At long last, I am finally caught up with the week's work we engaged in before leaving for a safari on Friday morning.
And we even saw a giraffe ("Twiga") run across the road to get away from our vehicle. Their halting, loping running gait made me laugh.
To be truthful, going was almost the last thing I really wanted to be doing. Rylie and I had decided weeks ago to splurge on a combined 15th anniversary/40th birthday for both of us this year and use our own money for a two-day safari.
But on the eve of our depature, my thoughts were still back with the things we had seen and the people we had met.
Leaving on safari felt almost obscenely decadent. But we were committed, so we packed everything up and left the apartment at 8 a.m. in the Roy Safaris Land Cruiser with Charles, our driver, who has a daughter who is....you guessed it...four-years-old. (I cannot even make this stuff up!)
The drive out of the city center into the countryside took awhile. By now, we were somewhat used to the congested streets and busy sidewalks full of commerce and bustle. However, no two days are alike and on Friday I again marveled at the women's ability to carry their world on their heads.
I feel a bit like a failure as a woman for not being able to do that. Maybe I need to practice.
Finally we were out of the city and headed towards Tarangire National Park. However, it was out the same road we had taken the day before to visit the Shalome Center. As we drove nearer, we found ourselves telling Charles, about what we had seen the day before.
He listened intently and asked a lot of questions about it. He said that he often drives clients from all over the world who come to Tanzania for a safari but find that they also want to do something for the people/country. I marveled at the goodness of our God to potentially send people to this place to invest their hearts and pocketbooks in the future.
He weaves it all together. We just hold our string.
It was a blessing to get on the paved road after 45 minutes of off-roading. The smooth motion of the Land Cruiser after all that jarring was a shock to the system.
We drove past small Masai villages and waved to small children who were out herding their families cows to water. Once again, I marveled at this country who has complete confidence in children as small as age 5 with such a huge responsibility. No one would think of kidnapping a child from the side of the road. In fact, our driver looked midly horrified that we would even be concerned about such a thing
Oh, America! We have so much to learn.
We drove up through "Mosquito Village" that has exploded into three separate sections since I last drove through here in 2008. In fact, I was astounded by the amount of growth and people and houses that I saw. As you can imagine, schooling can be an issue away from the "big city" of Arusha, population two million and climbing. Many children are sent away to "boarding school" in one central location to ensure the best education and consistent meals. Again, I'm not sure what to think about the families that are separated in this process. Yet, I know that education is a necessity.
More food for thought for Character 101 as we move forward.
And then, we arrived at the entrance to Tarangire National Park and were told to be on the lookout for the African Tse-tse fly that can bite and leave you with "African Sleeping Sickness" -- for which there is no cure.
I whipped out the Deet then and there and got to work.
Our driver then popped up the top of the Land Cruiser and I got that tingly feeling I remember from last time. It was time to explore!
And then we saw the wonder of the beautiful Tanzanian countryside. The first animal we saw was the "Ngire" or warthog. (Tarangire = "Tara" - the Masai word for river and "Ngire" - the Kiswahili word for warthog = River of Warthogs.)
They were cute in their uglines -- the babies crossing the road were adorable.
And then we saw more babies....of the "Tembo" (elephant) variety.
And then, Zebra. Lots and lots of Zebra. This one of them with their butts out to us is my favorite.
And then we were at the Tarangire Balloon Camp -- a base camp for people who want to do a hot air balloon safari and others who want to stay in a "luxurious rustic enviornment." We didn't really know what to expect and were blown away by the accommodations.
We were greeted as customary to these lodges with a hot towel and a glass or refreshing juice. We were the only ones there.
They had not had any bookings for the past two days and we were their first and only for our stay overnight.
It felt like all the eyes of the wait staff were fixed on us which sounds amazing, but was a little intimidating. Our tips would be the only ones the staff would receive in several days.
Due to the "wilderness aspect" of the camp, we had to be escorted by a Masai who was armed with their proverbial walking/battle stick and a spear to and from our room every time we came and went.
As we unlocked the door, I was amazed to see this waiting for us. Luxury in the the wild indeed.
After a 4-course lunch, we meandered back to our room and promptly fell asleep with the view of the wide-open sky and with the wind blowing through the open (but screened) sides of our tent. It was a little bit of heaven on earth.
All too quickly, naptime was over and it was time to meet Charles for an "evening drive" around the park. We saw hippos, dik-dik, gazelles and beautiful birds.
As the sun settled into the West, we drove back up to the camp to clean up for dinner.
Once again, we were the one and only ones to be served and we were served well. Stuffed, we headed back to our room only to find that the open tent walls had been zippered shut and needed to stay that way -- lest we tempt the animals with our "meat".
I was completely okay with that -- although Rylie was a bit disappointed to not have the fresh breeze coming through.
We got up early the next morning, had breakfast, said goodbye to our new friends who urged us to return bringing our "watoto" (children) with us. We said we hoped we could one day.
We drove back out of Tarangire and over through Manyara up to the rim of the magnificent Ngorogoro Crater -- which is actually a caldera, but that's another story.
After a box lunch provided from the restaurant of the balloon camp, we drove down into the crater and saw lions, a rhino, more elephant, zebras, jackels, hyenas and the fertile (although dry) landscape of this habitat.
All too soon, it was almost six o'clock and Charles had to push it to get us up and out of the park entrance to avoid being fined for being there after closing.
We made it with a minute to spare and then headed to the Sopa Lodge -- a place that I stayed at when I came here in 2008. It was still the same place I remembered. A beautiful overlooking view of the crater. A more luxurious version of a Masai village with it's simulated thatched roofs.
After putting our things in our room and cleaning up, we made our way to the dining room and were treated to a five-course meal of deliciousness. Joseph, our server was delightful and charming. As we wandered out to the reception area to Facetime the children, we heard the opening songs of the hotel choir that serenade the guests during dinner time. Until you've heard African voices blended and raised in song, you haven't truly lived.
And then it was time for bed. But I was too full of everything Tanzania. I had the burning desire to put down all that I had experienced on Thursday before leaving. So I stayed up and wrote and posted and got everything out of my heart and down onto the page.
And only then could I sleep. The water bottles in our bed were a nice surprise and sleep aide as well.
And then the sunlight crept through the curtains and I couldn't bear to sleep when there was life to be experiencing outside. So I left Rylie sleeping and made my way up to the "Coffee Bar" and had some coffee while posting and checking in with the world back home.
I opened up Facebook to see people posting about an actor who had tragically died in a car accident at the age of 40.
Life is so fleeting. We are not guaranteed tomorrow.
All we have is today.
I was grateful to be sitting a world away and to have seen and done the things I had over the past week. I resolved to do even more.
We are leaving for Arusha soon. There is more to be done there and I'm ready. But before that, I think I'll slip out the floor to ceiling glass doors and breath in the sight of the Ngorogoro crater once again. It may be the last time, who knows.
But I will carry it home with me in my heart.