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.
The driver who had picked each of us up from the airport was named “Magnificent”. I was too reluctant to ask if this name was given or earned, but N asked and found it was his given name. Our driver for the rest of the trip was named “Good Luck” and indeed he was. We had a great trip in part because of him. This apparently is also his given name, he says his siblings all have names like “Julie” and “Esther”.
So, first thing about the trip, we’re in a brand new 2007 Toyota Landcruiser built for 8 people plus driver, though we were only 3 plus driver. We each had a row to ourselves. I was named “tour leader” by Good Luck which means I am the last to be sarcificed to the gods of the wild animals, if necessary. At first I thought this was because I made the most “blah blah”, but I’ll say this, N gave me a good run for my money in the “blah blah” department. I also apparently have a natural game-spotting ability, so I may have a second career waiting for me.
Driving out of Arusha we got to see more of the town, though it was raining (very usual this time of year). We drove from Arusha to Tarangire which is about 2 hours on good roads.
Good roads means paved roads which may or may not be pot-hole ridden. The rest of the time we were on roads made up of varying sized rocks, which were alternatively described as “African Massage” roads or “dancing without music.”
Along the main road we saw lots of Masai with their cattle or goats. We could see lots of tradiational Masai round huts, but also they lived in square structures. Some dressed in tradational garb, others wore western clothing. Masai don’t like to have their picture taken (without payment) so I didn’t take many pics, even though we could have, but I don’t like doing things like that, even if could. At one point we stopped to take a photo of trees with this funky bee’s nest that looks like a log hanging down from it, and some Masai kids ran up to the bus. Our driver gave them a packet of juicyfruit gum as payment for taking photo of their tree. Sometimes they walk goats just as if they were walking dogs, on leashes with the goats bobbing along side or in front of them, its funny. The most amazing thing was the little kids. We saw kids as young as 3 or so out herding goats all by themselves. I also saw one little girl, maybe 3 or 4, walking with a little package on her head, just like the adult women do.
It was weird to see zebra and wildebeast just sitting next to the highway plain as cattle might be in the US.
Once we got to the park, we went for a game drive, and it was amazing (see next post).
First, I should point out is what made it in part so great is the fact that because the car was so empty, we each had our own “open roof” above our row, and I could stand on the seats as we drove. We called this “safari surfing” as to negotiate the roads while balancing on the seats is something else… I got a pretty good muscle workout that day. What was so cool is because I was in the front row, I had this 270 degree unobstructed view of the entire drive. It was like the whole place was there just for me, and I was being toodled around like the Queen of Sheba all for my own personal benefit.
7/22/07 Arusha post-script: I walked back into town to use the much cheaper internet cafe because the hotel computers kept crashing when I tried to muck with photos. It was a much better experience, I had confidence as to where I was going (though I did get a little lost looking for the cafe again) and knowing a handful of swahili makes all the difference. When they ask if you’re a tourist you can just say “I work here” and they leave you alone (also, wearing my Red Cross shirt makes them think I work for an NGO which means I have NO money to spend on them!). Plus, Good Luck had told me it was perfectly safe, though advised against bringing my camera or any major valuables with me. So, as you can see, I felt much safer. Seriously, just having a understanding of the situation and the surrounds makes all the difference.
The cafe is full of americans who just were grossly ripped off for their souviniers from the touts outside, but they seem happy so who am I to correct them?
Basic swahili words learned (spelling completely bastardized, I’m sure):
Mambo: How’s it going?
Asanti: Thank you
Asenti Sana: thanks very much
Asenta Tena: Thanks again
Lala Salama: good night
Karibu: You’re welcome
Karibu Tena: welcome again
Afya: Bless you (after sneezing)
Hakuna matata: no worries (yes, this really is said all the time)
Mkulu: Wise man (our driver!)
Myumru: Wildebeast (also a big insult)