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Posts from the ‘Africa’ Category

African road trip, part 2

As I type, we have a week left to our trip. A week! I’ve taken plenty of week-long vacations, but now a week feels like a blink. Twelve years in the scheming, a year in the serious planning, and now it’s almost done. We’re still here, enjoying our time in Africa, but also we’re partly there, back home, thinking about seeing friends and family, the logistics of dentists appointments, new shoes, back to school, etc. I foresee a period of adjustment to come, but in the meantime I’ll tell you more about our road trip.

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African Road Trip, part 1

We left Kwara after that last extraordinary morning with the cheetah cubs practically weeping at the thought of going back to taking care of ourselves. Then we got to the airport and saw our new chariot for the next and last month of travel.

I know, isn’t it cool?

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A Close Encounter with Cheetah Cubs

Before we got to Kwara, we heard that there had been a mother cheetah (with four cubs!!!) in the area. We spent all our game drives channeling our happy cat thoughts in hopes of spotting her. We were on our last game drive and about to give up when out tracker, AT, called from his perch on the hood of the car, “Cheetah!” Our guide Tom veered of the track toward a small termite mound with a furry head poking through the bushes on top of it. It was the mumma cheetah and her cubs sitting in the early morning sunshine! There were only three of the cubs on the termite mound, the fourth missing. They were as small as a house cat, with fluffy silver tufts of fur on their backs. I could have died, they were so stinking cute.
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The Big Splurge

We were plenty happy to bid goodbye to bus travel after our last leg to Livingstone, Zambia which was a perfectly nice bus with big windows on a good road where they so kindly played not one but two profanity laden horror movies for our entertainment, which we all could have done without. We were in Livingstone to check out Victoria Falls but also to celebrate Vance’s birthday, which we did by walking across the bridge to Zimbabwe and having lunch on the shady verandah at the grand Victoria Falls Hotel, with a view of the bridge and the rising mist from the falls past manicured lawns. The falls were in full force, and we were glad we packed rain coats as the spray was drenching. They’re big, those Victoria Falls, and it’s impossible to take in the span at once from ground level, but we were all suitably impressed.

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Zanzibar and Zany Train Travel

The island of Zanzibar has a rich history spanning centuries and a mishmash of cultures from the days when it was a major trading power in wood, ivory, spices and slaves — but most of it was lost on us. Tired after our safari, we flew there and decamped to a pretty hotel on the eastern shore with few ambitions other than to catch up on sleep and school work, and maybe bank a little extra rest for the crazy travel leg ahead. Sure, we rambled up and down the beach a few times (where middens of plastic trash reminded me that my unbelievably dazzling palm fringed white sand paradise was the nearby fishing village’s dump.) We spent one morning very happily traveling by traditional dhow out to a good snorkeling spot and had lunch at the iconic Rock restaurant.  Otherwise we were fairly useless, splashing in the pool and lounging in our shady sitting area so it’s kind of pathetic to report our plan for resting up backfired a bit.

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On Safari

I had been humming that old Toto song (I bless the rains down in Af-ri-caaaa) for weeks as our theme song, until I got here and realized to my disappointment that Mt Kilimanjaro does not only not “rise like Olympus above the Serengeti” it isn’t even remotely visible. All that awkward phrasing for nothing kind of killed the song for me, but that is the only disappointment I’ve suffered. I don’t like to play favorites, I mean, we’ve had some pretty great weeks on this trip. Diving on the Great Barrier Reef? Hiking the Routeburn in New Zealand? Eating all that pizza, pasta and gelato in Rome? Good times! This past week though, has just been spectacular.

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At long last, Africa!

Delirious after a grueling flight, we spent most of our drive from the airport into Dar Es Salaam — which was a long time because the traffic in Dar is really awful — freaking out over the fact that we were actually in Africa. I mean, who watched Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom as a kid and didn’t dream of coming here? I had a fabulous teacher in high school, Dr. Hackett, who had travelled through Africa and climbed Mt Kilimanjaro in the 1960’s after doing his doctoral research sailing around the Indian Ocean (he was such a bad ass!) He exhorted us to go and see Africa while there was still something to see. “You can go up the Eiffel Tower in a wheel chair when you’re 80!” he would say, and in the half dozen times I’ve gone up the Eiifel Tower the past 25 years I’ve thought of him and his words with a tinge of regret every single time, but finally I made it. We’re here.

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