Well it seems a little crazy to try and summarize the past week or so since it was my biggest dream come true. Just before getting into my experiences in Kenya and Tanzania, I feel like I have to explain how lucky I have felt this last little part of my trip. It sounds weird because I never thought I would say this until I was quite a bit older but if I died today, I can say I lived a great life. This trip has been the best thing for me especially with my relationship with my family and truly appreciating the friends around me. I listen to my iPod lots and almost every song reminds me of someone back home. "To be with you" by Mr. Big reminds me of my dad. Anyways enough of the sappy stuff but it needed to be said.
I was a little surpriseAARP find my hostel in Kenya being behind a locked up gate with a security. I found out quickly that every hotel, church, bank and almost everything else was locked up and had a security guard. I felt a little stupid asking people in the hostel if it was stupid if it was safe to leave the hostel and go for a walk. The answer was that it is safe during the day but as soon as it gets dark, Benin the hostel or take a taxi because mugging happens often. Anyways, so I went for a walk and the people were very friendly. Coming from Thailand, it was nice to not have people constantly in your face trying to sell you stuff. There were more homeless people asking for money than I had witnessed thus far in my trip. I typically responded by bringing them a banana that I would buy from Rose (a lady at one of the fruit stands that I made friends with. Anyways, the official languages in Kenya are English and Swahili so it's easy to communicate with them. The coolest part of the walk was that I went out for a good hour or so and I only spotted one other person with the same complexion as me, (and there were many people).
The second day didn't start the way I had planned. I arrived to the Impala Hotel where I was supposed to meet a tour guide who was going to take me to a village and a school where I would learn about the culture and some of the education system. Unfortunately no one showed up. Fortunately I had a wonderful day, a couple really nice guys from the hotel showed me a few things that I could do while I was in the area. I followed their advice and proceeded to the Museum of Kenya. I toured around with a couple from Quebec. The museum was amazing and I learned about the animals I would see on the safari, lots about the theories of evolution, the history of Kenya and probably the coolest thing was the variety of birds in Africa. Our birds at home are so lame in comparison.
Almost time for the safari. I met the group that I would do the safari with. We were a group of 21 and since I'm writing this afterwards I can say that the group was really cool. It was nice to have a group of people who all liked to camp, have a couple beer, and not complain about anything. Anyways, that first night a group of ten of us went to a famous restaurant called "the Carnivore" which I found out afterwards is continuously voted as one of the top 50 restaurants in the world. The waiters walk around with huge skewers of meat and cut off ad much as you want. I added two more animals to my list of exotic animals; crocodile and ostrich. Both were quite tasty but the decision would go to the ostrich in how it was prepared. It was ground into a meatball...delicious!
The first day of the safari was a commuting day. The second day we arrived to Serengeti National Park. The moment David said keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, I was standing on the bus glued to the windows looking for wildlife. Animals were seen in the following order: wildebeest, zebras, giraffes, elephants, and last but not least the biggest highlight was the hippos. The bus was a really fun atmosphere throughout that first drive as we all got so excited fr anything new we hadn't seen yet. No big deal but I think it should be noted that I was the first to spot the first wildebeest, zebra and giraffe... Again no big deal!
After that first game drive, we sent up camp in the park. Most people are shocked to hear that there are no fences for the campsites. As long as you stay in your vehicle during the drives and in your tent at night, the wildlife don't recognize you as prey so they won't touch you. I was quite exhausted that first night on the Serengeti so I went to bed early but people who stayed awake had a hyena walk right by the camp fire where they were sitting. A much more exciting story was what happened to the campers in the next site. They woke up in the middle of the night to hear a pride of lionesses take down a buffalo. They were all sent out of their tents and into the kitchen where they stayed the night and most of the morning. The lionesses after the kill walked around their tents after the kill. I can't help but be a little jealous, I wish I could tell that story in the first person.
The next day and a half consisted of more game drives. The plains of the Serengeti were amazing. The plains are extremely flat and fairly easy to spot wildlife as there is lots of grass but very little trees other than the acacia trees. There was another group of Canadians on the trip (one being a big Oilers fab as well, yeah!) and we kind of laughed cause most Canadians who would come to the Serengeti would probably say how beautiful the land is and those would be the same people who say Manitoba and Saskatchewan are boring. Obviously not the same wildlife at home but it was my subtle way of saying how in many regions of the Serengeti, you could see your dog run away for days as well.
On the second day, we spotted a leopard sleeping in a tree. Most people on the bus were going insane with excitement. Without any movement for about ten minutes, it was only okay for me. A few minutes we spotted a family of lions which was pretty cool but that was only the start of the lion spotting. On the way out of the Serengeti, we spotted another pride of lions this time walking to the top of a pile of rocks where they would have a good view of their prey. It seemed like we were watching a real scene from the Lion King. While I am on the topic, Simba is the Swahili word for lion, Pumba for stupid and Hakuna Matata actually means "no worries.". That night while camping, there were buffalos within about thirty meters from the tent. It really wasn't that scary until I spotted a second buffalo just before it got dark out. The first wanted to mark his or her territory so it charged the second buffalo on the scene. Only when to see them that closely do you realize how big they really are. I also thought if a buffalo ever charged me, I would have a few steps to get away. Now that I've seen them charge at live speed, I would certainly be a goner. They are so fast off the line.
The Serengeti was certainly cool bit being such a huge area, we saw wildlife but it was quite sparse compared to out next destination; the Ngorongoro crater. This volcanic crater was formed thousands of years ago and because of all the water that collects in the crater, there is tons of wildlife. It was not the time of the migration so it wasn't exactly like the scenes from National Geographic but there were easily thousands if zebras and wildebeest in quite a concentrated area. It was also calving season and we witnessed a birth of a wildebeest. We stayed afterwards to watch the baby take it's first steps. Because if predators such as hyenas, the babies need to be able to walk within minutes or else the mother will abandon the baby to save herself. Luckily or unluckily for us (depending who's reading this), we watched as within six minutes the baby was standing and awkwardly walking.
With just over an hour left in our last game drive, I was getting a little impatient as our jeep was stopped for about ten minutes looking into some trees because someone had spotted ears of an animal just above the grass. Fortunate for me, the others had more patience and a few minutes later, it was a cheetah that walked out of the trees...very cool. A couple minutes later, we had moved about twenty meters and we were the first to spot a couple lionesses. One of the lionesses walked right by the jeep and actually leaned her head against the driver side tire. When I leaned out of the window, I was about a meter away from her. This was certainly my favorite part if the safari...simply amazing!
After a day of relaxing, I decided to go to a local church near my hostel. I felt like I should thank God for all the unbelievable experiences I've had so far especially the latest one. I felt like I was watching one of those classic scenes from the movies at church in Africa. The choir was amazing. I felt guilty. It felt as though I had snick into a concert and only had to throw in a small donation. Also, at the end of mass, anyone who was attending for the first time was invited to hot chocolate and banana loaf. Not too bad.
I am currently typing this while flying on my way to Egypt. I am a little nervous but I have been told by a lot of people that the situation is overblown by the media. I am very excited about my hotel for the next few days. I splurged and got a room in the "Pyramids View Inn" which just like the name suggests a great view of the pyramids and the sphinx. Also, they put on a lights show with the pyramids so I will take advantage of the view for that. That's it for me now. Talk to you all soon!