It's always something
Trip Start Dec 28, 2009
11Trip End Jan 12, 2010
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I was particularly upbeat about the first day of our five-day safari because it was really the first time all trip that I had reason to be upbeat at the start of the day. I'd gotten my first good night's sleep thanks to the cooler temperatures and the full array of power, and followed that up with the trip's first hot shower and then the realization that my stomach bug had disappeared not a moment too soon
During the two-hour drive from Arusha to our campsite just outside Manyara, I was wondering if the quality of our car was the first casualty of going budget on our safari. Rachel and I were crammed into the backseat without much of a view and even less leg-space while our cook Juma rode in the middle front seat. But after we ditched our bags and left Juma back at the site while we went on our game drive, the backseat turned out to be the best place to be to stand up and view out over the top of the car.
Our first sighting of the safari, not two minutes inside the park, was a huge pack of baboons. This seemed to be a bit anticlimactic as a first viewing, it's not like baboons are part of the 'big five' or the 'big seven' and probably wouldn't even be part of a big twenty. But the longer we stayed watching them -- partly out of necessity since a bunch of them were just chilling in the middle of the road -- the more fun we had watching them. There were monkey fights, baby monkey fights, nitpicking monkeys, monkeys yawning to show their massive fangs and monkeys lounging with their red rockets flopping in the wind.
For all the talk of a lack of diversity, we probably saw more different kinds of animals than we did on any one day of the safari
The rest of the park was exceptional though, and not just for the variety of animals we did see. We had viewings of the Lake at a distance where water buffaloes roamed and flamingos formed a pink horizon along the lakefront. The Rift Valley made for a stunning backdrop with rolling hills and green mountains. There's always something special about seeing exotic animals in the wild, a certain rush that doesn't exist when you see them in a zoo, but the scenery all around made it that much more special. Half the time when I was riding out the back, ducking branches and avoiding dust, I wasn't even worried about spotting animals, I was just taking in the surroundings
Charles, our strong, silent-type of a driver managed to get us out the park right at the stroke of 6, where we celebrated by picking up a couple Kilis a piece to enjoy over our dinner Juma prepared. We ate our zucchini soup and fried fish curry while sipping cold beers and teaching the Dutch how to play shithead. I also taught John about 'choose my side' becoming the first Dutch person to realize what he was saying before he finished saying it. Sharp guy. But after such a successful day, I should've known trouble was lurking. There were only two tents on our trip, so Joy, Rachel and I were crammed into one of them. This made sleeping rigid enough. But shortly after we were getting settled, the rains started coming. The wet season was just beginning, and a a light drizzle quickly turned into a torrent. And this is when we learned that the safari company had only packed one waterproof tarp for the tent, and that one was resting on top of John and Jolanda's tent. As the rains came, the sides of our started to sag. So as the wet side started to sag on me, the bottom of the tent started to soak from underneath. Sleeping was impossible. Eventually I decided to make the sacrifice that my stuff not getting drenched was more important than me getting sleep -- since that probably wasn't going to be happening anyway. I was now very much looking forward to the next three nights.