I woke up at 5:45, breakfast at 7:00, on the road by 7:15am. Today we have ~280 km (5-6 hours) to drive to get to Mikumi. We are using Mikumi as a stop-over on our way to Dar es Salaam, which we will drive to tomorrow. We have the option of taking an afternoon game drive in the Mikumi National Park. Price is still up in the air as it will depend on the number of people that decide to go. We are told probably between $80-$100 a person, which covers the park entrance fee + the car/driver. The game drive should last for 3-4 hours.
When I woke up I noticed my tent was a bit damp, not wet, just damp. It hadn't rained but by the amount of due it seemed like it could have. Packing up the tent is such a dirty task. The 12 metal poles required to erect the tent are heavily rusted so taking them down and packing them just leaves my hands filthy--my newly-cleaned pants now look like they've been worn for the past week. I was happy I didn't unpack the fly--one less thing to worry about this morning. As for the tent...folding it up and rolling it to fit into the soaked canvas bag was a chore. It is a tight fit and the fact that it was pretty saturated with water just made the entire ordeal more of a pain...a filthy pain.
|Even When it Does Not Rain the Grass is Always Covered with Dew--Making Packing Up Our Tents A Very Dirty Task. Iringa, Tanzania|
I got to chat with Kelly for a few minutes today. I walked around the campsite for 15 minutes trying to find the best signal--in most places I had none. I found two GSM networks, one of them showed some signal when I walked to the area behind from where the truck had parked..1 bar. I took 5 more paces, 2 bars. I moved to a clearing where the trees were a bit more sparse, 2/3 bars. I found a rock that was ~8 inches tall, 3/4 bars. It's hard to believe that having my phone 8 inches higher really made that much of a difference, but I wasn't about to argue with what my phone was reading out.
This was by far the best, most successful, experience I've had with Skype to date. The delay was minimal, quality was above average, and we only suffered 1 dropped call--which was promptly remedied.
We are on our way to the Iringa City Center so that a few people can access an ATM, then we leave for Mikumi National Park, where we will be spending our night. Last night was a cool evening, but it is evident that last-night will not be a trend...except for when we get to the Crater, which is ~1500m above sea-level.
The workers at our campsite last night were Maasai. They did not use electricity--Peter (the Aussie) was telling me that one guy took over 5 minutes trying to locate his cabin in the dark. It had to have been near complete darkness and without the use of a flashlight Peter thought this guy was just guessing.
En route this morning we are pulled over again for a routine inspection. They check to see if we have a fire extinguisher, first aid kit, insurance, etc.--just the government trying to collect some more money.
I had been talking to Godfrey and he was saying that in Southern Africa it is easy to access a shopping center where you can expect ice-cream and other frill products. He said that in Eastern Africa, "you never know".
I am really enjoying my book, Dark Star Safari, a story about the author's travels from Cairo to Cape Town. He is currently heading south on a dreadful road to Nairobi. I'm getting anxious to hear about his travels after he arrives in Nairobi as that is the part that I will be able to relate to. I still haven't had the chance to watch any of the videos I brought along--I try during the nights, but it's often too hot so I just try to go to sleep.
We stopped in Iringa for ATMs. Cara, Debby, Vincent, Sonia, and I were discussing how we were a bit upset that we stop in these large cities, yet never actually get to see them. I ask Tabby if I can get dropped of in Dar es Salaam tomorrow and said that I will catch a cab back to camp. We discuss this and it seems it's not an option. Godfrey chimes in--I'm liking him less and less. He's been very grumpy the last several days. Actually, last night he told Stephanie, "I will teach you how to set up your tent yourself" and treated her like a child. He made her feel bad that she had Debby help her. Also, he told us at dinner while in Northern Malawi, "stop asking me things that are in your itinerary and just listen". We have asked things like, "when are we leaving in the morning" and "will we be able to do ___ in ____?".
Debbie, Vincent, and Cara were on-board with being dropped off in Dar es Salaam, but we were told the traffic was too bad and that we couldn't do it. They said they are sticking to the itinerary...but the FUCKING itinerary states we are going to Dar es Salaam. Then for 1/3 of a page the itinerary talks about Dar es Salaam...why would there be such detail when we never actually get to go?
We arrived at our camp in Mikumi around 2:15. We had lunch, hot dogs, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and bread. We went on a game drive--$56 a person. 16 of use went--we took 3 4x4s. It was a 20 minute drive into the park. When we got there it was chaos. We waited for half an hour while our driver was getting tickets. After 30 minutes of nothing, I went in to check the status. The front claimed starting 'today' they are only accepting credit cards. They asked if we had any. I said no and they told me to ask the others. I pretended to go back and ask the others and return saying, "Yup, none of use have any credit cards, if you won't accept our cash, we'll just go somewhere else". I'm not sure this worked, but somehow, 15 minutes later, we were allowed in. This country, and to a large extent the entire continent, is pathetically inefficient.
|Mikumi National Park, Mikumi, Tanzania|
|Known as Fast Food by the Lions...can you see the 'M'?|
Finally, at 4:00pm we entered the park. Our drive started slow, spotting a few impala, zebras, and the like. We came across some warthogs chasing each-other--boy are they energetic little fuckers. Next we came across some wildebeest--they were actually much larger than I had anticipated. I would love to eat one of them! We also saw three buffalo.
|Male Impalas Playing, Mikumi National Park, Tanzania|
I was able to snap a few photos of close-ups of their faces, boy are they interesting animals. I also took a few pictures of one taking a crap...AWESOME! A zebra feeding from its mother, another impala taking a pee...this is an interesting game drive.
Park fees were $30 apiece so I guess the $26 per person went to the vehicle/driver.
|Warthog, Mikumi National Park, Tanzania|
We came across 5 or 6 lions (about half male and half female). They were resting in the heat and had taken to some shade beneath a few trees. We were not able to get a close enough view as they were off of the main path and our driver told us he would get a heavy fine from the park ranger if he went off-road. After the park ranger had driven past we finally took a few 'less than legal' routes closer to the lions. We were there for a short time and then our driver asked, "are you done? we need to leave." I had taken some pretty impressive photos, even with my slow f6.4 zoom lens.
|A Hippo Turning Over in the Water, Mikumi National Park, Tanzania|
On our way back to our camp site/hotel Debby, Vincent, Cara, and I discussed the possibility of going into 'town' tonight. We really want to explore the "African" culture. Long story short, we did not end up going out at night. I am trying not to let these issues get to me though...African culture is...how do I put it...lacking! Their food is whatever they can eat...from casaba plant to fried chicken, to mango/grape soda. I will try to discuss this later in more depth. I have been able to contrast the African American culture to that of Southern and Eastern African culture. I am happy to say that the feelings I have about [the majority] of African Americans are not true about the Africans here. So my hating the fact that Blacks in American can't pronounce the word "ask" and the fact that much of our crime is a result of violent drug-addicted black criminals does not make me racists. I say this becuase it's the Black 'American' culture that is this way...NOT blacks! However, it has become apparent that Blacks seems to feel entitled to charity and their work effort/work and efficiency/effectiveness is ungodly low.
Today, behind the bar, there were 3 people while 4 people were sitting down on the coach talking (and watching TV). These people were all 'employees' of the hotel. Let me ask you, "why does it take 3 Africans to open a fucking bottle of beer for a guest". This is a small hotel with 20 guests (if not less). They have to employee so many of these people becuase they are unable to do the work of a 6 year old white child. I am not being racist, this is the sorry truth. Cara thinks some of it is due to their cognitive deficets, possibly caused by malnutrition during childbirth and early developmental periods.
We are naive to think race is only skin deep. In all other parts of the world, "India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Mexico, USA, Latin America, Greater Asia, and the Middle East" parents protect and raise their children. In Africa the children raise themselves. Once a child is too large to be carried on the mother's back I have yet to see a child with their mother. I have seen 3 year olds running across busy streets, playing in fields alone with older children, and walking alone in certain areas. There is no parenting here. I wonder that if foreign aid was stopped whether the entire continent would just die off? I'm not suggesting that happen, but it's sad that an entire people exist with no self-motivation, no future, essentially no civalized family structure. Just look at how easily they dropped their old customs/culture and embraced christianity. The only culture and historical meaning they had in life has now receded into the darkness of their forgotten pasts.
I see no future here. The country is rich in minerals, and minerals only!
|A Lion Smiles for the Camera, Mikumi National Park, Tanzania|