Trip Report: Kenya & Tanzania, Sept/Oct 2007

Old Apr 20th, 2008, 05:48 PM
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Zanzibar slideshow:
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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 05:50 PM
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Thanks, guys! I'm just about to post the final installment... Not so much about the brutality of the flights home, Leely, but about the brutality of waiting in the airports. Here's what I mean...
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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 05:58 PM
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PART 22 – “Tutaonana, East Africa!” (Oct. 13th, 2007)

We woke up bright and early, wanting to wring every last moment out of the time we had left in this little African paradise before we had to leave for the airport. We took another swim in the dreamy pool, and another long walk out on the tidal flats. We spotted lots more hermit crabs, and sea urchins gathered in clusters under seaweedy patches (wear sandals, and watch where you step). Our best “sighting” of today was a vivid orange starfish that was actually running through the shallow water! I’m not kidding—we have never seen a starfish move so fast! Our last animal was a fat, purple-black sea slug, who was not running at all. So maybe these were our farewell critters, after all.

Before we left Pongwe, we walked down our steps to the beach and drew a message in the sand: TUTAONANA, EAST AFRICA! See you later… not goodbye.

The rest of the day was a series of steps taking us away from Africa and back toward home. First was a long drive across the island to the Zanzibar airport, which is exactly what you think of when you hear the words “small African airport.” There was a confusing, chaotic and excruciatingly hot jumble at check-in, with lots of waiting around in the blazing sun while someone tried to fix the broken computer. (We were grateful to have the guy from Island Express there to help us sort through the chaos.) Once inside the airport, we had a long, long wait for our flight to Nairobi. Nobody ever fully explained why our flight left two hours late. But from what we overheard it seemed as though our plane was scrapped after there was a problem with changing a tire, and we had to wait for another plane to fly over from Nairobi to replace it. Fortunately, we had a very long layover (now a bit shorter) in Nairobi before our flight to London. On the way to Nairobi, we flew past Kilimanjaro in the dark and so once more missed out on seeing the famous mountain (the pilot rubbed it in a bit by announcing, “Now we are flying past Kilimanjaro, but you cannot see it because it is too dark”).

Some of my sadness at leaving Africa was tempered in a strange way during our long hours in the Nairobi airport. While waiting for our BA flight, I had several other Americans come up to me and try to commiserate with me about how wretched Africa was, and how glad they were to be going home to the good old U.S.A. One guy was mouthing off at the security staff, complaining about how “stupid” everything and everyone was in Africa (what was so “stupid” in this case was that he couldn’t bring a full bottle of water through security). I was mightily impressed by how patient and calm the staff remained in the face of this nonsense (and I imagined this guy in a Land Rover, whining about how he wasn’t seeing LIONS). Worse, while we were sitting in the waiting area and I was trying to write in my journal, another American came and sat down next to us and kept trying to tell us how horrible her safari had been and how she couldn’t wait to “get the hell out of here and go back to a REAL country.” She talked about how “disgusting” Africa was, and how she hated everything—the “weird” people, the “boring” animals, the “snotty little kids” (my God! Could she hear herself??), the tents, the food, the roads, her tour group… It went on and on. Listening to her (or rather, trying not to), I felt that profound sense of gratitude again—for having been able to visit these wonderful countries, and for all the amazing experiences we’d had here (and for not being in her tour group!). I couldn’t understand how anyone could be so dense. And I felt a bit sad for her too, because here she’d had this incredible opportunity—one most people will never get, and those of us who have are so, so lucky!—and she just did not get it at all.

As for me, I have to say that East Africa is one of the most fascinating, beautiful, hospitable, exciting, and amazing places we’ve ever been. I have been bitten hard by the Africa bug! Since returning home six months ago not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of the people we met and the places we visited, and I have wondered so often how I’m going to get myself back there again. But even if I never have the chance to return, I have been given this enormous gift: what was once a dream of an imagined Africa is now specific memories of the real thing… fond memories and continuing correspondence with real people like James and Jackson and (especially) Josephat… and knowing what it is like to look right into the eyes of a baby jackal, and to know he is looking back at me.

Asante sana sana to all of you, for your help in planning this amazing journey over the past few years, and for your part more recently in helping me relive it. Thanks for your patience, and I apologize for taking so long to write what may be the longest trip report in history.

I’m finished!! And I look forward to reading all of your trip reports for years to come…
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Old Apr 20th, 2008, 07:03 PM
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I've enjoyed your report from beginning to end. Tutaonana, MDK. You'll get back to East Africa. I'm the first one to admit life intervenes--I thought for sure I'd be back in 2008 but late 2009 looks more realistic. However, it'll happen and the joys (and sorrows) of your return will make the wait worthwhile.
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 01:39 PM
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MDK, how very, very sad that your trip had to finish. You’ll have to return very soon so that you can write your next report. Asante sana kwa kuandika ripoti ndefu.
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Old Apr 21st, 2008, 03:07 PM
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Your encounters with other tourists at the airport are startling to me. Well, I hope those types don't return so I don't ever encounter them. Unless they chose a completely crooked travel agent that ripped them off and took them nowhere, I cannot imagine complaining about everything. And it appears they were unhappy with Africa, itself.

Your trip report was beautifully written and contains heatfelt emotion. It may cause some fence setters to book and go!
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Old Apr 26th, 2008, 04:21 PM
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Dear My,

Thank you, thank you, thank you! for taking all the time that you did to write a profoundly engaging trip report - nay, story! - of your time in Kenya and Tanzania. I had read only Parts I & II I think before I went on my own trip to Tanzania in March.

Your sense of place, understanding of culture, willingness for adventure and openheartedness are supremely evident throughout your report. It is clear that Africa soaked into you and your husband to the bone.

Your time in Africa has become my bedtime story. I printed your trip report out so that I can read a Part or two at a time before I go to sleep each night. I already don't want the story to end! You are a very, very talented writer.

Btw, I've just gotten to Tanzania with you but I haven't looked at any of your photos yet. I'll have to look at your highly touted pix when I re-read your story - which I'm sure I'll do over and over

Thanks again,
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Old Apr 28th, 2008, 12:16 PM
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Hi Leely, Lynn, Nyamera & Doo,

I just got back to this board after a few weeks away from my computer and saw all your comments. Thank you so much for your kind words! I was so happy to have the chance to share our experiences with people who understand what it's like.

Lynn, I was shocked by those people at the airport too, but I guess folks like that can be found everywhere. I don't know if they had a specifically bad trip, or if they just had such a bad attitude toward anything different from their everyday lives that they couldn't appreciate what they were experiencing. I can certainly understand feeling overwhelmed by something like visiting a Maasai village where you're bombarded with beaded jewelry! And I also think anyone who travels to Africa with their eyes open will, obviously, see some things that are upsetting and hard to take. But with those people, I really think it was more a matter of heading off to Africa without packing an open mind.

I think all of us here know that if you go to Africa with an open mind and an open heart, Africa will fill them both up to overflowing.

Now, you guys all need to go on your own trips soon so I can read about them (except Doo, who just wrote us a lovely trip report recently)!
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Old Jun 15th, 2008, 01:28 PM
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Somehow I missed this earlier -- and want to mark it to come back to and read later!
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Old Jun 15th, 2008, 11:30 PM
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What an absolutely brilliant read! It took me right back there - I especially loved the part about Ngorongoro crater. Now I know that I am not the only one frightened witless by the ascent road!

Just wanted to make sure it got to the top again for others to discover.
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