The Regular Polygon of Life

Trip Start May 19, 2012
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Saturday, July 14, 2012

First, because circles are for squares. Four of us went on the safari and four individuals don't make an infinite number of points equidistant from a central point, certainly not how we were arranged in the jeep.  Second, because we went on safari only a few days removed from making a pretty substantial list of Disney things, there’s no way we didn’t sing "Circle of Life" at least too many times.

First, though, the details.  Turns out it was a good idea to follow the standard morning routine and get in at close to 7:45 after the standard wake-up, breakfast, walk thing we do—the three of us were put to work educating/keeping busy class 4 for about an hour until Mr. Moses showed up to take over.  Before that though, one disheartening incident:  as we walked to school, we thought it might be a good idea to swing over to Iringanet and use some of our remaining internet to check bank balances before heading out on safari.  Iringanet was closed so that didn’t happen, but we were greeted randomly and enthusiastically by a random stranger just outside the establishment as we discussed what to do in lieu of internet.  Probably not coincidentally, Michael later discovered that his wallet was missing from his jacket pocket.  Correlation doesn’t necessitate causation, but yeah Michael got pick pocketed by a pretty smooth operator.  Fortunately things could have been a lot worse:  he only had about 10,000 shillingi in cash in there (like $6.25), an ATM card which needs a PIN to do anything, and a driver’s license which was going to expire this April.  Conspicuously absent from this list are things like:  passport or a copy thereof, large amounts of cash, gift cards, social security cards, things of this nature.

Petty theft aside, the morning was pretty good.  We were warned beforehand that the safari service were we employing was pretty barebones and fortunately acted on this warning and bought food and water before our scheduled 10 o clock meeting.  Our safari guide Ali was scheduled to pick the three of us and Paul, a volunteer with the School Fund, up from Ummu Salama at 10 and get us rolling towards Ruaha national park.  Paul is a pretty cool guy, a teacher from New York, and someone who generally got on with us very well.  More on him as we get to more on the safari.  We were somewhat more fortuitous in our timing than the other volunteers; when they went on safari traffic stretched their drive to Ruaha to about 4 hours, while ours took a mere 2.

You know an adventure is going to be good when you drive up to the gate, your guide takes off the top of the jeep, you stand up, and suddenly there are hippos and crocodiles in the river below you.  The Ruaha River used to be a much more mighty stream than its current flow would suggest, but much of it has been diverted to agriculture and hydroelectricity.  No we don’t get to complain about that, especially because it means the water animals are easier to spot.  So throughout this blog there have been times when I say things like “words don’t really do this justice” or “you really had to be there to understand”, and this is one of those times.  I’m not going to try to manufacture the feeling of standing in a jeep watching cheetahs get chased away from their gazelle kill by a couple lionesses because that’d be like me trying to manufacture a super computer with pasteboard, a scalpel and some super glue.  Perhaps a laundry list will do:  we saw hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, kudu, gazelle, cheetahs, lionesses, awesome birds, elephants, zebras, awesome trees, the sunset, and cape buffalo, all before heading over to the cheap but secure government-built lodging for the night.  My camera doesn’t really do it justice either, but fortunately Michael brought his and he did a bang-up job.  I think a world on our accommodations then I shall do in real life what I do in the narrative:  sleep.  We stayed within the boundaries of Ruaha National Park near the headquarters, which sprawls over several complexes at some kilometers distance from one another.  Our tourist bandas, as they were called, were, for example, about 4 kilometers from the airstrip and employee housing and another 3 kilometers from the dining facilities.  Probably fortunately, however, they were only about 25 meters from the guard with an AK-47 who accompanied us to our dwellings.  These were Spartan affairs:  circular (or at least regularly polygonal) metal walls with a door that padlocked on the inside, bars on the mesh windows, lanterns in lieu of electricity, and mosquito nets for the paranoid (still too cold for the vampire bugs).

Because most of Sunday is also going to be dedicated to safari descriptions and because irl I’m really tired, that’ll do for now.  A picture is worth a thousand words, and at some point in the nearish future Michael and I are going to post up in Iringanet with several thousand shillingi worth of internet and upload a short story or two.  Don’t get your hopes up on the timing, just letting you know that if you found this description too much of a teaser, good, here’s hoping it whet your appetite.
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