Trip Start Sep 01, 2004
Trip End Apr 25, 2005

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Hi Guys,

It's time to tell you about the second half of our safari, in Tanzania. Same truck with the same people but we have added another truck with a smaller group that has been on the road longer and does not really want to associate with us much. We have been warned that they feel as if they are just way too cool for us newbies. Group dynamics are so interesting. I make a vow to myself and JoAnn that I will try not to kill any of them over the remainder of the trip(it only got close twice, but I was strong enough to hold myself back). It's crystal clear to me that there are reasons that JoAnn and I don't normally travel with Groups. Our original Group has bonded well and we enjoy these folks a lot. The other two young couples let us hang out with them and the singles seem to free float.

We leave Niarobi and drive south to the border of Tanzania. Tanzania is supposed to be behind Kenya as far as advances are concerned, but they sure could teach the Kenyans how to maintain their roads. The border crossing was uneventful but it felt strange crossing the 100 yard, "No Mans Land", between the countries. A few more hours on the road brought us to Arusha which is a busy city that feels more tightly wound than Naiorbi did. Maybe just more desperate. We setup camp in a walled enclosure with armed guards patrolling the grounds. There were quite a few big trucks like our two and the place felt more like a summer camp for adults than anything very restful. We, of course enjoy the remote camp grounds the most.

This is where our Group breaks into smaller teams of 3-6, and transfers to Large Toyota Landcruisers for the rest of our adventures. This is like a sub contractor that is a little below standard for our taste. The vehicles are maintained poorly, the staff is not trained well, and the food is not up to Joseph's high standards. We are making this change because the big trucks are not allowed to go down the steep dirt road into the Ngorongoro Crater. At least we have Julius along to watch these jokers.

The road to Serengeti is long, but very well maintained. Once we enter the park it's a completely different story. The Serengeti is this huge plain that is crossed by a flat, washboard gravel road. It reminded me of crossing Nevada for hours and hours, and just seeing a few animals, Masai villages, and the mountains at the far edges. We were the last vehicle and on the way down to the flat Serengetti we broke down. The vehicles don't stay in a convoy so we were lucky that ours had a radio to call for the others to return and help us. Our Landcruiser had three tools in case of a breakdown. A pair of side cutters(pliers), a razor blade in the drivers wallet, and a small rock to use as a hammer. Remember, I did say they were a sub par outfit. The problem was electrical and the assembled drivers seemed to be aware of past identical problems. After beating on the battery posts for awhile with the rock, with no success, they got some help from a friendly driver of a more upscale outfit that stopped and explained the problem. One of the kids in our group had a small roll of electrical tape and they were able to twist some wires together and make the vehicle run. We still didn't have anything going to the battery so we had to be pushed by another vehicle every time we stopped or the engine died. Now at least another vehicle stayed pretty close to us. We had lost time on the repairs so the drivers increased their speed and we flew across the Serengeti about 40 mph too fast and met everyone at the entrance gate a couple of hours later. We waited for a long time at the gate for our last vehicle to join us. Finally another companies vehicle came along and we got the news that 15 minutes after our repair job, our last vehicle had went too fast around a corner and rolled multiple times. The three kids had been injured and were being taken to a lodge back toward Arusha and they had an airplane with doctors on board ordered to pick them up. The next day we found out that two were serious and being flown to Nairobi, and the third just had cuts and bruises and would connect with us on our return. The news took the wind out of everyone's sails and I think it was a wake up call for a lot of the kids. There is no such thing as seatbelts in Africa and I always feel naked without one.

We continued on across the Serengeti and things started to slowly get greener with trees and brush. As we got closer to our camp. Sean (the guy from Australia with super keen eye sight) kept spotting nice animals. We got into camp late and dinner was poor. At least the drivers seemed scared now and drove safer. They told us not to go out of our tents at night because they were having trouble with the lions. Sure enough just before everyone went to bed three large females wandered into camp. The drivers chased them out with one of the Landcruisers, but I don't think anyone got up that night to go to the long drop (latrine).

The next morning we were picked up at 5:15, with about a dozen others, to go on our balloon ride. They took us to a very nice lodge, that had real bathrooms with flush toilets, and we met for the trip. We drove for about thirty minutes in the dark and as it was just getting light enough to see we arrived at the location that this huge balloon was being filled. We have never ridden in a balloon and felt that riding across the Sergengeti at sunrise with all of the animals below us would be just about perfect. Another one of those special times. We weren't disappointed. The ride was wonderful and the pilot knew how to spot the animals from the air. After the landing we were taken to this long table under a huge tree with nothing but animals to see in any direction. It was a white linen table cloth with real silverware and linen napkins kind of breakfast. We were served by guys all dressed in costume and the champagne was great. I think everyone was so excited and amazed they didn't want to leave. It was a great production.

We returned for another game drive, returned to camp, packed up and headed for the crater. The return drive across the Serengeti seemed to take forever. That night dinner was poor again with not enough to go around. The next morning we drove down into the Ngorongoro Crater. It really feels as if you have entered a lost world where the animals seem to really thrive. There are tons of animals in the crater but I enjoyed the elephants the most. The huge males with the long tusks make all the elephants we had previously seen, small in comparison. Sean spotted three lions waiting in the grass for a kill. A small herd of zebras were moving downwind right towards them. We watched for almost an hour as the zebras got skittish, move back and then progress towards them again. Finally they walked right past the lions without incident. Our guide told us the lions had to be no farther than ten feet from their prey or they wouldn't even try to attack. Another lion fact is that they crush the windpipe of their prey, with a blow to the neck, to kill them. They then eat the insides and save the remainder for later.

We left the next day, returning to Arusha. We spent the night at the same camp in town and got up early to return to Nairobi. The border crossing went well and we got back to Nairobi in time for a late lunch. We read our emails for the next leg of our journey and said our good byes to all the kids. We were invited by Sean and Kylie to visit them on the Gold Coast of Australia when we get to that part of the world, and it sounds like great fun.

It's time for the next leg of our journey so we take a taxi to the train station for our night train ride to the coast. The train ride is famous for seeing all of the wild animals out the window and the nice meals served. Things look a little worn out when we board the train. The dinner was OK, but nothing that Americans would appreciate. I guess that because we have been on the road for awhile our standards have been significantly lowered. We awaken very early and the train is stopped in a very small town station. After a series of questions I find that a freight train has derailed ahead of us and they are trying to figure out a course of action. An hour later they have decided than once officials in Nairobi get to work and give them permission, they will try and hire buses to transport the passengers on to Mombasa, on the coast. Recognizing that everyone is moving in slow motion I move into fix it mode. I find a small minibus down the tracks, hire it to take ten people to Mombasa at $5 each. I find eight more people on the train that are anxious to leave and we take off for the three hour ride to the coast. We have a flight to Lamu scheduled when we arrive in Mombossa and are very anxious to relax on the beach. Once we get to the airport in Mombassa we find that our flight is going to Malindi in a small prop plane, not to Lamu. We take the flight anyway because it's at least going north on the coast in the right direction. I sit in the co-pilot seat and quiz the pilot about options. He tells me there is a flight right behind us coming in from Nairobi, going to Lamu. We land in Malindi, jump out, buy two tickets and rush to the plane and thirty minutes later land in Lamu. From the airport it's a thirty minute dhow ride to our guest house, where we crash. Don is so tired he doesn't even get sick on the boat. Welcome to Lamu, on the equator, and always hot.

As always, write when you can. We miss everyone.

Don and JoAnn
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