Sunday, 28 February 2016

Final Day in Kenya

On Saturday we left the Ngorogoro SOPA Lodge early in the morning, headed for Nairobi.  We stopped once again at the Arusha Hotel where we were fed another superb lunch.  This place is VERY classy!!!  We drove to the Tanzania/ Kenya border where we switched back to our Kenyan guides and jeeps.  At the border there are dozens of Masaii ladies trying to sell us stuff.  They are literally swarming around us and the jeeps and you almost have to beat them off like flies!  They remembered our faces and names from when we were there four days prior!  It is fun for a while but then it gets down right annoying!  They hang on the windows Until the jeep pulls away!!

We arrived back at the hotel in Nairobi at six o'clock as the traffic leading into Nairobi was atrocious!  This gave everyone one hour to shower and repack before they had to leave for the airport.  The majority of the group left the hotel at 7:00 pm to start their long journey home.  As I write this I know that they have made it home safely.

Fern and I, along with the Rath's and the Knackstedts stayed one more night.  We ordered up room service and drinks and had a little party before calling it a night.

On Sunday morning, Fern and I were picked up by two gentlemen from Plan International. We traveled for two hours to the home of our Foster child and his family.  Along the way, we stopped to buy two cart loads of groceries and household supplies for the family.  My tour group chipped in
some money to purchase supplies for the family.

The closer we got to our destination, the worse the roads got!  We started out on a nicely paved
highway, to a pot hole filled highway, to a moderate dirt road and ended up on a goat trail through the
trees leading up to the house.  Good thing that we were in a Land Rover!!!!

When we arrived there was about 30 people waiting to greet us.  First, Emanuel, our foster child, came to the car to greet me.  What a feeling to finally be able to meet him  and hug him.  It was very emotional for me!  He is 13 years old but he is small and looks to be about 9.  Then his immediate family came to meet us, his Mom, Dad, younger brother and younger sister.  Then everyone got into the photo!  As the time went on, more people showed up and there were over 40 people there!!  Turns out they were all extended family!

We sat and visited, asking each other questions.  The guide from Plan Canada helped by filling in some information.  Emmanuels's father did most of the talking.  It was interesting to watch some of the others just sitting and hanging on my every word.  They have kept a photo album of the pictures that I have sent to them through the years so that was very touching!  They were very disappointed to find out that Carl hadn't come with me.

Next they brought out lunch and fed everyone that was there.  They had made white rice, some type of a tomato based soup, sweet potatoes, cooked chicken and chapatti.  It was all very good (not that I was worried.....ha!).  I was thankful that they didn't decide to kill a goat for the occasion! Peter (Emanuel's Dad) said he would kill a goat the next time we come (that cinched the fact that I won't get back 😄).

Then it was time to give out the gifts!  First of all we presented the groceries and goods that we had purchased along the way.  I had also brought a suitcase full of things to give, so that was the fun part! Fern and I sorted through everything and personally gave everyone there a gift!  It was like being Santa Claus!!  The smiles and excitement were amazing!  The ages ranged from two months right up to two grandmas!

It took us so long to hand out the gifts that we were then pressed for time.  The family presented me with a few gifts and then some of the ladies did a couple of songs and dances.  They really got a kick out of me getting up and joining them!!

All too soon we had to say goodbye!  Of course, the family wants us to come back and "spend a week" with them!!

By this time we were pressed to get back to the hotel by our desired time of 5:00 pm.  We found our way back out to the gravel road and were bumping along when the car just stopped!  We were in the middle of nowhere and we looked at each other with that "oh no" look in our eyes!!  The driver discovered that the battery cable had "bounced" off the post!  Phew!  Well, a few more miles down the road it happened again!!  Yikes! This time, when he went to hook it up, it gave off a "poof"!  OMG!  We thought we were really screwed, but luckily, he got the car going again.  The good news was that we knew the roads were due to get gradually better heading in this direction!!!

We got back to the hotel at 6:00, which gave us an hour to shower and repack and head to the airport at 7:00 pm.  Our flight left at 10:30 and we arrived in Amsterdam at 5:00 am.  We are now killing our 8.5 hour layover before our flight to Toronto, where we get to wait another 6 hours before we get to fly home!!!  Oh, the joys of airports!!!  We had planned to take the train to Rotterdam to get a tour there with my guide from my cycling trip but"the return of Montezuma's revenge convinced me to lay low!!

I hope you have all enjoyed my blog!  Stay tuned for my next adventure.... Or, better yet, join me!!

Friday, 26 February 2016

Ngorogoro Crater

What a day! Just when you think it can't get any does!

On our way out of the Serengeti park this morning we saw female leopard and her cub in a tree and then we saw four lions!  Unbelievable to see that many cats in the first two hours!!

We had a beautiful drive to the Ngorogoro Crater.  This is a caldera that is totally surrounded by the rim of the crater and the caldera is 20 km across.  There is an entire ecosystem down there and all of the big five animals (plus many more) can be found there.

We drove down into the caldera and it is like entering another world.  There are animals everywhere, all coexisting side by side.  It is an amazing sight!  We saw elephants, Cape buffalo, black rhinos and four more lions.  The only one missing of the bog five was a leopard but we were still satisfied as we had seen the two in the morning.  There was a male and female lion lying side by side very close to us.  As we watched them, they rolled over onto their backs and laid there with their feet in the air!  It was hilarious !  I have never seen anything like it!!

By 4:00 we felt that we had seen so much that we were ready to head to our lodge.  For most of the tour we have stayed at the SOPA chain and the accommodations are out of this world!  Our lodge today overlooks the Ngorogoro crater!  Each day when we enter the hotel they are waiting with warm, wet faceclothes and a welcome drink.  The rooms are huge and beautiful and the food is amazing!  The service is also incredible!  Yesterday when I was sick, when I came in for dinner each of the staff came to see how I was doing, even the hotel manager!!

Tonight is our final night!  Tomorrow we travel back to the Kenya border, where our Kenyan guides pick us up and take us to our hotel in Nairobi.  The group flies home on Saturday night but Fern and I will stay one more day.  Stay tuned for an update on that adventure!!

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Serengeti

We made it to the place that everyone dreams of when they think of Africa!!!!  It was 5:30 when we hit the gate and we were informed that we still had 1.5 hours to go!  That was news that none of us wanted to hear as we had already put in a long day, mainly on very bumpy roads!  It is hard to imagine that these poor guides have to travel over these roads all of the time as a part of their jobs!
I found a way to make our group feel better, I grabbed some Kilamanjaro beer at the little store at the gate, so that made the rest of the journey a bit easier.

The drive through the Serengeti to the lodge was VERY rough!  I like to stand up whenever the top is popped and I am sure that I have bruises everywhere from trying to hang on!  It helps to get fresh air (or dusty air) to hold the motion sickness at bay!

About 15 minutes before the lodge, we were treated to an amazing sight!!  3 females lions and 3 Cubs were spread out on the branches of a big tree, displaying themselves so that we could see them!  What a feeling!

Once again it was after 7:00 pm when we reached the lodge!  Again, the lodge is amazing! At least we get to spend two nights here!!  We quickly grabbed a shower and went for dinner.  "The Leopards" had a flat tire along the way so they didn't get back until almost 8:00!

It was Ginger's birthday so once again, the staff didn't let us down.  They dim the lights of the restaurant and all come out in a line, singing beautiful African songs.  They have lovely voices and I bought their cd so that I can relive the moment!  They presented a cake and continued with a few more songs.  Makes our "happy birthday" presentations seem pretty mild!  Everyone was really worn out from the long day so the evening end abruptly.

I had the misfortune of waking up during the night with a terrible case of Montezuma's revenge! That bugger came all the way from Mexico to find me!!  Sadly, I had to stay back at the lodge today while the others went on an all day game drive.

From all of the reports they had another fabulous day! I am glad that I was the one to miss the day as I have already been to the Serengeti.  They saw lots of animals, including cheetahs and leopards.

We leave tomorrow morning, having another game drive out of the park and then we drive to Ngorogoro Crater!  I am hoping that I am feeling better by tomorrow as staying behind isn't an option!!

Pictures to come when possible!

Tarangire Park

after our two hour drive on beautiful, paved roads we reached the entrance to the Tarangire Park.  The guides popped up our tops and our game drive began.  This park was amazingly beautiful!  Since they have had a lot of rain before we arrived, everything was so green and lush!  It made for beautiful scenery but not great animal spotting as they don't hang around where the grass is high as it is too dangerous for them.  We did see lots of elephants and we really never got tired of watching them. I think the highlights of this park were the beautiful scenery and the amazing baobab trees that are only found in a few countries of Africa!
It was late when we arrived at our resort so we went straight to dinner.  We were disappointed that we were just there one night as this lodge was out of this world!! To make matters worse, we had to leave at 7:00 am the next morning as we had a long day ahead of us!!  We had to drive two hours back over the same bumpy roads to get out of the park.  We had the tops popped and we did stop for a few more elephant pictures because you can never have too many!! (I am thinking you can)

We travelled for a couple more hours and then stopped at a huge shop that sold everything imaginable!  I think that we all did our share in supporting the Tanzanian economy!!

We had packed lunches today so we later stopped for a picnic.  Many of us ate right in our jeeps to avoid the birds that wanted to steal our food.  One group was lucky enough to see two leopards crossing the road, a very rare sighting!  Talk about being at the right place at the right time! I guess it was fitting as it was "the leopard" group that saw them!

In the afternoon we stopped at the Oldepai Gorge where the oldest hominid (Lucy) was found. They date back to 3.5 million years ago.  We had an interesting talk from a guide there about the discoveries and the gorge itself.

Along the way we witnessed two more amazing events.  First of all, we came upon an area that has the right vegetation for giraffes and we saw hundred of giraffes feeding in that area. It was so spectacular as they were skylined which is an amazing sight!!  There is nothing like watching this majestic, graceful animal moving across the land!

Then we came across thousands of Wildebeests making their migration from the Masaii Mara to the Serengeti.  We just stopped the jeeps and watched in awe as they formed a line from horizon to horizon. There were so many babies and it was heartbreaking to watch babies looking for their Moms or vice versa!

A few more hours on more bumpy roads and we reached the Serengeti Park Gates!  I will continue that story on the next blog!