May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

End of Tanzania: Safari and Home Hospitality

November 25—A travel day to Mikumi; and boy, was it!  We learned about low-income public transport.  The dalla-dallas only go when they are full, and then they pick up more on the way.  In short, we took from 9AM to 6:30PM to get to the town of Mikumi, with about 4 hours of waiting throughout. (We took a business class bus back and it took from7AM to Noon: 5 hours instead of 9.) 
bus terminal
Hot and crowded, I was fascinated with the pace and what the thrifty people have to put up with.  There was a man who found Les’s wallet on the floor and returned it to him.  It turned out to be the driver, so they became friends, as the “saved Les’s Life,” (we had been warned about all the thievery on these trips).  Later he took us under his wing as we changed buses, taking our two small packs across the bus station area and fighting off all the guys who wanted to take us in his bus.  It was a little terrifying to realize that could have been us, and we would misunderstand the eagerness as aggression.   
We drove through the park to get to Mikumi town and we saw GIRAFFES!  My favorite!  …also, elephants and zebras, and lots of impalas.  We were thrilled!  WOW!  We were dropped in the middle of town and walked 20 minutes to a hotel recommended by the Lonely Planet.  

 Tan-Swiss Hotel was pretty fancy by our standards; we enjoyed that the buildings were painted with leopard spots and images of the wild animals nearby.  The stones were painted around to look like giraffe spots too.  The office manager was fantastic and organized a driver for us for tomorrow and a bus for the next day.  I finally got to try ugali, made from ground maize.  It was pretty bland without the sauce and held together stronger than Jell-O.  
Herman, Our Safari Driver
Elephants walking

November 26—Like real tourists, we went on safari!  Herman drove us, and once again, we saw wildlife while on the highway.  A baboon ran along side us and crossed the road to meet up with another.  Giraffes ate, and elephants walked majestically.  

 We watched the vultures in a tree to see if there was a lion and food below—never saw a lion. Impalas leapt and kept watch as zebras and wildebeests grazed.  Elephants ripped out grasses as storks puffed up and waddled through them.  Jackals stood to see what we were doing, while in a pond far away hippos played and crocs swam along the edge.

We were thrilled to see so much wildlife and at such close range.  Herman took us to the bus station and we paid $12 each for a ride back (shorter and quieter); this is the price of business class.  The electricity was out most of the night and it was very hot.   
Young Goat Herders Association
We paid for everything with our last shillings and USD that we had tucked away, as there was no ATM.  The room was really expensive for our standard ($50) and because it was so uncomfortable, I thought we could get a $5-10 discount, but no such chance.  An acknowledgement from Tan-Swiss that the room wasn’t worth $50 would have been nice.  
Pee break on the way home

November 27—The bus picked us up on the side of the road, we had reserved seats, so some people had to move out of them and move to the back.  The bus sped home and stopped for only a few minutes at bus terminals.  We cleaned up, used the Internet and soon we were on our way to Anna’s house for dinner.  Alice walked us from their big church to their home down the hill and past the fancy homes along a dirt path to a cement structure that housed several families.  There were 2 rooms for two families and also singles that they rent out.   
Alice Showing Christian Music Videos from her Church
 As chicken fried, we watched their church music videos—professionally done! 

Anna was picking up a couch surfer at the bus station.  As it turns out, Christina from China had had a bus accident in Mozambique, and was days late.  Anna had waited 10 hours for her, and the next day some too, so she thought she wasn’t coming.   
Surfer Ivan and Les
So she accepted a surfer from Uganda: Ivan.  Mama Elizabeth’s household was full of family: her own three daughters (Anna Alice and Karen) the neighbors’ children whom she “adopted,” and us!  The beans, rice, chicken, fresh salad, chapatti and mango/pineapple juice was delicious and the atmosphere jovial.   

Kids braided Christina’s Chinese hair that didn’t hold together without bands.  We sang and enjoyed the stories of adventures on the road. 
Mama Elizabeth and Christina

The whole family showered us with generous gifts.  We were overwhelmed with the presents—a plethora of gorgeous items that would have to be shipped, as we couldn’t carry them for the next many months.  Anna and Alice even took the first leg of the dalla-dalla to the Jambo Inn with us and gave us bus money to boot!
November 28—We made our way to the wrong Transit Inn and had an argument about money with the driver who took us about a kilometer to the right one.  We made arrangements for 3AM to the airport and decided we had spent all our money and could just afford to buy some fruit for dinner.   
African Roofs (thatch and tin) with Satellite Dish
We went down the road to some tents selling produce. The pineapple was delicious!  Next: on to South Africa!  I have trepidations about driving in Johannesburg!  Eeeee.

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