Friday, April 3, 2009
James had approached me the night before about transportation. I was given the choice of driving in the Land Rover or flying with the others, though there might not be enough seats for all of us. Someone would have to forfeit his place. I said, “I'll see more if I go by car, won't I?” And so it was decided.
After our lunch at the Serena, the others departed for the small airport, and Mark, Sheiba, Martin and I started off by road. We drove for a while and saw a semi-trailer truck on its side. Was that an omen for us? Actually, it looked like a sleeping animal.
The terrain became very rocky, and we couldn't travel more than a foot or two before hitting a deep pothole. Although I had gone to the bathroom before we left and had been careful not to drink much water, my bladder felt compromised. The bumps in the road came more frequently and were jarring, yet, I couldn't ask Mark to stop. There were open fields. I'd wait until we came to bushes or trees.
Things became even more intense. Finally, I saw vegetation
ahead. I'd see if we could stop there. But then I saw Maasais sitting under the trees. Oops, I'd have to wait longer. I tried to talk myself into relaxing and not thinking about it.
After what seemed like an eternity, we came to a smooth road, and I was fine. I was distracted by giraffes, sheep and other animals in the fields, but was happy to see the gate that said “Hifadhi Ya Taifa Serengeti National Park A World Heritage Site!” We drove to the buildings, and I rushed to the lady's room. When I came out, I mentioned the strain of the bumpy road. Each one of the others said it had the same effect on them, but they didn't want to be the first to say we should stop!
To stretch our legs before going further, someone at the welcome center led us up a rocky hill so we could get a bird's eye view of the Serengeti Plains. I was gasping for breath, but then noticed that Sheiba was, too. The air was thin at that altitude. What a vision lay before us though. It was worth the climb.
The guide pointed out
a strange creature on a rock near where we stood. It was lizard-like but in colors I would not have imagined. It had a pink body and purple legs. Its ear looked like an eye, so while the reptile faced forward, from the side it appeared to have a wide head with eyes spaced far apart. It probably frightened predators.
Our relaxation time was over, because we wanted to get to our destination while it was still light outside. We descended the hill and got back in the vehicle. On the way we stopped to take pictures of several lions. They must have eaten a meal recently, because they seemed quite content.
Later we saw several wildebeests crossing the road. They were joining a herd that stretched as far as the eye could see. At first I thought there was a fence in the distance but then realized it was thousands of wildebeests, zebras and other animals on the migration. I wondered who was at the head of the line, if there was one, and how was he chosen? He might have been hundreds of miles away. After all, a parade of two million beasts would take lots
We stopped at one of the TANAPA buildings to see if our companions had arrived. They had been at meetings with park officials elsewhere. It was getting late, so we headed out to the Serengeti Serena Lodge, our home for the next few days.
What a lovely place it was! I read the plaque near the office, written in both Swahili and English. It said that the lodge was opened in 1996 by the Tanzanian President, His Excellency Benjamin William Mkapa, in the presence of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan.
The Aga Khan, leader of the Ismailis, has been very instrumental in helping Tanzania. His Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) is responsible for the Serena hotels, among other projects and is under the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The latter organization is interested in education, healthcare, culture, microfinance, humanitarian assistance and a wide variety of enterprises throughout the world. Although Ismailis are Muslims, there is no regard to faith, gender or origin of the recipients.
The lodge compound looks like a Maasai village, with a series of round stone buildings topped by thatched roofs. Our rooms were spacious. I was on
the second floor and had a balcony that over looked the Serengeti Plains. A basket of fresh fruit with silverware wrapped in a cloth napkin, a bottle of wine and two bottles of water were on the desk, with two additional water bottles on the night stand. As in our other hotel rooms, mosquito netting surrounded our beds. Even though we were taking Malarone, the extra precaution to prevent malaria was important. After unpacking, I went to the main building to join my colleagues.
What a happy surprise to see Lennard! He was better and was able to join us, having flown up with new members of our team, Caroline Mchome, Senior State Attorney, MNRT; Mashaka Ngunyale, IT Professional, State House; and Paul Josephat, IT Specialist, State House. Although I saw Caroline at the signing ceremony in Dar, we hadn't had an opportunity to speak until she joined us on the trip.
We had a long table on the porch outside, which was where we were for all our meals. Sitting next to different people each time gave us the opportunity to get to know everyone better.
The food was plentiful and looked so good that I
decided not to restrict myself. I sampled many of the dishes. After dinner, Caroline, Lennard and I, went to a show that was in progress downstairs. Other people in our group had been there for the first part which featured ethnic dancing, but they left early.
We arrived in time to see the amazing talents of an acrobatic troupe. They did things you'd only see at a circus. One performer was able to put his whole body through what looked like a bushel basket without a bottom by using remarkable contortions. We wondered how he did it. Another juggled fire. The lighting was poor, so it was difficult to get good pictures, but I wanted proof of their antics.
At the end, several women dancers came out. They chose a few audience members to go to the front and dance with them—and I was one of them. I was able to keep up and follow what they were doing, but the song kept on and on and on. I wondered when it would end. Fortunately, it finally stopped before I dropped.
We were told we must be escorted back to our bungalow by a guard. While walking,
I was curious about why. Were there thieves out in the wilderness? “No,” said the guard. “There are wild animals.” That's why the security people had rifles with live ammunition!
Eating the full meal had been a mistake, and I paid for it by being up all night with problems.
The information packet in our rooms said there was a doctor on staff. I would contact him in the morning. Please click on PREVIOUS Entry to continue. Click on photos to enlarge.
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