Where to start? People are asking me what the top highlight of my African adventure was and I’m wimping out on the answer because it’s impossible to pinpoint one thing. A safari is a journey after all, and as our tour director said throughout the trip, “It’s time to raise the bar!” And the bar was raised from one spot to another. It’s hard to describe in words or photos the essence of Africa, the feeling you have as you are in the midst of the massive vast wilderness. Looking out over the horizon of the Serengeti plains or the Masai Mara filled me with awe—and the only thing I could do was to take a deep breath and say, “Thank you God.”

There were several times on the trip when I just broke down and cried. Some moments were in remembrance of my brother who passed away last year. My parents and I were celebrating “life” along with their 50th anniversary on this trip, so Greg and his children came to our thoughts often. Other moments were from sheer bliss at God’s creation—the beauty of this world. And some others were for the people there—many living in poverty and yet still smiling and enjoying pleasures we take for granted.

So, the journey begins here in this first post. I won’t tell you about the long trek getting there and back because I would encourage everyone to save up and take this adventure. Ours began in Arusha, Tanzania where our first lesson in “African time” began at immigration. I was familiar with the concept of this via missionary friends who have told me how things go much slower and are often inconsistent in the African cultures. But, no worries, we made it and slept peacefully before getting up in the morning to explore the local market in the nearby town.

The Market

We walked as a group with our hotel guides, Lucas and Lucas, down a very bumpy rode and were told not to photograph people without their permission (it’s the law in Tanzania). If you put your camera up to someone, you’ve begun a transaction. So I snuck some shots of people in the distance riding a taxi (a.k.a., the back of a motorbike) or carrying loads to market. Everyone in Africa pretty much walks or catches rides in over-packed vans or on bikes.

The market was packed with people selling vegetables, beans, bananas, etc. We didn’t see too many buyers though. We heard lots of calls from vendors, “Karibou, take my picture, Jambo” meaning, welcome, give me money, and hello. In other parts of town we saw displays of old shoes, american type t-shirts, the material women use to put around their waists or heads (we bought one and will be using it for a table cloth—go figure), lots of people in line for cell phones, and an assortment of other random items.  Shopping done, we walked on home to the Mountain Village Serena Hotel where mom and I had a date with a local doctor.

The Doctor Visit

I’m guessing you are thinking what I was thinking at first, but let’s not go there. The doctor that came to the hotel was very experienced and highly qualified. We discussed his background at length and heard interesting stories of the type of work he was doing in Tanzania including AIDS prevention and treatment, and work with radiation patients (due to the new nuclear energy projects). So mom was getting treated for a huge cut on her leg and the root canal I had the day before I left was killing me. Unfortunately there wasn’t a good translation for Vicodin and the pain meds he gave me were useless, but he did help my mom with her leg and we experienced what a doctor’s visit is like for tourists staying in Tanzania. Not at all like the impersonal machine-driven appointments we have at home. No, this was a social visit. Lots of talking and sitting and chatting. Just no Vicodin. Dang. But my co-travelers had lots of Advil they shared so I was able to get through the week until the pain faded.

Off We Go

The next day we headed out on the worst road I’ve ever experienced in my life. Three hours of bumpity bumpity in dust had me wondering if my kidneys had relocated to where my knees used to be. The funny thing was, and I’ve never gotten an answer on this, they actually had man-made speed bumps put in place all over this road. The ENTIRE ROAD was a speed bump! I ended up losing weight on this trip and I know it was because I was working my core relentlessly. The driver guides were impressive and our first guide who was not aptly named, Comfort, got us safely to Lake Manyara where our next post begins…

Tips and FAQs for Tauck and other Travelers

I’m going to be listing some tips and ideas for those of you who are about to take this adventure. Stay tuned and I’ll post the lists on this blog (such as what to take and wear, the weather, etc.). One thing I can tell you for sure is to book your trip through Tauck Tours. It may be a bit on the pricey side but believe me you’ll be so happy you did it. Nothing beats the service, the unique experiences, and the fun of being part of the Tauck family on their safaris! (And no, I’m not getting paid to say that.) Oh, and make sure you book your trip with Eric Croft—the best tour director we’ve ever had!

Fuel for the fire gets carried on bikes. Just like everything else.

Fuel for the fire gets carried on bikes. Just like everything else.

Tanzania road full of bumps

The, ahem, road from Arusha to Lake Manyara. Speed bumps dotted the natural bumpy and dusty road.

Tanzania road sign

The road signs in Tanzania were very sophisticated…stick, rocks, and pen. A diversion meant go around the crappy road onto a crappier side road.

A commuter bus.

The fun bus. Locals take the vans, trucks, bikes, etc. Too poor for personal vehicles.

Tanzania market place

The men haul the big goods and the woman sell them in the stalls.

Tanzania road side walkers

Almost everyone walks, even with big bundles. Lots of people up and down the sides of the roads.

Salon in Tanzania

A salon–one of many. Lots of entrepreneurs because unemployment is rampant.

Market stall in Tanzania

I paid $1.25 to take this photo of a woman selling veggies at the local market. The market is open every day. No fridge to store stuff.

Mountain Village Lodge, Arusha

Our room at the Serena Mountain Village Lodge near Arusha. Lovely gardens surrounded the rooms and walkways.