Monday, July 4
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Today we leave on the safari portion of the trip. I slept fairly well last night; it was nice to be back on a flat bed instead of in a sleeping bag on a slope. Early in the morning the birds started loudly singing and crowing right outside my window, making sleep a bit difficult. I got up around 7:45 am and after getting ready headed up for some breakfast. After eating I came back to the room to finish up last minute packing. Of course, the power was now out again, so using the bathroom required a head lamp to see.

The trucks to take us out today actually arrived early - just a bit before 9:30 am (yes - we were all shocked as well). I took my extra bag to the reception desk (the lodge holds it while we're on safari) and then took my day bag and suitcase to the truck. We all got loaded up in the Toyota Land Cruisers - modified to fit 7 people in an extended cabin with a raisable roof for the safari portion (so you can stand up and look out). In my truck were our driver and safari guide Amani, along with Mike, Alan, Hilary, Alex, Lynn, and Enno. Lynn and Enno had joined us for the safari portion, having spent the previous few days in Zanzibar. Lynn is the (now retired) former Dean of the School of Education at CU-Denver, and knew both Mike and Hilary from her time there. After some difficulty in getting the trucks loaded (they have surprisingly little storage space) we got on the road by 10:00am.

We drove towards and through the city of Arusha, passing much of the land previously seen from the airport (the airport lies just off the road between Arusha and Moshi). Arusha is a much larger city than Moshi (1.3 million residents vs 150k) and was definitely busier - with more cars, nicer hotels, and even a couple of stoplights (we hadn't seen any in Moshi). We actually drove through what at least seemed like quite a bit of the city, seeing all of the hustle and bustle and more evidence of economic activity, including a number of furniture and hardware stores. Amani explained that Arusha draws a lot of people because of the jobs available in the industries in the city, including tourism, plastics, and steel.

We stopped at a souvenir shop on the outskirts of Arusha. It felt like an overpriced tourist trap to me, but I ended up getting a couple magnets anyway, worried that I wouldn't be able to find any elsewhere. We then ate pre-packaged lunches on the patio (veggie sandwiches, nuts, hard-boiled eggs, bananas) then set out on the road again.

We soon hit Masai land. Our guide explained that due to population expansion their territory was increasingly being encroached upon. As we drove we saw many Masai tending to their cattle and other livestock in the increasingly dry and sparse fields. The Masai consider cattle to be their primary symbols of wealth - the more cattle you have (especially the large humped kind) the more wealthy you are. We even came across a Masai market - a weekly gathering of people from all of the area to sell and trade their goods. We saw a lot of activity amongst the people dressed in the dominant reds and purples and blues that is their trademark. At this point we had also officially entered the Rift Valley - an area where Africa is tearing apart along tectonic plate lines. Surrounding us was a lot of hills (old volcanoes), ash, and volcanic rocks.

As we got closer to our destination of Lake Manyara National Park we made a final turn down a road towards the park. Our guide informed us we were driving through a protected area that many animals use for migration and that we should keep an eye out on both sides of the road. Shortly after this warning we had our first glimpse of real African wildlife - a giraffe, (very far) off in the distance. A couple of us also saw a few beautifully colored and iridescent birds, later identified as a type of starling (quite unlike our boring starlings in the states). We soon arrived at the entrance to the park, dodging a few baboons walking along the road on the drive in.

After a quick break for the facilities and to allow the guides to register with the rangers we entered the park with the roof raised, travelling along a narrow and dusty dirt road. No more than few hundred yards down the road and we came across some more wildlife - a fish eagle high in the trees, a warthog, and a pack of baboons, including some very small babies still clinging to their mothers. After spending some time watching them, we drove on, catching sight of our first elephant far off in the trees.

We continued exploring some more of the park from the truck, seeing a small family of elephants and a lot of baboons. After our driver took a phone call (many of the drivers talk to each other about what they see and where to go) we headed into a throng of trucks, all looking into one small area. We saw a family of small monkeys playing in the tree, but Mike made it clear there had to be something more for there to be this many vehicles. Word spread through the trucks that there was a lion in one of the trees. After making our way through the other trucks to the right spot we were just able to see a single lioness napping on a tree branch.

We then headed out towards the Hippo Pond, seeing many more animals along the way, including zebra, wildebeest, water buffalo, and various birds. At the Hippo Pond we were able to get out of the trucks and view the hippos from behind a fence (and quite a distance away). They were somewhat difficult to see clearly as they mostly stay underwater during the day, coming up only to shift positions. We did also see another fish eagle here, watching over the pond.

The rangers close the park gate at 6:00pm, and as it was getting late we started heading to the exits. Along the way we came across a group of three giraffes. At first we could only see two together, before coming around a bush to see a big male eating from the acacia trees no more than 50 feet from the truck. He looked quite large, and happily ate the leaves, oblivious of us before continuing on his way. We did the same, passing by a few birds on the way out. We also drove past the same pack of baboons we saw on the way in.

The lodge we stayed in - Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge - sits high on the bluffs overlooking the park. After a fairly quick drive up the hillside past the odd-looking baobab trees we pulled into the parking lot around 6:00pm. We were met by the lodge staff with fresh mango and guava juice to drink along with wet towels to wipe off with. Mike has said that this was his favorite lodge of the trip, and so far was looking quite nice. After a quick bathroom break, we sat down in a lobby of old leather couches and a grand piano so the manager could give us some information. He gave us the mealtimes and explained when the hot water would be available (05:00-08:00 and 18:00-22:00), though the electricity would always be on (they have to run their own generators as the public supply is too unreliable). He also warned us to make sure to keep the doors and windows locked at all times, as the family of baboons that lives in the area will break into and take things from the rooms. With that, we had our keys and went to our rooms.

After getting the camera battery charging and some pictures copying to the netbook I jumped into the bathroom for the first hot shower I've had since leaving Denver nine days ago (remember that the previous lodge didn't have consistent hot water and I never found any for my showers). After my shower Randy and I headed down to the bar area to meet up with the others before heading to dinner. We entered the very nice dining area while a gentleman was playing the guitar and singing for dinner entertainment. The song selection was distinctly catered to a western clientele, including "La Bamba", "House of the Rising Sun", and selections from the Lion King movie. Both of our guitar playing group members - Randy and Alex - approved of his abilities.

Dinner was available as a selection of a few choices off the menu. I had an avocado salad with balsamic vinaigrette to start, following by roast lamb with rice, carrots and broccoli in butter sauce, rolls, and chocolate mud pie for dessert. After dinner Randy asked to play a few songs on the guitar. The gentleman happily obliged, and Randy played and sang a few songs, including an ode of his own composition to our trek on Kili. Sung to the bluegrass tune "High on the Mountaintop" by Del McCoury, he sang:

        High on the mountain top, Kilimanjaro
        Standing with my friends from Colorado
        High on the mountain top, Kilimanjaro
        Standing with my friends from Tanzania

        Asante to the porters who carried the load
        Asante to the cooks who prepared our meals
        Asante to the guides who showed us the way
        We'll always remember you and Kilimanjaro

        High on the mountain top, Kilimanjaro
        Standing with my friends from Colorado
        High on the mountain top, Kilimanjaro
        Standing with my friends from Tanzania
        Asante to Kibacha, Msafiri and Azizi

After settling the bar tab (the food is included) we headed back to our room where I wrote for a while before going to bed.

>> View all pictures from today <<      

Our Safari Vehicle
Alex, Andy, Alan, Hilary, Amani, Enno, Lynn, Mike

Masai Herder

Masai Market

Masai Market

Masai Child

Baboon (Lake Manyara National Park)

Lioness Sleeping in the Tree (Lake Manyara National Park)

Zebra (Lake Manyara National Park)

Hippo Pond (Lake Manyara National Park)

Giraffe (Lake Manyara National Park)

Warthog (Lake Manyara National Park)

     More pictures from today:

Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge
View from our Room (Lake Manyara Wildlife Lodge)

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