Tanzania Journal 6: Thursday, 23 June

MacAvity's picture

Thursday 23 June

Okay, before I forget: 'Ranai yo pinama' - at least that's how it sounded; I could be totally wrong.

Right. With that little memorandum out of the way, return to chronology.

Our sleep clocks are not yet adjusted. Dad and Mr Fusion were both wide awake and reading at five in the morning; Mom and I both got up and used the toilet around midnight and had trouble waking up in the morning. Not that we wouldn't have had trouble waking up before seven if our sleep clocks had been adjusted, but even so.

Before breakfast, Mom and Dad and I went on a guided birdwatching walk. There is a tremendous variety of birds here, and w saw many different species, though most of them only from an inconvenient distance or through inconvenient foliage. We got a phew decent photographs and a lot of bad photographs, and I specifically did not even attempt to photograph anything unless I had some confidence that the bird would show up as more than just a distant dark spot.

George, the guide, gave us a checklist of one hundred birds, and told us which ones to check off when we saw them, but I stopped checking, because between checking birds off the list and trying to photograph them, there was no time to actually see any.

Story about George, by the way: He went to college in Arusha and was a few months away from getting some kind of a degree when his advisor randomly died and now George is going to have to start all over again, which sucks intensely.

Anyway, Dad eventually got bored of 'that speedy thing in the distance is a such-and-such a bird,' and wandered off to look at termite nests. I joined him. Then he decided to go back to Mr Fusion at the cabin, and I rejoined Mom and George. The most interesting things we saw were bee-eaters (such cute birds! I did get photos) and a grasshopper that looked like a blade of grass.

And the rest of the day was thoroughly awesome, but I don't know when I'm going to describe it properly because it is very much bedtime now. But I'll at least make a brief and woefully inadequate summary so I'll remember what happened for when I do have time to write.

Bird walk, breakfast, canoe trip to the fishing village, back to 'camp,' hanging out, showering, lunch, hanging out, packing up, into the safari car, long car ride, Serengeti National Park, photographing cute monkeys, collecting dead bugs and a bat, coveting the skulls at the park entrance, long car ride, through the park, seeing fifteen species of mammals (the hard ones to remember being topi and waterbuck), many more of birds, picking up two wildebeest skulls, lightning, rain, racing the dark, camp, giant canvas houses with beds and such.

Today was awesome. Completely and utterly fantastic.


Written Thursday 21 July:

Okay, let's see if this works...

Okay, er, it sort of worked, the color's all dark even though I took the photo in pretty bright sunlight, and it's sideways, but otherwise not bad... So you can see my drawings if you tilt your head funny, or just rotate them in your mind... But I'll type up the text that's in the photo, anyway.

23 June

- The bee-eaters and the camouflaged grasshopper would definitely have merited drawings if I had been illustrating at that time, so I'll draw them now. The grasshopper is that one, well, you see it, and it's labelled GRASSHOPPER and (it looked way more weird and awesome and grass-like in reality.) and <- THE GRASSHOPPER'S FACE (I swear I've seen something exactly like it in a DiTerlizzi drawing); the bee-eater is the cute one labelled BEE EATER.

- The 'brief and woefully inadequate summarry' is actually pretty good, and I'm glad I made it, because I haven't been able to go back and address that day until just now, and I would undoubtedly have forgotten something major if not for that summary.

- Bird walk - the entry gave a good description of that. This picture of a bee-eater is all I have to add. It's pretty cute even if it doesn't show the colors - the head and wing should be green, the chest orange, and the throat yellow.

- Breakfast - As far as I can remember... okay, I can't remember breakfast at all, so it must not have been too memorable, so I must have just mentioned it to make clear that the bird walk was before breakfast, maybe. The one thing I remember from breakfast that day is that the waiter, Franklin, wanted us to send him a photograph of him.

- Canoe trip to the fishing village - it left right from the Speke Bay Lodge, right after breakfast. There were two canoes, painted on the outside in a squiggly design of red and blue and yellow and white. The canoes were wooden, roughly built, and ever-so-slightly leaky. We were a little... intimidated? disheartened? concerned? - when we saw one hole (above the water level, but not much above it) stopped with nothing but a rag. The four of us took one canoe; the guide and an Italian couple took the other. And we rode along the shallows of Speke Bay, Lake Victoria, past various birds and trees and such, to the fishing village.

At the fishing village - it probably had a name, but we were never informed - were lots of people and boats and fishnets and a few cows and a whole lot of marabou storks. I should draw one of these, too, because they're so ugly and scary and big. So ugly and big that I can't even draw one on this page, which is why the picture is on the next page. On the twenty-first of July, we saw a whole field of marabou storks out in a field, digging in the ground, and we decided (joked) that that is where babies come from, they grow in the ground like potatoes and the marabous dig them up and give them to the pretty white storks to deliver. Except that we weren't sure that other storks would be big or strong enough to carry babies. (Sentence removed because of sick joke about storks eating babies.)

Its head looks like a scab - like it's got mange. The stork is at least four feet tall. I used a reference photo for this drawing and for the bee-eater, that's why they're so good.

Anyway, the fishing village. One of the fishermen showed us his catch - a long, eel-like catfish and a few tilapia. A child randomly came up and grabbed Dad and Mr Fusion by the hands. The adults in the village mostly ignored us, but the children were fascinated - especially by Mr Fusion, probably because of his long, straight, shiny blond hair. They flocked around him when he held still long enough, and waved to us and shouted 'Jambo!' and 'Bye-bye!' as we walked through the village.

At this time, too, I had not yet grown accustomed to the sights that would eventually grow commonplace - people roasting corn over charcoal fires, grains and sometimes small fish spread out on groundcloths to dry in the sun, the bright-patterned cloths of women's clothing, sheep with thick tails that somehow made them look inescapably like some sort of 'Star Wars' beasts.

Apparently it's not allowed in the village for children to pose for photographs, because back when it was allowed they would just sit around waiting for people to come and photograph them and maybe give them money or candy or somesuch, and they wouldn't get educated because they'd be waiting for tourists instead of going to school.

At the end of the village there was a road, or a path, out to another village, which is mroe agricultural, and trades corn for fish or something, and that sentence just totally failed to be grammatically correct in tense consistency and probably in punctuation as well. And there's a witch doctor's house, which we were not allowed to approach.

In the road just outside the village were many dried-up squished frogs. I don't know whether they were run over by motorcycles or what. It was weird.

Motorcycles were the only vehicles there. People bought them as investments and used them as taxis, carrying two or even three passengers at a time.

Written Friday 22 July

Continuing on 23 June -

- 'hanging out, showering, lunch, hanging out, packing up' - yeah these all happened.

- Hey, something I forgot to mention at the end of the Fishing Trip part (er, what? it was not a fishing trip...) - on the canoe ride back, the guide and paddlers sang a song for us. That's what that memorandum about 'Ranai yo pinama' was - the people in their boat sang, and the people in our boat chanted 'Ranai yo pinama' (or something like that, and I have no idea what it means), and all the paddlers made a beat by thumping their paddles on the sides of the boat between strokes. The song was something about Welcome to Tanzania, and also contained the phrase 'Hakuna Matata,' which I was slightly surprised to hear, because at that point I still kind of figured that Disney had made it up or at least corrupted it beyond recognition. -

- 'into the safari car, long car ride' - Haha, past-me, you think that car ride was long? You ain't seen nothin' yet.

- The Serengeti National Park - For something that's possibly the most famous national park outside the United States, it had a remarkably unassuming entrance, at least on that side. Just a big wooden sign over the road - it was hard to even get the Obligatory Photograph because if it was zoomed out far enough to get Mr Fusion and me and the sign all in, the words on the sign were too small to be conveniently readable. There was another 'entrance' later on, after the park boundary, and that one at least had a gate and some skulls and some buildings and a little souvenir shop, but it still wasn't much. Nothing like Yosemite, for sure.

On the subject of Obligatory Photographs: An Obligatory Photograph is one of me and Mr Fusion standing beside or in front of the sign for a park, grinning on demand no matter how brightly the sun is in our eyes or how annoyed we feel at being obligated to stand in front of a sign and grin into the sun. Dad takes at least one every time we visit or even so much as pass by a park, no matter how insignificant the park or how little time we spent there. Someday I would like to gather all the Obligatory Photographs together and see just how many there are - I'm guessing hundreds.

Written Saturday 23 July:

- Photographing cute monkeys - The place I just mentioned, with the gate and the buildings and the skulls, was infested with velvet (later information says that they're actually vervet, but velvet sounds better) monkeys, which are pretty cute and the first thing of which we took a few zillion photographs.
Random weird thing about velvet monkeys: Their scrota are hairless and bright blue.

- Collecting dead bugs and a bat - Yeah, at that same place I found a squished dried-up bat that wasn't actually good for anything (its skull was squished and the whole thing wasn't a very good specimen), but hey, it was a bat, and I like bats, and didn't yet have one, so I figured I'd keep it. And a few dead bugs, too, 'cause I've actually got a foam-core board for displaying bugs and I hadn't added to it in a long time.

- Coveting the skulls at the park entrance - Heheheh, they were nice skulls, and I always want new species of skull. The baboon skull there was particularly pretty. And the elephant was extremely awesome and weird.

- Long car ride, through the park - I guess it was pretty long. William was driving like a maniac to get to camp before dark.

Written Sunday 24 July:

And he didn't so much as slow down for the animals. Every time he almost hit a gazelle or a baby zebra or somesuch, we would scream and William would laugh at us screaming.

- Seeing fifteen species of mammals (the hard ones to remember being topi and waterbuck) - yes, let me see if I can list all fifteen:

  • Wildebeest - lots of these; we were just seeing the very end of the Great Migration; at the center of Migration there can be thousands, maybe millions of them, I don't know, we only saw a couple hundred.
  • Zebra - Lots of these, too. They're more like donkeys than horses. The Swahili word for zebra is 'punda milia,' which means 'striped donkey.' We saw quite a few donkeys while we were there, but never a single horse.
  • Thompson's Gazelle - very cute little antelope; we saw a whole lot of them; for reasons unknown they wag their tails most of the time.
  • Impala - Lots of these, often very close to the road. Harems of females and bachelor herds of males. Interestingly, the swahili word is 'Swala Pala' ('pala' from 'impala,' see) and the word for the Thompson's Gazelle is 'Swala Tomi' ('tomi' from 'Thompson'), so....
  • Water Buffalo - Big cow beasties, horribly dangerous, one of the Big Five. They're actually bovine, which wildebeest aren't. Wildebeest look a lot like cows, or like bison, but they're antelope, and they're also a lot smaller than photographs make them look. Not so with water buffalo.
  • Masai Giraffe - a dark-colored variety of giraffe with intricate jaggedy spots. This is the kind of giraffe we saw most often. (Includes an illustration of an 'intricate jaggedy spot' that seems insignificant enough that I don't really need to go to even the slight bother of photographing it and all...)
  • Common Giraffe - Must be common somewhere else, because this may have been the only time we saw one, yet it's the giraffe everyone visualises whenever anyone visualises a giraffe - light colored, with big, soft, rounded spots very different from the Masai Giraffe's spots.
  • Warthog - One of those animals that's simultaneously ugly and cute. It was hard to get photographs of them because they always ran away. They run in groups of maybe three to six, and when they run, their tails stick straight up.
  • Olive Baboon - I never really liked the baboons, but my family did.... Not much else to say about them.
  • Velvet (or possibly Vervet) Monkey - Yeah, I wrote about these already but have to list them now among the fifteen.
  • Topi - One of 'the hard ones to remember.' Funny-looking dark reddish-brown antelope beasties with sort of gray haunches that Mom said looked purple.
  • Waterbuck - Definitely one of the hard ones to remember, as we only saw one and it was vanishing into the bush so we didn't even see the whole beast.
  • Hippopotamus - This one was up out of the water, walking across the road.
  • Spotted Hyena - And they make whooping noises like 'vworp!' at night...

    Okay, that's fourteen....

    Written Wednesday 27 July

    ...And, fifteen! How could I have forgotten?

  • Dik-dik - the smallest kind of antelope, really cute, with big eyes and little horns. They generally travel in pairs, and William kept confusing us by sometimes saying 'One is "dik," two is "dik-dik"' and sometimes insisting that each individual is a dik-dik, which happens to be the truth.

    - Many more of birds - yeah, don't even remember...

    - Picking up two wildebeest skulls - The first was small and kind of delicate-looking somehow, sort of pretty beyond just skulls-are-pretty like. Like the skeleton in Mr ScienceTeacher's classroom. Petite, maybe. I almost regret not choosing it to take home - but the one I did choose was/is a better specimen, and more cool, and still pretty but only in the usual way of skulls. Regardless. The second one I picked up that day was completely unremarkable. They both were pretty old, all the keratin eaten off their horns by worms or somesuch, their noses broken off the way all cow-looking-skulls' noses get broken. I guess it's not really noses, but whatever. And neither of the two was the one I eventually ended up taking home.

    William was amused and a little surprised by my interest in skeletons (he soon nicknamed me 'Miss Skeleton,' which I liked, except sort of didn't like the 'Miss' part, but whatever), and the way I would have him stop the car so I could get out (totally against park rules) and dash a few meters off the road (very really majorly against park rules) to pick up a skull and bring it back to the car with the full intention of taking it out of the park (also against park rules) and later out of the country and back to the States (not against any rules at all, actually).

    - Lightning, rain - There was a little bit of a late-afternoon thundershower. The top of the Land Rover had to be closed, that's about all it affected anything.

    Written Thursday 28 July:

    - Racing the dark - This is why William was driving like a maniac ('driving like a Turk,' would be Oma's expression for it) in the later part of that day - it's against park rules to be out of camp after dark, so he had to get to camp before dark, which he did, but just barely, and at the imperilment of a great many baby zebras.

    - Camp, giant canvas houses with beds and such - Described well enough in the Twenty-Fourth's entry.

    Transcribed as faithfully as possible from my handwritten travel journal.
    Italics indicate where I have changed or added to what I originally wrote.
    Notes and expansions which I have written later, at the back of the journal, will be included along with their appropriate days, labelled with the dates on which they were written.
    The handwritten journal uses a format in which the first line of every paragraph is indented and no line is skipped between paragraphs. As I cannot use indents here (or don't know how), I will skip a line between paragraphs, and use two a line of ........ when I skipped a line in the written journal.
    Some entries are illustrated. I have just found (to my great excitement!) an easy way to show you the original illustrations, although they do show up dark and sometimes sideways.

  • Comments

    lonewolf678's picture

    Bee eaters!

    Such beautiful birds. :-D

    MacAvity's picture

    Have I told you that I

    Have I told you that I appreciate that you comment on my journals? Even ridiculously long ones like this - and it's okay if you didn't read all of it; I know I wouldn't have read all of it if someone else had written something this long. So.... yeah, thanks for reading any of it at all, and commenting.

    Bee eaters are cute!
    (Not my picture, by the way. Mine is mostly background, and the birds show up, recognisable but blurry, only if it's zoomed way in.)

    lonewolf678's picture


    well I'm still surprised no one else decides to comment. Maybe they had have their minds blown by the awesomeness that your travel entries contain? I was going to read from where I left off yesterday. ;-)