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October 19, 2001
Tarangire National Park (Russell)

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The view from Tarangire Safari Lodge

On October 18th, we left the Equator Hotel in Arusha and dropped our five suitcases off with Sandi at her office.  Gail's headache had improved from the night before, but it hadn't disappeared yet.  Part of the problem was that she had run out of Exedrin (Russell's sister had sent a package with more medications from home, but it had not arrived in Mauritius before we left).  Sandi's assistant Arnold went searching all over Arusha and came back victorious, with a local version of Exedrin (Gail bought eight packs).

We then set out with a few duffel bags in Tom's truck -- our home for the next several weeks -- heading for Tarangire National Park.  Our first stop after the two-hour drive was Kigongoni Tent Camp, where we would spend the night.  By the time we arrived, the crew already had two tents set up for us, and our chef Christopher had lunch ready.  In Tanzania, the safari chefs are cooking school graduates; and our meals were delicious, hearty, and very Western (one of the first things that Gail did was check out the kitchen -- basically a covered hut -- and swap cooking practices with Chris).  On the other hand, we had water tank showers and outhouse toilets (when standing up in the men's stall, you could see over the partition into the women's stall).

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Kigongoni Tent Camp

After lunch, we embarked on a half-day game drive in Tarangire National Park, famous for its elephants.  After just a few minutes inside, Gail was very proud of herself for spotting an elephant way off in the distance.  Tom dutifully stopped and let us snap pictures and video of the little dot far off on the horizon.  What we didn't know was that Tom was on his way to the riverbed, where a few moments later we were able to see dozens of elephants from very close up.

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An elephant parade

But Gail redeemed her spotting reputation when she spied a lioness tucked away in the shadow of a tree.  The lioness had just killed a wildebeest, and she and her three cubs were feasting away.  We ended up attracting several other trucks (and a couple of vultures circling overhead) as we enjoyed this very rare spectacle.  (We also had to work through Joss' end-of-the-world sadness for never getting to spot any of the animals.)

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Spotting the lion

During the course of our drive, we also saw impalas and many, many zebras (Joss also had an absolute panic fit when a bug landed on him in the truck).  We also saw -- and experienced -- the annoying biting tse-tse fly, which can still carry the dread and fatal "sleeping sickness."  Our return back to camp was slowed when we ended up behind a family of ostriches -- father, mother, and twelve babies (including the little one who couldn't keep up) -- who kept trying to run away from us by running further down the road.  We had an early evening back at camp, pretty much turning in when the sun went down.  Our last spectacle was the star-covered sky, unhindered by any clouds or city lights.

The original itinerary for October 19th called for us to strike camp, take a full-day game drive back to Tarangire, then end up at the Tarangire Safari Lodge.  We opted instead to skip the full-day drive, having seen an awful lot the day before.  Instead, we enjoyed a very leisurely morning at camp.  The boys played with the bugs and made dirt "smoke" bombs out of empty candy containers.  Russell tried taking a walk outside the camp gate, where he was immediately approached by several Maasai who thought he had come out to give them a present.  (Back in Arusha, Russell was constantly beset by street vendors who thought he was Japanese.  They would following him down the street, hollering "Konichi-wa.)

At mid-morning, we drove directly to Tarangire Safari Lodge, and we're very glad we did.  The American-owned lodge exceeded our best expectations of a safari lodge.  The first thing we saw was the swimming pool, complete with water slide.  The second was the veranda, with a stunning panoramic view overlooking a vast landscape and riverbed.  Everything we had seen the night before -- zebras, wildebeests, elephants, impalas -- were gathered by the dozens and walking in parades to and from the water.

The third thing we saw was our room -- not a tented cabin as we had expected, but a full bungalow complete with ensuite bathroom (not to mention full electricity, shower, and hot water)!  There were only beds for three, but we arranged to have another mattress brought in (apparently, most of the accommodations in Tanzania are for three).

We sat on the veranda with binoculars, we swam, we sat and read, and we enjoyed ourselves in the shade during the heat of the day.  The first time we went back to our room, we saw monkeys all over the bungalows. (Joss tried playing with them.  They were skittish whenever he approached, but then tried jumping on him every time he turned his back).  The second time we saw warthogs and baboons.  These animals are obviously very accustomed to people.  (At Kigongoni, our only neighbors were a German couple.  At the lodge, there were dozens of families, including children.  Gail met travelers from New York, the Midwest, and California.)

In the late afternoon we went on a short game drive with Tom.  On one of the bumpy roads, Joss -- who was holding one of his lucky rocks -- crashed into Cameron, cutting him right near the eye.  Cam will be okay, but he may have some swelling for awhile.

We have no idea what kind of amazing logistics Sandi and Tom are working behind the scenes in order for us to have this perfect safari; but whatever they're doing, it's working.  When our lunch wasn't delivered for some reason, Tom simply told us to enjoy ourselves at the Lodge restaurant instead.  Tom is extremely easy-going and flexible, allowing us to change and customize the planned agenda according to our daily whims.  As he said with his ever-present smile, "There is no hurry in Africa."

 

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