Sunday, March 03, 2019

Gap Year – Safari time – Day 1

After a cancelled flight and five hour delay (thanks KenyaAirways), I finally arrive at Kilimanjaro Airport in Tanzania at 2am. Ally is waiting, my guide for the next eight days. He’s also my Swahili teacher but I decide not to break this to him until the next day. This is officially a “rest day” as I desperately need a rest after being on holiday for the previous six weeks but Ally recommends a shopping expedition at a local market in Arusha.

The next day, Ally acclimatises me gently to Tanzania by taking me to Bee Eater’s office seven miles away where two girls struggle with a credit card reader that doesn’t work. I’m very hot and have a temper tantrum. Ally deals with it politely and calmly, the girls say sorry a lot. Later Ally confides that dealing with difficult clients like me is the first thing you have to learn on the “how to be a guide” course. He was also thinking to himself: “This Mamma’s going to kill me.”

After fun times at the office, we head to Kilombero market, where I resist the opportunity to buy fabrics designed by someone on an acid trip along with a cabbage, second-hand shoes and some goats. I buy some dates.

The safari gets underway at 7am the next day. We’re off to Lake Manyara where elephants, monkeys and leopards abound. As soon as I determine it’s now just a bit too far to turn back, I inform Ally that – in addition to his strenuous one-on-one, 24/7 guiding duties – he’s also going to be teaching me Swahili. Luckily, he’s right up for it and we kick off with verbs for “like”, “see” and “go.”

"Tembo" (elephant) and "simba" (lion) are already part of my vocabulary so by the time we actually see elephants – and a lion up a tree – I’m able to say I can see them, like them and let’s go.

We stop for a picnic lunch overlooking the lake, and a family of elephants munching thoughtfully beneath us. I start a long series of complaints about my packed lunch which has cold chips in it. Cold chips turns out to be a staple of the safari “lunch boxy” but Ally likes them so happy to pick up the slack. We see lots of “twigas” and “pundamilia”, “ndege” galore and some cute “nyani”. Wielding my Nikon, I find I'm a master at catching animals’ bottoms as they wander off away from us into the bush.

We drive as far along the lake as it’s possible to go and reach a boardwalk stretching out into the alkaline waters. Swimming not advised. Dozens of swallows perch along the boardwalk, taking flight as we make our way to the end.

We head out of the park and up the wall of the Great Rift Valley. The views are spectacular, inexpertly captured on my Nikon.