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A true vacation Sunday

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Yesterday was sunday and I decided to do a true ‘vacation’ day, which means I did very little at all.

I got up late, I lounged by the “pool” (the pool is indeed an inground pool, but it is about 15′ x 10′, so it is more of a ‘soak in the cool water to get out of the heat’ pool than a ‘swimming’ pool) for a couple of hours, where I met two americans from Cooperstown, NY who were about to go back to the US after a month in Uganda working for an NGO they had formed to help refugees from Congo, Burundi and some from Rwanda (catering to french-speaking refugees, seems there’s an NGO for everything). [read on]

Bye Bye Boda Boda

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Got back from Murchison Falls yesterday and today came into Kampala to keep working on my Cairo ticket and to update the blog. As I get more comfortable with Kampala, I am coming to enjoy the city more and more.

Today I even did what is very like the most dangerous thing one can do in Kampala — I had a boda boda ride (I actually had two!). [read on]

Murchison Falls: Part 3

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

So, as we were up early anyway, we got to watch a gorgeous red sunrise over the Nile.

After breakfast we left to go hike the waterfalls before the long drive back to Kampala.

The hike was strenuous at times, especially given how bad shape I’m in having not exercised in several weeks and given the crappiest of crap food I’m eating, but all I can say is WOW.

If you are in Uganda, you really must go see these waterfalls. [read on]

Murchison Falls: Part 2

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

So, the agenda was to be: day 1, drive to Murchison Falls. Day 2, game drive in morning, back to camp for lunch, boat drive down the nile in the afternoon. Day 3: hike up Murchison Falls in the morning, drive back to Kampala. [read on]

Murchison Falls: Part 1

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

After arriving in Kampala I spent a night in my private hostel room which was really good, and the next day as noted earlier, D helped me into Kampala so I wandered around a bit. It was my goal also to buy my ticket to Cairo but I ran into a snag. It was really expensive (like, $1000) to buy the ticket in advance from the US so I figured I’d just buy it here. After all, who the heck is going to Cairo from East Africa in August?? Well, apparently a lot of people. [read on]

Planes, trains, and automobiles (but no trains, actually)

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

Looking back I can see I’ve left out some bits and pieces of my story thus far, so I’m going to try to go back and fill them in now.

To begin, my trip from Arusha to Kampala was fairly uneventful, but interesting none-the-less. I had been told by Precision Air to get to the airport 2 hours in advance. When I got to the airport the security staff couldn’t for the life of them figure out why I’d come to the airport 2 hours in advance. [read on]

Hungy Hungry Hippos, or things they don’t prepare you for growing up in New Jersey

Saturday, July 28th, 2007

I’m awoken out of a benadryl-induced coma-like sleep to the following sound right near my ear:

RIP, RIP, RIP, shuffle, swoosh, shuffle, swoosh, grunt, RIP, RIP, RIP, shuffle, swoosh, RIP, RIP

And after about 2 seconds I realize that less than 10 feet away from me, grazing just outside my tent, is a hippopotamus — the most deadly animal in Africa, responsible for killing more people than any other critter on the continent.

And then another thought hits me. Wow, I really need to use the bathroom. [read on]

Review: Impala Hotel

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

I’ve given myself some time before posting this review, as I’ve been churning it over on how to write it.

The question is not did I enjoy my time at the Impala Hotel in Arusha, that answer is easy — I did not. The real question for the review is, was it a good value and on this I am torn. I’ve waited some time before posting the review because I feel it important to balance the issues of ‘expectations’ — you can’t expect the same as if this were a hotel in Europe. I also didn’t want to write with “fresh off the plane” prejudice. I wanted to take into account the resources available in Arusha and the ‘frame of reference’ that needs to provide. This is not a well off area and so a ‘luxury’ hotel (as it bills itself) here needs that taken into account.

Now that I’ve been in Africa for 2 weeks and seen a variety of other places, I feel more solid in my critique.

[read on]

The adventure begins: Kampala

Tuesday, July 24th, 2007

Today the adventure began.

First, everyone I’ve met so far at the hostel (and it’s a very social place!) has been interesting. Fairly intellectual conversation, as many of the people here are either academics doing research or volunteer work, or college students spending their summer vacations doing volunteer work. Lots of discussion of politics and the causes of poverty.

Today “D” was my hero. He’s here doing his PhD research on political conflict and yesterday he said he was going into town today and offered to show me the ropes. [read on]

Safe and sound in Kampala

Monday, July 23rd, 2007

Just quick note to say I have arrived safe and sound at the hostel in Kampala and even successfully managed to use an ATM (it took two banks to find one that would take my card). Whew!

Very social place, so far have met americans, irish, scotish, and french travelers. Everyone seems very nice.

Internet connection as the hostel is free, and therefore slow and dodgy. Am going into town to learn how the public transport works, get a feel for Kampala, go to an internet cafe, and buy Harry Potter.

Final thoughts upon departing Tanzania

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Tomorrow I leave Tanzania for Uganda, and as great as the trip has been thus far, I’m eager to leave. So far I’ve been on the ‘vacation’ part of my trip. Granted a very cool and exotic vacation, but nonetheless, everything has been neatly planned and organized by the tour company, and all the places I’ve stayed have been varying degrees of western comfort (review of my hotel in Arusha to come in the future, I need to ponder that review further before I write). Other than deciding what meals to order, walking into arusha on the first day here to get my ticket to Entebbe is the only independent thing I’ve really done.

Once in Uganda, this trip goes more from vacation to adventure. Granted, all is not that wild. I still am flying in, and someone from the hostel is meeting me at the airport. Plus I’ve got a 3-day trip planned thru the hostel in a couple of days, but until mid-August my schedule is completely open to come-what-may plans as they arise.

So, bring on the adventure! [read on]

Review: Ngorongoro Serena Lodge

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Now, I should start this review with the preface that we were only there about 12 hours, if that, as we arrived around 7 and left early the next morning.

The lodge was the most “hotel-like” we stayed in, although you still went into open air to get from section to section. The main bar area was like a ski lodge, with big picture windows looking out into the crater, and a large central fire place to gather around. Everyone was playing cards or games and just sitting around drinking. There were young acrobats for entertainment who were pretty damn impressive. [read on]

Review: Serengeti Serena Lodge

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

This place is just weird. Uber-high quality and posh, but weird.

The ‘bungalows’ for lack of a better word, are supposed to be, I think, like Disney-fied Masai huts, but the end result is you feel like you’re in homes for Hobbits from Lord of the Rings. [read on]

Review: Tarangire Tented Camp

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Of the three luxury lodges we stayed in, all very different, in some ways Taragire Tented Camp was my favorite.

First, the view is amazing. It overlooks a valley with a couple of rivers in them and you can see impala, zebra, wildebeast, and elephants all traipsing around at wee size, but still totally visible. Almost like action figures. We didn’t see any predators there, other than vultures. It doesn’t look real. You feel like you’re looking down into this “toy” or artificial valley created just for your pleasure viewing, like something out of Star Trek or Harry Potter (oh, HP update — don’t think I’ll find a copy of the new one here in Arusha, I think it will have to wait until Kampala. Am avoiding all news sites until I get a copy). [read on]

Ngorongoro Crater – Where were the fish in the barrel?

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

The thing about Ngorongoro Crater is the hype. I think this was the single most-hyped place we visited. Everyone we met, everything we read, said Ngorongoro is THE place you MUST visit. There are animals everywhere. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

Yeah, well it ain’t. [read on]

Serengeti – “Endless Plains” and plain endless

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Serengeti is Masai for Endless Plains. Boy howdy they ain’t kidding. [read on]

Tarangire National Park – a thesaurus entry for “Wow”

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007

Once inside the park, all I can say is Wow. It was amazing. The landscape, the animals, everything about it. Even though we later went to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, this was my favorite park of all three.

It’s funny how your first excitement is to see animals that you quickly become immune to. At first you’re lik “Oh my god, stop! Impala!” and you take a zillion photos. Then “look, zebra, stop!” take a zillion photos. Wildebeast, STOP. Take a zillion photos.

The drivers amusingly do as you ask, but by the end of the first day you’re like, “oh look, more zebra. No, no need to stop”. By the end of the second day, you don’t even point them out anymore. Zebras, wildebeast, dik-dik (antelope-like things that are the size of a very small dog), they are just everywhere! [read on]

On the road to Tarangire

Sunday, July 22nd, 2007


To begin with a brief update, I met my safari-mates shortly before we left on our trip. Overall, things went very well, we were three low-key single women who got along amazingly well, given our crammed together conditions for 7 days. My roomate was “M,” who works for a newspaper in Arizona. This safari is her 30th birthday present to herself. For my 30th birthday, I went out for fondue, so she is clearly the cooler of the two of us. Our trip-mate “N” is from West Virginia and works in a manufacturing plant for a certain large car maker, for which several of my classmates from school also work (you know who you are). N is a hoot. This trip is a life’s dream for her, and she has been working toward saving for this trip for a long time, and everyone at her plant helped her saved coke bottle-tops so she could get frequent flyer miles for half her trip (smart cookie!). Her exuberance at everything she saw and did was positively infectious! We were all very lucky, as three strangers meeting for a week-long trip could be a recipie for disaster, yet worked out dandy.
[read on]

Jambo from the Serengeti

Tuesday, July 17th, 2007

Jambo! (hello)

I am on the world’s most expensive internet connection ($20/hour!!!) so no real post here other than to say I am alive, well, and am having an AMAZING time!!! We just arrived at our weird but luxury lodge in the Serengeti and spent 2 days at luxury lodge in Tarangire Natl Park which was indescribable (not really, just indescribable at $20/hour). Will try to post in depth once I am back in Arusha in a week.

Also, there is a super-loud Tanzanian soap opera on the TV behind me which is very distracting!

Lala Salama! (good night)

Arusha-day 2, revised

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

7/14/07 7:30pm Hotel internet

Have great internet connection right now, want to take advantage of it.

This is a revision for my last post because I learned a lesson today — write about days events after they happen, not before.

I was unexpectedly driven to my tour company’s local office so I got to see a bit of the area outside of Arusha. I was expecting to just get driven into town but instead we went the other way. The paved road ended only a couple of minutes from the hotel and it was then I realize my previous post joking about Arusha being ‘1st world adjacent’ was dead wrong. It’s pure 3rd world. Kendall, as you noted, the poverty really just slaps you in the face. [read on]

Arusha, day 2 – yawn

Saturday, July 14th, 2007

7/14/07 10am Hotel internet cafe

Nothing earth-shattering to report, so some details people have been asking: Weather is in the 70s, overcast both mornings I’ve been here, it heats up when the sun comes out in the afternoon.

The hotel is/was hosting an Interpol conference so there are people from all over the world, which is quite nice. A little weird to be eating breakfast the next table of people in various arab-army, flight-suit military uniforms much like one sees on TV if one can stomach the current news. Most of the other tourists seem to be Americans, Dutch, and Japanese, with some Aussies and Brits thrown in. [read on]

The charms of Arusha

Friday, July 13th, 2007

7/13/07 Arusha. Internet Café

Spent about an hour today wandering around Arusha which was more than enough time to see its ample …charms for lack of a better word. Actually, no that’s a rotten word to describe it. It doesn’t really have much in the way of charms.

On the one hand it’s definitely interesting. On the other, only so much. [read on]

A fashion segue

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

A random thought that hit me as I was in the amsterdam airport with the bazillions of other people traveling to Mt. Kilimanjaro (the flight was as large if not larger than the LAX to Amsterdam flight).

You can tell safari travelers by the way they dress, but it’s pretty funny to see the variation. Khaki is definitely the color of choice (with reason, bright colors either scare animals or attract tse tse flys, so I’m told), and there were lots of people in their safari vests. But the true fashion item of choice were the convertible pants (pants that zip off segments into either shorts, or capris, sometimes both on the same pants).
[read on]

Sleep is for the weak — and the not so easily entertained

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

7/12/07 10:30pm. Greetings from Arusha.

The trip out went as well as could possibly be expected. No delays, no lost luggage, my ride was there to pick up me, so all is well.
[read on]

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go

Monday, July 9th, 2007

Tomorrow I have to give back my computer to work, so this will be my last post stateside, as they used to say (or maybe they just said that on TV).

If all goes right, I have a 10.5 hour flight from LAX to Amsterdam, a 2.5 hour layover, and then an 8.5 hour flight to Mt. Kilimanjaro. All I can say is, thank god for Ambien.

Final to do list:

  • Become officially unemployed – check [read on]
  • Revenge of the little piggy

    Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

    This little piggy went to market,
    This little piggy stayed at home,
    This little piggy had roast beef,
    This little piggy had none.
    And this little piggy went…
    “Wee wee wee” all the way home…

    Apparently, the little piggy who had none likes to take its revenge when I travel.

    [read on]

    The Cher Hair update

    Monday, July 2nd, 2007

    Inquiring minds want to know:
    Where am I at 9 days and counting?
    (Translation, I have nothing more interesting to write about:)

    First, for those of you who seem to be dying to know, the response on the Cher Hair was mixed at first, though now that it has poofed up a bit and people have gotten used to it, the response has been largely positive. The first responses were:

      Me: “So what do you think?”
      Them: “Um, well what do YOU think? That’s what’s important”
      (not reassuring!)

    Of course being a part of the Groucho Marx School of Belonging, I had other friends who said it looked fantastic, which immediately means I must discount what they say. My friend AS would say I look fabulous even if I pulled a Britney Spears.

    [read on]