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' family...well...you 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 19) Dec-29-2013

Sometime during the night there were loud-mouthed Africans yelling about something.  It was between 1 and 2 in the morning.  I kept silent for a while but was getting pretty sick of it so I finally screamed, "SHUT UP".  Shockingly the level of the discussion did quiet a bit.  It sounded like some people were either just getting to bed, or just arriving at camp and they were getting situated/setting up.  I got out of bed around 5--we were set to eat breakfast at 6:30.  I later learned the entire story behind the commotion--appearantly a girl had started screaming frantically and people thought she had been attacked by an animal, possibly a lion.  It was later discovered that she just had a bad dream.  I'm sure the Doxy had something to do with that?


Hot air balloons in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Just finished lunch at the Serengeti entrance/gate and are back on the road into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  It's 2:45pm.  A few quick notes I took while on today's safari:


We learned that the park speed limit is 20kmph.  Our guide went to school for 'birds' and knows over 1,000 types.  Taking a
one hour ride on a hot air balloon costs $500, thought it does include a free glass of champagne.  We saw mongooses and learned that they are often picked up by vultures.  A Vulture will swoop down and pick up a mongoose, fly to a high elevation and then drop the mongoose to kill it.  When the mongooses see vultures they all huddle together and hold onto each other.  Adorable, right?  We saw elephants on the side of the road, again, and the smallest one was 6 months old  It looked so goofy next to its much larger parents.  Also along the road were a dozen ostriches.


Ostriches in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We stopped at the visitor's center and we looked around at their exibits.  The restrooms were amazingly clean.  However, Debby and Vincent were taking much longer than the rest of us and we were growing impatient--we wanted to get back on the road before it became too hot and the animals started to take cover.


One of the cars in our group spotted a leopard so we went looking in the area.  We did find it, eventually, but it was far off and I was not impressed.  We saw three lions--two in a tree and one eating a buffalo.  Whenever there is a large cat spotting 'all' the cars swarm to the scene.  Can you imagine if these lions and leopards thought like we did?  "These animals are very parculiar--they glide along on 4 perfectly round feet, make loud thumping noises that increase in intensity and pitch as the move faser, and they travel alone.  However as soon as one of these species spots me or a family member more quickly encircle me and watch me sleep.  Once they come to a stop they turn silent.  Then they grow from the top of their large heads and smaller creates peek out.  These creatures are closer to my size.  After I go hide somewhere and don't come out for a while these creatures tuck back into the larger creature and then the larger creature shrinks its head.  Then all the large creatures start making noise and leave me alone.


Lions in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Around half past noon, while we were traveling along a grassy meadow we almost flipped our Toyota Land Cruiser.  We spun out of control going 40-60kph, fishtailed, and felt the 4x4's center of gravity shift very quickly from the center of the car over to the right set of wheels.  Luckily our driver regained control before the car completely flipped.  We were all a bit shaken up.  The driver went outside and took inventory of the vehicle.  Our car was undamaged but there was broken glass on the ground, which was probably from a car that had recently fallen.  Our driver had said that had we been in a Range Rover we would have flipped for sure.


The drive through the grassy meddow was trecherous--almost completely without life, dusty, and infested with flies.  We had to keep our roof and windows closed as to not be completely devoured by the little black devils.  We finally arrived at the Serengeti check-in point where we used the restrooms and ate our lunch as we waited for our 3 drivers to fill out the paperwork.  This took 1.5-2 hours and I was getting increasingly bored.  Over these last few days in the Serengeti I have been thinking alot about traveling the world.  Such issues like, when, how will I get my meds, will I be uninsured once I return home, how quickly can I sell my car, furniture...how will I get all my visas...etc.  Planning will probably take a bit of time as I want to do my research on all the areas I plan to visit so I will enjoy my experience more.


After lunch a couple joined our group (the 5 or so of us still sitting on the benches).  We talked a bit and I found out they live in Chicago--he is an econ professor as University of Illinios and she's a 4th year PhD student.  Her thesis is on the effect of our aging population on healthcare.  She said that over the next couple decades 50% of our nurses will retire.  NOTE TO SELF:  Any way to invest in companies contracting out nursing care?  He worked for an econ Professor in Ann Arbor, Michigan before his current role--he told me "Go Blue".  They were the 3rd and 4th American I've met so far over the last 3+ weeks.  The other 2 where a couple of recent college grads from the east coast that I ran into during my stay in South Luangwa National Park.  It's possible I have met more Americans and just cannot recall them now, but at most I have met no more than 10.

Maasai villagers greet us in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Currently we are driving into a Maasai village.  We each paid $20USD to have a tour of their village.  I am excited.


Maasai men jumping in the Serengeti, Tanzania
It's 4:30 and we just got back on the raod from our Maasai village adventure.  It was the highlight of the day, for sure.  We were welcomed by the the chief's son--he was 20 years old.  He introduced himself and asked for all of our names and where we came from.  All the men in the village then conducted a welcome dance for us which involved chanting and hopping--so tribal!  The women were in the background singing something but were never introduced to us.


We were then welcomed into their village, which was a small ~60m diameter circle, enclosed all around except for 4 gateways.  Their village fence was comprised of acacia branches, which are extremely thorny, and act as protection against certain animals.  The village had a large 'social' central section which had a large leafless tree growing in the direct center.  Some of the men sat on and around the tree.  As we walked into the village the men and women continued their welcoming dance/song and invited 2 or 3 of us to join them in their jumping.  Men jump as a way of flirting with the Maasai women.  They are a polygimyst culture--everyone in the same village is part of the same family so they must take wives in nearby villages.  However the wives of a given man are always from the same village.  The women live with their children in small houses.  We split into groups of 2 and were each shown the houses.  They were very small, maybe 100 square feet, tops.  They are sort of dome-shaped and have no door.  They take 1 week to construct as the entire village helps out.  The Maasai are a nomadic people and have multiple permanent locations.  This particular village along with another village act as their permanent locations.  They travel between village 2-4 times a year.


Maasai children in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Everyone had such poor teeth it was uncomfortable to look at.  Even worse than typical African teeth, which is pretty damn bad.  The men had gowns--either red, blue, or some combination of the two--and walked with spears and wooden canes used for herding their cattle.  They were wearing black rubber thongs made from recycled car tires and sported numerous necklaces and bracelets.  The women were dressed similarly, though not in such elegant robes.  Many of the women had children slung over their shoulders.  The men never spoke to the women.  It was obvious that even 'us tourist' men were treated with higher honor than the women in our group.


A Maasai woman in the Serengeti, Tanzania
I was hoping to try the typical Maasai meal of bovine blood and milk but they had told Godfrey (who asked on my behalf) that their cattle were too far at pasture now.  I was a bit bummed.  They tried selling us their 'trinkets' after they showed us their, rather meager, dwellings but I didn't bite.  However I did, along the side of the road while en route to our campsite tonight, buy a Maasai blade.  We had stopped to watch a bunch of the Maasai play football (soccer) in an open field.  They had built simple goals out of 3 tree trunks tied together with some sort of twine--no net, of course.  There must have been 50 people on the field.  While we were stopped a dozen Maasai men came over to our vehicle and tried to sell us stuff.  This was common, for men and women, to sell their goods.  I wasn't interested but inquired on the price of one of their swords.  They had started at $70.  I was mostly just negotiating for fun and practice and got them down to $30, $25, and $20 within a few minutes.  I said $15 and they said no.  I said thanks and started to close the window.  When the window was halfway closed the man said, "ok, ok, $15"  I handed him a $20 and he gave me a $5 along with the handmade Maasai blade with a handmade cowhide sheath.  They saw a wad of cash I had taken out of my pocket and tried to sell me on more 'products'.  I told them that I needed this money to eat for the next week and they smiled and understood.

Giraffes in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Our drive to our campsite along the ridge of the Ngorongoro Crater was a long but beautiful one.  We stopped a few times--we even got out of our car and walked up closer to a cluster of Giraffes in a field alongside a dozen zebras.  We also stopped to witness the wildebeast migration.  It was just stunning--spanning as far back as the eye could see.  Watching them dash across the road was a sight in itself.  We saw other delightfully beautiful things along our journey as we finally made it into camp around 6:15.  Although we had stopped several times during the day we had been in transit for well over 11 hours.  Quite tiring given the condition of the roads we were traveling on.

Zebra running with a Wildebeest in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Dinner was at 7:00pm--the same soup and bread we've had the last two nights, cinnimon-spiced rice, and some type of curry beef.  The beef was tough, as it typically is in Africa, but the food was otherwise quite tasty.  For dessert we had orange and pineapple slices.


It's just after 9:00 now and I'm getting ready for bed.  We have another early morning--6:00 breakfast before our game drive down in the Ngorongoro Crater.  I'm sure with the 36 vehicles going down tomorrow and reletively small size (20km) of the crater we are sure to bump into some animals.


I'm in my tent now--I'll pass on brushing my teeth, washing up, and/or showering tonight.  I've grown accustomed to showering every 2 or 3 days and brushing my teeth only in the mornings.  I've worn my North Face pants for all except 3 or so days on my trip.  I really like them, but they sure do need to be cleaned--I have cleaned them 2 or 3 times, but only using cold(ish) water, ringing them tightly, and then letting them air dry.

Elephants in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Serengeti, Tanzania: (Day 18) Dec-28-2013

I woke up before 5:00am so that I could get ready and call Kelly before my game drive.  We took the same 4x4s as we were in yesturday.  We were just leaving camp in our vehicles by 6:00am, way before the sunrise.  Everyone had taken their original seats, as they were in yesturday.  I had asked if we could all rotate to give everyone equal views--everyone agreed.


I slept fairly well, past out before 10:00 and got a solid 6.5 hours of sleep.  I don't recall waking during the night but I may have once or twice.  I had asked the others how they slept...seeing as many in our group haven't slept in tents for many many years.  They said it was all-in-all good, but they had their fair share of complaining (which is understandable).  It was still pitch black at 5:30 when we congragated for tea and coffee.  The stars were shining beautifully--I will try to remember to take a few photos of the star-filled sky tonight.

Sunrise in the Serengeti, Tanzania

On safari we stopped to see the sunrise, it was breathtaking--Exactly how I had imagined.  The dark sky showed a gradient of colors: deep red, turned into red, into orange, and yellow.  The horizen, lit by the morning sun, were silloetted with acacia trees.  Birds flying above were identifyable only by their black bodies which sharply contrasted with sky's light.


Hyena and Jackal in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We first came across a few hyenas being joined by several jackels.  It was interesting seeing such different animals walking around together.  One of the hyenas was pregnant.  We saw some elephants and giraffes throughout the day, but not in the quantity or proximity as in the other national parks.


The Serengeti was bare of most of its grass just a few short weeks ago--now it is overflowing with life.  It seems to be the perfect time for game viewing.  Except for a VERY small % of the land the grass is plenty short and does not hide any of the animals.  We passed termite mounds, which are everywhere here in Africa, and took a bush break.  The area looked looked like a tropical island amid an ocean of grass.  The rocky terrain was unusual for the area, I think it must have been some type of volcanic rock--a byproduct of the volcanoes that helped to form the Ngorongoro crater.


Zebras in the Serengeti, Tanzania
The roads were spread out much farther than in the other national parks we have visited thus far.  This allows for a more 'immersed' feeling--however, it is harder to get close to
the animals.  We came across several groups of lions, some were sun bathing, others were getting some shade.  Towards the end of our drive we watched 3 lions climb a tree while one large male lion relaxed at its base.  It was a bit hard to view due to the distance but still amazing.


A Cheetah in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We ended our game drive just before 11:00 and arrived back at camp at 11:10.  5 hours of driving around nature and now we just finished lunch (12:15).  We ate pancakes, toast, fruit, pasta, and taco meet--it was good.  Now we have 3 or so hours to kill before our next game drive.  Some are showering, but I don't see the point...I'll just get dirty again.  It's probably too hot/humid to relax in the tent, but maybe I'll try.


I have asked both Godfrey and our 4x4 driver to stop at a Maasai village on our way to Ngorongoro crater tomorrow.  I want to try their cuisine.  Enjoying cow blood mixed with milk at a Maasai village inside the Serengeti--what a lifelasting memory, I'm sure.


It's 3:00 now and with the exception of 2 or so people all of our groups  is waiting at the shelter for our 4:00 game drive.  These last 4 hours have been the lonest 4 hours ever.  Other than a showering and sweating there isn't much else to do.  I tried to gather wood and build a stone-rimmed firepit but one of the guides told me that fires aren't allowed.  Maybe tomorrow at the Ngorongoro Crater?  I think I'm comming down with something, probably a bit of a cold.  The back of my throat feels funny, in that not quite sore but possibly swollen kind of a way.  Gargling saltwater would probably help though.

Lions in a tree  in the Serengeti, Tanzania

I can't believe I have been on vacation for 22 days.  It's weird becuase the days are long yet the weeks are so short.  Africa has been a learning experience for me, but I don't think I will make it back here anytime soon...and quite possibly never again in my lifetime.  The natural beauty is wonderful, but the culteral/societal aspects are really lacking.  With the very few acceptions I have witnessed Africa seems to be a place where people just live unremarkable and meaningless lives.  I am sure that sounds cruel and closed-minded.  I feel there is no internal passion in the people here to change their present.  Example:  At a given border-crossing from one country to another lines are long, the workers are slow and dull, and groups of men loiter outside the building to shade themselves during the heat of the day--when asked about these issues the all-too-common response is T.I.A., which means "This is Africa".  What is indirectly being said is 'this is how it has to be', 'it cannot be fixed/controled any more so than it currently is', 'it's beyond MY control'.  It's readily appearant that Africans are continuely shifting blame and justifying their current state of helplessness.


However, I do believe people here are incredibly resourceful--using the 'land' and its fruits as building supplies, medicines, food, tools, etc.  I wonder how much of this resourcefullness is a form of rote memorization learned at a young age and how much is genuine innovation?


I know that if the educational system were better here children would understand that they can make a difference and that they are capable of....well something!  Education is so important and the more I travel the more I understand that.  Yes, we are all the same...at least in a basic sense.  It has been proven that certain 'demographics' have a genetic disposition to be 'smarter', 'taller', 'stronger', 'more aggressive', etc..  But its through education that we are able to understand what our limitations are and where they are NOT.  In Africa I get the feeling that people think 'Whites' are superior and that 'We' look downly upon the 'Blacks'.  There is something about the entirety of Africa that gives me the notion that the Master/Slave relationship is very much alive here.  Ok, sorry for ranting...just trying to kill time until we can leave.  3:20...ok, I'll have to figure something else to do for 40 minutes.


Elephants in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Our game drive was very dissapointing.  Our driver gave some excuse that we had to be 'done' with our drive by 6.  He said it was park rules, which I knew to be false.  We ended up going to the grocer so that our guide could buy a torch.  Was this why he cut the safari short?  We didn't see many animals.  A few elephants and giraffes, birds, and probably some other unsignificant animals, but nothing to blog about.  I felt as if the driver would stop for anything.  There would be one bird barely in eye's view and he would stop the car, turn off the engine, give a 1 minute speech about it, and then wait 4 more minutes until  starting the car again.  In this time he would be chatting to friends on his phone.  Of the two other guides one is supposedly very good, but it may just be the case that Godfrey is driving with them.  The other guide is just as bad as ours and others have already complained.


Our driver drives VERY slowly, constantly being passed by other vehicles.  I think it may be because he will make more money the less gas he uses.  I  am planning on having a very serious discussion with Godfrey this morning about it because I do not want my experience at the crater to be the same.


Night Sky in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We got back to the campground and it was packed, even more-so than the previous night.  We sat down for dinner at 7:30 and were served soup right away.  However, we had to wait another 40 minutes before we were served anything else.  The dinner was fried fish, corn salad (with cucumber  and avacado), and potatoes.  I ate mostly the salad, the others were not too good.  Talked on the phone for a while and watched an episode of Dr. Who.  I was sleeping sometime between 11:00 and midnight.


The Serengeti is beautiful, but the animal density is fairly low--I wonder if this is due to the vast size of the park.  It is over 14,000 sq km.


Oh, a few more notes.  The company we're using for the Serengeti tour is "Tanzania Experience".  When I asked our driver, "so tomorrow we're leaving early, probably around 6 or 7" he gave me attitude and said he didn't have to leave until later and that the rules only said...fuck that.  Godfrey talked to them and now we're leaving at 7.  Also, I was told that during their lunch break on the first day's drive they had asked if they were able to take out the mattresses and take a little nap before hitting the road...you have to kidding me!  Then they had asked Godfrey if they could cook at 10:00 so they could have some time to rest.   These tour guides are making it hard for me to remain 'PC' in these posts--at least as 'PC' as I am humanly capable of.  I will definetely be talking to Godfrey.

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 inefficient...one 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 distance...so 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