Sunday, March 21, 2010

Thinking About Africa Again

So in September, it will have been three years since our life-changing experience with Micato. The Stanley Wing Safari has to be the best choice for a total East Africa experience.

I wonder how much African travel is picking up this year? Are we seeing an increase in advance reservations for the fall? I know domestic (US) travel is looking a bit better for summer and fall 2010. Resort destinations are preparing for anticipated upticks in volume of travelers. (Though an interesting case of supply exceeding demand has led some car rental outfits in Florida to offer $3/day one-way rentals, provided the car is driven out of the state.)

Anyway, I still encourage people to look at African safaris as an exotic, yet perfectly doable, travel experience. Where else will you get pictures like that?

And when would you ever still think about the folks you traveled with, three years later? I remember what B said, that after three years she was itching and ready to go back. I see what she meant.

And we still think about the local friends we made - the Micato family. They made us feel so very welcome, like we are now part of their extended family. I doubt highly you could get that anywhere else.

Someone asked me the other day if I were ever going to finish my trip report. It appears I stopped at Thursday the 20th, at Mt. Kenya. I just looked in my written journal, and sure enough, that's where I stopped writing. Now I know why - I didn't want the trip to end. But for the sake of completeness --

Friday, the 21st of September 2007 - a day at Mt. Kenya and the surrounding area. Today we made several different stops. We visited the Ol Pejeta reserve, where we saw several protected rhinos. We also went to the Jane Goodall sanctuary for orphaned chimps. These were both very cool stops, and again, a very well-done transition out of the bush. Honestly, after three years my strongest memories are of the times in the wild, seeing the lions and leopards, and dining with our extended family. Truly, the meals were some of the best times - discussing everything we saw that day, trying new foods, sampling the local wines. I so look forward to doing that again.

On Saturday the 22nd, we took our flight back to Nairobi. This was followed by lunch at Carnivore, a "meat-on-a-stick" location, as a friend of mine likes to call it. I thoroughly enjoyed the ostrich, by the way. Of course, the highlight was having Jane Pinto join us. I know she doesn't always get to meet up with the safaris on the way home, so this was special - maybe she knew we were a unique group (or maybe Alfred and Renny told her how awesome we were!) Betsy remembers the meal fondly, b/c she sat next to her for the meal, and had some great conversations throughout. It was wonderful seeing her on Saturday, to say goodbye. I promised her we'd be back someday. A promise I intend to keep.

After the meal we returned to the Fairmont, where our day room was available. Some folks made the trip to one of the orphanages as part of the AmericaShare experience. We passed on this, but for sure we will go next time.

So anyway, Betsy and I relaxed back in the room until it was time for dinner. I don't know exactly what Betsy did for those few hours, but I laid in bed and cried. I don't know why, probably an emotional release from realizing a dream come true. Also probably a cry coming from a part of me that hadn't awakened for many years - that part of you as a child, visiting someplace awesome and being so sad when it was time to go. Wow - I didn't expect that to happen.

We gathered back in the lobby that evening, bags packed and ready (figuratively, at least) to go home. We said goodbye to those in our group heading off to the Zanzibar excursion. The rest of us loaded up the bus and went to dinner. Our meal that night was fantastic, of course I can't remember where we ate. But it was a wonderful evening, several toasts were offered, information exchanged, and promises shared. We left in two different groups, depending on the airlines. Alfred escorted us out to the van, where we again exchanged thank yous, and hugs, and promises to return. He is a good, honorable man, and an excellent safari host. I hope he is doing well.

I was freaking out about trying to navigate the airport, and it certainly looks daunting. Unfortunately, Micato cannot escort us past the checkin counter, so we really were on our own, the four of us. (Betsy and I had the same flight as B and M, and actually had seats next to each other - not sure if Micato had something to do with that.) But getting through security and whatnot wasn't as bad as I thought. The hardest part for me was just getting through the wait until it was time to board the plane. In fact, I think I'll just stop there - nothing really to add.

So, when exactly do we go back? I just don't know. I would like to see the seven summits, even though climbing them will probably be limited to just Kilimanjaro (eventually). Looks like Fuji isn't on the list, but seeing it will be pretty awesome anyway. And I'm sure to have several blog postings at that point.

So hear's to Africa, our friends and family, and all of God's creation. May grace and comfort lay upon your foundation, and may all who travel the world come to know your beauty.

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