Here there be dragons...

"I'm telling you stories. Trust me." - Winterson

This wknd’s challenge

So I made a thing.   Lol - decided I should get some practice w the main stitch I need for my afghan, so found a scarf pattern that uses it.  And then me being me pretty completely disregarded said pattern, but hey - I’m still happy with the end result :).
On close (or even not so) observation it’s pretty obvious which end was the start and which is the finish lol but I’m still please with my first effort.   Other than the fact that I’m pretty sure crocheting anything makes me old *sigh*.  Can I go back on safari now?
At least it was enough of a computer break that I can go back to sorting through pics now.

The latest challenge

So we're home and back to reality.  Last day in Zanzibar was spent at the pool and on the beach and was pretty perfect.   Even though we had to check out 12h before we left, they had a good place to hang out after dark made the pool less appealing ;)

Was so happy to see Sasha again :). She didn't leave my side till I went to work this am.  So work is work.  End of story.  Although was surprisingly nice to catch up with people -- I work with fun people.  Otherwise though *sigh*

Had a Spanish lesson the other day, trying to bring that back into regular occurrence.   I've been good about the independent work, but speaking will only improve with actual lessons.

I also randomly decided I wanted to crochet an afghan.  Came across the pattern, it said "easy" in big bold CAPITAL letters.  Capital letters.  It must be true.

It wasn't true ;-P

Lol so I bought the kit to make the easy afghan.  Just to put in perspective, I think I learned to crochet a straight line when I was in brownies and that was the last time I had anything to do with this concept.  Fortunately I also bought a beginner how-to book ;)

Okay so beginner book seems pretty clear...  Good start.  Decided I needed some spare wool to practice and learn some basics before tackling The Project.  Wool is not something that floats around our house, but it *does* tend to float around Mum's.  Lol so quick text and sure enough, she has lots to spare :)

So she gave me a quick 101 on how to crochet -- and her hands flew and it looked just so easy.  Yeah - so is posting trot.  Unless you're a complete beginner.   I tried and devolved into giggles it was so hopeless.  Also, still jet lagged so decided to pause and went home to sleep.

Today I tried again.  The first row is okay, but then when the actual crocheting starts...  Ummmm - couldn't remember how Mum showed me to do it, and my book - which is pretty simple - I couldn't follow the diagram.  Fail.   Enter YouTube's How to Crochet for Absolute Beginners.   Lol google win.  This person knows how to teach true beginners.   In slow motion, showing clearly how to hold all the parts, I still had to pause and replay it a few times but I got the general concept.   Actually applying, however, is more of a challenge.  lol I end up twisted around, backwards, and all kinds of creative.  I might end up with the strangest looking afghan ever.   And I've only made it to minute 5 (although I was able to skip the first 3 -win!).  At some point I might have to watch to the end ;).

Sadly the stitch I need to learn to make my afghan is not in this video.  It's gonna be a while before I can even start ;).  Well that and the fact that I don't even know how to read the pattern -- but I'm counting on being able to access Mum's mad skills for translation *g*

Anyways - that's this week's random hobby.  Wish me luck.

I was a fish in a previous life; I dive to visit relatives.

Water day today :).

Chris and I headed over to the dive shop a few properties over after breakfast for our partial day on the water.  We were pretty pleased when we discovered our dive boat was one of the classic style here :).  Getting ready to go was an interesting experience in that nobody seemed to have any idea what was going on, yet somehow everybody was slowly organized with all their required gear.  I’m still not quite certain how that happened, but it was effective at least :)

I neglected to take any pics today, but this one Chris took a couple days ago shows the type of boat I’m talking about in the background

Since I’ve been having so many issues w my ears, my plan was to snorkel the first dive and dive the second (the second dive being the more shallow of the two).  The boat ride out would be about an hour, so we settled in.  We were right at the front of the seating area, and I was very pleased to discover that the design of the boat had the advantageous side effect of sending wake splashes away from the passengers.  Win.

Bigger win, *much* bigger win, on the way we saw whales!!!  Two of them, by size I would guess mother and baby.  Guess also validated by one of the locals who confirmed that whales are normal here from now through November as they come to give birth here.  Awesome.   So the captain cut the engine and we got to watch the two whales for a while.  Was really cool and completely unexpected.  Also a first for me.  I’ve been in whale territory a few times, but always “we saw one here yesterday” or some variant.  But not only did I see these, I saw them first *g*. I’ll trip over a lion in the wild, but apparently she who can only barely swim is set to survive the ocean?   That being said, whales weren’t exactly hard to see ;).  Lol was more that I was looking the right direction at the right time.
Anyways - eventually made it to the first dive site; Chris actually went diving, I stuck to snorkeling.  Was a good sized reef, not a ton of fish.   I managed to lose my group three times *sigh*.  Once the guide noticed and called to me when I popped my head up to look around.  The second time the boat was coming right to me — they redirected me where I should’ve been ;).   The last time I looked up and realized I was all alone :(.  Slightly scary as the main reason I’d looked up in the first place was that I was getting very cold and very tired and wanted to see about going in.   Okay well people can be hard to find, but at least I could see the boat in the distance — it was off picking up divers but I figured if I swam in that general direction it’d probably work out.  And sure enough I found my group and grabbed a floaty to hang on to till the boat came back to us.   Absolute worst case, some of the reef was shallow enough I could’ve stood up.  Would’ve destroyed the reef though so was really trying to avoid that!   I did decide though I’m much better at diving than snorkeling.

Back on the boat we relocated to the second site, but I was done.   I’d tried a mini dive while snorkeling and couldn’t equalize, was also having mask pressure issues, and was so very cold and tired.  I didn’t clue in till much later that the timing from when I took the anti-nausea meds to then was about exactly as long as they take to knock me out.   Fail.  So I opted out entirely.  Not one part of me even remotely wanted to get back in the water.  Chris went, and got to see some very cool fish, but I parked myself in the sheltered front of the boat w a life jacket pillow and just lay there.   Full wetsuit, black, under the equatorial sun, at midday.   And it wasn’t till the last 10 mins or so that I ditched the top half of the wetsuit — just to give an idea of how hot it was.   Just as well as the only thing exposed — the back of my hands — got sunburnt.   Lol took me a while this eve to figure out how I’d done that, but yeah for a good part of today, all of me was protected by 3mm of wetsuit.
Drive back was uneventful.  The whole trip was significantly longer than expected but perfect weather on a nice boat w interesting people — not half bad.  Across from me were two people doing their scuba certification.  The instructor was teaching switching between English and Spanish (I was more entertained than I should’ve been trying to understand the Spanish).  Turns out Student A only speaks Spanish; Student B speaks English, Swahili, Italian, and some Hebrew?!?!  So random.  But apparently Italian is close enough to Spanish that he could understand it well enough to follow even though he couldn’t speak it.   I am loving the variety of languages I get to hear here :).  But yeah, this instructor had two students learning in two different languages.  Credit to her on that one.
After we got back we just spent the afternoon enjoying the beach :). We stuck to the shade today, again getting another beach bed, because well - we both got more than enough sun on the boat.
Tomorrow’s our last day :(.   Our flight leaves at 2am on Monday.

Random awkward hippo art sculpture photo cause it was the only one I took above water today ;) —

It’s exhausting doing nothing because you can’t take a break.

Today was a day of absolutely perfect nothingness.  Our most energetic activity was to walk down the beach to the dive shop and book tomorrow’s excursion :)

Otherwise we spent the morning by the pool and the afternoon by the beach.  We even got one of the covered bed loungers on the beach :). Win!   And it was hot and sunny enough that we’d go in the ocean - which is one of the clearest and definitely the calmest I’ve ever experienced, lie down till dry, at that point we’d be ready for another swim.  Rinse and repeat all afternoon.

Those of you who know Winston will be pleased to know he too is enjoying his vacation, even if he didn’t get to play with the lions.

And now I’m somehow exhausted. And also really looking forward to tomorrow.

Adventures at Stone Town and Prison Island

So this appeared on my FB today and is a way of looking at things that I generally apply to my life. And while often this leads to awesome adventures (the beach ride in Costa Rica for one, my entire Australia trip for another ;) it does, occasionally, backfire.

Today was one of those backfires as our private tour ended up being neither private - 2 other couples - nor a tour :(. Our “guide” got us to the locations after a very long drive with lots of stopping and exchanging money for no apparent reason. But he appeared to know nothing about the locations and certainly wasn’t about to give a tour. His English was also extremely limited. At the prison, another guide took pity on us so we got a tiny bit of info there; I would’ve liked to have just tagged along for the rest of his tour, but it wasn’t actually in English. Lol he legit gave a quick English spiel cause he felt bad for us guideless folk...

Other than that, the prison was just a courtyard, and with no guide and no signage, we were left with no real way to take anything meaningful from it.

If you’re going to be sent to prison, it may as well be one with amazing weather and incredible views. —

Next up was the tortoise sanctuary, which was as you’d expect w some very large tortoises. Their necks are remarkably snake-like, and I found myself more creeped out than I should be by something that moves at a glacial pace. Lol that and for some reason I kept having flashbacks to The Neverending Story - was there a wise old tortoise in that? Cause I definitely haven’t seen it in more than 20 years so it’s a pretty random memory.

We managed to lose our guide and one other couple in there that meant us and the 2nd couple got to spend a significant amount of time just standing waiting. At least the weather was good - or would’ve been had we been on a beach.

We eventually made it back to the mainland for our tour of Stone Town. Thankfully our “guide” found us a proper tour guide for this one and the tour itself was quite good. The sultan’s palace, which I was moderately curious about, was under construction so we unfortunately didn’t get to visit :(

We wandered around town with a variety of explanations and of course hit up the local tourist market. Lunch was in a local establishment — by that I mean one frequented at least in part by locals. It was insane, crazy packed, and we had no idea how to order (waiters weave through asking people what they want). In the end though the food was good, copious, and cheap :). Chris and I figure with exchange rate together our meal was well under $10; his very impressive smoothie alone would’ve cost nearly that at home.

After lunch we hit up the market, which gave me a new appreciation for grocery stores ;). But it did serve to give some insight into how people here live. The fish market was something straight out of a history text. That odour, mingled with the not insignificant BO of many of the people crowded in there, the claustrophobic environment, and the constant annoyance of flies, is not something I’ll soon forget.

The decision to skip the meat market was unanimous lol. The spice market which followed was definitely more appealing. It was hot and crowded though so we were unimpressed when we got back to find our driver had left and was 45 mins away *sigh*. At least it was nice weather - we got ice cream and chilled in a park till the driver and his non air conditioned van deigned to appear.  Drive home was equally long and unpleasant — and we needed to stop for gas again.  Sheesh.  Oh well -- we made it in one piece.

Overall right on the bottom end of the scale of tourist experiences I’ve had; on the plus side, nothing truly tragic, dangerous, or scary happened so I guess we’re still calling that a win. Things could def have been way worse. Will be booking through the hotel for the next one though.

Completely unrelated plus — my hearing has been coming back all day and is almost entirely back to normal. Also, dinner at the hotel was lovely, 2nd floor balcony under a moonlit sky, overlooking the beach. Very civilized :).

AND - I got my touristing done :). Those of you who know me well enough to have been in my home, know of my unfortunate and so very out of character habit of collecting horribly tacky tourist photo frames from everywhere I go :). Sadly I didn’t start this till my “adult” tourism, so am missing a few countries from my uni adventures, but otherwise yeah. It’s a thing. And it is awesome. And my husband tolerates it ;). If there is ever any glitter to be found in my house, that is where you will find it. That being said, I was really struggling to find a frame to meet my requirements here, so was quite pleased to stumble upon one tonight. Win!

Looking into snorkeling tomorrow. Ears still not right so not convinced I should dive, but no risk w snorkelling. Dive shops all closed when we got home, but we were given directions to a reputable one from the front desk and the sign in their window says they have a trip both tomorrow and Sat. So we shall see :)

Off to Zanzibar

So last night we learned that I am the first person who dies in a horror movie ;). Lol something trying to break into the tent, and my first reaction after dismissing “ignore it” was to grab a flashlight and see what it was. This of course while half asleep and blind. A whole lot of zero drama - once I shined the light, it ran away ;). But it did amuse me to discover that no only can I not see the predators, I walk right up to them. Sheesh.

Some hyenas on the way to the airport —

And today I learned that any ambition I had to learn to fly can be shelved. Little planes and I do not mix :(.

The airport was nothing more than a field with a dirt landing strip.  No checkin, no tickets checked, carry bags to the plane and hop on —

So our flight ticket said we fly to Arusha, then transfer and fly to Zanzibar. Sure, no problem. What the ticket didn’t say was that there would be four stops on the way to Arusha *sigh*. By the fourth one I was feeling motion sick (despite anti-nausea meds) and far worse - my ears. So much pain. It seriously felt like someone stuck a drill bit into my ear drum and had tunnelled down on some weird angle through my eye socket and into my molars. It was brutal. And still one flight left. After the last flight there was less pain, but I was mostly deaf. Unfortunately still am :(. I have high hopes this will be gone when I wake up in the am, but am very much afraid it may mean no diving for me :(. And diving in Zanzibar was actually what started this whole adventure. Booo. Also slightly concerned simply because it’s been hours w no improvement. I’m already mostly blind, I’d really prefer not to be mostly deaf too :(

At least we got to sit super close to the pilot; that was cool.

The drive to the resort was long and slow and through some areas I’m not sure I’d want to stop. But now that we’re here, it’s lovely. Not very big, but nice, gorgeous pool and lovely white sand beach.
Where we accidentally ended up having possibly the most romantic dinner ever. Fair given that technically this is our slightly-delayed honeymoon :). But yes, the restaurant we ended up in mostly cause it was the first one we found, we think reservations are required but because we were early they let us in. We had one of about 8 tables set up on the beach, waves of receding tide lapping gently, amazing food eaten by candlelight. Really was quite the experience:)

This same white sand beach is also where we bought a tour from a random dude. Assuming we didn’t just get totally ripped off, that’ll be tomorrow’s adventure :). Stone Town and Prison Island (read: history and tortoises ;). Looking forward to it!

The Grande Finale 

-- Us in the vehicle we've been all but living in this week ;)  The pop-up roof really makes all the difference! --

Last night I feel asleep listening to elephants talking across my tent. This was after the noisy hyenas and the lion in the distance. Absolutely incredible. The other night something (I think zebra or wildebeest) bumped into the tent - that was slightly nerve wracking, but just hearing them all when they seem content to leave you alone is awe inspiring.

Our guide did tell us though of one woman from a previous trip that the elephants kept kicking in her tent. Turns out she’d taken an apple back from dinner and elephants love apples. Who knew? Lol makes me think that “no food in the tent” might’ve been a good thing to mention in the briefing. I know it logically from camping at home, but somehow the thought of an elephant breaking in to steal an apple had never crossed my mind. Chris lost part of a protein bar to some critter - but we have no idea what or when.

So this morning we went to see if we could watch more wildebeests cross the river. And we did, with a much shorter wait this time! SO many - way more than yesterday. To put in perspective, I shot just shy of 3 min of video and still had time for still shots and to just stand and absorb in stunned amazement. I will share this at some point but have no free wifi left so it’ll have to wait a bit ;)

Unfortunately we were on the other side of the river today so not quite as impressive as they’re running away from us instead of toward, but still wow.

Interesting to me was that the safari vehicles all park kms away while they wait for the wildebeest to start crossing - barely in sight, hidden behind trees, because the wildebeest are hesitant to cross and won’t if anything seems out of order. But the second they start, everyone races up till we’re only a few meters away and the wildebeest couldn’t care less. Today was crazy with vehicles :(. Yesterday there were only a handful, today dozens. But we still got to experience it and it was incredible! Also, being on the leaving side, we got to see a few times when the herd would change their mind, do an abrupt 180, and run back the direction they came from! Very cool.

Next we traveled around and Chris spotted a leopard in the distance! Eagle eyes. The guide was super impressed. Sadly, I couldn’t see it even with explicit directions *sigh*. I am disappointingly bad at this game. However, once I saw it, I got the money shot of it jumping up the hill :). Pretty pleased at that, although it was far enough away to be severely stretching the limits of my camera, so we shall see how it looks in big later :).

-- Even napping, the cub is super cute --

The remaining wildebeests also saw the leopard and disappeared, so we changed track from following them and instead revisited yesterday’s lions; there was nothing exciting going on there so we ventured into Kenya for a while. Tanzania has a sign marking the border, but Kenya didn’t seem to.

-- With our amazing guide --

Oh and as far as signs go - there are none! No street names, nothing. Yet somehow everybody seems to know where they’re going and can describe to one another how to find things ;). The only sign we saw in Serengeti was one that said “do not cross if river is flooded” lol. Now you would think this was obvious, but these vehicles can go through water half way up the windshield - we certainly forded various streams and such that no vehicle I’ve ever owned would’ve made it through. But this bridge was only as wide as the vehicle itself, and it’s not hard to imagine crossing w it under water and landing w a tire in the river, resulting in a quick flip of the vehicle.

Anyways - we made it safely into Kenya, but didn’t see a ton interesting there, some more racing gazelles (otherwise known as Thompson gazelles, but I prefer ‘racing’ :), a bunch of the usuals: water bucks, elephants, zebras, a giraffe or two... There was a large tortoise who was kinda fascinating in a slow and ponderous way.

-- PC: Chris.  Mine is still on my camera --

On our return we got to see the leopard with her cubs again. This was amazing! She had a kill up in the tree; we got some shots of her climbing up and also of one of the three (not two as previously thought) cubs feasting, while the other two wrestled on the ground. Some amazing photos and also just so happy to watch them play.

-- PC: Chris. Mine is still on my camera --

And on that high note, we wrap the safari portion of our adventure; tomorrow we’re off to Zanzibar :)

It means “no worries”, for the rest of your days...

Our current home

So let’s start with a language lesson. I’ve always pronounced Tanzania as a four syllable word: TANzanEah (roughly). However, our guide pronounces it as a three syllabled TanZANya. Now given that he’s A - native Tanzanian, B - university educated, and C - speaks 4 languages, I’m going to go ahead and say his pronunciation is probably the correct one ;). Otoh, if I come home and tell someone I went to Tanzanya, they’re going to have no idea what I’m talking about *g*. Lol I have no solution to this, was just moderately amused. Maybe it’s an a-lu-min-um vs a-lu-min-e-um kinda thing ;)
And also while on the topic of language, it makes me smile every time someone says hakuna matata to me :). It’s actually a thing, and not a tourist thing (the tourist thing here is “you’re welcome” meaning you are welcome here/to help yourself to whatever/etc but very disconcerting when you’ve never heard that phrase used literally, only as a response to ‘thank you’. Here ‘thank you’ is the response to ‘you’re welcome’ lol). So yeah, teenage me was pretty happy to discover that Disney didn’t lie to me. Otherwise all I’ve learned is Jambo = hello, Asante = thank you, and Karibu = you’re welcome. 3 syllable words put the stress in the middle syllable. Other than that, I’m sticking to Spanish!

So on to today’s adventures. Those of you following the story may recall that yesterday we were lucky enough to see a leopard, but wished we’d gotten slightly better photos... Well not only did we start today with seeing another leopard, which Chris got an amazing shot of!, but the leopard had cubs!!! So I now have pics of leopard cubs :). Coming soon to a Facebook album near you *g*. They were actually just the cutest fluff balls - our guide thinks a month or two old. And of course being nocturnal, it’s not a particularly common sight; our guide said he hadn’t seen cubs in years. So yeah - awesome.

You may also remember that yesterday we chose not to wait for the wildebeest to cross the river. Today we decided we had time to spare. Lots of it. We waited just shy of 3h (I have to admit, I was happy I accidentally had my kindle along for the ride - watching wildebeest hang out at the top of a cliff doing nothing for hours on end is only so captivating). But our patience was rewarded, and it was incredible. Tbh, I’d kinda thought “what’s the big deal about some animals going through the river?” Well I’ll tell ya, it has to do with speed, quantity, noise, and carefully controlled chaos. NatGeo documentaries don’t come close. And as they ran back up our side, they looped around our vehicle so we were pretty well surrounded by thousands of galloping wildebeests. Shot the video after all kinds of still shots — had actually thought they were done and was disappointed I hadn’t thought to video when a new wave started up! Completely surreal.

Blah - can't embed video from the app. Here's hoping this link will work. If not - will fix when I get home.

After that you’d think we’d be done, but no - this place (and our guide!) is way too awesome for that. Next up was two cheetahs lounging by a tree. Apparently they’re brothers - females are entirely solitary, but if two male cubs survive together they’ll live together as adults.

There was a substantial storm, and we had to head back “before the river flooded” lol not something I’m used to having to consider!

Was fascinated by the play of light and dark here and the absolute break between flat planes and endless sky —

But not in such a rush that we couldn’t still take time to see another lion pride with a ton of cubs!

These were super cute and thoroughly aggravating their mothers much as human toddlers do. This one cub in particular was poking at and climbing all over his mum.

— I took this pic on my good camera and then took an awful pic of the view screen so I could show it cause it amused me that much ;) —

And following that on the way back we saw two more lions - mating. Yup, whole ritual from lying half asleep and oblivious through circling each other, performing for the audience, and done and ready for a cigarette - all in about 90 seconds ;). Did make for some good pics though.

The rain started up again on the way back - but the camp staff met us with umbrellas at the car. Customer service throughout this whole experience has been amazing. Apparently we’re right on the edge of rainy season - which I knew when I booked the trip, but a risk worth taking to see all the babies and the migration. Credit also to my awesome travel advisor (Wayne at Gamewatchers Safaris if anyone is interested) as everything he’s suggested has so far worked out exactly as or even better than we’d dreamed.

Since it was raining we hung out in the main tent and chatted with random other vacationers before dinner. There was another wildebeest crossing we didn’t see, but very few others saw the leopard babies or the cheetahs. So we win ;)

Tomorrow is our last full day game drive. I think the plan is to see if there’s any wildebeest left to cross...

The lion sleeps tonight...

So every time I think “it’s going to be a pretty boring blog today” something amazing happens.
Today was a long drive. Actually it wasn’t all that long - slightly less than 300km, including animal detours. But it took us just shy of 11h. Not even kidding. About 2 of those hours were used with breaks and animal viewing but the rest was driving over the bumpiest, twistiest, most nauseating roads every. Yeah for amazing prescription anti-nauseants so I was actually okay till the last hour. But every part of me is sore and tired from just being a passenger. And we now understand why people fly, and are eternally grateful that we’re flying out at the end ;)

So we’re in the Serengeti now and back up to hot summer temperatures ;). When we stopped for lunch our guide mentioned a side trail that takes about half an hour and suggested we try it after we ate; we agreed we’d meet in an hour (he usually has lunch with his friends). But at the half hour mark he came and found us just as we were getting ready to start the trail “okay, ready to go?”  Ummm sure. No reason for the change of plans but C and I were only killing time. But then on the drive a while later we did one short animal detour - for a “super pride” of lions. Maybe 25 of them?

There were three or four trees with lions under them; this one has at least one or two cubs if you look closely

 We were the only vehicle there (often you find cool stuff by seeing where the other cars are) and it was incredible. A whole variety, including some super cute cubs ;). So that was awesome - got a ton of pics! Turns out our driver got a tip that they were there at lunch so wanted to leave right away to catch them.

But really the drive was just super long and rough. We did end up in the middle of the wildebeest migration, which is super interesting.   And I have to say, baby warthogs are one of the more amusing creatures I’ve ever seen.

Hard to grasp the scale in this phone snap, but the vast majority of the black dots in this picture are wildebeests

Anyways, eventually, we got to our camp. Or rather - where the camp used to be *sigh*. The camps follow the animals and ours had moved another half hour. Ah well.

So we continued on our way but were starting to see other game drive vehicles. Which meant A - we were close, and B - there were animals about. We stopped at one; it was hippos who were mostly under water. Meh - we’ve seen those in better settings and tired and ready to be done w the vehicle by this point. Next was a group of people watching because “the wildebeest might cross the river”. Well yeah they might, but they look a whole lot more like they’re settling in for the night. Our guide suggested we check back in on them in the morning. Sounds good.

By this point I really just wanted to go to camp, but experience of a lifetime, I didn’t want to miss something cause I was tired. So I kept my mouth shut - if nothing else, the sun was setting and night drives aren’t allowed.

So the next find was worth it. Hyenas w their babies. Got some really cool pics, some of which I ruined in an amateur photographer moment since I forgot to adjust the shutter speed to account for the lack of light. But at least I realized it in time to still get some good shots.

Happier now we continued, and there was one more group of vehicles by the river. We wandered over to see if they too were waiting for wildebeests. Nope - leopard! And sure enough - there he was :). The last of the Big 5 that we had yet to see. Just stunning. Not as close as we’ve been lucky to get w some of the others, but still within camera range. And fortunately I fixed my newbie mistake w the hyenas, so I was good to go for the leopard ;). 

My pics are all on the good camera — in the interim, here’s one Chris took, cause you really need to see this  —

So yeah - that was an incredible high that made the brutal drive seem less important somehow. And THEN we got to the camp. Or rather, our guide parked the vehicle next to another vehicle and a person randomly appeared and took our luggage... Around the next tree was a big tent - out front of it we had a quick orientation. There’s no power in the individual tents but there is a charging station in the main one - and it’s an impressive charging station at that; we made use of it during dinner :). Meals are sit down at set times - there’s only 12 tents, so that gives you an idea of size. Tents have no outlets but do have lights, sink w running water, and flush toilets. There is also a bucket shower — you arrange with them when you’d like your shower and they fill the bucket. If you run out of water you yell “more water” and they’ll add more ;). They are strict here about the “escort after dark” rule - understandably since the individual tents are literally just tents scattered around. We’re also given an emergency whistle for “if an animal tries to join you in your tent”. I’m listening to something I can’t identify howling in the distance now. It’s amazing.

And yet with all that, they have wifi. Lol gotta love technology ;). I couldn’t get a pic of the tent since it was dark when we got to it, but will do tomorrow. I am so overwhelmed at how incredible this place is in its simplicity. Reminding me of camping as a kid, and yet with way cooler sound effects outside ;)

For most of the day, I feared I’d have little to write about, and instead it became easily one of the top experiences yet!

A rhino is just a unicorn with poor PR.

Sunrise from our balcony; this might be my favourite photo yet

So we now understand the need for the night guard escorts... It seems somebody was attacked by a hyena in the hall last night. Chris woke up — apparently it was quite the commotion my medicated self managed to sleep through. The person is going to be okay, but did require medical attention. Ironically though, this is the hotel that hasn’t mentioned a night escort rule... hmmm

This morning we headed down into the crater. The trip down was the type of road you can’t have in any country that gets winter ;). Very steep and switchback turns. Thankfully one way so no oncoming traffic.

The hope for the day was to see a rhino, but we started the day with lions. These ones appeared to be out for a good time; they were playing and goofing around or otherwise just strolling. But was interesting to me how the other animals reacted. The zebras and wildebeests made a quick exit stage left (pursued by a lion - or maybe not ;) while the hyena who’d been mindlessly loping toward them comically hit the breaks before doing an abrupt 180 and booking it the other direction. But the one that fascinated me was the gazelle sentry. She just stood calmly and watched, didn’t alert her pack, completely blasé about the whole scenario. I asked the guide about the behaviour and he said “she’s not worried cause they’re a lot faster than the lions; second fastest land mammals.” Ah, okay then - that explains the racing stripe ;). I was fascinated by these guys — they have a black stripe on their white belly and are so unbelievably graceful.

Misc zebra pic cause I can

Anyways - the lions weren’t hunting and no drama followed, but lots of good pics :). Other critters we saw while looking for the friendly neighbourhood rhino included tons of hyenas, more zebra and wildebeests (you can’t possibly be surprised by this), a surprising number of hippos - both on land and in water, jackals, dark-mane lions (of the lazy variety), more hyenas, more lions, but no rhinos... Apparently there are only five in the whole park... Also no giraffes (distinct lack of tall trees) or monkeys. But at least we’ve seen many of them elsewhere.

Now while this was going on we experienced a new feature. One we’d been warned about but hadn’t really respected. The dust. Oh my god the dust. It’s insidious. Think of the worst riding arena you’ve ever been in and triple it. You might notice there’s a cloud, but you dismiss it as no big deal. Until you realize that licking your lips results in brown lip liner. Touching anything leaves palm prints. And our poor cameras... They’ll need some TLC tonight. Ugh.

Lunch was a picnic near some swimming hippos and then we continued our quest... or tried to anyways - flat tire. Fail. Fortunately our guide had not one but two spares and set about repairing it; one of the other guides stopped to help. We weren’t allowed out of the vehicle — lions might eat us *g*. The vehicle also has two gas tanks — it’s all round prepared.

Once we were on our way again, success! We found a rhino - waaaay off in the distance, but w the aid of binoculars or a good zoom lens, we could see him. Amazing! Now just one of the big five left to see...

Off to Serengeti tomorrow; we’re staying in a tented camp for the next three days so not sure what we’ll have in the way of power or internet. If I can, I will post. If not, I’ll post when we get to Zanzibar :)

Three parks, one day, no problem :)

3 parks in one today - was craziness :)

We started with a game drive on the way out of Tarangire park - more lions was the highlight of that one. We saw a recent kill last night w no predators around it, but this morning the happily sated lions were lounging around the area.  Great pics of that with the grown up camera ;).  Will share in future.
Also - this is when I learned that if I were stranded in this environment my time would be very limited. One of the lions took me a good five minutes to find, despite him being directly in front of me AND knowing he was there. I’d be the first one to step on a cub and set mama off. Lol all those years of hidden picture puzzles did nothing to prepare me for the reality of safaris.

Chris and I at Lake Manyara lunch stop —

Anyways - it was a great start to the morning and then we drove to Lake Manyara. The environment was a complete change; deep forests and lush green colouring. We saw forest elephants within seconds of entering and all kinds of monkeys and baboons. Forest elephants, btw, are never going to sneak up on anybody. The noise of them navigating... Serious “get out of the way” warning.

Lots of very colourful birds, some super lazy hippos, a lone forest buck who moved far too quickly to get a good photo, and the usual multitude of zebras. When exactly did zebras become usual?

Sadly we were unable to find any tree-climbing lions, which I was quite looking forward to :(. Apparently none of the guides had seen any sign today. But other than that minor disappointment, was a good trip :)

We then headed to Ngorongoro - on the way we detoured through a cultural centre, which was really a giant gift shop. Tons of really amazing stuff, sadly none of which we could even pretend to afford ;)

The view from our balcony

So Ngorongoro park is huge — we’re focusing on the crater. And that view. The best photographer couldn’t do it justice. The best scenery I’ve seen anywhere in the world was in either Banff or New Zealand; this easily ranks amongst those.

It was a stunning drive up to our hotel. When we checked in they gave us one room, then randomly decided “no, we have one with a better view” and gave us another ;). The conversation was not in English so not sure what inspired the upgrade, but the room is incredible so win. It is much colder here - I’m bundled in my fleece as I’m waiting for dinner and was pleased the heater was on in the room. But I’m very much looking forward to star gazing tonight after dinner.

Update: stars are incredible! No light pollution and a clear view to the sky. AND turndown service includes a hot water bottle between the sheets. This is a new (or actually very old) level of service I could get used to ;)

The slightly-broken circle of life...

If you look closely, you can see giraffes :) —

Gather round and grab some popcorn and I’ll tell you a story; it’s a true story - it happened today. One of life and loss and the endless struggle between clever scrappiness and confident strength.
First we have a family of Kudus - clearly Mom, Dad, and baby. Our guide emphasized that these are at risk - he pointed them out right away, mentioning he hadn’t seen them in about five years. Google is less concerned and seems to feel they’re doing just fine, but our story plays better with the guide’s version ;). I’m telling you stories. Trust me. Baby K is old enough to be eating solid food, but likely young enough to still be nursing too.

Then in the other corner we have the cheetah. Strong. Sleek. Very aware of its own power. We’re taking pics of said cheetah posing under the tree when she takes note of our Kudu friends. She nonchalantly strolls towards them, stopping to sit and watch for a bit before crouching low to the ground to stalk.
She waits, and watches...
The kudus seem entirely unaware of their potential impending doom. They continue their leisurely stroll while the cheetah picks a line that will intersect them. Interestingly, the cheetah just watches the first time their paths cross, and the kudu pass calmly.
On the prowl
But now she’s on a mission. Moving quickly but low to the ground, she rapidly closes the distance. Then in grass too tall for us to see exactly what happened, she made her move.
Break for freedom!

Mom and Dad Kudu flee for safety, but baby is nowhere to be seen :(. At one point Dad nearly crashes into Mom as she pauses and turns to search for her baby. Okay - I may be anthropomorphising a little here, but she definitely stopped to look back; I caught it on camera. With a last look, both parents continue their flight.
Where's baby?  I don't know - I thought you had him!

But wait! In the distance, Baby K is swimming! It would seem the cheetah in some way got him into the water. And, well, I guess she didn’t want to get her paws wet... Baby K swims about half a mile downstream before pulling himself, exhausted, out of the water. He lies on the solid ground, head up but otherwise unmoving, for what feels like forever but was maybe five minutes?
Taking a break with some bird friends
At this point I was strongly rooting for Baby K and very much afraid the cheetah would still be hunting...

But no - or rather she is... She is very patiently waiting crouched near where Baby K went in the water. Apparently unaware that he swam away.
A little wet and tired, but very much alive

We watched as Baby K regained his footing, took a few wobbly steps, and then bounded off in the direction of his parents. They had stopped and were apparently waiting for him.

As we left, Baby K was on his way to rejoin his family and the cheetah was still very alertly watching the spot where he’d once gone under water ;). I have no idea how long she stayed there - she was too well hidden for good photos so we went in search of our own lunch ;). But suffice to say that in true Disney style, Baby K escaped.
Wait for me!

So yeah - that was this morning’s adventure :). We also went searching for a leopard; we found his pray strung in a tree but no luck on the actual cat :(. Ah well - the cheetah/kudu drama more than made up for it!

Other animals today - a few hundred Cape buffalos all in a pack, a couple mongooses (mongeese? Lol), tons of elephants, zebras & wildebeest (which do live together it turns out - complementary species. They eat different parts of the plants so don’t compete for food, one has excellent eye sight while the other has excellent hearing, and there’s safety in numbers. So there you go - your educational moment of the day). Hmmm also warthogs, water bucks, antelope, ostriches, giraffes and lions...

Oh - and the hyrax, which I’d never heard of before. These rodents of unusual size are tail-less, fast, climb, and can jump impressive distances. They’re about cat-sized and actually somewhat cute. The ones choosing to live around the hotel are seriously fat - they almost seem a different species from the ones farther out.

note the high water mark from rainy season.  The almost-canyons, a couple stories deep, that we drive across will be flooded a couple months.  Very impressive and almost surreal. —

Got some unbelievable photos of all types of critters! Alas they are all on my big camera which is not cooperating w my phone at the moment, so you’ll probably have to wait till I get home to see them...  All I can put here for now are the meh ones from when I remembered to use the phone camera :)

We spent a fair amount of time by the marsh today; lots of fun watching multiple species play in the water :)

Tomorrow am is our last game drive in this park, then off to Lake Manyara in search of tree climbing lions :)

And in other news - Chris’ luggage caught up with us right before dinner. Win!

The elephants dig to the centre of these trees for water; somehow the trees can survive this.  This one is still alive, and likely several hundred years old. —