Today was a bit of, well a lot of, a rush day to get to the airport. Lulu and I slept in a bit more as it was another crappy (literally) sleep due to the stomach flu we had. At this point we were getting afraid. We didn’t know how we were going to fare on the long flight to Tanzania with the Bulgarian Bowel Attack.
The trip took us to Chad and then onto Tanzania, and we totally scored as the plane was half full the whole way and each one of us had an entire row of seats to crash out on. Perfect! The plane was totally old school in that there were no screens in the backs of the seat, rather they dropped down from the ceiling…and to top it off they played silent Charlie Chaplin and Porky Pig – Daffy Duck movies. The kids loved them…hahaha.
However, we had one more flight to go. We landed in Kenya at 2am and had to wait until boarding at 630am. So we hunkered down for a bit of a sleep on the concrete ledges by the windows and in some chairs. Honestly, this is the first time that we have ever done this, and I couldn’t believe that we actually slept in the Kenyan airport. This was a first for all of us.
I realized that there are three crucial areas that need cushioning on me. Head, shoulder, and hip. I had two pillows so I had to pick. Eventually the “chase the numbness” game grew tired and I lay on my back and asked for forgiveness from the people around me as I know I would have subjected them to my snoring.
The place was full of sketchy characters at that time, but I guess we just hugged our passports and wallets and hoped for the best. The kids said that they didn’t sleep well, and that I slept very well. So well in fact, that Wilson had to go to the bathroom, and tried to come over and wake me up just down the ledge from him, and he was supposedly seriously hitting and poking me, and I didn’t wake up. I even didn’t wake up when Lulu joined the assault. Of course, when I came to, the first words out of my mouth were, “I didn’t sleep very well, so it is going to be a grumpy daddy day”. That didn’t win me any points. I told Lulu that next time she could just stick her fingers up my nose. “Gross” was her reply.
So, off to the bathroom for another first. Went to the bathroom to continue the Bulgarian Attack, but the toilet wouldn’t flush. I figured out that the wires coming from the wall meant that I had to hot wire the toilet… touch the two wires together, sparks flew, and voila! Flush-o-rama! When in Kenya, do as the Kenyans do I guess…
Eventually it was time to go and get on our next flight to Kilimanjaro airport. Deb and I had to take this flight by mistake due to a slight miscalculation in dates. It ended up being a great mistake, other than not being with our safari mate, Karen Craig, for an extra day.
Even though it was cloudy, we were able to see Mount Kilimanjaro rising through the base layer of clouds and then it was clear to the top other than a little cloudy frosting. Awesome memories come flooding back of Deb and my climb to the top on November 4th 2002.
We get off the plane and go through security in Kilimanjaro, and we found our guide, Nico from Warrior Trails. He was getting worried as we were the last ones out of the airport and everyone else. But nonetheless, he was cheerful and gave us a big happy welcome to Tanzania. He was dressed in his safari garb and looked like a big happy teddy bear, so the kids instantly fell in love with him.
We were so happy to meet up with Auntie Karen at the hotel in Arusha. For those of you who don’t know Karen, she was a nurse that worked in Huntsville for several years during our early years in Huntsville, but then returned to her homeland of Ireland to continue on with her work as a nurse and to be closer to her family. I guess we weren’t family enough for her (hahaha). Over the years, we have visited her in Ireland, Portugal, and England, and she comes to see us every time she is in Canada. During Ironman Muskoka, she was my righthand woman and kept me in line and sane during that crazy fun time.
Auntie Karen made it to Arusha the day before we did, but when we hooked up with her, her travel fatigue was cured by a good night alone in a nice hotel before we headed out into wild Africa. We quickly dubbed ourselves the Craigholms from Canireland. It is not a very well known country in the northwesteastern hemisphere. But they like to have fun, go on adventures and drink wine.
After a short meeting with Clement, the owner of Warrior Trails, to go over the details of the trip, Nico took us to our home on wheels for the next several days and we headed to the local grocery market to get some snacks before we headed out to Maramboi Lodge and Tarangire National Park to start off our animal hunt with our eyes.
The kids (and maybe me) had a catch up nap en route during the 2h African commute to the park, while Nico gave us a start to our education about the Maasi culture and way of life. The Maasi are the largest tribe in Tanzania, the owner of Warrior Trails (who we did the safari with) was Maasi and Nico knew everything about the Maasi and their culture. So needless to say, they were very knowledgable and enlightening.
On the drive in to the park we passed by a number of children from the Maasi tribe who were dressed up in their colourful scarves and dress that had social status labels associated with it. Little children wore any variety of colours of robes, but not red as that is reserved for the warriors. Boys tend to herds of cattle and sheep as young as 8 years of age, and as they get older, they can take care of more animals. When boys “come of age” around 15, they are given black robes to wear, and have their faces painted black and decorated with white paint that they aren’t allowed to wash off for 6 months while they go for their warrior training and eventual trip on their own into the wilderness.
Once they returned and completed their training, there was a big celebration and they were given their warrior clothes. Men who were blue fabric were showing their appreciation to the sky, to God, and were hoping for rain. , boys who were dressed all in black with black make up and white markings were just coming-of-age and pre-warrior status, and the red outfits marked that you were a warrior and could start to build a family and own animals. The women were in charge of the home, including building it and maintaining it on top of all of the other household chores.
The Maasi are allowed to have more than one wife, and one of the funniest memories of the trip was that we had a conversation one night around the bush TV (the fire) where a Maasi warrior thought that I was married to both Karen and Deb! Haha…Karen wishes…
Alright, back to the trip … Once we arrived at Tarangire National Park, we checked in with the warden and then we headed in along the dusty roads. It was so dry in this park. Rivers that once flowed were now totally dry and dusty. Animals walked along the river looking for whatever pocket of water they could find. You had to close the windows when trucks drove by as you got totally covered in dust.
We were reminded by Nico that we needed to be respectful to these animals and the environment that they live in as we are visiting their home, which I thought was a really good way of putting it. The kids were really excited to see the animals that were all around them and they, at times, couldn’t contain their excitement. We had to remind them of the noise level, especially when they were making more (happy) noise than a herd of 27 elephants walking by.
It wasn’t even 10 minutes before we were lakeside with a group of 7-8 elephants rinsing off from their dirt bath. We were all super excited to see the animals again. We just sat there and took it all in as our first major sighting, not knowing what we were going to be seeing over the next several days.
Over the course of the drive we saw and learned a lot about a number of animals. Zebras, also known as kundomlia in Swahili, have a symbiotic relationship with red and yellow billed ox peckers to keep the bugs off of them. Did you now that every stripe on every zebra is different? They also prefer long grass environments, and have symbiotic relationships with the wildebeest.
The wildebeest provide numbers and sharp horns to protect the wildebeest, while the zebras act like shepards for the wildebeest. During the wildebeest crossings of the Mara River which we saw days later, this was clearly evident as the zebra acted like the leaders in looking at the river to determine its safety, and then acted like crossing guards when the wildebeest eventually got into the river, watching for the massive nile crocs what hovered just below the surface of the water.
We also saw a number of waterbok, dik dik (which led to a funny comment from Lulu … “Daddy, don’t be such a dik dik”… haha… oh she is growing up!), impala, giraffe, monkeys, elan, mongoose, antelope, warthog, wildebeest, and a ton of beautiful birds.
The towering baobob trees were impressive to see again. These are trees that elephants use their tusks to impale deep into the core of the tree after they strip the bark off, to access the large reservoir of water inside. The tree is like an upside down tree where the thick roots are above the ground.
These trees are one of the classic trees of Africa, along with the Umbrella Tree (acacia genus). They are also the source of the Amarula fruit, which they make the delicious African liquor out of.
We were lucky to see two young make giraffes having a fight near a baobob tree for territorial supremacy. It is actually funny to watch a bit as they are fighting without arms, two little horns on the top of their head, and long necks that are whipping around. Kind of like having a fight with your sibling with a really long pool noodle. It was hard to imagine who was going to win the fight as it was in slow motion and almost graceful.
Putting into words what you see is very hard. The feeling of awe and amazement Of all of the animals that you normally see in zoos and on wild animal kingdom TV shows. There are times that you simply cannot take a picture, as a picture would not do justice for what you are seeing.
We came across a tree climbing python which supposedly is a rare site. So much so that it caused a bit of a traffic jam in the park as trucks jockeyed for the best vantage point. And then one of the trucks batteries died, so it made it harder to maneuver. Oh well, the snake wasn’t going anywhere fast. We didn’t know how someone spotted a brown snake in a brown tree with only part of the snake visible. They were probably looking for a leopard and said “Hey, there is a pretty skinny leopard! No, wait! It is a tree climbing python!”
I could go on and on about the animals, the stunning yet arid landscape, and about where we were going….but I won’t. Actually, I can’t tell you where we went as I had no idea where we were other than the name of the park. Driving around the park was fun as there were ups and downs, and all arounds, and there was no way that we could have driven this on our own. Hang on tight!
We spent two lovely nights at the Maramboi Lodge which was about 30 minutes from Tarangire. We had to drive past the Maasi kids tending to their flocks and waving like mad whenever we drove by. They were happy kids who had very little if anything, and I hoped the kids realized how lucky they were with everything that they had, the opportunities provided to them, and the chance to experience this.
Maramboi Lodge was well above our expectations when we arrived. We drove in 4km off of the main highway, and passed by several resident animals including giraffes, warthogs, wildebeest, zebras, and elephants. When we pulled up there were large beautiful thatched buildings and a team of people waiting to take care of us.
You have to understand that the last time that we did a safari trip in Tanzania, we were with another company and were in a big truck with thirty other people. So, the truck pulled up at a lesser known lodge, or a patch of land that was denoted as being a campsite, and we called it home. We pulled out tents and sleeping mats from under the truck, set up camp, and made supper around a campfire and in the kitchen that unfolded from the other side of the bottom of the truck.
This lodge had 5 star rooms with large comfortable beds that looked west over Lake Manyara and animals freely walked past our deck. The kids and Karen slept in one room…well, the girls since Wilson wanted to sleep with either Deb or I, and I wasn’t invited into the estrogen dominant room…under mosquito net beds with memory foam. Waaaaaay better than the concrete ledge from the night before!
The food was simply incredible and there was a big buffet that they chefs prepared before our eyes and then there was complimentary wine and beer. I didn’t feel like this was the Africa that we were in last time, but I certainly could get used to this!!!
There was also a great infinity pool that we got to enjoy on the second day there as we arrived too late the first day, and to top it off they had happy hour (Karen had her gin fix!) and snacks that we all enjoyed as the sun went down. Wilson got to indulge on the chicken wings (one of his favorites) which were very good, so he almost didn’t need supper after that. Haha.
Packing up after our stay at the lodge, it was funny to see that Karen, who was with us for the 12 days, had almost as much stuff as the four of us combined for the trip (yes Bishops….I am surviving with my minimalist packing and am sticking true to the 4 days of underwear rule).
One of the things that we have to do while in Tanzania is to take Malaria prophylaxis. It isn’t much of a deal for Deb, Wilson, or myself. But for Lulu, who doesn’t swallow pills, she has to take the chewable form, which apparently isn’t very good. So, we have resorted to burying the three tablets that she takes (she needs this to get her dose right) in Nutella so she can choke it down.
After the drama of Lulu’s Malarone consumption finished, we packed up and headed north toward the Ngorogoro Conservation Area and the Serengeti to continue our safari.
Here are some more photos that I couldn’t fit in between the paragraphs…