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Published: December 16th 2018
“The journey to a thousand stars is not too far a journey” when you love a place. That is Africa for me. I keep going back there to smell its red dirt, acacia and baobab trees, unruly callous beauty spread all across that is worth living for. So when the KLM flight 571 sailed like a giant nightjar and touched down at Kilimanjaro airport in Arusha, Tanzania, I took a deep breath. Yes, I was in Kenya just a few months ago. I am back in the neighbouring Tanzania again in November. Why do I keep coming back? “I had a farm in Africa”…the day I watched the movie ‘Out of Africa’, I somehow knew this has now become my all time favourite movie. It was past 9:00 pm and dark…not sure I could notice the runway lights when the aircraft taxied to the terminal. Aircraft door opened and a wave of fresh air showered me near the door step. I took a deep breath and I loved it. “Are you coming”- Mick and Mohan were just ahead of me. “Yes, in a moment”- I wanted to cherish the moment that I am in Africa again. I climbed down the stairs
and took a short walk down inside the terminal. We stood in the line-up for Visa on Arrival. There was no other flight, still it took considerable time to get our visa done….this is a different world here and there is always a chit chat in the visa counter with the officers, a bit of laughter and jokes. You have to give it a bit more time for this. This is Africa. Frank was waiting for us outside the terminal and we drove in the darkness towards Arusha township about forty minutes away.
Edie arrived sharp at 9am with his safari cruiser and we were ready. Yes, the first day was a day safari to Tarangire game reserve. Edie is a cool cat and ever smiling. We stopped on the way to fill up our water cooler. It was a long straight highway with a barren landscape all around us all the way to Tarangire. It is the similar landscape as I have seen in Kenya. I loved it and all my three cameras were in action. “Don’t take shots for the next few miles,” Edie said in a flat voice keeping his eyes on the road.
“Why is that?” I asked. “It’s all military reserve for the next few miles,” Edie replied. I obeyed. I didn’t have slightest interest to be detained by Tanzania military for unlawful action. We arrived at the gate of the game reserve around 11 am. The ritual is to take a break…once inside the game reserve, all bets are off until you arrive at a safe designate place for bio break. We got down from the cruiser and stretched. Scattered skeleton near the gate is a stern reminder…don’t mess with the Africa wilderness…it is unforgiving.
It’s dry everywhere…it hasn’t been rained for a while. A few impalas were grazing at a distance. A family of wild boar crossed the dirt road ahead of us. I was standing through the open hood and scanning…no signs of any big games. Edie drove round the corner and came close to the river bed. “Tarangire River,” Edie said while driving. It was dry like hell. Zebras were walking around on the dry river bed. Walla! We could spot a herd of elephants crossing the river bed. It appears to be a playground for all kinds of wild lives when there was no water. It
was getting hot..I looked up and the hot African sun was roasting the landscape. It’s noon time and I knew spotting big games at this time is almost none. We drove further and we spotted a family of elephants taking shelter under the acacia trees from the hot African sun. We stopped near a protected rest area and Edie opened his sandwich box. It was a great view of the Tarangire River from high above the cliff. I took out my binocular and spotted a whole bunch of elephants close to the water pool. I was munching the sandwich with my camera clicking. I looked around and saw the monkeys under the trees. Of course they would be there when there are foods. We rested a bit as there was no point looking around for wild lives…they take shelter this time of the day.
We hit the dirt road after about an hour. More elephants were under the acacia trees on both sides. It always amazes me how the herd protect their babies – babies in the middle and the parents covering the sides. We stopped the cruiser to watch a family close by. The senior didn’t like it
and started flapping the ears. We left the spot…no point inviting trouble. After all, this is their land, we are the invaders. Edie took his feet out of the gas to slow the cruiser – one giraffe was crossing the dirt road from one side of the jungle to the other. “J-walking…should be fined,” I laughed. Mic said from the front seat, “No Tab, it’s their right of way, we better slow down.” Mic was right. We are the invaders…it’s their land.
Edie has trained eyes. He again slowed down the vehicle while cruising through the dirt road. About a mile away there are five lionesses resting under a tree. I took my binoculars out and watched them intensely. They gave us a look, but ignored us. There is a rough embankment from the dirt road to the open land…no question of driving close. It was not a designated path to drive close. Finally the zoom lens captured the glimpse and we left the five lionesses taking rest.
We came across more giraffes and zebras all around us. Some hurriedly crossed the pasture as if they have to attend an urgent meeting somewhere. One or two lone giraffe
were crossing the pasture with their head high…trying to get some leaves from the trees. One decided to rub to a baobab tree. And that’s pretty much the wild lives for the day. Was I disappointed? Not a bit. Chasing the big games is not necessarily my priority. For me, driving around the boonies is fun itself…it gives me the taste of the African wilderness. Actually, wouldn’t it be wonderful to sit down under an acacia tree with a drink or two, or may be to read a nice book, and watch a day in African wilderness slowly melts into the twilight? Unfortunately, we didn’t have that privilege. This is not our land…we are just the invaders. And the African wilderness is not forgiving…I know that. Sun was leaning towards the west. Suddenly I got startled by a slap on my wrist. It was Edie…his careful eye spotted a Tsetse fly on my wrist waiting to suck my blood….” Be careful from these nasty flies…where is your bug repellent?” One more reminder that Africa is not to be taken for granted…it’s not a cakewalk. Edie drove the cruiser outside the game reserve.
Tomorrow we head out for another round
of expedition to Lake Manyara.
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