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OHMIGOSH! Back on safari with MICATO - Trip report - May 2007

OHMIGOSH! Back on safari with MICATO - Trip report - May 2007

Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 08:34 AM
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OHMIGOSH! Back on safari with MICATO - Trip report - May 2007

All my life I dreamed of going to East Africa to see the animals and experience the sights and sounds of a continent that for some reason, stole my heart and soul before I even went there. But at no time did I ever think we would be lucky enough to go twice, let alone within 11 months of the last trip!

All year all Jim and I could talk about was our �trip to Africa�. Africa was firmly entrenched in our hearts and there was just no way to get it out, and no way to solve the problem other than to go again. I had kept in touch with Fran, the representative from Micato that had become my new best friend over the internet the last few years. In February, tired from flat-out working, with no down time thrown in, and no end in sight, I mentioned to her I�d love to go back, but the only time I could get away would be �possibly� the last two weeks of May.

�Well�, she said, �we have a new safari that takes in a few places you haven�t been, and we have room at the end of May�.

Three seconds later after calling up to Jim to start packing, we were booked; I just had to check with the CFO of my major client (really my �boss� as I spend 35 hrs a week on that one client alone), and check out the airline connections etc.

Two days later, with a few chops and changes in plans (Zanzibar extension had to be scratched as the CFO was not happy with me going more than two weeks) we were booked solid.
WE WERE GOING BACK TO AFRICA!!!!

SUNDAY, MAY 13TH
IT WOULD BE A GOOD DAY TO GO TO AFRICA, BUT�.

Or, at least we thought it was. All week, I panicked that I wouldn�t get all of the books done for the clients that I had to before going, but by Friday at 11 pm, miraculously � I was done. That left Sat and most of Sunday for last minute running around, laundry & packing. And of course weighing, but I was fairly confident I could keep within that 33 lb limit this time. After all, I had gone through that �very comprehensive packing list� of mine and scratched out all the items I knew I didn�t need from last year�s experience.

Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men. I followed my list to the T � didn�t add a thing, made sure everything was in the smallest containers I could find, and �.. Rats. My bag was 41 lbs, Jim�s was a walloping 48 lbs! And that was without as many spare batteries as he had brought last year! Those duffle bags must have gained a few pounds on their own I thought over the year � that was it, it had to be! Stashed away in my closet for a year, they must have gone from their 8lbs up to 13 or something! Not to be beat though, I had a solution. This year, I had bought a �Daymakers of California� purse, which was solid enough, and just large enough to fit my new Panasonic FZ50 camera, a spare battery, some memory cards, my wallet, important documents and a few odds & sods. It was a normal size purse, so taking a small backpack on the Africa internal flights wouldn�t be a problem. I dug out my �Roots� travel fold up backpack and put anything that I had heavy in it. The bag was small, but heavy, and it worked. To go to Africa, I left it in the duffle bag, once in Africa, I just pulled it out and put it on my back. Presto � suddenly my duffle was 34 lbs � an acceptable weight.

I did the same for Jim with a small travel tote bag � not very large, but just enough to hold those heavy batteries and excess camera gear such as clamps, monopods, etc that wouldn�t fit in his new Naneu Pro Tango camera bag. (recommended by hills27 � thanks Jim LOVES it!). Next time I will have to work a little harder to figure out why I am constantly overweight in my duffle, but for now, this worked great.

Andrew came at 5:45 PM, right on time this year, instead of 12 hrs early like last year! It was Mother�s Day, he brought me an incredible bouquet of flowers from him and our son, Jamie, who lives in Calgary. I had about 15 minutes to enjoy them and take pictures, and then, leaving family friend Krystal in charge of the cats and dogs � off we went to the airport. I was SO excited!!!

Andrew dropped us off, we walked into the terminal and were shocked to see the line up for our flight � there must have been hundreds of people in line! �Good job I got our boarding passes on line� I said to Jim as we headed to the fast drop counter; only to find out that there was no �fast drop�, this was a line up to �sort out & reroute� as our flight had been cancelled to the next day. A BA representative handed us a sheet of paper � it said the pilot had become suddenly ill and our flight would not go out until Monday morning at 11:00 AM. Which, according to my calculations, was the exact time that we were supposed to be enjoying a GTG with Kavey in London over Chinese food! I was a little miffed, but what can you do but go with the flow. We waited in the line for about an hour, had a great conversation with another couple heading to Turkey, and then finally, a BA rep who was walking around thought to tell us that if we were pre-checked in (we were, I had done it on line) then we could just go home and come back the next morning, we didn�t have to stand in line, unless we needed to rebook ongoing flights. Which we didn�t, as I had left a day in between to spend in London. She took our name and the details on our prepaid, non-refundable $450.00 Cdn hotel room at the Heathrow Hilton for the night that we wouldn�t be there. She said she would fax the hotel and convert that to a day room while we waited for our flight to Nairobi. She also gave me a form to claim my prepaid transit tickets for the London underground � at $45.00 Cdn that wasn�t just an incidental cost.

We called Andrew to come back for us, went home and had supper with Krystal, and an unplanned last night in our bed before embarking � once again � on our adventure.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 08:59 AM
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Great report Lynda and what a beginning to the "twice in a lifetime" trip! Looking forward to more.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 09:03 AM
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I can't WAIT to hear more!
Fran is becoming my best friend too - and I don't leave until next January!! (Am already trying to work out the packing thing. I am not now nor have I ever been a backpacker, plus i am five feet tall and 112 pounds, traveling solo, so I can't share the schlepping!)It's kinda fun figuring it all out, though.
Jess
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 09:19 AM
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Am interested in what kind of notes you took -- a shorthand you transposed later? What size/kind of notebook? I used to write in a travel journal because it was a present from someone dear, but once I filled it, I started taking smaller, lighter-weight notebooks - they get pretty beat up though - even in European cities.....
Jess
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 09:44 AM
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Great start Lynda! Keep it coming!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 10:24 AM
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Eagerly waiting more I leave in 6 days and I am constantly checking your packing list.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 12:05 PM
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I'm engrossed Lynda, can't wait until part 2!!!!!!!!

Imelda
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 12:43 PM
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Looking forward to "Going to Africa Take 2."
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 01:08 PM
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Yay! Lynda's writing another trip report! (Now I really have no excuse about finishing mine!) Wow, I can't believe you had to go home from the airport and leave the next day. I would have been so stressed out by that wrench in the wheels. Thank goodness you had an extra day worked in there (but too bad you missed the London GTG).

Jess, to put in my 2 cents about notetaking - I brought a nice leatherbound journal (about 5 x 7 inches) that was my "official" journal, which I tried to write in every night (I kept up until about 2/3 of the way through our trip). I also brought a cheap spiral-bound notebook (about the same size) to take with me on our game drives. I used this for jotting quick notes and writing down bird names. It got pretty beat up and my writing on those terrible roads was nearly illegible, so I'm really glad I used the "two-journal system."
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 01:38 PM
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YAY, trip report! I wish I could flick though one of your incredible scrap-book journals in real life but I'll make do with this report instead!!!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 01:45 PM
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Lynda, Love your reports! They are the best of all safari reports I have ever read because you provide plenty background making all of us experience your full life with you! I feel I KNOW Andrew!

Did they make you pay $450 CDN for a day room? BA should have chipped in I think.

Okay, I am hooked! By the way what do you do for a living? And which places haven't you been?!
 
Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 02:58 PM
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Lynda, great start, more, more, more! So wish I could fly up to Vancouver for your GTG and look at photos in person but I have grounded myself until I become a better earner.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 03:33 PM
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Thanks guys, for all for the wonderful words!

Julianwman- I am a bookkeeper, that's actually what I am supposed to be doing right now, but everyone needs a break for a few minutes right? ;-) In the end, I changed my mind (you will see why when you hear the complete 'BA' story) and I am claiming the whole 450.00 for the night not spent at the hotel, and letting them comp (which they did) the day room. I think it's only fair!
Samburu and Lake Manyara were the places that I hadn't been last year.

Jess - glad to hear that you are working with Fran - she is incredible! For the journal I actually have a very complex system - but it works fabulous! I'll describe it- (grab a coffee & a donut...)

I buy a Cambridge Ltd. spiral bound notebook that has a hard bumpy kind of cover - looks kinda like leather but isn't, it's hard enough to write on. It's 5" wide x 7.5' tall - big enough to write lots, and small enough to fit in a purse. It comes with 80 pages of ruled paper in it.

Before I go, I make a book from it - I have the itinerary written out at the front, the flights, addresses of travel agents & insurance companies & contact info, packing lists, and money notes. I actually use the stick on divider tags to separate out the different areas for easy reference. Oh - the important point is that I use a blue pen while I am setting this book up. I will paste whatever I think I need into it, say for instance the 'in case of emegency' card that comes with your insurance policy, or my TA's, or Fran's, business card.

Next I go place by place for where we are going to go - ie on this trip Nairobi would be the first section. I went on the internet and looked up where we would stay; and then took two pages to cut and paste pictures from the internet (ie the Norfolk) and info on what the facilities are there, along with the address etc. And then, knowing I was going to Langata Giraffe Center, Kianmbethu Tea Farms, etc., I researched them on the internet and jotted down some history, facilities, pictures, etc.

Then, I made a section for each National Park with a small basic map, a page of written info on the park and two pages for each camp or lodge (pictures, facility notes, etc) that we were staying at.

In each section I left about 5-6 pages for notes 'in the field' and this became my journal - I ditched the blue pen before leaving and took my black pen - this way I know right away what is written in the field. While out & about in the parks and on the roads I would use a small pad of paper that I carried in the book to jot down what we did and when, in rough point form - at night back at the lodge I would write my journal in good on those 5-6 pages in each section that I had left. This way the notes are accurate, but legible - you just can't write on the road - as Jessica mentioned too.

Oh, I forgot the most important part - in each 'park' section I had predone a checklist of what 'could' be seen in the parks (not always complete though I would find out) and then as we saw them, I wrote the number beside the animal or bird - ie first sighting of the day in Park A was a lion, I wrote '1' beside it, second sighting of the day was a secretary bird, I wrote '2' beside it. I did this last year, and it worked well, and again this year. If it wasn't on my list, I had room at the bottom to write it in. This of course had to be done while still stopped for viewing as the roads were pretty bumpy to write!

oh yes - In the back of the book I had an 'expense' ledger as I am a bookeeper by trade, and by nature. I can't help myself....

See Dennis, why I need the stapler and the white out ?
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 03:55 PM
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Lynda, we sure could use your organizational skills in our business! Let me know if you ever would like some work in the L.A. area!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 04:40 PM
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Amazing organization skills! This is why your reports are so nice. I like the additional details of people around you. Makes your report come alive because you are actually enjoying it rather than checking off yet another trip on your belt!
 
Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 05:48 PM
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Lynda, You could take several of these with you and sell them to your safari-mates, reducing the cost of your trip!
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Old Jun 3rd, 2007, 06:35 PM
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Do you mean selling Lynda's fans?! Are safari mates dark? Lynda: waiting for day two.
 
Old Jun 4th, 2007, 04:24 AM
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Welcome back! I'm looking forward to the rest of your report.
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Old Jun 4th, 2007, 06:37 AM
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Welcome back Lynda, I'm eagerly awaiting more; how is Kennedy?
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Old Jun 4th, 2007, 08:14 AM
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MONDAY MAY 14TH
THIS WAS A GOOD DAY TO GO TO AFRICA!


When we got up this morning, we had a sudden thought of Déjà vu. Hmmm, been here, done this before kind of feeling! Andrew came right on time for us, and dropped us, once again at the airport. Today WILL be a good day to go to Africa!

Everyone was Fast Tracked for boarding at this point, as they had checked everyone in last night, which meant the line ups were long. But again, Jims social skills shone through and we talked the hour away with another couple that were standing in line in front of us. Finally, it was time to board only to sit on the runway for a bit. The flight was of the kind everyone likes uneventful, and at least there was a good movie to watch (In Pursuit of Happiness). During the flight, our pilot explained what happened to our original flight, seems our pilot collapsed and was taken to Vancouver General when he arrived in Vancouver. Not having a back up, they had to scramble and fly another one in but in the meantime, he (the replacement) had to have a mandatory rest which is why he couldnt fly until the next morning. We arrived in London at 4:45 AM their time, and of course like everyone does at Heathrow, waited on the tarmac for a jetway for a hour. I have to say that at this time of the morning, passport control was a breeze compared to last time! No one was in line, we breezed right through.

Following the BAs representative in Vancouvers advice, we walked down that L-O-N-G tunnel to the Heathrow Hilton and told them at the desk that we had a prepaid room, and that BA in Vancouver had changed it to a day room. The man looked at me with a blank look, and informed me that that could not be done I would have to go back down that L-O-N-G hall back to the BA desk in Terminal 4 and get a voucher for the day room. At 6 in the morning, I was not impressed, but, leaving Jim there (he has a bad back and uses a cane, I wasnt going to ask him to do that walk again!) I went down the L-O-N-G tunnel, and clear across to the FAR end of Terminal 4 to the BA Customer Service desk. I explained my story to the lady; she didnt know a thing about the cancelled flight and said she would have to call her supervisor. She did, and believe it or not, the supervisor said he couldnt do anything for me as he knew nothing about the flight either! He sent me back to the other end of the terminal way back to where the Hilton tunnel is and said I would have to go to the BA ticket counter there. Who knew I needed a ticket and not customer service, right? I was totally unimpressed, but stayed my cool. Until I got to the ticket counter where I swear I had just couldnt help but let a few tears fall (a few?) as I was SO tired and pretty unhappy with the way things were going. It wasnt our fault the pilot got sick and the flight was cancelled! I explained the situation, I said we needed a voucher for a day room, and, oh, by the way, meals too, I said as I was pretty choked at the time thought I would add that in. She smiled, handed me a voucher for a day room, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches and two suppers! And then suggested that I claim the prepaid night room back from BA as the day room was going to go into effect right after we had breakfast, therefore our prepaid night room would not have been used at all. Now THAT was customer service and at a ticket counter no less!

Our day in the Hilton Heathrow consisted of eating a great breakfast, showering, napping, eating a nice lunch, napping some more and eating a wonderful supper before going back down the hall that seemed to have become shorter during the day somehow! I have to mention though, that for all those people thinking of staying at the hotel either overnight, or on a dayroom basis, the meals even though incredible are VERY expensive! The meal tickets were good only at the buffet, which was great, but they had the prices posted and I almost died when I saw them. Breakfast was £ 20.50 each, lunch was
£ 26.50 each and supper was a walloping £ 32.50 each. For two that would be about 357.00 CDN in meals alone. Add that to the price of the room and you have half of someones flight to Nairobi for next year.

Once back in the terminal, all we had to do was passport control, as we were checked in already and the lady in Vancouver had assigned us seats for this leg as well. MANY people had two carry on bags by the way, most women had a purse and a backpack or a bag (we had one carry on each) and no one was challenged. And here I had it all planned as to how to carry two bags in one on the outbound flight from London as per their regulations! Oh well, at least this way we only had one carry on each, which was way easier to handle than two. We boarded our flight to Nairobi at 8 pm and sat in position on the tarmac until 9:30 and away we went! Off to Nairobi we go!!!!!
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