Monthly Archives: February 2011

Strenuous Hiking and Fresh Sashimi

We were woken up with a gentle “Good morning!” and another tray of hot coffee. Man, I could get used to this! Breakfast was all seven guests plus our hosts, Klaus and Jill, and we hung out at the table while we awaited word from the chimp trackers. Once they’d sent word, we started our hike up into the hills in search of the chimps. It was a fairly strenuous climb, up slippery, muddy hills and over bubbling streams. Mom persevered impressively but eventually broke off and wound up seeing “Darwin” while the four of us saw “Mama Christine,” her son Christmas and her two-week old baby. Loey and I opted to trek back and meet up with mom, which required a long but relatively flat hike to the shore, where we were met with a dhow — and beers! — for a ride back to camp and lunch.

All three of us opted out of the afternoon hike and took naps instead. This place is having an oddly narcotic effect upon me; I feel drugged…or lulled…. When happy hour rolled around we were more than ready! Up on the beautiful hillside  bar, we enjoyed a curious chip/puff pastry hybrid with an interesting African salsa and sashimi from fish caught fresh from the lake. After cocktail hour, dinner was more of the same fish, deliciously prepared, with spiced rice, vegetables, soup and the amazingly mouth-watering bananafee pie for desert. We sat by the fire for a while before being led back to our banda.

Sunrise on the Serengeti, Moon Over Mahale

We woke up at sunrise to our tray of coffee and cookies and packed up our bags.

After a quick breakfast, Silva drove us to the airstrip and off we flew, just the three of us, landing less than two hours later at the Kigoma Airstrip. At the end of the airstrip we boarded a dhow bound for Greystoke Mahale. It was over an hour-long trip but there was beer! And a picnic lunch!

As we disembarked on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, we were welcomed at camp by the staff. There was some time to relax and enjoy a tea-time beer before we were led on a little forest hike by Kakai. Mom opted out but Loey and I  went along, with only one other couple. We saw trees full of yellow baboons and sooo many beautiful butterflies. Afterward I went for a quick sunset swim in the cleanest water I’ve ever seen; the angle of the setting sun didn’t prevent it from casting a shadow on the sandy bottom, even when the water was deeper than my waist. The temperature was absolutely perfect — not too warm, not too cool. Aaaaahhhh.

All seven of the guests met at the amazing outdoor patio bar for beers and appetizers and to be briefed about seeing the chimps. We watched the sunset and then crossed the beach to the dining area for a delicious dinner. We chatted around the bonfire after eating until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer, and asked to be led by flashlight to our “banda.”

There was a storm during the night and the sound of rain on the thatched roof was mesmerizing.

The Nine-Hour Game Drive

On our first full day in the Serengeti, we were woken with a gentle “Hello, good morning!” and a tray of hot coffee. After a made-to-order breakfast we climbed into the Land Cruiser and began our day-long game drive. My guess would be that Silva felt bad about our late start the previous day and he was going to do his best to make sure we got as much as possible out of our only other day. Why else a grueling nine hours bouncing around the bush? Well, we certainly saw everything there was to see! Herds of wildebeasts and zebra, the migration that the mobile camps are relocated to follow, thundered past us. Cheetah gamboled under our car. We caught a glimpse of the shy serval cat, plenty of giraffe, warthogs, a few lazy lions, elephant and one particularly impressive dung beetle. In the midst of it all, Silva selected a shady spot and set up a picnic for us, with a yummy spread of pastas and salads.

Probably the biggest treat was witnessing a mother cheetah teaching her four cubs to hunt as they chased and killed a baby gazelle — an apparently rare and lucky occurrence! In another grim example of nature, we watched as three different types of vultures feasted on a zebra carcass.

And finally, during the last and almost unbearable hour, we saw a few hippos. But by that point we were beyond exhausted and all we wanted was a beer! Silva relented and we went back to camp for “Bush TV” and a Kilamanjaro. Aaahhh.

Dinner was shared with the same two Aussies, one half of the German couple and a new pair from Hong Kong and the US. It was slightly less raucous and I was slightly less drunk but it was equally enjoyable and incredibly delicious! The ginger carrot soup was especially unexpected! We trundled off to bed after supper, totally spent after our long day of game drive. The extra touch of a hot water bottle down inside our beds to warm our feet was wonderful. Aahhh!

Coffee in Arusha…Airstrip in Ndutu

After an evening of exhausted yet somewhat fitful sleep, I woke up ready for my first day of “safari.” We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, again almost alone in the dining room (I guess all the other guests were out busily making use of their few hours in Arusha), accompanied by multiple cups of amazing coffee. (Probably not surprising, given we were on a coffee plantation!)

Then our driver packed us into his car for the quick drive to the Arusha Airport, which wasn’t much more than a few open-air, low-walled waiting areas furnished with plastic chairs. We waited to be told where to go and were led onto a small plane with a small group of other tourists, headed for the Serengeti. About an hour later we landed at the Ndutu Airstrip, literally nothing more than a wind sock, a shade structure and an outhouse. The other tourists — all five of them — were met by drivers and whisked away while we…waited. Where was our driver? Our itinerary indicated that we, also, would be met by our Nomad Guide but the only humans there were two Tanzania National Park Rangers whose jobs were, apparently, to collect fees from landing planes.

Our pilot politely refused to “just leave us there,” and made a quick phone call to inquire about our guide. Don’t even ask how he managed to get cell service; I certainly didn’t see any cell towers and we were, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere. He heard back from his “people” who had reached someone at Nomad who assured us that a driver would be picking us up shortly. Our pilot climbed into his cockpit and away he went, leaving the three of us on the dusty airstrip, zebras casually crossing over post-departure.

Fortunately, within 20 minutes a car pulled up and we piled in while Silvanos apologized profusely. He felt compelled to make sure we saw something on this, our first big day, so instead of driving directly back to the camp we went straight out onto a “game drive.” Right away we were seeing zebras and wildebeasts, elephant and impala, flamingos and gazelles, dozens of dazzling birds and and adorable dik dik.

Our Toyota Land Cruiser was met at the Nomad Mobile Camp by the staff, wielding a tray of refreshing juices, who then whisked our bags off to our tents. After we checked out our surprisingly lavish accommodations — furnished tents with electricity, rugs, a camp toilet, sink and shower — we met Silva at the common tent for Serengeti beer o-clock.

We kept up our happy houring right into dinner, which was a delicious meal I mostly can’t remember, shared with a raucous collection of couples: one from Canada, one from Australia and one from Germany. There was a soup course, a meat/vegetables/rice-or-potatoes course and dessert, but it was mostly about the beer, politely provided with a knowing grin by Babboo. Urp! We eventually bumbled back to our tents, led by a staff member and his trusty flashlight, and passed out.

The Sojourn Begins

My mom and I had a 7am pick-up for our ride to SFO. We flew Alaska Air to Seattle (with an irritatingly chirpy flight attendant who insisted upon sharing his painfully corny jokes with passengers), where we had a long walk through the airport for our connection to our Delta flight to Amsterdam. Lemme tell ya, it’s been years since I’ve flown first class. Back in the day, when my dad was still working for American Airlines and I was still flying stand-by — and free! — the spare seats were almost always in first class. That was before the invention of frequent flier miles and upgrades, and even before business class. So I was pretty excited to be flying in the first class cabin! Before my mom and I sat down in our enormous sleeper seats, the flight attendant offered us a beverage. We opted for champagne to celebrate the beginning of our big trip!

When he handed me the extensive dinner menu, I made some crack about usually being served nothing but peanuts and a few minutes later he dropped a little bag of nuts between our seats, saying, “Here’s dinner!” He was hilarious!

Mom and I watched movies and played games and I looked out the window at the full moon as we flew over Baffin Bay, Greenland and Iceland. It was an eerie landscape, blue-white from the moon and stretching for miles…simply stunning. We arrived in Amsterdam at 7am local time and were already feeling disoriented. Our four-hour layover was spent meeting up with my Aunt Loey, browsing through the impressive selection of shops and generally checking out the amazing airport. Oh, and waiting in another security line. Don’t ask me why we needed to go through another security check since we’d already been through one, but apparently in Amsterdam you go through security right at your gate before you board. Our KLM flight left Amsterdam at 11am and a few movies, champagnes and games — and about 11 more hours — we arrived at Kilamanjaro Airport. It was, by that point, the night of the 18th. Yawn!

After collecting our luggage, we were met in the humid night by our driver, who trundled us an hour from Kilamanjaro to Arusha, where we settled into our rooms at The Arusha Coffee Plantation. Exhausted but kind of excited about being in, ya know, Africa, we decided we needed a beer to celebrate! Surprisingly we were just about the only people in the bar, where we ordered a few “Kilamanjaro” premium lagers! After that one round, however, we were ready to pass out.

Just Another Day…

I’ve already had my say about Valentine’s Day. I chose February 14 to travel from New York to San Francisco, where my trans-global trek to Tanzania was to originate. I didn’t want to be watching bad TV and brooding about being single. But even 35,000 feet above the earth, hope was sorta springing eternal. What an idiot I am…

In my fucked up imagination, I somehow hallucinated that my ex might actually show up at the airport, ready to drive me wherever I wanted to go. Yeah, no. I jumped on the Marin Airporter in the damp, drizzling rain and waited at the bus station in San Rafael for my mom to pick me up. Back again in the sadly depressing room that the two of us had shared for so many months I couldn’t believe how much it still affected me. Pathetic, I tell you…pathetic.

That evening I had plans. My friend Heather and her girlfriend had an extra ticket to a show in Oakland. Again, hope was doing its thing and, well, springing. Or whatever. Again, sadly, my imagination conjured me appearing at the place we were meeting up and, magically, there he would be, coming along with us. What a lovely surprise! Happy Valentine’s Day to ME! But yeah. No. It was just Heather and her girlfriend and me and another single woman. Who was quite nice, don’t get me wrong. And she was leaving the following day for Africa as well, coincidentally. But she was, sadly, not my ex. Oh well.

It’s difficult for me to explain why I still hold out hope. Against all the advice and admonitions of my friends, against all my common sense, against all sense of logic and timing and the foibles of the human heart, I still hope. It is making meeting someone else fairly impossible as the space in my heart that should have a big ol’ “Vacant” sign hanging over it is woefully stuffed with memories of this guy. What the hell is the matter with me? That’s a rhetorical question, by the way. I already know.

Anyway….

Young, Charming & Stupid

Barely a day goes by that I don’t receive an advance from another idiot on OkCupid. Which is cool, cause even the biggest idiot can provide an ego boost. But that doesn’t stop me from making fun of them! Hah! Check out this winner:

me gusta

Hows it going young lady?

Ok your beautiful,thats obvious.But I hope there is more to you then your supermodel looks.

Yes you read that right.Would you mind sharing with me your little secret about how you stay looking so great?

If you must know who this funny somewhat handsome intelligent handsome charasmatic charming courageous handsome independent confident loyal trusthworthy handsome stud is,im Danny.And dont worry im not going to stalk you so dont flatter yourself?LOL.I should be running.I have to go do charity work read to blind children.Dont let this oppurtunity pass you bye.

65% Match 60% Friend 32% Enemy

Wow, what a sweet talker! Yo, Danny. You’re kinda far away. AND kinda young. And you certainly think you’re handsome, dontcha? Three times in one sentence, even!

Enjoy those blind kids!

A

I’m sure you’re thinking, how could Abby let that “oppurtunity” pass her by! He’s so handsome! Hahahahah! Not willing to leave things at that, he actually responded with, yes, yet another charming quip:

I would so hit that

Okay, this guy lives in FLORIDA, ferfuckssake! I’m calling the airlines right this minute! Bwahahahahah! Though he is, most certainly, handsome!