I am in Africa and I have a cell phone

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July 31st 2008
Published: July 31st 2008
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So I left India. IN the middle of the night, strange to be back again in the Delhi airport, leaving but knowing I would be back soon! And three flights later, it was cloudy over Tanzania but Mt Kilimanjaro was there, tall and majestic, with all the white clouds at its feet. It was really something to see, knowing I would be standing on top of that beautiful mountain within the next few weeks if all goes well.

I was a bit sick and very tired when I landed, and dreaming of a good night in a hotel room, after a hot shower. I got out of the airport, was picked up by the local contact here, and right away I was given instructions how to use my new cell phone and told that I was on my way to a 5 day safari... (For those who don't know, I am totally against having a cell phone, so it is quite ironic that I would get one here in Africa! Also I had no clue how these things work and I really tried not to look too ignorant. Not sure it worked...). We briefly stopped at the office to exchange some money where I was told they didn't give as much for the 1996 bills... I realized I was in Africa! But I was too tired to argue!

So without rest or shower, I met my new traveling companions, who were supposed to be a Korean woman and an American couple, and they thought I was Irish. But it was a young woman from Hong Kong living now in Canada and 2 Americans, but not a couple! Anyhow, we met, had supper and finally I crashed in my little tent, trying to assimilate where I was. All went so fast that it took me at least another day to get it...

So the next morning we went to Serengeti National Park. Very very disty and bumpy road but it was all worth it. To list some of the animals that I saw, it would be: zebra, giraffe, elephant, hippos, mangoust, cheeta, lion, monkey, baboon, wildebeest, hyrax, hyenas, warthog, jackal, ostrich, crocodile, anyhow. The dream of a biologist. But the best part is that some of these animals, and almost all, were so close it was unreal! The female lion was walking between the jeeps, the male lion was close enough that our guide asked us to get back in the vehicule, the cheetas were looking at me straight in the eyes, we got stuck in a zebra traffic jam. Andf I didn't mention the most amazing part: 3 meters away was a female lion nursing her 7 kittens. With all the sound effects... Incredible, unforgettable, unbelievable.

And every night we camped in a different "bush camp", with many many other tourists at times and hardly anybody at other times. Good food cooked by Marco, monkeys around, and even one young monkey that I had to rescue this morning. He tried to steal our chairs and his little fingers got caught. His mama was in a panick so our guide was trying to spook her while I was trying to open the chair to free the poor little injured monkey.

I forgot to mention that we also went to Ngorongoro Crater, after Serengeti where we saw some of the animals I listed. It was one of the most amazing places I have seen in my life. A 20 km wide crater with nothing but animals all over it. Including flamengos on a lake. So beautiful it was like the Garden of Eden. Really a privilege to be able to see something like this.

The last day of the safari was quite different. Instead of seeing animals, we visited different tribes. Some hunter-gatherers, and some more sedentary. Incredible to see that some people live like that in 2008. Very interesting. We went hunting with them, but I was glad we didn't get anything! But one of the hunters climbed about 25 feet in the air, in a baobab tree (I thought about the Little Prince...) to get some fruits. The next tribe was also interesting, a man living with his 10 wives... Very friendly, they let us try to grind some corn to make flour. Looks easy, it isn't... They also sang a little song and danced for us. Then we visited a blacksmith.

So many things happened in 5 days, I finally came back to Arusha, got a hotel room, showered (ahhhh! so nice!), gave my clothes to a woman for washing, hoping she will actually bring them back tomorrow... I am leaving at 9 am for Mt Meru that I will climb in the next 4 days. My group will arrive the night I come back. No time to rest yet, but the experience is fascinating.

Oh, and I forgot to mention the colors. People are dressed in very colorful ways here, but at the same time it is so different from INdia. The batik, the "masai wraps", it is a whole different world. It is especially fascinating for me to see the Masai because I watched Out of Africa so many times. And now I am here. And I wonder sometimes when I will wake up. And at night when I dream it seems just as real as when I am awake... Strange feeling. Anyhow. I better go have some food and pack my stuff for tomorrow!


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