I found a new internet cafe this afternoon and for an extra 33 cents for the hour I have the luxury of sitting in an air conditioned-building with "guaranteed" electricity! A great end to a relaxing afternoon in Moshi Town.
Tara, I read your comments aloud to Sarika, my tent-mate on the safari and she said she wanted to meet you. When I asked why, she said it was because obviously you knew me as well as she does now! Your interpretation of my thoughts and behavior was pretty much spot on. Krissa, I hope to upload a few pictures tonight. I got a great shot of the daladala today and would love to share it with all of you - the picture will tell the story all by itself.
Sarika and I were on safari with Iza and Peter, from Poland. We met them the morning we left and liked them instantly. They are loud, spontaneous and always laughing - or eating! They had finished a 6-day climb up Kilimanjaro the day before our safari. Impressive. We also had a guide and a chef along for the journey, Anwar and Moses. After seeing a butcher shop and the meat market here in Moshi the first day, I quickly became a Tanzanian vegetarian. I will spare you the details. Thankfully, Moses was willing to accommodate to my new diet restrictions.
I think I mentioned yesterday that our guide, Anwar, has been a safari guide for 20 years. We were so fortunate to have him! He could spot a lion a mile away. Incredible. Many of the guides rely on each other to radio when they spot an animal and then they race to a crowd of safari vehicles to catch a glimpse of a lion who is 300 yards away. The Serengeti covers over 9000 square miles and Anwar knew every bit of it. While we didn't cover the whole thing, for the most part we never saw another safari vehicle. It truly felt like we were in the middle of our own personal wilderness. I am struggling to find the words to describe the landscape. Much of the landscape is vast plains with grasses about knee high. Throughout the plains there are sporadic rock formations that are left from a volcanic eruption years ago. I expected that this would be where most of the lions would rest in the afternoon, but for the most part they would lie with their pack in the middle of the plains. In places we could see so far that we could literally see the curvature of the earth. It is incredible.
Each day we saw something new. Monday, we saw our first lions at Lake Manyara - a mother, sister, and three somewhat grown cubs. Tuesday, we saw our first male lions. They were within 3 feet of our vehicle. Anwar was bold enough to "break the rules" and drove off the road to a pack of 12 lions lying in the tall grasses about 100 yards off the road. Our safari truck was literally surround by lions! Wednesday we saw our first leopards and Thursday, our last day in the Serengeti we saw the cheetahs. Thursday morning we woke up early to watch the sunrise over the plains. I am truly blessed to have witnessed it. The sky was orange and red with just enough clouds to add dimension and color and the skyline was dotted with the black profiles of Acacia trees. I can't wait to share the pictures with you.
Friday was our final day on safari and we went to the Ngorongoro Crater. For those of you who have visited the Grand Canyon, the feeling you get standing on the edge of the crater rim is quite similar. The view in front of me looked like a painting. The center of the crater has a large lake, filled with pink flamingos, and herds of buffalo, wildebeest and zebra roam across the plains. As we ascended into the crater Friday morning, we had no idea we were in for the best surprise of the safari! Most of you know, sometimes I am slightly competitive. After 4 days on safari, I desperately wanted to be the one to spot one of the Big 5 in the distance. It was shortly after 6 am and we were watching some hippos out in the field, when I looked ahead and saw 2 large dots on the edge of the road. I asked Anwar if they were hippos and I will never forget the smile on his face when he saw them...they were the rhinos! The last of the Big 5 we had yet to see! We sped ahead and watched them walked from one field to another and pass in front of our car. It is hard to put into words how excited we were...even though the papa rhino was none too please to see us! For a moment he actually reared up and began stomping toward our vehicle. We decided not to press our luck, turned off the engine and just watched them cross the road about 15-20 feet in front of us. For 5 minutes we watched as they wandered out back into a secluded area of the crater where they would rest for the remainder of the day. We were the only visitors to see the rhinos that day and Anwar said that in 20 years he can literally count how many times he has seen them that close. There are only 25 in the crater itself and, though there are about 60 in the Serengeti, they are currently being monitored in a section of the park where visitors are not allowed in order to encourage breeding. I am still smiling as I think of the excitement we all felt that morning.
I am now back in Moshi and we have 3 new volunteers in the house, with another one arriving from Slovakia tomorrow. One of the new volunteers, Bree, and I will be working with KIWAKUKKI again this week at their main office in Moshi. I have so much more to share, but will save it for tomorrow. My Kindle finally has wireless access at the house and I may try to blog every day this week if I have the time. Many of the volunteers in the house are working on separate projects and each night at dinner we share our discoveries from the day with each other. The combination of our mixed experiences and backgrounds, makes for quite the conversation. We have Jason, the Texan paramedic, and Sophie, a nurse from London who spent the past 6 weeks in Uganda. Bree, a 19 year old from Idaho, who has no fear and is traveling alone for the first time for 5 months. Christina, from Germany, Ming, from Malaysia, Mr. Bill, who I mentioned in my first blog, and our new volunteer from Slovakia. Combine them with our 4 Tanzanian brothers and sisters and it makes for a loud, crowded dinner table!
Thanks for the football updates, encouraging words, and updates from home. Naomi - I am so proud of you for getting your temps! (That doesn't mean you'll be driving the Volvo, though! :))
It is hard to believe I only have a week left! I'll "talk" to you soon.