Our trip begins. People say “it’s the trip of a lifetime, a transformational journey”. We are all hoping that it will be; I have no set expectations. Only that it will be truly different from everything that I have ever done.
After 36 hours of traveling, we are met at the airport and taken to the Impala Hotel for some badly needed sleep. Robert and Abdullah tell us that they will see us in the morning. After a simple breakfast, the only notable feature of which was freshly made peanut butter, we begin.
Day 1: Lake Manyara, Tanzania
In our Land Rover, we leave Arusha, happy for the light, seasonal rain the previous night. The morning traffic in the city gives way to the poor outskirts. People walking by the road, sitting; selling food. Dirt houses, scores of men, women, and children in bright colors. Robert tells us about the Maasai; the natives who herd cattle and goats. They move from one area to another, living in a traditional style. Maasai men can take as many wives as they want and are able to buy. Wives are bought with cattle. The job of the women is to bear children. Wealth is measured by children and cattle. They struggle with the drought that has plagued this area for the past year. There are two rainy seasons; the long one from March to June, and the short one from November to January. This year, there was no long one. Everything is dry, a dusty red color, with scrawny, if any, vegetation. Until we reach Lake Manyara National Park, that is.
At the entrance to the park, Robert opens the roof so we can stand inside the Rover and look around from the top. It’s green, lush, and beautiful- and we don’t wait long for our first animal sighting! Baboons, everywhere. Swinging from trees, sitting on branches, the ground, the middle of the road. Then monkeys- black velvet monkeys with beautiful faces; and Blue Monkeys, too. Yes, they have blue fur! Soon after, we see hippos lazily eating in the shade, vegetation. It’s like Jurassic Park, according to Adam and Dennis. Alexandra is making good use of her telefoto lens- snapping pictures at every turn of the dusty road. The hours fly by and the vegetation changes to more sparsely green savannah. More baboons appear, frolicking, cleaning each other- the babies on backs or bellies of the mothers. Wart hogs, Hornbills, Ibis, Hawks, and Zebras appear so fast it’s hard to keep track of all the animals. We stop for lunch at an incredible overlook (Lake Manyara in the distance, along with pink flamingos)- it’s a box of fried chicken breast, oranges, and egg. Robert makes some African pressed coffee- and we’re off again. This time to giraffes and elephants, tiny Bik Biks, and elegant gazelles. Everywhere you look there is something to see. We leave the park and head to our lodge and a good hot shower. Dinner is a simple buffet- certainly nothing wonderful or special but I am happy with my tomatoes, cucumbers, and spicy cauliflowers with peas. A cup of tea is all I need to relax and go to sleep.