Trip Start Nov 19, 2004
7Trip End Dec 06, 2004
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All went well with our international arrival, overnight stay in Nairobi, and mini-bus ride to Arusha, where we spent a relaxing night in modest but clean rooms at the base camp of Tropical Trails, our safari operator. A couple of hours drive today brought us to Tarangire National Park, and it seems we have the place mostly to ourselves. There are no other groups camping here, so it's just the 4 of us (Harold, Janet, Amy and me) in our own private Land Cruiser with our safari guide (Francis) and camp cook (Emmanuel). Emmanuel introduced himself to us last night as our "stomach engineer" for the trip.
An incredible elephant encounter this afternoon. Between 15 and 20 of them in the shade of a grove of acacias, only 10 metres in front of the land rover. They were giving themselves little dust baths with their trunks. A bit of commotion at one point when one of them snorted about something and they all jostled and moved a few feet. Our guide Francis said they may have caught a whiff of us. Apparently, elephants are quite dependent on smell, since they don't see very well. Likely, they didn't really know were were there downwind of them. We watched them for a full 20 minutes. How fortunate we were to experience this during our first hour on safari.
It turned out that was just the beginning. We saw many more elephants, some very close up. Then there were the graceful giraffes, skittish impala, zebras galore, steenbok, warthogs, vervet monkeys, dik diks, ostriches, wildebeests, baboons, mongoose, and even a lone leopard lazing in a baobab tree. I never expected to see so many animals so close up in just one day. I will long remember standing up with my head poking out of the Land Cruiser, bright sun, wind in my hair, spotting animals left and right.
Another memory, this one from the road trip between Nairobi and Arusha: Masai men dressed in full traditional red robes, with the very stylish addition of one or more of the following: a sideways baseball cap, a woolen touque, a shiny gold watch, or a cell phone. There were also some adolescent Masai boys in black robes whose faces were painted in a menacing-looking black and white "mask" with feathers sticking up from the backs of their heads. They shook their heads threateningly at us when we passed. At first I thought they were expressing dislike for safari jeep occupants such as ourselves, but Francis said they will do this for all passers by - it's supposed to be a display of their might. These boys are aged 12-15 and have been recently circumcised - ouch! They have left their homes and families for a year to "become men". Sounds like trouble to me!