Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Africa Day 1: Good Things Happen! 2/1/2010

We finally made it! After months of planning, thousands of dollars raised and an amazing corporate sponsor- I am in Africa with 5 of my closest friends. We couldn't have had a smoother trip so far.

While joking about where to pick up the box I will be shipped back in- very funny daddy- my dad drove me and Gretchen to O’Hare to catch our flights. We survived over 24 hours of travel, flying through Amsterdam, Nairobi, then finally to Kilimanjaro. The two of us were like little kids excited to go to Disney. Sleep was impossible- and I am normally a VERY good flight sleeper! In Amsterdam we managed to make a scene with Ronald McDonald (photos not appropriate for web viewing), laugh at people for snoring in the lounge chair section, spend WAY too many euros on Africa books, and running around like fools. We made it in around 11pm with our faces pressed against the plane windows looking at Kili under a full moon. When I previously said our trip was smooth, I left out the fact our luggage was lost and we had a one hour dirt road (bumpy!) ride to our hotel while having to pee like nothing before! Life was wonderful again when we were reunited with Nate and the others.

The next morning everything fell into place. We were informed our baggage made it in, we had an AMAZING breakfast, we found internet to update friends and family, and best of all we were upgraded from a camping safari to a lodge safari.

Our Safari began with a 4.5 hour drive to Lake Manyara National Park. Because I had only slept about 2-3 hours, I took this opportunity to nap. Before getting to the park, we saw our first beautiful animal- a Giraffe crossing the street right behind us. In the park we were immediately greeted with baboons and blue monkeys. I tried desperately to steal one of the blue monkeys, but they wouldn't let me touch them! Maybe tomorrow...

After the monkeys came the elephants. Followed by more monkeys, wildebeests, hippos, zebras, dik diks (hehe), and many more. I couldn't believe how close to the vehicle they came!

By around 4pm we were all getting quite hot and the jet lag was really setting in. When we were brought back to the lodge our jaws hit the floor. This place is AMAZING! For Africa we have two nights of total luxury. The swimming pool and beautiful view brought renewed energy.

After an amazing dinner we are all going to go and play games. Life is good, this trip is better. Tomorrow... the Ngorongoro Crater.

Day 2: Ngorongoro Crater 2/2/2010

Kitties!!! Today was the day. I finally saw lions and a cheetah in the wild. I obeyed orders and did not try to pet them- but they rubbed right up against out vehicle!

After a fantastic night of sleep (finally!) and a wonderful breakfast at the Highview Hotel- we set our for the Nogorngoro Crater. We were told the crater used to be a mountain larger than Kili. Now thousands of animals migrate in the crater. After a beautiful drive in we immediately saw Zebras, Wildebeest, African buffalo, warthogs (Pumba!), and Thompson Gazelle. We literally saw animals non-stop - no shortage at all of Zebras, buffalo, and wildebeests. Our first big treat was getting up close and personal with several lionesses- these ladies laid down right next to our truck! Then came the Ostriches, hyenas, hippos, hartebeests, Elephants, Jackals, flamingos, and many beautiful birds. On our way to lunch we finally found our cheetah he (or she) was only out for a few minutes.

Lunch was hysterical. We ate by a body of water full of hippos- and were told to stay in the vehicle with our food due to the birds. We took a walk down by the water to have our warning proven by watching a group of Mzungu having their food stolen and bodies attacked by large birds. Nate got some pretty hilarious video.

After lunch we got to see a very rare site- 2 Black Rhinos with their young. Due to the value of their horn (Nate said it's more valuable than inkjet ink) there are only 25 left in the crater.

I then did what I do best in moving vehicles... fell asleep. Luckily I didn't miss much but was quite impressed that I could sleep on those bumpy roads! I managed to sleep all the way back to the hotel.

Now we are enjoying life sitting by the pool and recapping the day filled with animal babies, spraying hippos, and large amounts of rhino urine. As much as we prepared for roughing it - this lodge upgrade is unbelievable. The pool is refreshing, food is amazing, the cooler temps at this elevation allow for wonderful sleep, and the local Maasi are so friendly. Speaking of the locals, Gretchen and I are about to hike into the nearby village and play with the children. Tonight I will sit down and devise a plan to catch my monkey at Tarangire Park.

Day 3: Dirty Mongooses 2/3/2010

No monkey. But at Tarangire we came close! Let me back up to the stroll through the Maasi village last night. Gretchen and I never felt more popular in our lives! Our stroll started with a dog following us, then a dog and a child, then 2 dogs and 3 children. Pretty soon we were leading a parade through the village! The children were so nice and spoke very good English. There was still quite the language barrier- and at one point Gretchen and I were quite sure they had us swearing in Swahili.

As Nate always said, smiles and laughter know no language. The next hour was full of just that. They loved getting their pictures taken and looking at them on the camera. I decided to show off by doing cart wheels and was amazed at the gymnastic ability of these kids! Near the end of our walk we gave them gifts which they got VERY excited about. What an amazing experience and what wonderful people.

This morning we set off on our final safari to Tarangire Park. There weren't as many animals here as in the Crater but the ones we did see were unreal. Elephants were everywhere! All sizes and ages bathing, throwing dirt, scratching on rocks or "charging our vehicle" (at least we thought they were). But the highlight of the day had to have been the mating banded mongooses with bright blue balled Vervet monkeys watching from above. Sick I tell you- but worth a good 30 minutes of laughter. The Vervet monkeys also had some VERY tiny babies who were just adorable. It was at this point Nate agreed to taking one home- but I'm not quite sure if it was the cuteness or their enjoyment of porn that sold him.

After the mongoose show we saw more elephants, Impalas, warthogs (more pumba!), birds, waterbucks, and giraffe. We enjoyed a wonderful lunch while watching elephants bathe- then our long drive back to Moshi.

We sat through the Kili orientation meeting only to find out they stuck some random old annoying guy who is traveling by himself with us. We decided to make the best of it and will hopefully find many good qualities about him soon. Hopefully.

Our guide is Bruce and Gretchen and I already did a good job of freaking him out by explaining how our Go-Girls work. Speaking of the Go-Girl, I had my first experience using it in Africa today and failed miserably. We stopped at a gas station that just had a hole in the ground to go in (I will never complain about Kwik Trip restrooms again). I proudly walked in with my Go-Girl and out with urine all over my pants. Guess I need more practice.

But- off to bed for me. Tomorrow begin our 8-day Kilimanjaro climb up the Lemosho route! Here we go!
-Morning update- Katie is very sick. Her and Peter may not be able to join us. Please send good thoughts her way.


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