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A JOURNEYS END AT A GREAT NATURAL WONDER

Zimbabwe then Home!

sunny
View EPIC AFRICA 2017 on TracingTheWorld's travel map.

NOVEMBER 9TH 2017 DAY 41

Even after an amazing day yesterday I still cant help but feel a little sad as we pack up the truck a final time.

This morning we head to Victoria Falls.  The drive was an easy one on the wide roads and even with a quick stop for petrol and snacks we make good time.

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Yes!

We arrive just after lunch and after setting up the tents we head to an activities center.  There is a lot of adrenaline junkie things to do, bungee jump, white water rafting of flying fox over the falls, me I like my life and opt for a and afternoon massage.

As we walk thru the campground gate we are met by a huge warthog, just casually walking around the grounds.   As we approach it just trots off without a care in the world.

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Hello there!
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Neighbor!
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So not interested in us!
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Off she goes!

Once everyone has booked their activities we jump in the truck and get dropped off at the entrance to the falls for an afternoon tour.  

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Entrance To The    Famous Falls! 

As soon as Victor sorts out the entrance fee, he leaves us to our own devices for the rest of the afternoon.   We take a look around at the shops, WOW they are expensive!   The information boards are actually quite interesting the volume of water that flows thru these falls from the Zambezi is astounding!

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History...!
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and Geography!

But we would rather see them for ourselves.  You can hear them before you see them!

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Pretty Spectacular!

You can hear them before you see them!  As we make our way Monkeys scatter off the path.

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Aww, Don't be scared!

There it is, even though it isn't full it is pretty spectacular.   

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Pretty Spectacular!

The famous rainbow reflection can be seen in the mist, and you can feel the droplets on your skin!

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Trust me it's loud
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You can feel the mist!
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Wow!
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Iconic!

This mile wide gorge drops 108m down and the locals call it 'Mosi Oa Tunya' means 'The Smoke That Thunders', which is quite fitting.

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The top!
large_SAM_2755.JPG<br />[iAnd it's the dry season![/i]
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The Zambezi
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The famous rainbow!

We pass a monument to David Livingstone as we follow the path around the falls.  One Britain's most famous explorers, it was  he who discovered that the Zambezi was impassable by  boat, and the first British Explorer to discover the falls, naming them after the British Queen at the time Victoria, but after witnessing the slave trade first hand he advocated for the  abolition of the African slave trade.

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David Livingstone
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Worth a read!

Following the path around the falls, you get some pretty great views.  It's great last official day of the tour, and we all make the most of it.   The bushy path is lush and green and in places it feels like you are walking in the rain. 

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Yeap it's wet! 

The further around we go the drier things become and places the water isn't flowing at all.  Its like the falls have a moods from rage to serenity and today its chilling.

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Hurry up and take the photo I'm getting wet here!
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One of natures great wonders!
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Africa you rock!
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Half full!

The mini rain forest edging the falls is full of bird life and these weird flowers that look like fallen red stars sprinkling the ground, Fire Ball Lilies, Hmm... I wonder if they will grow at home?  

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Fire Ball Lily

They is a funny looking black birds that look like they are wearing white pants, they follow people around, it is kinda cute in it's  own way with it's curved beak, a Trumpeter hornbill.

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Trumpeter Hornbill!

But my favorite are the little orange birds that flitter from tree to tree.  (I asked Victor what they are... a White Browed Robin Chat... Awww cute!)

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White Browed Robin Chat!

The mini rain forest opens up and the landscape around the falls is dry.  There is no water falling at this part of the and you get a real sense of how deep the gorge is.

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That's along way down!
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How awesome would this be in the rainy season!

We  meet up with some of the others at the end of the gorge tour and spend time enjoying the views, some of them are getting too close to the edge for my liking and my age kicks in, and I actually think I hear my mothers voice when freak out and shake my head at their antics.  

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Africa I love you!
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Wow that's along way down!
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Your far to close!
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Roomie on the edge!
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That is freakily close buddy!
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You as well..
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That's close enough for me!

I rally am going to miss this bunch of crazies!  We really have had an epic trip, and they have made it all the more enjoyable!

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Thanks...
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Everyone....
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For the wonderful...
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Memories...
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You all made it....
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Extra....
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Special....
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Love you fantastic crazies!

We head back and have a coffee while we wait for some of the others.   We are walking back to camp and decide to take a wee detour. 

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Next year, I promise!

So we head out and to walk to a bar that over looks the bungee jump.  It's a little way from the road but it has great views of the gorge, plus we have time for a drink or two before the group dinner.

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The Bar!

It certainly doesn't disappoint, it has fantastic views of the gorge, the bungee bridge and the flying fox.  It really makes me glad I am not doing any of those things,  that is a long way down.

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Why would anyone want to jump off a perfectly good bridge!
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The Zambezi!

The bar is right on the river and as we sip lovely cold cocktails, chat it is a great way to enjoy our last full day together.

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The Crazies! 

We walk back along the path I am pretty sure Victor told us not to, but all was safe and we made it back to camp in time for the group dinner.  The restaurant on the campground is called "In Da Belly" and specializes in wild game.  

So after a quick shower we meet up with the rest of the group who are already at the table Victor has pre-arranged.  

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Hmmm, what to have!

The food is lovely I share the Impala Steak and Warthog Schnitzel with my roomie and both are delicious.  

After dinner we are pleasantly surprised when a group of traditional Boma dancers put on a fantastic show.  

The traditional costumes are fantastic.   One of the girls gets up and joins in with the dancing which has us in fits of laughter, good on her for giving it ago.  What a perfect way to end the evening

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They were awesome!

After dinner we sit around the pool and have a few drinks two of the group are leaving first thing in the morning and after wishing them all the best we head off for the last night in the tent, I will admit I wont miss it.... until next year! 

NOVEMBER 10TH 2017 DAY 42

Today is officially the end of the tour for me.   So after breakfast I clear my stuff out of the truck and move into my Chalet.

It is basic but comfortable. 

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My Chalet!

I spend the morning by the pool and them head off for my massage.  It is in the grounds of another campsite, and the women is so lovely.

She does my my nails with the most basic equipment but she does an amazing job.

We chat about her family, she is so proud of her children and how they are doing in school.  I am too nervous to ask her about the political situation so instead I ask her about Victoria Falls and she tells me that Elephants walk thru the town, now that would be a sight to see. 

The massage is amazing and it feels so good to feel fresh and clean before long day of flying and transit lounges tomorrow.

I meet up with the others and they introduce me to their fellow travelers for the next part of their tour.  I really wIsh I was going with them, but I will have to wait until next year.

We head to a restaurant that is meant to serve the best burgers in Vic Falls and they don't disappoint.

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Final group pic! 

The walk back to camp involves lots of goodbyes as 4 of us are departing tomorrow, but with promises of meeting up in the morning I head back to the Chalet and find myself wide awake, so I read before I finally head off to bed...

Ahhh a bed it's so comfy!

NOVEMBER 11TH 2017 DAY 42

I say good bye to my travel buddies and all the crew that worked so hard during this amazing trip.

I spend the day by the pool and repacking all my bags for my flight tomorrow.  Since my card has been locked I can't do any of the extra activities I planned to do, so there was nothing for it but to chill.

I have a quiet dinner with the other 4 that are flying out tomorrow before heading off to bed.

NOVEMBER 12TH DEPARTURE DAY

With all my bags sorted, I have a quick breakfast and hand in my eye, apparently there is an issue with my final night booking, which I pre paid for, a quick call to Intrepid and it is all cleared up... Thank goodness as there is no Victor to help sort it out.

I head back the Chalet and grab my bags as my taxi is about to arrive. I eave a pile of clothes and my sneakers with a note for donation, better than throwing them away.  I have however had to buy an extra bag for all my purchases!

the taxi arrives and the drive to the airport is long but it is hot and people are out and about walking along the road.  I really am going to miss this continent.

I am quite surprised, the airport is small but very modern.  You really feel the heat when you get out of the taxi.

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The airport! 

It is easy to find my way around as it's all one terminal.  I go to check in and it goes without a hitch, I sigh a relief as it's been a morning first the hotel and then the taxi I am so sure I prepaid for my transfer to airport and paying for the taxi has left me with $20 US.

Then the next issues arises, the check in clerk tells me I have to pay departure tax, but my ticket says I have already paid it.  So off I go the window for airport taxes and show her my paperwork that states the tax was paid, but she wont except it.  So I try my card, yeap still locked.  

Now I am starting to panic as the staff are demanding payment.  I sit not knowing what to do,  I am about to burst into to tears when I hear an Australian accent ask if I am ok.  I just look at her, she has heard the conversation and offers to help, she is going back to Australia pays the tax for me, she gives me her bank details so I can pay her when I get back home.  I could kiss her I am so thankful.  There are beautiful people in this world and she is one of them!

We head to the gate together as we are on the same flight.  My nerves are still racing and I am finding it hard to calm down again.  But we chat as we watch the planes come and go.

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First flight of the day!

I am mortified watching the staff work during disembarking, there are no safety barriers and when it starts to rain the passengers huddle under the aircraft.  My savior laughs at the expression of shock on my face and it's only when I explain that I work for an airline in Australia and if let our passengers do that the airline would be in major trouble for endangering passengers and staff.

Finally it's time to board.

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Going Home!

But due to rain we can't take off as the captain announces there is too much water on the runway... ummm ok in all the years I have worked at the airport I have never heard of that, so the nerves are going in to over drive because now I am worried about my connection in Johannesburg.

But 30 minutes later we are up in the air, a quick stop in Bulawayo and off we go again to Johannesburg.

Finally we arrive, and I am rushing to the Qantas counter, staff travel is looking slim not many seats and a few staff.  If I have to stay another night I will be sleeping in the check in lounge as I don't think $20 US will get me far. 

I wait nervously to be called over and to my delight I have a seat, I don't know how but I have a seat.  

So now I can relax!  

I am going home!

Posted by TracingTheWorld 02:01 Archived in Zimbabwe Comments (0)

ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS & AN ENDANGERED SPECIES

Zambia to Zimbabwe!

sunny
View KRUGER NP SOUTH AFRICA 2019 & EPIC AFRICA 2017 & JORDAN & EGYPT 2019 & SOUTHERN AFRICA 2018 on TracingTheWorld's travel map.

NOVEMBER 4TH 2017 DAY 36

The drive is long and hot, we are heading to Lusaka, and once again we kill time on the truck by watching documentaries on Victors laptop.

Some read, others play Bao and cards.  We stop every so often for the 'bush toilet' and water refills.  It is the one thing I wont miss is the long drive, but they are part of the adventure.

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Watching Africa as Africa passes by! 

Victor is determined to make up time with the roadwork delays so we have lunch on the truck.  Everyone is relaxed and we are all used to driving for long hours.

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Lunch on the go!

Our stop for the night is a small town that is split by the main highway.  The most modern building is the local gas station.

We set up camp for the night in a lovely little campsite with a resident Emu.  The Campsite sadly was burnt down last year due to an accidental fire, and is still being rebuilt.  So there is no bar or restaurant.  

We head out into town and people are staring at us.  This makes some a little nervous.  The town on the outset looks quiet but as soon as we cross the road people appear sitting in the shade of shop openings and bars.

We are approached by an elderly gentleman who is quite intoxicated, he just wants to chat and offers his help as a guide.  The boys chat with him for a while and he departs smiling.

We find a shop that sells groceries and we by beer before heading back to camp.

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 A spot of shopping! 

There isn't much to do so we sit around chatting and this soon turns into drinking games.  We must be quite loud as the owner is concerned something is wrong, but Victor tells her that it is only because we are all crazy and playing silly drinking games.  One of requires us to sit on each others knees, change directions with the turn of the cards

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Just a little harmless fun!

The sun has well and truly set when we are called for dinner.  I don't know about anyone else, but I need to eat to soak up some of this alcohol.  We sit in the kitchen and Victor thinks we are all crazy.

Once we have helped with the clean up.  We head back to our little circle around the chilly bin.  One of the girls introduces us to a new drinking "Horse Racing" and if we weren't boisterous before we certainly are now.

As the night draws on the cooler empties and we slowly all head off to bed. 

Tomorrow we cross our final border.

NOVEMBER 5TH 2017 DAY 37

As I thought this morning we are all a little slow at getting motivated.  But last night was fun.

Before arrive at the border control Victor has a chat with us, Zimbabwe is not really a free country, so we must be careful about what we say.  He warns us not to ask about their president Mugbabe as the country is still politically unstable.  One of the group is a sports journalist and another an ex-solider, so he advises them not to mention their professions as this could cause questioning and unrest at the border.  Wow it really brings home the reality of where we are, you hear about the political situations of different countries but it's different when you come across it.

The border crossing goes without a hitch, we sit outside waiting for the the truck to be cleared.  We officially enter Zimbabwe at 9.08 am, the last official border crossing of the trip.  I can't believe it is coming to an end soon.

Not long after we are back in the truck and we cross over the Zambezi River, it is the iconic river that Livingstone travelled on when making his way thru this wonderful continent, watching it as we pass over the bridge,

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The Great Zambezi River!

I can't help but wonder what it was like to discover this amazing land, to see creatures that no one has even imagined could have existed for the first time!  We know what to expect when we get  here and yet to see an Elephant, Lion or a Rhino for the first time is a life time experience, but if you didn't know they existed....!

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The official land border!
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The Zimbabwe Side!

We arrive in Harare to find the streets bustling with people.  Some of the old buildings are amazing.  But the streets themselves have seen better days, pot holes and broken signs are everywhere.  But you get a sense of how magnificent the city must have been once.

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It seemed so modern at first!
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It is a hectic city!
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With a mix of old!

We pull into a service station and Victor sends us off to do some shopping.  I start to get a little nervous as the seems to be  quite a few groups of young men milling a bout in groups.  When we do see women with children they are holding on to their hands tightly and no one is making eye contact with each other as they pass, this seems odd compared to other African cities we have visited where people are smiling and intrigued by our presence.  Here they seem introverted and rushed.

We find a little supermarket and I am surprised at how well the shelves are stocked, I don't know why but I was expecting this, as you hear about the shortage of goods in Zimbabwe. 

We don't hang around too long and make our way back to the truck.  Victor is waiting for us and informs us that there is political unrest brewing as Mugabe is n the verge of being ousted as president, and for our safety has decided not to stay here for the night.

My stomach is churning again and my legs are shaky and I will admit this makes me a little nervous as I don't think I could go thru all that again and survive! (plus I have used up all the medication the hospital in Nairobi prescribed)

We finally arrive at our little campsite and it is late, so once dinner is over most of us head straight to bed, it has been a long drive and after last nights drinking session everyone is up for an early night.

NOVEMBER 6TH 2017 DAY 38

As my trip nears it's end it is difficult not to feel a little sad, as tired as I am I don't want to leave this wonder continent.  Both Darlene and Victor have said the Africa is more than just a place it is a part of your heart and soul, and they were right!

We drive to Masvingo and pull off the main road.  We are visiting the Great Zimbabwe Ruins once a royal palace to a Zimbabwe monarch.

Before we head in we have lunch in the shade of large tree, Baboons watch in hope of a morsel.

The entrance of the ruins opens up before us and we are greeted by our guide.

He takes them up to a great rocky cliff, but I stay behind, I ain't climbing up there, I hate heights.   

In the wall of the cliff is a cave where the king would sit and call his wives.  

I sit under the shade of thatched umbrella watching orange headed lizards run up and down the trees.

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My little companion!
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These guys are everywhere! 

The group finally come back down and we make our way into the little museum, it is really interesting, the history of the people, how they lived their daily lives.  

Construction began in the 11th century and continued until the 15th century.  It is believe to the ancestral home to the Shona people.  The stone city would have spanned an area of 7.22 square kilometers and could have housed up to 18,000 people, and was the seat of power for the kingdom. 

It is now a world heritage site.  Europeans who claimed Zimbabwe (then called Rhodesia) refused to believe that the Native Africans could build such a structure as they were savages who would not have had the means or the knowledge to do so.  But their attempts to prove that it was built by 'white men' was never validated, making this one of the oldest constructions in Africa.
We are lead to a massive wall with a small doorway.  What amazes me the each stone is piled tightly together and there is no mortar gluing them together.  The feats of mankind without machinery is unbelievable!

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Entering the palace!

The courtyard is huge, it was the kings main living area.  The curved wall the surrounds the compound is dotted with large domes, the wall was said to be up to 11 meters tall. It is an impressive place!

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An Impressive  Place!

We sit in the shade of the great curved wall as our guide explains how the King would sit up on the hill watching over his domain, he would call for his wives and they would use a secret passage between the double layered wall to meet him.

This was once the center of trade and the king would meet and trade in this center courtyard.

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The Gang!

We are taken thru the wall following in the ancient footsteps of many of the kings wives.  It is wider than I thought it would be, there is room to move freely without feeling claustrophobic.

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Secret Passage!

The passage takes us out of the palace to the open.  Up on the hill is a replica of a Shona village, the life of the common people.   

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Let's explore!

The Huts are true to what life would have been like, round structures with well thatched roofs.  The walls are painted decoratively, there are locals selling hand made goods, I buy a little something for my niece before exploring the village.

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I love how decorative their were!
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Shona Life!

There is a group of locals dressed in tradition attire, they are about to preform a dance.  They look amazing.  We all gather and clap along as they chant and dance.  They must all be over 60 and have better dance moves than I do, mind you that's not hard!  The ladies chant as they sway and you can't help but enjoy yourself.

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Traditional Dance!

I love the little elderly gentleman, he is so enthusiastic, he jumps and chats all the while smiling wildly, you can feel the vibration of his stamping feet thru the earth.  It is awesome.

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He was amazing!

Once performance is over we head back to the entrance, it is time to go.  We sit and wait for the truck to arrive, it is starting to cool down as the afternoon comes to an end.

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What a great day!

The drive to camp isn't far.  But it is late and I think we are all a little tired after last nights late night, the long drive, and being out on the hot sun all afternoon. 

After dinner we chat for a while before heading off to bed.

NOVEMBER 7TH 2017 DAY 39

We get to sleep in... a little, this morning as this morning as the drive isn't so long.  But there is a lot of road works.  This a good thing for Zimbabwe, a sign of improvement.

You can see the poverty in the towns that we pass thru, infrastructure is crumbling.  

There is a distance you can see in peoples eyes, unlike other countries we have visited where a grin lights up their entire being, here you get a glimpse of sadness behind the smile.  It's as the hard work of day to day life has taken it's toll.   To live a quiet life of struggle and oppression would be enough to wear any human being down. 

This becomes more noticeable when we get to Bulawayo.

We park next to City Hall and after the "Be back on time" speech from Victor we head out and explore.

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City Hall

We turn down a side street and it is filled with street vendors selling African paintings, jewelry, baskets... well everything a tourist could ask for.    People smile and ask us to browse without being too pushy.  I show restraint, yeah me, which isn't easy, I will admit.

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Curious at the Curios Market!

As we make our way thru the center of Bulawayo there is a wonderful mix of Art Dec and Colonial buildings, you really get a sense of how beautiful this city would have once been and still could be.  Bulawayo was said to be the most promising city in Africa, but then things changed.

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Now that's a Library

The streets are wide and busy.  People barely acknowledge us, which seems strange as in most cities we have been to people generally stare and giggle at the tourists, maybe they are used to seeing westerners as Bulawayo is a popular stop in Zimbabwe, but there is definitely a lack of eye contact.

But I truly think people are being cautious as we heard on the news that President Mugabe is in the political turmoil and could be unseated from power, and this country is nervous.

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Imagine it in it's glory days!

It is quite easy to find your way around, and Victors directions are pretty easy to follow as the city is laid out in a perfect grid system.  The city is doing it's best to keep up with maintenance, the streets are clean, despite the pot holes.  We pass a large clock tower with beautifully carved figures and flower baskets that would be envy of any gardener.   But the large shops sit empty with for rent signs in the windows. 

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The Cairo Bar

As we make our way to the Art Gallery, we walk a little in circles and pass the famous Bulawayo Sports Club, built in 1895 for the British Soldiers, women were only allowed in the club once or twice a year and only if they went thru the back door, ha can you imagine that today!  I remember reading about this place in one of Wilbur Smiths books, where the men discussed hunting and arranged their "killing safaris" thank goodness that it has all changed, it is a hotel now!

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The Bulawayo Club!

The Art Gallery isn't hard to find and it is an impressive building.  We head on in  and take a look around on the ground floor , it isn't very big inside, but some of  the art work is pretty amazing.  There is a grand staircase, but we are unsure if we are allowed up there, as admission was free, ummm.....

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The National Gallery!

So instead we decide to head to the museum,

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Sit on the balcony with a G & T and watch the world go by!

There is a statue in the middle of a junction, it is of "The Father of Zimbabwe"  Joshua Nkomo,  he was one of the freedom fighters that lead to the change from Rhodesia to Zimbabwe.  He was jailed, and was the target of two attempted assassinations.  He later became the vice president of Zimbabwe before Mugabe became president apparently the two of them did not agree politically. Later their differences become so significant that he fled Zimbabwe after a massacre of up to 20,000 Ndebele civilians in his home province.  

Such turmoil this country has seen, colonization, civil wars, political upheaval, repression, economic  instability, I hope one day the people here find peace and stability they have been through enough.

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Joshua Nkomo!

Some of the buildings have beautifully done carvings.  Some are so intricate, of animals and nature, but there is one that stands out I don't know what the building is for but I just love the detail, me and animals eh!

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Love It!

We follow the main street in and out of Bulawayo as we head off, there is a lot of traffic and amazing little shops.  We pass this really cool looking art with fantastic street art of famous musicians that have preformed there.  My tent roomie actually recognizes some of the names. 

We keep walking passing the centenary park, this would have been beautiful once, flowing fountains, beautiful Jacaranda and Flame trees.  But like the rest of this fantastic city it is falling in disrepair.  But it is full of locals enjoying an afternoon in the sun.  There are even vendors selling ice cream and drinks from brightly colored  carts.

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Centenary Park!

It is so hot and my roomie and I decide to turn back, as the afternoon is getting late and there won't be much time to look around the museum and to be honest it doesn't look open. 

We discover a little curio shop and pop in.  It is like a little treasure trove.  The shelves and tables are filled with handmade goods.  The staff are wonderful the turn a pair of earrings into  matching necklaces for us.  A little memento of our time together on this amazing journey.

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Some shopping! 

As we make our way back to the truck we decide to stop for a drink in that little bar we passed earlier, and it is so nice to be out of the heat.  We pull a stool at the bar, and order a cold beer.

The place has a charm and artist vibe, dark wood tables and lush red velvet chairs facing the stage.  It's quiet now but you can imagine it packed, loud, full of laughter and loud live music.

The young lady who serves us is lovely, she the first person in this city who wants to chat with us.  She asks about our lives and where we are from.  She thought we were mother and daughter (must be the bandanas)  I am too nervous to ask about her life here as the government has spies everywhere and I don't want to get her into trouble. Instead we chat about music.

We say goodbye to our new friend and head back to the truck.  We are one of the first back and slowly the others return.

There is a short drive thru the suburbs to the outskirts of town.  

I am quite surprised at how modern they are.  For us they seem middle class but here... I am not sure.

Our campground is on the grounds of an old colonial home, the own greets us when we arrive.

After setting up we are lounging on the lawn when our guide and driver arrives and gives us information about tomorrows

activities.  I am so excited I can't wait, it is going to be another one of those once in lifetime experiences.

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Relaxing!

It's an early night for us as we have to be up early, but as soon as we try to get some sleep the frogs in neighboring pond decided to wake up!  OMG they are so loud and not in cute way like a bunch of coarse sounding horns all going off at once.

Bloody hell what a racket!

NOVEMBER 8TH 2017 DAY 40

We are all up early for breakfast, some of us didn't get much sleep last night, others slept thru the Frog concert, how I don't know.

Our 4x4 arrives, I am so excited because today I get to walk with Rhinos.

As we make our way to Matobo National Park we pick up two others who are joining us.  I can't contain my excitement, I know I am grinning from ear to ear.

I chat to our driver as we make our way to the park entrance, his family has lived in Zimbabwe for generations and they have seen some changes.  Unlike a lot of white Zimbabweans they stayed.  the reserve used to teaming with both black and white Rhino but it is a different story today.

Finally we make to the entrance, the drive wasn't that long, but I am so excited that I just couldn't wait to get here!

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We're Here!

After our driver signs us all in, he takes us to a display, and we get the truth about the survival of Rhino throughout the world.  Not only are Rhino in Africa endanger of dyeing out but Rhino in Asia as well and all due to poaching.  it makes my blood boil with anger.

But there are those who fight a daily war to protect them fantastic animals from extinction.  Here in Matobo NP they sedate and dehorn the Rhinos, after taking off the horn they file them down to a rounded point so when they grow back they will continue to have the natural curved shape they are famous for.  This means that there is nothing for the poachers to slaughter these creatures for.

Maybe I naïve but why would anyone slaughter such a beautiful creature for something that is made up of the same substances as our finger nails.  Their ivory is used for ornaments and in medicine across Asia and the Middle East, it makes me sick!

Rangers and conservation groups across Africa have petitioned the United Nations to legally allow the sale of the horn from the stock pile of removed horn, at first I am mortified at the thought, but when I question this, he explains that this would bring down the price and deal a huge blow to black market traders and sales, and the hope is it would put a stop to poaching as the stock piled ivory sales would be monitored and controlled.  The Rhino would be safer as their horns are removed humanly. 

In a perfect world we shouldn't have to remove them at all, but this isn't a perfect world.

There were poachers in the park six months ago, and luckily they were stopped before they any of these amazing animals.  There is a shoot to kill policy where poachers are concerned, and you know what I agree with it, anyone who slaughters another living breathing creature... is a heartless excuse for a human.

We pile into the truck and head out into this place of protection.  

There is a small curio market along the way and we stop for little and browse.  shopping is not really on our minds so we don't spend too much time and excitedly get back into the truck.

The sun is shining brightly, rugged landscape is hilly and the grass is long and golden  The rock formations look like giant hands have stacked them in delicately balanced piles.

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Nature is impressive!

We stop for a quick look at a memorial to fallen soldiers of the Boer War and Cecil Rhodes the founder of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe as we know it) and the De Beers Diamond company, not sure how I feel about this guy he brought progression to this part of Africa but at such a high cost.  He introduced various Acts of Parliament to pushing native people from their lands and make way for industrial development.

Impala scatter as we drive along bumpy tracks thru newly sprouting trees.  There is excited chatter on the radio and we suddenly pull off the track and park.   

We are told to be as silent as possible, no loud voices.  And off we go!  The scrub bush is thorny and the morning sun is severe but who cares I am all smiles.  It doesn't take long before we meet up with the tracker with his rifle hanging from his hip.  

At first it is hard to see them but there they are two of them in the shade of bushy grove.  

They are magnificent, and so huge and solid.  They are laying on the ground the only movement is the flicking of torn ears.  I never imagined I would be this close in the wild to one of Africa's most iconic creatures.  It feels surreal.  I had no idea they were this big, I mean seeing them from the truck in Kenya was amazing but this... this is unbelievable!

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First Glimpse! 

We are guided further along and the view of them is clearer, one of them has stood up and wandered off into the bush alerted by the rustling of our footsteps as no one has ushered a word, I know I am speechless... WOW the sheer size of it, they just look at us undeterred by our presence.

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Catching some ZZZZs
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Dehorned for their protection!

It is so close you can see the lack of horn, it is short and rounded, it saddens me that this the way it has to be.

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A flicker of ears...
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... and they ignore us!

Is this real, am I really here?!   It feels like a dream, I realize I have been holding my breathe and this is not a dream!

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Awestruck! 

Moving once again we find ourselves in a grassy opening staring at two of them, one is lounging in the shade, one is standing and just looks at us!

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Truly Magnificent! 

They check us out then simply ignore us.  I can't stop staring at them!  These two are White Rhino their long wide mouths and small dark eyes give them an air of sadness.   

These two have short horns, the beginnings of  new growth and it makes me glad that our trackers have their rifles on hand for their protection.

We stand there in awe of their size and strength.  Our guide tells us that like Elephants they have long memories and remember people and faces, it's no wonder they seem so sad their lives have not been an easy one, fear of death for what a trophy for rich mans greed.

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What a sight!
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"Who are you?"
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"Hmm you seem harmless!"
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What a privilege!
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Such an unbelievable experience
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We disturbed their rest!
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Leave them in peace!

One of them moves about then just stands there looking at us for a while, then suddenly the other one gets up how can such a large creature be so quite when it moves.  Now you really get a sense of the power in those muscles, you really wouldn't want to get in it's way, no wonder a group of Rhino is called a Crash, it is fitting!

We watch them for a while, as they move slowly under the shade, they wont be going far, it is too hot for any living creature to move too much.  

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Stay safe precious!

As we are making our way back to the truck we see another group in the distance, all in crisp white shirts chatting loudly one of them even lets out a squeal, this annoys our guide as they are making far too much noise, they are so loud we can hear their voices, American accents fill the air.  Soon we hear the thudding of heavy feet as the Rhinos flee from their ruckus... No respect for the gift they are about to witness.

Once at the truck our tracker joins us for a cold drink.  I ask if that has tranquillizers, but no it is for the Rhinos protection and yes it will be used against poachers and they wont hesitate to use it... GOOD!

There is a seat on the hood of the truck and Victor has told the driver that no one is to use it but one of the boys switches places with his wife (newly weds) and we head out thru an amazing canon of weirdly piled rocks.

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Very happy explorers!
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Safari excited gang of crazies!

The sky turns grey for a while as we stop at the place where the Boy Scout foundation was born,  set up to teach boys how to survive in the wild.   Seriously if you are going to learn how to survive in the wild then there is no better place to in a wilderness where animals will kill you in an instant!  That's enough to turn any boy into a man!

The drive takes up into the hills where we stop for lunch. The sun is still hiding behind the clouds.  Our stop is an unused resort, it would have been a great place once, right in the middle of the reserve.   But our only companions are the monkeys who are waiting up in the trees watching as our lunch of fresh bread rolls and salad is laid out.

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Lunch Buddy! 

Finally the sun comes out again and just in time as we are heading back out into the park.  These tiny Antelope jump out of the way of the truck and up the rocks.    These little Klipspringers are quick and nimble disappearing into landscape.

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Klipspringer! 

The drive down takes us into a lush green valley and opens up to a large green glistening lake.  the winding narrow road is cut into the rock face.  

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The Views!

The rocky formations look like they have carved by hand but it's nature and time that have smoothed them to shine.  The rise and fall of the lakes water level has left ring marks.  

When the rains come they can be fast and heavy, it wasn't long ago the road was impassable due to flooding.

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Let's hope they are stable!

Leaving the lake behind we come to a large open plain ringed on one side by the Matobo Hills.  We park under a tree and make our way up thru the bush.  

The shade doesn't last long as it opens up to a large hill of flat rock.  It reminds me of cracked plate.  It is a beautiful clear day and you can see for miles as the park spreads out below.

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Matobo Hills! 

I admit it is hot up here but the climb is worth it.  A cave appears up ahead and steps have been carved in the rocks.  It would have been quite well hidden once among the trees. 

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Full of beautiful  artwork!

What we find is absolutely amazing the walls of this shallow cave are covered in paintings.  They are painted in this earthly red figures of men and animals.

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Rock Paintings Nswatugi Cave!

What we find is absolutely amazing the walls of this shallow cave are covered in paintings.  They are painted in this earthly red figures of men and animals.

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The walls tell a story!

The Sans Bushman painted these hundreds of years ago.  A story of the land below.  Giraffes, Elephants, Wildebeest, Impala, with little people hunting, running and well living, decorate the cave.

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Giraffes!
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Aren't they amazing!
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Antelope

These are more than just art they are message from one group of Sans Bushmen to another, letting each other know what is in the area, like a message board.  

These ancient people would walk across Africa only stopping to hunt and replenish supplies.   Following the water setting up small settlements like this, leaving messages for those that followed.  

They only killed what they needed and used every part of any animal they killed for food, clothing, tools and equipment.  They carried everything they needed and never taking something from nature unnecessarily.   The only thing they left behind was a footprint.

The paintings intricate and beautiful.

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Love the little people!

He shows a spot on the wall by the entrance at first there is nothing there, but when he blocks out the light with his hat a figure appears, you can tell it's a women as her lady parts are quite exaggerated!  It is quite amazing!

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Yeap... that's a women! 

The way down is certainly easier.  and once back at the truck the cold drinks are much appreciated.  The afternoon heat is dissipating with the setting sun.  Everyone is in a good mood as we drive out of the valley. The plain stretches out before us and the grass is as tall as a person.

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We are having an awesome day!

The setting sun is turning the rocky cliffs pink, and once again Africa doesn't disappoint you when it comes to sun sets turning the sky a glowing golden orange.

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When it comes to sunsets Africa never disappoints! 

Suddenly we pull off the road down a track and the truck stops.  A large open field opens up before us and our guide instructs us once again to keep as quiet as possible.   A family of Rhino have been spotted by our tracker and we are off to meet them

The family we are about to meet has an 8 month calf and the mother can be a bit skittish, but she has a special bond of trust with our guide as he rescued her from poachers and he is hoping she trusts him enough to let us approach.

So in single file we make our way thru the long grass no one is saying a word!

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Walking in the wilds of Africa!

The grass is as tall as my shoulder in places but the walk isn't long when suddenly there under a tree is our first sighting and she is massively gorgeous.  At first she ignores us but as we get closer we get her attention.  She simply looks at us and walks away.

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What a magnificent sight! 

We move in a little closer and our tracker is leaning against a tree rifle slung over his shoulder and smiles and nods as we approach.

As the clearing opens up before us, and what I see takes my breathe away.   

There right before my eyes are 3 adults and the most adorable little baby.   We are so close you can hear them munching on the grass.

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What a blessing to see them!
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So close you can see every muscle
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What a family!

Everyone is silent and not thru fear but from awe!  I just can't put into words how blessed I feel at this moment to be in the presence of such special creatures in their protective habitat.

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Rhino Bum!
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The power!
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So special!

There are 3 adults, 2 females and a male.   But it is the 8 month baby boy that steals the show.  He sticks with Mum, following her everywhere.  He is so unbelievably cute!

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I am so awestruck at the sight of him!
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I hope he has a future!
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Oh little one!
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A wonderful little family!

They simply eye us and continue eating, filling themselves up on the lush green grass.   I can't take my eyes off them for fear that this isn't real!  

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That face... those ears!
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I just want to protect him forever!
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Adorableness!
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A little curious!

The adults have tags in their ears, I ask our guide in a whisper if they have names, but he doesn't name them, names are not for wild creatures, plus their lives are in constant danger and it is too heartbreaking to think of loosing them, so not giving them a name is a way for him to keep a certain emotional distance, and suddenly my heartbreaks for these beautifully magnificent creatures and those who dedicate their lives to saving them.

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At 8 months old...
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He is the future...
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For their survival...
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A new generation...
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He will hopefully one day become a father...
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Of the next generation...
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Saving the future...
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Of White Rhinos !

The second female and the male keep their distance.  He is larger than the ladies and the ridges down his back are very prominent.  They are all a solid mass of muscle and you really wouldn't want to be in their way. 

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Aren't they magnificent!

We were warned that if they charge to climb a tree, well there's none of those around, so the other option is to drop to the ground and roll into a tight ball.  They have quite bad eyesight and would hopefully mistake us for a rock... Let's hope that it isn't necessary! 

But their bad vision sadly makes them easy targets.

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The Strong Male
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The Second Female

I love the black tuft of hair on his ears, and the long eyelashes.  the wide mouth looks like the little on is smiling a mischievous smile.  Mum stays close, she has accepted our presence and staying quiet has gone a long way in gaining her trust.  Little one doesn't care about us at all and just follows Mum around.

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Sticking with Mum!
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But gets bold...
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Wanders off curiously!
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You can't help but fall in love with him!

I am so captivated watching them that I didn't notice that the rest of the group had moved away.  

I am standing between 2 scraggly trees, just watching this precious little boy.

Thru the corner of my eye I see our tracker is leaning against a tree watching over everything but I hardly notice him.   The sight in front of me is mesmerizing.

The little one is right in front of and Mum is behind him watching him with one while continuing to eat.   He gets a little curious and walks slowly towards me, he stops, pauses, his little ears twitch as he looks straight at me.  

The slowly he comes closer, he is about a meter away from me, and I all I can do is smile as he stares straight at me.

I am so captivated by this gorgeous little bundle that I hadn't noticed Mum look up, and suddenly she is trotting towards us, I start shaking, she is quick... and all the  "what to do" is forgotten. 

As she reaches him and stops, using her head she gives him a nudge and they walk way.   

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He comes so close!

I am still shaking as I take a slow cautious step backwards, then I hear a chuckle our tracker is grinning from ear to ear laughing at me,  I will admit I was a little scared... and I will admit that I actually peed myself I little!  

You would too if a Mother Rhino was coming straight at you!

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Oh, that face, what's not to love!

I move and join the rest of the group, our tracker is still chuckling away to himself and whispers "You were safe"  OK if you say so... actually I believed him!

We watch them for a while... you can't take your eyes off them!

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A spectacular experience...!
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I will never forget...!
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Thank you Africa!

As the sky darkens our guide quietly rounds us up, it is time to head back to the truck.  It is hard to say goodbye, but we leave them in peace.  

I really hope that they have a future, being able to watch them in the wild is truly a life time experience that I hope future generations like my Niece and Nephew will get to have.  They are magnificent and to loose them would be a great loss for this world.

We head back to the truck, I still can't believe we were allowed so close and that they trusted us.

The drive back to camp is jovial, everyone is chatting excitedly, what a fantastic day!

It is dark by the time we get back back to camp, and  Henry has dinner ready.   We are all smiles and Victor listens to us chat excitedly.

We have a few drinks while doing the dishes, everyone is in a great mood and why not it has been a fantastic day.

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Housework!

As amazing as today was I feel a little sad, as this fantastic journey is coming to an end.  Tomorrow we make our way to our final destination.

But what a way to end a trip!  

Even if I wasn't too excited to sleep those damn Frogs are at it again!

Posted by TracingTheWorld 01:43 Archived in Zimbabwe Comments (0)

AMAZING GAME RESERVES & A GREAT LAKE

Tanzania, Malawi & on to Zambia!

sunny
View EPIC AFRICA 2017 on TracingTheWorld's travel map.

OCTOBER 27TH 2017 DAY 28

It turns out it was something else!  I have never been this sick in my life!  So I see my birthday in by spending it in the bathroom, with my head in the toilet... actually it's both ends... I think you get the picture!  I wouldn't wish this upon my worst enemy!  When I slept it was on the cool tiles of the bathroom floor.  My whole body aches and shakes.... oh not good, not good at all.

My poor room mate was shocked to find me in the bathroom when she awoke, and emptied her bag of all the anti nausea  sickness tablets she has, bless, she helps me with my things and on shaky legs I make my way to reception.  We say a final goodbye to those who are leaving us and the pile into the minivans for the drive back to Stone Town.  It is all a blur.  I don't remember the drive at all.

Once we are dropped off at the ferry terminal, even the short walk is too much I have no energy at all and Victor has to help me up from the curb where I nearly collapsed.  I am holding up the group and he doesn't want to miss the ferry.

Unfortunately  the ferry ride is a little rough and unlike the trip over I sit inside wrapped up in my jacket eyes closed waiting for the nightmare to end.   The weather has turned grey and it kinda suits my mood!

Finally feet on solid ground and the truck is waiting for us.  I manage to dig out my bag and find the tablets the hospital in Nairobi gave me.

Off we go to Morogoro!

Then I curl up and sleep, only waking for toilet stops and water!  

I wake up just as we get to the outskirts of the reserve where we are spending the night,  I feel slightly better the tablets working wonders.  We spot Elephants, Giraffe and Zebra a long the side of the road amongst the scrubby bush.

Our spot for the night is a small but lovely campground and after setting up the tents with a little help from the newest arrival to the group, who I did meet earlier but as the trip was a bit of blur I don't really remember meeting him!

We arrange our game drive for tomorrow and a group dinner in the restaurant... I try to eat a little toast and scrambled eggs!  

But as much as I try I just can't stay up to long and head off to bed.   What a sucky birthday...!

OCTOBER 28TH 2017 DAY 29

Up early, a light breakfast and plenty of fluids.  I feel much better, not 100% but .. I am holding down my food, that's something!

Game drive today, just the girls.  Our driver Terry is a soft spoken man with a beaming smile.   As we drive to the main gate of Mikumi National Park, it starts to drizzle, the grey sky giving the dry landscape a gloomy bronze glow.

It doesn't take long to get to the main gate.  There are a few other 4x4s in the car park, but I think the rain has keep people away this  morning.

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Let's Go!

As we make our way into the park the clouds part  for a moments relief from the constant drizzle.  The rains have bought the first signs of new growth on the sparse flat landscape.  

First sighting is Impala and Zebra, not bothered by our presence at all.  For two of the girls this is their first game drive, their excitement is contagious.

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They are cute!
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Hello little one!
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Handsome boy![
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Camouflaged quite well

Chilled Baboons sit on the side of the road as we drive thru the park.   Waterbuck roam in the distance.  Terry is a bird expert and he loves to point out the different varieties.  He knows them all by name, we try not to laugh at his excitement.

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Just Chillin!

Coming around a bend we come to Crocodile Pond and it lives up to its name.  The water level is still quite low but there is signs of new green plant life in and around the little lake. We all get out of the 4x4 to take a closer look

The spikey ridges pierce the water making little ripples on the surface, yeap there is definitely crocs in there!  One slowly emerges eyeing us suspiciously, you stay right there buddy!

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The eye of a predator!

The weather changes constantly, with the sun breaking thru to bring relief from the rain.   Just as we get into the truck its starts to drizzle again.  

​As we make our way further into the park, one of the girls swears she sees an Elephant in the distance, and as we drive closer down the bumpy road we come upon a large group of Giraffe, there is at least 30 of them roaming thru the trees, what a sight.

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I love these gorgeous creatures
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I could watch them all day!
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They are so wonderful

Some simply watch us, others take off running for the safety of the trees,  this is the first time I have seen them running, it looks so awkward and lopsided, unlike the graceful way they walk.  As much as I liked being at the beach, I have really missed being out watching sights like this!

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Morning snack!
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Look at that cute face
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Only the juiciest leaves will do!
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Such striking markings

A herd of Zebra appear in an opening, there is safety in numbers when you at the mercy of predators.  They are curious looking things.   These ones seem smaller than the Zebra we saw in Nakuru and The Serengeti and there is not tan tint on their striping.

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Aww there is a new addition to the herd!
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Up you get!

We leave them in peace  and the bushy scrub opens up to a plain the grass is long and copper in color, this rain will bring much needed relief to the grassing animals.  Suddenly more Zebra appear on the road in front of us and Terry had to stop suddenly.

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"Excuse me, I'm walking here!"

Suddenly more appear from the long grass and cross the road in front of us.  The newbies chatter excitedly as they nonchalantly walk past the truck.

Once they have past we continue on, more Impala stand stunned on the side of the road as go by, there elegant horns twisting high above their heads and their copper coats blending into their surroundings.

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Blending in!
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Well aren't you a handsome one!

We pass a muddy pond that is starting to fill with the first of the rains,  strange grey Storks wander happily at the edge.  I really wish I paid more attention to Terry and took note of their names.

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Does he look angry to you?

As we drive thru another patch of scrappy bush more Giraffe appear.  This group is as large as the first if not larger.  They are so close that you can see every detail of their magnificent coats.  But the rain has turned the air grey and hazy.

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Look at those lovely faces!

Some of them scatter at the sound of the truck, some just stare.  Their Zebra companions show no interest in us at all

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I have missed this!
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So Wonderful!
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Aww those eyelashes!
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What a wonderful way to spend a morning

As we drive further thru the scrub the road becomes very bumpy and Terry has to slow right down to let the Giraffes cross in front of us, filming is difficult on this jittery road, and I am terrible at taking videos but I have to get this on camera.

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We have to say goodbye to these elegant creatures as Terry says it's time to head back. Awww I don't wanna leave but alas we must.  No sight of the Cats that Mikumi is famous for I guess the Lions and Cheetahs are sleeping thru the rain!

We stop at the rest rooms before heading out of the park.  Sadly there are no more sightings on the drive out.

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Girls Morning Out!

Once back at camp it's a spot of breakfast.  Finally the rain has subsided as we take down our tents.

Back in the truck there is space for everyone to have their own spot as this is a small group, which is nice as the last tour the truck was full, it is nice to spread out.

As we make our way, my roomie and I try to open a window, Victor has warned us many times to be careful, and the two of us just cant seem to get the window down, suddenly it slips from our hands and with an all might crash the whole window shatters on the road.  Driver Dan stops and reverses... he is not pleased, to say the least.  The look on Victors face says it all!  After sweeping up the glass we continue on Victor assures us that they have a spare window on the truck and we can fix it tonight.

We leave the flat landscape behind and head up into the hills.  We play cards, read, listen to music and just watch the Africa go by.   The group have made me a get well/birthday card with hand drawn animals, they wanted to help me celebrate yesterday but I slept the day away making it a total write off.

The wide modern highway is slow going as it winds up thru the steep hills. 

Once down in the valley small villages line the roadside, the rains haven't come here yet and it's so dry.

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Waiting for the rain!

The drive down is a little quicker and Baobab Trees are everywhere, these weird upside down trees are everywhere.  Hence the name Baobab Valley.  When we drive thru villages the children with big smiles wave at the truck as we pass by, it's one of the things I love about this continent. 

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Baobab Valley
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So desolate in places
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Then little villages appear!

By the time we get to camp on the outskirts of Iringa, the sun has practically set, and we are putting our tents up in the dark. 

We watch as Dan unloads the new window that is stored in one of the lockers on the truck, WOW Victor was right they really do carry everything on this thing.  We all help removing the window rubber so the  new window can be installed.  We are given a reprieve when Henry calls us for dinner. 

After a dinner of rice and some veg (still not at 100%)  I go for wander around the camp.  It is in the grounds of a farmhouse, sadly we arrived too late to take a proper look around.  All the buildings are made the traditional way with wonderful thatched roofs.  Even the barmen is in traditional Masai robes!

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Masai Welcome!
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The Bar!

We are sitting in the bar when the farms owner joins us.  She is an elegant women in her sixties.  She tells us about how she came from Holland with her family and they built the farm here in Tanzania.  She is open and honest, and doesn't mind answering our questions.​

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The Girls

It's been a long day so it's and early night!

OCTOBER 29TH 2017 DAY 30

Today we drive to Malawi, and we cross the boarder at 2.40 and then after a few hours we stop in a large city and stop at a large shopping center.  It takes a while but we finally find a bank that takes Mastercard, it seems Africa prefers Visa!   Finally Victor rounds us all up and after a latte in a lovely little café we make our way to the campground.

It is a short drive out of this hectic city and we turn down a bumpy side road out in the country.  Zebra roam the grounds to the site.

It is a lovely little place with great views of green farmland.   We set up our tents and head to the bar, I was hoping for a swim but a local politician is visiting with his family and the little pool is crowded.  So we sit and chat with a couple of cold beers.

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My humble abode!

We are given a reprieve from dinner duties tonight as one of the local girls has been helping Henry in the make shift kitchen.  She is adorable, she joins us for dinner and talks about her family, school, she hopes to be a chef one day as she loves to help her Mum cook.  She is open and honest as only children can be.

After dinner I have a few beers in the bar, it is the first time I have had a chance to talk to driver Dan, he doesn't really mingle much with us like Victor and Henry.

I have slept so much lately that now I am feeling better it is hard to get to sleep.

OCTOBER 30TH 2017 DAY 31

A quick breakfast and then we are off again.  Today we are heading to Lake Malawi.  It is raining on and off as we pass thru villages.  The landscape needs this rain as the only splash of color are the Flame Trees with their bright orange flowers.  

There is a haze to air as we make our way up thru small towns.  The little homesteads maybe basic to us but the pride they have for their homes shows in the care they take, they are well set up with little traditional style homes, storage huts and animal keeps.  The communal areas are swept clean of debris, it makes my housekeeping look shameful, there is a leaf or twig out of place!

If the weather was clearer we would get some spectacular views.

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Hazy Views
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Small Villages!
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The rain is needed!

We stop in the city of Mzuzu, it is chaos.  We park at a small modern mall and head for the ATMs and once again, they don't like Mastercard. 

Henry takes us food shopping in this huge outdoor market.  It is hectic and crowded.  It is interesting watching him barter with the stall owners.  There is an amazing array of fresh fruit, veg, spices and grains.  I never knew there was so many varieties of beans!

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Beans, beans and more Beans!
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Fresh is best!

We walk over planks of wood, avoid puddles and wind our way thru alleyways lined with little shops selling everything you need for the home.  It is an amazing place people smile at us as we go by, and it seems we are the only westerners here. 

Victor takes us to a little canteen for lunch,  it is run by this wonderful little elderly woman who has an infectious laugh.  The local food is delicious and as we sit at picnic tables drinking cokes and stuffing our faces locals passing by stare at us, as our conversation and laughter catches their attention.

After lunch we are left to do our own shopping, we have decided to have an impromptu Halloween party tonight.  We find ourselves in the part of the market that has permanent small shops.  The fabric shops catch my attention, but I think I have bought enough!  The rain has given us a reprieve for our little shopping trip, but not for long!

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Yeah me I showed shopping retraint
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No plastic bags for us!
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Bye Mzuzu Market!
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A slight reprieve from the rain!

Just as we get to the truck it starts to rain again.  There is another Intrepid truck in the car park.  Victor introduces everyone and explains that they do the same tour but are on their way back home to Kenya, ohh that's a long drive!

Once we are all rounded up we head out of the city and stop on street lined with banks,  third one is the charm and finally the rest of us can get some cash out.  There is always a limit as to how much you can take out in US Dollars, so note to self next trip bring more cash, so I wont have to use the card so much!  Lesson learned!  

We drive down out of the city and the sun comes out for a while.  One of the boys needs to use the 'bush toilet'  and I feel sorry for the homeowner whose front garden he uses!

We sing a long to chosen songs, each taking turns to pick a tune, it is fun and loud, and a great way to kill the time.  Our little group of 11 gets a long really well.

Finally as we climb up out of the valley we get our first glimpse of Lake Malawi, but unfortunately the rain has come back.  

So our view is grey and hazy!

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Lake Malawi!

The lake is huge, about 360km long and 75km wide it is part of the Rift Valley and one of the largest lakes in Africa, it is millions of years old and shares it's shoreline with Malawi, Tanzania and Mozambique.  It is a primary source of livelihood for the locals that make the shoreline home.

We drive down from the hills and the land flattens out.   Suddenly the sun breaks thru and the late afternoon becomes warm. 

Villages dot the lake edge, Malawi isn't as developed as their neighbors and it shows, traditional houses make up small units of 2 or 3 households sharing a central courtyard.  The animal enclosures, home kitchens, vegie gardens and storage huts built on stilts with little thatched roofs.  

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Humble Homesteads
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Well organized and cared for!
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Lake side living, love the canoes!

The drive around the lake to our campsite is like stepping back in time, and I love it.  We suddenly turn of the road onto a sandy track.  We pass villagers a long the way before stopping at a large gate.  There are curios shops lining the entrance, I will definitely have to check those out!

Someone opens the gate and WOW we are greeted with creamy sand, white washed buildings with thatched roofs.  We are right on the lakeshore.

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The Beach Camp

We set up our tents under a large bamboo structure, and then head to the bar.  There is a large thatched roof seating area with plush comfy sofas with great view of the lake.   Some of us relax with a cold beer, others with more energy play soccer on the beach with some local boys.   We get chatting with a fellow traveler  who arrived when we did, except he is on a motorbike.  He has been all thru Africa, including places most people wouldn't go to, due to the political upheavals that have classed them as dangerous to most western countries.  His travel stories are interesting, what a way to see the continent!

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Set up for the next few days!

After a few well deserved cold beers we are rounded up for dinner.   It is such a lovely warm evening as the rain has disappeared, lets hope it stays away for the next few days.  Our little group sits around chatting, I think this is my first full meal in days, finally real food!

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Cheers!

Everyone disappears to the bar or their tents to change for our impromptu Halloween celebrations.  My costume is pretty easy, so I meet some of the girls in the bar.   It is quite cool, with signs and posters donated by travelers from all over the world.   There is this really weird wooden statue on the bar it is one of the first things you see when you enter, he is quite a striking fellow and well endowed!  He is apparently the Malawian god of mischief!

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Cheeky!

The night is great everyone is a festive mood, and most have managed to put together a costume from their backpacks.  Two of the girls are vampires, another two have sarongs and flowers for a bit of a Hawaiian theme, one of the boys has come in an Arabic robe, but it is Victor that steals the show... He has come in traditional African Tribal dress including a chiefly Fez , he really does look the part!  Me it was easy bandana, Iron Maiden T-shirt, wild hair (that was no stretch, no hair straightening when camping!), jeans and boots... Rock On!

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Our fantastic Intrepid Gang
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The 3 of us have been together from Day One of tour!
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Happy Halloween!

This little group is fantastic, the laughter is loud, and the conversation is even louder, I really hope we aren't disturbing the neighbors!  

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This is one amazing young lady!
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Love these girls!

I think we all drink too much, but hey tomorrow we can spend the day relaxing... No long drives tomorrow.  

Slowly the party winds down and we all head off to bed... I think I wont be the only one feeling the effect of too much Bourbon in the morning!

OCTOBER 31ST 2017 DAY 32

As predicted some of us are feeling the effects of last night but Henrys breakfast sure does help.   

Today the sun is shining, the lake is glistening, it is going to be a wonderful, relaxing day.  I find my spot in a hammock, I have a good book, music and a light breeze what more could you ask for... the perfect hangover cure!

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Chillaxing!

Today we don't do much of anything except enjoy the peace and quiet, oh and the fact that we don't have to put a tent up and down or sit in the truck.

My tent buddy and I have a new addition to our humble abode, a little sand Gecko has mad himself at home, hanging out with.... literally hanging on the side of the tent, head tilted back catching the warmth of the sun.   We have named him George.  He has been there since last night as we nearly stood on him when we went to bed.  He doesn't move much and definitely makes a great roomie, quiet and doesn't take up too much space!

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George!

After a quiet and uneventful day (just the way I planned it) we meet for dinner, then head to bar for a few quiet drinks, no party tonight as tomorrow we pack up and cross another boarder, I am really looking forward to our next stop, a friend of mine told me it is pretty amazing!

As we are about to fall asleep we hear this rustling sound outside our tent.  We stick our heads out to see these little animals jumping around in the branches.  There are 2 of them, and they are so cute.  We grab our torches to get a closer look, they remind me of opossums, but smaller.  One of them jumps across a huge gap onto another tree and disappears, the other sits stunned just long enough to get a quick photo before it too disappears.

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Cute little Bush Baby!

NOVEMBER 1ST 2017 DAY 33

We are up early for breakfast, we say goodbye to George and set him free in the trees and take down our tent.  Before we head off my roomie and I head to the curios market in front of the camp gate.  Her mother used to live in Malawi and so she is quite the haggler.  They certainly don't make it easy, but I really wanted one of those little Malawian statues of the God of Mischief.

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Curios Market!

Today it is hot, long and the weather is beautiful.   So what do we do to pass time... close the curtains and watch 'The Lion King' and some Wildlife Documentaries on Victors laptop.  

We stop for lunch on the side of the road and people stare at us as we sit in the shade of the truck enjoying fresh salad and fruit.

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Roadside Dining!

The long drive includes another border crossing, this one is easy.  Once we are all processed we sit outside while we wait for the truck to be processed.  

There is such a difference in lifestyle.  the villages are simple yet so clean, not a speck of rubbish in their living surrounds.  Flame trees and Jacaranda trees are out in bloom and add a flash of color to the dry surrounds.  The rains are late coming to Zambia and it shows.

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Cute Little Villages!

We stop in this bustling little city, and head to the banks.   There is a Barclays which suits me fine, but there is no cash in the ATM... oh no!  After a quick stop at the supermarket where my card does work, I take a walk around and I try every ATM in the vicinity and finally find one that takes my card, but no money comes out... ummmm!  But Victor is rounding us up and I run out of time to wait for Barclays to get their cash delivery.

We drive thru more little villages as we make our way to South Luangwa.

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Waiting for the rains!

When we turn off the main road and make our way to the campsite Giraffes appear, everyone starts chatting excitedly we pull into the campground.

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Oh WOW!

It is right on the Luangwa River, and WOW what a view!   

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View from the bar!

As we set up the tents we have an audience, Baboons are watching our every move.  Victor warns us not to get too close, leave food out or leave our tent zip open as they will steal anything and attack if provoked.

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Visitor!

Once the tents are all set up we sit in the bar, I try my card on the Eftpos machine and it doesn't work.... BUGGER, so while watching a fisherman out on the river I spend over half an hour on the phone with Westpac (Thank You Eureka Campsite for the use of the phone)  My card has been locked because of the ATM issue I had earlier, so I have to watch the spending cash only.   

The camp has a local and it is so cute,  a Bushbuck wanders the grounds, and he is not worried about us all.  We can actually hand feed him... so gorgeous!

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Beautiful Bushbuck!

You can't help but spend time with this beautiful little creature, he is so gentle and the white markings are so defined, like someone has dripped paint on his back.

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Awww!
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Such a sweetie
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You can't help but smile!
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Wonderful!

He disappears and we sit in the bar watching the river,  suddenly a herd of Elephants makes their way down the riverbank, the herd spends time at the river edge for awhile, they are all different ages and sizes.  I love watching them interact they have such a close family bond.

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Afternoon Cool Down!

It is so peaceful watching the river.  A lone fisherman is out in his little canoe, crocodiles slowly emerge at the surface.

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Brave to go in there!

Slowly the sky turns a dusky pink as the sun sets.

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River Sunset
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View from the tent!

Just before dinner we meet our driver for tomorrow.   I know I am excited.  Baboons watch us closely as we eat.  We are careful not to leave anything out in the open for them to steal.  

My friend was right about this place it is wonderful.  I can't wait for tomorrow!

NOVEMBER 2ND 2017 DAY 34

Up early, a small breakfast before we have head out into South Luangwa National Park.

the road is bumpy and the seats aren't very soft but hey...  who cares!  The Giraffes are still wandering around outside of the campsite.

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Campground Neighbors!
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Best Neighbors Ever!

It is a short drive to the gate.  It doesn't take long for us to be signed in as we are the first truck there this morning.

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Here we go!

Once across the bridge we turn off the main road.  It is very dry there isn't a blade of grass to be seen.  As we bumpy about on the rocky track a Warthog trots and disappears into the bushes.  Zebra roam among the scraggy bushes, what are they eating in this arid landscape.  

As we get further into the park there is chatter on the radio, Lions have been spotted in this part of the reserve.  As our driver follows the directions he has received Impala appear on  a dry river bed.

We come around a sharp bend and then pull off into a clearing and there lounging under some thorny bushes, 5 Lioness and cubs lazing in the shade.  Some are stretched out on their backs legs in the air.

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Would you look at that!

Some of them acknowledge our presence by looking up, the others totally ignore us their only movement is a flicker of a tail or an ear.

Even the cubs continue to ignore us, I guess if Mums not worried then they aren't either.  One of them gets up and moves around the pride.  They rub heads with each other, this little family is wonderful to watch, the way they interact and the closeness they have, it is simply beautiful!

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They are incredible!
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Oh sweet little one!
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You are just the cutest!
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Cuteness Overload!
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So Tiny!

There are more cubs hidden under a bush you can just see them watching us, their cute little faces peering thru the branches.

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What a face, simply adorable!

As much as I would love to see them come out of their hiding place, they are wary of our intrusion and stay hidden.  I don't blame them.

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Nope not coming out... Well OK then!

The Lioness roll about and a couple of them sit up sitting like the Egyptian Sphinx.

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Perfect Poses!
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She is beautiflul
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Stunning
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Lovely Ladies

One of them gets up and moves around lovingly rubbing heads with the others, she has a tracking collar on, it seems bulky but it doesn't seem to bother her at all.  It is sad that these measures are required to protect our beautiful creatures.

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One moves about!
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Communicating with affection!
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Simply amazing to watch!

She moves to the bushes where the cubs are being watched over by another Lioness and flops down in the shade.  They are sleepy and hot, panting in the mid morning heat.  

The ladies eyes maybe closed but they are alert, ears flicking when there is a sound they don't recognize.

There is a little cub under the bush lazing on it's back all paws spread-eagled, it is simple adorable, and is so chillaxed that our presence is no bother at all.  You can see the little spots on it's furry little belly.  So tiny, so precious!   

The only movement is the flicker if it's paw... Awwww!

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If that isn't the sweetest little thing!
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How chillaxed is that!
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So ADORABLE!
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Just want to watch them all day!

The Lioness stir but it is the cubs that grab all the attention, there is one beside the truck just lounging, she was tucked in amongst the adults and is now in full view.  So little compared to the ones we saw in the Serengeti.  

That little face just makes my heart melt with joy.  She is all paws and fluffy ears.  You can see every detail on her coat the spots on her legs the black tuft of hair in ears.  She watches us and when she sits up everyone oooohs and arrrrs with delight.

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Can relax when Mum and Aunties are around!
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She is so tiny!
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The Prides Future
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She stole my heart!

With one last look there are groans of disappointment as the truck engine starts and we reverse out and slowly leave.  Now they can rest in peace, but I can't help but wonder where the males are and if we will get to see them.

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Goodbye Precious Family!

The road is very rough and we are definitely feeling the effects of the 'African Message'.  The trees become denser and a little greener and we catch a glimpse of Giraffe on the move, the group even has a couple of babies, so gangly and awkward on their  new legs.

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Roomies

As we are about to cross a dry river bed Victor asks the driver to stop as he thinks there is a Leopard up in one of trees, and our excitement peaks!  

When we stop on the bridge we discover that it isn't a Leopard but a huge Owl, and it is amazing, the size of a Baboon.  

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It is just perched up in the branches sleeping.

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So Majestic!

What an unusual sighting, at first it ignores us and continues to sleep, then slowly he turns looks at us, and as if to say "whatever!" closes his eyes and ignores us.  I am amazed at how big he is, and so majestically handsome!

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Wonderful!

No  more than 5 minutes down the road we come across a lone Elephant amongst the scraggly bush.  We are watching her when suddenly a baby appears from behind her.   It is all ears, so little and so adorable.  It is shy and sticks so close to Mum that it is difficult to get a close look.  Mum is feeding off the Sausage Tree fruit and is  not worried about the truck at all.  But baby is nervous of us and tries to hide using Mums legs for cover.  Such a wonderful sighting, what an amazing morning, just when you think this continent can't surprise you anymore, it does it again!

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Sweet little Ellie!
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Aww don't hide!
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Adorableness!
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So little all trunk and ears!
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Awww sweetie!
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Once again Africa you have amazed me!

Once the little one is used to our presence and relaxes it starts trying to feed but Mum doesn't stand still and she is making it a little difficult.  The little trunk waves in the air, watching this beautiful sight you cant help but smile as little one has quite learnt to control the use of the it's trunk yet.

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"Mum....!"
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"Mum please stand still!"
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"Mum...!
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"Mum I am hungry...!"
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"Mum... Please!
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"Love you Mum!"
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"You're the best!"

When the little one flops on the ground, we leave them alone and head thru the bush.  Everyone is looking up in the trees trying to spot Leopards this reserve is famous for them. 

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Aww Sleepy!

But we soon leave the bush and drive down a bank to an open plain that edges the Luangwa River.   Bushbuck and Impala wander the plain.  You can hear the Hippos in the river making their funny grunting laughing sound.  Baboons sit in the shade of large trees, it really is a lovely spot! 

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The Plains of Luangwa NP
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A great spot of a break!
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Female Bushbuck
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Sharing!

So lovely in fact we park under a huge tree and have a break for morning tea.  Our driver puts out a lovely little spread of coffee, juice and freshly baked biscuits that his wife made, how nice, what a treat!

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Our Driver!
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Morning Tea in the Wilds of Africa
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Hey!

It feels great to stretch the legs, the sounds of the Hippos carry thru the air.  The Impala wander past nonchalantly, we are no threat to them.  

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The Group!
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What a Place!

There is a fantastic view of the river from the steep bank.  Hippos dot the water and there is an occasional bustle amongst the herd.   We catch a glimpse of those large teeth when they emerge with that famous yawn of theirs.

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Luangwa River!

I will admit the break was good as my butt was getting a bit sore on those bumpy roads.   But we head back out across the plain and soon find ourselves in a landscape that is in desperate need of the rains.

We stop in amongst a herd of Giraffes feeding on the only green vegetation in the area, thorn bushes.  How they avoid the needle like spikes is a feat in itself.   They watch the truck but continue eating without a care in the world.

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"Hmmm what are you?"
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"Oh just tourists!"
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"Food is more important!"
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"Hmm What's over here?"

These ones have a darker coloring compared to others we have seen in Mikumi NP, they also seem slightly smaller, but still beautiful and graceful.

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How... so many thorns!
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"You can't see me..."
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"My best side!"
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Cute Bum!

It is late in the morning  and it's starting to get hot, the animals will soon find rest in the shade.  So we start heading back to camp.

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A Fantastic Morning!

Turning around a sharp corner suddenly in the shade of a large tree is a herd of Elephants, just chilling on the side of the road... there are babies!

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She is Magnificent!
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The wisdom in those eyes!
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There is more!

Some of them are blocking the road... Oh no now we have to stop for a while, how inconvenient!  They are so close to us you can see every detail,  their glorious tusks, flapping ears that are keeping them cool, eyelashes that line sleepy ears.

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So many!
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Amazing!

They simply look at us without a care in the world.

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Unbelievable!
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Hey there cutie!
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Those eyes!

Watching this family is such a privilege, the way the little ones stick close to the adults.  There are several generations in this little herd, you can tell by the size difference of the young ones. 

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Stunning!
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Those ears!

They are so quiet, how can such large animals be so silent when they move?  The only sound you hear is the swooshing of ears and the sweeping of dust.  Even their footsteps are soundless.. 

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Wise Lady!

They move about and the road is clear, but we stay a little while longer and watch them.   You can't help but be in awe of these magnificent creatures, so majestic..

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Aww I just love you
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All I want to do is keep them safe!

There is a saying in Africa... "The Elephants eyes speak the greatest language, what else can make you feel so much without a word."  It is so true, I know that when I look into their eyes I see love, loyalty and wisdom passed down through the generations.

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You are so adorable!
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The next gernerations
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You are so adorable!

My soul is full of joy to have the honor because they are letting us be here up close with their family.

We say goodbye to this beautiful family and head back to camp.  I can't help but smile. life just doesn't get any better than this.

We come to a small lake there is a resort that has bungalows overlooking this muddy pool.  

An Eagle is perched high up in a tree, he looks very regal as he surveys his surroundings.  

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Regal Eagle

There is a slight pungent smell in the air, and it is emanating from the Hippos that have made this little lake their home.  A couple of Crocodiles are snuggled into the muddy shore, so still they are difficult to spot, only when a slight sway of the tail alerts you to their presence.

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Wallowing Hippos

Turning down the driveway to the campsite I wasn't expecting to see the Giraffes, but they are still there wandering thru the trees.

A herd of Elephants are crossing the track right in front of us.  The driver stops as they aren't going anywhere.  Much to my dismay he actually makes his way thru disrupting them and in the process nudging one of them slightly and this causes them to move.  I am mortified and I am not the only one, it wouldn't have been an issue to wait for them to move.

Back at camp we are sitting in the bar and we discuss what the driver did and I am glad I am not the only one who is disgusted by what happened.  It put a damper on a great morning.

It is a quiet afternoon of swimming and relaxing.  We are sitting in the bar watching the river when a Frog jumps up on the table, there are startled squeals, but the fellow isn't bothered and actually hangs around for a while.  

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Not much of a conversationalist!

While we are waiting for our evening game drive to begin, we talk to Victor about the incident with the Elephant.  We were all quite concerned about how the driver aced in this situation.  He assures us that the driver did not harm the Elephant in anyway and being in the front seat he saw first hand what happened.  

Henry is doing food prep and a large Baboon (and I mean large it was ginormous!) jumps up over the wall of the dinning hut, I  have never seen Victor move so fast!  While we are all scattering he yells at it and grabs a stick and waves it about to scare it off.  With a loud screech it disappears into the nearest tree.  We are laughing but mostly thru fear, and Victor tells us that this was the Alpha and this is why we must never leave food out!  Well that's a case of learning thru experience!

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Not the alpha but just as cheeky!

Our driver arrives and we pile back into the truck,  I am in the very back seat, and yes I feel every bump, but you know I don't care,  I am out in the wilds Africa and I could be happier!  This time we have a spotter and a large light has been attached to the front of the truck.  We are hoping to spot a Leopard tonight!  Apparently evenings are the best time to spot them while they are out on the hunt!  Fingers crossed!

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Heading out for an evening game drive!

As we make our way further in to the reserve we come across a lone bull Elephant enjoying an evening snack.

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Dinner Time!
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He is Awesome!
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"Your interrupting my dinner!"

He is so focus on filling his belly he barely acknowledges our presence.  He takes a moment to look at us but that's it, all you hear are the rustling of the branches as he strips the leaves with his trunk.  All I can think is WOW as I watch him at work.  

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With sights like this... I fall in love with Africa more everyday!

As we make our way to the Luangwa river there is no sight of the ever elusive Leopard, a small herd of  Waterbuck  and the odd Impala.

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Waterbuck, haven't seen them in awhile!

We are making our thru dense dry bush when suddenly the truck stops with a loud crack!  We tilt to one side and luckily my companion and I in the back seat are hanging on to the railing, otherwise we would have tumbled out.  There are gasps of surprise and the driver asks if we could all get out of the truck.  We have become stuck under a thick low hanging branch.  The driver reverses and there is a big patch on the branch where the bark has been scraped off but other than that there is no damage and everyone is unharmed,  I think nothing of it, it's all part of the adventure, but some of the others are a little rattled.

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Well and truly stuck!
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Us versus the tree, the tree lost!

The sky turns a beautiful dusky pink as we arrive at the steep river bank and stop for refreshments.

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Stunning sunset over the Luangwa River!
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Zambian Evening!

You can hear the Hippos bellow and grunt in the cooler evening air.  They have become quite active as the odd tussle breaks out within the herd, with a sudden splashes appear as they jostle amongst themselves.  There is something captivating about these weird creatures!

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With those teeth no wonder they are dangerous!

We leave the grunting Hippos to their games and head back into the depths of the reserve.  With the arriving dusk comes glowing sunsets.  The gold and oranges make the clouds glow.  African sunsets are really some of the best I have ever seen.

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Another Sensational Sunset!

Slowly the darkness takes over and the spotter turns on his light.  He sweeps tree lines and we drive thru gullies, the Leopards favorite hunting ground. 

They like to sleep and store their food up in the trees safe from other predator's, but they prefer to hunt in ditches and dry river beds where they can sneak up in their prey with the unseen advantage.

As we rise out of a valley lounging on the top of a hill is a group of Lions. 

Three males glowing ivory under the spotlight.

Their manes aren't fully developed, showing their youth.  The light doesn't seem to bother them as they make no effort to leave, instead they just sit there watching us. 

I wonder if they are part of the pride we saw earlier today or if they are a coalition of males that have had to make it on their own, after out growing their pride.

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You just relax!
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What a handsome young man!

So we didn't get a to see a Leopard, we got to meet these boys.  What a great sighting, so unexpected, it really amazes me how chilled they are around the trucks, I know their sensitive hearing is picking up every sound we make and yet they just couldn't care less!

One yawns without a care in the world, perhaps they are waiting for the Lioness to return from the hunt or perhaps they have full bellies, either way they seemed settled for the night.

We leave them be and head back to camp.

The Leopard has eluded us tonight but I can't help but smile.  It has been a great evening.

As we sit around for dinner, some of them voice their concerns about the incident with the truck, tree branch and the ditch!   Arrrr it wasn't that big a deal!

We have a drink in the bar, then a hot shower to wash away the dust and relax tired muscles before the tent calls!

NOVEMBER 3RD 2017 DAY 35

During breakfast our driver arrives at the camp.  He seems so upset.  Victor has called him to come and talk to us about yesterday.  He is visibly upset that we are  unhappy about yesterday.  He can't apologize enough about the accident last night.  I didn't think anything of it, we are in the wilds of Africa, these things are bound to happen and no one was hurt.  

He assures us that he never touched the Elephant when we drove thru the herd, and promises that he has never and never would hurt an animal in any way, but agrees that we should have let them pass of their own accord.  I will admit that did bother me.  But I think he is sincere and I thank him for his honesty.  I hope we haven't upset him too much.  The poor man, he is only trying to do the best he can!

Once we are all packed up we head South.  The landscape is still dry and becomes hilly, but the trees are becoming lush with new growth.  We do get some lovely views as we wind our way thru Zambia.

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Wonder  what's out there!

Driving thru valleys along dry river beds, little villages pass us by.  We kill time by playing cards and a traditional African game of Bao, which I can't seem to get the hang of.  

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Local Life! 

Large Baobab Trees occasionally appear, like ancient giants.  Passing the thru watching Zambia pass by, you can't  help but look out for wildlife as the villages seem so few and in this hilly environment  there isn't much farmland either, has the wildlife taken back some of it's domain?

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Ancient Giants!

We follow a river which when the rains come will be wide, rampant and deep, bringing life to this beautiful country.  But today it quiet and tranquil.  I really would love to come back to this continent after the rains have come, would it look like a whole new world.

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With water comes life!

Slowly we climb and the vegetation becomes lush and dense.  We pull into a winding driveway and come to a beautiful campsite on the grounds of a Colonial Home.  The views are fantastic. 

We set up camp on lush green grass and get our assigned duties done before heading out to explore.

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View from the tent!

The house is gorgeous, the large veranda over looks a beautifully kept garden filled with color and you can smell the sweet scent of flowers in the air.

The house is like stepping back in time.  Plumb arm chairs and walls lined with books and paintings.  You almost expect to see Livingstone sitting on the window, pipe hanging from his lips, while he writes his memoirs or consults his maps.

Even the staff are well attired in crisp white shirts and polished shoes.

We sit on the veranda and take in the view over a few cold beers. Before we are called for dinner.

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View from the Veranda!

We sit around the fire chatting as we eat.  We haven't had a camp fire for a while now and it is nice.

The sunsets and we head to our spot on the Veranda for a few more drinks.   But we don't stay up too late as we have a long drive tomorrow.

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Camp fire dining!

Posted by TracingTheWorld 01:34 Archived in Malawi Comments (0)

MOUNTIAN VILLAGES & SANDY BEACHES

Tanzania & Zanzibar!

sunny
View EPIC AFRICA 2017 on TracingTheWorld's travel map.

OCTOBER 20TH 2017 DAY 21

Once breakfast is over and we have packed up the tents, we head out saying a final goodbye to the Serengeti.

We drive to the Mall where we stopped on the way in to the Mtu Wa Mbu and head to the supermarket and the currency exchange.

A short drive and we stop at a African Art & Culture Center. Outside are these wonderful carvings, with such detail. Some are stone others wood. I love this quirky looking canoe with little people inside with comical their facial expressions!

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Arrrr...! Hippo!

The animals are so well carved they are almost life like.

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Will they fit on my balcony?
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Put it in the swimming pool

Little shops surround the Art center and I do a spot of shopping for my niece and nephew before making my way inside. the art works are astounding. But wow expensive way out of my price range! So I sneakily take photos instead.

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Love it!
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Yes, it's a painting!
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Love this one too!
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..and this one as well!

There are these pieces of furniture that catch my eye. At first I thought they were painted, but when up get up close I am amazed to see that they are beaded. The Masai are famous for their beaded jewelry, but this is fantastic. I wish I could take them home. they cost thousands and not in Tanzanian Shilling but in US Dollars!

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If only...!
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Ohhh a matching set!

I sit with the couples for a while and have a latte or two, and they taste great, hmmm real coffee! They are quite surprised to find out I speak German, badly, it has been a while!

Lunch again is on the roadside by the Mall, it is hot and the locals stare at us as we flap dry our dishes, no tea towels allowed!

Once we are all packed up we make our way to our Village camp at Marangu at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. The drive is slow due to all the weighing stations we have to go thru. Well we are in a truck and we are constantly corrected whenever we slip up and call it a bus!

The landscape is flat with occasional hill and there are farms of what look like Pineapple plants, Victor tells me they are Sisal plants they are used for making fibers for rope and carpets. Racks along the roadside are covered with strips drying in the hot sun.

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Sisal Plants!

As we approach our final weigh station Mt Kilimanjaro comes into view, and typically it is covered with cloud, you can see the top above the clouds, I kind of wasn't expecting the top to be so flat. It is hard to get a good photo from here, but luckily as we drive thru town awe get a good view when we stop at an intersection.

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That famous Mountain!

The drive to the base of the mountain isn't far. We stop in Marangu Village home to the Chabba people who are a historic tribe of farmers and land growers in the region.

It feels good to stretch the legs again. We are getting into taxis to go up to the village and there is a local with a Chameleon, one of the girls puts it on her sleeve, and it is so funny cute. It doesn't change color though. He then demands money for letting us take photos of it. Victor tells us to ignore him and get going. So into the taxi we get.

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Chameleon!
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They are funny cute!

This road is not made for conventional vehicles, this is more of a 4 wheel drive road it is so rocky and bumpy, and yet some how these guys make it work. Although I think I spoke too soon as not even half way up there is an almighty scrape of metal on rock and the car stalls. Suddenly we are going backwards, I really hope that we haven't lost our brakes, but the driver while maneuvering thru rocks does a reverse start and the engine splutters back to life and with a heavy rev of the engine we are off again, The drivers smile beams as we clap and cheer.

The road is lined with lush green vegetation, Modern houses hide behind gated fences, then the more humble traditional home is only a few doors up. Banana trees are everywhere, they really know how to farm here on the mountain side, every house has gardens full of vegetables and fruit. Such a huge difference from the dry flat land below.

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Banana Trees!

We arrive at the small village where we are spending the night. We are met by a shy smiling women in traditional dress, The drivers unload our bags and we follow her down to where our tents are set up in a beautiful lush garden.

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Our village stop for the night! 

Once our bags are put away. we meet in the open dining area for a team meeting and a hot drink. Slowly the clouds darken and it begins to rain.

Some of them head out for a hike to a waterfall, the rest of us stay behind (I am not the only one who is not feeling well!) We chat and drink it is nice to get to know some of the newest group members, as we didn't have the chance in the Serengeti.

The quiet is broken by the chatter of the returning explorers, we sit chatting for a while, the rain has settled in for the rest of the evening.

The wonderful ladies of the village serve us dinner, delicious traditional dishes, with every ingredient being grown in the village garden.

It was delicious, I loved the mixing of bananas with the veg and chicken.  I will admit I am a fussy eater and I don't like certain vegetables but I tried them all!

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Yes I even tried the Veg!
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Of course... Bananas, they were delicious!

After dinner we play a group game of "who am I", sticking a piece of paper to our foreheads and asking yes or no questions. It is kind of silly and I am absolutely useless at it, but it is a great way to get to know each other. Suddenly I have found myself becoming the the group translator, it has been so long and it really tests my German skills which weren't very good to begin with!

As the chill sets in, its off to bed. It is going to be a cold one tonight as the air feels damp, so I layer up and snuggle into my sleeping bag.

OCTOBER 21ST 2017 DAY 22

We are up early again and it is a beautiful day the sun is shining and the chill of last night has evaporated. We sit down to breakfast and thank our wonderful hosts for the fantastic meals. They smile with pride and walk with us to the meet the taxis. We leave our day packs to be picked up.

We are walking down the mountain to meet up with Henry and Dan at the truck. It is a beautiful walk in the canopy of the forest. It feel so good to stretch the legs after days of driving.

I love the little Masai storage huts they are so quaint.

Banana trees are everywhere, and they can grow anything in this climate.

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Bananas
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Wish I could grow vegies like this!

The walk down is only 30 minutes and once at the base we are greeted by Dan and Henry, and it's a rush to the toilets before we are back on the road again.

We drive out of Marangu leaving Mount Kilimanjaro behind us covered in soft white cloud.

The land is flat and dry and the locals like most of Africa live in small communities based on the main roads.

We drive past dried up river beds, in the distance past the fields of Sisal plants Palms, Date and Coconut trees can be seen snaking thru the landscape lining the only river that can be seen for miles.

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Waiting for the rain!

Local boys are out herding their goats in the heat of the day. the rains still haven't come to this part of Africa, and it is hard to imagine what it would look like after the rainy season.

Rocky hills begin to appear and we turn towards them.

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To those mountains we go!

It is a slow drive up the valley but the views below are incredible.

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Tanzania you are amazing!

There waterfalls dotted with small huts, a group of boys are washing there motorbikes in the river (they really are proud of those things!)

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The winding valley has great views!

It has been a long hot drive and as we reach the top the trees thicken and the air cools down just a little! There is an old traditional German style house stark and white on the the hillside over looking the entire valley. Usambara was once a German colony and that is one of the oldest houses in the region. This area was once preferred by the Germans because of it's cooler mountainous landscape.

We pass thru a village and there is some sort of meeting going on as the noise of the gathering echos throughout the valley.

We finally arrive at our hotel for the next 2 nights. It is the oldest hotel in Lushoto. The surroundings ore beautiful with lush green floral gardens. We can upgrade if we want to but I opt to stay in the tent

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The oldest hotel here!

We put up our tents and we have an amazing view across the valley from the bar balcony.

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The bar!

I decide to treat myself and book a massage for tomorrow. We all eat together and do our chores before heading off to make use of the Wifi and have a few drinks before heading off to bed!

OCTOBER 22ND 2017 DAY 23

After a bad nights sleep, all thank to the music that was drifting across the valley all night, I decide to book an upgrade for the night. But there is a fantastic view from the tent this morning as there is a slight mist rising form the valley floor, as the morning sun burns away the chill of last night.

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View from the tent!

Once breakfast is over we are greeted by our guide for the day, and it's on with the walking shoes as we head out into the Usambara Mountains for the days walking tour.

We head up thru the village, the hill is steep but when we get to the top there is a fantastic view of the surrounding villages. We stop at a cross road and it is bustling with people and motorbikes.

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Village Junction!

We make our way down into a valley and we stop to look a chameleon, at first I can't see it, and it takes a while but it is there, they are so little.

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Can you see it?

When the group stops to look at a second one in a tree, I continue on to the bottom of the road, I wait for while and then retrace my steps, trust me to get lost in the middle of Africa! I ask a local man if he has seen a group of "white people", this takes some effort and s lot of sign language but eventually he nods, says yes and points to a short cut thru some farmland. Heading out in the same direction, it is nice being alone for a while, the truck is full and after 22 days the quiet time is welcoming.

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Valley Views

The area is green and productive. some of the villages are well set up with brick buildings satellite dishes dot the rooftops.

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Modern life in the country

I follow the road and pass a small school with a football field, there are people going about there daily lives, seemingly in no hurry. The road takes me thru tree a lined valley as I head in the direction my fellow travelers have taken.

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Loving the time to myself!

I come to a village and small boys are playing football on the street their laughing can be heard throughout the village. The locals smile at me as I walk by. The realization dawns that their lives are just like ours only simpler.

After leaving the shady village another view spreads out before my eyes. I spot a group of tourists, its not my group but I follow them as they are heading in the same direction. They are the other group from our hotel, they and I turn heads as we pass by, it feels strange being stared at, we are the minority here!

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So serene!

We pass by farmland and the valley is wide, this mountain range must be vast to have such large open valleys hidden below each hill rise.

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Farmland!
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Local water source!

More villages dot the landscape, these quiet little communities are linked by well worn pathways made by people going about daily lives.

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Rolling hills and small villages!

I catch up with my group and it's a good thing as I would have walked right past them, as we turn off the road onto a bushy path. Then suddenly the reason becomes clear. The views from Irenta point are spectacular!

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Looking South!

Its as if you can see all of Tanzania spread out before you!

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Tanzania spreads out before your eyes!

Some of the group jump down onto a rocky out crop and hang their legs over the edge, watching them makes me uneasy, that is a long way down!

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Looking North!

After a rest we head back to the road and head up into the hills. We pass thru a village, the locals are sitting in the shade and watch us as we walk by.

Locals are making bricks, this is the perfect weather for it.  Hot and dry.  The bricks are dried in the sun before being baked in large dome shaped ovens. The majority of homes are built with these materials.  

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Brick Making!

A family sits in the shade of their home and watches us closely as our guide explains the process, I wonder what they are thinking as they watch and listen..
We head further up into the hills  through farmland on well worn paths.  It is really hot, no wonder the locals stare at us, crazy white people out in the hot sun!

Finally we arrive our destination.  A village surrounded by lush green trees, and it feels good to be out of the glaring sun.  

We are greeted by friendly local women with big smiles.   They are dressed in beautiful bright colored traditional clothing.  Some of the younger girls stand shyly in the background, while the elder women usher us into the village meeting hall.

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Everyone wants to see the tourists

It is not so much a hall, as it is round with a waist high brick wall and a traditional thatched roof.

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Meeting the locals!

We sit around the edge while Mama introduces herself and explains the dishes we are having for lunch.  Everything is locally sourced from the village farm and picked fresh daily.  Our visit to this wonderful little community benefits the locals.  It raises funds for farming and education projects.  

With a big smile she thanks us for coming, we should be thanking them for the letting us be apart of their lives.

Lunch is delicious.  Beef and Veg stew, with bananas in mix and they taste a little like potatoes as they are not fully ripened.  We are encouraged to try this fruit that looks like a passion fruit, I can't remember the name but it is sweet and very delicious.

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YUM!

After lunch all the ladies put on a traditional dance for us.  I wish I could move my booty like they can.  Wow!
The villagers sing and clap in encouragement.   One by one they get us join them,  they tie brightly colored sashes around our waists and led us by the hand to the dance circle.

One young girl shakes and shimmies so low she can pick up a piece of paper off the ground with her chin.  One by one they enter the dance circle and show us their skillful dance moves.  

What a fantastic way to spend the afternoon their smiles are infectious,  the young ones clap and giggle at us,  I don't blame them as like me most of us don't have any rhythm. 

Sadly we say goodbye, with big smiles and full bellies, our hosts thank us for coming.  We should be thanking them for such a wonderful experience.

We make our way back to the hotel.  We head own into a lush green valley with wide shady streets.  This is where the Germans settled in Tanzania and you can see why, it reminded them of home.  Colonial style homes hide behind tree lined driveways, there is a school with a large sports field, even a bee keeping society.  This old German settlement is now the centre of the cultural and farming project to help improve the lives of the villages in the area.

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Bee Keeping Society...

Our guide tells us that not many visitors come here and that we are some of the first, it explains why they stare at us curiously as we pass by.

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A break from the heat!

We stop for a lesson in the medical purposes of the flora and fauna in the area to the local Chagga people.  There is on leaf the has spikes of sewing machine needles, it looks similar to one that was used as toilet paper, you wouldn't want to use the wrong one... OUCH!  Many of the plants are used for cures to typical aliments such as headaches and stomach upsets.

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Not to be used as toilet paper!

As we walk out of the valley we pass these hand painted road signs with fantastic artwork, I am thankful that we have a guide, with my sense of direction, even with these cool sign posts I would so get lost.

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The only word I understand is Lushoto, that's where we are staying!
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Cool!

Coming out of the cool green valley we reach to top of the hills that ring Lushoto, and you feel the heat hit you like tidal wave.  But the views of the valley below are amazing.  People are everywhere, they are on their way home from church, some of the ladies look fantastic in their Sunday best.

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Great views
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Amazing sights
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Lushoto!

Walking thru the village we draw the attention of the locals.  One little boy is pressed up against the wall of his house arms stretched as if he is trying to blend in with the wall, his eyes are as wide as saucers, standing as still as a statue as he stares at us.  You can't help but giggle as he pretends we can't see him.

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Cool!
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Have no idea what this is!
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Local shop!
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Quaint little homes with great views!

Making our way out of the village we make our way thru farmland back to the hotel.   

A last minute decision I decide to upgrade to a room, and OMG a real shower, that is  not in a communal bathroom, I can walk around in a towel without the struggle of drying off  Camping life, it really is the little things we forget to appreciate!

After a cold drink on the bar veranda it is time for the massage I pre booked.  Oh Wow, it feels fantastic, a  full  body Swedish, how can such a small girl be so strong, but it is glorious on my tired wary body.  

We sit in the bar having a few drinks when the others return from their walk thru the markets.  One of the girls looks a little pale, she is vegetarian and the meat stalls have made her feel queasy.

We sit and relax, enjoying the view before dinner.

After a few drinks and finally being able to connect to wifi I head off to bed.

I have forgotten what a real bed feels like, comfort!

OCTOBER 23RD 2017 DAY 24

The massage worked wonders. I thought the 7 hour walk would result in aching muscles, but no, that girl is a miracle worker.

Today is going to be a long hot drive, about 1 hours as we head to Dar Es Salaam.  Everyone is quiet, reading or listening to music.  The land scape is dry and the air in the truck is thick and hot, as some are complaining about having the windows open, I don't know why, who cares if your hair gets a little messy!

Finally we reach Dar Es Salaam and everyone has cabin fever.  

We drop Victor off somewhere in the city center and no sooner has his feet hit the sidewalk, he is shaking hands with someone, this happens everywhere we go, does he know everyone in East Africa?

Dar Es Salaam is huge and made up of one way streets, we end up going past the same embassies and international banks a few times as Dan navigates out to the suburbs.  

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Dar Es Salaam

We cross over a huge modern multi lane bridge before we reach the outer beach suburbs.  It has become a little cloudy as we pass thru narrow streets.  People are going about their daily lives and there are fantastic shops with stone works, market stalls and garden centers with colorful pots and statues.

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Luckily we don't stop!

Finally we arrive at our spot for the night at Kipepeo Beach.  It feels good to stretch the legs.   There is a rush to the restrooms, like I said it was a long drive!  

We are staying right on the beach and I think this evening we have never put our tents up faster.   Everyone heads down to the beach, and even though it is overcast, the warm Indian ocean is refreshing.

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Our spot for the night!
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So lovely after a long hot drive!

We sit under thatched umbrellas and enjoy cold beers,  hawkers are selling goods along the beach, we have been warned not to buy from them as they are quite the expert pick pocketers.  Luckily stern no thank you send them on their way.

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The Beach Bar!

We head back to camp for dinner around the fire,  Victor makes a sudden appearance, he has been arranging our boat trip to Zanzibar.  We head back to the beach bar and make use of the wifi and a few more cold ones before heading off to bed.

OCTOBER 24TH 2017 DAY 25

It's a shortish drive to the ferry terminal in Dar Es Salaam.  The sun is shining and it is already hot as we drag our bags to the check in areas.  It must have rained here during the night as we have to navigate our way thru puddle.

We say goodbye to Henry and Dan as we head in to the customs area.  It is like an airport as we check in our bags and go thru customs.  Even though Zanzibar is still officially part of Tanzania it has it's own identity, that's cool with me I get another stamp in my passport.

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Leaving the mainland!
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Goodbye Dar Es Salaam

I sit up on the front top deck, put on some music and enjoy the sea breeze.  It is nice to spend some time alone, we have been cooped up in the truck for too long!  The salty smell in the air is refreshing and soothing.

The occasional  traditional Dhow boat  dots the horizon there white sails bright against the glistening turquoise ocean.

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Nothing like a great sea breeze to ease the soul!
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Just like Wilbur Smith described in his books!

Zanzibar begins to appear you can see the white sand and green palms in stark contrast to the blue of the ocean, a
hh a relaxing few days ahead,  no tents and no long drives in the hot truck!

We reach the shores of Zanzibar and Victor blames the 5 of us from the first tour for allowing the rain to follow us down from Rwanda, as it always seems to rain on our first night in a new town.

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Rain Rain go away!
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Island retreat
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We didn't make it rain!

As we get closer to Stone Town the rain subsides, the sun breaks thru the clouds.   It is going to be another glorious day!

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Stone Town!

We make our way off the ferry and even though it is busy customs was a quick and easy process. 

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Customs!

Victor has mini vans waiting for us at the terminal to take us to our hotel.  We make a quick stop at the ATMs.   The narrow streets are lined with beautiful historical buildings adorned with Arabic style shutters and large ornate doors.  It is like stepping back thru time.

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Wonderful
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Stepping back in time!
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A taste of history that is Stone Town

The streets narrow as we make our way thru the city center to our hotel.   I love the ornate doors and I can't wait to explore.

The hotel Shangani.  It is remnant of Zanzibars past.  Entering the lobby is like stepping back in time.  With dark wood and big puffy sofas.

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The Shangani Hotel!

Some how we all fit in as we are assigned rooms.  We are in the 4th floor and there are no elevators.  The staircase is narrow and each floor is uniquely decorated with small little seating areas.

The room is basic but clean and comfortable.  Which will be a nice change from the tent!

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Comfy Corner!

We dump our bags and head out for some lunch. The hotel is across the road from the house Freddy Mercury grew up in as a child.  I totally forgot he was born so it an unexpected surprise!

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Home of an icon!
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The man himself!
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Cool!

We don't go in but head towards the harbor.  We find a nice quiet café in this little open square.  The food is lovely but the coffee is amazing.  Sitting in the shade watching the world go by it's nice to have some time to ourselves for a while.

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Lunch

We head back to the hotel to meet up for a walking tour of the city.  The tour takes us thru narrow streets.  The buildings .are a beautiful mix of Portuguese and Arabic architecture, with large ornate doors, pillared balconies and wooden shutters. There are hidden narrow side streets and pedestrians share the pavement with bikes and mopeds.  You could really get lost in time here, as it feels like you walking thru history.

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Hidden places
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Its like a labyrinth
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Wouldn't want to make a wrong turn

Children  in neat  school uniforms pass us smiling shyly,   Some of the streets are decorated with flags giving them a burst of color.  Others are bare of decorations,   wonderful artwork and haberdashery line the walls and door steps.  We don't have time to shop and I really don't think I would be able to find my way back on my own, these streets are like a maze of twists and turns.

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Wonderful little side streets
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Sadly no time for shopping
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Such fantastic artwork
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A splash of color
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Hidden side streets

I love the doors some of them are so skillfully decorated.  According to tradition the more ornate the door the more the occupant of the house had.  But then you remember about the history of Zanzibar and how a lot of the residents acquired their riches thru the slave trade it makes my heart break.

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Wonder what's behind there
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Blue!
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The workmanship
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Wow!
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Security barrier!

We make our way out of the narrow streets to an open food market.  Brightly colored fruit, veg and spices are on display.  Zanzibar is famous for its herbs and spices.  The smell and the colors are an over load to the senses.  There is a sweet smell in the air.

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So many varieties
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The locals supermarket!
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You could smell the sweetness!
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Wouldn't even know what most of them are used for!
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Freshness!

Leaving the open air market we enter a long stone built hall and the smell immediately changes from sweet and delightful to... well awful... eww it's nasty! 

The first thing we see is chicken parts... feet... beaks... what on earth would you use those for?!  The stomach lurches as you head further in, this is not only because the smell is stronger but the sight of meat hanging on hooks, bowls of eyeballs and tongues... really... !  Even the seafood section is something that would turn any stomach and I love seafood, admittedly it doesn't look very fresh or inviting!   I wonder how our vegetarian fraiends are coping with this!

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Yeah.... Nah!

It is with relief that we exit into the fresh air and sunlight.

We walk down a wide open street, it is one of the outer main  roads of Stone Town.  Lined with white stone buildings adorned with balconies, shutters and pillars.  Some of them are showing the wear and tear of time, but you get a sense of how grand they must have been.

As we get to the entrance of a Museum we are asked to cover our heads and shoulders with saris.  We are at the former site of the slave market.  There is a chill in the air, even though it is hot and dry I can feel goosebumps on my arms,  as we make our way thru the main entrance you can feel the sorrow of the souls that past thru this  place and the horrors they endured. 

Walking around the displays breaks my heart. tens of thousands of people were torn from their homes and families from the heart of Africa.  Beaten, forced to walk for days with chains around their necks, hands and feet.  Men, women and children, then confined in the bowls of ships, many becoming sick, many dyeing before reaching Zanzibar, their bodies thrown over board like they were garbage.   If they survived the journey they were then sold for a continued life of horror and disregard.    

An large courtyard opens up as you exit the the small museum.  The first thing you see is a pit with five chained figures.   This is how they were put on display to be barter over like cattle.  The defeat and sadness shows on their carved faces.  This torment is beyond understanding... how can one human do this to another?

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The Selling Pit
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Men..
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Women...
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Human Beings....
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Sorrow!

There is a church built over the original "Trading Post", if that is the correct term for something so cruel  and evil.

I sit for a while listening to our guide, my heart is sick with sadness and I wonder how humanity can be so cruel and greedy.   The church has a chill,  there are red markings on the floor indicating where the poor souls stood, chained, beaten and sold.  You cant help but stare at these little red marks and when I try to picture their suffering I start to cry.  A church caretaker sits with me for a while and we have a chat about these times, he is soft spoken and tells me that he lost family to this place never to be seen again, but this is the reason why he works here so that people understand what happened and to teach future generations so it never happens again.  I thank him for taking the time to talk to me and he simply smiles and shakes my hand before quietly walking up to the alter.

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Sadness!
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In Memory of the Lost Souls!

After catching up with the rest of the group we make our way back into the museum,  and we are led down some narrow stairs, which take us underground.

There are these chambers cut in to rock, this is where they were kept.. Confined in what is no more than a cave.  

Up to 75 women in one chamber and 85 men in another.  No fresh air, little light, just left in their suffering.  

They were bought outside after a week, chained in the pit and whipped, if they cried out they were considered weak and unsellable, then locked back up for a further 2 weeks, and only if they survived their wounds were put back up for sale.  How could any human being survive this?

You can read about it but to see these chambers and the pit... once outside I have to sit for a bit to stop my legs from shaking,  in the warm of the sun quietly... I didn't realize I was crying again.

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Slave Cell

Leaving the museum. this place of sorrow, everyone is quiet as the busy city passes by.

We make our way thru alleys and side streets, we pass a group of girls in their uniforms they smile at us and wave.   These streets are adorned with cobble stone paths and bougainvillea climbs stone walls adding a splash of color.  

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So quaint

The small streets open up to tree lined streets once again and we pass the old Asmini Palace it is beautiful, a multi story white washed building with wonderful dark wood balconies.

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Asmini Palace!

Cute little courtyards open up hidden from view until you turn the corner.  This really is a beautiful city!

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Surprises at every turn!

We pass the old government buildings before reaching the end of the tour at the Old Fort.  It is a grand old place stark white in the bright afternoon sun.  

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Very Grand!

Even the buildings along the waterfront are grand!

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Waterfront

We pass the old government buildings before reaching the end of the tour at the Old Fort.   In what was once the  gardens there is now a arts and crafts market, this once protector of the city is now a great place to see vibrant works of art, jewelry and traditional clothing, I wish we had spent more time here, but it is time to head back to the hotel and meet up with some of the others for evening drinks.

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Old Fort
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What a great place for a market!
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The city protection!
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Turret!
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Shopping time!

We meet up with everyone at Africa House for drinks.  This place is gorgeous, very glamorous.  The décor is a real step back in time.  Old world wooden stairs, Persian rugs and stain glass windows.  The staircase is a work of architecture art in itself.  

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Old World Wonderful
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Looking Up!
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Looking Down!

Sitting on the large balcony there is an amazing view of the Indian Ocean.  The sun is setting and the sea sparkles as Dhows sail in the evening glow.  What a way to spend an evening, cocktails in hand and a glorious view.  As more of the group arrives we are moved to our own private balcony.  The chatter is contagious as the drinks flow.

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Ahhh the view!
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Delicious the Cocktails!
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Ahh relaxed!

As the sun sets we head out for dinner, we make our way to the waterfront and visit the food stall market.  You can buy anything here for dinner.  Some of the food looks delicious, some of it looks... well weird.  But the smell of spices in the air makes your mouth water.   Some stay behind and try some of the dishes on offer.  Me I am a bit weary about what to eat, especially after a visit to the hospital, so with one of the girls we find ourselves a restaurant on the waterfront. 

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Forodhani Market
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Hmmm Don't think so!
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Yeah.... Na!

We make our way up a set of stairs and find ourselves a little table with ocean views.  The staff are lovely and even after our trip to the indoor market, I cant help myself I just have to have fresh seafood.  Wow what a dish, the prawns are the size of a small lobster, and they are sweet and so delicious.

Soon some of the others join us and it turns into a nice relaxed evening with great food, fresh sea air and lovely company.

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Seafood delicious!

With a full belly we head back to the hotel, I bump into a girl in the hall, I have a feeling she is joining us on the tour, but who knows.  She asks if it is ok to drink the tap water here, I give her a "Nooo!" and recommend the street vendors that sell everything you need from their little carts.

I climb up the stairs is a bit of a task, it's been a long day, I have an uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach I am hoping it's just because I ate too much....!

OCTOBER 25TH 2017 DAY 26

A small sleep in this morning, and then it's up to the roof top restaurant for breakfast.  There is a great view of the city rooftops.   Breakfast is a buffet, nothing too fancy, scrambled eggs, fresh fruit, juice, fresh bread and coffee, after last nights dinner that's all you need.

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Breakfast View!

Back to the room to grab our bags and we all pile into mini vans once again and we make our way out of Stone Town towards the northern beaches.  A quick stop at the ATMS and  of course it starts to rain, just a little!

On the way we stop to visit a large spice farm.  The walk is damp and it has bought out the mosquitos... damn it, why do they love me so much!

Our guide is quite the character, he is this tiny man with a huge smile.  He picks all sorts of weird looking flowers and fruits, explaining there uses.  We are encouraged to smell, feel and taste he even demonstrates with one red fruit that is used by local women as lipstick, which he applies to himself. 

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Such weird & wonderful fruits
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Weird and wonderful
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No Idea what its used for
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or this!
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It's what's on the inside!
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Aww cute fruit!
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Hmmmm!

Admittedly there are times when I wasn't listening... to busy swatting and scratching.  He hands out lemon balm to rub on our legs and arms to sooth the bites, yeah that doesn't really help.  

The tour ends with a lovely home cooked lunch, served by shy women in wonderfully bright traditional dress.  He makes the ladies head bands and bracelets out of leaves and beautiful red Hibiscus flowers, the boys get crowns and ties.  The antics he preforms when weaving and presenting our gifts has us in fits of giggles.  Despite the rain and mosquitos it has been a nice morning.

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Natures Jewelry!

After thanking our hosts we pile back into the minivans, admittedly I am glad to be out of the bush, I am itchy all over my arms and legs.  

The drive up to the Northern beaches is lovely, we pass thru lush green forests,  the locals are out on bicycles, mopeds and even donkey and carts.  School children walk along well worn dirt footpaths.  Small farm villages appear every so often.  

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The Drive

Suddenly we turn off onto a bumpy side road thru a village.  

The Resort is wonderful, the rooms are large and welcoming.  But it's dump the bags and head straight for the beach.  Walking down the palm lined walkway the turquoise ocean opens up.  Ahhh it is glorious.   There is a bar and restaurant right on the beach.  Palm umbrellas dot the shore, and the sand is so white it is like a picture perfect postcard.

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AHHHHH...

What a relaxing afternoon.  The water is refreshingly warm, colorful little fish appear when you swim further out to the reef edge.  The occasional boat sails by.   What a great way to waste away time.  It is nice to relax after a hectic few weeks!

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My Afternoon!

I meet our new arrivals at the beach bar, one is the girl I bumped into at the hotel in Stone Town.   They all seem very nice.  It's cocktails before dinner.   We have pre-ordered or meals for tonight's group dinner.  Some are finishing their tour tomorrow.

The table is set up on the beach, we are dining by flaming torch light, after a rather long speech by Victor dinner is served.

And since we are dining on the beach, I can't help myself... fresh seafood!

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Group dinner....
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....final night together for some of us!

Knowing that we don't have to get up early and there is no truck drive tomorrow, we can relax at the bar and enjoy a few more cocktails.  It has been a hectic schedule (and I have loved every minute of it!) but it feels good to chill and what a perfect place to do it!

OCTOBER 26TH 2017 DAY 27

A full day of sun, sea and white sand, the excitement is dampened when I head down for breakfast and it is raining, it will pass... hopefully!

We sit around on the lounges and playing Yahtzee when there is a loud pop, a flash of sparks and the power goes out.  There were a few squeals of shock but it was nothing, thankfully, it could have been worse if it wasn't raining the palm thatched roof could have caught fire.  But hey we are all safe and on holiday so who cares. 

By mid morning the sun comes out in full glory and there's nothing for it but head straight down to the beach!

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Breakfast View!
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You could wake up to this everyday!

Finding a spot on the beach and settling in it is so tranquil watching the local fishermen sail by listening to the sound of the waves.   But the silence is broken by the sounds of some local boys down the beach shouting.  They have found a snake and are playing with... why would you?  Hope it's not poisonous!

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My Beach View!

I borrow some snorkeling gear from one of the boys.  Once out to the reef edge gorgeous little yellow fish begin to appear, they dart around my legs playfully.  I will admit I got a fright when an electric blue fish darted across my face, glad no one was around when I let out a little squeal, how embarrassing being scared by a fish!

This is amazing!  It is like another world, I so have to do this again!

Sunbathing, swimming and relaxing are the order of the day.  Just when you think it couldn't get better, two of the girls come back from their walk on the beach, and tell us about this little massage salon down the beach.  Why not!

Heading down the beach with two of the girls, stop to watch a group of local men working on Dhow.  All the work is done by hand using hand tools.  They do this work the traditional way no electric tools here!

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No modern technology    here!

This little salon is above a curious shop.  We are greet by three women with big smiles and colorful traditional dresses.  The salon has a wonderful relaxed beach vibe, and there is a wonderful sweet smell in the air.  The beds are separated by crisp white linen curtains.

I opt for the special Zanzibar oil, and it smells gorgeous, floral and fruity with a hint of vanilla and cinnamon.  The massage is fantastic and is over far too soon.  What a perfect addition to the day... Bliss!

We stop at the curious shop before heading back.

So it's back to relaxing on the beach for the afternoon, with cocktails of course!

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Papa Gemma... Seriously Delicious!

Some of us are out in the water when Victor, who hasn't been seen since last night joins us.  He once again is blaming us (the original 5 from the tours beginning) for making it rain this morning.  Of course we protest our innocence, when a coconut shell floats by.  One of the girls grabs it points it to the heavens and starts chanting,  when Victor asks what she is doing she says "I am making a sacrifice to the gods to make the rain stop!" I swear his eyes went as wide as saucers we just cracked up laughing and he swims off shouting "witch", the timing was perfect.

I spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing, music in my ears, watching the boats sail by.  

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I swear, I have moved today!

For dinner 5 of us wander down the beach and find a lovely restaurant.  It is open and surrounded by palms, maybe a little posh for a group of backpackers.  

But the food is fantastic, I have this lamb that is served with a sauce that is absolutely amazing.  I ask the waiter what it is.  He says he will ask the chef and when he returns apologizes and says it is secret recipe, then with a big smile gives me a bottle of the delicious sauce. What a lovely thing to do, I am so utterly surprised!  It was so unexpected that I just had to go and thank the chef.  He has a big smile, but still wont give me the recipe!

With  happy full bellies we head back the resort for more drinks.  It is sad to say goodbye to most of the group and they have really tested my German skills but they were fun to travel with.

I head off to bed a little earlier than the rest I am suddenly not feeling so good, I don't know if it is because I am full or if it is something else!

Posted by TracingTheWorld 01:17 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

A FAMOUS NATIONAL PARK

Tanzania!

sunny
View EPIC AFRICA 2017 & JORDAN & EGYPT 2019 & SOUTHERN AFRICA 2018 on TracingTheWorld's travel map.

OCTOBER 16TH 2017 DAY 17

It is another early start and I head down to the restaurant, I didn't get to meet our new fellow travelers last night and I catch glimpses of them as I sip my coffee.

We say another goodbye to our friends from the first tour, I find Darlene, Ben and Cosmas to say goodbye, they were so wonderful!

Luckily I get help loading my bags onto the truck, and meet some of the new couples traveling with us. I hear a lot of German being spoken, the truck is full and it is going to take time to get to know all the newbies!

Once settled into my seat I am thankful for the drugs the pain has subsided but I have zero energy, Victor our tour guide introduces himself, I met Henry the cook while loading the truck, our driver is Dan but he hasn't made himself know to many of the group.

Victor gives us a run down of the day ahead, and as we drive thru Nairobi he informs us we are taking a detour to get out of the city as there is a political rally forming and the police are gathering and he wants to avoid it so we get out as soon as possible.

The landscape changes from suburbs to dry flat land. We reach the boarder crossing into Tanzania, it is huge modern complex. For most of us the visa exit and entry are quick as most of us have pre purchased our East African Visa before traveling. So we wait in the in the midday sun for those who haven't. We finally cross into Tanzania at 12.01.

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What a contrast to the north!

We have lunch setting up under dry trees at roadside picnic spot, and it is the first opportunity I have to get to know some of the newcomers. There are a few couples from Austria and Germany, one from Switzerland, and girls from The USA and Brazil. Two of the girls a re mortified when they are told that the bush is their toilet, but I don;t think they get the point of "bush toilet" and the fact that you are meant to go behind the bush, not in full view of your fellow travelers.

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Our Lunch Spot!

We pass villages with rickety stalls piled neatly with fruit and veg, how they grow anything in the dry landscape is a mystery. People sit under trees by the road side.

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From small and quiet...
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...to bustling towns!

The drive is long but we stop a shopping mall to shop before we head into the Serengeti, since this is the last chance we will have to buy snacks we all stock up.

Once back in the truck we drive thru surprisingly lush green suburbs of the town we stopped in, the house begin to spread out and become small farms stocked full with fruit trees, coffee plants and vegetables which is a stark contrast to the dryness we left behind.

But the green doesn't long last as we head south towards the Serengeti. It becomes slightly hilly as we drive thru small villages. We start to see Masai Blankets and art on display at little curios shops.

I love watching the locals going about their daily lives. The open roadside stalls, the colorful art work and beautiful smiling women in traditional dress.

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Colorful and Beautiful
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Such presentation

Finally our stop for the night Mto Wa Mbu (don't ask me to pronounce that) This town is the gateway to the Serengeti and every shop is selling art, statues, and a myriad of colorful Masai Blankets.

Our campsite is modern clean and has a pool, woohooo, can't wait to jump in there! It; a busy place with other tour groups sharing the campsite, which is surrounded by cabins.

Once we have set up our tents and helped prepare dinner, we have our first tour meeting, getting the low down on the next few days in the Serengeti...OOOOHHHH can't wait!

I make a quick dash across the busy main road to the market shops and stalls.  It is a delight to the senses, the colors, the smell of the fresh produce,  I could buy so much... but I restrain myself (yeah me for staying strong in the face of temptation)

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I didn't realize the Masi used so many colors
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There is just so much if only I had more space in my bag!

I still feel tired and energy less so I head back to camp.

After a dinner, for me plain rice blah, we head off for a swim it's so nice after the long hot drive. These tablets are really working I am actually starting to feel human again.

We pack our day packs for our 2 nights in the Serengeti and it's only the essentials. I arrange to have clothes washed with these beautiful local ladies whose smiles are infectious before heading off to bed, tomorrow is going to be a great day!

OCTOBER 17TH 2017 DAY 18

Couldn't sleep last much night, too excite. So it's up early for breakfast, then we pack our gear into the 4x4's and head out to the Serengeti.

We have our individual driver and our group is the original 5 from the first tour, our driver is John and he is a smiling giant of a man who doesn't say much.

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 Our Serengeti Guide, John!   

We are all smiles as we drive up thru dry dusty hills. It is difficult to see where the expanse of the Serengeti begins down below. The road is lined with curios shops displaying colorful artworks and wonderful hand carved statues, I really hope we stop there on the way back!

We reach the entrance gate and hop out and stretch our legs while we wait for John to register, I can't contain my excitement as the truck pulls out of the car park and we set off into the park. We stick with our tradition of "what animal will we see first?"

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Here we are!
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I want to see them all! 
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Here We Go! 

The gravel road winds up thru sudden lush bushy hills and the views below are amazing, rolling hills that suddenly flatten out in the hazy distance.

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That's our destination! 

The road is bumpy, it is dusty and hot but it is a wonderful day! As we round a tight bend tucked in the dense bush standing in a small clearing are 3 Elephants are so busy munching away they don't even acknowledge us! Oh Safari how I have missed you! What a magnificent sighting first thing in the morning!

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What a fantastic to start the day! 

Not much further we arrive at a look point with breathtaking views of the Ngorongoro Crater. The haze in early morning air adds to the atmosphere.

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The Crater Basin! 

Down below the view stretches for miles and you can see the ring of the crater. In the distance you can see large black specks of elephants, small patches of glistening water dot the horizon along with sparse patches of bush.

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Come on!  Let's go!

There is a memorial to those who lost their lives in the conservation of wildlife, most were killed by poachers or bandits but one was killed by a Rhino, shouldn't get in their way ah!

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Fallen Heroes!

Once we are all rounded up and back in the truck, we drive around the ring of the crater, slowly making our way to the top.

Beautiful towering Giraffes speckle the landscape, some stop and look at us as we slowly pull up only to go back to eating or nonchalantly stride away without a care in the world. What a morning, I just can't get enough of these gangling magnificent animals.

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Let's go
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I like to eat alone!
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Breakfast!
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Joined by a friend!
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It's good to be tall!
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Oh... more tourists!

We pass by our first Masai Village, a mix of modern and traditional buildings.

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A local Masai Village!

We pass by another Masai Villages, and the locals are out herding their prized cows, sheep and goats. I am amazed that they roam freely among Zebra and Impala, what a show of harmony between man and wildlife.

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One of many  Masai Villages
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We are in the traditional home of the Masai

There are dozens of Giraffe roaming the hillsides, John says we wont see them in the crater basin as it is too steep for them to climb down into. We watch them for a while, they are like supermodels tall gangly and beautiful. They just glimpse at us as we drive by totally unfazed.

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Wonderful
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And another one!
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They are so captivating!
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"Ready for my close up!"

We reach the top and stop at the crater entrance.

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The Rules
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Getting ready to go!

The drivers take the roof off the trucks so we can stand to take photos. After a short break and cameras at the ready we waste no time and are the first group to head down into this wondrous landscape.

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What awaits!   Can't wait!

The road down is winding and rough but who cares! I am so excited as we get to the bottom and the crater basin stenches out before us. Wildebeest dot the landscape and as the road flattens out.

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Wildebeest

These are White Bearded Wildebeest and they look like spindly bent over old men. The Masai believe that when god created them he used all the left over parts from other animals, and it looks like it. No wonder they are part of the ugly five!

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Natures old men!

As soon as we enter the basin John stops the truck and points to the left in the distance is a male Lion strolling across the plain at first he is difficult to see but he is making his way closer to the road. John hopes he will continue in the same direction which will lead him directly to us. He starts the engine and we slowly drive further along and stop.

He is closer now and clearly visible, his huge head bent and is dominated by an extraordinary dark mane, he is magnificent!

The nearer he gets the more you notice his age, he is panting in the mid morning heat, you can't take your eyes off him, he is huge! His muscles ripple as he walks he is getting closer and now you can clearly see the reddish tint to his dark mane and the tuft of black hair on his tail, I am speechless, just when you think this continent can't surprise you further it proves you wrong!

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WOW, What a sight!
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WOW he's so close!

He walks so close the my side of the truck I could reach out and touch him, I am breathless, literally I am holding my breath I hope the clicking of my camera doesn't disturb him, it doesn't and he keeps striding past. I can hear him panting. So awestruck I cant remember beginning to breathe again!

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He is right beside me! 
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He doesn't even bother to look at us! 

He stops right in front of the truck and stares of into the distance, what is he looking at?

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What is he looking at?

Then John points out to a small crop of bushes and we catch a glimpse of a lioness and cubs as they dash out of sight. I am in awe and I have to pinch myself to check that this all real, yeap it is!

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What has got his attention?
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Can you see her?
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There She Is!

As he crosses the road in front of us more 4x4s have gathered behind us and it is getting very crowded.

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I am simply  awestruck!
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The strength in those muscles!

He makes his way to the other side and finds himself a shady spot under some thorny bush and plonks himself down. He is panting heavily and it's not surprising in this heat. I feel sorry for the old fella having is privacy invaded by so many humans but he just looks at us unfazed.

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If you didn't know he was there you would drive right past!
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So Handsome!
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Relaxing at last!
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Time to go and let him rest!

Leaving him in peace to watch over his family, make our way further into the crater, there is a quiet stillness to this place and I just lean out the window breathing it in. The landscape is dry but new green life is starting to sprout as the rains have come. It is just a little because in the full wet season the grass is high and lush.

Wildebeest. Thomson Gazelle and Zebra dot the landscape, Zebra and Gazelle heads turn from feeding as the truck approaches and the skittish Wildebeest dash off in fear.

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What you looking at!
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Too hot to move!
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Cautious
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There's that white beard!
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Breakfast of old men!
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I think I will go now!

The Gazelles are such pretty little things, with their black racing stripes, I love the smoky black streaks under their eye it looks like their mascara has run!

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Thomson Gazelle
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Aww Cute

A Jackal jumps thru the grass in the distance his ears alerting us to his presence.

A lone male Ostrich strides across the plain in search of a mate his striking black and white feathers thick and lush, he looks at us as passes by, such weird looking birds but quite regal.

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Man on a mission! 

A herd of Zebras slowly make their way closer and it's like a game of follow the leader as they cross the road in from of us, the phrase "Zebra Crossing" is whispered throughout the truck... we laugh but I bet our guide hears that everyday!

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Coming our way
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They look before crossing!
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They stop!
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Hey there!
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Yes our first "Zebra Crossing"

Once they have all crossed we move on a little further and then John suddenly stops the truck and points to the right out in the distance are 2 Hippos out of water in the midday sun, now that is a sight you don't see a lot except at night.

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Hippos

Alone Warthog stops eating breakfast to watch us as we stop, down on his front knees he stares at us for awhile before turning back to it's task. Such comical looking creatures, they are kind of cute in their own way, and another of the ugly five.

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Warthog Yoga

We drive further into the crater and make our way towards a pond, you can smell them before you see them, and as we pull up you can see the source of the smell the ponds inhabitants... Hippos! There is a group of them, and now it makes sense as to why the collective name for them is a bloat of Hippos, they aren't moving much, just wallowing in the thick sludge. Occasionally one lifts it's head and snorts, you can' blame them for just lazing it is hot! There is one lone hippo at the opposite end of the pond, I ask why it's not part of the group and John says it's probably a young male who has been pushed out of the pod.

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A bloat of Hippos
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Wallowing Solo!

I once stated that in my next life I would like to come back as a Hippo, you get to laze around in the water under the sun, you don't have many enemies and no one judges you for being fat! Now looking at this lot I think I change my mind, wallowing in that filth.... ummm no!

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Hippos that wallow together...
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....stink together

A lone Zebra ignores us giving us a full view of it's bum, I wish my butt was as cute as that! Birds surround the pond, Oxpeckers flitter from Hippo to Hippo, if you ignore the smell it is awesome spot!

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What a cute bum!

Moving away from our stinky friends, you get a feel for the sheer size of this extinct volcanic crater, the natural size of this basin is astounding! The haze in the air makes it difficult to see the natural perfect ring of the mountain top.

Another Jackal comes into view, on the search for food, he is on a mission ears alert, nose working over time! I love these little guys and I am so glad I finally get to see one close to the truck.

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Here he comes!
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keep coming...
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...he is on a mission!
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Off he goes!

As we pass a dried up water hole we spot our first crater Elephant, this lone bull is standing as still as a statue, except for the occasional swing of his tail and the swoosh of the trunk and a spraying of dust.

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Crater Elephant! 
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He doesn't move at all!

A huge Vulture sits high up in a spindly tree, another of the ugly five and you can see why, all neck and those beady eyes! Gazelles scatter in fright leaping as they flee at the sound of the truck, another Warthog trotters off it's tail standing tail like a follow me flag!

We head towards our morning break spot and as we drive over a small wooden bridge, John stops in the middle right beside the truck in a Hyena sniffing around a ditch, it is so close you can see every detail of it's speckled fur. I think it is so cute, large brown eyes and soft fur, how are they part of the ugly five. We watch it until it disappears under the bridge, what a sighting.

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A spotted Hyena
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How are they part of the ugly 5...?
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Even if they are scavengers!
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I think they are quite cute!
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There's that hunch!

Our lunch stop is by a small lake, you can hear Hippos making there laugh-like grunt from the far side. Pelicans glide in a zigzag across the lake dipping there beaks to scoop up food.

It is a little crowded as all the 4x4s have stopped here, so I take some time to myself and find a quiet spot on the shore. The sky is turning a dark grey, rain is coming, and this country needs it. The clouds give the lake a reddish glow and gives it an eerie feel.

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What a  great spot for lunch!

It's time to leave and as we cross the dried river there is no sign of our Hyena. I really want to hear that laugh they are so famous for.

As we continue on the same road we came in on, it starts to rain lightly, we don't care and the roof stays off, we break out into song and of course it's Totos 'Africa'

Our lone Elephant is still there and he hasn't moved from the spot!

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He is still in the same spot!
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Dust Bath!

Looking out across the plain a solitary Hyena is on the move, nose to the ground, oh there is actually 2 of them another way out in the distance!

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On the Hunt! 

We stop once more to watch a Vulture, it's just sitting there watching over it's carrion, when a Jackal approaches from behind, there is a flurry as they fight over the small morsel, the Vulture comes of the victor and my cute little Jackal takes his leave.

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On the Hunt! 
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Both...
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The Jackal....

We make our way back to the crater wall and say goodbye to this amazing place, it really stars to rain so we close the roof. Looking back down the basin has become grey but the view is still amazing!

The sun comes out again as we get to the top. The drive around the rim takes us past the same Masai Villages. Masai can be seen in the distant their bright red robes flapping in the wind. But it's not only red some are wearing a deep purple and a deep aqua blue!

We stop to watch more Giraffe. there are a few groans from the back but driver John waits until I have got my pictures, that was very nice of him - THANKS!

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right next to the road
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What a face!
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Make sure you get my good side!
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Ready for my close up!
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Not interested in us at all!
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Just love them!

The landscape changes to small rolling hills and becomes dry, the trees have no sign of new growth, a group of local Masai boys sit under a tree on a dusty dry river bed, watching their goat herds in the distance.

We get to the bottom of the mountain and it becomes a dry desolate landscape of rocks and dust, it has an apocalyptic feel to it . This is a whole other world compared to the green of the volcano basin.

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It seems so desolate!

There isn't much to see out here except the occasional Tawny Bustard Bird and male Ostrich in search of the elusive female.

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A Tawny Bustard! 

It is so arid here, the heat causes watery mirages to appear on the horizon. I wonder how the Masai survive out here in this desolate landscape.
The dark blurry mountain back drop looks dark and never ending and as if he has risen from out of the ground, Masai appears in the distance, like a robed spirit to add a speck of color to the horizon. they really do walk for miles, where has he come from there is nothing out there!

We finally arrive at the Serengeti entrance and from out of nowhere a small group of boys appear and approach the truck as we all get out to stretch our legs.

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I am really here!
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Where did they come from?

We are told not to take photos of them as they will ask for money and the local government is trying to stop begging as it is not part of their culture.
We take a group photo in front of the entrance which is not as easy as it seems as there is a lot of traffic coming out of the park, and I can't wait to head on in and see what is on the other side!

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Our little group!
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Lets go!

Slowly after passing thru the gate the landscape becomes grassy and the first buds of green are appearing. Thomson Gazelle and Zebra roam the plains and Hyena lumber along in the distance looking for their next meal.

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t gets greener!

We have to stop at the registration center before heading into the depths of the park. We top up on snacks while we wait for John and it isn't long before we are winding down the hill into the depths of the Serengeti and I am so excited I cant stop smiling!

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What a wonderful place!
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The landscape comes to life!

Trees start to appear and Zebra freeze on the roadside as we slowly drive by, not sure whether to run or not.

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Stripes everywhere
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Hey look tourists!

Suddenly we stop in the middle of nowhere and not an animal in sight, John tells us to look up, there is a huge hunting bird a top a tree, I would never have noticed it if he didn't point it out. He is very regal! A majestic Wahlberg Eagle.

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Wahlbergs Eagle!

We are heading to the Hot Air Balloon Ride Center some of us need to register for tomorrow morning and John stops the truck and points out these oddly shaped gazelles, with beautiful copper coats, Topi Gazelles and small family of 3, the baby is tucked in behind Mum who is lighter in color than the male. We wait for a while and it slowly makes an appearance. Sticking close to Mum and Dad as who knows what predators are out there!

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Where's the little one?
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Aww there!

And there in the distance a Cheetah stalks the plains, it is so far away that without the eyes of a our professional guide we never would have seen it!

John promises we will see them up close, and we ask if we will see a Leopard, Lions and Elephant, but when we ask him to commit to that promise he just smiles and says nothing!

As we get to the center for the Balloon ride the sun breaks thru the clouds giving the dusky sky line a pink and purple glow. This really is a beautiful place.

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The colors....
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... are stunning!

At the entrance these large Hamster like animals are are scurrying over the rock wall. They are everywhere and they do like to procreate and are not shy about doing in public! Hyrax, but they really are cute.

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What little cuties
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Not in public please!
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... and there are babies!

We are one of the last groups to arrive, the 3 of us that are registered for the hot air balloon ride head off to register and are given the low down of the mornings activities. Once we are all signed up we head back to the truck, and we are given a view of one of the most astounding sunsets, the is setting below the the cloud line turning the sky a bight gold, I love this place!

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Glorious!

The drive to the campsite becomes cold and there is nothing for it so I get out my sleeping bag and snuggle in. Leaning out the open window I watch this magical place go by.

We get to our campsite, the tents are set up for us, a fire is burning and dinner is nearly ready! The campsite is basic, as we are told it would be. There are other groups here and finding our tent requires directions, ah there it is!

There are no fences, we are camping in the wild! Buffalo, Hyena and sometimes Lions wander thru the camp, now that would be exciting! During dinner Victor repeats the rules...

"If you need to get up in the middle of the night to use the toilet before you exit your tent shine your torch around first, if you see glowing eyes wait until they have gone before you walk thru the camp!"
Oh and... "if you don't want to walk thru the camp just find a spot behind your tent but make sure you don't pee on the tent!"
Also... "If you hear animal noises stay in your tent and don't use the camera flash if you take photos, some of them have large teeth and claws!"
Well OK then, duly noted!

As nice as it is by the fire chatting with everyone, it has been an amazingly long day and it's up early for what will no undoubtedly be another amazing day!

OCTOBER 18TH 2017 DAY 19

We are up before the sun. There were no wild visitors in the camp last night Our driver is here to take us the our departure point. I am quite nervous, I have done a hot air balloon ride before, but heights YE-GADS are not my thing. But my fear is out weighed by excitement.

The early morning drive is beautiful, in the dawn light the wildlife casts silhouettes on the horizon.

We arrive at our take off point in the middle of an open plain, and the balloons are already being inflated. As we watch the sun comes up. My nerves race as I feel the heat of flames that inflate the balloons.

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Preparing for take off!

We are sorted into groups, our pilot is from Portugal, 2 of our group are late and the annoyance shows on his face. The balloon is laying on it's side and we slide into our sectioned of seat, it is like laying on your back with your knees bent. You can feel the heat of the low flame as settle in.

Once everyone is in place the balloon is tilted upright by man power and a blast of flame. We rise slowly and wind is loud in your ears. What a view! Thomson Gazelle, Impala, Zebra and wildebeest roam below, in the distance Giraffes stroll along a river bank.

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Away we go!
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Stunning views!
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Amazing!
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That's along way down

Try not to think about the fact that we are 1000s of feet above the ground in a basket held in the air by a piece of fabric. Instead concentrate on the beautiful sweeping views.

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What a away to start the day!
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Another Stunning Sunrise!

Then he dips down and my stomach lurches... as he sweeps the grass, luckily I haven't had breakfast yet!

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Wow
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Easy to forget my fear of heights!

We rise again only to be awestruck at the magnificence of the Wildebeest migration below. Over 2 million of them and over a million Zebra migrate thru the Serengeti every year... and I am watching it unfold before my eyes! How lucky I am to see it from up here where you get the realization of this magnificent annual event!

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Awesome....
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Making their way north!
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Just look at them down there!
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What and unbelieveable surprise!

We descend to get a closer look and as we approach the the middle of the herd they grunt and buck, scattering in all directions. the sounds they make can be heard in the still of the morning, the snorting and hoofs stamping with fright.

As we make our way around a crop of rocky hills a pair of Jackals run across our flight path. We are nearing the end of our flight and herd of Elephants can be seen as clear as day in clearing surrounded by Acacia trees, totally unfazed by the Balloons approach.

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Our landing spot!
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Coming in for our landing

The closer we get the ground my heart starts pounding in my chest, I want to close my eyes but there is a pride of Lions lazing under a tree in full view. They are simply unbelievable. They are ivory in color, there is a male with a family of little ones and lioness, it is difficult to count them as they scatter at the sound of the balloon, I think there are 4 of them! Two of them the male and one lioness stand their ground and watch us descend.

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WOW look at them!
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They are amazing!

As the ground approaches I keep my eyes open as long as possible, when the Serengeti starts spinning I give in, and shut my eyes and brace for impact!

I am fully expecting the basket to topple over, and I am gladly relieved when it doesn't! With shaky legs we clamber out, this isn't my gracefull moment I have to admit as practically topple out!

Our pilot puts a bottle of champagne on his head and gives us a history of hot air ballooning, I will admit I wasn't really listening, too busy watching the heard of Elephants in the distance. They looked so chilled just snacking on the leaves, wishing once again I had a better camera!

We are treated to a glass of Champagne as they deflate and pack up the balloons. Just a wee sip and sadly give mine away as I still not well.

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Champagne Anyone!
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Cheers to a fabulous morning!

The balloons are packed away and our driver stops so we can watch the Lions for awhile. They are so different from the male we saw in the Ngorongoro Crater. This male has no dark coloring to his mane, in fact he is a pale ivory just like the female by his side. This shows his youth.

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There they are!
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What a royal pair!

They settle for a while, keeping a watchful eye on their surroundings, the rest of the pride has hidden out of sight. The cubs are no where to be seen, but these 2 are weary and scan the horizon paying close attention to the trucks.

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She watches us cautiously!
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Together they keep the pride safe
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They are unbelievable
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He stares straight at us!

They start to move again heading in the direction of the hidden family, each taking their turn to watch what we do.

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Such a powerful pair
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She watches...
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...he watches us
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They check their surroundings

They make their way closer to the truck, they stick together ever vigilant of their surroundings.

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Closer and closer to the truck!

Then they stop again, they aren't going anywhere as long as we are around. There is still no sight of the cubs and the rest of the pride, they are well hidden in the long grass and bushes. But just being able to watch these 2 is a privilege.

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So Stunning!

They move on and settle in the long grass, and just watch us, as if to say "don't come any closer!". The protectiveness they display for their family is amazing. They aren't moving until we do!

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They keep an eye on the hidden pride!
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Wow... aren't they amazing!

They sit close enough that we can see the details on their faces. He has a gash on his temple just below the ear, the blood is fairly dry, and it doesn't seem to bother him. I love their white chins. Up closer they have a slight dark tint to their fur. She is more muscular than he is even though she is smaller in structure.

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Now that's a royal couple!
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The King & Queen

Unbelievable, Africa you have done it again, the surprises just keep coming!

Sadly we have to move on, but at least now they can relax. We pass herds of Wildebeest speckled with Zebra and Impala. They stretch out as far as the eye can see.

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The herd goes on for miles!
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Why hello there!

As the morning sun brightens we arrive at our breakfast spot. Three long tables are laid out with crisp white table clothes, perfectly folded napkins and sparkling white china. All set under the shade of an Acacia tree. In the background a Palm lined stream adds perfectly to the setting.

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Fancy

Waiters in perfect white and green Arabic style uniforms, serve breakfast. There is even someone to wash our hands in a large copper bowl, the water is warm and scented!

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Service
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Could get used to this!

Before sitting down my first stop is the "Loo with a View". A three walled canvas structure over looking a stream and the vast Serengeti beyond, a lone Giraffe wanders in the distance I will say this is one of the best toilets ever!

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The Loo...
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... The View!

As we sit down to breakfast our Pilot makes a toast, more champagne. He presents us all with a certificate, yeap that is also going on the wall!
It's a lovely full English breakfast of warm fresh bread, scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages.... it tastes so good, it's the first proper meal I have eaten in days!

After thanking our hosts for a wonderful morning we head back to the Balloon Center to meet up with our driver and the others from our group. During an excited story swap session another Intrepid truck pulls up and with squeals of delight we reunite with the mother and daughter who were with us on the first part of the tour. The conversation is crazy and full of laughter, but John is trying to round us up, so we can get back out into the wilds of this beautiful place!

We say goodbye to our friends and hit the road for the days safari. The first thing we see is a small herd of Hartebeest, named after the shape of their horns which form a heart shape as the twist and grow.

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Hartebeest
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First sighting of these guys
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There's the horn shape that gives them their name

Next to them in a tree is the ugly Marabou Stork, perching in the top branches watching the horizon. They are not good looking in any way at all! But they have their purpose as one of natures cleaners.

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Yeap! Still Ugly! 

The plains stretch out for miles, and the distance 2 Hyena run awkwardly parallel to the truck. One stops to check us out, making sure we are not a threat, then bounds off again in a lopsided run.

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There's that famous hunch again!
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Aww that's a cute face look at those ears!
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And off he goes!

While we were out in the hot air balloon the others spotted a Leopard up in a tree, we are making our way there to see if she is still there, here's hoping!

We catch up with the other 4x4s and one of them is royally stuck, they decline our offer of help, we jest with them but I really hope that doesn't happen to us.

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Haha! Hope that doesn't  happen to us! 

We meet up with the rest of the Intrepid groups and stop for a catch up, we aren't allowed out of the trucks so it's a boisterous conversation across the 4 vehicles everyone excitedly trying to blurt out the experiences of the morning!

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Groups 1 & 2
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Groups 3 & 4
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The Intrepid Gang

We all head off in different directions, all heading back to camp for lunch but taking different roads, we are heading to see our Leopard, and we stop next to large dense tree, how on earth did they see her up there! it takes the binoculars to see her, she is stretched out along a branch snuggled in tightly and all we can really see is her tail swinging in the air, Wow our first Leopard sighting, it is amazing to see!

We head back to the campsite, no one wants to go back, but we have to, John assures us that in the midday heat the animals wont be out as apparently they sleep the afternoon heat away, We aren't happy we just want to keep going.

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What else is out there?

After lunch we spend the afternoon lazing, swapping stories and sharing photos.

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Camp Totem

We share the campsite with a variety of bird life, a Marabou Stork roams the campsite looking for scraps, and I try to find something cute about it but I just can't!

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These guys are everywhere!
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They are cute!
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We share lunch with these little guys!
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The Camp Cleaner

Finally we are back on the road, for a late afternoon/evening game drive. The darkens to a metal grey with bronze rays of sun streaking thru. It seems so foreboding but spectacular. We stop at a cross road and one of the girls is photographing the scenery, a 4x4 behind us stops to look at what is going on, the girls point at a tree and laugh excitedly, we leave the 4x4 behind staring at this tree with nothing in it, they look disappointed and drive off in the opposite direction.

The clouds clear a little and we drive around a rocky out crop out onto a grassy plain and the view stretches on forever.

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What a Skyline!

Suddenly we come upon a pride of Lions lounging on the side of the road! OMG what a pride it is! Made up of 2 families. I can't believe my eyes!
At fist all we could see were legs, the lioness were lazing on their backs legs in the air, rolling around just like a house cat!

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At first all you can see is legs!
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Rolling around like a playful house cat!
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Look at them... and cubs too!
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They blend into their surroundings so well!

Then we see more, cubs heads pop up out of the long grass, tails flicker, they roll around legs spreadeagled, it really is a sight. It is hard to count them all as they are so well camouflaged in the dry grass.

Suddenly heads appear as some of the Lioness stir and sit up, This causes action among the cubs and they started to move around. It is still hard to see them as the grass is longer than they are tall.

Then one of the males gets up and he is magnificent, his dark mane is full and glorious. He stops takes a pee and makes his way thru the pride. He buts heads affectionately with one of the females who watches his every move.

As he strolls past the lesser male, who is lighter in color showing his youth and lower position in the pride.  He ignores the Alpha growls at, and what a sound it is, then gives him a swipe for his insolence at ignoring his superiority. With a shake of mane the defiant lesser male bows his head in surrender almost as if he is sulking. What a spectacular sight!

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The king on the move
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[The younger male][/i]

A Lioness gets up and follows him and they move and come so close to the truck.

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And What An Alpha He Is!

They right beside us, they pause as if they are having a conversation. You can see the power in their muscles!
Then they just flop on the ground and after a survey of their surroundings close their eyes and relax.

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Always vigilant!
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She scans the horizon!
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She becomes alert!
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She watches us and the pride!
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What a gorgeous girl!

Watching he cubs is so delightful, there is 4 of them, all ears and paws. One is playing with mums tail, she turns and gives him a soft growl, it doesn't stop him at all.

Another is stalking a bird thru the long grass he gives himself away being to boisterous, he shakes his little head and turns his focus to a passing female. He turns and begins to stalk her, she knows he is there and lets him follow for a bit. He suddenly launches at her and she fakes capture falls onto her side in surrender and as he climbs all over him she licks his little face.

I could watch them all day it is just the most wonderful sight. Seeing it all unfold makes my heart melt with joy!

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Aww I see one there with a Lioness
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Where are the others!
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Suddenly more little faces appear!
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Aww! Cuteness Overload!

The Alpha and Lioness are so close to you can see very detail on their faces! His mane is thick and dark. She is strong and graceful.

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He is magnificent!
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Look at the power in those leg muscles
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Look at that glorious mane!

One of the Lioness gets up and scans the horizon. she makes her way to the road  and walks behind the the truck.  Stopping on the hilly verge stares out into distance, before disappearing into the long grass.  She off to scout for the up and coming hunt.

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What does she see out there?

He gets up and just when you think he will follow the hunt he plonks himself back down and closes his eyes!

She follows and lays down on the road, we are not going anywhere now 'oh no how sad, we can't go back to camp!'

They lay on the road right right in front of us! Another female follows and crosses the road behind the truck, stops scans the horizon and is off. He continues to lay there, his companion watches the pride in the distance.

Then another Lioness heads out on the hunt in search of prey for the pride, she growls for the others to follow, but her command falls on deaf ears. The alpha and his female stay where they are. It is difficult to take your eyes off them. Such majesty and power, I could watch this pride all night. But soon the other Lioness will follow.

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Chill-laxed
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She becomes alert
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He continues to rest!

Suddenly John points to the behind the truck, in the distance there on a Termite mound is a Cheetah, WWWHHHAAATTT!!! We can't drive closer as there is another Lioness crossing the road behind us. You can just make out the shape of a cub in the long grass it's little face peaking thru the leaves next to this beautiful sleek Cheetah. As she searches the horizon the cub is bouncing around in the grass, she turns her head and looks at him and suddenly he settles down sitting quietly in the long grass. Against the darkening sky she is truly a sight behold. In an instant she off on the hunt with the cub following close behind. They disappear into the Serengeti plain that stretches out before them. I cannot believe my eyes, a Cheetah, Africa you have once again made me gasp in surprise!

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Unbelievable!
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She left me speechless!

John tells us it is time to head back to camp but the groans of disappointment fill the truck. Suddenly 2 of the females follow the first that left earlier, blocking the road, oh no we can't go now one of them has stopped in the middle of the road how disappointing we have to stay! . Then slowly the others follow there are 6 in total and slowly wonder off into the distance.

One has a terrible limp and is having trouble keeping up with rest, John tells us that she has to go on the hunt because if she doesn't pull her weight in the pride they will disown her and she will be left to fend for herself. This information is followed by the sounds of outcry among the group. But he is on the radio speaking quickly in Swahili. He then informs us that he has just spoken to the Serengeti Medical Center, they are aware of her injury and are monitoring the situation, they are waiting to see if she heals on her own before putting her thru the trauma of darting and capture. Thank goodness!

With other the females gone she gets up and leave the final Lioness of the pride. He lazes a little longer then finally stirs and stands in the middle of the road, hardly moving he stares out into the distance. He is watching to see of the Lioness have made a kill before he follows. You suddenly realize how large he is. His head is as tall as the truck side mirror. You can see every detail on his body!

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The alpha checks on the hunt
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Off he goes!

Then he is off, he strides briskly after them. We can't see where they are but he knows, he doesn't even turn back as he disappears into the horizon. The lesser male has been left behind, his job is look after the cubs while the rest of the pride hunt.

When the sun breaks thru the clouds for a few minutes you can really see how much he is like the Alpha dark maned and huge!

A few of the younger Lions stay behind and like typical teenagers lounge in the late evening sun that has just broken thru the clouds. What an amazing group dynamic and I feel so privileged to witness it.

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The baby sitter,,,,
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...with the juveniles and cubs!

The hunters have become too far away to see and the setting sun is low on the horizon. I ask John about the limping female and he tells me that the rangers are monitoring her and the pride thru a tracking collar, vets will look in on her when they settle once again and if she gets worse they will get her treatment. Thank goodness!!!

It has gotten dark and as we make our back around the outcrop of rocks the cutest little Gazelle is sitting on the side of the road, it has a stunned sad look on it's face. The suddenly it dashes across the road in front of the truck. John slams on his brakes it is stunned and stops in the head lights, it is the sweetest little thing, the black markings under it's eyes look like tears, those eye lashes!. I just want to smother it with hugs it is that adorable! It disappears into the grass and we move on, a Dik Dik, who named it that? It is the cutest little thing!

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The sweetest little Dik Dik!

It is dark by the time we get back to camp, and we are the last group to arrive. Victor was a little concerned as to our where abouts but was hopefully understanding when we explained why, I hope we didn't get our guide into to much trouble, we really didn't have much choice, there were Lions!

Dinner around the fire once again, everyone is relaxed and happy, it is hard not to be here. Our little group agrees to be up extra early in the morning to make the most of our last game drive in the morning before we leave this wonderful place. It begins to softly rain so that is my queue to go bed.

OCTOBER 19TH 2017 DAY 20

Up with the sun today. We scoff down our breakfast, make our lunches and pack our gear in the 4x4 as quick as we can. We want to get out into the National Park as early as possible, it is our last day here and we only get a morning game drive, so we want to spend as much time as we can here.

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Up with the sun!

But just as we are about to leave a group of Striped Mongoose run thru the campsite. Well we didn't get any nocturnal visitors, but this is quite a cool sighting our final morning at the camp.

With the 4x4 all packed up we are the first to leave and head out in the early morning sun. It is going to be a hot one today.

The first thing we do is go and check out the tree where we last spotted the Leopard, I amazed to see she is still there! But she has climbed higher up and wedged herself so tightly among the branches, and even with binoculars she is difficult see.

We head out towards the main gate, passing a group of male Ostrich wandering the plains, still no sight of a female!

We pass a Lion kill and the group tell me not to look as it is a baby Giraffe, as sad as it makes me, it is the circle of life and nature has it's rules, predators have to hunt to survive.

The morning is bright and clear. Impala stare at the truck as we drive by.

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Impala
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... off they go!

We pass a small herd of Hartebeest, this is the closest we have ever seen them, their copper coats shine in the morning sun. They aren't sleek like Impala or Gazelles, they seem quite hunched and chunky.

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Hartebeest
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Slightly weird looking things!

We make our way to a Hippo pond, we smell it before we see it! It is not so much a pond but a mud pool, it stinks worse then the one in the Norongoro Crater! My thought of coming back as a Hippo in my next life is now definitely quashed, wallowing in your own filth, uhh no!

All you can see is a few Hippo backs above the mud level, they aren't moving at all. A Crocodile is sunning itself on a grassy island, unlike the Nile Crocodile this one is grey and smaller. Nope I cannot find anything cute about it all! There are a couple of smaller Crocs on the shore line and they blend in well with their muddy surroundings.

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Crocodiles & a stink!

Further along walking thru the long grass is a pride of Lions, with cubs! Wow there are so many of them.

We drive to see if we can get closer, John stops as they are heading straight towards us. Then they are right beside us slowly making their way to the road.

I see at least 14 little gorgeous little ones bounding thru the grass, it is hard to count them as they bounce around. They are of various ages and sizes, all paws and fuzzy faces. John thinks it is probably 3 or 4 families that make up the one pride. I never dreamed I would get to see them up close and so many!

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There is so many!
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Just look at all those bundles of adorableness!

They are led by a Lioness with tracking collar, who totally ignores us and crosses the road right in front of the truck. Some of the little ones stumble down the grass verge, I can't believe my eyes, they are just so adorable!

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OMG there's more!
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This is AMAZING!

We watch them disappear in the long grass. John starts the truck and we drive around a S bend and find them making their way across the road to stop at a shady patch out of the mid morning sun.

One of the females stays behind the rest of family finding a cool spot under a bush, she just curls up, closes her eyes and ignores the world around her.

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Sleeping Beauty!

They they cross the road in front of us, I just can't take my eyes off them!

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Thank you AFRICA!

The Lioness relax a little flopping down in the shade. The cubs are boisterous bundles of cuteness. They clamber over tree branches and each other, play fighting. some are trying to climb a tree, others just watch. You can't help but smile and giggle at this beautiful sight. Sometimes they seem so clumsy tripping over their own paws.

Th Lioness watch the cubs at play, keeping a close eye on these energetic babies at play. They occasionally scan the landscape for any danger that might put the cubs in harms way.

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Watching Protectively!
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That's a lot of precious babies to watch over!

It is getting crowded here, news has spread, and more and more 4x4s arrive. One driver from a different company goes off road and not looking where he is going drives right thru the middle of the pride, causing them to scatter for safety, he was so close to one little cub that it looked so frightened as run for cover.

Cries of disgust fills the air! He was so lucky he didn't hit any of them. I and many others are enraged with careless regard for the prides safety. One of the guys in our group yells at the driver, we take down the company name and license plat number, one of the girls has filmed the whole incident, and we are going to report it. John promises to do the same, he better!

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Something has her attention!

We watch them play for a while, one Lioness is up suddenly and walks to the road edge. something in the distance has alerted her, she stands as still as a statue, then she is off leaving the cubs under the protection of the other 2 Lioness who keep a close watch over their large family.

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Ever Vigilant Mother
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... and off she goes!

It is so wonderful watching this family, but John starts the engine and groans of disappointment ring out, our pleads to stay a little longer fall on deaf ears. We turn around and leave. Then 10 minutes later one of the girls realizes she has lost her phone. We turn around and retrace our tracks, scouring the road for her phone. It is the only camera she has and all her photos are on it. We get back to where we saw the Lions and they have all gone. We turn around and head back out towards the main gate, I spot the phone in the middle of the road, don't ask me how, it is the same color as the road and I don't have the best eye sight! It has a broken screen but it still works and she has all her photos.

Zebra and Impala wander the landscape as we drive by. Melancholy has taken over as we don't want to leave, but we still have more of this continent to see. We come to the hill that takes up and out of the park to the registration center. We park and John heads to the office, we find a coffee stand and have our first latte for for days.

We drive back thru the arid landscape we entered the park on.

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Leaving the green of the Serengeti behind!

We pass a 4x4 that has overheated on the side of the road. We stop to offer assistance and they decline it. A lone Masai boy stands watching, and again I wonder where on earth has he come from! There is nothing out here but rocks!

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Glad that's   not us!

There is nothing to do but hang out the window and watch the world pass by. As we get to the hilly landscape trees start appear, the rains still haven't reached the outer part of the Serengeti and there are no signs of new life.

Suddenly Masai appear on the horizon like spirits, their colorful robes shimmering in the heat.

A group of Masai boys wander along the road side, their black robes swirling as they walk. As we get closer we notice that their faces are painted black and white with haunting designs. John explains that it is part a right of passage that each Masai boy goes thru when he is coming of age.

An hour into the drive the coffee has made it's way thru my system. I would ask to stop for a bush toilet but there are no bushes! As we get to the crater ring we ask John if he can stop but he asks if we can hold on as we are late getting to our meeting point. Why not I have waited 2 hours whats another 30 minutes. But every bump is painful!

Finally we make it down to the gate entrance, one of the girls yells, "hey look at the Elephant statue" and as we get closer it suddenly moves, flapping it's huge ears. We were promised an Elephant sighting and here it is the last thing we see as we leave the wonderful Serengeti.

You have never seen 5 women run so fast for the bathrooms!

We make our way back to Mto Wa Mbu (still can't say it) we see a sign for another reserve, we plead with John to go there instead of doing the village walk this afternoon, but it doesn't work, deaf ears again!

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Back to  civilization!

We meet up with the rest of the intrepid group at a tourist shop. It is really over priced and to be honest a tourist trap. John takes us to a smaller local Ma & Pa shop, where everything is handmade, that's so much better, give back to the locals! We take our time, I buy a few gifts for friends and get back into the truck. My limbs feel heavy and I am suddenly really tired.

Once again we are the last ones back at camp. We put our tents up and a hot shower feels fantastic, clean hair, it;s the small things!

Victor calls a meeting to get our tip money together, we have already given John ours and this causes a bit of confusion, as we want to tip those who did all the background work at the Serengeti camp.

We sit on the grass chatting and I try to eat but I can't, just the thought of food makes my stomach churn. Oh no not again!

I bow out of the village walk and rest a while before heading to the pool for a quick dip. I sit at the restaurant and use the wifi and drink a lot of water. Slowly some of the group make their way back. Most have gone into town to a bar. We chat for a while a, apparently the village walk was just thru the town and wasn't as good as the one in Rwanda, so glad I didn't miss much.

It's off to bed we have an early start in the morning.

Posted by TracingTheWorld 01:10 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

SADNESS, SONG & AN UNFORGETTABLE ENCOUNTER

Uganda to Rwanda & back to Kenya!

sunny
View EPIC AFRICA 2017 on TracingTheWorld's travel map.

OCTOBER 8TH 2017 DAY 9

Up with the crows for breakfast. Literally!

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Pied Crow!   

It is a shortish drive to another boarder. But before we get to the control point we have to double check our bags for any plastic bags. Rwanda has a total ban on plastic bags, and you know what, I totally agree, what a great idea. They are everywhere and a scourge on the landscape!

This border is less chaotic than the last, and Darlene once again has someone to meet us to change our Ugandan Shilling into Rwandan Francs. We walk into the border crossing building and simply sign out of Uganda and into Rwanda at 9.11am!

The infrastructure is so modern. The roads are wide and everything is so clean!

Rwanda is an amazing landscape of emerald green hills and friendly villages.

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Crossed Another Border, Hello Rwanda!

We arrive into Kigali and the roads are busy, modern and wide, such a stark contrast to their neighbors, and before long we arrive at our destination.

The Genocide Memorial is our stop for the morning. Even in the hot morning sun as I enter a chill runs down my spine. I remember watching this unfold on the news, but to experience the aftermath in person is very different.

Walking around the exhibits and watching the video interviews of survivors telling their accounts of the events that led to one of the most horrific times in human history saddens me to the core, I will never understand how the world allows these things to happen and to still happen today, we just don't learn do we.

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Memorial Window 

Outside in the rose garden are two huge marble stones, and I can't help but cry when I read the inscription on the side, thousands of people are laid to rest here, whole generations of families gone in an instant. Flowers are placed along the sides of these somber mausoleums, lost for words I sit silently for awhile and pay my respects.

The drive to Ruhengeri is a quiet one. The closer we get the skies become grey and dark, which kind of fits the atmosphere as what we just saw has everyone a little sad and the mood is a somber one...

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Arriving in Ruhengeri

Our accommodation for the next 3 night is in a hostel run by a church, and we are staying in dormitories, girls in one room and boys in the other.

We are excused from our chores while we are here as there are lovely locals who are helping out.

After the rain stops some of us go for a walk into the city. We are followed but a group of lads who want to practice their English, at first I am a little cautious but they seem harmless enough.

We pass a wedding being held in a park and the women look so fantastic in their brightly colored traditional dresses, the men all smartly dressed in suits, crisp white shirts and polished shoes.

We find our way to a newly built shopping mall but inside it is setup like a market, selling everything from household items to fabrics and clothing. It is like an explosion of color and patterns.

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Shopping!

I just have to bring back some of these fabrics, but it is so hard to choose, and the price, I mean wow I hate to barter to low as they are already so inexpensive. I only buy 3!

As we head back to the hostel thunder begins to roll and it starts to rain, which is typical of this area as we are in the mountain ranges formed by extinct volcanoes, hence the name "Parc De Volcans"!

We get back in time for dinner and our 'PFT' (plan for tomorrow) meeting. Some of us are going on a village walk while the others are going up the mountain in search of the Silver Back Gorilla, and when I hear those magic words I can't wait to go myself!

OCTOBER 9TH 2017 DAY10

So used to waking up early, so looking forward to a sleep in, but up early.

Three of us are doing a village walk this morning, and we are picked up just after 9am.

As we drive up to the village, you really notice how clean the streets are, our driver says that every household must keep the street in front of their house clean, and one Saturday a month, the citizens of Rwanda has to go out and clean the streets, the no plastic bag law certainly makes an impact!

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City Views

Our guide Emmanuel and 2 lovely girls who are doing an apprenticeship in tourism.

The first thing we see as we enter the main gates to Venfe Village are these amazing carvings, huge Gorillas, statues and masks, I wonder how much luggage allowance I have!

Two men are carving smaller versions of the Gorillas, the details are so intricate, they proudly show us their work it can take up to 2 days just to complete a small carving and when the details are finished they color them with shoe polish.

Wishing I could buy a spear, a bit big to travel with I opt for a small Gorilla with a baby on her back.

I watch them working on a life size version of my Mother and baby, all done by hand, what patience they have getting all the little details correct.

A group of women are sitting on blankets weaving these gorgeous pots and baskets. Their laughter carries across the courtyard. They are chattering away happily and when we approach they invite us to sit and try our hand. Why not!

They boil the papyrus with colored powders and once dry and stripped, they wrap brightly colored strands of papyrus around thin strands of bamboo. then twist them into the shape they want, sewing them together with as they wind the papyrus. They are such lovely bright colors and patterns.

I sit with them and one of them shows me how its done. It is quite simple to do, but to get the patterns even is a little harder. the women giggle as we work and then smile with a thumbs up approval of my efforts, I think they were just being polite.

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Learning From The Experts!

Say goodbye to the lovely ladies and we are welcomed by Beatrice who is taking us through her home. She has such a big smile but is a little shy. Emmanuel has to translate for us and she shakes our hands but has a little trouble pronouncing our names.

Her house is simple the main walls are made of wood framing and compacted with mud and herbs. She proudly shows us her kitchen garden which is swept clean of leaves, her little kitchen is under a bamboo awning and she has large black pots and kettles sitting on a built up stone fire place. Her vegetable garden is flourishing.

She invites us into her home which is she is so proud of. She and her husband built the house themselves. Like her kitchen garden the volcanic rock floor is swept perfectly clean. Her little girl is running around in bare feet how she doesn't hurt herself on the sharp rocks I will never know.

We sit in her living an beautifully hand made furniture (she made them herself) It is very spacious and the walls are decorated with pages from western magazines.

She smiles brightly as she tells us about her life, she has 5 children, the oldest is studying to be a school teacher and you can see the pride in her eyes as she introduces the shy girl hiding in the doorway.
She gives a tour of her home, there are 2 bedrooms at one end of the hall with two storage rooms. She take us back to the front door where there are 2 more small rooms one is a small bedroom, the other is a storage room for clothes.

She insists on dressing us up in her brightly colored African dresses. She picks the perfect colors for each of us. She drapes them in the traditional way, even adding matching necklaces. I am humbled by this women, her openness and generosity is so heart warming. I feel so blessed that she has opened her home and shared her life with us.

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The Lovely Beatrice!

We say goodbye to this beautiful women and as we walking along a road Emmanuel explains that the government has made it compulsory or every household to have a kitchen garden, and that they have given a cow to every home owner for milking. What they don't use they share with their neighbors. If that cow has a calf they give it to someone who is in need, so everyone in the community benefits. It is a structure that works and the village thrive. What community spirit they have, we seem to have lost that in our crowded towns and cities.

We pass men building these unusual huts, perfect domes made from wooden frames and covered with thick long grass, they look so awesome, wish I had one of those in my garden.

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Building Work!

Walking down a road we are greeted by beautiful little girls in bright yellow polka dot dresses, they take us by the hand and led us into a large courtyard with the village meeting house, and as soon as we appear drums begin to beat.

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Greeted by the sound of rhythmic  drumming!

WOW as soon as we appear, children lined up in 3 rows begin to dance, what a welcome! They are so adorable!

The boys have little shields and spears, behind them a group of men and women are beating various sized drums. This is awesome!

We are led by the hand to sit down. This is such a treat, you can't help but clap along as the girls dance first. So graceful with huge smiles.

They invite us to join them and of course we do. I feel so welcome I am almost bought to tears by their warmth, humility and contentedness.
The girls giggle at our efforts, hey I will admit I have go no rhythm at all! I feel so awkward and uncoordinated around them.

We sit down and the boys march out and they do this fantastic tribal dance, banging their spears and shields with such concentration on their faces. One by one they come forward and do solo dance trying to show how tough and serious they are on those adorable little faces, all of 5 to 10 years old.

There is one little boy in bright green crocs that are far too big for his little feet, who is so serious and the more we clap and cheer the more gusto he puts into his routine. He is so upset when he trips on his shoe and you can see how annoyed he is at himself, but he gets back up and tries even harder. I can't help but give an extra big cheer and when he is finished his serious little face suddenly beams with a big smile.

The older girls are next, they glide out with baskets balanced perfectly on their heads. Not one of looses balance as they twist and turn like swans. They are so beautiful.

They glide away and we are approached by a villager who takes over to the drums, really I can't do this I have no rhythm did you not see me dance!
I give it a go and I am terrible, way off beat with everyone else. But it is fun! Thankfully they don't laugh at me, but smile with encouragement instead. We even get the thumbs up at the end.

We thank them for this wonderful experience and shake hands, I can't stop smiling. Thank you just doesn't cover it, that was awesome!

As we walk through the village to boys begin to tag along, Emmanuel asks them why they aren't in school and they suddenly become very quiet. It is compulsory in Rwanda. The younger ones go in the mornings and the older ones go in the afternoon. The government will pay for students to go to any university if they get good grades. If they choose to study overseas they will still pay for it especially in sectors like teaching, engineering and health, but they have to come back to Rwanda to work when they graduate, what a great way to build an educated future! Well done Rwanda!

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Such serious little cuties!

We meet an elder of the community who makes beehives. He is so proud to show of his handy work and he chats so fast Emmanuel can hardly keep up the translation. He shows us how they work with such enthusiasm he has a beaming smile.

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The Hive Builder!

They are made up of woven bamboo, each taking 4 weeks to complete, then covered in cow dung and left in the sun to dry. They are shaped like a barrel, one end has two holes entry and exit for the bees, the other is a woven lid, they even have a little roof made of bamboo strips. The hives are so simple and ornate.

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He is so proud of his work

He sells them to villages all over Rwanda and has placed many in the fields around the village, they recognize the importance of bees to their survival and not just for the honey but for medicinal purposes as well.

The 2 boys are still following us as we are invited into another home. We are shown how they grind a type of flower that grows like little
peppercorns.

It is a simple process but hard work. Using a flat round stone and grind the grains on a larger flat stone, they have it down to a fine art, I give it ago It's a good thing I am not preparing dinner as we would all go hungry, as it would take me forever and it is quite a strain on the wrists!

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Never complaining about housework again!

The tour takes us through perfectly divided farm plots which are zoned off by little stone walls. We pass children coming home from school, they smile and wave as they go past.

They are such an industrial community where everyone shares with their neighbors the rewards of their labor. No one goes without.

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No fancy farm machines here!

The little boys are still following us and Emmanuel asks them why they aren't in school and they say they didn't want to go because we are more interesting. So make them promise to go to school and give them a bag with pencils and note books, and once in their hands they run off smiling and waving, I hope they keep their promises!

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Tomorrow I climb that!

We make our way back to where we entered and while we wait for our driver we chat with our 3 guides, children mill about quietly watching us. Too shy to come too close.

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Thank you for the wonderful experience!

We head back to the hostel and sit in the bar having lunch. The group who did the Gorilla trek arrive back, they have been told not to talk about their experience or to show us any pictures so it doesn't spoil it for the rest of us.

After the thunderstorms subsides one of the girls and I go back into town to buy some more fabric, this time we have more time to browse, and yes I buy 3 more!

We head back before the next storm rolls in. It's an early night tonight , tomorrow we trek up that mountain!

OCTOBER 10TH 2017 DAY 11

Up very early, we are meant to have breakfast, but I feel very queasy, I don't know if it is nerves, but I have felt this way for a few days now... Ah it's just nerves!

We make lunch for ourselves and our porters, wow we get a porter!

The drive takes us to the outskirts of town to the meeting point. There are so many groups here, mostly from the USA. They all seem to have shopped at the same store "Safari Are Us" All fancy gear, shiny and clean, unlike us backpackers! Are they in for a shock when their perfectly placed make up melts off!

My god why can't I stop shaking, why am I so nervous, as I rush to the nearest ladies room my continually stomach turns and I am glad the only thing I ate this morning was a banana!

We are taken to a seating area which is organized into Gorilla Troop name we are visiting the Ntambara Group made up of 14 members including babies.

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The family we are going to visit!

Our guide Placide (who kind of looks like Lawrence Fishburne) gives us a run down of the morning. Trackers are already out looking for the group and our porters are waiting at the base village for us. GLUP! my stomach does a squeezy turn as I look up at the mountain, man that is high!

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Our Guide]

The drive to the village base is extremely bumpy and rocky, the villagers wave at us we go by some the children run beside truck.

One little girl in a white tutu is running along the side of the road her little legs pumping with such determination to keep up, her skirt swooshing around her legs, she is so cute.

After an hour we get to the meeting point, and our porters are waiting for us. I am introduced to the poor man who has to help me up that mountain, Emmanuel Gene.
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My Porter

I don't say much as I am too busy staring up at the mountain, thinking "I gotta go way up there!" my stomach twists and I dash for the third time that morning for the nearest ladies room!

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We're going up there!

We are given a pole to help us up the rough terrain and our porters take our backpacks, and off we go.

We walk through village farmland and arrive at a gate at the base of the mountain. I am already puffing, we stop and Placide tells us that we must keep hydrated because of the altitude, which can cause dizziness and shaking, if we need to stop we must say something, he reminds me of a military Sargent when he says "no man left behind" But OK, I got this... I think!

The pace is slow and steady but straight up! The jungle is dense and we climb, not hike climb! Ducking tree limbs and those poles sure do come in handy getting over the muddy ground!. Those who did the climb yesterday say this is harder as we are going straight up. Thank goodness I thought it was just me struggling.

As we reach the so called half way point, there is a fantastic view of the valley below, WOW we are how high! Suddenly Emmanuel G is at my arm saying sit down, and everything is starts to spin a little, I shake my head and refuse "I am OK" and he takes my stick and orders me to sit , whoa no man tells me what to do is all I can think of to say as the spinning in my dead continues... all I hear is "I tell you what to do, now sit before you fall down" OK and so as I am told (there is a first time for everything) as things get a fuzzy! I don't know how high up we are but I am sure the mountain shouldn't be spinning right!

When things get back into focus and the spinning stops we continue on and up.

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About half way!

As we head up Emmanuel G is taking my hand helping me over the terrain, but truth be told he is actually pulling me up the mountain, how is he doing this in gumboots. Admittedly we stop a few times but we wont quit as the desire to see these special creatures is overwhelming. The group are so encouraging and the gang keeps each other going!

Suddenly Placide is chatting frantically on the radio, the trackers have found our group. They are just up ahead.

We come to and opening and group of men are sitting around waiting for us. Placide tells us to leave our bags with the porters.

We can't take our poles as they aggravate the Gorillas, due to past encounters with humans they associate them with machetes used by hunters, so they are weary of anything that is long and sharp in human hands is threatening to them. My heart breaks when I hear this, why are humans so cruel!

Another 10 minutes, this time a path hasn't been cleared and as we clamber through the forest, Placide suddenly stops and points to his right, OMG there tucked in a little pocket of open bush is the most amazingly huge Gorilla, bending over and grooming a second who is curled up and face hidden. I am speechless... I actually cry with joy!

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First sighting... The Alpha!

The sheer size of him, the power in those muscles, and yet he is so gentle with her. Apparently she is the newest female member of the group, so she is getting extra special attention from him.

We can't see her face yet, but his is in direct view. He grunts and makes her roll over. He sits up and leans against a tree, and you can hear the wood crack.

His is amazing his, the power in those shoulders, she lies on her back with her eyes closed clearly loving the attention.

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What a first sighting...
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I can't believe this!

He moves around her and his back is to us, and you can see where they get their name, the silver stripe on his back is clearly visible now.

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I can't believe how close we are!
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Speechless!

A second female cautiously approaches, she ignores us and watches them closely. He grunts at her and she pauses, before slowly coming a little closer to them. She stops and respectfully sits with them while his focus is still on the new comer.

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She approaches cautiously
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She watches...
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then backs away!
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He's so gentle!

We move around as quietly as possible so we can get a better view. We almost miss another female tucked in a bush sleeping, she is so well hidden! She is laying on her side her back to us and she doesn't even bother to acknowledge our presence. We move around a little further and she comes into full view!

OMG there is two of them. there is a mass of black fur tucked in a ball squeezed in tight under the trees!

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We almost stepped on her!

We find a clearing and get a great view of of our Alpha His full concentration is on the his female companion and he ignores us.

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She looks quite content!
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It's very sweet!

She rolls over and sits up and suddenly his face is in full view. He grunts at her as she moves, he sits up and we get to see how big he really is. He lets out a big sigh and leans against a tree, there is a loud thud upon impact. He just stares at her for awhile, you can hear his deep breathing.

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He watches her...
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I am awestruck!

His strong face is a shiny black in stark contrast to his fuzzy grey streaked hair. His eyes are pitch black and has I kind of sad look to his features. He is so handsome. His hands are huge!

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Such a strong face
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With a gentle expression!
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What a privilege to witness this
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His grooming is an acceptance!

He encourages her back and continues with the grooming. Watching them I feel so blessed and saddened at the same time, these amazing animals have been hunted to near extinction and here I am, they are letting me be apart of their lives even if it is for a moment!

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He has a gentleness about him!
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He is simply breathtaking!
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He truly  is magnificent!

He knows we are here, but he is unbothered by our presence, he just doesn't care, he is focused on her.

Leaving them in peace we move through the thick forest and come to a large opening and there in the dip of the valley sitting in the middle of a tree top, like a king in it's tower is a juvenile. It is just the the cutest funniest sight. He turns and looks at us, before he clambers down, seeming to slip and regaining his grip he swings around the trunk and disappears. You can't help but laugh as he tumbles clumsily down the tree.

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Would you look at that!
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"What you looking at humans!"

We move away from the ridge and climb up into another clearing. And what a sight, it takes my breath away. A mother and baby sitting there in the clearing. He sits on her lap and hugs her side.

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What a beautiful sight!

There is a stick in is mouth, OMG those eyes and that fuzzy hair, it is just the most adorable thing! All of 4 months old!

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Mums not worried about us, at all!
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They look right at us!

I sit in on the edge of the clearing to let the others get a view. I cannot take my eyes off them. Behind them tucked behind a tree is the Alphas younger brother. It is his job to watch out for the infants, so he keeps a watchful eye on mum and baby.

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If that's not the cutest face ever!
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Simply Awestruck!

I am filming when they decided to move, they are heading straight for us, I try to shuffle back to let them pass but our guide Placide grabs my jacket and pulls me back whispering in my ear "watch out he is close behind".

They are so close I could reach out and touch them, as they go by they look straight at me and my heart stops at the sight of that adorable little face.

Not far behind is the male and you can hear him snorting as he goes by, he doesn't even bother to look at us, he knows he's in charge here. The muscles in those shoulders no wonder Placide was being cautious.

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The Alphas little brother!

I was so focused on the mother and baby I hadn't notice him come out from the trees, I am frozen with amazement!

They saunter off and disappear out of sight and I breathe again. That has to be one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It feels so surreal like this is all dream and I will wake up soon!

We quietly follow them and she has come to rest. Lying on her side the little one is sitting on the ground feeding, so small compared to mum, all we see is the back of it's fuzzy little head. What a gorgeous sight. So precious!

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Precious Family!

There is another Gorilla behind them with her back turned to us, and when she moves the baby stops drinking and turns toward us, AWWW there is that gorgeous little face, those eyes you just fall in love instantly!

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That face...Adorableness!

It is hard to leave this beautiful family I could watch them all day, Placide encourages to move away and as we camber through the bush making our way back to the Alpha.

We come across another female, she is so chilled! Lazing in a clearing, laying on her back with her hands behind her head, just like we would on a Sunday afternoon!

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Not a care in the world

She just opens her eyes looks at us, shuffles a little and goes straight back to sleep, without a care in the world! WOW!

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Totally unfazed by us

She is so adorable, Placide whispers that she is still quite young, yeap you can tell she has that teenager vibe about her, and she seems smaller than some of the others we have seen.

We let her sleep, and make our way back to the Alpha and his lady friend. They are laying together, his arm around her protectively, its like a big bundle of black fur.

He lets out a huge fart and it is difficult not to burst out in uncontrollable laughter, they whole group is giggling you just can't help it!

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Such a wonder experience watching this family!

Placide is trying to round us up to head back, but no one wants to leave, can you blame us! I just can't get enough of the spectacular scene I am witnessing!

But sadly we head back to where our porters are waiting for us. The group is quiet, we just sit around whispering in amazement while we eat our lunch, I was so enthralled by the Gorillas I forgot that my stomach was empty and queasy, and still don't want to eat, but I force down some salad and a banana, I will need the energy it is a long way down!

Slowly we clamber down the mountain, our porters help us to climb over fallen trees and steady us on muddy trails, it is slippery and steep, the mood is jovial and after what we have just witnessed it is not surprising.

We are wet, muddy and every muscle in my legs ache but you cant help but laugh and smile. We loose the only male of our troop and we call out to him all the way down, a feeling of unease has come over the group, we are in wilds of Africa. we find him chilling at the bottom of the mountain by the gate, and yes he got a major telling off!

It starts to rain as we make our way through the village farms and by the tome we get back to the truck we are soaking wet but it hasn't dampened our mood.

We say good bye to our porters, I really think I would never have made it without Emmanuel's help.

We stop at small group of curious shops where we are presented with certificates each has our names and the name of the gorilla family we visited, YEAP this is so going up on the wall.

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Proof

The rain has finally subsided and one of the girls takes me to a gallery where a local artist teaches women how to paint mixing traditional African fabric to make beautiful works of art, so they can earn a living through a new sill, and I cant help myself and make another purchase. Still haven't got the hang of this bartering thing!

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I couldn't help myself

By the time we get back to the Hostel we are all cold and tired. The hot shower feels so good on aching muscles. We sit around chatting excitedly as we eat dinner, but after a long amazing day and a repack of the rucksack sleep comes easily.

OCTOBER 11TH 2017 DAY 12

We leave Rwanda toady and cross back into Uganda, today is another long drive and border crossing.

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Thanks for the wonderful memories!

We stop once again for snack and essential shopping, before heading off back to Kampala, this time we avoid the city center traffic chaos and stop for lunch.

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Local Supermarket!
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Such presentation

It has been a long drive when we finally make to our campsite in Mbarara, which is on the grounds of beautiful colonial hotel.

I am still not feeling well so I skip dinner and head straight to bed!

OCTOBER 12TH 2017 DAY 13

Another long drive today as we make our way to Jinga situated on the Nile.

I feel so rotten I cant get anything I eat to stay in my stomach. So sleep is my only option. I wake just in time to cross the Nile, we have been warned by Darlene not to take photos of the bridge for security reasons.

Our camp ground is on the river bank just out of Jinga and it is a lovely spot. Vervet monkeys jump around in the trees as we set up camp. I upgrade tonight so I don't disturb my tent buddy.

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The Nile

Our campsite has a fantastic view, we are right on the river and the bar over looks the bungee jump platform, they also offer white water rafting and even if I wasn't sick I wouldn't be doing either, I like my life!

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View From The  Bar!

The room is actually a tent that has been set under a thatch roof, a bamboo permanent structure with everything you need for a very comfortable couple of days and so cute, "glamping" and all I cant think is "OMG a real bed!" and its close to the bathroom!

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Don't have to put this up!

I sleep for a while and let the tablets I was so kindly given for my "upset stomach" kick in.

The local troop of Vervet monkeys join us for dinner and as w e are setting up they try to steal food straight off the tables!

I join the group for dinner and try some toast is the only thing I can stomach!

Later I head to the bar and sit in the sun making use of the wifi when there is a sudden down pour of rain, it is so sudden and there is no way I am walking back to my room in this, so I stay in the bar with our guide Darlene and one of the other girls, I call my family and let them know I am still alive, haven't been eaten by lions!

The rain subsides and I head to bed.

The miracle drugs wear off and sleep is not my constant companion the bathroom is!!!

OCTOBER 13TH 2017 DAY 14

I try to sleep in but that doesn't happen.

The others on the tour have gone white water rafting, so I just spend the morning resting.

While I help with the tidy up the Vervet monkeys watch and wait for their chance to help themselves, watching biding their time until the desire .
the fresh produce becomes too strong

Cosmas trying to keep them at bay is just hilarious, they aren't giving up and one actually managed to get it's hands on a banana and just sits boldly on the table munching away!

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Banana Theif

Once again it is toast for breakfast and a lot of liquids, I am hoping I will be OK for the afternoons outing.

I sleep a little and get some washing done, hand washing is becoming quite second nature!

As 4pm rolls around am feeling well enough to go on a organized evening activity.

Our driver picks us up and we drive to the outskirts of Jinga. The suburbs change from humble housing to opulent large houses, bougainvillea climbs large fences, the streets are lined with trees. the streets seem quiet compared to hustle and bustle of the city center.

We arrive at a backpackers situated on the river bank and wait for our banana boat.

Our boat slowly pulls up to the jetty, it is covered and basic but looks comfortable.

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Our Bannana Boat

Our driver or should I say captain is quite young which I wasn't expecting. You can't help but giggle as his fancy bright green sneakers are in stark contrast to his "Winne the Pooh" T-shirt"

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Our Guide

His knowledge of the rivers history and traditions is extensive. Because bananas are the national product of Uganda the boats were designed to maneuver the river to trade up and down the river.

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What a way to spend an evening

The British built the first bridge of steel but is now nothing but ruins, and all that is left are the man made islands that they built to slow down the flow of the river.

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Island in the Nile!

There are birds of all varieties, beautiful tiny Kingfishers sit waiting for signs of fish at the surface of the water. Cormorant birds line the banks spreading the wings out to dry. Not the prettiest bird in the world!

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Comerant Bird

Tiny colorful birds flutter about from tree to tree, making them difficult to photograph.

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Bright & Beautiful

Huge black and yellow Water Monitors creep along the rocky shore, one is stalking a bird who seems to have no idea it's about to be dinner.
Another is munching on fresh water crab, the are the size of a small crocodile, but not as deadly!

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Munching  Away!

Alone cheeky Otter swims past the boat bobbing in and out of the water, it is so close to the boat we can see it's whiskers, so cute!

We pass a group of local school children visiting the monument to Mahatma Ghandi set on the river banks.

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Mahatma Ghandi Monumet!

We glide past the man made islands some have structures built in traditional African styles, one has a restroom which admittedly doesn't look too inviting.

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Island Restrooms!

It really is a bird paradise here and they flock into trees the sound of their chirping is deafening, on some islands the bird density is so high that they all blend into one big blob.

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Room for one more!

We come towards another island which sits next to the Nile source, and you have to give credit for the ingenuity of the African entrepreneur, as it's a souvenir shop. We stop and stretch our legs, the rickety jetty to this little shack shakes under foot. How did he build this on such small little rocky, well island?

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sland Shopping
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A little browsing!

The source of the Nile is approaching, it is a small under ground spring that fills the Nile. It is called the Victoria Nile because of the point where the river begins to flow from Lake Victoria and out to the Mediterranean Sea, it takes 3 months for the water to flow from this point to sea covering 6400km.

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Here we are...

The river opens up to the wide mouth of Lake Victoria. Fish farms dot the horizon as the sunsets.

Fishing here is the lowest form of work, as the majority of the population are land dwellers and are superstitious of water spirits that take people away never to be seen again. Our captain explains that some people today still call upon these spirits to help with private issues, such as a cheating spouse, you can't help but laugh, as he tells us the spirits will come and steal the accused away. the chanting that can be heard from the shoreline adds a kind of airy foreboding to the tale.

The sky darkens and the suns rays pierce the clouds giving the skyline a bronze glow.

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Nile Sunset

We turn around taking in the views of lake Victoria (which we have seen from the other side when we were on our boat cruise in the National park)

Along the shore line houses dot the cliffs giving them spectacular views of the river.

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Lake Victoria!

Further along a group of boys wash down their motorbikes in the river.

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Local Bike Wash

We cross the river to the opposite bank and pass the local petting zoo and riverside cafes.

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River side cafes!

Just before we pull into shore we are given a great view of the bridge we crossed to get into Jinja.

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Evening Views

After thanking our young captain, we head out to the van and it is dark by the time we reach the campsite. everyone is settling down to dinner and most are bruised and battered from the rafting trip, which makes me glad I didn't go.

I sit with them attempting to eat a little rice, the local stray cat has become my friend and is curled up on my lap (they know who feeds them) But once my furry dinner companion departs I head off to bed.

OCTOBER 14TH 2017 DAY 15

Getting up and organized to go was really difficult. I feel so weak and queasy. I was up half the night going back and forth to the bathroom it was not fun!

Darlene sets up a mattress on the floor at the front of the truck, and one of the boys gives me a tablet to stop me from going to the bathroom every
hour!. Every bump in the road hurts but the tablets kick in and I sleep.

To be honest the boarder crossing is a little fuzzy, I know we did I have the stamp in passport to prove it just don't remember going thru the motions.

We finally make it back to Elderot, the rain is a constant drizzle and once again I opt for an upgrade. I just don't have the energy to put up a tent.

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Glad it's not me tonight!

Darlene has laid down the law and says if I am not any better by the time we get to Nairobi she making me go to hospital.

We sit around the fire, having one of Cosmos fantastic dinners, for some their tour ends tomorrow.

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Relaxing Final NIght

Darlene has a tradition at the end of every tour everyone has a turn at telling the group what they are thankful for and what is the highlight of the trip. For me I am thankful to be here and to experience Africa at it's fullest, and as for a highlight how can I pick one... I can't!

I try to stay up as long as possible but after a cup of tea I bid the group goodnight and head to bed.

OCTOBER 15TH 2017 DAY16

OMG it is hard to get going this morning, a hot shower helps a little! Thanks to my to my travel companions most of the packing up is done and I just collapse on the mattress at the front of the truck, I take some more tablets and just sleep.

I wake up and we are in the Rift Valley, I have slept for 7 hours! We have stopped to meet up with another Intrepid truck on the side of the road. I stretch my wobbly legs and take in the views of wildlife farms.

We continue on and stop at group of shops, oh how I would love some fresh pastries about now but instead opt for a coffee and a bottle of lemonade, ugh I am so over this!

Once back on the road I find my spot on the mattress and try to read a bit the bumpy road that climbs out of the rift valley jolts me awake from my snooze, so I sit with Darlene and watch The Rift Valley below. I can't help but smile it is truly a magnificent place!

Slowly we make our way out and Nairobi opens up before us, back into the hustle and bustle of this chaotic city.

We finally make back to our hotel 'The Kenya Comfort Suite' and Darlene piles me into a taxi giving the driver strict instructions to take me to the hospital and to wait for me, LOL I love that she worries!

It is very modern and well organized, I check in with a nurse get a number. It isn't along wait until I see a doctor and she is a lovely local women with a big smile and the personality to match. After giving me the once over she sends me off for tests, the hospital is well sign posted and I find where I need to go with ease.

I am asked to give a "solid sample" but those tablets have well and truly done their job and so i walk around outside drink a lot of water and after what seams like and eternity I finally have my sample.

Heading back to the waiting room it is long before the doctor calls me back, it's not a virus she seems to think it is a bout of food poisoning and gives me something for the nausea and pain, but tells me I must let my system clear itself and gives me tablets for that too, with a strict warning not to take anything else, plus dry foods for the next few days, ugh!

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My Evening

By the time I get back to the hotel I have missed the trip meet for the next part of the tour. My friends from trip one have put my bags into my room, bless their hearts.

I sit in the bar with the group it's our last night together, I have a pot of tea, what I would give for a beer! Only 5 of us are continuing on so we say goodbye to the others, and I head up to my room.

I meet my new room mate for the night she is lovely bubbly girl from Adelaide and has given me the bed by the bathroom, as everyone has heard of my whoas, great! W chat for a bit and I crash those drugs are kicking in and I am starting to feel better!

Posted by TracingTheWorld 01:05 Archived in Rwanda Comments (0)

A BOARDER CROSSING & AMAZING WILDLIFE

KENYA TO UGANDA

sunny
View EPIC AFRICA 2017 on TracingTheWorld's travel map.

OCTOBER 3RD 2017 DAY 4

Woke up really early it was cold last night, but the pancake breakfast soon warms me up. It is going to be another lovely sunny day.

We hit the road at around 7.30am and everyone is still a bit sleepy. Today is a long drive 9 hours.

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Settled in for a long drive!

We start to see more of the traditional huts mixed with more modern brick houses. The terrain becomes drier and the crops change to suit the conditions, corn and banana fields dominate the horizon.

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Fantastic Views!
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Country Life!

The small towns seem quiet at first glance, but people sit in the shade of the shops chatting and relaxing getting relief from the mid morning sun. Each shop is brightly painted advertising products that have been long forgotten at home. Hand made wooden stalls line the roadside, then motorbikes, bicycles congregate at the road intersections their riders greeting one another with big smiles.

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Beautiful Little Farms!
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Waiting for Public Transport!

As we get closer to the boarder it becomes hilly and green again.

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Roadside Shopping!
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How do they do it?

The road suddenly becomes busy trucks are everywhere, mini vans are crammed with people and piled high with bags and suitcases... Ah we are at the Border control.

This place is hectic!

Darlene instructs us on the process and we are not to take any photos. She has also arranged for someone to meet us so we can exchange our Kenyan Shilling for Ugandan Shilling. We line up with the locals to sign out of Kenya. There are people everywhere, women in beautiful traditional colored dresses, men in crisp clean shirts walk among the trucks, buses and mini vans dodging puddles left from last nights rain.

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Morning Traffic Morning Greetings!
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Police Stations Along the Highway!

Kindly they open up an extra window for us, and once we have our departure stamp we head over to the next window in the same small brick building. The Ugandan officer is hilarious, cracking jokes with a big smile. Stamped! We are officially in Uganda. Ben has taken the truck through control and we clamber back on, we officially crossed the the boarder at 11.32am.

Next stop Kampala.

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Ride Sharing!

As you watch the scenery pass by it is very different to Kenya. There seems to be a lack of infrastructure, deep trenches are dug parallel to the road and are crossed by rickety wooden bridges. The shops like in Kenya line the road in a variety of bright colors, they sell everything and I mean everything... furniture to coffins!

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They Really do Sell Everything!

It is quite dry here and the towns are busy, just like in Kenya the main mode of transport are motorbikes. Children excitedly wave as we drive by.

Traditional huts begin to mix with a modern style of home, with pillars lining the front facade. I ask Darlene about these mansions seem out of place among the majority of humble dwellings. This style of building comes from the Indian settlers before they were forced to leave Uganda by the former dictator in the 1970s Idi Amin (remember the movie 'The Last King of Scotland')

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Quaint little homesteads!

After a quick stop in Iganga for a spot of shopping (Cosmas needs to stock up the food supplies again) and a latte, got to get them while you can! We make our way to Kampala.

The scenery changes again to wide green farmland of sugarcane, tea and bananas planted on rolling hillsides.

The drive is steady on the main highway until you get to the busy towns with the locals casually going about their daily routine.

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They love using bright colors!

Kampala is crazy, the amount traffic is unbelievable, cars fight for space with motorbikes, no one wears helmets and in this traffic I don't understand why you wouldn't, it is madness!

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Entering crazy Kampala!

It takes over an hour maneuvering through the city to get to the hotel, but it was worth the wait. It is a lovely place with a pool and once we have found our rooms and got our gear, we all meet to help with dinner.

Darlene introduces us to a guy who can design T shirts to commemorate the trip. We all chose the style and what we want printed on it, we will pick up along the way once they are done.

We have a swim before dinner and the view from the pool is amazing, overlooking the suburbs and beyond of Kampala. After the wonder swim I go off for a shower, I know not exciting stuff....

But as I am about to leave I discover the lock has jammed and is totally broken... Great now I am stuck in the shower, I shout out a few times but no one hears me, so after 10-15 minutes there is nothing for it I have to break the door down... Ha that will never happen, so I push the door until the lock breaks! Sorry 'Red Chili Hotel' if you found a broken lock on the 5th shower door on the right that was me, apologies!

After dinner we sit by the pool and get to know each other better over a drink or four. We head up to the hotel bar after the poolside bar closes. Sitting outside I meet two lovely local women and chat to them for a while. They are gorgeous and listening to what life is like here in Uganda makes me appreciate what I have. Their openness and honesty is refreshing.

The night air becomes cool so I head off to bed, it was a long drive today and we have another one tomorrow.

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Sorry about the shower door!

OCTOBER 4TH 2017 DAY 5

It is still dark when we get up, and I am not feeling great... yeah I knew I wouldn't be, and of course I got tangled in the mosquito netting during the night!

Breakfast is greeted with a beautiful pink and gold sunrise over the mist covered valley below. A gorgeous aqua blue kingfisher sits perched on the pool ladder watching us curiously.

Everyone is so quiet this morning... hmm I wonder why?

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Sunrise, we rise!

Finally we drive out of the city, the same way we entered. To be honest it is good to be out in the ever changing countryside once again.

The landscape is flat with perfectly sectioned farmland, even though it is dry the farms are thriving. The drive out of the city is utter craziness. Kampala early morning traffic is stop and start motorbikes dodge taxis and minivans. Families of up to five are squeezed on to motorbikes, this is nuts! But it doesn't seem to faze them at all.

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Long Drive With Beautiful Scenery!

Our next stop is at Equator, the road is lined with curio shops on both sides. This is a first for me and I will admit I do the typical tourist thing and do the whole Equator sign photo pose.

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Yes, I do the typical tourist thing!
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The Actual Equator!

We do a spot of shopping at this amazing shop that is has the most beautiful range of paintings, fear of running out of wall space in my small apartment I refrain from buying another one (to this day I regret not buying the black and white Leopard).

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The Shops at the Equator!
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Shopping... So fun!

Some of us wonder along popping in and out of the various shops, the women are friendly each vying for our attention, but without being too pushy and giving us time to browse.

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A great sign... For their future!

It takes Darlene a while to round us all up for the last half of the drive to Kalinzu Forest for the night.

Uganda becomes green and hilly covered banana trees and jack fruit the size of rugby balls. Tea plantations start to appear the higher up we go. Women in brightly colored clothes carrying baskets on their backs trim the tips. This view goes on for mile after mile, so green and beautiful.

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Lush Tea Fields!

Just as we arrive at our campsite on the edge of the Kalinzu Forest for the night, it starts to rain, so we shelter in the camps only common room until it stops. It has suddenly become quite cold and we scramble to set up the tents before it rains again.

Luckily for us it doesn't rain again so we sit around the fire eating another fantastic dinner trying to warm up.

Piling on the layers tonight as it has turned really cold and everything feels damp. This high altitude is making me feel queasy!

OCTOBER 5TH 2017 DAY 6
It was freezing last night, and I feel so groggy this morning!

We have a light snack breakfast before we are split up into two groups and head off into the depths of the rain forest. It is dense and damp but our guide Lawrence leads us along a well traveled path.

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Lawrence, Chimpanzee Extraordinaire!

We clamber over fallen logs to cross streams our boots get stuck in mud and the trees still glisten damp from last nights rain. It is hot and muggy and the higher we get the more the altitude begins to take effect. Still no sign of any primates.

Then with a flurry of branches above Colobus Monkeys appears. So cute with a fuzzy black face and striking white markings. The long tail have a tuft of white fur on the end. They scatter quickly up into the dense canopy at the sound of our arrival.

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Curious Colobus Monkey!

As we continue on our guide Lawrence is in continuous contact via radio to the tracking team. After only 2 hours we stop, a family of Chimpanzees are right above our heads high up in the canopy.

There is a baby with his mother and he is so cute! His wide eyes staring down at us. The novelty of our arrival soon wears off and Mum is having a hard time holding on to him. He breaks free from her grasp and clumsily swings on flimsy branches.

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Does she have a...
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... OMG yes a baby AWWW!
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"Get back here young man!"

He breaks free and is off chasing a Red Tailed Monkey and they are quick. According to Lawrence this is unusual as the two species are normally natural enemies.

They stay up in the tree tops warming themselves in the sun, they won't come down to the ground after the rains it is too cold and damp, don't blame them!

We strain our necks watching this troop, there are 5 of them, some of them just sit and watch us and others move from tree to tree.

They are amazing , their hands and feet so human like.

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Why, hello there!

We are joined by the second group, who are chatting so loudly that some of them scatter. But one shows their annoyance by peeing on their heads, and it is not just a steady stream, it is a full on shower. It takes every ounce of my being not to erupt into laughter! Serves them right! Never seen anyone move so fast!

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NO, I won't come down!

After a while we leave them in peace and make our way back to camp, in the mid morning sun the forest has turned into a sauna, but we are all smiles and why wouldn't we be! I am a little sun burnt which is surprising considering how dense the forest canopy is. A Blue Tailed Monkey is our last sighting of the morning, and he is off up into the trees so quickly, I wonder how Lawrence can even tell what species it is, to me it is just a flash of black!

We finally make it out of the forest to the edge of a tree plantation. Some of the fields are over 50 years old. They spread out as far as the eye can see.

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Cuppa Anyone!

Women are working in the fields and I stop to watch them for a while. They trim the tips with this tool that is a cross between a pair of scissors and a scoop, when the plastic container is full they throw over their shoulder into the basket on their back.

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The Tea Ladies!
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Fields as far as the eye can see!
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Hard Work!
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That's gotta be a good cuppa!

As we arrive into camp Cosmas is there to greet us, and he has breakfast ready upon our arrival, and the coffee is on, this man is awesome, he knows us so well!

We enjoy a lovely pancake brunch with of course bananas!

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Welcome Back!

As we are packing up the tents a troop of Baboons pop into camp for a visit, hoping we leave some goodies behind.

They are unfazed by us, but keep their distance while going about their business.

One has the tiniest little baby with ears too big for it's head, she clings on to it and it squirms to get free.

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Clinging on!
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Loving Mum!
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Look at those ears!

A larger male runs right the through our small camp and scrambles half way up a tree and just sits there staring at us. When one of the girls gets a little too close he grunts and growls at us before taking off the safety of the forest.

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So close you could reach out and touch it... but I wouldn't!
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Kinda cute... but they bite!

Thank goodness today is the last of the 9 hour drives. We wind our way through emerald green hills covered with bountiful farmland.

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Beautiful views along the way!

We stop at a Village and people flock to the truck, children gather and wave, one even wants to show off his bike which is nearly as big as he is.
Their smiles are infectious and they are curious about the truck full of Westerners that have suddenly appeared.

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Busy, friendly locals!
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Greeted by the locals!
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He is so proud of that bike!

There are large bunches of bananas everywhere, jack fruit grows on trees lining the street. The shops are basic but they sell everything you need.

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Local Export!

I love the way they pile the fresh fruit onto bikes and carts, and in this hilly terrain it is not any easy job getting the produce to market.

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Off to market...!
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Jack Fruit!

When Cosmas gets out to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables, he is suddenly mobbed by women, carrying baskets of goods, jostling for his attention, all you can see is his head among a crowd of color. He tries his best to purchase something from all of them, and the next time I go shopping he is definitely coming with me as his haggling skills are impressive!

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Shopping Ugandan Style!

We say goodbye to this lovely little village and make our way to the edge of Queen Elizabeth National Park.

We are greeted with the most amazing view, the park spreads out before us! We stop for a while and take it all in. You can actually see Elephant in the distance roaming through the trees.

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Queen Elizabeth NP
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Our beautiful guide, Darlene!

This is the last part of our drive through here to get to our camp... I can think of worse things!
OMG it is spectacular, over 1987 square kilometers, dense green forests and wide open plans speckled with trees and the middle of it all a huge lake! Looking out it is hard to believe that this is an extinct volcano! This is view is so Africa, just like I imagined!

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Great views if you live here!

I can't wait to get down there!

We drive down into the valley below through a small village perched on the hillside. This is a main road that goes through to The Congo and it saddens me that people are driving so fast.

We only 10 minutes into the park when in the distance we see Elephants wandering through the trees, my first sighting of one in the wild, number 3 of the big five!

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First Elephant Sighting In The Wild!

One of the group throws a banana skin out the window (ignoring Darlenes rule about littering) this causes a frenzy and a large Baboon actually chases the truck and with an almighty spring jumps up onto the truck wing mirror and reaches through the window to grab Ben the drivers Banana, everyone shrieks with laughter as Ben frantically tries to wind up the window.

It is so funny, but they can be so vicious!

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Watch out if you've got food...!
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Tricky little bugger!
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Vervet Monkey just chilling!

Herds of Ugandan Cob stop and stare at us as we drive by, beautiful copper coats and flickering white ears.

I am hanging out the window trying to get a glimpse of... well anything!

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Beautiful Ugandan Cob!

We stop at the official park entrance where the Equator line that runs through the park. We are being watched by 2 local boys who want to take photos with us... for a price of course! And that price is lollies. Cheeky little buggers!

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Cheeky Cuties!

We take a group photo with the sign before heading off into the park to our campsite by the lake.

We turn off the main road and head towards the lake. The road becomes bumpy and makes for slow going.

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The Group!
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Our fantastic cook, Cosmas!

A Bushbuck leaps onto the road and dashes off into the bushes, we are very fortunate to see one as there are only 29 left in this park. Her beautiful copper coat is dappled with white spots over her back and racing stripes on her legs. what a privilege to spot one here.

Further along a bull Elephant just appears in an opening, just standing there staring at us as the truck stops, she is so chilled about our presence. Her ears flap slowly as she watches us. Her right tusk is shorter than the left. Darlene explains that they use one side more than the other for digging and stripping bark, so she is right handed.

I can't stop smiling... Who would have thought something so simple as an Elephant in the wild could bring me such happiness, I can't wait experience more of this unbelievable land!

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OMG Another One!

After a few minutes an adolescent pops it head out from behind the bushes, OMG so cute! Too shy to come out into the clearing, it watches carefully. There are more among the scrub slowly moving about, how can such large animals be so quiet the only noise you here is the rustling of the trees!

We continue along the bumpy dirt road passing ruins of old stores that the Indian settlers left behind, now just shells being taken back by the nature that surrounds them, you can almost imagine how they once looked in the past.

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Remnants of Uganda's Bygone Era!

Driving around the edge of the volcano crater there are herds of buffalo wandering along the waters edge. It is a massive crater I know that these volcanoes are connected to the ones in the Congo, which erupted in the 1990s, is this one still active...HMMM!

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The Volcano Crater!
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Water Buffalo Gathering!

In the sandy dry ground these strange cactus trees are growing everywhere, the Candelabra Tree has huge deadly needles with beautiful pink and yellow flowers, Weaver birds flutter around them or sit perched on the tips soaking up the sun.

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Candelabra Trees!

We finally arrive at the village where we are staying on the shore of Lake Edward. The large school shares the lake edge with the wildlife, we stop and stretch our legs, Hippo footprints dot the sand.

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Hippo Footprint!

Out in the water a group of hippos lounge in the water, while right in front of them a few meters away 3 boys are swimming, laughing and shrieking without a care in the world. WOW you won't get me in there not with the number one killer in Africa! I guess man and nature have got used to living together here!

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First Hippo Sighting!

We head to the campsite and have to navigate our way through a herd of cows with these massive horns, these Ankolle cows are prized by the President of Uganda who has the biggest herd in the country, how do they lift their heads up! Boys herd them along through the village laughing and waving at us.

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Prized Ankolle Cows!

Our campsite is basic but has this open thatched roof meeting area and bar with big comfy sofas. After we set up camp it is time for a shower, the water is warm but it is so hot today that the cool water is feels good. With some spare time before dinner some of us take the opportunity to do some washing, I hang it on the tree outside my tent, it's been a long time since I had to do hand washing!

After dinner we sit in the bar trying to use the spotty wifi, Darlene warns us to be careful at night as Hippos can wander through the camp... Here's hoping!

OCTOBER 6TH 2017 DAY 7

Woke up to another beautiful day, no wandering wildlife through the camp last night.

As we head out to go on a morning game drive we once again have to share the road with the local boys and their herds of Ankolle cows. We drive out on the same bumpy road we arrived on yesterday.

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Safari Excited!

We have to stop to watch an Elephant that is making her way towards the road, she stops assesses the truck before stepping towards us, she is so close to the truck you can see her eyelashes.

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WOW would you look at that!
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Come closer!
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Hello GORGEOUS!

We stop at the park entrance and while Darlene is registering our visit, we make use of the Facilities as there is no getting out of the truck when inside the reserve, it is a beautiful morning and I have a grin from ear to ear!

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Here we go!

As soon as we enter the vast lush green reserve, yet another elephant makes an appearance it stops by a bush and looks at us for a bit... slowly realizing we are not a threat makes their way closer, I am spell bound... how can you not be!
It comes to the verge of the road and just stares at us for a while before wandering off in the distance, ears slowly flapping... it is only 9.30am!

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Another one...!
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Is that your little one hiding!?!
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Hey there
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Watches us...!
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Ears slowly flapping!
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Oh you are simply magnificent!
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How blessed do I feel!

Just a few minutes down the road and Ben stops, the rest of the heard are crossing the road behind the truck, making their way to the waters edge for a morning drink.

I lean as far out of the truck window as I can to get a better look!

They clamber up the embankment, they seem so clumsy on such strong legs that you can't help but chuckle!

Slowly they wander thru the long grass into the distance!

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There's more!
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And more....
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What a sight!

WOW we haven't even gotten into the actual park yet!

A short drive and we stop for what Darlene says is "the last toilet stop for the morning so make the most of it!" so we do!

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Guard post and check in!
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Last toilet stop of the morning!

The National Park is so green, the grass is thick and lush and the whole place seems to sparkle in the morning sun! I am so happy I can't stop grinning!

Suddenly a Hyena darts among the bushes. It has something dragging from its mouth, head turning from side to side, checking to make sure it's not being followed, one glimpse and it's gone! I wasn't expecting them to be so big!

The sun is quickly warming up the morning as we pass more Ugandan Cob, a female Waterbuck stands ridged in open clearing. The complainers are at it again, as we haven't seen any Lions, REALLY, we just watched a herd of Elephants cross the road right in front of truck and saw a Hyena dragging it's breakfast, seriously, how ungrateful can you be!

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Morning Nap!
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They dot the horizon!
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On the lookout!
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Female Waterbuck, such a pretty girl!

Warthogs scamper into the bushes at the sound of the truck.

Ben suddenly stops the truck to let a Water Monitor cross the road, it looks so awkward scurrying through the grass.

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Water Monitor Lizard!

We pass Water Buffalo lazing in the sun, they simply stare at truck, the only movement is the flicking of the ears and tail!

The chattering of some of the group disturbs them and they clamber to their feet, I'd be annoyed to if someone disturbed my rest... this is quiet time people!

They are such hefty creatures, as sedate as they are, they are quite dangerous, let's just say I wouldn't want to get their way!

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Lazy lot!
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"What you looking at?"
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"Humans... so disturbing!"
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"Let's go boys!"

Everywhere we go these wonderful little yellow and black birds fly around the truck , their nests look like Christmas decorations hanging delicately in the trees.

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Weaver Birds!

The Weaver bird female has the right idea, the males make a nest and waits for her to inspect his work, if she doesn't like it, she moves on to the next one until she finds the perfect home to have a family, mean while the poor rejected male will destroy and rebuild the nest, hard work if your the male!

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Building the perfect home...
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... for that special lady!
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Waiting for a friend!

We stop for a mid morning coffee at Curio Shops and make shift cafes that have a wonderful view of a small volcano crater lake, there are many in the reserve.

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Shopping stop!

We wonder around the shops enjoying the mid morning sun, the coffee is strong... and I mean mouth numbing strong... whoa if the beautiful scenery doesn't keep me awake the coffee certainly will!

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Coffee and a great view!

The break over we head out into the wilds once again. Darlene has to round us all up. So it's back to the truck, yes of course I bought a few things, gotta support the local traders!

We pass another small herd of Water Buffalo, and these guys have actually found a spot of water for a mid morning wallow.

The usual suspects are complaining about the lack of lion sightings... of course they are! Me I am as happy as those wallowing Buffalo... I love this!

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Wallowing with friends...
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... what a way to spend the morning...
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... yeap it's the life!

Darlene has been in constant contact with other groups in the park trying to get any information on the location of Lions. She must have got some good Intel as we stop in the middle of nowhere and she seems to be staring at one of those weird cactus trees.

We go a little closer and the Ugandan Cob seem to be on high alert. Darlene tell us that 3 Lioness are in the tree and that we are to stay quiet no sudden noises, (for some that will be impossible!). We get as close to the tree as possible.

At first they are hard to see as they are squeezed in among the spiky branches, but there they are. Our first lion sighting. We are so close you can see every detail! They are simply magnificent!

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OH WOW...look at that!
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First Lion sighting...
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... and they are stunning!
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They take my breathe away!

This may sound strange but one of the first things I think of is... "How did they squeeze into those branches?" and the second is "That can't be comfortable!"

Yet they are sound asleep the idling of the truck doesn't faze them at all!

I actually pinch myself... yeap this is real!

They look so serene and peaceful these wild huntress, wrapped in spiky branches sleeping in the morning sun!

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They are just so...
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They are just so...
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There's another one squeezed in there!
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How can you not be humbled!

Their coats are a dark copper and one has a collar. A tail dangles from a branch, and twitches as she sleeps. Two of them sleep side by side, one has her head turned towards us laying almost vertically, she is panting, tongue hanging out in the morning heat.

On the other side there is one stretched out along a branch head tucked in. They are simply breathtaking!

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Sleeping Beauty!
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Such a humbling experience!

I am lost for words, so awestruck to be in their presence, I can't take my eyes of them, they are so... well cat like just larger! And more Dangerous!

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Oh ladies...
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Is there another tucked in there?
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Someone has awakened...
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... and yet another is still sleeps!

I think there is more than 3 in there, 2 more are tucked in there behind the others, yeap when they get restless at the sound of constant whispering (What did Darlene say about absolute quiet!) their movements give away their locations!... 5 of them!

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She looks so uncomfortably hot!
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Yes, there's definitely another one tucked in there!
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Those markings!

Leaving them in peace, I exhale as I feel like I have been holding my breathe the whole time.

Everyone is quiet as we continue on, we don't see much on the way back to the campsite for lunch. The Wildlife sleeps during the midday heat. The odd Water Buffalo keeping them company and scattering Warthogs with tails in the air too quick to photograph, am I happy... YES I am, who wouldn't be!

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What unlikely friends these two are!

Driving out of the park and I just cannot stop smiling, what else is in store, this beautiful and wild continent has me falling in love and it is only day seven, there are surprises at every turn.

And the Surprises keep coming! Suddenly as we are driving down the main road a small herd of Elephants appear out of nowhere and wander across the road. A large female leads the way with a baby close on her heals, struggling to keep up on it's little legs . Mum stops briefly to look at us before she makes her way to the other side. When she turned and looked at us, her eyes caught my attention, they seemed old, but somehow filled with wisdom. There are about 12 of them scrambling to get up the bank before they disappear out of view on their way to lake.

Sadly my camera battery is flat and I couldn't capture the moment but with 30 plus more days in this beautiful continent I am sure there will be more to capture... plus the joy is in the sighting!

As we get back into town, a group of boys at the school are practicing military drills, here in Uganda this is compulsory for all boys at high school.
We have a quick lunch and we are off again. We jump in the truck and head to the lake for our afternoon cruise.

We at the top of a ridge and the lake sparkles below, you can just make out dark spots in the water, Hippos!

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Our afternoon destination!

The walk to the jetty is short and Darlene arranges our boats. She is obviously a regular here and holds the attention of the men who surround her. She becomes embarrassed when we mention that she has many admirers!
The group is split into 2, the noisy ones group together and five of us have a boat to ourselves.

The huge lake is split in 2, Lake Prince George is a protected reserve and the smaller Lake Prince Edward is where the locals are allowed to fish.

The lake is quiet, the water is a dark emerald green, we glide quietly and slowly to the other side, The first thing we see is a herd of Water Buffalo lounging on the shoreline, lazing in a closely packed group, safety in numbers I guess!

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Buffalo gathering...
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... for an afternoon soak!

As we glide around the shoreline we are getting very close to a herd of Hippos, some of them look up at as their beady black eyes just visible above the water. Then with a snort they disappear under a swish of water.

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Africas No:1 killer!

Watching them bobbing in and out of the water and jostle each other for space I now understand why a group is called a 'Bloat'... In their compact group they look like glistening blobs in the afternoon sun, only deadly!

Occasionally when they jostle each other, they grunt and make this weird grunting chuckle sound.

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Hippo Jostle!
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Don't fight there's plenty of lake for everyone!

They watch us suspiciously with eyes just above the water, are they too lazy to do anything about our presence or just used to the boats and human interaction?

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Taking a peak at the tourists!
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Think she told her friend we were here!
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A few more heads pop up!

They have such tiny ears on those big heads!

But there is one thing everyone wants to see... that famous Hippo yawn! So we watch and wait cameras at the ready... and we get lucky!

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OHHH here comes that yawn...
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Yeap there it is!
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That Famous Yawn!

What a life they have, lounging in the water all day, no one to bother them as they laze the day away!

They bustle about and that funny grunt they make fills the air, our driver moves a little closer to the group, ops sorry Bloat, but sitting on the side of the boat I am quietly hoping we don't get too close!

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Don't come any closer buddy!

Further along the shoreline becomes greener and Water Buffalo lounge in the shallow water, Oxpecker Birds perch on their hides cleaning ticks from their skin, what a beneficial friendships they have.

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Symbiotic Friendship!

One has a Pied Kingfisher on his horn watching the water intently. Even the flicking of the Buffaloes tail doesn't deter him from his mission to hunt down his next meal.

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Pied Kingfisher & Friend!

There is a third with a look of total bliss on it's face as a Oxpecker Bird cleans the flies from his eye. Now that's trust!

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Ahhhhh... That feels good!

A family of Warthogs scatter at the sound of the boat, their tails in the air like little flag poles! They look so comical it's actually a "follow me" signal when they sense danger.

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Warthog Bums!

This place is a bird watchers paradise, African Fish Eagles scan the ground from lofty perches, Pelicans closely together in the shallows occasionally flapping their large wings, Egrets and Black Storks scoop the water with long beaks.

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Proud Boy!
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A sweet little family of Egyptian Geese!
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A lone white Egret!

We pass a small Bloat of 5 Hippos, rather too closely I think!

Our guide points out that these maybe bachelors kicked out of the main herd, because they are a threat to the Alpha Bull, who likes to keep all the ladies for himself.

They actually don't seemed that bothered by us!

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Bachelor Bloat!

On the river bank a lone Hippo is grazing in the sun, this is not normal as they have very sensitive skin and burn very easily so don't usually leave the water until the sun starts to set when the air becomes cooler.
They are very awkward looking animals out of the water, very round and chubby, their stubby short legs are very deceiving as they can run very quickly when they have to! Lets just say you wouldn't wanna be in it's way!

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Hippo Out Of Water!

We come to a village the marks the boundary between the two lakes, fishermen are heading out in traditionally made canoes, they speed past us heading out to lake Prince Edward for an evenings fishing.

The rivers edge is packed with Pelicans, storks and Egrets struggle to get a spot amongst the crowd, definitely a bird spotters paradise!

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What do you call a group of Pelicans?

We reach the boarder between the two lakes out on the sparkling waters of Prince Edward Lake the fisherman that sped past us are out in the late afternoon sun, hoping for a good catch... good luck fellas!

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Prince Edward Lake, where the sanctuary ends!

The boat turns and heads towards the opposite shore, the cliff walls drop straight down into the water, our guide explains that the animals don't come to this side of the lake as they prefer the open dryer side of the lake, where they come down on tracks worn into the hillside over years of migration!

It is time to head back and there isn't much to see as the high over hanging cliffs are empty of wildlife except birds!

But as we round the last bend on a small grassy bank a huge Nile Crocodile is sunning itself, and when I say huge, I mean massive! Our guide thinks it's only about meters long, ONLY!

It actually has an amazing olive and black checkered pattern on it's skin, but the spikes running down it's back make it look menacing, until it opens it's mouth and then it just looks like the killer that it is! We get the full view of it's long sharp teeth! It stays perfectly still as we approach, and all I can think to myself is... "OK that's close enough!"

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Would you look at those teeth!

Wow what a way to end a great day! That was the last thing I expected to see today!

We head back to camp thanking our captain/guide for a great afternoon.

The walk back up to the truck is hot going and if the waters of the lake down below weren't filled with... well animals that could eat you, it would be the perfect time for a swim, but the view from up here is pretty fantastic!

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One last glimpse!

Once back at camp it is a welcome cool shower to wash away the heat of the day.

I pop over to the dining area to see if Cosmas needs any help and he is telling us about how he has been harassed by the camps resident Warthog, thinking he is exaggerating about how big and beastly it is, we go for a wander to track it down.

We find it at the back of the kitchen and it is massive, I thought it was going to be some small cute thing, but NO!

Whoa no wonder everyone is scared of him!

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The Resident Terror!

Tonight it is my turn to clean the inside of the truck. I suddenly feel this bite on the back of my foot and OMG it stings like a F*@%ing B*@%h! I Squeal out every swear word I know in both English and German as the unbelievable burning pain takes hold of my foot. Ben the driver comes running and finds the culprit... a Testy Fly! One of the guys swats it... OH the pain!
It is the topic of conversation over dinner and everyone finds it amusing... it's not funny... Ok it kinda is. the pain subsided after about half an hour and funnily enough it doesn't itch!
After a few drinks in the bar (to dull the pain of course!) It's time for bed... I will admit I like having a tent to myself!

OCTOBER 7TH 2019 DAY 8

Sadly we say goodbye to this amazing place and make our way to Lake Buyonyi. On the way of the Reserve we pass little shops before hitting the main road.

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Quaint Shops!

We stop for snacks at another small village and are greeted by big smiling locals. Motorbikes seem to be the mod of transport in this region, oh and they are proud of them!

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More Fantastic Little Towns!

It is raining on and off today, so not a good day to be hanging out the window, we pass locals herding their cows on the main road, it is becoming such a typical sight here.

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A Daily Sight Here!

After flat plains and farm land we turn off onto a road that on one side drops down to a beautiful lush green valley and on the other sharp cliffs of granite used to make kitchen bench tops among other things. Women and children are chipping away at the hillside working by hand, the children are barefoot, I ask Darlene about this, and unlike Kenya it is not compulsory for children to go to school here in Uganda, and some families just can't afford to send their children to school. Such a sad reality!

The drive twists and turns on a narrow road, so the drive is slow going, but the views are pretty amazing even with the grey skies looming over head threatening rain.

The first glimpse of the lake which borders to Rwanda brings the rain and as we pull into the camp site we duck for cover and wait out the rain before putting the tents up.

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Dinner View!
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Is that the Rwandan side?!

Most of the group go for out on the lake for a ride in traditional Mokoros but I decide to stay and help prepare dinner instead of getting wet. Yeah I know call me soft! Most of them can't control the direction they are going in and end up paddling in circles!

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A little unco in the Mokoros!

We have company as we prepare dinner, these little yellow birds are everywhere and aren't afraid to get close!

A lone Otter swims past his cute little head popping in and out of the water.

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Dinner Companions!
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Not be out done by the littel yellow guys!

It is so peaceful relaxing by the lake, even the rain has subsided, it is such a nice evening.

But that peace is broken when they come staggering back from the bar drunk, so much for a good nights sleep before we head to Rwanda!

Posted by TracingTheWorld 20:16 Archived in Uganda Comments (0)

THE GREAT RIFT VALLEY, BEAUTIFUL LOCALS & A WILDLIFE RESERVE

Nairobi to Nakuru


View EPIC AFRICA 2017 on TracingTheWorld's travel map.

OCTOBER 1ST 2017 DAY 2

LET THE ADVENTURE BEGIN!

Up at 5.30am full of excitement, had a fantastic nights sleep, a 6am breakfast getting to know some of my fellow travelers, all coffeed up and ready for the drive!

We load up the truck and meet our driver Ben and chef Cosmas (but everyone calls him Animal, not sure why as he is so quiet with a big smile)

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It's not a bus!  It's a truck! 

Bags loaded into lockers at the back of the truck, got myself planted firmly in the front seat, window down and as Darlene promised we are by on the road 7.30am.

The drive takes us through Nairobi teaming with life the streets are busy, colorfully dressed people go about their daily lives. Darlene chats to us about life in this sprawling city. There are houses in differing stages of construction mixed with basic huts. Here they build their houses in stages, first they buy the land and lay the foundation, they will then save and build the next stage of the house until completed sometimes taking years to finish.

I love the roadside market stalls with the neatly stacked produce.

The roads become bumpy as we leave the city and up into the hills.

After what is known as a "African Massage" we finally reach the top. And the bumpy ride was worth it as you take in the view of the magnificent Rift Valley below.

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Africa Awaits!
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The Great Rift Valley

As I take in the spectacular view before my heart literally skips a beat, the dream is now a reality and Africa opens up before me and I can't wait to see what delights it has in store for us!

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I want to see it all!

After a small break we make our way down into 'The Rift' and the going is slow as the road is winding and bumpy. Baboons sit causally on the side of the road watching the traffic pass by. We all take a guess at which animal we will spot first, of course I pick Giraffe! As we reach the bottom and 'The Rift' opens up before us stretches out as far as the eye see.

The wide open road takes us through a small modern town, people are chilling sitting under trees or lazing on the grass chatting or sleeping in morning sun.

The drive takes us through small farming towns, and it surprises me how green it is, as the view from the plane seemed so different.

The first wildlife we see is a pair of giraffes wandering among the trees sharing the landscape with man and his livestock, they really do live in close contact with one another. Suddenly Zebra appear as we turn heading deeper into 'The Rift'.

We stop at a souvenir shop for cold drinks and snacks, no I didn't buy anything, so yeah me for showing restraint!

Heading further south east the landscape becomes quite dry and rocky passing farming land with Impala standing to startled attention as we pass by. Slowly the landscape becomes green once again with trees becoming denser.

As we arrive into Nakuru I amazed at the number of churches that dot the main road, there seems to be one on every street of every denomination, some are very fancy and others very humble, this is definitely a god fearing country. It baffles me if I am to be honest, so much money being spent on religion when right next a grand church is a humble little home which we in the west would consider a shack, but if it gives the people hope then who am I to judge.

We stop in the city center to look around and so our chef can stock up on supplies. The streets are crowded and people are respectful, there is none of that "come into my shop, you are a foreigner" mentality you get in some counties , in fact it is the total opposite people seem more shyly intrigued by us.

The local supermarket was a great place to stock up the variety was really good, a lot of the goods are sold in bulk which is understandable. I wasn't sure what expect but I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of goods.

Once again back on the truck for a short to a drive to suburb on the outskirts of Nakuru National Park, where we stop for lunch. We park in front of a souvenir shop and help set up the tables and chairs for lunch. We have all been assigned to groups and we all pitch in with our daily duties, helping prepare the meals, doing the washing up and keeping the truck clean. I am on washing up today so while some of the group help with lunch prep I grab a latte made from a real coffee machine and wander around the shop. The first thing that catches my eye is a beautiful painting made by a local artist should I buy it?

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Curious Locals

Once everything is set up for lunch, we sit around chatting and the local children are so curious they watch us from a distance nudging each other and pointing, shy smiles when we try to say hello. We finish our lunch and dishes done we have to 'flap' the dishes clean, no tea towels, its all air drying and the kids, who have grown in numbers as the word has spread of arrival think this is hilarious! We spend some time with them, as they slowly warm to us, kicking a ball around and watching them show off their dance moves, their smiles are so infectious.

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Meeting the locals!
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Shy little cuties

The lady who owns the shop is so friendly and when she laughs the whole world laughs with her, but she drives a hard bargain on that painting I just have to have, but I know in truth it is worth every dollar I am paying. She chats with us for awhile before we pack up and head out of town to Nakuru National Park.

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Our Wonderful Host! 

The drive the park entrance is a short one. Darlene jumps out to register our arrival and we all scramble for our cameras, window down and I am ready. The view from the entrance is gorgeous the sun is shining and everything is green and vast.

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First Game Drive!

Then not long after we pass through the gates standing in the clearing is a solo Rhino grazing happily in the distance... WOW what a start to the afternoon

As we make our way down to the lake through thick lush trees and long grass thousands of little colorful butterflies scatter around the truck.

As we reach the lake edge the clouds darken and Waterbuck appear, shaggy brown coats with white circles on their behinds, I love those fuzzy large ears! Impala with beautiful orange colored coats dot the lake edge, they have black racing stripes on their white bums, one male with his twisting horns holding center spot with his herd of females, they turn as stare as we drive by ready to run!

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Impala
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Female Waterbuck

After awhile Zebra appear, they are more of beige color than the expected white, these are plains Zebra and this herd has babies with these gorgeous giant ears and huge dark eyes, they stick close to mum waiting for her reaction to the vehicle staring straight at us.

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Zebra!

Further along in the distance is a second Rhino, really another one! I can't believe it, I had hoped to see one but this.... this is awesome!

Suddenly we spot the second of the big five. Water Buffalo graze at the waters their horns sitting bulky on their heads like giant eyebrows, Ox Peckers sit on their backs picking at the flies.

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Water Buffalo second of the big five!

Due the large amount of rain that has hit he region the water level is very high which is great for these large beasts as there is food a plenty for them to munch on.

The sky darkens and the grey gloom gives the Skeletal remains of the Malaria trees a haunting aura of gloom as the clouds darken and to the atmosphere thunder shudders in the distance.

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Lake Nakuru

As we come around a bend the sun breaks through the clouds and there in full glory are two Rhino wandering along the shore line, and to my delight they still have their horns. A pair of Black Rhinos... WOW I feel so blessed to see them in the wild like this, they literally take my breath away!
Now I really wish I had a better camera!

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What A Wonderful Sight!

We stop for awhile to watch them graze until they wander out of view. Even the bird life is beautiful we watch a Crown Crane bob up in down in the long grass, with the fuzzy white feathers on his head making it obvious where they get their name.

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Crown Crane

Sadly we say goodbye and drive further around the lake crossing over a semi-flooded bridge into the forest. Bright turquoise birds with shiny feathers dart around the truck, Darlene tells me they are Greater Glossy Starlings, and they are quite beautiful.

After awhile Zebra appear, they are more of beige color than the expected white, these are plains Zebra and this herd has babies with these gorgeous giant ears and huge dark eyes, they stick close to mum waiting for her reaction to the vehicle staring straight at us.

Further along in the distance is ANOTHER Rhino, really another one! I can't believe it, I had hoped to see one but this.... this is awesome!

A family of Warthogs as out of nowhere appear, running for their lives their tails in the air like little flag poles, they are so comical, I think they are quite cute, but I can see why they are part of the ugly five.

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Warthogs Natures Comedians! 

Once again we head away from the lake edge and into the forest, and there is a traffic jam on the track. A Jackal is running in the center of the road. His head turning from side to side as those big ears pick up a sound of prey, his nose constantly following a scent. He darts from side to side his concentration undeterred by the sound of the truck. His coat is spotted along his back. He looks similar to a fox but has cat like reflexes as he bounces off the road into the long grass. All you can see is ears bobbing up and down in the grass. Suddenly he leaps back onto the road turns and then he is gone.

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Jackal

Then suddenly as we make our way around the lake in the middle of a clearing in a Mother Rhino and her baby... unbelievable... it so cute... I never thought I would see one Rhino on the first game drive day... but this... what a sight. I never thought I could smile so much, this land just keeps on... well amazing me! It is so chubby and adorable with ears too big its head and little stout legs.

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Unbelievably Awesome
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So gorgeous

Six Rhino in one day, I hope seeing them in the wild, this is a good sign for the future of these precious creatures.

As the dusk begins to settle we finally see giraffe strolling through the trees stopping to nibble at the fresh top leaves. Their coloring standing out brightly against he darkening sky.

It starts to drizzle as we make our way down into a valley where we are setting up camp for the night. It is very basic with a shower block that makes me think that a shower can wait another day. The rain stops and we explore the waterfall next to our campsite. Baboons scramble up the rock face when they hear us approaching. The recent rains have turned the water muddy and I wonder how many crocodiles have made a home in there, I am not willing to find out.

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Our Campsite
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Well... Ok Then!

Before it gets too dark we all get a lesson on how to put the tents up, it is pretty easy and they are a great size, it doesn't take long. It is dark by the time we have got all our mats and sleeping gear and dinner is ready. We sit around a fire and chat as we eat, dinner is lovely and he even has me eating foods I normally wouldn't. We all chip in with the washing up, then sit around the fire with hot drinks as the night has a sudden chill due to rain.

Our excited conversation abruptly stops as a Water Buffalo walks through the tents causing squeals from those getting ready for bed. He just stops looks at us and we a just stare with gaping mouths as he huffs and continues on his way down the steep bank to the river. He was so not bothered by our presence. All I could think is... OMG this is so AWESOME! I LOVE Africa and I can't say it enough

The conversation excitedly erupts again .

When the fire dies down some of us help clean up the cups before heading off to bed!

OCTOBER 2ND 2017, DAY 3

Woke up early to the sound of Cosmas pottering around in his make shift kitchen. So in my PJ's and hiking boots (I have never been accused of being glamorous! Comfort first!) I warm myself by the fire after making us both a coffee. It is still dark and the stars are so clear and bright and it is nice to have some quiet time before the day begins again.

The shower block doesn't look to appealing so after and early breakfast we pack up the truck and head out onto the reserve once again.

After the last nights rains the day is clear and bright. The animals are out enjoying the morning sunshine after a damp night.

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On the lookout!

As we drive up out of the valley we were camping in, a huge grassy plain opens up before us and herds of Zebra, Impala and Waterbuck are grazing in the sun. What a perfect way to start the day!

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First sighting of the day
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What you looking at?
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Curious Baby
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Looking for his friends
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It's a hard life

Among the herds is a family of Red Hartebeest with gorgeous copper coats. In the distance Giraffes roam through the trees. I can't stop smiling... it is a glorious day!

Groups of Buffalo graze in the morning sun among them are babies, some look up as we drive slowly by. I can't think of a better way to spend a wonderful sunny day!

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Hartebeest
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Oh there's more of them!

A Tower of Giraffes (that's what a group are called unless they on the move the move then it's called a Journey) are wandering through the trees at he edge of the grassy plain feeding from the tree tops. And just sitting in the sun is a baby, watching us as we stop to watch them.

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Hellooooo....
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It's wonderful watching them in the wild

Then we spot one who seems to be in distress, after watching for a while we realize she is trying to give birth, it doesn't look good as the baby isn't moving. This is a sad side of nature to watch as this breed of Giraffe "Rothchild" is considered be endangered. Sadly today that will not be an addition to the group. She keeps moving but to no avail.

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It's just he cutes little thing

On the other side of the road are herds of Zebra, Impala and Buffalo, and circling behind them are 3 Hyena, they have caught the scent of the Giraffe in the air and are moving in. Darlene tells us that Hyena haven't been seen in this park for over 3 years. My heartbreaks for this poor mother.

We head towards the lake edge and pass 2 park rangers sitting on a stone marker, the truck stops and Darlene speaks to them in the local dialect, they wave goodbye as we drive off and we are all curious to know what is happening as it seems they are there to keep an eye on our Mother Giraffe since they aren't far away from her location. True enough that is what they are doing. They will watch her in hopes that she gives birth fully and if not they will call the Vet to come out, but they hope that nature will takes its course as they don't want to distress her further. I am glad that they are there watching out for her, but it doesn't make it any less sad.

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It feels good to stretch the legs!

We stop for a break at the lake edge and stretch our legs. Huge Pelicans perch on dead trees in the shallow water, to the west Water Buffalo graze happily in the sun and looking east a small number of Pink Flamingos wallow at the waters edge, at this time of year the lake is usually teaming with them. But the heavy rains and high water levels has kept them away and they have only just slowly started to return. I was looking forward to seeing the mass of pink on this beautiful shimmering lake, oh well that's nature, unpredictable.

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View to the west
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Majestic Eagle
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View to the east

We drive back on the same road, our Giraffe still hasn't given birth, she is still struggling, poor thing. But the Rangers are still there watching over her. We stop and Darlene speaks to them once again, and she tells us they will call in the Vet Services soon so she wont injure herself. Thank goodness!

As the landscapes becomes a lush grassy plain there is another Rhino in the distance, WOW another Mother with her baby, and this time it is White Rhino, and they are gorgeous, and she has such an amazing horn.

Behind Mum and baby the Hyenas have circled in closer, but still quite a distance away and can only be seen through binoculars.

Baboons and Vervet Monkeys clamber in trees along the road side as we make our inland from the lake.

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Really not bothered by us at all!

Stopping at the parks airstrip for a break we are surrounded by Zebra, just casually strolling along in the morning sun, unbothered by our presence.

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Don't mind us!

As we continue on up to Baboon point the road gets very bumpy, we keep a share eye out for Lions who love to use the stony towering cliffs that line the way as look out, but today they don't want to make an appearance.

Warthogs scatter in fright, they are such timid creatures.

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Hey there funny face!

We reach the top, and it lives up to it's name Baboons scatter at our arrival screeching loudly as the clamber up trees.

We stop for cold drinks and take in the amazing views.

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What a fantastic morning!

The bumpy track rewards us with stunning views of the park, the glistening lake with its skeletal shore line sit brightly in the late morning.

A flash of color on the rocks catches the corner of my eye, and they are everywhere lazing in the sun. Little blue lizards with bright orange heads, they are so cute, hard to photograph, as they so quick, but so cute. Agama Agama as cool as his name, I am guessing he's a he, since the males in nature are usually the prettiest, got to attract the ladies somehow!

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As cute as it's name!

This is our last stop in this amazing little National Park and we begin our descent down to the lake shoreline.

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Highest point in the reserve! 

Herds Water Buffalo laze in the shade of newly sprouting trees, yellow Oxpeckers darting from one to the other picking ticks from their hides. Zebra and Impala share open grasslands, there is safety in numbers.

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Lazy lot!
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Zebra Bums!

We pause to watch Giraffes stretching their already long necks on the juiciest leaves of the tree tops, their long tongues make quick work striping the branches bare.

This is nature working perfectly together in symbiotic relationships. I am enthralled by it all.

The drive along the lade shoreline looks so different compared to the gloom of yesterday, the sun gives the dead twisting forest of Malaria Trees a golden glow, in the sparkling blue lake a lone Water Buffalo lounges in the water.

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Mid Morning Wallow!

The twisting vines and rejuvenating Malaria trees are so fantastic, they seem so surreal like something out of fantasy novel.

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So haunting

We leave the lake and head in land through lush green bush to the park entrance, getting on last spectacular view of the Greater rift valley just before we arrive.

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Spectacular final view!

A couple in the group are complaining that they didn't see any Lions and this isn't the first time we have heard this. I find this frustrating, we are in one of the most amazing places on earth witnessed nature at it's best and saddest moments, and it still wasn't enough... wild animals will be wild animals and we are privileged to see them in their natural habitats.
We stop at the main gate and Darlene jumps out and heads to the office. When she returns she has good news.

Our Mother Giraffe is doing fine, sadly she lost her baby, but she is healthy and that is fantastic news.

We stop for lunch at the same place as on the way in and the some wonderful woman is there to greet us.

I decide that I just have to have that painting, and this women knows how to barter, but it is one of a kind one by a local woman so it is worth every cent, I cant wait to see it framed.

With lunch finished and the truck packed up we say goodbye to Nakuru after a quick stop at the this very modern shopping center and make our way out of town.

We are driving through "Breadbasket of Kenya".
Beautiful green farm land, they grow everything from tea to tomatoes, from pine trees to potatoes.

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Driving through the breadbasket of Kenya

The roads are modern and wide, there are speed bumps along the way, so this makes the going slow but steady. People just wander across the road whenever and where ever they want, hence the speed bumps. This is the main highway that links Kenya to Uganda and beyond so there are trucks everywhere. Large vehicles share the road with bicycles, and herds of cows and goats, motorbikes carrying families, 3 or 4 on one bike and no helmets. Life is busy.

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A wonderful everyday scene
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Main Export Highway

We pass through villages and life is set up on the road side. Shops line the road, people sit at wooden self made stalls pealing corn, cooking food and selling produce. Women carry items on their heads with perfectly straight backs as they go about their daily routines.

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Local Catch Up!
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Roadside Shopping!
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Roadside Shopping
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Lovely Little Towns

Every time we pass through a town children smile and wave at the truck with big smiles, they look so cute.

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Friendly Locals

We pass a World Organization Food Program Building, which brings home the reality of the situation on this continent. Darlene and I talk about it for a while. Life in Kenya is progressing well compared to some of their neighbors. Children here must go to school, which the best start to building a future. She tells me that they don't use the word poor as it is a western way of thinking, instead they use the word 'humble'. I like that. People here unlike in the west are thankful for what they have and aren't always looking to have more, have the best, have the latest to keep up with what is to be the latest trend, so yeah they are humble and probably why they are so happy!

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Really puts things into prospective!

It's along drive but there is so much to see, I spend most of it with leaning out the window watching the country go by.

The Shop fronts in every town are painted in wonderful bright colors, with big bold signage. Wooden stalls piled high with fresh produce, the scenes that go by are intoxicating!

The busy towns turn into rolling farm land. Lush green crops as far as the eye can see. Little round traditional houses with thatched roofs dot the
landscape.

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Wonderful little homesteads!

It is so relaxing watching the scenery go by, the long drive goes by so quickly and soon we turn off the main road to our home stay for the night.

It is a lovely little place with beautiful gardens. There is an option to upgrade to a room but I stick with the tent as tonight I have it to myself. We set up on the large lawn. Everyone is scrambling for the wifi but all I want is a shower!

We all chip in and soon we are enjoying Cosmas dinner, who once again has out done himself with spicy coated fish.

After dinner and dishes it's another night of laughter around the fire.

It's been along drive today so it's off to bed!

Posted by TracingTheWorld 05:01 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

TWO SANCTUARIES, ONE DAY

Officially the tour begins today!

SEPTEMBER 30TH 2017, DAY 1

I wake up early after a relatively good nights sleep, as I make my way down for a morning coffee I am delighted to find a breakfast voucher slipped under my door... who doesn't love a breakfast buffet! It is simple and delicious I love the little fried puffs of bread. The staff are lovely, friendly and very helpful so I make a plan for the day.

After a good breakfast and what amounts to probably a bucket of coffee I wait in reception with 2 lovely Canadians for our driver, who I am delight to see is Joel again!

We are off to the Langata Giraffe Sanctuary. Watching the city pass by as we make our way to the outskirts the buildings change from grand to basic, we pass through a shanty town, with beautifully colored dress women and laughing children, whose smiles are infectious. Then the dynamics change as we head out into the countryside passing large gated mansions where the elite and politicians live. The contrast in living conditions is astounding!

As we wind our way down into a valley of lush green trees we pass fuzzy grey Baboons hanging out on the side of road chilling with the locals. The males sitting there with little red penises on full display... well OK then!

As we drive into the sanctuary entrance there is a family of Warthogs just lazing in the sun...I love Africa!

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Lounging Warthogs!
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Langata Giraffe Sanctuary! 

The sanctuary is amazing, covering acres of land, providing rescue for orphaned and injured Giraffes. They are so beautiful, they are so close you can see every detail of their gorgeous faces, such magnificent creatures. We are given pallets to feed them and they willingly take them from your hand. They shy away from being touched. There are 3 graceful adults and 3 gangly babies still getting used to their legs, and their patchwork colored coats are as individual as we are.

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Do you have food?
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First Meeting
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Wow those lips!
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Look at those lashes!
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Hello Gorgeous!

We are encouraged by their caretakers to put a pellet between our lips for a "Giraffe Kiss"... OK why not, their long tongues feel slimy as they gently retrieve the pellet, they are so close you can see the long thin hairs on their chins.

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Giraffe Kisses..
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... You can't beat em!

It is difficult to stop watching them, the graceful nonchalant way they move, those big soft brown eyes, it is like they are silently smiling at you. The visitor center is small but when you look out at the acres of golden grassland you spot more of them roaming through the trees. A family of Warthogs share the spotlight with little babies rolling in the dust or running around their tufted hair tails standing to attention as mum lazes in the sun. They are so funny to watch as they scamper about you can't help but laugh out loud.

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 Roaming Free!
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Giraffe Bums!
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Double Trouble!
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Aww a little one!
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He's just so adorable!

I head up on to the platform where I am greeted by 3 adults leaning over the rail in anticipation of a treat, among them is a juvenile stretching his already long neck to reach the railing not wanting to miss out on his share. That little face just makes my heart smile, he gets most of my attention, and only wanders off when he has had his fill. The adults lean in jostling for attention their movements are so quiet, they do make noises like hissing, grunting, snorting and bellowing, they also make a flute like type of mewing sound, and I wish I could hear it.

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"Hi have you got food?"
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"Yep you got food!"

I could watch these elegant creatures all day, they remind me of models on a catwalk with their graceful walk, but when they run it is so gangly and awkward, you can''t help but laugh.

Sadly it is time to say goodbye and I can't wait to see them in the wild.

A quick visit to the gift shop, with all purchases going towards the rescue of these delightful animals, so of course I make my own contribution!

We leave one sanctuary for another as we once again drive pass those mansions lining cobble stoned streets. When we pull up to the Sheldrick Center, where they rescue baby elephants, just in time for their afternoon feeding. As we enter the first thing you see is a garage housing the United Nations sponsored 4x4s and trucks used to rescue these precious creatures.

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What true heroes
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The Rescue Vehicles

We walk down a path through the bush to a large opening with nothing more than a rope to separate us.

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Ready for the lunch rush!

WOW... they know when it is lunch time. No sooner have their caretakers bought out wheelbarrows filled with large milk bottles, they come running from what appears to be out of nowhere! They bellow excitedly their ears flapping as they gallop into the arena... they are so cute! They push and shove their caretakers to reach the bottles, and I swear they look like they are laughing!

They guzzle down the milk and bellow, nudging the keepers for more... I am speechless this is like a dream standing so close you could almost touch them, then my heart breaks when the reality dawns, that they are orphans who have seen such hardship in their short little lives.

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Relaxing in the dirt!
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Rolling around!
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They are so wonderfully comical!
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AWWW what a face!
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Aren't you adorabe!
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They look like they are smiling!
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Best foot forward!
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"Aww this is the spot and it's all mine!'

After food it is play time. Some of them roll around on dirt mounds of earth showering themselves in red dust. Some are just running around chasing each other play fighting, trucks flapping uncontrollably, you can hear them grunting and squealing with delight. I really wish my niece and nephew where here with me now they would get such a kick out this!

You can't help but laugh at their antics as they role around in the mud, it is like they are smiling as the care takers shovel mud over them, trunks flapping uncontrollably, legs in the air. They seem so uncoordinated in their happiness.. If people had the privilege of watching this for themselves and the joy if brings to the heart then maybe just maybe they wouldn't need protecting.

They are all different ages and each has their own sad story.

One has a large rip in his trunk which has caused by being caught in a snare set by poachers and he has lost the use of the lower trunk muscles, but it doesn't stop him. A young female has misshapen knee after being shot. Some have been rescued from pits or dried wells and some have lost their mothers to poachers. But most are orphans who have lost their mothers to starvation due to the droughts that are a constant on this continent. It makes my heart ache when they talk about the issues facing these beautiful babies, the world knows this is going on daily, but to see the effects with your own eyes is heartbreaking. But watching how these precious babies are cared for and loved gives me hope. But I wonder will the world continue to pretend to care without action or will we actually do something about it!

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They can be so awkward!
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Learning to eat solid food!
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Yum
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You can't help but fall in love!
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OMG Those Ears!
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Cuteness Overload Today![
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Trunks in the air like you jus don't care!

The wild herds are losing their traditional migration trails to land development, which is causing them to come into closer contact with humans which makes them easier targets for poachers and the other dangers that exist when man and animal come into conflict with one another.

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It's great for the skin don't you know!
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They look so happy!

Their care givers know each of them by name and all their sad stories, they care for them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, sleeping with them when they first arrive until the day they are able to join the sanctuary herd.

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This is something I will never forget!
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Nothing like a mud bath and a full belly!

They stay at the sanctuary until they are 3 years old, then introduced back into the wild and are closely monitored until they are adopted by a herd of their own. New herds have begun to form in the region made up of adopted orphans, looking out for each other. Elephants are very intelligent and form strong emotional bonds, so it is almost like these families form because they understand what life has been like for each other as they have all faced hardship.

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They are cared for 24 hours a day, everyday!

It gives me hope that there are organizations like this, and as difficult as it is to hear their stories it also gives me hope that people are helping these beautiful animals get back to where they belong, in the wild.

They slowly begin to leave, disappearing in the bush, but one of the youngest doesn't want to. She nudges at her caretaker almost knocking him over, she lets out a bellow as he tries to encourage her along. But has to be enticed with a bottle to get her to follow.

We stop at the gift shop where local artists have paintings and photos for sale. I talk with the lady who runs the store some of the items are done by the keepers themselves. She tells me they have baby Rhino at the Sanctuary but are kept away from the public as they can get very distressed over the loss of their mothers. What sort of world do we live in that we let these things happen, when will the world wake up and take action.

On the way back to the hotel Joel takes us to a small roadside souvenir shop, but once inside it is huge and filled to the ceiling with delights, I could have bought so much but I have to stop myself as I am carrying my life on my like in a rucksack for the next 6 weeks, so I buy a few masks. I find the whole bartering system weird, when you look at the exchange rate it doesn't seem fair to haggle over a few dollars, but it is the culture and I give it a go, probably giving in a little to easily.

Once back at the hotel there is time to relax before our official tour meeting. As I dump my day pack I meet my room mate for the next few weeks, she seems nice, from Australia, we chat a while before heading down to the bar for coffee. It's been a long but fantastic day and I share it with friends and family at home making the most of the free wifi while we have it.

Heading into the restaurant for a bite to eat it seems fuller tan yesterday, wonder which ones are joining the tour, I soon find out as the meeting starts.

Our tour leader Darlene introduces herself, she is this tiny beautiful local women with an infectious wide smile. She gets us to introduce ourselves and it feels like being back at school again. the group is a nice variety of nationalities and ages, a mother and daughter duo from England, couples one which is on their hone

We sit around chatting for a while, some stay and have a few drinks, some of us head up as we have an early start in the morning and I still a wee jet lagged so I head up to the room and get my bags ready for tomorrow as early mornings are not my thing.
ymoon, a group of 3 on a lads holiday (one them bought his girlfriend so, so much for just the lads) and solo travelers like myself.

We are given the low down on how the trip works, how it s organized, how to keep safe and what is expected of us as this is a participating tour and we are expected to pull our weight to keep things running smoothly.

We sit around chatting for a while, some stay and have a few drinks, some of us head up as we have an early start in the morning and I still a wee jet lagged so I head up to the room and get my bags ready for tomorrow as early mornings are not my thing.

Posted by TracingTheWorld 04:58 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

EPIC AFRICA 2017 AUSTRALIA TO AFRICA

Traveling through 7 countries in 42 days. Africa here I come!

sunny

This is my dream trip, Africa has always fascinated me, ever since I read my first Wilbur Smith Novel. This continent calls to me and I finally answered. Traveling for 44 days from Kenya circling through Uganda to Rwanda and back to Kenya. From there it is down to Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe. I decided to book this through Intrepid recommended by several of my friends, camping in the wilds of Africa who would have thought, adding in some extra activities and why not it is a once in life time trip that feels like I have waited a life time to do! Getting on that plane is a momentous occasion for me, as it feels I have waited far too long for this time to come... EXCITED!!!!

After waiting so long for this day to come (over 12 years) I am a bundle of nerves, it is finally here...

I am going to AFRICA!!!

SEPTEMBER 28TH 2017

I haven't slept at all, stress, excitement, or both let's go with both! Have I forgotten anything, staff travel loads to Sydney look good... yeap I am on!
Now I am stressed the staff loads to Johannesburg are terrible, my nerves can't take the waiting... But I make I have a seat, I am sitting comfortable in my seat, even the delay doesn't bother, the dream is now the reality so what's another hour, next stop Africa!

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Off we go!

Met this fantastic girl sitting next me and we killed the 14 hour flying time with Bourbon and good conversation as neither of us could sleep.

Which is lucky as Qantas had me sitting between 2 infants, but I was saved by a Grandma who wanted to sit with here family "of course I will swap seats with you... oh it's no bother at all!" (THANK YOU)

STILL SEPTEMBER 28TH

I am finally here, well in transit. As I make my way to the transit lounge I notice my luggage tag says JNB, Qantas have forgotten to transfer my bag onto my connecting flight, and I can't go through to get it as I don't have a visa for South Africa, I bump into the Qantas Cabin Manager who promises to try and sort it out. In the transit lounge I ask the Qantas rep if she could look into it for me as my life for the next 44 days is in that bag! She is no help, and Ethiopia Air staff are nowhere to be seen, but a wonderful woman on the South African Airways counter over hears my dilemma and calls every baggage handling company that operates at Johannesburg Airport and tracks down my bag which has been put into lost property and makes sure it is given to Ethiopia Air, OMG bless her heart.

I spend my remaining 4 hour lay over relaxing and praising her on their website! When I check in they confirm my bag is where it should be and as we are boarding a lovely young lady searches me out and hands me the tag number. I board my flight to Adis Ababa which is my stop over to Nairobi (yeah I know I am going the long way but it was the cheapest option) I am so tired I haven't slept in god knows how many hours.

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My Ride!

SEPTEMBER 29TH 2017

After 5 hours we begin to descend into Adis Ababa and the view is spectacular, the patchwork of fields looks like they have been sewn together over the hills, like a pair of 70s hippy jeans, I would never have thought Ethiopia would be so green.

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View  from the plane!

As we land the runway is dotted with skeletal aircraft remains left haphazardly to rust away. I don't know why I am a little startled to see United Nation Planes parked at the terminal, you don't hear much about Ethiopia in the news anymore, I guess it slip my mind that they were still a country in need of aid.

There is one terminal it is basic and crowded, but easy to get around. The women are dressed in brightly colored Islamic dress, and people are respectful, for a crowded airport it is very quiet no one is shouting and conversations are hushed, an example of their quiet nature.

The stop over is short and soon enough I am on my way to Nairobi, I have front row in economy and it feels good to stretch out, I am so sick of being on a plane, but it's only for another 2 hours.

The view coming into Nairobi is the opposite of Adis Ababa Ethiopia was various shades of green where as Kenya is a tan color, the landscape is ceased almost like an old elephant out in the sun. Watching Africa pass by below I can't help but wonder what is below and I can't wait to find out what glories this continent has in stall! My tiredness is out weighed by my excitement. It amazes me to think that roaming free are creatures that will amaze and delight us - BRING IT ON!

Nairobi airport is small it is very basic like a large airline hanger or a.....well tin shed.

As we go through passport control we have to produce our yellow fever card and then get a full body temperature scan, disease prevention.

I am relieved when I see my bag on the carousel, I will admit I was a bit worried.

As I exit, the glare of the sun and heat hits you with full force as soon as you walk out the doors, but the first thing I notice is how happy and relaxed people are.

My driver Joel is waiting and what a character he is, pointing out the local sights and there history. The streets are wide and chaotic, the traffic is insane, road rules... what rules!

The cars share the roads with framers herding their large horned cows, animal statues decorate the center island, people are everywhere they just cross the road whenever they want causing a constant blasting of horns.

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Sharing The  Road!

I love the multi-colored mini buses each painted with the drivers individual design, bringing blasts of color to the dusty landscape.

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Colorful Public Transport!

There are these ugly large birds on the side of the road Marabou Storks, one of the ugly five and I can see why.

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Marabou Stork, One Of The Ugly Five!

Women are burning small piles of rubbish on the side of the road and Joel explains that it is part of the Governor of Nairobi plan to clean up the streets, so there is a constant smell of smoke in the air.

During traffic stand stills people walk between the cars selling goods, it's like a mobile department store, you can buy anything from fruit, water, phone and car accessories, one guy is selling brooms another car parts, even a hat stand, yes a hat stand!

After driving through the city past government buildings, Nairobi Park and a number of embassies, all behind locked gates we arrive at the hotel "Kenya Comfort Suites" there is a barrier and guard at the entrance and he waves us in. Joel explains that this is considered the 'posh' part of the city. The hotel from the outside is quite simple but inside has an old world charm, which is clean and well kept and it even has a pool!

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Kenya Comfort Suites!
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The Hotel!

Check in done I make my up in the old lift to my room. It is huge with 2 Queen size beds, with lovingly hung mosquito netting (guess am going to need that) I have a great view of the pool below.

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My Room!

After a shower I feel almost human again, and go down stairs for a coffee and dinner before heading up for what I hope is a good nights sleep, but that doesn't happen even after being awake for over 30 hours, maybe I am just too excited, plus it is only 8pm here!

Posted by TracingTheWorld 04:54 Archived in Kenya Comments (0)

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