: I really loved Sweetwaters, because I loved not having to go out on an excursion to see the animals, however the accomodations themselves were not as plush as some of the other camps.

As far as the chimp sanctuary was concerned, it is true that the view of the chimps is sort of like being in a zoo, because the fence is very prominent. Most of the chimps hide in the woods, and you only get to see the ones that choose to come near the fence. The exhibit with all the chimp pictures and stories was quite interesting and touching, however. We didn't actually see the chimp on the loose -- they were definitely treating it as an emergency, yet I gather it is not that uncommon. We found it surprising because the fence is really high. Frankly, it looked sort of like a prison fence to me! Reading the stories of the chimps, it was clear that they had indeed been rescued, and that the place was doing a lot of good, but it is certainly not the same as seeing them in the wild.

Yes, Amboseli is coming next -- hopefully tonight.
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Old Nov 12th, 2006, 09:17 AM
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Oops, I forgot to answer the question about the formatting and the little boxes. I'm not actually doing anything clever, in fact I'm just being lazy!
I typed stuff in Word, and pasted it into the Fodor's window, and that's how it came out all by itself.
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Old Nov 12th, 2006, 02:14 PM
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KAJAIDO SCHOOL, ARRIVING AT AMBOSELI

Photos in Amboseli folder at: http://www.winkflash.com/photo/publi...?u=ajennerjahn

Day 6 Oct 15
On the way to Amboseli, we visit the A.I.C. Kajaido Boarding School [pictures]. The African Inland church started the school in 1959 with 20 girls. In 1964, after Kenya independence, the school was turned over to the government. It tries to address cultural problems. The biggest issue is that at around the age of 13, girls are subject to genital mutilation. The school is trying to help and educate girls who have run away to escape forced child marriages and genital mutilation, or who have faced other situations such as being raped, or being orphaned due to AIDS, or having physical disbilities. 90% of the girls are Maasai.

The school philosophy is that if they educate the girls, they educate a nation. They also function as a rescue center, so girls who know their families have plans to circumcise them, can have a place to run to. They have an award winning music program, and a drama program to encourage them to communicate.

They teach English, Kiswahili, Science, Mathematics, and social studies. Some of the girls go on to high school and college. They need sponsors to pay for the higher education. God always opens a door for us the teacher says gratefully. The first grade could have children ranging from 6-16, depending on when they started their schooling. Some children need to walk 10k to get to school, so they need to be old enough to walk that far.

Ellen asked who takes care of the children after school. The answer was that a matron and dispensary are available for medical care. Clearly they werent thinking of the kind of childcare we are used to.

A sixth grade class sings for us. Im happy today so happy, in Jesus name Im happy, because he has taken away my sins. A couple of girls recite poems. They are eloquent, with intense voices and dramatic hand gestures. They are in the speak-out drama club. The school motto is determination and dedication to excellence.

Although it is Sunday, they show us to a schoolroom to talk to some of the children. I chat with Tabitha, who asks how old I am, and when I ask her to guess politely suggests 20? We have been warned not to ask the girls specifics about their background, since so many are victims of abuse of one sort or another, so I try to ask something more neutral. How long have you been coming to school? A LOOONG TIME she replies, 20 weeks. She is 12. Her favorite subjects are science and match.

Then we are shown the dormitory a long room with a row of bunks on each side. Each pair of bunks are abutted next to each other, and 2 girls share each bed, so in every 7 by 6 slot 8 girls are expected to sleep. It is abundantly clear why they need a new dormitory! If this were a prison, the inmates would sue for more space. Grand Circle (the parent company of OAT) is collecting money to build a dormitory. Many of us are glad to chip in.

As we leave we hear sounds of singing from a building holding a church service. The spillover crowd in front plays, jumps rope, sings and claps. Off to the side Ray and Arlene start to dance and immediately the crowd runs eagerly to see this novelty. I think the children are so used to performing for visitors that they are delighted to see this role reversal.

The children are all in uniforms, which seems standard practice in Kenya. Most of the children are Christian, but they have a handful of Muslims. As we leave the school, we pass a mosque, which Hoti explains is for the Somalian refugees in the neighborhood. He said that while the Maaasai who interact with the outer world often become Christian, they rarely become Muslim. In his words, they do not join Islamology.

Now back into the vans for the trip to Amboseli. My backside now understands why the inflatable seat cushions were recommended, although it is probably good that I dont realize it will get worse later! After a long days drive, Im wondering why we bother to keep switching camps, but as we approach Amboseli, it is immediately apparent that we will see different varieties of animals. I guess that was supposed to be obvious, but as a safari novice, I didnt really grasp it until now. We pass a gerenuk hidden in the bush, as well as an elephant, spotted hyena, ostrich, yellow baboon, zebra, Thompsons gazelle, and wildebeest. Due to the drought, the lake is dry, and we are able to drive straight across. The rutted path across the lake is actually smoother than the road was, but it surely is dusty. I finally realize that this is what those buff kerchiefs are for. This is a great solution. I pull one over my head, then slide it back over my hair, and tuck the back ends in at the nape of my neck. I dont care if it looks silly, it saves my hair from that amazing phenomenon where dust and wind together create instant dreadlocks.

I had made the mistake of saving one of those little bananas from our boxed lunch. It was in the pocket of my cargo pants, and when I stood up in the van to spy the gerenuk, I didnt realize I was mashing the banana until the pulp seeped thru the pocket, creating a wet slime. I asked Hoti what to do with the crushed banana, and his only idea was to hold it in my hand for the next 22k. That did not sound like a plan to me, so I emptied out some toiletries from a baggie in my carry-on, and used that as a garbage bag.

Were tired and dirty when we arrive at the Amboseli Serena. They greet us with welcome wet towels and passion fruit juice. Im so tired and achy I leave my day pack on the ledge, but an attentive staff member hands it to me before Im more than a couple of yards away. I need to stop making fun of people who forget things.

We can tell we are in mosquito country even just in the lobby we are being attacked. No one has any repellent on, since it wasnt a problem before. I wish we could just move on to our rooms, but the registration process is taking some time. Ive got my carryon, my daybag, my camera and binoculars, and Im trying to slather on bug repellent, and just dont have enough hands, but once Im sticky with the repellent I dont want to mess up my camera by even trying to put it away. Finally were given our keys and our room steward carries our duffles and leads us to our room. It is attractive and luxurious, only slightly marred by the black millipedes sprinkled all over the floor. Idelle steps on one and it crunches underfoot and breaks in half. The front half keeps slithering onward. The beds are shrouded in mosquito netting, which is white so it looks romantic rather than utilitarian. There are so many light switches we cant figure them out. It is appealing to be back in the land of full-fledged electricity, after the 11 watt bulbs at Sweetwaters.

I dont want to inadvertently research what kind of bugs are attracted by banana pulp, so I pull off my pants as soon as Im in my room, so I can send them to the laundry. My roommate puts me on banana restriction. From now on when we get a boxed lunch and Im tempted to save the banana she just gives me a look. Thanks to her watchful eye, I dont end up with any more laundry emergencies. It is working so well rooming together. I think it actually helps that we dont know each other, because we dont have any hot buttons to push. Since Im not her daughter, I feel free to recognize it when she gives me good advice, and vice versa.

Dinner at the Amboseli Serena was the best meal in Africa so far. I had a light cream of pea soup and a small steak. Dennis tells a funny story about the school. He asked a girl to read something for him, and she reads from the Bible, Romans 8:8. Then he asked her if she understood and she said not really, so he ended up having to try to explain it. While he doesnt claim to be a believer, it sounds like his explanation was pretty good. He said that if another girl took something from her and she hurt her instead of forgiving her, it would not please God.

The lodge employs Maasai as monkey chasers. They stand with sticks, and watch, and chase off the monkeys when they try to climb on the outside tables, or run into the dining room.
[More about Amboseli in the next segment]
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Old Nov 12th, 2006, 03:36 PM
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Thanks for including the details about the school, a real refuge for those girls.

I've had similar banana problems.

The Sweetwaters watering hole sounds wonderful.

Usually the formatting in Word just disappears when transferred into Fodors. I guess that is not always the case.

What happened to the woman who lost her camera? Was she able to replace it?

Did you know you are a hot topic on the Fodor's home page.
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Old Nov 13th, 2006, 08:44 AM
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Man I wish I had gone to that school on the way to Amboseli instead of the Masai Village.

Actually the village was OK, but the school sounds GREAT!
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Old Nov 13th, 2006, 09:46 AM
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Wayne, you'll have to make a return trip so you can visit the school.

Great report, Ann. I'm really enjoying your writing style, and, of course, your enthusisasm for East Africa. I've viewed your "best of" galleries. Looks like an excellent trip.
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Old Nov 13th, 2006, 11:56 AM
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This brings back great memories! Our very first African wildlife sighting was also a zebra at Sweetwaters and I remember us both literally screaming "ZEEEEEBRA!!!"

Did they take you to the other chimp viewing section? There's a short walk and you come to a river front area. The chimps live on the other side of the river and there's no visible fence. It has a less zoo like feel, but you're viewing the chimps from a farther distance here.

It looks like they've done some refurbishment to the tent interiors since our stay last year. It was even less plush before.

I really enjoyed the waterhole viewing too (we had a tent in the front row) and we had very good luck on our night game drive there.

Looking forward to more!
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Old Nov 13th, 2006, 04:17 PM
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AMBOSELI

Photos in Amboseli folder at: http://www.winkflash.com/photo/publi...?u=ajennerjahn

Day 7 Oct 16
In the shower this morning, I realize that I need to do a bit of attitude adjustment about those millipedes, or Im at risk of turning into a whiner. After all, they arent hurting anything. I decide to channel my energy into writing a rhyme a la Dr Seuss.

BLACK MILLIPEDE:
I do not want you on the floor.
I do not want you by the door.
I do not want you by my bed,
Especially not by my head!
I do not want you on the ceiling
(It gives a creepy crawling feeling)
I do not want you on the wall,
I do not want you here at all!

I share it with my group, and we all have a good laugh.

I was fortunate that my roommate didnt mind rising early, so I got to sleep late until 5:45 no wonder I was hallucinating about millipedes in the shower! The early start was so we could go on a morning game drive [pictures]. Within the first few minutes we see wildebeest, common waterbuck, zebras and warthogs. We enjoy learning the difference between the common and defassa waterbuck. Im amazed at the variety of animals that are in view at one time: 4 lions, a herd of zebra and wildebeest, a few elephants, an ostrich in the distance, and a crowned plover.

With that scene as a backdrop, we notice off on the side a lone Thompson gazelle, oblivious to a solitary lion nearby. The lion approaches. We are silently urging the gazelle away, but he actually moves nearer to the lion. Go away! we want to shout, although no one speaks out loud. We are aware that we are only observers, and are not intended to be participants in this drama. Suddenly the gazelle notices the lion, and bounds away. The lion gives chase. They arc back around, and we expect a kill. The lion gains on the gazelle--the handwriting is on the wall. Some of us are excited and expectant, and others are resigned. Suddenly the gazelle goes into hyperdrive and escapes effortlessly, outdistancing the lion within seconds. It reminds me of something from Star Wars. The show is over. We dont understand what weve just seen. Stephen explains that the lion was slow, and seemed to be limping a little (not that I noticed), which enabled the gazelle to outdistance it. But even if the lion was slow, I dont understand how the gazelle put on that sudden burst of speed.

Then we watch a herd of elephants as they amble across the road. 5 adults and 3 children. Its fun watching animals so large, because the relative ages are so apparent. A one year old is much smaller than a 5 year old. We also notice a tawny eagle, a vulture, and Maasai giraffe at Sweetwaters we were seeing reticulated giraffe instead. I cant tell them apart I know the markings are different, but I just dont see it yet. Also warthogs, Thompsons gazelles, guinea hens, Eland, black backed jackal, a pregnant wildebeest, and an olive baboon.

We also visit a Maasai village [pictures]. We are greeted by Wilson, the chiefs son. Our group tries to greet him with Jambo, until he explains that we should say Sopa/epa in Maasai. We are surprised to see him wearing a blue and red plaid, instead of red.

Then they do a traditional welcome dance, the men on one side, the women on the other. They invite us to dance with them, and I see where pogo dancing comes from. I bet that adolescent Americans think they invented it, but the Maasai are much better at it. The men jump higher and higher to show off their strength. Then they include us in a traditional prayer. We are asked to crouch, bow our heads, and respond nai during the prayer. Im wishing I knew what we were assenting to, but all is revealed shortly. That was a traditional Maasai prayer, Wilson explains. We are Catholic. We asked a blessing for your journey. I know these visits are somewhat staged, but I was still touched.

Then we see hunks of goat roasting on a tripod of branches over a fire, and a pot of blood. One in our group asks about the different colors we see them wearing lots of blue or black rather than purely red. He explains that they are wearing the true Maasai color, and that the people we see elsewhere wearing red are probably Kikuyu who are dressing up to look like Maasai, and dont know how to do it properly. Ironically, the Masi Mara Maasai (who wear red), feel that these Maasai have sold out to civilization, and are not authentic.

They offer us some of the roasted goat, and most of us try it, but not me. Ive been eating the food at the lodges (except for the lettuce and fresh greens), but some of the meat looks not cooked well, and Im not sure about the cleanliness of the guys hands who is cutting it, or the knife for that matter (even though we saw them rinse from some dubious containers of water). After all, at home I dont even use the same spatula for cooked and raw hamburgers. The others try it, and seem to enjoy it. And I dont hear about anyone getting sick afterwards, so I guess it was ok after all. Maybe next time Ill try it. [Note to self did you notice how casually I said next time, as if Im already thinking of going again?]

The village has 4 families, with 252 people. So far weve actually been outside of the village proper. Now we enter the village and see another welcome dance. The guys pogo the higher they jump the more appealing they are to the women. The chiefs son says he has been married 3 days. He shows us his wife. She is beautiful, but does not look as happy as he does. We find out later that this village still practices genital mutilation, so we cant help but wonder if this is part of her unhappiness.

Wilson speaks excellent English. We ask where he learned it, and it turns out that he went to college in Tanzania. But he made it clear that his place is here, home with his tribe. Wilson explains some traditional medicines, including the one for men with many wives. As he speaks, I try photographing the tall man. For some reason Im having trouble focusing Im not sure if it is just too backlit or what. The man is very patient and waits for me, posing until I get it. Finally a Maasai teen politely taps me on the elbow and suggests lens cap. Was I humiliated!

Then they show us how they start fire, first spinning a stick, then adding dried grass when it smokes, then twigs. Ive seen laborious Boy Scout attempts, but this is amazing. We cant believe how fast the whole process was. The fire is made every morning, and then shared house to house. Wilson is curious at what I am writing in my journal, and asks to see my notebook, and reads aloud: They show us how they start fire.

After the fire, we watch them playing mancala. Today they are gambling for goats. I notice again that it is just the men who play. The observers are very aware that we want to watch, and duck or fade away so we have a good view, but the players are quite serious. They dont want to risk their goats! The women on the other hand are responsible for building the huts they are framed with acacia wood and cisle, and smeared with cow dung, which ends up waterproof, and is also termite proof.

After the tour of the village, we shop at their open air market, with their wares spread on clothes on the ground. It is uncomfortable how they do it we get separate escorts who take us from cloth to cloth slowly as the merchants reach out and wave items at us, trying to catch our attention. Then they split us up and take us out back to pay. Im so uncomfortable I pay the asking price instead of bargaining. I think its probably about 3 times what the actual value should have been. At first Im pleased to simply consider it a donation to support the village, but when I find later that they are still practicing the genital mutilation I wish I had bought at the Maasai school instead, even though I didnt like their necklaces as much.

Back at the lodge again, we see more vervet monkeys, of course. I had worried that we would be pestered by mosquitoes here, given our rude buggy welcome, but they arent a big deal. Yesterday, we must have arrived just at the worst time, at dusk, and they disappear during the day. We have a good lunch (in a curiously dark dining room), and then have an afternoon game drive.

The afternoon game drive is our least interesting so far. We see the top half of a hippo, looking like a beached whale, and lots of birds. That was part of the problem once E started observing birds, we actually sat in one spot for 45 minutes while she tried to identify each one. For some reason, the guide didnt have binoculars that day, so each bird had to be discussed at great length. The rest of us got bored. In any event, we saw African fish eagle, blacksmith plovers, Egyptian geese, white pelicans, white necked cormorant, African jacana, sacred ibis, glossy ibis, cattle egret, spur winged plover, little egret, crowned crane, kori bustard. The Kori bustard engendered one of the running jokes of the trip. For some reason, in an African accent it sounds like bastard. Although we didnt see a lot of animals, we got a special treat at the end of the drive, when we saw a rainbow.

Tonight they served us a 7 course bush dinner. It was fun eating outside, but with full amenities such a cloth tablecloths. After dinner we were treated to a Maasai dance. One of the Maasai came over beforehand, clapped his hand on my shoulder, and announced that he wanted to marry me, and this was a wedding or courtship dance. I replied by asking him how many cows he would give, and he said 10. I said it wasnt enough.

We knew from our morning Maasai visit that the pogo dancing was intended to impress. This time it was actually thrilling, because they each jumped in front of me in turn, higher and higher, then ran forward lunging at me and yelling. As the youngest female in our group, I was clearly being courted. It was rather startling, but all in good fun.

As I lie in bed writing this, I can hear the frogs chirping. They sound like persistent birds.

In the morning we again have those strange black millipedes in the room, on the walls, ceiling and the floor. I chant my Dr Seuss rhyme as I get dressed. They dont seem to be harmful, but it is weird. The other rooms dont appear to have as many as we do. Some people didnt even know what we were talking about, so maybe its not the norm.

My overall impressions of Amboseli Serena lodge: Very good to excellent food and service and amenities, but no view from the rooms. The main wildlife visible directly from the lodge are the vervet monkeys. We saw a good variety of game on our game drives.

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Old Nov 14th, 2006, 02:05 PM
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Your rhyme a la Dr. Seuss is wonderful. Very fun. It spoke right to the grandma in me. For all your worrying about being a whiner, it sounds like you're a very laid back traveler and a low maintenance room-mate. So many of your experiences brought back great memories of my own trip a year and a half ago. Can't wait for more.
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Old Nov 14th, 2006, 02:55 PM
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Great great post Ann, you actually made me long for Amboseli and that is saying something

Im so uncomfortable I pay the asking price instead of bargaining.
Aaaaaarrgggghhhh! OK, that makes me scream. I hope it was only 3 times as much as you should have paid.

One of the Maasai came over ...announced that he wanted to marry me, ..I replied by asking him how many cows he would give, and he said 10. I said it wasnt enough.

NICE RESPONSE!

The millipede ryhme was great. Of course now you obligate yourself to produce more of these.

Yeah, it really angers me that the genital mutilation continues. The Masai have adjusted their tradition as needed for Western audience. I wish more pressure was put on them to end it once and for all.
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Old Nov 14th, 2006, 03:30 PM
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Hi Bo,
You're too kind. I have to admit that the whining picked up a little later in the trip. Keep reading for all the gory details! But I really was tremendously fortunate to have a wonderfully accomodating roommate, and a very professionally executed trip, so there wasn't really a lot of reason to whine!

I'm glad you liked my rhyme -- we all had fun with it.



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Old Nov 14th, 2006, 04:07 PM
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I can't wait 'til we get to your whining!

And, yes, next time you'll have to eat the undercooked goat.
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Old Nov 14th, 2006, 04:09 PM
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The rhyme was great. I'm glad Amboseli produced good game for you in addition to a poem.

I can never hear Kori Bustard without thinking bastard. If I ever can banish that thought then I will have become a true birder. That's like the saying the mark of sophistication is hearing the William Tell Overture and not thinking of the Lone Ranger.

I picked up on that "next time." By the end of your report I hope you can enlighten us on what the next time will encompass.

I would have done the same thing with the goat offering. Why risk your good health that is so key to the enjoyment of the trip for a bite of authentic cuisine? That statement probably proves I am not a foodie, nor am I sophisticated based on my above definition.

The lion and gazelle episode was quite exciting. As you described, it is hard to know which animal to wish the better outcome. Looking forward to more Amboseli.
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Old Nov 14th, 2006, 05:45 PM
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Ann, Wow - your pics cover such a variety - people, places, so much wildlife, what a way to meet Africa. Question, just how many cheetahs did you see in a day? I lost count - there were cats galore! Your comment about being an observer, not a participant in the drama of the lion and the gazelle - what a lovely respect. Of course, the ending was my speed, the chase, am OK, the kill, not so much. Am looking forward to more.
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Old Nov 14th, 2006, 05:59 PM
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I'm actually not sure how many cheetahs we saw, although most of the good cheetah pictures were actually from our day at ngorogoro, where we saw two cheetah brothers very close up, so I took lots of pictures of the same 2. All our other cheetah sightings were either obscured or at a distance.
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Old Nov 14th, 2006, 06:09 PM
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TARANGIRE

Photos in Tarangire folder at: http://www.winkflash.com/photo/publi...?u=ajennerjahn

Day 8 Oct 17
We leave Amboseli and drive to the border between Kenya and Tanzania. In the immigration office I see a funny sign on the wall: No man can serve two masters at ago. I think it was intended to be a Bible verse that was quoted in British English and then written down phonetically.

We say goodbye to our drivers, and switch vehicles. As usual, everything works like clockwork. The new drivers and vehicles are waiting for us, and the luggage is transferred without our having to lift a finger (except for our carry-ons). Finally the road is blacktop, but that is almost worse, since we go a lot faster and thus the bumps are spine-cracking. By the time we disembark near Arusha Im nearly crippled (which is a little embarrassing, considering that Im almost the youngest on the trip). Meanwhile, our oldest traveler who is 89 shows off the fact that she can touch her toes. When my travel mates see what bad shape Im in, they graciously switch places so Im no longer in the back, which has the worst jolts. Other than that, the new vehicles are impressive. Instead of the minivans we had in Kenya, these are stretch land rovers with a pop top. The vehicles feel sturdy and reliable, and there is a decent amount of room, since it is arranged that we each have a window seat.

We spend some time in Arusha so as to delay our arrival in Tarangire until the tse tse flies die down. We are a little intimidated to hear that they can bite through cloth, and arent really repelled by DEET. I now find the solution to how people will pack those rugs they bought. We drop all excess luggage off at the office of the ground operator, and well pick it up on our last day.

We finally arrive at Tarangire. The hotel lounge is open to the outside, with a beautiful vista. Were eager to see our tents, complete with sink, shower, and toilet. Dinner is good, but not nearly as good as the Amboseli Serena. This camp is not fenced, so we get an escort from dinner back to our tent. The tents have electric light until 11pm, but are very dim even with the light on. We go to sleep early, and I sleep like a log.

Day 9, Tarangire, Oct 18.
Morning comes at 5:13 when I hear a cacophony of birds. I doze for a while, but get up to watch the sunrise. There doesnt seem to be any hot water yet, so Im not going to take a shower. In spite of the fact that Im loving my Africa trip, a cold shower is a little too close to roughing it for me to enjoy it. At 6:15 I get my gentle wake-up call a visit from a room steward carrying a pot of hot chocolate. Heaven! I sit in front of the tent sipping hot chocolate, listening to the birds, and taking occasional pictures of the sunrise. [pictures].

Breakfast is our least inspired meal so far, but the view from the lounge and front patio is marvelous, overlooking the Tarangire river, and with animals roaming within sight. During our stay here, we see both dik diks and elephants within a stones throw of the tent. At night we hear birds and jackals, but are a little disappointed to not hear anything larger.

The morning game drive [pictures] starts at 8. We are told that the animals here are active a bit later. Who knows? Weve heard so much buildup about the tse tse flies, but are blessed with a cloudy day, and literally only see one fly, which H kills to show us. People were so afraid they were blasting the whole land cruiser with bug spray not the kind you use on your body, but the kind you blast a room with and then leave the area. Im afraid we will be poisoned so I stand up so my head sticks out the hatch and I get some fresh air.

On the drive we see some dwarf mongoose, white backed vulture, ostrich, red billed weavers, yellow necked spurfowl, red billed quelea nests, yellow collared lovebirds, dik dik, white headed buffalo weaver, hamerkop nests, spotted hyena, lilac breasted roller (a beautiful bird even to those of us who are not particularly bird watchers), impala, zebra, vervet monkies, elephants, crested francolin, warthog, magpie shrike, hadada ibis, Maasai giraffe, cape buffalo, waterbuck, white bellied bustard, ground hornbill, tawny eagles, and of course baobab trees (I know they are not game, but for a newcomer they are an indelible part of seeing Africa).

I thought breakfast was our least inspired meal, but lunch surpasses it in mediocrity. But it is edible.

The best animal viewing from the lodge is actually in the early afternoon, when the wildebeest form a parade, crossing the Tarangire river and pacing north to better grazing land. The parade stretches on and on as far as the eye can see, with only small gaps, sometimes interspersed with zebras.

The afternoon game drive is a little disappointing we see lots of the common animals, but nothing new, and spend an inordinate amount of time in one place just looking at birds. I wouldnt be so antsy, except I really want to see some cats. We see osprey, violet wood hoopoe, waterbuck, wildebeest, zebra, elephants, white browed coucal (or something like that!), rufous tailed weavers.

If I thought lunch was disappointing, dinner was worse. Maybe it wasnt really that bad, but it was truly cold. I wasnt too happy about the safety of food that had been sitting on a buffet so long it was totally cold, so I just picked at mine. I would have been happier with a hot plate of ugali and goat stew.

After dinner I ask where the ladies room is. I didnt realize that I need to specifically say toilet , and so they dont understand me. I finally attempt to ask in Swahili and comprehension dawns. You see, my plan of learning 10 words works! This is my theory about learning languages when traveling. It is too intimidating to think of actually learning the language, so most people dont bother to learn anything. But I set myself a goal to learn 10 words (and usually end up learning a bit more once I get interested). Its amazing how much you can communicate with Hello, Goodby, Please, Thank You, Yes, No, Where is, and maybe a few other chosen phrases.

We hang around the bar waiting for our escorts to our tents, but no one appears. We finally ask at the reception desk and they seem bewildered. Finally the woman at the desk picks up a flashlight and says come. We feel a bit stupid were both taller than she is, and she clearly does not have a weapon, so we feel as if a little girl is bravely leading us through the dark.

I skip a shower again, since the water never seems to get hot (although some people in the other tents say theirs was warm). Im glad I brought some damp wipes, which will have to do, for now. We leave the tent flaps open for the full experience, and hear some more animals in the night probably jackals.

The next morning I rise early enough to watch the sunrise, sitting on the front porch of the tent drinking my hot chocolate. Some of my traveling companions never got their wake-up call, or got it at the wrong time, but mine is just right, and the hot chocolate is a treat. I take a few pictures but dont think they will capture the look.

Leaving Tarangire we see a yellow collared love bird, elephants, wildebeest, guineafowl, warthogs, white bellied go away bird, zebras, and an amarula tree, which gives rise to a conversation about the liqueur, which we enjoy later in the trip!

Overall impression of Tarangire: We have mixed feelings, and were not that sorry to leave. The view and park were wonderful, but the food and service were not as good as the other lodges. This time I wrote just a short jingle:

The food was cold, the showers too,
But boy oh boy, look at the view.
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Old Nov 14th, 2006, 07:00 PM
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Ann

I am so disappointed in your experiences at Tarangire. I will just come out and say it straight:
Shame on OAT, shame on Ranger Safaris (I think they were the operator) and Tarangire Safari Lodge (who should've learned a lesson with the tragic leopard incident). Especially when considering the costs of these group tours.

The way I read it your guide made little effort to show you the park at its best. I think your guide was either lazy or inexperienced with Tarangire. And he conveniently cut down on the game drive time.

"Let's delay your arrival until fewer tsetses", "animals are more active later in the day", etc. All nonsense.

If you go at 8am and then return to the lodge for lunch, you cannot get even close to the best places for lion, leopard and other wildlife.

I was there in mid-September and had the exact opposite experience!

Anyway, I don't know why I even posted this - I know I will regret it afterwards.

Do try to return to Tarangire in the future with a better guide, outfitter and accommodation and you will be most happy! It is a GREAT park especially in the dry season.
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