African safari 2013: Part 4

July 4, 2013

We were worn out and slept well in our tents. The tents are called nyumba, the Swahili word for home. “Jambo Jambo” (the wake-up call) happened at 7:00 AM. Hot showers were delivered to our tent, and we had breakfast at the main tent at 7:30 and headed out to view wildlife. The kids had their own car again today, and Greg and I were in our own car with Simon, while the other two couples rode together with Hasheem. We drove all through the Tarangire National Park viewing wildlife.

We checked the lion off our list of the Big Five today. He was a lazy fellow laying under a tree. He never raised his head. We had a very close encounter with an elephant. He was a large male, and he strode right up to our car. Our guide told us not to worry. The elephant was relaxed in his demeanor and exhibiting no signs of aggressive behavior. He just seemed curious. It was as if he were looking into the car to see if he recognized anyone. It was exciting beyond words. You could smell the musky scent of him. You could hear him chewing. I swear I could almost smell his breath. The temptation was strong to reach my arm out, but that would have been a mistake. He passed by and crossed the road directly in front of our car.

Simon is a pleasant guide. He is knowledgeable on many subjects but is not afraid to let some time pass in companionable silence. He has visited America more than once. He went to Florida and San Diego. He thinks he may come to Texas one day. He told me that he ate enchiladas in San Diego and loved them. He thinks Spanish is the most romantic sounding language, so Greg has been obliging him with a few words. We asked Simon if he could identify different tribe members by sight, much as Americans can sometimes recognize someone of Italian or Irish heritage. Simon said that it was possible. According to him, the Masaai are very distinctive. Many of them remove a front tooth so that they can spit. Other tribes mark their faces in particular ways.

We had lunch at the Tarangire Safari Lodge. There was a gorgeous view of the valley below. We could see elephant, zebra, impala: all were marching toward the river for water. We took a swim after lunch. The water was freezing. Genene went in first. Greg and I had to follow. A bunch of German tourists went in, each screaming as they hit the water. Eventually all of “our” kids got in the water. It was a nice diversion.

We viewed more game in Tarangire on the way back, and towards the end we stopped to see a herd of zebra. We were attacked by tsetse flies! They filled the car in moments. It was like the moment in “The African Queen” when Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn were swarmed by mosquitoes. Suddenly we were under attack, slapping ourselves. The flies bite, just like a horsefly. It hurts a bit and is very annoying. Simon did not stop to close the top but just started driving like a bat out of hell. When we got to the camp, the kids greeted us with their own stories of the attack.

We washed up at the tent and headed out for a kitchen tour. I am amazed at what the chefs can do out in the bush. They have a propane tank for cooking, a big box for cooking bread, a charcoal cooker for grilling, and one refrigerator and deep freeze run by a generator. The vegetables are kept in racks. The boiler is very simple by design and makes the hot water for the tents and the laundry. One of the workers at the tent approached Greg and asked him for help. He had $20 worth of small bills that were torn and marked. He asked if Greg would be willing to take them for a crisp $20 bill. The Tanzanian shilling is apparently volatile, so American dollars are welcomed, even preferred, in many places. We had been told to bring unmarked new bills and had followed instruction. We were happy to make the trade, as the crinkled bills spend just as good in the US. The man was very happy, and we had excellent attentive service for the rest of our stay at Tarangire.

We had another delicious meal: pork chops, garlic mashed potatoes, carrots, salad, pineapple dessert. Tomorrow we leave the Tarangire nyumba and head for Gibbs Farm and the Ngorongoro Crater.

Water buffalo:

Female ostrich:

Male ostrich:

Hornbill:

Riding on the roof:

The lazy lion:

Our close encounter with “tembo”:

Genene is enthralled:

The view from Tarangire Safari Lodge. You probably cannot tell from this landscape, but animals were everywhere.

Family photo:
 
 Bird of prey:

Giraffe family:

The inside of our tent. We are really roughing it:

The baobab tree at sunset:

Postscript: I am uploading this on the 6th, so I am already days behind on my blogging and we leave the wifi area tomorrow. I will take good notes and do what I can!

African safari 2013: Part 3

July 3, 2013

This morning, we left the comfort of Rivertrees to begin our adventure in the countryside. After a hearty breakfast, we said our goodbyes to Joel and the other kind people at the lodge and packed up. There are three families with us, and the other two families have two kids each, so there are five kids. Two are 14 years old, two are 11, and Genene is the youngest at age 9. The kids all rode in one car, while the adults are rotating in the other two cars. Today we would ride with Jim and Sheryl. The other couple had a car to themselves.

Our first stop was Arusha, often called the safari capital. It is the gateway for all safaris on the northern circuit in Tanzania. It is the home to the international tribunal that has judged the war crimes that took place in Rwanda some years ago, and apparently those trials are still ongoing. Justice runs slowly here, as in America. We stopped first in the Cultural Heritage Center, which amounted to a very nice upscale tourist shop. We got Genene a pair of tanzanite earrings. Tanzanite is a stone found only in Tanzania. It is blue/purple and very beautiful. We noticed Bill Clinton’s picture on the wall in the shop. I mentioned to the owner that I was born 35 miles from where Clinton was born. He replied, “Then you must be from Arkansas. You must know the late Don Tyson. He was one of my best clients.” I told the man that I didn’t know Don personally but had eaten a lot of his chickens. We Arkansans get around.

We drove through Arusha, and I was amazed at the teeming crowds of people. Many of them wore brightly colored clothes, some were pushing or pulling carts or riding bicycles or motorcycles. They were carrying every manner of thing: fruits, vegetables, water, supplies. People burn wood for cooking, heating water, warmth. The smell of smoke and gasoline was in the air, and we got the occasional whiff of weed. Arusha is a busy place.

It is about a three-hour drive over increasingly rough and narrow roads to Tarangire National Park. Along the way, we passed through several bustling towns having market days. Our driver told us we would not be stopping and that it was not polite to take pictures of people, so I do not have any photographs of this to show you. There were Maasai people everywhere along the roadside tending cattle and goats. The Maasai are the pastoral people known to everyone from the movies or “National Geographic.” Tall and slender, the men are typically clothed in red garments and elaborate beads. The women wear purple and have close-cut hair. They are nomadic and live as they did many years ago, tending their livestock. They do not kill their cattle. Instead they try to accumulate them; one’s status in the community is based on how many cattle are owned. The children tend the cattle, and they are YOUNG. They waved at us from the road.

Our guide mentioned that there are over 100 tribes in Tanzania. Each of them speaks a distinct language, but none of the tribes comprises more than 10% of the population. All Tanzanians are required to speak Swahili, and this common language unites them. Our guide explained that his father had two wives, but this is now frowned up and besides that, it’s too expensive.

We had lunch at the entrance to the park. Monkeys were hanging around at the picnic tables, waiting to steal any food left behind. We drove straight into the park and started looking for wildlife. It didn’t take long. We had not gone a quarter-mile when we saw large herds of zebra and wildebeest. Elephants, giraffes, impalas, lovebirds and warthogs followed close behind. We heard an elephant trumpeting repeatedly. That is an exhilarating sound:  Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!

We arrived in camp hot and tired at 5:30. We were greeted by the camp staff with cold towels and fresh juice. They demonstrated how everything in our tent would work. The tent must be zipped up at all times or creatures will get in. The tents have a king-sized bed with luxury sheets and a twinner for Genene. We are not roughing it that much. There are solar-powered lights, showers and a camp toilet in each one. If you want a hot shower, you must order it up. The camp staff brings what looks like a 5-gallon bucket full of water. You wet yourself, turn it off, soap up, and finally rinse. I was scared that the bucket would not be enough, but it is plenty of water to do the job. It made me realize how wasteful I am when I stand under the shower for 20 minutes. There are pitchers of water for hand washing and bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth.

Genene loves playing with the other kids and wants nothing to do with us. There is a mentor who rides in the car with them and plays games with them at camp. It is a joy to hear her shrieking and laughing as she plays. Thomson’s camp food is plentiful and delicious. We had potato and leek soup, beef, spinach, eggplant, salad, chicken, rice, red beans, banana split ice cream. There are several varieties of beer and Greg has tried Kilimanjaro, Tusker, Safari, Ndovu and Serengeti. He is still trying to decide which one is his favorite.

Colorful birds are everywhere:

This elephant was giving herself and her baby a dirt bath:

Zebra crossing:

Impalas on the run:

Genene snapping photos:

Acacia tree:

The baobab trees can be over 2000 years old:

Vulture on the nest:

Baby elephant running to catch up with his momma:

Looking right at me:

This girl is the one who kept trumpeting:

Playing in the water hole:

The kid car:

The giraffes love to peek at us from behind the bushes:

Zebras take their turn in the watering hole after the elephants finished:

Impalas locking horns:

Candelabra tree:

Zebra in the brush:

Home sweet home:

More to come.

African safari 2013: Part 2

July 2, 2013

Today was our first day to meet our Thomson safari guides and start looking at animals, and it was wonderful. I am going to go short on words and long on pictures.

Our guides picked us up at 9 AM and went through a briefing. There are two other families touring with Thomson. Both are from Seattle but did not know one another. Tomorrow the kids are going to ride in one car while the adults go in the other two. For today, we all split up by family and rode in separate Land Rovers. The Rovers are equipped with pop-up tops so that you can stand in your seats and view the animals. We drove to Arusha National Park and viewed the wildlife, had lunch and took a hike to a waterfall. I've got to be brief because we have to get packed. Tomorrow we leave for our first night of tent camping. I am not sure when or if I will have any more internet access. I will keep the blog and upload it when I can.

At the start of the day when we still looked fresh:

Zebras, buffalo and a wart hog:
Baboon in the trees:
and on the road:
White and black colobus monkeys:
 
Can you see the baby monkey on its momma's back?
Jumping colobus!
Blue monkey:
Genene monkey:
Baboon and baby:
Baboons in the road everywhere!
The pop-up top:
 
Our lunch view:
Giraffes!
Mongoose:
 
 
Zebras:
 
There are over 100 varieties of acacia tree. This one is loaded with thorns.
 
How many caterpillars do you see?
 
 
Buffalo:
 
Warthogs:
Warthogs on the move;
 
The park ranger and his big gun:
Waterfall in Arusha National Park:
 
Family photo at the waterfall:
A one horned bushbuck that we saw on our way home:
 

It's almost 7:00 PM now. I hear the call to prayer and it is time for us to get some dinner, pack our bags and head out for the bush. We are going to Tarangire National Park and then into the Serengeti. As I said, I don't know when I will be able to write again. I will check in when I can.

Until later…..

 

African safari 2013: Part 2

July 2, 2013

Today was our first day to meet our Thomson safari guides and start looking at animals, and it was wonderful. I am going to go short on words and long on pictures.

Our guides picked us up at 9 AM and went through a briefing. There are two other families touring with Thomson. Both are from Seattle but did not know one another. Tomorrow the kids are going to ride in one car while the adults go in the other two. For today, we all split up by family and rode in separate Land Rovers. The Rovers are equipped with pop-up tops so that you can stand in your seats and view the animals. We drove to Arusha National Park and viewed the wildlife, had lunch and took a hike to a waterfall. I’ve got to be brief because we have to get packed. Tomorrow we leave for our first night of tent camping. I am not sure when or if I will have any more internet access. I will keep the blog and upload it when I can.

At the start of the day when we still looked fresh:

Zebras, buffalo and a wart hog:
Baboon in the trees:
and on the road:
White and black colobus monkeys:
 
Can you see the baby monkey on its momma’s back?
Jumping colobus!
Blue monkey:
Genene monkey:
Baboon and baby:
Baboons in the road everywhere!
The pop-up top: 
Our lunch view:
Giraffes!
Mongoose: 
 Zebras:
 There are over 100 varieties of acacia tree. This one is loaded with thorns: 
How many caterpillars do you see?
 
 
Buffalo: 
Warthogs:
Warthogs on the move:
 The park ranger and his big gun:
Waterfall in Arusha National Park:
 Family photo at the waterfall:
A one-horned bushbuck that we saw on our way home:
 

It’s almost 7:00 PM now. I hear the call to prayer and it is time for us to get some dinner, pack our bags and head out for the bush. We are going to Tarangire National Park and then into the Serengeti. As I said, I don’t know when I will be able to write again. I will check in when I can.

Until later…..

African safari 2013: Part 1

June 29, 2013

Jambo!

Safari is the Swahili word for journey. My friends, we are taking one! After years of pipe dreaming, we finally booked a safari and headed for Tanzania. I hope you enjoy my blog and photos.

We left Houston on Saturday at noon. We like to leave the driving to Action Limos so that we can relax and let someone else navigate the mysteries of Houston traffic, where a jam can appear inexplicably at any time of the day or night. Our driver picked us up on time and we said our goodbyes to Nala and the cats and to our house. We have decided to undertake an entire downstairs remodeling project this summer, so our whole kitchen will be demolished while we are out. Goodbye dog! Goodbye ugly wallpaper!

Our check-in at the airport was completely uneventful, and our 747-400 was waiting for us. This is our first time to fly with KLM, and we toyed with the idea of buying first class tickets. In the end, I just could not fathom paying for it. However, we did pay extra for seats with more leg room, and this was money well spent. That four inches makes a huge difference. The plane boarded on time, but we sat on the tarmac for a while, and it was HOT. Just as we were preparing to roll, Greg asked me if I had downloaded the new required AT&T wifi app that came with our international data plan. What app??? I almost started crying. I hadn’t read the message from AT&T. I just assumed it was a confirmation of our purchase of the data plan. I furtively turned my phone back on in the plane and quickly downloaded the app, just before they pushed back from the jetway. Whew. Those little details get me every time.

I liked KLM. Their in-flight entertainment was plentiful. They passed out piping hot towels several times. The food was acceptable. Genene immersed herself in her own small TV. She’s a veteran traveler and needs no special entertainment from Mom and Dad. Greg and I slept on and off, and we arrived in Amsterdam (Amster, Amster, Shhh, Shhh, Shhh!) on time.

June 30, 2013

It was morning when we arrived in Amsterdam. We hopped off the plane, and Greg found one of those perfect airport bathrooms–not on the main terminal and down a short flight of stairs, it was empty and clean. We returned to the main terminal and began looking for our departure gate. It was literally 30 steps from where we had gotten off the first plane. How easy was that?

For reasons that are not clear to me, we had to repeat the entire security procedure. I guess the Amsterdam airport security cannot trust that the US airport security has sufficiently undressed and humiliated everyone with their body scanning machines. Belts off, pockets emptied, electronics out for inspection, toothpaste and “spit kits” in the quart bags….we did it all again at the new gate. For once, none of us got selected for special screening, so in spite of my griping, it was all pretty uneventful…nothing more than a hassle.

We rode in a smaller 777-200. I was surprised at the clientele aboard. I expected more Africans. Instead the plane was mostly filled with Americans and Europeans. Greg and I were actually among the younger of the travelers. It seems that going on safari is on a lot of bucket lists, and perhaps many people don’t check it off until they are retired. Again, our experience with KLM was good. Hot towels, good food, no nonsense. We napped a bit on this flight, but Greg and I tried not to fall asleep for any big stretches. We were to arrive in Kilimanjaro at night, and so there would be none of the usual efforts of trying to stay awake all day to avoid jet lag. We let Genene do what she wanted, and she slept quite a bit.

It was really exciting watching the flight tracker: all of those evocative names….Nile River, Addis Ababa, Sahara Desert.

Greg served in the Coast Guard on an ice breaker, so of course he has been across the equator. Genene and I, on the other hand, were first timers. Greg told Genene many stories of the “ceremony” on his ship on the day they crossed. The first timers, pollywogs, had to wear their shoes on the wrong feet, shirts on inside out and backwards, and underwear on top of their pants. The veterans–shellbacks–made the pollywogs do all kinds of unpleasant things, including climbing through some sort of chute filled with several days’ worth of kitchen garbage. There was a ceremony with King Neptune that involved “kissing the baby.” The shellbacks found the largest man among them with the softest belly, put a diaper on him, smeared the belly with some nasty grease, and made each pollywog kiss the baby’s belly. I told Genene that this sounded like the kind of thing that happens when men are put in charge of something. Greg teased Genene all day about making her kiss his shellback belly.

Greg tried one more story on Genene early on in the flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro. He told her that when his boat crossed the equator that two men rushed to the front of the boat with giant hooks to “lift” the equator up so that the boat could pass under it. Greg’s story was long and detailed, and Genene listened intently. In the end, she snorted and said, “Dad, do you really think I’m that stupid? The equator isn’t really there!!” We made the crossing without incident. The pilot did not even announce the crossing, so we had to estimate it by watching the flight tracker. Greg could hardly even rouse Genene, and he certainly could not convince her to kiss his belly. We are all shellbacks now.

While there is a 7 hour difference between Houston and Amsterdam, there is only a one hour difference between Amsterdam and Kilimanjaro. In effect, we flew east to Amsterdam and then pretty much south to Tanzania. We arrived at about 7:30 PM Tanzania time. The sun was already down, and the jetway was nothing more than a set of stairs to the tarmac, which we walked across to get to the airport. It was a zoo. There was just one big room with the immigration agents at one end. In my typical fashion, I moved out of a good, fast-moving line because the sign said it was for East Africans. Of course, I managed to get us into the molasses line. As it turned out, the signs meant nothing. All of the immigration agents were tending to all comers, so I could have stayed right where I was. Oh no….I had to try to be a rule-follower and thus moved us into the line with the guy who didn’t care whether you came to his country or not. We had gone to the trouble of getting our visas beforehand to save time, but many people were able to get through the visa and immigration line faster than we got through the one line. Ugh. It was just one final indignity on a long day. We were fingerprinted and had our photos taken and finally crossed over to the other side of the airport. A porter helped us collect our bags, and we met our driver John and our host Fatima.

We met a couple from DC in the car. They were weary, as were we, so conversation was at a minimum. It took about 20 minutes to get from the airport to our hotel, Rivertrees Country Inn, in the outskirts of Arusha. Arusha is known as the gateway to safari country.  Our hotel hosts met us with cold towels and watermelon juice. They showed us to our room, where the bags were already waiting. We are in a cottage. Our beds have mosquito netting, and it is not there just for looks. It’s very romantic looking. We had a late dinner at the lodge. Genene had a massive cheeseburger, Greg had fish and chips, and I had pork in ginger sauce. From the time we left our home to the time we got to Rivertrees, 24 hours and 38 minutes had elapsed. We were worn out.

In this picture, Genene is waiting on her first meal. She has that jetlag zombie stare.

July 1, 2013

I am a light sleeper and awoke with a start before the sunrise. Someone was chanting/singing. Greg roused too, and I told him that I thought it was a Muslim call to prayer. We wouldn’t be sure until we heard it again later in the day and asked someone. She confirmed, “It’s Islam.” It really is a beautiful sound, and it highlights one of the reasons we chose Tanzania for our safari. It is a stable democracy, and its government keeps no official count of religious affiliation. It is estimated that 15% of Tanzanians follow animist beliefs; 40% are Muslim; 45% are Christian, mostly Roman Catholic and Lutheran. They live together in relative harmony. It is possible!

Here’s a picture of the main lodge:

And the entry to our cottage:
 

We had no special plans for the day and so went back to sleep. We had breakfast at the lodge and took a hike around the grounds. Rivertrees sits on the edge of a river, and the area is lush, green and subtropical. Birds are everywhere. I wish I knew more about birds. Perhaps some day when I have more time….Anyway, there are birders all over the property with spotting scopes and cameras. Not a one of them is a day under 70, so I guess I’ve got time to learn. The walk along the river is rustic and beautiful. The little wooden bridges across the streams have missing spans and creak when you walk across them. We are told that there are monkeys on the property but we have not seen them yet. We have seen squirrels, or something like them. Genene has made friends with Mickey, the caretaker’s dog. They are in America right now, and Mickey gets shipped out to Europe in a few weeks to meet up with them. In the meantime, he wanders the grounds, spoiled rotten by everyone. The staff gave Genene a leash and encouraged her to make him walk all around the grounds. She was only too happy to do so.

Genene and Mickey:

Genene down by the river:

Another view of the river:

The vegetable garden had an interesting scarecrow:

Our cabin:

It took us a while to see Mount Kilimanjaro. It’s called the “shy mountain” because it is frequently covered by clouds. We could make out the barest snow cap on it after a gardener helped us understand what to look for.

We had a wonderful lunch on the grounds. Genene made friends with the cook, and he let her help him make pizzas.

Making pizza:

In the afternoon, Genene and I got massages while Greg took some exercise. The massage was heavenly. I walked the grounds wearing nothing but a robe and was led into a tent with a massage table and huge stone tub. I got 50 minutes of Swedish massage and a nice hot bath. That reminds me: hot water is something of a commodity, even at a resort. The water pressure is fairly low. The commode has one of those European two-button set-ups, but only the big button gets you any kind of flush. We brush our teeth with bottled water and try to be careful not to get any of the tap water into our mouths. So far, so good.

We are in a compound of sorts, completely fenced and gated, with security at the perimeter. The main road is just over the fence, and we have seen all kinds of traffic on it. Old motorcycles, a goat herder and herd, people walking, cars and vans flying by….all manner of humanity. It’s an interesting show.

This evening, we saw a huge owl in the trees. Minutes later, we finally saw a monkey.

The sun is gone, and we are about to have dinner. It has been a good day.

Until tomorrow…..

African safari 2013: Part 1

June 29, 2013

Jambo!

Safari is the Swahili word for journey. My friends, we are taking one! After years of pipe dreaming, we finally booked a safari and headed for Tanzania. I hope you enjoy my blog and photos.

We left Houston on Saturday at noon. We like to leave the driving to Action Limos so that we can relax and let someone else navigate the mysteries of Houston traffic, where a jam can appear inexplicably at any time of the day or night. Our driver picked us up on time and we said our goodbyes to Nala and the cats and to our house. We have decided to undertake an entire downstairs remodeling project this summer, so our whole kitchen will be demolished while we are out. Goodbye dog! Goodbye ugly wallpaper!

Our check-in at the airport was completely uneventful, and our 747-400 was waiting for us. This is our first time to fly with KLM, and we toyed with the idea of buying first class tickets. In the end, I just could not fathom paying for it. However, we did pay extra for seats with more leg room, and this was money well spent. That four inches makes a huge difference. The plane boarded on time, but we sat on the tarmac for a while, and it was HOT. Just as we were preparing to roll, Greg asked me if I had downloaded the new required AT&T wifi app that came with our international data plan. What app??? I almost started crying. I hadn't read the message from AT&T. I just assumed it was a confirmation of our purchase of the data plan. I furtively turned my phone back on in the plane and quickly downloaded the app, just before they pushed back from the jetway. Whew. Those little details get me every time.

I liked KLM. Their in-flight entertainment was plentiful. They passed out piping hot towels several times. The food was acceptable. Genene immersed herself in her own small TV. She's a veteran traveler and needs no special entertainment from Mom and Dad. Greg and I slept on and off, and we arrived in Amsterdam (Amster, Amster, Shhh, Shhh, Shhh!) on time.

 

June 30, 2013

It was morning when we arrived in Amsterdam. We hopped off the plane, and Greg found one of those perfect airport bathrooms–not on the main terminal and down a short flight of stairs, it was empty and clean. We returned to the main terminal and began looking for our departure gate. It was literally 30 steps from where we had gotten off the first plane. How easy was that?

For reasons that are not clear to me, we had to repeat the entire security procedure. I guess the Amsterdam airport security cannot trust that the US airport security has sufficiently undressed and humiliated everyone with their body scanning machines. Belts off, pockets emptied, electronics out for inspection, toothpaste and “spit kits” in the quart bags….we did it all again at the new gate. For once, none of us got selected for special screening, so in spite of my griping, it was all pretty uneventful…nothing more than a hassle.

We rode in a smaller 777-200. I was surprised at the clientele aboard. I expected more Africans. Instead the plane was mostly filled with Americans and Europeans. Greg and I were actually among the younger of the travelers. It seems that going on safari is on a lot of bucket lists, and perhaps many people don't check it off until they are retired. Again, our experience with KLM was good. Hot towels, good food, no nonsense. We napped a bit on this flight, but Greg and I tried not to fall asleep for any big stretches. We were to arrive in Kilimanjaro at night, and so there would be none of the usual efforts of trying to stay awake all day to avoid jet lag. We let Genene do what she wanted, and she slept quite a bit.

It was really exciting watching the flight tracker: all of those evocative names….Nile River, Addis Ababa, Sahara Desert.

Greg served in the Coast Guard on an ice breaker, so of course he has been across the equator. Genene and I, on the other hand, were first timers. Greg told Genene many stories of the “ceremony” on his ship on the day they crossed. The first timers, pollywogs, had to wear their shoes on the wrong feet, shirts on inside out and backwards, and underwear on top of their pants. The veterans–shellbacks–made the pollywogs do all kinds of unpleasant things, including climbing through some sort of chute filled with several days' worth of kitchen garbage. There was a ceremony with King Neptune that involved “kissing the baby.” The shellbacks found the largest man among them with the softest belly, put a diaper on him, smeared the belly with some nasty grease, and made each pollywog kiss the baby's belly. I told Genene that this sounded like the kind of thing that happens when men are put in charge of something. Greg teased Genene all day about making her kiss his shellback belly.

Greg tried one more story on Genene early on in the flight from Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro. He told her that when his boat crossed the equator that two men rushed to the front of the boat with giant hooks to “lift” the equator up so that the boat could pass under it. Greg's story was long and detailed, and Genene listened intently. In the end, she snorted and said, “Dad, do you really think I'm that stupid? The equator isn't really there!!” We made the crossing without incident. The pilot did not even announce the crossing, so we had to estimate it by watching the flight tracker. Greg could hardly even rouse Genene, and he certainly could not convince her to kiss his belly. We are all shellbacks now.

While there is a 7 hour difference between Houston and Amsterdam, there is only a one hour difference between Amsterdam and Kilimanjaro. In effect, we flew east to Amsterdam and then pretty much south to Tanzania. We arrived at about 7:30 PM Tanzania time. The sun was already down, and the jetway was nothing more than a set of stairs to the tarmac, which we walked across to get to the airport. It was a zoo. There was just one big room with the immigration agents at one end. In my typical fashion, I moved out of a good, fast moving line because the sign said it was for East Africans. Of course, I managed to get us into the molasses line. As it turned out, the signs meant nothing. All of the immigration agents were tending to all comers, so I could have stayed right where I was. Oh no….I had to try to be a rule-follower and thus moved us into the line with the guy who didn't care whether you came to his country or not. We had gone to the trouble of getting our visas beforehand to save time, but many people were able to get through the visa and immigration line faster than we got through the one line. Ugh. It was just one final indignity on a long day. We were fingerprinted and had our photos taken and finally crossed over to the other side of the airport. A porter helped us collect our bags, and we met our driver John and our host Fatima.

We met a couple from DC in the car. They were weary, as were we, so conversation was at a minimum. It took about 20 minutes to get from the airport to our hotel, Rivertrees Country Inn, in the outskirts of Arusha. Arusha is known as the gateway to safari country. 66879788877787887Our hotel hosts met us with cold towels and watermelon juice. They showed us to our room, where the bags were already waiting. We are in a cottage. Our beds have mosquito netting, and it is not there just for looks. It's very romantic looking. We had a late dinner at the lodge. Genene had a massive cheeseburger, Greg had fish and chips, and I had pork in ginger sauce. From the time we left our home to the time we got to Rivertrees, 24 hours and 38 minutes had elapsed. We were worn out.

In this picture, Genene is waiting on her first meal. She has that zetlag zombie stare.

 

July 1, 2013

I am a light sleeper and awoke with a start before the sunrise. Someone was chanting/singing. Greg roused too, and I told him that I thought it was a Muslim call to prayer. We wouldn't be sure until we heard it again later in the day and asked someone. She confirmed, “It's Islam.” It really is a beautiful sound, and it highlights one of the reasons we chose Tanzania for our safari. It is a stable democracy, and its government keeps no official count of religious affiliation. It is estimated that 15% of Tanzanians follow animist beliefs; 40% are Muslim; 45% are Christian, mostly Roman Catholic and Lutheran. They live together in relative harmony. It is possible!

Here's a picture of the main lodge.

And the entry to our cottage:
 

We had no special plans for the day and so went back to sleep. We had breakfast at the lodge and took a hike around the grounds. Rivertrees sits on the edge of a river, and the area is lush, green and subtropical. Birds are everywhere. I wish I knew more about birds. Perhaps some day when I have more time….Anyway, there are birders all over the property with spotting scopes and cameras. Not a one of them is a day under 70, so I guess I've got time to learn. The walk along the river is rustic and beautiful. The little wooden bridges across the streams have missing spans and creak when you walk across them. We are told that there are monkeys on the property but we have not seen them yet. We have seen squirrels, or something like them. Genene has made friends with Mickey, the caretaker's dog. They are in America right now, and Mickey gets shipped out to Europe in a few weeks to meet up with them. In the meantime, he wanders the grounds, spoiled rotten by everyone. The staff gave Genene a leash and encouraged her to make him walk all around the grounds. She was only too happy to do so.

Genene and Mickey:

 

Genene down by the river:

Another view of the river:

The vegetable garden had an interesting scarecrow:

Our cabin:

 

It took us a while to see Mount Kilimanjaro. It's called the “shy mountain” because it is frequently covered by clouds. We could make out the barest snow cap on it after a gardener helped us understand what to look for.

We had a wonderful lunch on the grounds. Genene made friends with the cook, and he let her help him make pizzas.

Making pizza:

 

In the afternoon, Genene and I got massages while Greg took some exercise. The massage was heavenly. I walked the grounds wearing nothing but a robe and was led into a tent with a massage table and huge stone tub. I got 50 minutes of Swedish massage and a nice hot bath. That reminds me: hot water is something of a commodity, even at a resort. The water pressure is fairly low. The commode has one of those European two-button set-ups, but only the big button gets you any kind of flush. We brush our teeth with bottled water and try to be careful not to get any of the tap water into our mouths. So far, so good.

We are in a compound of sorts, completely fenced and gated, with security at the perimeter. The main road is just over the fence, and we have seen all kinds of traffic on it. Old motorcycles, a goat herder and herd, people walking, cars and vans flying by….all manner of humanity. It's an interesting show.

This evening, we saw a huge owl in the trees. Minutes later, we finally saw a monkey.

The sun is gone, and we are about to have dinner. It has been a good day.

Until tomorrow…..