Much to my horror, I was robbed of $400 last week -- an amount I'd saved during my summer of hard work so that I could go on a well-deserved, 3-day safari.
Last Friday was Nani Nani, a national Tanzanian holiday celebrating the agricultural communities, so I had hoped to sneak away for a safari, an activity I love, since we had a long break! I think I know who stole the money. I felt very violated, but ultimately prayed that whoever did steal it would use it for a worthy cause.
But I decided that I needed to go on this break anyway. This really was my first "playtime" since I've been here (2 ½ months) and it suddenly seems that my time has become VERY short!!!
I left Friday morning and was excited to find there were only 4 of us going (plus a guide and a cook). The 3 other people were young women, volunteers from Great Britiain, working in a different program in another village. We drove many hours past Bomas (a Boma is a small cluster of primitive rondelas, or round huts made from dried animal dung with straw roofs). There is one hut for the husband and there is one hut for EACH of his wives. In fact, we passed a large Boma of 26 huts -- yes, a guy with 25 wives and over 50 kids -- so large, the government even built a school just for that Boma!
We stopped at a beautiful campsite (I paid a little extra to stay in the adjoining rooms with electric, REAL beds, Western toilets, and running water!). Super idea! We left our gear, removed the top of the safari truck, and headed toward Lake Manyara Nat. Park. After paying our entry fees, we were immediately greeted by a wide variety of baboons and other primates. We all stood in our sock feet on the seats of the truck as we waited poised, hoping for that perfect photo. Although I've been on many African safaris, each is an exciting and unique new adventure! The Masai giraffes were stately, the elephants were intimidating as they lumbered through the forest nibbling on acacia bits. Even the elusive hippos briefly peeked from their watery spas.
I guess that I tend to forget that many travelers are simply unfamiliar with most African animals and their habits. After watching a kazillion (at least) zebras as they crossed the plains, one of the girls asked our guide why the animals walked "that way" (their heads bounce up and down as they walk). She repeated this question without getting a reply. I finally turned to her and said, "They're keeping rhythm with the beat of the music." She thought a minute and then replied "REALLY, I didn't know that!" (I hope she doesn't return home still thinking that!).
Our safari was a very wonderful and busy time. We ate breakfast at 6 each morning and were on the road again by 7. After Lake Manyara on Friday night, we ventured into the Ngorogoro Crater. It IS one of the world's wonders, and although I've been there before, it's still magical!!! While ascending into the crater, a wide variety of climates and temperatures are encountered -- everything from hot and sunny plains, to heavily lush forests and impossibly bare desert areas. Our temperatures must have varied at times between 45 and 85F! Although birds are not my primary "animal" interest, I was again astounded to see such a wide variety of them. Vultures, Maribu storks, Secretary birds and Crested cranes were just a few of the larger birds. We also found a wide variety of stunningly colored song birds singing in the trees around most of the lake areas too!
I guess I should mention that the roads are VERY dusty and HEAVILY rutted, so the standing-on-the-seat position with your upper body perched outside the truck, often require a death grip on the rails as we lurched along! At times, it was easy to forget to hold on tightly enough when I was engrossed in photographing yet another Colobus monkey, elephant, rhino, or giraffe! Of course when we all returned home after this awesome weekend with a wide variety of bumps and bruises from the lurching, jarring ride. We all decided it was worth it! One side-note: we realized at the end of Day 1 that we had all gotten incredibly dirty due to the dust from the passing vehicles. I was mortified however, to see the white facecloth in my room magically turn from a glistening white to a muddy reddish brown the first time I attempted to wash my face! After scrubbing in vain to get at least some of the mud out, I gave up and hoped for an understanding laundress!
For our readers aware of my many joint replacements due to osteoarthritis, YES, riding like this for a day is very difficult and CAN be quite painful. I've discovered, through many safaris, that once my hiking boots are off and I'm balanced standing on a van seat, it's easier to stay in that position rather than attempt to climb up and down in a moving vehicle on a rutted road (please note, I DIDN'T say it was comfortable, just easier!!)
At the oddest times, my vanity surfaces. On Saturday night after a cold shower (few places have hot water), I decided to hike from our campground compound past many tiny stalls in hopes of finding a shop with baridi (cold) soda. On the way, I was stopped many times as young men begged me to look at paintings, carvings, etc. After a successful stop for a Bitter Lemon, I retraced my steps managing to avoid most of the salesmen. I was finally stopped just outside our compound gate by an energetic salesman. When he asked me to come to his stall, I replied "Hapana sante" (No thanks) -- he asked "Why not?" -- I replied, "Because I'm tired." He looked at me carefully then said "Mama, we KNOW you are very old, but please look!" (I'll bet he wonders why he didn't make a sale!)
As the end of my 3 months of work in Tanzania rapidly approaches, I'm of course swamped with a flood of emotions as well as very special memories. I STILL feel deeply that I've been where I needed to be - and most importantly, I've had the incredible opportunity to make many positive changes in the lives of Tanzanian teenaged prisoners.
Published On: August 20, 2008