Archive for October, 2021

East Africa, Part 8: Travel between Mara and Serengeti.

Friday, October 29th, 2021

Sorry for the delay: I worked and worked and then my mid-section felt weird, like back cramps combined with gas aches in the front. That didn’t go away for four days so I looked it up and the symptoms are either pancreatitis or gallstones. Both should probably be dealt with at a hospital so I took myself off to the hospital and hooray, it was gallstones! The only reason I was excited about that was with gallstones you get keepsakes to take home after surgery. (Did I get gallstones? Sure did, three of them. Disappointingly sized. Hoped you’d do better, now-removed-gallbladder.) I took a picture of my bellybutton two days after surgery but altered because not everyone has strong (gallbladder-free) stomachs.

Back to Africa. On this day we spent six hours traveling and there aren’t that many photos so this gives me an opportunity to voice my opinions on five-star hotels. I got to pretend to be rich for two weeks on this trip and it’s… it’s okay. It ain’t nuthin’ special. I don’t know, I thought they would be… SOMETHING. But the places we stayed were pretty much the decent hotels I usually stay at with added chrome handles, stone countertops and fancier sconces on the walls. Someone said five-star hotels are just there to remind the guests that they are above others, that they’re not the peasants, and I really got that feeling. I will give examples. The first place we stayed in, it was considered “glamping.” Glamping, or “glamorous camping,” is supposed to be a fancy hotel room in a tent. Exactly what it was. The problem was there was no heat. In the colder months, Africa only gets to around 50 degrees at night, so no one has heat. Did you know what the hotel did? Under our blankets were hot water bottles wrapped in felt. That’s it. And it was my favorite thing. After dinner I would get excited for Hot Water Bottle Time. So yeah, the food was fancier and the service was vastly more obsequious. but you know what else? In one hotel the sheets were extremely scratchy. In another the wifi broke. In another I got sand flea bites all over my feet. You know where I could have had that as well? In a Best Western. But they would have also had an in-room microwave so I didn’t have to call room service to bring me a cup of tea, them tip the tea-bringer. I can do my laundry, I don’t mind. Show me where the machine is and where I need to put the quarters (or whatever the currency equivalent is). At one point we were driving along the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater and The Moomins said, “Is there a hotel on the edge of the crater where you can look in?” and our driver (who was Augustine, we had left Jacob by then) said, “Yes, but it is not very nice. It is like a schoolhouse, with rooms all in a row,” and we were like “You mean a motel? We love motels! Why didn’t we stay in the motel on the edge of the frikkin’ crater??” So now The Moomins and I know we are not the intended clientele for five-star hotels, except for one, we’ll get to that one later. That one had many redeeming qualities. But the rest, eh, take it or leave it.

We headed off to the Serengeti. That meant there was about six hours of us just chillin’ in the car,  but we did see some cool stuff on our way out of the Maasai and our way into the Serengeti. For example, a dik-dik! When I’m no longer excited about seeing a dik-dik, check my pulse because something ain’t right.

An elephant showed up on the side of the road. Most likely a male because he was solitary and he had lost a tusk and had war wounds, probably from battling other males.

Jacob took photos of me with the elephant.

We saw a baboon clan. I was whelmed. As I have said numerous times, I don’t like very strong, very agile, very toothy primates.

This is a pretty good cross-section of the towns and villages on the side of the road. One-level cement buildings with hand-painted signs. They dot the whole landscape.

Market day.

One of the seven billion churches I saw. Oooo, Christianity stuck here HARD. First the missionaries brought the churches and no one cared. But then on one side of the church they’d put a school and on the other side they’d put a medical clinic and wooo, they took over everywhere.

There are almost no private cars, they’re too expensive to own and too expensive to keep full of gas. These are van and motorcycle-run communities. This is a grain mill. You harvest all your grain, call this guy and he comes to your home and grinds your grain on-site. That way every farm doesn’t need one, plus you don’t need to cart that very heavy material anywhere, he comes to you.

My favorite travel agency logo. Note the two spare wheels. That’s because of the aforementioned atrocious roads.

Six hours after leaving the Mara, we arrived at the Serengeti and were greeted by a crowned crane couple and their two children! A killer welcome.

Some vultures sitting around.

A bateleur! A bataleur is a tightrope walker in French and this bird-of-prey, when it flies, it tips a little in this direction, then back in that direction like a tightrope walker with its balancing pole. They are easily recognized for their bright red and orange beaks that remind vaguely of candy corn every time I see them.

Some gnu, different-looking gnu since we traveled a long distance so the type of gnu has changed, and a lilac-breasted roller! I loooooove lilac-breasted rollers. They are all the colors.

A family group of elephants. I will mention this until my mouth dries out but do you see that elephant off to the left? Behind that tiny bit of foliage? It wasn’t moving, so I didn’t see it. Giant great monster beasts being stealthy behind a branch. So cool.

The family unit decided to cross in front of us and that was delightful.

And before we got to camp the clouds were being pretty and whatnot so I took some basic pics of giraffes and vultures.

Next: Serengeti.

East Africa, Part 7: Final bit of Masai Mara.

Friday, October 8th, 2021

You’ll notice I alternate between spelling Masai with one “a” and Maasai with two “a”s. It’s because it’s supposed to be Maasai but sometimes signs and documents say one or the other so I go with my mood at that moment of typing and completely disregard having some kind of system. You’ll see the same thing happen when I get to Olduvai / Oldupai Gorge.

Wrapping up the Masai Mara. Let’s start off nice and easy with some giraffes.

Always a plus to see their long prehensile tongues in action.

A vulture in a lone tree doing vulture things.

The gnu were crossing! Being that gnu are the dumbest animal in all of God’s great and glorious creations, why were they crossing? No one knows (including the gnu). Where are they going? Again, no clue all around. But there they went, going from a place to another place like they do.

A group of eland on the hill watching this cavalcade of pointlessness.

A splodge of hippos. The scientific name for a group of hippos is a pod but a splodge feels more accurate. They’re a very splodgy creature.

The importance of this splodge is actually the path to the side. It’s a path this group has carved over time to get down to the water and back and it is the path the gnu will follow when they cross the river.

Crocodiles. They’re basking in the sun and waiting for snakkies to come their way.

A herd of buffalo with killer-looking clouds in the background.

This. This is what we came to see. Thousands and thousands of gnu dotting the landscape. Tens of thousands. It’s impossible to capture it in photographs.

Storks! Not marabou storks, but still janky-looking birds so I was happy.

A mother elephant and her baby. It’s a male baby because he was flinging his trunk around and flapping his little ears because he is big strong man and you should be afraid. You could hear his weary mother be like “Yes, yes, very intimidating.”

And then they joined their herd.

Then a group of giraffes sauntered in.

And some eland. It was like someone called a meeting of the herbivores and all of them showed up.

A bird! In a tree! I honestly cannot remember what bird this was but I took some pictures of it so it had to had some significance. Please enjoy the pictures of this bird.

We drove back through the gates with the mongeese and the baboon and I didn’t see them but I did see a semi-tame eland chilling across the street. The guy brought it kitchen clippings and the eland was quite pleased. I didn’t pet it. I wanted to pet it but I didn’t want to become a cautionary tale. When you pet large animals, no matter how tame they appear, it can end real badly and all of a sudden you need a prosthetic something-or-other.

Now this bird coming up was way far away and these pictures are unfortunate but he caught something, a mouse perhaps, and he ate it in front of us so I’m putting it in even though it looks like it was taken by satellite. You can totally see him toss that rodent back.

Then we came back and I said good night for the last time to my gecko, wiped away a tear, and packed to go to the Serengeti.