Tanzania 6/28/06 - Sinya Game Drive, Limestone Mine, Bushwalk, Sinya Farewell

We woke up at 6:15 am. Craig went out to sit on the porch to get some photos and watch the sunrise. When he came back in and was getting ready in the bathroom, I heard Mouse #10 running around on the roof. Craig could see him through the mesh bathroom ceiling. It was rather funny watching him scurry all around the roof, running back and forth, trying to enter. Our "wake up call" arrived at 7. Neither of us knew who wandered over to our tent to let us know it was time to get up but we assumed it was Lucas. We headed over to the dining area for breakfast at 7:20. Sitting at an open-air table we had coffee, orange juice, watermelon, papaya, honeydew melon, cheese, eggs, bacon, sausage, beans, and toast with African peanut butter. Paco and Marienka, who were scheduled to leave camp an hour before us, were already done eating when we arrived at the table. After eating they went back to their tent to prepare for their day. We finished eating quickly and were ready to leave by 8:00. We ended up leaving just before they did.

As we left the grounds, we could easily see the three mountains Namanga, Longido, and Meru. We passed three giraffes, who, of course, stopped what they were doing and just stared at us. When Paco and Marienka's car appeared behind ours, it finally diverted their attention. We saw various birds such as a black bellied bustard and a white billed fiscal shrike. We saw some gazelles, and with binoculars we were able to see some female gerenok without horns. We saw an acacia totilles with a huge buffalo weaver nest right in the center. We saw some zebra who got rather skittish when I took out the camera. We saw some baboons with babies on their backs, and a kori bustard. We saw two male and one female ostrich running very fast across our path. They presented to one another, but when Michael stopped the vehicle so we could have a look, they stopped what they were doing.

We came across two elephants and got very close to them. They were much more low-key than the foreign pair we had run across yesterday. They knew we were there, but they ignored us and went about their business. One was using its tusks to scrape the bark off of a tree. It would then eat the bark as a digestive aid. He would rest some bark on his own trunk as a staging area and then bring it up to his mouth. The other elephant was using his feet to help loosen grass, which he would then pull out with his trunk. He would then whip the bundle of grass around with his trunk to shake the dirt off. After clouds of dust were released, he would finally eat it. It was very interesting and we were only about 20 feet away. It was amazing how strong and muscular the trunk is. We saw a third elephant followed by another pair, and all of them were doing this same feeding behavior. We saw a pair of warthogs running with their tails straight up in the air like antennae, just like Patrick had said. We saw three more elephants in the distance, but we didn't stop. We saw some wildebeest and zebras resting in the shade. As soon as they saw us, they all took off at a run. We kept seeing some brilliant iridescent superb starlings shining in the sun.

We approached a stone marker which dilineated the border between Kenya and Tanzania. It was just out in the middle of nowhere. I "crossed the border" to the Kenyan side and Craig stood on the Tanzanian side for a photo op. Back in the vehicle, we came across a ton of baboons. Michael playfully followed them a little. Wow, can they run! Even mothers with infants on their backs could really move. We saw the carcass of an elephant that had died in November. It was sad to see a once-majestic animal in such a state. It had been picked clean by hyenas except for its skin and the grass which had been in its stomach. So it was basically a pile of bones, weathered skin, and half digested grass. We then came across an old limestone mine. There were piles of bright white minerals everywhere. There were also two pools which, because of the limestone, were very alkaline. At the far end of one of the pools, there was a flock of flamingos. This was the size of the flocks that we had expected to see in Celestun, Mexico. We had been a bit disappointed when the flock we saw in Celestun was so small. This was more like it.

There were Maasai there with their donkeys, and Michael and Lucas told us that they collect the top layer of soil here to use as animal food. We walked to the far end of the pool to get a better look at the flamingos. They all got startled and flew back to the other end of the pool. They looked beautiful silhouetted against the blue sky. Watching them take off and land was a riot because they actualy walk on the water's surface while their wings accelerate or decelerate.

We started heading back to the camp and Lucas taught us a new euphemism for a bathroom break: "checking the tire pressure." No one needed to, so we drove on. We saw Maasai with their flocks and a dust devil. We also saw a giraffe. It was kind of a long way back, and the road was very bumpy. After a while, Craig really did need to "check the tire pressure." He got out of the Land Rover and immediately Marienka and Paco's car came along. It was the first time we had seen them (or another vehicle, for that matter) all morning. Talk about timing.

Michael drove us back through the staff quarters, so we got to see some more of the Kambi ya Tembo facilities. When we arrived back at 12:30, we were told that lunch would be at 1:00. I was very hungry. We sat in the common area looking at the Maasai coffee table book.Craig got a Safari beer and I got a Fanta. At 1:00, they called us to the table. Today's lunch was a buffet: tasty plain meatballs, salad, seasoned potatoes, beet roots, and zucchini. It was delicious! When they came around with seconds, I even still had an appetite. For dessert we had bits of fruit in a thick sugary red syrup. It tasted familiar but I couldn't place it. I asked what it was and was told "jelly." Ahhh, of course! Jell-o! Jell-o that hadn't been refrigerated, so it had never set. At 2 we headed back to the tent for a siesta. We brought the Maasai coffee table book with us, and sat outside on our porch flipping through it as we listened to the birds. Then I wrote in the journal. We were to meet Michael at 4:30 for a bush walk.

At 4:30, Craig and Michael each had a quick cup of coffee. We were given walking sticks, and Michael carried a spear. Lucas had a backpack with bottled water in it. The sun was low and it was a nice temperature for walking. Lucas pointed out the sodom apple, a local stomach remedy. There are acacia malifera around the camp. They are distiguishable by their small round leaves and seed pods. We saw a dove sitting on a nest in a finger euphobia. As we tried to take a picture, she flew away, leaving her three eggs unattended. Michael told us that the Maasai chew the gum of the finger euphobia. We saw a large termite mound, and were taught that their size depends on the mineral content of the soil (more minerals = bigger mound). We saw the nalotik acacia. Its bark is boiled and drunk. This was what the Maasai warrior in the Langoto Deeka village had been given as traditional medicine when he had been held down by others. We were walking down a trail and it turned out that we were on a bluff overlooking Amboseli. The views of the mountains were hazy, but Kili's peak was emerging. Michael told us that he has climbed it twice, as an assistant guide. Kibo is the main peak with the glaciers, and Mawezi is the second peak. We could see the wheat and barley fiends in the distance, and we were told that they are on government land and used for the production of Kilimanjaro beer. We saw zebra, giraffe, and hyena tracks. Lucas took the opportunity to talk about Maasai tracks as well. Pretty much all Maasai wear sandals made out of motorcycle tires. Because of this, you can't tell which direction their footprints lead, causing the occasional marauding Maasai cattle thief to be difficult to track. We saw some Grant's gazelle droppings. There are a lot of trees in this area because of the large elephant population (their droppings spread seeds). We saw the conifera africana, which the Maasai boil to make tea. We saw lots of whistling acacia as well.

We saw some wildebeest, gazelles, and zebras in the distance, and we carefully headed toward them. We were walking through tall grass (which can easily conceal predators), so we walked single file. Michael took the lead, followed by Craig and myself, and Lucas brought up the rear. As we approached, all of the animals scattered except for a couple of braver wildebeest. It was so wild to be on foot in the bush, near these animals. This was not Disney's Animal Kingdom. This was the real deal, and anything could happen. We saw some elephant dung, which the Maasai use as medication for malaria. They feel that elephants ingest a lot of medicinal plants, so when they are sick, they burn the dung and inhale the fumes as medication. Lucas radio'd to the camp, and all of a sudden the other vehicle (Paco and Marienka, returning from a village visit) appeared. We had walked around 5 km, and they gave us a ride back to the camp.

We arrived at 6:20. The sun was setting over Mount Longido as we arrived at the dining area. We took some sunset photos, and then all of a sudden we heard singing. The staff (including Sylvestery) were all in Maasai dress. They came running up from the staff quarters and started to sing and dance, silhouetted in front of the setting sun. Craig and Paco danced with the men, and then Marienka and I joined in. Sylvestery served as MC, and he got all of us swaying and rocking back and forth to the rhythm. The Maasai jumped, and then we all formed a circle and skipped around while they chanted. Lucas was doing some great vocal percussion. They had us pair up, and each pair had a turn dancing in the center of the circle. Craig and I enjoyed this, and punctuated the end of our dance with a whoop, as the Maasai had done. They got a big kick out of this. Sylvestery led everyone in a Swahili song "Jambo bwana, hakuna matata". Lucas popped open a bottle of champagne and the tourists and guides drank. Then we (along with Marienka and Paco) were told to sit down and relax and watch some more singing and dancing while sipping our champagne.

The "show" finished at 7, and we sat around chatting and sipping our champagne while Marienka and Paco headed back to their tent to shower. We chatted with Comfort (Paco and Marienka's guide from Kibo Adventures). At 7:45 we were called to the table. We had delicious pumpkin soup, pork chops, green beans, cauliflower, and potatoes. It was fabulous. For dessert we had a crepe. Craig had Kili beer and I had white wine. We chatted with Michael and Sylvestery about U.S. politics, racism, religion, etc. It was a great talk. We learned more facts about Maasai and Tanzanian culture, such as that if a Maasai boy flinches during circumcision, he must pay a fine of 5 cattle. Tanzanians can be fined if they don't attend a neighbor's funeral. As we chatted, we could see a vehicle in the distance, winding its way across the savannah, in the middle of nowhere. Where was it going? We were surprised when it worked its way to our camp and eventually pulled up. It was an African Wildlife truck. They patrol the area looking for poachers (it is easier to find them at night because they use flashlights). It is not unusual for locals to beat up poachers rather than turn them in (as the police can often just be bribed and don't punish them). After the visitors headed off into the darkness, we said goodbye to Marienka and Paco, as we would all be leaving tomorrow. We got a photo with them. Sylvestery told us about the non-profit foundation he has started for AIDS education (his brother died of AIDS). We headed back to the tent at 11:30, and were asleep by 12:30.
Sunrise, Kambi ya Tembo

Elephant, Sinya

Watch an elephant clean his foodWatch an elephant clean his food
(20 second clip)

Elephant, Sinya

Watch an elephant clean his foodWatch an elephant clean his food
(20 second clip)

Tanzania (left) Kenya (right) border

flamingos a Limestone Mine

Steph and Craig in front of Kilimanjaro on a bush walk

Mt Kilimanjaro

Watch the Kambi ya Tembo FarewellWatch the Kambi ya Tembo Farewell
(20 second clip)

Lucas pouring champagne

Watch the Kambi ya Tembo FarewellWatch the Kambi ya Tembo Farewell
(20 second clip)

Michael, Steph, Lucas, and craig

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