Monday, October 4, 2010

Leopards, Bows and Arrows

[Arusha -->Tarangire National Park]

"It's Kili time" no longer; it's safari time! I meet my safari driver and fellow safari-goers a few hours after I was told to be ready and waiting at their office—good thing I can kill time with Katana until they show up. The driver is John, a tall lean man with a permanent smile and an egg-shaped head. The others are Walter from Holland, and Dirk and Diana from Germany. We all speak English, which makes for fun conversation on the long drives to and inside the parks.

We munch on lunch in paper and plastic bags as we leave colorful Arusha for the dusty palette of the road to Tarangire. We drive past a Maasai market, Maasai bomas or villages, and cattle herders on the way; they are effortlessly natural in the landscape. It is discovered at a quick grocery store stop to pick up water that one of our jeep doors doesn’t open. After trying to fix it with the help of some eager-to-impress village boys, we give up. Walter and I climb out of the top of the jeep to get in and out for the rest of the safari.

Arriving at Zion campsite outside Tarangire National Park a couple hours later, I run into Kilimanjaro climbers Vincent and Felitcitas; quite the coincidence! We enjoy a brief rest and then we’re back in the jeep and headed into the park. Walter and I sit in the back, the roof is raised, and the wind and dust blow through us, it’s fantastic.

Our animal sightings that evening are encouraging: gazelle, impala, elephant, a lioness in shade of a tree, a leopard in a tree(for which much pointing through powerful binoculars is required), some vultures, tons of zebra and wildebeest, warthog who seem completely unaware and high rats scrambling in and out of tunnels on the sides of the hills. The baobab trees make the flat parks seem even more flat, compared to the jagged and pointy baobab branches. And when it’s time for the sun to set, everything turns a deep shade of red.

Over dinner that evening, back at the campsite, I learn some Swahili / Maasai from John, specifically, what the park names mean:

  • Tarangire: in Maasai, ngire is pumba (or warthog; remember Lion King?) and tara is river – this park has lots of water and lots of pumba!
  • Serengeti = endless, in Maasai
  • Manyara = a type of tree in Maasai
  • Ngorongoro = the sound of the bells the Maaasai used to chase out the Bague tribe from the area
  • Tuta o nanu kesho = we’ll meet tomorrow.

Post-dinner I’m too tired to keep my eyes open much longer. We retire to our tents for the night and in the clear stillness I can hear Shakira’s “Waka Waka” song playing from a nearby campsite. A security guard walks around the tents scattered through the campsite and bids us all goodnight. He’s armed with a bow and arrow. What?

(Guess I needn’t worry about being attacked by a stray kiboko [hippo] or restless hyena.)

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