Monday, November 19, 2007

Thursday, 13 September - Amboseli to Tarangire

We awakened this morning to the sounds of unidentified rustling outside our window. Breakfast once again was a buffet, which included an egg station serving brown hybrids that make the yolk white. This explains why my western omelet came out white. (A white-egg omelet, not an egg-white.)

Our final drive in Amboseli was on the way out of the park. We finally saw another cat, this time a cheetah. Actually two of them with a recent kill. I could sort of make out the dead wildebeest, but barely. Then we had to high-tail it to the border with Tanzania.

Near the border we had our first experience with haggling, at a shop that is supported by Micato. Bargaining is interesting. At first we got our starter price for a single item, but they insisted that we bargain all at once with other choices. After we picked our items, he offered 7,200 KSH, we offered a low price in return, and eventually we agreed on 5,000, about US$80.

We filled out papers on both sides of the border, meeting Renny at customs in Tanzania. When I mentioned I knew Lynda, he was thrilled – he gave us a big hug. He mentioned that he knew Jessica, too, which was great. We said goodbye to Joe and Martin, and said we would see Alfred in a week.

The drive to Arusha was about an hour and a half, through the countryside. Renny gave us a wonderful talk about Tanzania, its history and people. This was pretty neat, after discovering the secrets of Kenya a day before with Alfred. It’s amazing. There is a common culture, and a common commerce, and a common geography between these countries. But what I find fascinating is how a simple piece of history has changed so drastically their development. Kenya grew out of an English colonization; Tanzania, out of a German foundation. Whereas the resulting Kenyan independence led to a people identifying themselves with a tribal association ahead of a state identity, the eventual Tanzanian (or Tanganyikan perhaps) state grew into one of national identity first, then tribal. This makes sense – England v Germany, representation v socialism. Not that either identity is any less important than the other, of course. But it’s fascinating how the chance of colonization changed the evolution of a society. I am fascinated by this.

We arrived in Arusha, driving past Mt Meru along the way. Renny told us that Arusha is the host of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which has had a great economic impact on the city. We ate lunch at the hotel, a buffet.

We made it to the airport, though the plane wasn’t there yet, so we had to chill outside and wait. Finally our wings appeared. Already on board was the group from the Heart of Tanzania and Kenya tour. Five guests – Mr. Las Vegas, The Colorado Couple, and the Winnebago Family.

Betsy got in ahead of me, then when there were just two seats left, E offered me the front seat with Renny. I asked her if she would rather sit with Betsy – of course she would! (This was awesome. I’m so glad she spoke up. They really hit it off, and the result was a new friendship.) I liked it, too, since Renny and I could talk for a while.

When we landed, we headed toward Stephen’s car. Renny climbed into our vehicle, and we drove to Tarangire NP. On the way we identified tons of trees (including the whistling thorn acacia), the regular elephant sighting, and more birds than one can imagine. I see now why bird lovers go to Tarangire. With 1,500 species, you can’t go wrong. It looks like God started having fun with his Crayola 64s, but being omnipotent and all, he started blending them into shades entirely unique just for Africa. I expected not to be that high on TNP, but I’ve since changed my mind (despite the tsetse flies).

Ah yes, the tsetse flies. I had always heard about them, but of course having never seen one I didn’t know what to expect. They are big, about the size of a Florida love bug. The reason you need bug repellent is not because of sleeping sickness (rare occurrence if at all). It’s the pain of their bite. It feels like a needle in your arm. Most unpleasant.

We made it to the lodge, and were welcomed with juice, room keys, a hot towel, and a bottle of wine. We were escorted to our room by the porters. We then headed back down to the common area to talk a bit about what our Tanzanian experience may be like, and to plan for the next day.

We had a nice dinner, socializing with B&M. Eventually we headed back to the room, to enjoy mosquito nets, bookmarks from the Pintos, a random spider, clothes placed in a cupboard, and windows open. And then much-needed sleep.

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