Safari – Arusha to Tarangerie

Jul 20

I woke up at 5:30am so I went ahead and took another shower and went down to breakfast. John got up when I got out of the shower and was rushing around thinking he was running late until I told him it was barely 6 and we weren’t leaving until 9. He stayed in the room for a bit and finished organizing his stuff.

The dining room was mostly empty except for a table of two guys who were obviously in town to climb Kili. I was listening to their conversation being worried about altitude sickness. I decided to mind my own business and not tell them anything.

John arrived at breakfast and then Jeanne and Jeff joined us. It was nice to spend some time with Jeanne since we hadn’t been together much on the mountain. She’s a teacher and has known Lori since college. It sounds like they adventure together quite a bit with a third friend of theirs. It takes us about an hour to get a cup of coffee after asking six different people. It starts to be kind of funny. They bring cups but no coffee. We search around but no coffee. Finally we get a prized cup but it is quickly gone. Nathan joins us and we wonder how long it will take him to get a cup. Its hard to believe the climb is over but we are all excited for the safari.

I sit in the lobby surrounded by luggage trying to catch up on my journal from summit day. There is so much to remember. Will I get it all down? I don’t want to forget and I know if I don’t get it written down soon the details will start to fad. The team kids me for all my writing – every chance I get I am sitting with my little journal. I wonder how others will remember all the details. Maybe they won’t. I will share my journal but the experience won’t be the same for every person.

Eric comes to send us off, again, without much fanfare. We later learn he was up drinking late in the bar so maybe he’s running a little low on juice. We are to be in cars of 6 and we won’t rotate. This probably makes sense so that drivers don’t miss people or luggage but I am sad because I want to pop around from car to car talking to different people in the group. There are still people I don’t feel like I’ve had enough time with.

We load in to the “Car of Contagion” with our Bushbuck Safari tire covers on the two spares in the back (we will need them later). By this time Doug’s cold has spread to Nan, Monique and Sierra. John, Sean and I are also in the car and I am wondering how long it will be before we are sick. I am taking loads of Coptis Chinesis and Emergency and it seems to be warding it off but who knows after 3 more days in a car. I am paranoid. Sanitize, sanitize.

We head off down the road to Tarangerie – we should arrive at the lodge around 2 for a late lunch. Our guide is Usia (pronounced U C Uh). He is very knowledgeable and I ask a lot of questions because John is in the back. He’s the one who really likes to talk to the guides/rangers and ask questions. I am sitting up front next to Usia to avoid car sickness. We drive back along the road that we took from the airport and also to the Machame road. The landscape is dry. Corn and sunflowers are growing but they look pretty parched. We pass a military training installation and bombing range. He says all of the area from here to the Tarangerie is owned by the government but can be used by anyone. You have to apply for a permit but they can take the land back later if they need it. So no real private property rights in this area. I think more than half the country is a game preserve/park of some sort. The Masai use this area during the rainy season. This dry time of the year most have taken their cattle up to higher more fertile ground. They have left the older people and some women and children down in this dry area. The land is dotted with their huts – called mayatta. Mayatta are made of sticks covered with cow dung used as a plaster. There is a small hole at the top to let the smoke from cooking out. This construction allows these to be put together and taken apart easily so that the sticks can be moved to build in another location. The Masai are nomads.

Usia tells me in is circumcision time for the Masai. This only happens once every 7 years, if you miss it or chicken out you have to wait another 7 years. You have to be circumcised before you can get married. All the women watch and there is no anesthesia. They are watching to see if a boy flinches, cries or shows any fear. They use the same knife to do them all and don’t sanitize it. They cut the skin around to the bottom where the vein is and the they time something around the skin – string or something- tightly to make the skin die and fall off. Kind of like we do the umbilical cord. Anyway, the boys paint their faces and wander around in the wilderness for about 3-6 months until they are healed.

Masai cannot marry unless they have a cow. The number of cows you have determines how many wives you can have. Cows mean wealth.

Usia also tells me about the Masai’s eating habits. They mostly eat meat – goat and sometimes beef and they drink blood from the cows. They poke a hole in their neck and drain blood to drink without killing the cow. They don’t really eat any vegetables and not much grains. Their gene profile must be modified to handle this sort of diet otherwise I don’t see how they could survive with such an unbalanced diet. This makes me understand why Romley asked me on the mountain if I drank blood and also his question about whether or not I had any cows or goats. I guess in his mind we must be rich to afford such a trip and that means we must have lots of cows and goats.

The landscape becomes more barren as we approach Tarangerie. We stop at the Park entrance somewhere around 12:30. There is a bathroom and we all get out and mill around while the guides go to pay the park fees. We have no idea that this takes 30 minutes or longer. Everything is a slow process here. We hear that the TseTse Fly is here and decide we should put on our insect repelent. Later Usia tells me that the smell actually attracts the fly. I guess Deet is only good for mosquitos.

Patience again – finally, we load back in to the trucks and we are off to the lodge doing a game drive as we go. As soon as we enter the park we start seeing our first wildlife – elephants, Masai giraffes (my favorite), and zebras galore. The landscape is dotted with acacia, Boabob and agave. The Baobob Tree is the tree from my favorite book – The Little Prince. I have never seen one before. We see lots of birds along the way as well and I ask about them. We see Magpie Shrike, weaver’s nests clustered in the trees, superb starling (beautiful deep blue bird with a red breast), a lilac breasted roller,ground hornbill, absinian (spelling), blacksmith plover, ringed plover, grey headed kingfisher, black-winged stilt, orange bellied parrot and a masai chicken (guinea fowl). I am fascinated by the birds. We find out later that some of the guides make fun of people who ask about the birds. Usia has several great guide books and one has birds in it so I use them to read to the car about what we are seeing. We are trying to rush to get to the lunch buffet before it closes but then we see a mother lion and her cubs on the right side of the road resting under a tree with their kill nearby. We stop for a few minutes to look and take photos. Its exciting to see our first lions. As we leave, driving down the hill and around the bend Usia spots an Eagle Owl up in the tree. We stop again but its hard to get a good picture. We see lots more wildlife in our rush to get to the lodge but we finally quit stopping because we have another game drive at 4.

At the lodge locals are dressed in colorful outfits greeting us at the door. They hand us a warm wet wash cloth to wipe the dust from our face and hands – this is the most common theme of Africa – wiping dust off yourself. We get our room assignments and quickly drop off bags. The buffet is closing in 30 minutes we are told. We are dining outside by the pool. The buffet food is covered with nets to keep the bugs away. We have another delicious meal and a beer. John decides to go to the room and take a nap – I try to catch up on the journal again. Next thing you know it is 4.

We load up again and head out. It seems like there’s been no time to rest. We see 2 dik dik – tiny deer like animals that mate for life. They are precious. We see ostrich, male and female. The males are turning pink because it is mating season. We see more zebras, elephants, another family of lions, a steinbok (slightly larger than a dik dik), a jackal, impala everywhere, wildebeast and some buffalo off in the distance. As the sun is setting he takes us around so that we can get a good shot of the sun setting through the acacia tree – the classic African sunset. It is beautiful. Its after 7 when we get back.

Now its back to the room to wash up and get ready for dinner at 8. We clean up and head down to the bar for a drink and some relaxation, we hope, before dinner. We form a big circle as more and more of the group come down and join us. I order the local mosquito repellent drink – something with gin and honey and something I can’t remember. It has ice cubes in it which I forget are made with water. Suz points that out and I run outside to dispose of my ice. Bad idea – stick with beer and wine from the bottle! At 8 we head in to the dining room. We have two large tables and one smaller one. We end up at the smaller one with Nathan, Daniel, Monique, Sierra and Tina. More good food. At the end they bring us some sort of chocolate torte cake in the shape of Kilimanjaro and they sing us a song. Its a lot of fun. We are tired after dinner and we turn in.

As we enter our room we are engulfed with the toxic smell of mosquito spray. I am so paranoid about pesticides with John’s PD. It freaks me out that we will be sleeping with this fresh fumigation floating all around us. The nets have been pulled around the bed. We climb in and turn out the lights. In an instant we are swallowed by complete darkness. This is something rarely experienced in our world of constant light and activity back home. There is no real darkness. This is a dark that is impenetrable. I can’t see my hand in front of my face. Then I say to John, “Listen”. He says, “What?” and I say, “Nothing. Its completely silent. There is no sound at all.” We are in the middle of nowhere in total darkness and total silence. I savor the moment. I may never have another moment like this in my entire life. Imagine that.

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