My African Photo Safari - Journal Entry #4 - August 18, 1988

We are awakened early, once again by Lenny Sr., with his loud, insistent knock and, his favorite morning greeting, "Ann, Kathleen are you awake?" "Yes," we answered together. This is our last morning at the Amboseli Lodge, Kenya, because today we're headed to Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, one of the best places in the world to see African Wildlife. We spent most of the day on the road to Tanzania.

Our first stop was to take a photo of Mt. Kilimanjaro, way off in the distance. This was the first time we even had a glimpse of it, because during our entire stay at Amboseli, this world famous mountain had been shrouded in, what seemed to be,a permanent cloud cover. Needless to say, it was breathtakingly beautiful.

Further on down the road, just a little, we paused again to take photos of weaver bird nests, skillfully woven among this tree's branches. Just for the record, I never saw a weaver bird though.

We continued on our journey. James slowed down, as there were two young, Masai boys driving a herd of their cattle, across the dusty, red dirt road. They looked to be about eight years old.

We drove on, enjoying the spectacular scenery. I was in front of the van talking to James, with the few words of Swahili I learned. Then he'd say a complete sentence and have me repeat it to him. I did, then I asked him what I just said. We were both laughing.

Next thing we know, a small herd of giraffe look as if they are on a collision course with our van. James came to a swift stop, as the giraffes ran across the dirt road, directly in front of us. They were remarkably graceful while running. Their long necks push forward, followed by their long front legs, then back legs; like a three part ballet movement. It's such a wonderful sight to see what we commonly know as zoo animals, running free, in their natural environment.

About an hour later, we stopped at a trading post. I thought we were out in the wilderness, and they accepted credit cards as payment! I bought two green malachite necklaces and bracelets, a large Masai shield with a blue and white design on the front, and two ebony wood bracelets. In my excitement of looking around at everything, and hurrying to get back to the van, before Lenny had a fit, I left my credit card laying on the counter without realizing this. Msembi saw this and said, in his beautiful, soft-spoken Kenyan accented English, "You forgot your card." I thanked him for picking it up for me, and went to get it from him. When I got near him, he pretended to hide the card from me under his jacket. I sure felt silly as I looked up at him. We were both laughing, as he handed me the card. I had been so involved in money conversion from U.S. dollars to shillings, and making sure I had everything I purchased all together, that I forgot about my credit card. Msembi and James, seemed to be looking out for their little group, as no doubt, they'd seen people almost lose things, several times before. James and Msembi were wonderful game drivers, who really liked people, and were genuinely kind. I was so very sad when I realized I had to say goodbye to them, about 30 minutes later, at the Kenya/Tanzania border.

James helped me unload my Masai shield, and spear, luggage, and camera gear from his van into another vehicle. I hugged James and Msembi, and said a tearful goodbye.

I was one of the last people to get into the new vehicle, which was a fully packed bus. It held our group of ten, plus about 20 more people. Everyone looked road weary, hot, and on edge. We crossed over to the Tanzania side of the border, and disembarked from the bus to go through immigration, have our passports stamped, visas checked, and complete yet another, money declaration form. I was in line, behind a man from the United Kingdom.

I looked around for someone in my group, and spotted Ann, and asked, "Do you know what address we should write down for our address in Tanzania?" Lou overheard my question and supplied us both with the answer. For the money declaration, we had to list the English shillings and U.S. dollars we had with us. I waited in line, and eventually got to the front. When it was my turn, I suddenly realized, I forgot to list the money in my pockets. "Damn it," I said to myself, feeling all paranoid that they'd search my pockets, find the undeclared money, and then I'd be in jail in Tanzania, forever. The official gave me a piercing look. I said, "Jambo." (Hi, in Swahili.) "Se Jambo," he gruffly replied, as he stamped all my necessary documentation to get into Tanzania.

I walked out of there as fast as my paranoid self could go, without drawing attention. At this point, we had three vehicles again, for our photo safari group, Land Rovers this time, with three Tanzanian drivers. We split up into three people to a vehicle and continued towards Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania.

Let it be known, the roads in Tanzania made the roads in Kenya seem like a California freeway! I don't know if anything has changed since I was there, but bump, bump, bump, the entire way. At one point, we came to a pothole the size of the Land Rover, on the actual road descending the 2,000 feet down into the Crater. No exaggeration. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Suffice it to say, I shouldn't have complained about the roads in Kenya!

After bumping along for a good three hours we stopped at a hotel for a late lunch. It was around 1:00 p.m. and it took over an hour to get our food. I had spice chicken with vegetables and potatoes. This was my second choice. I wanted the lamb, but someone said it was really goat, so I ordered the chicken instead. I came down with my first case of diarrhea soon afterwards. Fortunately, we were still at the hotel, near a restroom. When I came out, Don, who was another member of our photo group noticed I looked a little sick, and asked if I was okay. I told him the lunch didn't agree with me. He had anti-diarrhea pills and gave me one. I thanked him. Being he'd been to Africa before, he was so much better prepared for whatever came our way, than I was. I felt hot, clammy, and a little light-headed. I drank more water.

At this point, we all got back into the Land Rovers for the remaining hours of the trip, with just one restroom break. Mercifully, the anti-diarrhea pill was effective and fast-acting. At the time of our next restroom stop which was about two hours later, we all got out to stretch our legs, and use the, "Port-a-Potties." Ann went in first. It was so bad, she came out gagging, without using it. At that point we both decided to go behind a bush, as we noticed the guys were doing. We quickly walked away to give them privacy, until they headed back to the vehicles. Ann, Lou, Nancy, and I, then had our turn, while the guys were busy buying Masai fighting sticks. Someone spotted a monkey atop a tall tree. It was probably watching all of us, as we watch them.

We finally arrived at the top of Ngorongoro Crater, under the cover of night. Our drivers shut off the lights of all three vehicles, and Lenny let us know that it was against the law to drive in the Crater with the lights on at night. Poachers use lights, so the game wardens shoot at vehicles with the lights on at night. It took another 25 minutes to reach the floor of the Crater, where our camp was set up. We arrived hours after our scheduled time. Having to slowly creep forward in the extreme darkness, added to our tardiness.

We all got out of our vehicles, walked around a little, and used a chemical toilet about 50 yards from where the camp was set up.

The cook and his helpers had dinner waiting for us. There were two card tables with plastic tablecloths over them. What light there was, came from two dim lanterns. Being the food was setting in a barely warm pot, I was concerned about the safety of this meal. What made it worse is I couldn't see what was dished out to us. I always like to see and identify what I'm eating, to see if it looks safe to eat. I called this, "Mystery Meat Stew." I happened to be sitting next to Lenny Sr., who was watching me check out the food. He looked really tired, and sounded a bit crabby when he said, "Eat it, it tastes fine." I ate it, as it tasted okay.

After supper, there was no visiting, as everyone was exhausted from the trip. We all used the, "Nicer-than-on-the-road", port-a-potties again, and then went to our tents, to retire for the evening. It was surprisingly (to me) cold in the Crater at night, about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, with the wind blowing. I put on all the clothes I brought with me, to sleep in, to try to keep warm. Ann suggested we push our sleeping bags to the center of the tent to be warmer. I immediately fell asleep.

At about 2:00 a.m., I got terribly painful stomach cramps from food poisoning. I was glad I packed my flashlight! The chemical toilet was about 50 yards away from our tents. It had 4 flaps of heavy canvas around it for privacy. The top had no canvas, and was totally open, for celestial observation at night.

I want to tell you, I've never been so bone-chillingly afraid in all my life, as when I had to walk from our tent to the toilet, and then sit there for a long time because I was so sick with diarrhea, and then walk back to the tent. I felt such intense fear sitting there, in the dark, hearing the lions and hyenas so close. I felt like my hair would turn white, overnight. I've heard this has happened to people when they have been so scared. While I was sitting there, waiting for the diarrhea to end, I was devising a plan as to what I would do if a lion came at me. This plan was so poor: I thought to myself, I'd close the toilet lid, jump up on top, make myself look bigger and yell as loud as I could. I know. A very pitiful plan. My condition finally got better. As I lifted the front flap of the toilet's privacy shield, I put on my flashlight, hoping not to see the refection of some hyena or lions' eyes. I seriously thought I'd be torn to pieces, walking back those 50 yards to our tent.

As you know, I made it safely back to the tent, or you wouldn't be reading this. I finally fell back asleep listening to the strong wind swirl around the tent. I remember thinking at the time, the tent was going to blow down. That was the last thought I had. Suddenly I heard Lenny Sr. asking, "Ann, Kathleen, are you awake?" This let me know, I'd lived through the night!

Publicado por kathleenlryan kathleenlryan, 01 de diciembre de 2019


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