We are so excited to see Aunt Karen!  She had messaged that she arrived safely the day prior to our arrival…care of my $1000 mistake of dates when booking our trip!  Karen would wait for us in Arusha.  After a VERY long overnight flight from Casablanca —via some random stop in the middle of the night in the middle of Africa….the plane landed…all the “suits” got off….and then a few more people got on….no idea where we were…and it wasn’t on my itinerary…but hey…whatever.  Air Moroc….you never know!  Back in the air in a mostly empty plane we settled in to sleep.  We each had our own row and a pillow and a blanket = HEAVEN on an overnight flight……full moon and all..

….except after 3 hours of sleep/flying…we were landing again?  What?  In was 12:30 am and I expected to land at 2:30 am.  NOPE….again, not the itinerary I was expecting but whatever…we landed safely so all was well.  Again in the dark, we are in Nairobi airport.  I have memories of this place the last time we were there and Rich almost got hauled off to jail for trying to steal rocks!  This time, all the staff were asleep on the chairs and the floor…we walked right through security and into an area to try to find a lie down spot.  I got the chairs, Rich and the kids got the window sill.  Again, pillows and blankies make everything better.  An hour and a half of sleep and I am woken by Wilson saying ‘Mom, Lulu is hurt, she needs you’…what?  ‘I tried to wake Dad up but he won’t budge’….seriously!!!!   ARGH!  Lulu’s foot had fallen asleep and she was in tears.  ‘I can’t move it’ ‘it hurts SO much’ ‘what if I can’t walk and need a wheelchair’….OMG!

SO – literally 5am…..crying youngest child….tired but trying to be helpful eldest child…and snoring husband….all on the window sill…contemplating my current visit to Nairobi airport!  CLEARLY NOT my favourite place!

Rich finally wakes – to find Lulu in even more hysterics because guess what…today is day two of taking Malarone.  Yesterday morning was tears, hyperventilating and basically spitting out the ½ chewed pill in the toilet in Casablance.  This morning is more tears, more hysterics and begging …despite smart mom’s plan of bringing Nutella and hiding the pills in a huge spoonful!  Through the drama…. finally a very mature conclusion by Miss Lauchlyn.  Through the sobbing she says ‘Sorry Mom,….I wanted to see Karen…but I guess I won’t.  I don’t want to die (of malaria).  I wanted to see elephants and animals….I am sorry Mom but I was made weird and I can’t take pills….I guess I have to go back to Canada.’  WHAT!!!!?????  Oh and ‘I am really really sorry Mom but you have to come with me to Canada and then back…because I am a kid and they can’t travel alone!!!!…..so you will miss a day and you will be very very very tired!’  HA Ya right!

NO PICTURES….not worth remembering!

Oh my…we are tired…but finally choked down the pills….made a few apologies for the mean words that we both used as tactics to inspire and deny the pill taking…..and we are boarding a “bush” plane to Arusha….the second half of my $1000 mistake!  The flight was smooth AND we got bulkheads AND we got see Kilimanjaro from the air!…YEAH MOM!  Thanks for the $1000 “bonus” flight.

Landed on more African soil.  This feels familiar…and SO comfy.  We are so excited to be in Tanzania.  Nicholas met us at the Arusha airport.  He will be our driver for the next 11days!  He is genuine, kind and has an amazing laugh.  The kids took to him right away.  Wilson sat in the front seat next to him for the drive to see AUNT KAREN!!!!  She was waiting at the Hotel Mermu in Arusha….glam!  HUGS AND HUGS AND HUGS

On the road after our briefing by Clement – the owner of Warrior Trails.  He is Masi and has a lot of connections across Tanzania where we will be travelling.  A trip to the ATM for Tanzanian shillings —we are millionaires!!—(again, ATM card didn’t work but one of our VISAs did…phew) and a stop for some chips at the supermarket….travelling with Deb = CHIPS!

Our first stop is Maromboi a VERY posh “tented camp” on the edges of Lake Manyara.  But first was an afternoon/early evening game drive at Tarangire National Park.  Tarangire is known for elephants and baobob trees….it didn’t disappoint.

We are in “pinch-me” mode here….can’t believe we are here with Karen and our kids!  Can’t believe we are seeing such beautiful animals up close!!!  We enjoy every minute.  Here are some pics.

A late night swim in the pool at Maromboi (no one but Canadians would swim – in the dark – about 21deg out…but hey…the kids really really wanted to and it has been a long day!).  No pictures (b/c it was dark) but let me tell you…the water was FAB and the epic experience was swimming while hundreds of BATS flying around you and dive bombing the water….CRAZY!

Day 2 -Another game drive in Tarangire…..amazing.  Here are more highlights.

Day 3 -A long drive through the Ngorongoro National Park into the Serengeti.  Rich and I remember the crater of the Ngorongoro very well…and it didn’t disappoint…seriously AWESOME view.

We will go down into the crater near the end of our safari.  For now we picnic at the edge.  This is along the very famous rift valley.  Nicholas teaches all of us about the beginning of humanity, archeology dig sites in Ngorongoro and the history of the area.  The picnic was highlighted by Nicholas teaching us about the black kite – a very large bird that was sitting up on a dead stump watching us.  Nicholas said “watch you sandwich” “ the bird is well known for coming down and snatching it from your hands”!  WHAT!  Seriously?!…well…we didn’t get ‘Seriously’ out of our mouths and with me standing in front of Nicholas and Wilson and Lulu sitting on the log….the kite swooped down….I screamed….Lulu and Wilson ducked…Nicholas covered his hand over his food….but in an instant….THE MASSIVE BIRD STOLE NICHOLAS’ chicken!  Right from his hand!  It happened SO fast…Wilson handled the whap upside the head he got from the attacking bird with class….no tears…just laughs!  And we finished our box lunches (which by the way are totally posh…sandwich, chicken piece, drink, snacks, fruit..whatever) hovering over eachother and covering up our food 100% of the time….oh and taking pictures (secretly hoping the other unsuspecting guests who just arrived at the picnic stop don’t know about the bird danger…and we can witness it with camera in hand!) HAHAHAHA

The drive was very long and BUMPY and cool along the rim but hot when we got onto the “endless plains” of the Serengeti.  Karen is in awe of the vast expanse of this tremendous park.  Rich and I are remembering lots and super excited to share with the kids.  More animals and the BEST African sunset on the way to the camp.  We are already ticking “must-sees” off of our lists!

The first safari camp in central Serengeti is called Osupuko, the Masai word for natural paradise.  It is a tented camp and our first experience with “talk showers”…this means a man warms up water and adds it to a small tank hanging outside our tent, he calls to you “Ready for shower?”….you answer YES…and then he stands behind your tent asking if you want it hotter or colder while you shower!  The shower has two chains, one to pull for on, the other for off.  The water is warm, the tent is very clean, the bed is comfy, there is electricity, the toilet flushes….we are HAPPY.  Karen, Lulu and I share the “girls” tent while Rich and Wilson sleep next door.  The kids are a little nervous about sleeping with the animals.  We get a brief from the lodge owner re:NEVER walk at night without a guide, NEVER let the kids walk alone night or day, ALWAYS check your surroundings and around your tent for animals, KEEP all food outside of your tent (in their kitchen area) and ALWAYS do up the zippers! (there are mice etc that get in)

Osopuko tented camp

…the girls room!

The talking shower!

…warm water and pull cords from the shower head

Our first night was met with poor sleep due to the flapping of the tent sides in the very strong Serengeti winds.  The girls didn’t hear any animals…the boys only heard Rich’s snoring!  Apparently elephant have been around…but not that night.  We enjoyed an awesome breakfast – the usual is cereals, muffins, breads, fruit, bacon/sausage and omelette with coffee or hot chocolate.  Bellies full we head out on safari.  It doesn’t disappoint with giraffe, elephants, lions, cheetahs, hyenas, birds-small ones, herons, storks, vultures, eagles, ostrich; antelope – Thompson gazelle, Grant gazelle, Topi, Reedbuck, DikDik, Sternbok, Elan,

Tired and dusty we eat supper and get straight to bed -with earplugs tonight b/c it is windy again….but….

OMG!
Karen and I reading before bed in our tent (lulu sleeping)
We hear scratching on tree out front
Then a growl noise
…getting freaked out
They give us a walker talkee to call for escorting (can’t walk alone at night)
Use it??
…naw….let’s be brave!
I text Rich (he’s in the next tent over with Wilson)…silence!
Going to go to bed
One last pee (bathroom at back of tent…we went together 😜)
Tucked in bed…when…
OMG the animal is at the back of the tent …and it sounds like it is showering in our water tank
Call Karen…use the walker talkee and call….say there’s an animal around tent 7!!!!
She calls!
They ask us “is it in the tent?! WHAT?? NO!!
It was an elephant!
Don’t worry ….
Karen and I fought it off! (Aka Cowered in our tent over lulu while a hottie masi chases him with a stick!)…he reassured us “it’s just an elephant-he’s our back drinking from the water tanks…want to see him?!”
Hell YES!
Here’s the pics
Ps…we laughed a lot
Peed a lot
Bonded a lot
Rich slept!
Night night!

Karen and I did actually get a good night sleep after the laughter settled down.  Lulu was disappointed we didn’t wake her up.  Rich says they heard the growl sound and didn’t have any water to flush the toilet and heard the truck and the saw the lights…but…didn’t think much of it and went to bed!  Today we drive to the northern Serengeti.  It is a 7hr drive on VERY VERY bumpy roads….sometimes it looks like we are driving on a river bed

 

We do a game drive along the way and see two female lions right off the bat!

 

Lots of other animals…some same and some new – crocodiles, hippos.  We have to make a stop at the garage (seriously in the middle of NOWHERE) to weld some loose parts back on our truck…hot out here in the late morning sun!

Serengeti animals…some more

We arrive at MaraKati tented camp (#2) at 6pm.  The sun is going down, we are exhausted and totally dirty and rattled from the crazy drive.  This camp is much like the Osupuko camp with individual tents (doubles or triples) and a main kitchen tent.  There is a campfire and we visit with other guests before having supper – pumpkin soup and fresh buns, avocado salad, pork chops, beef stew, potatoes, rice and veggies and then vanilla cake for dessert.  We crashed into bed….hopeful for less wind or wild animals tonight.

The girls tent enjoyed a very restful sleep – no wind!  We loved hearing the hyenas talking (sounds like laughing) to each other —it is quite a racket but fun to hear.  The background hum of the grunting wildebeest lulled us to sleep….there are THOUSANDS of them.  This is why we are here in the north part —to see the migration of wildebeests across the Mara river.  I am SO excited…another wish list item!

After warm “talking showers” that were warm and glorious…we opened the screen door of the tent…only to find two zebras right outside grazing on the grass.  These must have been the hooves that made the galloping noise just between our tent and Rich/Wilson’s just before our showers.  They are beautiful.

zebra grazing outside our front door

kids having a pic in front of zebra

our favourite tented camp – Osupuko

Today we are out to see a river crossing.  We spent an hour and a half waiting for the herd of 1000 wildebeests to gather together to cross.  We sit with a few trucks up on the hill and wait.  Nic is happy…this is a BIG herd.  We are excited…and when he says …OH…GO!….the jeep takes off and we speed down the side of the hill to see the crossing….AMAZING!!!!

dry crossing

..the waiting of the jeeps!

the everlasting row of wildebeest crossing the river

A bit early back to camp for showers (so sweaty and dusty…and tired…considering all we do is sit around!) ….and facials care of aunt Karen…while the boys played some soccer.  A great day.  Another great supper and early to bed.  Not many animals heard tonight…a restful sleep.

We are still in the northern Serengeti chasing wildebeest crossing —two dry and two wet crossing, one drown wildebeest…no crocodile attacks….

Lots and lots of other animals including leopard, lioness and cubs (Rich has pics), elephants, giraffes, warthogs, hyenas, antelope and many many birds

…more pics from Rich…it has taken so long to get these uploaded (I give up!)

Next, we sleep at a new camp – Kenzan Camp…..maybe not as nice as the last two tented camps…but we will see.  Another bush talking shower (they are warm!) and some chill time doing homework with kids …THANKS AUNT KAREN for becoming teacher…and then off to supper.  Today’s treat was a cold coke/diet coke/sprite from the airstrip (they have flush toilets!) and DAIRY MILK BAR…..seriously perfect box lunch!

We finish watching wildebeest crossing in Northern Serengeti…two wet crossing and two dry crossing.  It is really impressive to sit and wait and watch the hundreds of wildebeest organize themselves and then finally get brave enough to cross.  It literally takes just one to step across (often guided to the river’s edge by zebra…but they are too chicken to cross first!)…and then one after the other in a very long line up they run/swim across the river after one another.  This morning we witnessed one drown in the deep water….we didn’t see a croc take it down…but there are hundreds of them in the water.  The kids cheered on the little wildebeest swimming and running next to their moms…it was a great experience to see and hear.  We did get silly waiting and watching ….and made our own version of wildebeest tv (stay tuned b/c I don’t know how to attach any videos!)

Back to Osupuko tented camp….looking forward to another animal adventure at night!  The workers at Osupuko greeted us very warmly.  We were like family!  The Maasai man who saved Karen and I from the elephant last time , Moses, had beaded bracelets for all of us and a special present for Rich – a talking stick.  Apparently in the Maasai tribe…the talking stick belongs to the chief!  Ha!  We will let Rich roll with that out of respect for Moses.  His wife Jallala made us the bracelets and Moses told us all about the Maasai tribe traditions….including growing up, becoming a warrior, getting married (to more than one wife) and his children! The evening was topped off with another one of the other Maasai guys pointing out how nice Rich was to his wives!!!!!  OMG!  He believes Karen and I are BOTH Rich’s wives!  We laughed and laughed!

Karen and Lulu and I shared the girls room again.  The night wasn’t a disappointment…we heard animal noises outside the tent.  As we promised – we woke up Lulu to hear what we thought was an elephant out back again…rustling, knocking into the side of the tent…then nothing.  We all tried to go back to bed.  Lulu successful in a few seconds, Karen and I were drifting off when ohuh…there it was, louder and more persistent this time.  Ok, Karen, make the call…Karen called but no answer –we were doing this on our own this time! …lucky for us…the beasts went away…remarkably quietly …and we all had some sleep.  In the morning…we found out this time it was buffalo!  One of the most dangerous African animals!  I am glad we didn’t go out of the tent!

buffalo poop!

Lulu being not so enthusiastic about taking Malarone..even in Nutella

Today we are leaving the Serengeti headed to the Ngorongoro crater!  Rich and I remember it being stunning.  We are all looking forward to seeing a rhino.  As we head out of the Serengeti we are looking for a few other things off our list.  We want to see a lion kill AND a pride of lions.  ….and….

 

Our first of two prides of lions!

…more Serengeti pics and the lion as she is stalking her prey (the females do all the hunting!)

Warrior trails surprised us this morning with an upgrade to the Lake Masek Luxury tented camp…it was a luxury!

Ngorongoro Crater wasn’t quite how we remember it.  It was really really beautiful as we drove down the CHAOS bumpy road into the crater.  The animals were fewer…but we did get up close to some hippos at our picnic lunch and then from a great distance we did see a rhino!  All things now checked off the list!

Hippos at lunch picnic spot

Our last night on safari was at The Farm House Valley resort….complete with a pool and a tour of the coffee plantation on the property.  We had great coffee, bought lots of curios…ate well and slept great!  One last crazy bumpy road out of the Ngorongoro Conservation area, a few stops for curios and then to the Kenyan border.  Boma Nairobi hotel ….room service….pack and GO TO BED.  Bye bye Karen…we will miss you SO MUCH!  Off to Capetown.

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