Mar. 23rd, 2013

tanzanian_tales: (Lion)
Picking up where I left off...

In the last post I mentioned my luck, and where it really kicked in was with our two big carnivore sightings, because not only did we see a lion, we saw four. They were lying in the grass and staring intently into the distance, and it was easy to see why. There was a male impala on the hillside facing them, and they were no doubt thinking about how badly they wanted a late lunch and what the odds were of catching it.

Pictures this way )

Night drives aren't allowed in the park (more on that later), so everyone has to be back in camp or outside the gates by about 6:30. (Since Tanzania is fairly near the equator, sundown is pretty consistent year round.) And that first night is when we discovered the joy of tsetse flies. They. Are. Bastards. They're bigger than I expected, and they bite, though apparently they bite some people (me) more than others. I've since heard that if you take B12 it keeps them away, so next time - if there is a next time - I'm trying that. They only live at certain altitudes, but unfortunately the camps are located at or above that level, because most of the animals avoid it because of the freakin' tsetses. They were worse in Tarangire than anywhere else, though, so at least we got the bulk of them out of the way early.

We arrived at our nyumba and were greeted by the staff with cold wet towels to wipe the dust from our faces and welcome glasses of juice to revive us. Then we were assigned to our tents and given some time to freshen up before dinner. I have to tell you, I loved staying in the tents – although I wish the solar lights had been brighter, because my vision stinks, so even with a headlamp it wasn’t always easy to read before bed. But other than that, they were like little hotel rooms in the woods, with nightstands and shelves and – best of all – showers! I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a shower as much as I did that night. When it was getting on toward dinnertime we wandered up toward the dining tent and joined most of the group around the nightly fire. The smoke helped keep the bugs away, and it was a nice way to unwind with a glass of wine or a beer (or, if you’re me, a Coke) and talk about the day. Then it was time for our welcome dinner, which was also attended by a local bat.

A quick word about food: There was lots of it, and it was good. Chicken and lamb, with some pork and beef, were the main meats, plus there were always lots of vegetables and every night a dessert. My favorite thing about dinner, though, was the fact that every night started with soup, and they were some of the best soups I’ve ever had. I was a particular fan of the several sweet potato and pumpkin soups they served.

Every night over dinner S would give us a rundown of the basic plan for the next day, telling us what time to expect “Jambo, jambo,” or “Greetings, greetings,” the morning wake-up call, and when we needed to be ready for “wheels out.” I’ve never much liked my alarm clock, but I think I’d feel much more affection for it if it called out “Jambo, jambo” instead of buzzing nastily at me.

After that it was off to bed, where I generally typed up some quick notes (I travel with an AlphaSmart Neo for journaling, and I love it), read a little bit on my Kindle and then collapsed in exhaustion. Sometimes P and I would look through our pictures and talk about the day, but we faded out pretty quickly - though I had really bad jet lag for four or five days and would lie in the dark feeling exhausted and trying to sleep and not being able to. It’s not physically strenuous to ride in a Rover all day – and I kind of enjoyed the bumpiness of the roads, because it made it very clear that I was Far From Home – but it is mentally exhausting to have your mind and eyes “on” all day, and since jambo, jambo was usually at 6:00 or 6:30, early to bed made a lot of sense.

Next up: Elephants, elephants and – yes, you guessed it – more elephants.

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