Nairobi, Kenya: (Day 21) Dec-31-2013

We had a feast last night--bread, butter, some type of lental/split pea soup, beef with garlic, rice, pan-fried fish, vegetables, and some chili (pili pili) sauce.  To our  surprise Godfrey made us some pudding.  I am currently being told that it was a 'trifle'.  It was a mild creamy custard tossed with fruits.  There may also have been a biscuit crust.  It was really good.  He made it one other time during our stay on the northern beach at Malawi.  I guess it is a fairly typical--and easy to make--english dish and it is oftentimes mixed with some type of liquor.

I had trouble falling asleep, probably becuase of the coffee I had at dinner.  I had dozed-off for a little while getting ready for the night so I needed a little pickmeup to make it through my meal.  I watched an episode of Doctor Who.  I probably fell asleep for good around 1:00 or so?

SOME COMMENTS ON TRIP:  Some things that come to mind about my trip that I have left out.  I've been too preoccupied by recording the events that occured to discuss any of them in much detail.  During my time at the Maasai Village we went to their primary school, which was a simple wooden building about the size of a small New York studio--probably even smaller (under 300 sq ft.?).  It was positioned just outside their village's protective fence.  The children were in the classroom counting aloud from 1 to 30.  This was on Sunday and I have no clue if this means that the children attend school 7 days a week?  Perhaps they were putting on a show for 'us'?  There children were between 4 and 7 years old, but that's just a guess.

The children were happy to see us and were grabbing our arms, legs, and bodies.  They would reach for my camera with their chubby little hands and try to grab it.  They just wanted to see what I had and play with it.  I took their photos and then bent down to show them their pictures.  They giggled and make funny hand gestures (spasmatic almost) into the air, towards me, towards the camera.  I accidentally bumped one of the young boys in the eye (or nose) with my camera eyecup and I saw that it hurt him.  He started to cry but stopped within 2 seconds.  Had this been in the states the kid would have cried for a while.  Kids are tough here and to a similar degree in all of Africa.  They do not have the support structure from their family/parents that we are used to here.  I don't think I have seen one child cry during my time in Africa.  I had noticed some eye gunk, or mucus, on my camera's eye piece--I wiped if off and hoped for the best.  Many of these kids had yellowish-green mucus running completely down their noses--meeting their mouths.  Like most of the children in Africa both the boys and girls had nearly shaved heads.  The ringworm infections, which spotted their scalps, were clearly visable.

We we informed that the children must attend secondary school away from home.  The goverment provides free schooling to the Maasai within the Ngorognoro Conservation Area.  Becuase of the large area and the decentralized nature of the Maasai villages the kids must be boarded at the schools.  Sending these children to boarding school, though free in tuition, ends up being very costly to the families.  The families must pay for the children's books, transportation to/from the school, supplies, and a uniform.  I asked why the children needed uniforms and the Chief's son explained it to us--it leveled all the children such that the kids could not distinguish which families were 'rich' and which were 'poor'.  The reason I call out 'rich' and 'poor' is becuase these terms are relative to eachother.  One cannot possibly understand what it means to be 'rich' or 'poor' in a given society/culture without some type of level-setting.  Take this for level-setting--A family which owns 100 cattle is very 'wealthy' and they can afford to buy their child new shoes every few years.  A 'poor' can imagine how 'poor' they must be by comparison.

In the event that I ommited the type of shoes the Maasia wear, they have rubber thongs made from recycled automobile tires.

The Maasia don't actually eat the cattle, though they do own them--it is their main source of wealth.  Their status and ability to find wives depends on their cattle.  Also, the woman's family pays the man's family in cattle as a dowry.  The Maasia own cattle (cow), goats, sheep, and donkies.  They eat the goats and sheep.  The man that was showing us his house told us they do NOT eat their cow, but Debby just informed me that her guide told her that they do eat them.  The donkies are used for labor only.  They do NOT eat chicken, eggs, veggies, or fruit!  Sounds like a good diet to me ;).  Just kidding, I am a rabbit--without veggies I wouldn't last 4 days.  They do drink the blood from the cattle however and sell the cows once they have reached maturity.  Cattle is one of their very few assets of the Maasai people.

It's 10:10am and we're en route to Nairobi--we've been on the road singe 7:45am.  We stopped for 30 minutes so Godfrey could pick up something at DHL.  We had 15-20 minutes to get out and look around.  I left the truck to stretch my arms and buy a 1.5L cold bottle of water (cost was only 1,000 shilling or about $0.60).

On our way to the Tanzanian/Kenyan border we stopped on the road due to some commotion.  A person had been stabbed and killed on the side of the road.  The man was being carried out by 6 men.  The police officers were there.  A man stabbed the guy using a Maasai blade...the very same type that I bought the other day.

I knew I would have no issues taking the sword into the states, but I am not sure if I will be allowed to take it with me to Amsterdam.  There are a few options I'm investigating:
   A - I just take it with me, don't declare it, and hope it is not found
   B - I take it with me declare it and convince the agents that it is a relic and not a weapon
   C - I ship it back to myself while in Nairobi.  This can be expensive, so I may want to buy 'more stuff' just so the fractional cost of the shipping to the entire cost of the goods is minimized.
   D - I can take it with me and try to check it in a locker in London/Amsterdam and then pick it up on my way back to the states.  This is the least likely option.

It's just before 1:00pm and we are not in Kenya.  I had taken 0.5mgs of lorazepam and another 0.5mgs of alrazopan 4 or so hours ago.  Appearantly these dosages are too low becuase I still feeel as if I can hike a mountain.  I don't want to take any more even though we stil have 200kms through traffic until we arrive in Nairobi.

It's nice to be back on our truck--It's so much more 'enjoyable' than those 4x4s.  Alot of this trip has involved viewing the countryside during long truckrides.  Stamping out of Tanzania was simple, though we were queued in a line to get into Kenya for well over an hour.  It moved slowly, the person working my line didn't speak english, and it was hot.  Finally it was my turn, we had already filled out the extensive paperwork so the process once I was at the counter went reletively quickly.  I paid $20USD for a transit visa and that was it.  I am not sure for how long the transit visa is good, but I cannot imagine it is less than 1 night.  My flight is just prior to midnight tomorrow so I will be checking out of the country on January 1st, 2014.  The family of aussies (4) all bought single-entry visas which cost 2.5 times what the transit visas did.  They are leaving at midnight on the 2nd.  This just speaks to their mentality.  They are such 'push overs' never wanting to take chances in life.  If their flight is at midnight they have to be at the airport well before that and will have to stamp out tomorrow sometime.  However they were worried that a transit may only be good for 24hrs.  That ridiculousness is another prime example of the people on this trip.  All passports are stamped with the same type of stamp.  You know that type, it has the Money, Date, and Year--the same stamp your old librarian used to use on the punch cards in the back of your books.  There is no mention of 'time' on a visa/passport so the idea of 24hrs vista is ludacrous.  I know this all sounds like I'm being overly-critical, but you have to realize that these are just examples to help draw the picture of many of charecters we have on this trip.  If America ever neded more land, Australia would probably tuck their tails between their legs, give us all their land, and then apologize for having been on it in the first place.  I am not saying people should/need to break the rules to be decent people.  But I DO expect people to think for themselves in a critical fashion and to stop being such goddamn pushovers.  There are always pros and cons when traveling with a group, but it kind of sucks when many of the younger people traveling are mindless sheeple and their herding parents are opinionless pretentious sheep themselves.

On a side note:  I love the ductch.  True there are dutch people I'm not a fan of, but I've met so many along my travels to 'get' (or grok it - props if you get the R. Heinlein reference) their culture   They share many similarities to Americans.  Also, people who are from Berlin are crazy-cool.

On my way out of the Kenyan border crossing building I was being accosted by 16 women in Maasai shalls.  I wanted to buy a couple bracelets so I offered them 300 Kenyan shillings (82 Kenyan shillings to the USD).  They told me 1,000.  After the useless back and forth dribble I got three bracelets for 300 shilling.  Debby and Cara both counted 16 women...that's how many were trying to sell me their products.  They were all the same--the products, not the women--and they would put the bracelets and necklaces on me and tell me how good they looked.  Apparently they were not allowed to come onto the sidewalk of the immigration building because they were leaning towards me.  I wish we were allowed to take pictures at border crossings because this would have been a site to remember.

We're back on the road and Godfrey has told us that the remaining 200kms will take 2-3 hours.  We'll see if we arrive between 3 and 4 though.

Debby and Vincent at our hotel in Nairobi, Kenya
As usual we arrive later than we have been told.  Today we get to the hotel around 4:15.  About half of us stay here and the other half take taxis to their own accommodations.  Nomad orinally stayed at another hotel, but due to the proximity of recent terrorist attack they moved their hotel of choice to this place, which is right in the city center.  Debby, and Vincent are staying here.  Cara and Stephanie need to find a place but most are far away and the few that are available are in unsafe areas.  The cost for them to get a room here was $200.  That is outragous compared to the $72 that I paid when I booked through Nomad.  After much deliberation I extended them an offer to stay with me in my room--I had an extra bed for Stephanie.  Cara stayed up all night becuase she had to leave before 3:00am to catch her 5:40am flight to Dubai.  I had been looking forward to a night alone in peace and quiet with a room to myself--however I would not feel right for a couple of reasons.  First, they should be able to feel safe, we ARE in Nairobi.  Second, Debby and Vincent are both here and we are all planning on going out and spending new year's eve together.

Street signs near our hotel in Nairobi, Kenya
After laying my things down in my room I wrap up the chairs I bought with the 3 top sheets and blankets that I have been 'collecting' from various hotel rooms along my travels.  It's pretty well packed, very heavy, and hopefully sturdy enough to survive the journey through the cargo bays of 4 flights.

I joined Vincent and Debby (as well as Tabby) in the bar for a drink.  They were having chicken fingers and a beer--I had a Kenyan Pilsner beer for 350 shilling ~$4.  These prices are a bit more expensive than what I'm used to but I ago along with it.  Stephanie and Cara join us by the time I'm half done with my beer.  We all chat for another 15 minutes.  We talked about the tour and some of the people on the trip.  We talk about how we all thought there would be more 'young' people on the trip and that the fact that not everyone camped in tents made things very hard for the campers.  We decided it wasn't really the ages that would have made a difference, because Hans and Sonya were older and they embraced life to the fullest.  They are such great people and we talked about how lucky we were to have met them.

Bar in Nairobi, Kenya
I paid my tab and then we all left (excluding Tabby) for the city.  I finished my beer as we walked to the front gate and we gave the empty bottle to the guard in front.  It was around 6:00 (or maybe just before) at this time.  We walked into the city, over a bridge, and went directly to an ATM--I had changed money at the border though.

We walked around a bit and crossed a bar that we had all agreed to go and eat at.  They served different meats straight off the grill.  They offered them just as the skewers or as an accompaniment, which included a meager serving of some type of vegitable, and ugali (with is pap in Zimbabwe).  Every country calls this 'ugali' dish something different.  In place of the ugali you could also get chips (french fries) or rice.

We sat down and saw one other white guy in a field of black faces.  He was sitting alone and we asked if he wanted to join us--he did.  His name was Lawrence and he was from Norway.  He had some free time back at home--so 2 weeks ago he bought a ticket to Nairobi.  He's spending 3 weeks in Africa, but doesn't have an itinerary.  He just come back from the Masa Mara and said it was great.

A SIDE NOTE:  it's 7:40am Jan 1st, 2014 and I've been trying to get internet signal in my room.  The ONLY place that I can comfortably be with signal is near the door.  I have moved my bed 1m closer to the door and am laying down such that my tablet is in the most bottom right corner.  If I move 2 feet away the signal drops to poor and if I move 5 feet away it's to week to connect.  Fuck it, T.I.A.  (this is Africa).

Ok, back to last night...through the course of the entire night, after leaving the hotel, I had 2 small castle lite beers, while the others (except for Stephanie) had quite a few more.  I ordered the 1/4 chicken w/ ugali for 650 shilling (~$8.50 USD).  It was pretty good, but a meager portion, for me that is.  After a bit I ordered a skewer of chicken giblets.  I've never had these and wanted to try them.  They were tough with not much flavor.  Sort of grissely.  I tried to ask what it was but they couldn't give me a straight answer.  I think they were chicken kidneys, but I'm not positive.

After I was seated I had gotten up to look at the food on the grill.  During my walk back to my table 2 women, who were sitting in a group of 6, called me over.  There was a man with the ladies dressed as tacky as ever.  They were asking me where I was from and how long I've been here.  They were being very flirtatious and asked what I was doing tonight.  I told them I was with friends.  They both asked if they could come and join us--I told them we are a close group of friends and don't have any room at our table.  One of their names was Beverly--I can't recall the name of the other.  I said I have been in Africa for well over 3 weeks and asked them what I should do tomorrow.  They told me to go to the Masa Mara.  I told them that I was flying out during the evening and would not have the time.  They asked if I like to have fun--I knew where this conversation was going before it started but I still wanted to treat these 'ladies of the night' with respect.  I told them I didn't understand.  Then they told me they can take me around tomorrow.  They smiled and said "you like fucking?".  I smiled and said I didn't understand.  They said "[they] will fuck me really good".  I thanked them for the gesture but said that I would have to pass  They asked if I was a virgin and I asked them if I looked like I was a virgin and they laughed.  I was still standing up at this point in the main hall of the outdoor bar we were in--only 5-8 meters away from my table so I knew my safety wasn't an issue.  They asked again and then asked why not?  I told them I had a girlfriend and explained how this type of thing is wrong.  They asked why again, as if they didn't fully understand.  I told them that my heart is with her and that it would hurt her and that I would not want her doing the same thing to me.  They looked at eachother and it was at this time that I saw them for who they truly were.  They stopped trying to push themselves on me and told me that I was a good person.  They said that "my type" was rare.  They looked at me as if they thought I had just sacrificed myself for all humanity.  The sole fact that these women stopped trying to hook and respected what I told them helped me to realize that these women are just trying to make a living.  They are not moraly bankrupt but enterprising women.  I told them it was a pleasure talking to them and that I hope they have a good night.  As I walked back to my table they said goodbye and I told them to be safe.

Back at my table we chatted about...well everything.  We saw a very tall and very black man that was dressed in green army fatigues.  He wore a red berret and was held up by two canes that had arm cuffs.  When I looked down I noticed he was missing his left foot.  A man had apprached me and told me ths guy was from the South Sudan and was very upset about the war going on--I am assuming he was involved in the war given his stature, clothing, and injury.  I guess the Sudanese are known for beeing VERY tall.

Cara had wanted a smoke and she had gone over to a table to ask this lady for a smoke.  However there is something you need to know about Nairobi, and Africa to a lesser degree.  Women don't go out.  You see swarms of men together--sometimes you see a man and a women together but they don't sit together like we do in the west.  The concept of dating doesn't really hold here.  When women 'go out' they typically are out in a groups and often are accompanied by 'one' man.  This is the typical pimp/prostitute set up.  As I looked around it amazed me that at least 80% of the women in this bar were hookers.  I think Cara's gesture to go over to the man's table and ask for a light gave the wrong impression.

About 15 minutes after she had walked over to the table the man came to our table and asked me to 'box it' which mean to bump his fist.  It's like when we say 'bump it'.  He asked if could speak to me privately...I obliged him.  He said men are visual creatures and other things that seemed half poetic and half nonsensical, but I knew what he was implying.  He was trying to be smooth about it and trust me he was...very smooth about it.  A translation of his pimp-tastical rhetoric went more or less like this, "I like how the woman sitting across from you looks, what is her situation?"  I am about 75% sure this man was asking if she was available for the night?  I thought it was creepy but I can't blame him.  I mean typically when there are 3 guys out with 3 girls the last thing these people would expect is that they just friends or that some of them are 'dating'.  The assumption here is that we are currently being 'entertained' by some and the other women may just be there awaiting future business oppourtunities.  I said she is not intersted and he got the message and laughed and shook my hand again.  He left and went back to his table.  He approached me 2 or 3 more times over the course of the next 2 hours.  Each time his approach was different, but I respected him for the fact that he didn't go up to Cara or any of the other girls directly.  The more I am thinking about it I don't think he did this on their behalf.  I am quite certain it was that he did not want to show disrespect towards me.

Dancers in a bar on new year's eve in Nairobi, Kenya
There was a live band playing.  There was a guitarist, bass player, a drummer, and at least 8 other people who just danced.  They were all dressed in yellow shirts and the the dancers were just terrible.  Their moves were rythmic, but simple and silly.  They were acting as they were 'the shit' though.  They all had the fake gold chains, flat brimmed hats, sagging pants, rediculous belt buckles, etc. that you would come to expect.  It was a great pleasure watching them.  There weren't people dancing, but this is probably typical since, like I said, women don't go out here in Africa.  One tall man in a muslim-style tunnic and hat danced alone for a bit and then sat down.  There was, however, 1 older woman dancing by herself.  She left NOTHING to the imagination as our new friend Lawrence had pointed out.  She was unattractive, had a large belly, and was letting nothing get the way of her having a good time.  We enjoyed watching her dance.  I had wanted to go back and the rest said they would accompany me.  I told them I was fine to catch a cab alone.  Debby told me that it is customary in Holland that "those who go out together leave together".  I thanked them and we took a taxi back to our hotel.

For 500 shillings we managed to get 6 of us inside a small taxi cab.  The driver wasn't happy about this.  Back at the hotel we sat at the outside restaurant.  We had joined the two from Costa Rica and Tabby.  They had beers and some light fares.  I had chocolate icecream.  Yum!  I went up around 10:45 to relax.  I was dosing on and off.  Stephanie and Cara had showered, I wont shower here--too much work.  Just before midnight I had forced myself to get up and go into the hallway and shake Tabby's hand and tell Vincent and Debby "Happy New Year".  I then went back to bed and passed out.

I must have been sleeping deeply becuase I didn't hear when Cara had left at 3:00am or when Stephanie had left at 6:00am.  I woke up just before 7:00am.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania: (Day 20) Dec-30-2013

It was very cold this morning--some people had trouble sleeping.  I guess I slept through the entire night becuase it wasn't until the morning that I had realized my hands were so cold.  Breakfast was at 6:00--afterwards we loading the 4x4s and went down to the Ngorongoro Crater.  We spent 5 hours or so driving around, at least an hour or so just to get to the base.  I snapped a few photos curbside before our descent, some of a nearby Maasai Village.

Driving to the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Zebras playing in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

The crater was very open, just like I had imagined.  The amount of wildlife was unreal.  Buffalo, Wildebeest, Antelopes, Zebras, and the like flooded the horizon in every direction.  Birds, Hyenas, and Jackels were also very plentiful.  We saw some hyenas feasting on a dead buffalo, some zebras playing/fighting with eachother, and a swarm of hundred+ (maybe a thousand+) flamingos.  We saw some Black Rhinos (3 or 4) but they were so far in the distance that I wouldn't 'really' say that we saw them.  It's a bit of a shame, but I guess seeing 4 of the big 5 is not too shabby.

Hyenas Sunbathe in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
We did see a half dozen Lions throughout the day.  I was lucky enough to witness a male and female sleeping side by side--the male got up and mounted the female. After no more than 10 seconds the female slapped the male lion across the head and roared very loudly at him.  That was the end of that--they both went back to sleep in their original spots.  When lions mate they do this sort of thing every 15 minute or so and continue at it for 3 days.  <kitty porn joke omitted here>.

Male and female lion in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
We drove around a bit more and finally took a lunch down by a lake filled with dozens of hippos.  The birds smelled our food and after a while of stretching my legs I finished my lunch in the 4x4.  Lunch was horrible, just like yesterday's.  A very old, stale, and dry muffin, package of biscuits, a hardboiled egg, one small piece of old dry chicken wrapped in foil, a browning banana, and 1.5 pieces of of bread that had one thinly sliced piece of cheese in between.  Actually the cheese didn't even cover the entire piece of bread.  We also had some sort of juice,  but I didn't drink it.

Birds trying to eat our lunch in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
During our game drive Debby had lost her contact.  She had lost it in her eye, which before today I would have thought was just impossible.  Our driver, Mushaka, didn't understand what a contact was.  After much explanation by Debby our driver just replied, "why you have bad eyes?  You need to eat more carrots".  We just chuckled and went on with our drive.

Divia, Vincent, Debby, and I all tried to sleep on the ride up the Crater but the gravel roads proved too much for us.  There were at least two times when I was just about sleeping when my head nearly smacked our car's roof.  Fuck these roads...and I'm sure our driver isn't trying to make things any better.

We stopped several times for restrooms, for our driver to de-register our car from the park, a craft market on the side of the road, and one time for a diesel refueling.  It's 4:15pm and Marshuka said we still have ~55kms remaining.  The roads outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are paved so the drive is much more comfortable.  We should arrive at camp around 5:15pm.  I'm glad tomorrow is my last day--I'm done with the long drives.

It's wierd becuase when I'm given a chance to relax in my room I get bored and have nothing to do.  I'm gotten so accustomed to 'doing nothing' all day on the truck that I don't know what to do with myself when I have free time outside it.  Partaking in any type of 'active' activity is just too taxing after such long days.

The market we stopped at was such rubbish.  The moment I walked in a man took a shallow wicker basket/dish and walked up beside me.  He tried to talk to me and tell me that everything I wanted I should place inside the tray.  After I was done I will bring it up to the front and he will "give me the best rate".  I told him Jambo, which means hello in Swahili, but that I just wanted to look.  He continued to follow me so I began to walk in circles and retraced my route several times until he realized I was just fucking with him.  He finally left me alone.  I went to talk with Marcia and later to Debbie, and Vince about their products.  Debbie inquired about a bowl--the lady priced it at $65 dollars.  It was easily worth $5, $10 if she really had to have it.  By the time I reached the other side of the shop another guy came up to me with a wicker basket.  I told him Jambo and that I am just looking and am not interested.  A few times I would pick up an item to examine it closer.  The guy would just start rambling about it, trying to grab it and place it into the basket and tell me, "you like, very good price for you".  I picked up a Maasai Sword, just like the one I purchased yesturday and asked, "how much for this".  He went on for 5 sentences explaining me how great it was and how valuable it is.  Then he said $70.  I said thanks and put it back and walked away.  He tried to negotiate with me, but the day had already been too long and I wasn't in the mood for this.  I told him I am not interested, but he continued to follow me around.  I did grab a pair of napkin rings and he tried to take them from me to put in that damn basket he had been carying while following me around.  I said I'll just take it to the front and ignored the guy.  I put it on the counter and asked, "how much?"  The man said $15 dollars.  I countered and said $5.  They both looked at eachother and lauched.  They said no, $15 is best price.  I said no thanks, left the item on the counter, and walked back to my car.  As I walked out the door one man said, "ok $10 for you".  I said nope without even looking at him and kept my pace.  While we were collecting by the car the wicker-basked guy came back and said, "ok $10".  I said no and to leave me alone.  Then he said, "ok, we can sell at your price".  I looked at him and said, "You were greedy, you tried to rip me off and then you laughed at me when I made a fair offer.  You are getting no sale from me today."

Some may think I am being hostile and that I am wasting my time.  My take on it is that "I am providing free education on the subject of business ethics one person at a time".

I think I am developing a cold.  My throat was 'scratchy' for the last 2-3 days, today my my nose is starting to run, and I've just begun to sneeze.  Fortunately I don't stay sick long and should be fine by my flight in two days.

Sunrise near the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Serengeti, Tanzania: (Day 17) Dec-27-2013

We left our campground/hotel at 8:00 in 3 4x4 vehicles.  I hadn't anticipated the day to be so long.  We stopped at a place to pack our own lunches.  I packed lightly as the food was all fried.  I had a hard boiled egg completely encased in fried beef, which looked like an owl pellet, fried beef, fried potato kabbob, and a friend mashed potato roll.

Afterwards we went to the 'chemist' or pharmacy, for Marcia and Divia.  Divia had needed to get anti-malaria pills while Marcia needed ointment for an eye infection she had developed.  We stopped for gas and were on the road again.  We weren't on the road long before we had to stop and let the drivers eat their lunches--we had already eaten them during the drive.  Next we had to stop for more gas.  We also made stops at the Ngorongoro Convervation Region where we had to pay and register for park entry.  By this point it had already been a very long day.  The roads were not perfect, but paved for the most part.  We had traveled ~200-300 kms at this point.  The next 100-150kms were brutal.  They were on unpaved gravel roads--the road/car noise was so loud I couldn't hear the people in front of me.  This continued for 60km or so until we stopped and got out of the car at the entrace of the Serengeti National Park.

Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Entrance to the Serengeti, Tanzania
The Conservational Area had alot of animals in it and it is defined as 'an area within/adjacent' to the Serengeti in which the Maasai people are allowed to reside.  No one is allowed to reside within the Serengeti, other than the lodges/camp grounds.  We drove another hour or so and had to get out and wait to register once again.  Africa is so person to collect the payment, another to staple the papers, another to take a shit, another person just to wipe your ass.  We were back on the road and we arrived at our camp site around 7:30.  Only an 11.5 hours day.  Not too shabby...ha--and here I thought it would be a 3-4 hour drive.

We are staying deep within the Serengeti.  I heard our guide tell us that it's in the center.  Godfrey joined us on our 3 night excursion, but we are with another tour company for this adventure.  It's 9:20pm and I finished dinner and am now in my tent.  I was lucky enough to have my own tent.  I guess it's becuase all other guys are traveling with a companion/family member.  I am not complaining though.  my windows are closed becuase I saw lightening in the muggy in here right now!

Tents at our camp site in the Serengeti, Tanzania

There had to be at least 3 dozen 4x4s in the parking lot of our campground--no less than 100 tents.  The campground reminds me of an army barrack--with all the stone common areas/mess halls and tents lined up in rows.

We're leaving tomorrow morning at 6:00 for an early morming game drive.  We return for lunch and relax for a few hours until the heat dies down a bit.  Then we're off for an evening game drive.  Today's game drive was interesting.  We did see great animals, but we were a tad rushed.  We had a final destination set--our campground--so we were not completely free to drive around and take our time.  We stopped a dozen times and drove slowly during exciting views, but tomorrow will be more 'chill'.

The "Ngorongoro Conversation Area" is a region adjacent to the Serengeti in which the government has allowed the Maasai people to reside.  The Maasai men all wear red robes--black for men who recently underwent a circumcision.  The men were walking with large wooden walking sticks along with their 100s of cattle.  Many of their villages were primative, but there were some that looked much more modern.  You oftentimes see Maasai in cities--even in Zanzibar--becuase they are sent for work and to send money back home.

Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Wildebeest migration in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We saw Elephants, Giraffes, Zebras, Wildebeast, Lions, Birds, and a Leopard...not to mention a breathtaking sunset.  The wildebeast are in their migration now and we witnessed tens of thousands stretching as far in every direction as my eyes could see.  They were crossing the roads quickly and leaping as if the road was a toxic substance.  As we approached their crossing path they stopped and backed up a bit.  Once we passed a bit they continued.  The wildebeast migrate in single file and are typically led by Zebras.  Zebras has much better eyesight than the poor vision of the wildebeast.  However wildebeast have better hearing--according to Divia.  Although there were Zebras walking alongside the wildebeast their numbers were virtually unnoticeable compared to those of the wildebeest.

Bird on tree in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We saw a pride of 5 or 6 lions--2 cubs playing with their mother.  The mom lion was appearantly teaching her young how to hunt since she was stalking a sole caribuo (or bush back).  We waited but a kill didn't seem inevitable, so we kept on going.  As we got closer to camp and the sun had almost set our driver noticed a bunch of cars congregating in the distance.  I couldn't see anything, but it's possible he was keeping tabs on other drivers via phone/text.  Just prior to reaching the other 3 vehicles we stopped, popped the roof up, and witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets I've ever seen.

Lions in the Serengeti, Tanzania
After the sunset we moved closer to the other 4x4s.  Everyone was looking at a leopard in the distance.  I could just make out its distinguishable black patterned head.  Not only were we able to see the leopard from afar but it actually approached us and walked up to a couple of our 4x4s.  It seemed to want to pose for us--it was less than 10 feet away.  The sounds of our engines, the flashes of our cameras, and our rambling all had no effect on the leopard.  Actually, the leopard started to stroll down the side of the road alongside our 4x4s.  This animal seemed very social, though it was alone (as are most feline breeds, excluding lions).  After snapping photos for a good 15 minutes our driver told us we needed to head to our camp ground.

Leopard in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We reached camp around 7:15 and I located my tent at 7:30.  Dinner was served between 8:00 and 8:30--it took a while to get all our food, but it was delish!  We had some type of chicken/squash soup and white bread for our first course.  Our main dish consisted of rice and some type of beef stew, which was tender and flavorful.  We had watermelon and pineapple for dessert.

It's 10:10 and I'm going to watch an episode of "Doctor Who" before going to bed.  I will be able to charge my tablet/camera in the car as there are two transformers with universal power outlets.

Leopard in the Serengeti, Tanzania
As much as I want to go on and on about my trip and about my experiences I'm not sure anyone would want to hear any more detail than I am providing.  I have, however, been taking some pretty keen photos and look forward to sharing them once I get the opportunity.  Goodnight!

Storms in the distance in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Sunset in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Arusha, Tanzania: (Day 16) Dec-26-2013

Happy Boxing Day.  It's 7:45 am and we are en route to Arusha.  We have been on the road for just under 2 hours and should arrive by 1, making for a 'short' day of traveling-only 7 hours.  I woke up sharply at 5:00 when Debby knocked on my door.  She asked if she could use the shower as hers and Vincent had no water pressure.  I said sure.  I packed up my  'completely unpacked' overnight bag and got dressed for the day.  It was a little chilly here in Lushoto and expect it to be similar in Arusha...though much colder within the Ngorongoro Crater due to its high altitude.  Breakfast at 5:30 and on the road by 6:00.

Today we are arriving at camp just outside Arusha around 1:00 and making lunch for ourselves.  Afterwards we are taking a tour of a local Maasai Village, which also has a snake park.  I'm not sure what to expect, but am excited nonetheless.

I have been thinking a lot about my round the world (RTW) trip over the last several weeks--actually for the last 1-2 years really.  Over the past 2 hours I have been driving myself crazy with thoughts/ideas so I figured I would try to capture some of them in hopes of clearing my mind.

I plan to travel the world for ~12 months.  I would like to go to South America where I can hike Machu Picchu and Patagonia.  Depending on budget I may consider Easter Island.  It goes without saying that every other mainland country will be visited.  Maybe I start my trip going through the national parks here in the US and drive down through Mexico and take busses and trains through South America.  This way I can start my ticket in South America.  Another destination would be Southern India--I've seen a lot of the North and would like to see more, but I may revisit the Northern portion...cost/day is so low here and could probably be budgeted <$50/day for two people for hotel and food....but $25 is also very possible.  Eastern Europe is also a destination I would like to visit.  The unique cultures, ease of traveling within, and central access makes it high on my list.  Western Europe bores me, so I'll visit there when I am older and just want to take a short 2-3 week trip.  Don't get me wrong I really enjoyed Ireland, and London wasn't horrible, but I just feel the US offers more 'diversity' within it's own 50 states than does Western Europe...or least it's not too far off.  I am not a fan of going to "see stuff" so the appeal of the ruins in Greece just does not excite me too much.  Plus I have already been inside the Pantheon and the Parthenon (if you count the perfect recreation in Nashville, TN).  However, I am very excited to Visit Amsterdam next week.  Everyone I have met from the Netherlands seems to possess certain distinguishing characteristics that I really appreciate.  They are light spirited, quirky, educated, sarcastic, goofy, and just plain old fun.  I have a very strong personality so I can pick up fairly easily on if someone wants nothing to do with me.  The dutch people I have met while traveling are not as eager to 'prevent rocking the boat' as many other cultures and this is important to me.  They tend to speak their minds, a quality that is useless in the others as their minds are mostly empty.

Eastern Europe has a different feel and the foreignness of it intrigues me.  I would like to then venture into Russia and travel around for a while.  Russian culture is so beautiful and I have immense respect for their people (nudge, nudge, Ayn Rand).  A country that values science and art to the fullest.  A country where a young male child can practice gymnastics and ballet while not getting picked on has some true merit.  The contributions to the Maths and Sciences brought by the Russians goes largely unparalleled.  Do you think America would ever be proud of their strong chess competition leagues?  Not a chance.  I wont go into the specifics of the types of achievements but just turn on your iPod and listen to you favorite classical music--I'm willing to bet there is quite a bit of Russian influence within your playlist.  I sometimes wonder about WW2 and the cold war.  Why don't we share our victory with Russia, because without the eastern front there could have been a completely different outcome.  Also I really find it comical about our reaction that caused the disaster at the Bay of Pigs.  But seeing as JFK has been recorded as the Country's worst President, perhaps it was just his doing?  If you haven't already seen Stanley Kubrik's "Doctor Strangelove" do yourselves a favor and watch it.  It does a great job portraying how ridiculous things were during the Cold War.  It was such a great time in history that--for the large part--was a time of peace and scientific innovations marching along at an unprecedented rate.  My heart almost goes out to Russia a little bit.  I mean Russia has NEVER used a single nuclear bomb as a defensive nor offensive instrument.  We used two bombs.  Which country to you think was/is more affair of the other using nuclear warfare?

I would like to take the Trans Siberian/Mongolian Railway through Mongolia to Beijing.  I know that it is a 4 day journey and runs around $500 per traveler.  There are 4 people per train cabin and we remain on the train for the entire 4 days--sometimes given 5-60 minutes to get out at stops and breath some fresh air.  Also, there are no showers.  4 days without showers...ha, that's child's play.  I've done close to that in the heat of an African summer while traveling in a non-air-conditioned bus--I think I can handle the train.  I know that I will need to get my visas for all thee countries--Mongolia and China potentially being much more difficult.  Similarly to Vietnam these countries require the visa to have a stated entry and exit date.  If something happened and I arrived in China a day early, they wouldn't let me in.  Same goes about leaving--one cannot even leave before the stated date.  These rules may have become more relaxed, but either way it is a hard restriction on individuals such as myself who wish to backpack through with no set itinerary.

I would like to see some large cities in China as well as the rural areas.  I have reasons for both but I will try to stay focused on my passage (yeah, I meant the double entendre.

From China the logical path would be downwards to Indochina.  I would like to hit up Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand again (however I would be perfectly fine with skipping over Bangkok).  I've been there a couple times for too many days and there really isn't anything else I would want to see.

From here I would go to a few Thai islands, likely work in a hostel or bungalow cleaning and doing yard work, maintenance for free food and stay.  This sort of arrangement is very common.  I figured a beach may be a good place to unwind for a couple weeks.  I could catch up on emails, follow up on my job prospects, take some preliminary and 1st round interviews via phone, etc.  Maybe freelance some of my consulting, or VBA/model building back in the states for a week to raise some money.

From Thailand I would finish off with the obvious (Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Fuji, etc.)  Maybe onwards to Australia/New Zealand, but I don't have a huge motivation to visit...not yet.

My planning has been pretty basic thus far.  I have been working out the logistics mostly.  I would sell my car prior to leaving and that would probably be one of the last things I had to sell.  I would sell/donate my bed before and just use a blow up mattress until I left.  I would sell all my other large furniture.  I would probably sell my TVs, speakers, and everything else that can easily be repurchased.  It should be fairly easy to determine which items I will keep and put into storage and which items I will sell.  I will assume, just for this exercise, that everything I have now I will have also have/get once I return.  Thus if the item has a positive NPV I will keep it and if it has a negative NPV I will sell/donate it.  I know the fixed costs will be moving truck and storage rental for 12 months.  As the number of items I have increases these costs go up, but only slightly.  When I return I am not sure where I will take a job.  Moving these items, which are currently in storage, to my new location will vary greatly depending on distance and number/size of storage.  Thus, this is simply an unknown risk I will build into my model.  I will assume I will move within 1500 miles, and I will add upside risk if I take a job overseas and downside risk if I move locally.  I will take the current value of an item, let's say a TV for example, and see how much I can sell it for.  I have enough forecasting experience to be able to project (with a fair amount certainty) how much a NEW TV will cost 1-2 years later.  However, if I would likely buy a used TV as that is the current condition of my TV now.  Thus, selling the TV is the rational thing to do.  Hard to attain items would be given a premium, as would discontinued items.  Then there are things like decorations, which I've accumulated over the years.  These have memories attached to them and I quite like them.  Also, these types of items are small, easy to store at a friend's/family's house.  I'm not sure what I will do with my elliptical though?  Shit!  Plates, dishes, pots, pans, silverware?  Not quite sure?  Would be nice to start over with few pieces.  I would like to save the inside greenhouse I made, but it is sort of bulky.  I will sell it if I can capture at least $300 for it, but I think it's worth closer to $400.

OK SORRY, I KNOW THAT WAS ALOT, BUT I REALY NEEDED TO GET THIS OUT:  Things I will bring with me on my trip.  I will bring 2 pants, 2 shorts, 3 t-shirts and 3 long sleeved shirts.  I'll probably bring thermal underwear/long-t and a light fleece.  I will pick up stuff as I need it.  I've been doing this type of thing a lot so I'm fairly certain I know what I'll need.  I will probably bring my current macbook air.  I'll be able to manage, sort, tag, and post-process my RAWs during the long travel rides I will likely have.  I will have movies, music, and ebooks for entertainment as well.  Depending on the feedback from this blog I may continue keep one.  I was actually thinking of making it a bit more dynamic and building in some features that would allow me to generate a small amount of income to help fund the trip.  Some ideas include, "A small monthly fee to subscribe to the blog...if you don't pay you can't read it", "Provide the blog for free but upload completed and pre-selected photos and charge a nominal fee to view the photos", "Or I could just ask for a donation of $0.25 every time someone read anything in my blog".  In efforts to get more people involved in the blog and to make it more of a back-and-forth experience (as opposed to my just lecturing and you just reading) I could have polls or auctions.  For example I could say, "Next week I'm considering going to A.) place a, B.) place b, .....N.) place n.  I could have people pay $1 to be able to vote where I should go.  Or I could have an auction and the single person that bids the most on a given destination will 'win' and I will go there.  The 'winner' could tell me what they want to see in particular

Here are some examples of how I see it playing out:  Maybe my Grandfather, Papa Gibby, has always wanted to see the TGIF in Moscow--and say he always wanted to know the year it was built and by whom.  He could bid $25 and if he bids the highest I would go to Moscow and use my researching skills to find out the details.  I can take detailed photos/videos and any other relevant information.  I would then incorporate that portion into the blog.  It is sort of a mashup of "Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?", those 'choose your ending' type books, eBay, Charity, and give you a great chance to Live vicariously via me.  You would be directly impacting the direction of my journey.  The butterfly effect would be enormous.  I am just brainstorming, I would love to hear input.  I like this idea, but I've also been told to just start a blog with many pictures and flood it with adds...but I don't want to do that.

So now that I just ranted on some schemes to raise funds en route I have to touch upon how I will manage to afford the trip before going on it.  I have more than enough money saved in 401k, Traditional/Roth IRAs, and a couple taxable brokerage accounts.  I even have a 519 College Savings Plan for my children who don't even exist yet.  Saving is a drug to even though I can 'afford' to take many years off and travel there is a huge associated cost.  The opportunity cost is the largest.  I would have to sacrifice 1-1.5 years of salary, bonuses, and benefits.  I would have to build a robust dynamic  model to track my budget once I started my trip, but a loose starting point that I think is fair would be $25,000 for myself and $45,000 (if I travel with a partner) for 12 months.  Pretty damn cheap for a year, huh?  I will have to put aside $5,000 for my college loans that I will owe, though I may be able to put them on hold if I say I am 'out of work'....more on this at a later time.

Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Just got off the bus to take a bush toilet break and to snap a few photos of Mount Kilimanjaro in the distance.  Tabby says were less than 100km away.

I just listened to Michael Jackson's 'Man in the Mirror' and it has inspired me so much.  I can't even put into words, but listening to the song while being in Africa has really left its mark on me.

We arrived at our camp around 1:00.  I decided to upgrade and got a bedroom with two twin beds...but I will be sleeping in the room alone.  They had asked $45 dollars but I negotiated down to $20.  The room has its own shower so it was worth it to me.  It's funny because I am paying less than the accommodated people since they paid in advance and in full, I am negotiating when I can and staying in tents when I cannot.  Lunch was at 1:30pm.  Lunch meat and lettuce, salad, and shredded cheese for sandwiches.  We left at 2:20pm and went to a shoprite so we could get snacks for the Serengeti.  I'm so annoyed with how often we have to stop.  These families are the least outdoorsy people ever.  I overhear a few discussing how they will split up tasks while at the market.  For Jesus Sakes...we're being supplied water and 3 meals a day while we're gone...these people are starting to get out of my nerves.  I'm glad my trip is coming to an end.  I have one night here in our campsite just outside Arusha, Ndoro.  Then we have three nights in the Serengeti/Ngorongoro and one last night back here in Ndoro.  We then drive to Nairobi where I will be staying one more night and I fly out to Amsterdam the next evening--late.

Our Campsite in Ndoro, Tanzania
After shoprite we stopped at a shopping mall so a few people could look at some tanzanite.  It was overpriced, but everyone was like "Oh, wow, I have to get it".  I tried to explain to a few why it's not in the best interest of the shop owner to be honest with you and used another product as a comparison--they had carved wooden coasters and were asking $35 for them.  In the Mzuzu Market they would have sold it to me for $5.

It's 4:43 (almost two and a half hour after we left) and we still haven't gotten to where we are supposed to be--a Maasai Museum and a snake park.

6:30 now and we're back on our truck  The snake park and Maasai museum were shockingly really enjoyable.  First the snake park.  We saw a variety of crocs and snakes.  There  was a turtle what that was 100+ years old.  I even got to hold a baby crocodile.  I went ahead of the group while they were staring at dozens of snakes that all looked the same and enjoyed a 22oz of Castle Milk Stout.  It was a nice change of pace from the typical adjunct lager I have been drinking the preceding evenings.

Holding a Baby Croc at a Snake Park near Arusha, Tanzania
Next we went to the attached Maasai Museum, which I found very interesting.  I was asking questions and was really enjoying myself.  A few others asked some questions--they only had a few.  Many of my fellow travelers are brainless brainless sheep.  Debby, Vincent, and Cara where in back and couldn't hear anything the Maasai guide was saying.  I was the only person to tip the guide.  Afterwards, just outside where the museum let out, was a trinket shop.  I had wanted to buy a few items--I had bargained down one of the vendors.  I heard a few of the others telling me we had to leave "now".  I looked for the Germans, the only ones remaining, and we walked out of the shops.  She had said, "we've had such a boring day and when something finally gets interesting we have to go".  I told her I was happy to stay along with her and to "screw the others" but we just decided to head back towards to bus.  As I walked on the bus (probably within 2-3 minutes after the others) a few had commented about me being late--or something that hadn't needed to be said.  I said, I have been bored all day and I find nothing wrong with me staying a few minutes at something that was genuinely interesting.  This pretentious Aussie girl (I'll leave her name out for her sake) makes a snide remark about something irrelevant to the matter.  Something like, "you should have been listening, but you were too busy going ahead and getting your beer".  I wanted to call her a stupid twat, but I didn't.  I was actually getting a beer with Godfrey "OUR TOUR GUIDE" and the one giving us instructions.  He wasn't drinking but he had a Krest with me.  She was just trying to be the pretentious little girl she was.  If you've ever seen South Park think of the College-Know-it-all Hippie...that's her...just not a hippie.  After 1 or 2 years of school and she thinks she knew it all.  I'm sure I thought the same thing, and still do, but to be fair I have her easily beat in the IQ department by no less than 2 standard deviations.

I fear I might develop foot and mouth disease, that is, traveling with all these sheep.  I told that girl, "thanks for looking out for me babe, but as you may need someone to tell you what to do, where to go, and what to think I got myself covered".

The Maasai people are so interesting.  I have asked Godfrey about being able to try a typical Maasai meal and he said it can me arranged, but may cost me a bit.  They eat solely the meat from their chickens/goats (not cows), and the milk/blood from their cattle.  Beef and bloody milk...count me in!

It's just before 7, and we still probably have another 45 minutes until we arrive back to camp.  I just asked Godfrey and he told me, "I don't know, it depends on traffic".

I'll enjoy a meal and watching a movie tonight by myself tonight.