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Safari Ideas

While we were in Moshi we made up a plan of what we wanted to do on our safari.  Here’s the itenerary we came up with. (Its probably not that original, but I have this idea that when you go to spend money you should have some expectation of what you want going to get in return.  How very un-Buddhist of me setting myself up for disappointment.)

Prerequisite: 4-wheel drive vehicle with a roof that opens.

Day 1 – Start out from Moshi/Arusha and go to the Tarangire National Park.

  • Walking safari
  • Lunch
  • Evening game drive
  • Stay the night

Day 2 – Tarangire to Lake Manyari.

  • Morning game drive in Tarangire
  • Game drive through Lake Manyari – climbing lions
  • Stay the night in Karatu

Day 3 – Lake Manyari to Ngorongoro Crater

  • Bike/Walk/Canoe safari at Lake Manyari (choose one)
  • Stay the night at the Ngorongoro Crater

Day 4 – Ngorongoro Crater

  • Game drive in the crater
  • Walking tour to visit Masai
  • Stay the night near the Ngorongor Crater

Day 5 – To Olduvai Gorge and the Serengeti

  • Visit Olduvai Gorge
  • Go to the Serengeti in the area of Lobo or Klien’s Gate
  • Stay near Klien’s gate or Lobo.

Day 6 – Serengeti.

  • Hot air balloon
  • Visit a Masai Village

Day at the beginning or at the end – Hiking at Kilimanjaro.

  • Spend a day hiking at the base of the Mountain

That was our idea and we sent it by email to a few Safari companies.  Thinking about it now it still sounds good.  But, we kept in mind that if we really wanted to see animals we would need to trust that our guide would know where to take us.  After all the Serengeti is an enormous area.

After some false starts in Moshi, with regards to lodging, we settled in to the Kilimanjaro Coffee Lounge.  As the name suggests it is actually a coffee lounge (good coffee and food), but they also have a few nice clean rooms upstairs for a good price.  On our second morning in town we arrived there early with our bags, ready to unload and relax.  After we got in the room we did nothing all day.  Ah, so refreshing.  Late in the evening we finally saw the mountain from the back stairwell.

The next morning when we had breakfast downstairs there was a guy yelling continuously on a cell phone (or maybe pretending to be on a cell phone).  I asked the lady that ran the place what it was all about.  She said he was possibly mad from Malaria.  We spent the rest of the day just keeping busy – life on the road stuff.  We argued a bit, we went to the offices of some travel agencies trying to get some info about a safari, we played back gammon, we used the internet to work on the blog, we watched a Moonlighting rerun on TV, we washed clothes on the rooftop of the Lounge with a view of Kilimanjaro.

Moshi is a town to the south of Mount Kilimanjaro.  At the time of year that we were there, there were clouds that covered the view for most of the day.  Then, every day, just an hour or so before sunset, the clouds would disappear and the mountain would be there in all of its jaw dropping glory.   The combination of the enormity of the mountain, the light of sunset, the distance of Moshi made me feel like I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The best way to describe it is to say that it seemed unreal.  It seemed like a very large picture or an image painted or projected on a wall.

Kigali to Moshi

After just a few days in Kigali we were ready to go.  It was expensive and there was nothing we wanted to see.  So we got up one morning and by lunch time we had tickets on Rwanda Air from Kigali to Kilimanjaro International Airport.  After buying the tickets we haggled with a taxi driver to take us to the airport. This trip definitely taught me how to haggle.

The plane was tiny – maybe 9 rows/45 seats.  We flew over the southern border of Lake Victoria.  Then it got dark and we didn’t get to see Mount Kilimanjaro.  It was a pain getting Visas at the airport.  They would only take US Dollars (50 USD for each Visa), and of course they needed to be dated 2001 or more recent.  I didn’t have that so I had to change Euros at the exchange in the airport.  It was a robbery.  For 200 Euros I got 209 USD.

Once we had our Visas we walked out and were surrounded by taxi drivers.  It was another situation where we felt like fish being circled by sharks.  The drivers refused to lower the price.  We could have hiked out to the main road but it was dark and a sort of “local” Muzungu advised us against it.  I began ignoring the taxi drivers and checking out the other travelers to see if I could find a strategy.

I walked over to a white guy who appeared to be waiting for someone and frankly asked him for a ride.  I would have taken the ride whether he was going to Arusha or Moshi, though I wanted to go to Moshi.  Incredibly, he said yes.  He checked with his girlfriend and it was OK with her.

The taxi drivers, who had assured us that 50 USD was the right price, suddenly wanted to bargain with us.  Because it was already dark, we decided to stay at the same hotel as our new friends.  We got “the last room” for 60 USD.  The room was enormous and clean and nice.  I fell asleep watching soccer.

A Few Days in Kigali

It has been some time since we were in Kigali. But, I’m just now getting around to writing about it. Oddly enough, as I write this, I’ve just finished reading “A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali,” by Gil Courtemanche.

First, what I remember of my time in Kigali. The main thing I wanted to do there was visit the Kigali Memorial.  We took a taxi and arrived in the middle of a hot sunny day.  We slowly walked around the outside.  We spent a few minutes near the walls of names and the graves.  Then we went inside and I had a series of shocks.  Starting at the bottom we learned a lot about the story of the idea of Hutu and Tutsi.  It was shocking to realize that the entire conflict is based on a complete fiction foisted upon the ancestors of present day Rwandans by the Belgians. It’s all a huge error because everybody bought into the bullshit racial profiles made up and written down by some overly successful, idiot “scientist/anthropologist.” It apparently never occurred to this anthropologist that Africans could have a sophisticated economy and names for people in different social classes and that there could be different looking people in each social class.

The second shock was to find out how deeply the government and military of France was involved in helping to develop the Genocide.  The third shock was to know how utterly ignorant I had been about all of it.  The Genocide is still inexplicable and unimaginable to me.  I felt silly and irrelevant as I held back my tears when looking at the terrifying photographs.  I felt a Rwandan woman looking at me and I felt she was laughing at me.  “Stupid white man, come to cry about our history.”

And seeing those photographs made me marvel that the city still exists.  Undoubtedly many of the murderers have left.  Still…  And in the end, I can not see how the situation could ever improve with such an awful past.  There is no justice to suit the crimes that were committed.  What can you do to a man who has hacked into a baby’s skull, or stolen the soul of a woman through rape and mutilation?

On to my observations about the book.  I was unsatisfied with it.  Perhaps it had its intended effect. Perhaps it was intended as a metaphor for the inexplicable behavior of the so-called international community.  If I’m taking the book literally, my over-riding question is, how could any man choose to stay in a place, knowing what is very likely to happen to the woman he loves? This is to say, if you were in a position to choose, why would you choose to stay and allow your wife to be treated so vilely?  There is no explanation that could satisfy me.  In the book there is a lot of romantic garbage and a lot of talk of happiness that in my opinion doesn’t fit into the story of utter barbarism.  On the other hand, maybe the point is that the white world is perfectly happy with the state of affairs in Africa?  Still, what a lot of romantic language in this book.

The last couple of posts were about some of our experiences in Western and Southwestern Uganda. After the Gorillas Tracking in Mgahinga it was time to leave Uganda.  Because of our positive hitching experience in Murchison Falls and some hellrides in taxis and Matatus through Uganda and because Kisoro did not have much to offer, I didn’t want to let a good opportunity for a safe ride pass us by.  As we headed to the cars at the end of our Tracking experience I got right to the point and asked the German couple if they would give us a ride. U- and I- were leaving immediately for Kigale Rwanda.  T- was a little surprised because I didn’t even check it with her first.  She agreed right away.

We rushed to pack up our bags and tell our hotel we were leaving since we had planned to stay the night after seeing the Gorillas.  The owner let us pick the amount we thought would be fair for the late checkout, and we paid a third of the rate – 10,000 USh.

We crossed the border at Cyanika instead of the larger crossing at Katuna/Gatuna.  We had some hassle at the border because the Rwandan functionary insisted that Italians needed to apply ahead of time for a Visa to enter Rwanda.  Everything we read beforehand said we could both get Visas on arrival.  I had taken some Shillings out before we left Kisoro and that was a good thing.  We had to pay 60 USD for T- to get a Visa.  I had to change the Shillings because in Rwanda, as in Uganda, no US bills dated before 2001 are accepted anywhere.

Once we got on the road in Rwanda the difference was immediately noticeable.  The roads were better and we were driving on the right hand side of the street.  The car was setup for Uganda with the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car, but our driver did not show any signs of discomfort.

It took about three hours to get to Kigale.  We stopped on the road just outside of Kigale and took photos.  Just after entering the city, T- and I jumped out because we realized that U- and I- were going to a very expensive hotel.  We backtracked to the Okipa Hotel which had WiFi.  It did not work well but we were just dying to have Internet since it had been a week since we had checked email.

Uganda Round-up

One reason Uganda is very memorable is because there is so much to see: Lake Victoria; the beginning of the Nile River; almost all of the “big five” game (missing rhinos); Gorillas; the western rift valley. For us it was our introduction to the African continent. For me that means we were met some nice people with a different approach to life.  For example, any verbal exchange begins with, “Hello, how are you?” And, unless you’re in a really big hurry or a clueless Muzungu, you wait to hear the answer, nod at a big smile, and usually are asked in return, “how are you?” Then and only then do you start with your request.

Other tips for Uganda:

  • If you are going to bring US Dollars make sure they are recent.  When we were there the bills had to be from 2001 or more recent.  Nobody will take older bills because the banks won’t take them.
  • If you are going to order the chicken at Ozzie’s Cafe in Jinja you need to be prepared to pluck it yourself.
  • If you see people running for shelter, motorcycles parked on the sidewalk also under shelter and the sky is grey, get inside because lots of rain is about to fall.
  • Even on the worst days when you’re in a room/tent so tiny you want to scratch your eyes out, smile because you’re in Africa, the birthplace of humanity.
  • Talk to people so they don’t have a crappy impression of “Europeans.” Even explaining the decorations on a cheesy tourist pen can be interesting conversation.
  • Don’t worry about your goofy tourist hat, the locals wear funny hats too.
  • Try it: chapati, honey and mashed up avocado.  Who knew.
  • I can assure you that hot, bubbling, lumpy, banana beer is in fact disgusting.

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