But my adventure began, as is often the case, with the TSA. First of all, my ticket for some reason did not state that I was pre-cleared, so I had to stand in line in my socks with the unwashed masses. I went through one of those x-ray devices; as usual, I flunked the screening and a large TSA officer said that he would have to fondle my balls. I sighed - OK, but make it quick. That seemed to go OK, but by then an angry TSA lady confronted me about my backpack. I had failed to remove my camera, which I didn't know was required, so it was removed and everything rescanned. Then she brandished a container of pain ointment that was in the pack. I explained that my knee gave me trouble when I was seated for a long time and I used the ointment for relief. Well, she said, we'll have to get it analyzed. I let forth an expletive, which immediately got me into more trouble and the TSA lady stomped off to find the nearest mass spectrometer to analyze my ointment. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed, and she returned just to confirm that I was the Peter Lloyd-Davies for whom the ointment was prescribed and then grudgingly returned it to me.
But then - the final blow! When I gathered up my stuff, replaced the belt in my drooping trousers, put on my shoes and jacket, replaced my camera and ointment in my pack, grabbed my change and wallet and cell phone and God-knows what else, I realized that I was missing my hat. Not any hat, but my beloved Cape Cod Bait and Tackle hat! I looked everywhere and even asked the TSA if it had been handed in, to no avail. I glared at my TSA lady; she pretended to be studying a spot on the ceiling, although I'm betting that she now wears my hat everywhere she goes.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, although boring and uncomfortable. I flew to JFK, changed plane and then flew to Doha, in Qatar. That flight went all night and all day, so I spent the following night in a hotel, before boarding the final flight from Doha to Kilimanjaro. When I arrived in the airport, I expected to see Louise's smiling face, but instead I got a phone call from her saying she was still in Uganda and that her flight was 9 hours late. The place we were staying - Researcher's Rest - had sent a car for us; I took it but the hotel had to send another one later that night to pick up Louise.
A word about the Researcher's Rest. It was owned by a European woman who moved to Arusha and was very much plugged into the community of scientists doing research on the animal habitats in the parks nearby, and who made space available for them to stay in Arusha on their trips. Following her death, the house was turned into an official B & B for researchers and others alike. The bedrooms and bathrooms are not luxurious, but the public rooms are comfortable and the gardens a delight. The walls are decorated with photographs taken by the many world-renowned photographers and researchers that still stay there.
The next morning was the start of our safari. We were supposed to be picked up by Bobby Tours, our safari company, but it was not clear that they knew how to get here. Part of the charm of Researcher's Rest is that it is tucked away behind high walls, without a street adress or a street sign. We called Bobby Tours; they were waiting for us at some other location and needed additional instructions to make it to the hotel, so we got off to a somewhat late start. Fortunately for us, there were no other clients on the trip, so we were able to toss our suitcases in the vehicle as well as our packs. We drove back to the Bobby Tours office, paid the balance due, donned our pith helmets and we were off on the adventure of a lifetime!
Here is a map to show where we went. Arusha is bottom right. Mt Kilimanjaro is further east, just off the map. Our safari lasted for four days, three nights, and went west to Lake Manyara and then northwest into the Serengeti National Park; then back again.
A word about the vehicle. It seems that all the safari vehicles in this part of the country are tricked-out Toyota Land Cruisers, with a diesel engine, three rows of seats behind the driver and a pop-up roof, so you can stand to observe and photograph the animals. To simplify matters, I shall refer to it as the Truck.
Our first destination, Lake Manyara, was only a couple of hours from Arusha. I think its proximity to Arusha lowered my expectations a bit, but in fact it delivered magnificently. On the way there, we stopped at the African Galleria, where we had a bite to eat and looked at their extensive (and expensive) selection of African art. Once in the park, we got to appreciate the virtuosity of Shefiq, our driver/guide. He directed the Truck skillfully down the muddy and rutted road, while at the same time scanning right and left for interesting fauna. His ability to spot and identify animals out of the corner of his eye was nothing short of phenomenal - Louise assured him that this was his superpower, if he ever considered joining the Avengers. Not only did he point out large beasts (elephants, zebras, giraffes) to us, but also lesser ones, such as monkeys, lizards and birds. And for each beast, he had a ton of interesting stories about their lives. If there were an Olympic event in wild animal spotting, my money is on Shefiq for the gold.
|Garden of the Researcher's Rest in Arusha||African Galleria||Wild elephant at the Galleria||Blue monkey|
|Hornbill||Colorful bird (Little bee eater?)||Colorful bird in flight||Buffalo|
|Saddle-billed stork||Giraffe (Look at larger version to see hitch-hiking birds)||Cape buffalo|
|Blue monkey||Zebra||Baby zebra||Baby zebra with Mom|
|Young impala||Male impala||Grey crowned (or clown) cranes||Kingfisher|
|Red bird||Elephants||Baby elephant crossing the road||Baby elephant munching|
|Female impala||Termite mound|
When we were finished with the animals in Lake Manyara, we went to Bobby Tours' own camping area. I should explain at this point that some safaris offer sumptuous accomdations and fine dining. Others less so. And then there is the camping safari where you rough it in a tent, which was what we had chosen. Antonia, who had also been on safari with the same company, claimed that they supplied comfortable mattresses, but I thought they looked pretty skimpy and insisted on lying on two mattresses, which was actually quite comfortable. Louise decided she was quite tired and not hungry, so she hopped in the tent and went to sleep. This confused the cook, who had been told to cook her a dinner, but Shefiq and I ate the food - soup, stringy chicken, and dessert - which was filling but not exactly haute cuisine.
|Louise in front of the Truck||Our fine accomodation||Masai images lead us to the toilets|
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