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Out of Africa-Just in the nick of time!

Friday, January 18th, 2008

IMG_3049.JPGWe spent Christmas with our friends Anna Martina and Frank at their beach house about 20 miles south of Mombasa, Kenya. The house was a huge cabana style house tucked into the bush with a pool and a cook that just kept bringing us more and more food. I’m not going to lie, we pretty much spent 5 days eating great food and swimming lazily around the pool with a few beers in hand. By the time we finished breakfast, the cook would ask us what we wanted for lunch, and before we new it, lunch was being served. Not a bad way to spend Christmas. It was tough being away from home, especially since it was Christys first being away from her Grandma Nunny’s house for Christmas ever. On Christmas day, Christy’s only wish was to somehow call home. We were at a house in the middle of nowhere in Africa so it was a tough task. Frank told us all to jump in the car and armed with his laptop and headset, we set off to find an internet connection. After about 30 minutes of driving around with the computer on and wi fi searching, he found a connection.  We stopped the car and with the amazing technology of Skype, we called home! Here we are in the middle of nowhere and Christy can call home to America. Unfortunately, it was still 4am back in Cali so I couldn’t do the same. Anyway, it was a great holiday.

One of the great things about traveling is learning about the different cultures and Politics of a region. The day after Christmas, Christy and I were treated to one heck of a learning experience when we got into a discussion on politics in Africa.  Joining our discussion was a friend of Frank and Martina’s who just happen to be a Kenyan local.  She had a Danish boyfriend who lived in Mozambique working for a cellular phone company (that’s how Frank and Martina know them b/c they too are Danish). So we had white Europeans who live and work in Africa and a local Kenyan who had deep tribal roots to Kenya discussing African politics. Things got heated to say the least and Christy and I just sat there and listened to them for about 3 hours. We learned so much about the local’s viewpoints on things and how really screwed up things are in Africa. It was a conversation that I won’t ever forget.  Rather then get into the lengthy discussion, just ask us about it when we get home!
We booked our flight out of Africa for December 27th, not knowing that it was election day in Kenya and not knowing that there were talks of riots. We were planning on taking an 9 hour bus from Mombasa to Nairobi but after talking with the locals, they did not think it would be safe if riots broke out. They do things different in Africa for elections, you go to the polls and vote and if the person you voted for doesn’t win, you start burning things down and causing complete mayhem. After hearing about this, we decided to fly straight to the Nairobi airport so if riots did break out, we would safely be at the airport. (See Becky, I’m always thinking about the safety of your daughter). We had no problems on our travel day and after 28 hours of traveling we were relaxing in Malaysia.

Unfortunately, things did get very ugly in Kenya almost immediately after we left. Riots broke out everywhere and many people were killed because of the “rigged” election. Even the town we were staying in prior to leaving was damaged and some building were burned. We got an email from our friends who were still there and they said if we wouldn’t have left that day, we could have been stuck in Kenya for a couple of weeks. We definitely dodged a bulled there, literally and figuratively.

Lions, Elephants, and Cheetahs…Oh My!

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Most people come to Africa, go on a week safari and then head out. We had been in Africa for six weeks and had yet to see a large game animal. This was all about to change though as we left Lake Ayasi where the Hadzabe tribe lived. Seeing your first large game animal is a weird experience. We have all seen them in pictures and at the zoo, but to see one just cruising around in the wild is a strange and surreal experience. Our first was a Giraffe, we weren’t even in the national park yet and we saw one off the side of the road. After a four hour drive on a dirt road we arrived in Lake Natron which is home to millions of pink flamingos and live volcanoes. It felt like we were back in prehistoric times with a volcano going off in the distance, nobody around for as far as the eye can see and large game animals like the wildabeast all around you.

The following day we spent watching the baboons in the trees and doing a hike to a beautiful waterfall that we could swim in and cool off. While watching the baboons we were approached by three Swahili kids who are always interested in “the white man”. The main reason that they are interested is because they think all white people are made of money and they love to come asking for some. One of the boys who was 16 was very curious about us and what we were doing there. When we told him we came from America to look at the baboons and all the other animals he had a very confused look on his face.

“don’t you have baboons in America”, he asked.

“no we don’t.”

“What about elephants?

“No elephants.”

“and giraffes and hippos” he asked

“no we don’t have any of these animals in America.” I said

He was very confused. Someone who has always lived with all these animals around you ,just figured that they were everywhere in the world. He then proceeded to throw rocks at the baboons because for them they are a nuisence where for us they are a source of great amusement.

The following day we drove four more hours on an even rougher road and finally ended up at the entrance to the Serengheti park. It was a thrill to finally be at the park after 3 days of driving on dirt roads. We entered via the north entrance which is seldom visited so we had it all to ourselves. It was AWESOME, driving on a dirt road with beautiful scenery all around you and then boom, you see a huge herd of wildabeast, hundreds of them. Then you look to your right and you see water buffalo and a couple of zebra. What I didn’t expect was how beautiful the Serengheti is even without the animals, just wide open grassland and trees. My brother, always wondered why we wanted to go to Africa, “just go to the zoo its the same thing and a hell of a lot cheaper” Well, after being to both, its not the same. The Serengeti is amazing in its own right just for the shear vastness of the place. I could go on for hours about all the different encounters we had but there is one that really stands out. We left our campsite for a late afternoon drive to find some animals. Things didn’t start out to well as we got a flat in the first hour and had to have it repaired.” Then, after that we really didn’t see much at all. On our way back the sun was starting to set and the colors were amazing and our guide tells us to look out in the distance, a huge herd of elephants were coming our way. We hadn’t seen an elephant the whole time and now there were about 75 coming right towards us. We turned the car off and with nobody else around we sat and watched the herd slowly make there way past us. Some even came right up to the truck so close we could have touched them. It was one of those experiences that you will never forget. The sun setting on the Serengheti, nobody for as far as the eye can see and you’ve got elephants all around, not a bad deal.

Since doing a safari in Africa is very very expensive, we had to go the cheap route and thats camping instead of staying in the awesome lodges. The campsites are set out in the middle of the Serengheti with nothing between you and the animals. Our guide reminded us about 5 times to NOT take any type of food into the tent as the hyenas will rip the tent apart and us with it. Christy was like the food Nazi, she made sure I didn’t even have any bread crumbs on my shirt when we went to bed at night.

On the first night, I was awoken not by animals but by my wife whispering in a freaked out whisper “the animals are all around us, what do we do? my shoes are out there, will they try and eat my shoes? will they try and come in? Since I’m not a Hyena expert by any means, I decided the best thing for us to do was put in earplugs so we couldn’t hear them and go back to bed. Christy was finally able to get used to the sound of the Hyenas howling and walking around the campsite and she went back to sleep. The next morning our tent neighbor found huge water buffalo prints right by all the tents. Oh, the adventures of camping.

On our final night, we went to the Norongoro Crater and would be treating ourselves to staying in an actual hotel. After camping for nearly 2 weeks straight we were so excited. We didnt realize the place would be so nice and when we showed up all dirty and tired we definitely got some looks from the guests. One of the great things about camping is the feeling you get when you take your first shower and lay down in a nice clean bed. Who cares about the animals, we were in heaven with a shower and a bed.

The next day we did a drive in the crater and got to witness some monkeys attacking a couple of tourists who had stopped to eat lunch. The monkeys jumped on one of the people and took there food. When the guy in the group went after the monkey, the monkey turned around and started chasing him. He freaked out and ran like hell. Christy and I were in the truck laughing so hard we couldn’t talk. It was a great way to finish our Safari.

In all, our safari was definitely a highlight of our travels and something we will always remember. Our next adventure would be taking the public bus across the border to Mombasa, Kenya to stay with our friends for the holidays. And let me tell you, taking public transportation in Africa is much scarier than any animal in the Serengheti.

Going back in time……. way way back in time

Sunday, January 6th, 2008
We started our safari off not by going to see the animals straight away, but to see the Hadzabe tribe which is one of the last hunter gatherer tribes in East Africa. This means that they basically roam around out ... [Continue reading this entry]

The top of Africa…… Mt. Kiliminjaro

Sunday, January 6th, 2008
We were excited and nervous about our 7 day trek to climb Mt. Kiliminjaro. From the town of Moshi, which is right next to Kili, you could see the top and it looked like a very, very long way up ... [Continue reading this entry]

Pemba, A Scuba Diving Paradise!

Saturday, December 22nd, 2007
We still had two weeks of traveling to do before our big Kili hike and safari, so we decided we would make our way to the islands for some R&R. We left Loshoto after a short two-night stay (we were ... [Continue reading this entry]

“Where are your teachers?”

Friday, December 21st, 2007
After a relaxing five day stay in Amani, we decided our next destination would be the western side of the Usumbara mountains-Amani is on the eastern side.  We had heard of a farm in Loshoto that produced it's own jam, ... [Continue reading this entry]

Emau Hill and some amazing people

Friday, December 21st, 2007
We left our lovely beach paradise in Pimponi with fears of more African public transportation nightmares. Luckily for us, there was a school from Dar Es Salam that was camping at the grounds in Pimponi where we were staying and ... [Continue reading this entry]

A picture is worth a thousand words

Saturday, December 1st, 2007
Just wanted to let everyone know we finally found a computer in Africa that is fast enough to upload pictures. We'll update the blog in a few days when we get more time. In short, we camped in the Usumbara ... [Continue reading this entry]

The Dhala Dhala adventure

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007
Pimponi, where we are currently staying is a small town, not really town per se but a jumble of huts by the sea in Northeast Tanzania. Were staying at a really nice place called Pimponi beach lodge. They are like ... [Continue reading this entry]

Welcome to Africa

Tuesday, November 20th, 2007
We left Rome on not the most direct route you could take to get to Africa. We Went Rome-Milan-Dubai-Nairobi. In Dubai we had a 10 hour layover and best of all we arrived there at midnight so it was a ... [Continue reading this entry]