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Trip 5 - Southern Africa

Message 2: Dar es Salaam to Arusha and the Serengeti

From: seth@sethweinstein.com (Seth Weinstein) 
Date: 18 Nov 2001 17:37:04 -0000 
Subject: Africa update #2: Dar es Salaam to Arusha and the Serengeti (an abecedarian adventure) 

Last week I went on safari and saw antelope, buffalo, cheetah, dikdik, elephant, frogs, giraffe, hippos, impala, jackals, kite, lions, mongooses, Nubian vultures, ostrich, pink flamingos, quinine trees, rhino, sausage trees, Thomson's gazelle, ugali, vervet monkeys, wildebeest, yellow acacia, and zebra.

The safari lasted six days and took in three national parks (Lake Manyara, Serengeti, and Tarangire) and Ngorongoro Crater. Lake Manyara presented us with, among other things, a family of elephants drinking water, a field of a dozen giraffe, and a lone wildebeest - had he gotten lost? The massive Serengeti yields little surprises now and then: two hyenas fighting in a puddle of water, a lion sleeping in a tree, a cheetah taking refuge from the heat under a bush.

Ngorongoro Crater was my favorite: an aerial view gives the impression that it's devoid of animal life, but when you drive into it you see a half dozen elephants, a few dozen gazelles, a gross of buffalo, thousands of pink flamingos. A pair of hyenas devoured what they could of a gnu, and when they left, two dozen vultures instantly swooped in to pick at the rest. Tarangire National Park gave us a close look at the formerly elusive leopard, which ran past our Land Rover after spotting a lion. (The leopard itself was already spotted.)

We camped out in the Serengeti for two nights, nodding off to the sounds of chirping birds - and then awakening several times a night when the grunts of lions signaled their presence in our campsite. (We were told before retiring that if we needed to use the latrine in the middle of the night, we had best not stray too far from our tents.) Our camp on the Ngorongoro Crater rim was visited by buffalo and elephants. When the person in the tent next to mine told me that there were three cow-sized somethings in front of my tent but he didn't know what they were, and when I heard something chomping away at the grass outside my tent at 4:30 in the morning, I peacefully assumed they were harmless wild pigs rather than buffalo. (Two days before, another tourist had told me that her cousin had been knocked unconscious for months when attacked by a buffalo.)

You may notice that I cheetahed a bit in my first paragraph. Ugali is actually a rather tasteless porridge, a staple of the east-African diet, designed to provide maximum fill-up power at minimal cost. It's actually not too bad once you add sauce and meat. And I saw the quinine trees (the leaves of which are used to ward off malaria) not on safari but rather on Zanzibar island, where I took a spice tour and got to see where they grow cinnamon, nutmeg, jackfruit, and all sorts of other wonderful exotic (and not-so-exotic) spices and fruits. Other highlights of peaceful Zanzibar included a swim in the warm, salty Indian Ocean and dinner from outdoor food stands in the waterside Forodhani Gardens.

My advanced stage of senility has obviated any clever thoughts on what to do with the letter X.


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