This picture probably won't mean much to anyone who's not in my writers' group. But if you are, or if you happen to know the name of the heroine of the novel I've been working on for the last few years, then you will appreciate the fact that I found this sign in Moshi, Tanzania, the very town where I finally finished my first draft of it!
OK, so, as Andy alluded to in his last post, Tanzania is the first country (out of 48 now!) on our trip where he and I spent more than a couple of hours apart. While he spent six days climbing Mount Kilimanjaro with our friend Andrew, I hung out at the wonderful Kilimanjaro Coffee Lounge on Chagga Street in Moshi, drinking a lot of masala tea and writing. Perhaps this will become a pilgrimmage site when my magnum opus is published and I become as rich and famous as J.K. Rowling. (Meanwhile, I'm still working on typing the manuscript up, so you can't read it yet.)
Our next destination after Moshi was Mwanza, Tanzania's second-largest city. After another long, painful bus ride, we made it to Buswelu, the village on Mwanza's outskirts where we stayed with Andrew and his fellow volunteer Josh, who are building an orphanage in the area. The foundations have now been laid, and we were able to visit the construction site and admire them. This building will ultimately house 50 orphans.
If you would like to help make this building grow, you can learn more about the project and how to make a donation at the site www.upendo.org.uk. I don't think there is a direct link up yet for donations, but you can e-mail the woman in charge, and once an online system is up, I'll post again!
The area around Mwanza has all of these nifty rock formations. They are even found in Lake Victoria (Mwanza is Tanzania's major port on the lake, Africa's largest).
From Mwanza, we then turned around and headed back east in a 4x4 for a three-day safari in Serengetti National Park (yes, that's the one you've seen in all those nature documentaries) and the Ngorongoro Crater.
Unlike the open safari vehicles we've ridden in in parks in southern Africa, the vehicles for Serengetti are closed jeeps, but with raised roofs so you can stand up and stick your head out for better wildlife viewing.
Safaris in Tanzania are quite expensive--mostly because park fees in Tanzania are very high ($50 per person, per day) and because traversing the parks requires a lot of driving, and therefore fuel. We debated not going at all, but in the end we were glad we sprang for it, because we did see some new animals and birds and some very large groups of animals, which was cool. To the pictures!
Burchell's or common zebras--quite numerous in the Serengetti and not afraid of cars at all, so you could get very close.
New antelope #1: the topi! Andy likes this animal because he says its like a butchering diagram--its different cuts of meat are different colors.
We were able to get out of the car and walk across a bridge at one point into the bush, where we saw a few black and white colobus monkeys! They are very shaggy and look a little bit like skunks with the coloring.
A gazillion hippos in one of Serengetti's many watering holes.
New antelope #2: the hartebeest! So called because its antlers sort of make a heart shape. It also has a very long face.
Nice eagle in a tree.
Hyena! We were very excited to finally see some. We saw three or four spotted hyenas on the trip, but none as close up as this one, which was just lounging beside the road in the morning when our jeep passed by.
We saw a new subspecies of giraffe in the Serengetti: the Maasai giraffe. It's a bit darker than others we'd seen further south.
New antelope #3: Grant's gazelle. We also saw Thomson's gazelles, which are smaller.
Here is one of our many lion sightings. This juvenile male and his brother were hanging out around some big rocks.
This may be Andy's best lizard picture ever. These cool red and blue agama lizards were common around park headquarters.
The superb starling. I like how its eye matches its breast.
We saw two types of jackals prowling around the open savannah. I think that this one is the more common golden jackal.
These elephants were not far from the bathrooms at our picnic stop in Ngorogoro Crater. Check out the crazy long tusk on the left one!
Ngorogoro Crater is a huge sunken area with a regular water source, so large groups of animals flock to it. It can get a bit crowded with safari vehicles--especially if there are lions or rhinos to look at--but it was also really beautiful and definitely worth visiting.
We saw large groups of wildebeest--white-bearded ones, which are different from the blue ones we saw in southern Africa.
Another bird for my aviary: the little bee-eater. We also saw this bird in Zambia. So pretty!
Oh, and these crowned cranes are definitely going in the aviary. The national bird of Uganda, which we may have mentioned before. Pairs of them are all over the crater.
The crater has a soda lake, whose minerals attract thousands of flamingos.
In the crater, Andy and I finally completed our "big five" with this sighting of two black rhinos. Sorry for the poor picture, they were kind of far away.
Another hyena, this one in the crater. We only saw solitary ones, none marching in formation like they do in The Lion King.
Here's a view out over the savannahlands from park headquarters on the last day of our trip, when we turned around and drove back through the Serengetti to Mwanza. They just go on and on.
Another jackal--I think that this one is the rarer black-backed one. Forgive me if I've messed up the jackals, I know we do have pictures of both kinds I've mentioned...
On our way back through the park, there was a tree that had at least 20 female lions underneath it. The camera just couldn't fit them all in at once--here's a small cross-section of them. So lazy-looking. Funnily enough, the male was alone, across the road, under his own tree. Guess he needed some me-time.
We arrived back in Buswelu safe and sound for a final night out with Andrew and Josh. Then, the next morning, we were off at 4AM, heading toward the Rwanda border in a clown bus (my own term for a bus that you think can't possibly fit another single person on it, but then it fits 20 more).
On our way out of the country, I took this picture--for some reason, there are giant Coke bottles like this decorating the landscape all over Western Tanzania.
So, that was it for Tanzania. We spent 18 days, making it the longest continuous stretch we've had in one country since Madagascar. Like Madagascar, it was a serious combination of very expensive (safari, Kilimanjaro) and very cheap (hotels, food) experiences. Not my favorite country in Africa, but I did really enjoy Zanzibar, the safari, and village life (not to mention getting a six-day break from racing around and finally finishing my novel!).
It was also great to spend time with our friends Kristen and Andrew, both of whom happen to be hardcore travelers and have given us loads of invaluable recommendations over the last year. Thanks, guys, and hope to meet you both again before our travels end.