Just typing the title is thrilling. We have seen our friends pictures and heard their stories and somehow it never seemed reachable. In June, with our townhouse on the market and plans to lease an apartment beginning August 1, it seemed perfectly reasonable to plan an adventure for the latter half of August. The fact that Carol has a show to hang in October seemed beside the point. We did not know where we wanted to go even. We started with Ireland, but none of the trips with openings seemed appealing. I remembered that Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT) had a fine reputation and we had drooled over their catalogs in the past, so I started to search their site.
There it was, a Serengeti Safari in Tanzania with pretrip to the Kilimanjaro area and even an option of a dawn balloon ride over the Serengeti. So August 16 we disembarked from a KLM/Delta flight at Kilimanjaro (JRO) International Aiport about an hours drive from Arusha. I must admit that before planning this trip I was not aware of the existence of Arusha with a population of over 1,500,000 and two traffic lights. In the airport parking lot we sorted ourselves out realizing that fellow travelers we had been talking with were on other OAT trips departing at the same time with different itineraries. Eventually we found ourselves in Eli’s “Bush Limo” in convoy with Luca headed for Oliciti Lodge. Before we got there we were to witness a collision in which Luca’s vehicle was rear ended by a drunken driver with no damage to his vehicle or to his passengers. However the drunk did not get off so easy. His hood was doubled and steam poured from his radiator. He had hit the two spare tires mounted on a roll cage on the back of the Toyota Landcruiser. We were to learn that these vehicles are among the strongest we have had the joy of riding in.
Carol and I thought we ought to have one for our tow’d. Base price $78,000, too much to drag behind us over good roads where its capabilities are not really needed.
After a night at Oliciti Lodge we set out for Sinya Tented Lodge near Kilimanjaro. We made a stop to see the manufacture of water filters out of ceramic.
The only place in East Africa where these household filters are made. The process is primitive yet very sophisticated. Clay is mixed with sawdust and colloidal silver. When it is fired with appropriate changes in firing temperature, the sawdust is burnt out leaving fine passages for the water to flow through and a charcoal layer to serve as another filter medium along with the silver to extract heavy metals. We bought two to deliver to a family we would visit later in the trip. On to Kilimanjaro. Eventually we left pavement behind and got our first African Full Body Massage. Later we were to experience the Deep Massage as the roads deteriorated.
As we approached the tented lodge we saw some zebras
off the road. A little later we saw giraffes. Then we saw a lot of giraffes (a tower of giraffes) and then a dazzle of zebras. As so it went. We arrived at our first tented lodge and marveled at the open air main lodge and our “tent”
which really was a tent under a permanent roof with a complete bathroom at the back with mostly solid walls, the whole is raised on piers to keep the animals out. As we approached ours with our Masai Warrior guide we saw a zebra peering around the brush just feet from our stairs. Our instructions were clear, from sundown to sunrise we were not to leave a building without our warrior guide. After dinner we were escorted to our tents and our instructions were to wave a flashlight from the deck if we wanted an escort to another part of the facility, such as the bar. This became the theme for the trip whenever we were in a tented lodge or mobile tent camp (more about that later).
Our first day at Sinya we went on our first game drive with the roof hatches removed and we added elephants and wart hogs and Thompson and Grant Gazelles to our growing list of sightings. We saw congresses of baboons, Yellow Tail, and many birds. We were way in the north of Tanzania, so far north that we eventually came to the border with Kenya where we got out and took a nice long walk which brought us to the border, you could tell, there was a marker.
After lunch and siesta we resumed our drive headed to a Masai Boma, a household consisting of a husband and several wives and their children. Several Boma constitute a village, but each is independent. We were in for a special treat as the Masai circumcise their males children between the age of 13 and 20. This is only done every seven years, which accounts for the age variance. This day was the day for the Masai in the region and we were invited to a pre circumcision ceremony. The boys were in seclusion for the cutting the next morning, but the rest of the tribe gathered to dance and sing. We joined a small group in the kraal where the cattle are penned at night with the women singing and dancing and eventually the men arrived to begin their singing and dancing.
As we were encouraged to participate it became more and more crowded and it became clear that Masai from neighboring bomas were walking in to join the party. Eventually the women set up a small market of their bead work and after some intense shopping and bargaining we were on our way.
Eli, our guide, talked about a meat eating ceremony that follows the circumcision. All the men gather in the bush and slaughter a meat animal (domestic cow, goat or sheep) and make a stew with herbs that are said to encourage an appetite for meat. This goes on for a month! As we were on our game drive the next morning, Eli spotted a group of men in the brush and made an approach to see if we could see what it was like, he had never participated himself as his tribe is Pare not Masai. After an initial rebuff we were welcomed in. This was an opportunity to taste the concoction. I don’t need to do that again and it certainly did not make me ravenous for more meat. The drive across the dry lake bed we were on gave us a chance to get really close to the elephants.
There are more pictures on my Picasa Web Album which is open to the public to view. To my new friends from the trip please let me know if you are having a problem reading this or viewing the album.
I will be writing and posting pictures from the rest of the trip soon.