Final day in Selous, part13
If there were any animal visitors or sounds during the night in our camp I slept right through them. I’m up early and walk down to the lake to watch the sun come up. Tembo and Mawe have already taken up vigil near the lake and are also watching as the red sun slowly edges up into the African sky. The sunrise is another stunner and we quietly appreciate its beauty.
Today we are taking lunch with us and will spend the whole day traversing through a small part of the vast Selous Reserve. Once we get through the gnarly road that leads away from our camp, we amble through timber areas, grassland, and alongside lakes. Yesterday as we searched for wild animals, I found myself humming the tune of “Quiet your mind”, by the Zac Brown Band (my favorite group). Today the song pops into my head again and I realize I am humming it out loud. The words of one stanza runs through my mind and they are certainly appropriate, particularly because of the sunrises we have seen at this mobile camp. I include the words so you can see why I find them so fitting.
At the end of the water
A red sun is rising
And the stars are all going away
And if your too busy talking
You’re not busy listening
To hear what the land has to say
Quiet your mind.
I don’t know why this song has surfaced in the last two days; maybe my subconscious is just reminding me to make the most of the end of our time here.
Some of the highlights of this morning include a baby bushbuck following its mother and turning to give us a curious look before walking into the thickets. There is a victorious impala buck chasing his vanquished foe along the edge of a lake, a trio of ground hornbills in the background are unimpressed with the impala skirmish that is taking place. Two majestic fish eagle are outlined against the deep blue sky as they perch in a sun bleached dead tree. Across the water are three giraffe, two of them in their awkward straddled position as they drink.
Mid-morning our drivers stop near a lake, set up a table and lay bananas and drinks out for us to snack on. Brian finds a dead palm frond and brandishes it like it is a whip while scowling at us as if he has had enough of his wards. I think he was just kidding!
As we continue on, someone in one of our sister vehicles spots an aberration in a female impala that is sporting one horn. Female impala do not have horns! To make this oddity even stranger, the horn is growing downward and unfortunately the point of the horn is beginning to pierce the doe’s cheek. Occasionally, this will happen in cattle and you must saw the tip off of the horn or the horn will literally puncture the animals flesh and result in a wound. This does not look good for the impala as she isn’t going to receive any human help. Our next unusual find is a giraffe that is so light in color we at first wonder if the animal is an albino. The giraffe’s eyes are brown so obviously the animal isn’t albino, but the leggy animal is still a very unusual color.
The guides stop by a large lake to prepare lunch for us and it is a perfect place to eat our last lunch in the Selous. There are several half-submerged hippopotamus in the calm water and the vast sky is full of puffy, white clouds. Yes, it is hot but there are trees that lend us a little shade. After eating, I ask Kevin if I can walk to a tree that stands not far from our picnic spot. Kevin gives me his permission and laughingly says that I can also go for a swim if I want to. No thanks and I plan to stay far from the water’s edge!
After our leisurely lunch, we move on through the dusty land and we haven’t gone far when Ngruwe points to a tree and declares that there is an animal there. I see the outline of rounded ears and soon we realize a huge hyena is sitting at the base of the tree. As we watch, the animal gets to its feet and awkwardly lopes off. The spotted hyena doesn’t go far after deciding we are harmless, and sits down in the shade of a tree. The ugly critter, (in my opinion) stares back at us with one brown eye and one blue eye. I’m fairly certain that the hyena is blind in the blue eye. The tree that the hyena is sitting by has a mythical look in my imagination, as to me it looks like a knight type figure that has a shield over its head, one eye is visible and what looks like an arm is resting on the back of the hyena. It is kind of creepy to tell you the truth.
Moving on through the Reserve we find four lion near a lake sleeping among low growing bushes. They have no interest in us and the sun dappled felines barely open their eyes as we invade their space. Nyama decides to crawl out onto the back roof, where Brian often rides, to get better photos. It doesn’t take long for the lions to notice this aberration to the vehicles shape and one of the big females stands up looking towards our Rover. Oops, I suggest that maybe it would be wise if Nyama would come back inside the truck even though the big cat doesn’t seem alarmed or upset. I would guess a leap onto the roof wouldn’t be likely for the lion to do, but let’s not tempt the beautiful animal into proving that wrong.
Eventually two sleepy lions manage to muster enough energy to sit up and move all of 20 feet to the other side of the bushes. Kevin maneuvers the Rover around so we are privy to have a frontal view of the cats. The beautiful lionesses catch sight of a few impalas grazing across the road and fix them with an interested stare. They aren’t hungry enough to attempt to hunt the antelope and eventually the duo lay back down. The youngster in the group joins them briefly before deciding to crawl back into the bushes where there is more shade.
We leave the contented lions behind and continue exploring this new area of Selous. About an hour later it is obvious our guides are looking for something as they have slowed the vehicles down and are searching intently among a group of trees. Kevin pulls up next to a small grove of acacias(I think), and there in the center of the cluster of trees are a pack of wild dogs! No way, in our four previous trips to Africa the closest we have come to wild dogs are seeing the canine’s tracks in the dirt. Now we have seen two different packs of dogs in back to back days. We again tell our vehicle mates that they have no idea what an incredible safari this has been and how fortunate they have been to see all the animals we have seen in one trip. Unbelievable.
This group of dogs is sleeping on grassy ground under the shade of the acacias and are lying very close together. It occurs to me that when the dogs are all lying still and on their sides you could imagine that someone dumped a large amount of marbled cake batter on the ground since the painted dogs hides seem to be a continuous color of yellows and blacks! This group of dogs for the most part does not have as much white in the color scheme of their coats as the pack we saw yesterday. They also appear to be as healthy and well fed as the group we saw yesterday.
The day is fading away and we need to get back to camp before the sun exits the sky so we reluctantly leave the painted dogs behind. Another incredible day in the wilds of Africa and I find it hard to believe we will be leaving everything behind tomorrow.
Christophe has prepared a special meal for us tonight in celebration of the end of our safari. It seems that all of the camp staff chipped in money to buy a goat and Christophe has been roasting the meat all day. The meat smells and tastes good but the sacrificed goat must have been an old goat as the meat is tough and it takes a lot of chewing to reduce the bite of meat to a state where you can swallow it. Regardless, most of us take seconds because this thoughtful offering from the wonderful people who have taken care of us is very touching.
The camp staff isn’t finished with surprises tonight because once we finish the main course, all the staff parade toward us out of the dark, singing and dancing. One of the guys is holding a cake whose icing is green and yellow, two of the colors of the Tanzanian flag. Brian joins in the joyful dancing as the rest of us watch the entertainment with delight. Paul has supplied Amarula for everyone in our last two mobile camps for an after dinner drink. Everyone raises their glass for the last time in a salute to this wonderful safari, (I don’t like Amarula, but tonight I join in the ritual). Eventually, we all drift away to our tents to organize our things for our departure tomorrow.
Paul and I are settling into our tent when Brian comes by and asks if we want to go with Sahidi, Daktari, and himself on a search for the bushbaby that is around the camp. Heck yes we do, we have never seen one of the noisy creatures and would love to add the bushbaby to our wildlife list. Sahidi leads the way as he shines a weak beam of light that barely penetrates the darkness a foot ahead of him. Brian, who is walking right behind Sahidi, finally adds his strong headlight beam into the treetops where Sahidi is shining his own light. We stumble around in the woods, dodging numerous spider webs and low hanging limbs. Sahidi is surprised that we do not find the tree-dwelling creature but agrees to come wake Paul and I up if the camp robber shows up later tonight.
As all of us are walking towards our tent, I continue to shine my light into the trees. We have nearly reached our tent when my headlamp lights up a pair of eyes looking down at us from a nearby tree. Sure enough a bush baby is crawling around in the tree not 10 foot from our tent. Since we are neighbors to Vidole Juu and Uwiano, they come out to see what the fuss is about and join in watching the bushbaby. I am surprised at how small this animal is and wonder how it manages to make such a loud sound. Well, that was a great way to end our final night in the Selous. Later, when Paul and I get up to visit the back of the tent, we see glowing eyes in an adjacent tree. I look at it briefly and assume it is another or the same bushbaby. Paul takes a more careful look and discovers that the reflective eyes belong to a big rat. Lovely.
On our last morning in the Selous, many of us are at the lakes edge to watch the sun come up but this morning there are clouds just thick enough to keep us from having another beautiful sunrise. I have to walk away to get a little privacy from the group as tears are beginning to run down my checks. This always happens to me when it is time to leave Africa.
After breakfast, Brian gathers all the camp staff and reads them a letter he has written in Swahili. We safarists have no clue what is being said but there are beaming smiles on the staff’s faces and often they break into laughter. We have all contributed tip money, which Brian presents to Christophe who will distribute the dough evenly among his coworkers. Luggage is loaded into the back of the Rovers and we climb into our vehicles to begin the long drive to Dar es Salaam.
As we leave our camp I realize that tears are welling up again and I search for a kleenex as I keep my head averted from my fellow passengers. Rats, no kleenex and in a voice thick with emotion, I ask Paul to give me the kleenex out of my pack. Paul is in the back and he doesn’t understand what I want, but Nyama quickly hands me a tissue from her supply. Well that’s a bit embarrassing, but I can’t help it and I do manage to compose myself rather quickly.
The roads we are traversing are rough and dusty for the first part of our journey. The red roads take us through many small villages but we are driving fast over the bumpy tracks so taking photos is almost impossible. Eventually we turn onto a highway which leads us into Dar. We are stuck in one traffic jam due to a disabled truck which turns the busy highway into a one-way road. Ugh, the chaos of a big city is hard to take after the wilds of the bush.
As we are sitting at a stop light on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam a group of preteen boys are yelling at us and it isn’t hard to figure out by their body language and tone of voice that what they are saying isn’t “Welcome to Dar”! This intuition is confirmed when one of the youngsters extends his middle finger at us. Kevin yells something like “Ne, Ne” and when the boy looks at him, Kevin shakes his finger at him in admonishment. The tough guy wilts like a piece of day old lettuce when he sees the look of disapproval Kevin gives him. What a difference from the children in the country who yelled and waved at us with huge smiles on their faces. Welcome back to civilization!
Kevin’s demeanor has changed since we hit the big city traffic as he tries to keep up with the other two vehicles. His laid back attitude has turned serious and tense and I can surely relate to his mood. Before we go to our hotel, it was decided we would visit an area that sells local crafts. When we pull into the parking lot we agree to return to the vehicles at a set time then everyone goes their own way on a quest for souvenirs. Paul and I wander into a few of the dukas (shops) but we don’t find anything that reaches out and says, “buy me”. When we arrive back at the Rovers, it appears that everyone else has found a few souvenirs or gifts to take home with them.
The guides now deliver us to the Tanzanite hotel where we say our final goodbye to these men that have taken such good care of us in our travels. When we enter the Tanzanite it is good to know that this time they do have rooms for all of us!! We all retire to our rooms and agree to meet at 6:30 to go back to the Lebanese restaurant for supper. Paul and I shower and rest until it is time to meet our friends for our last supper in Africa. The food is as good as the first time although I’d trade it all for Christophe’s dinner rolls and pumpkin soup. We return to the hotel and manage to sleep for 3 hours before we leave for the airport at 12:30 a.m…
Check in at the Dar airport went smoothly until Paul discovered that he had not picked up his passport holder that contained his money clip (his passport was in his hand) out of the rubber tubs when we came through the security screening. An airport screener went back to check the baskets and returned telling us that she could not find the missing items. A security man comes over after observing our distress to learn what the problem is and decides to recheck the containers himself. We watch as he unstacks the containers and when he reaches into one and pulls out Paul’s passport holder and the money clip, relief floods through us. We profusely thank the fellow and join our friends in the waiting area.
Everyone has visited the airport shops and returned with various kinds of chocolate. Paul brought me m&m’s, a kitkat bar, and a few more chocolate candy bars. As you can see we were all desperately craving chocolate. Vidole Juu and Uwiano present me with a huge chocolate bar and they give Paul a bottle of Amarulla! How thoughtful is that!
Brian predicted that our plane would be 45 minutes late and he was exactly right. Once on board we settle into our seats and I soon discover that the woman next to me is not well as she goes into frequent coughing fits. One of the flight attendants is also ill and at one time when I visit the restroom at the back of the plane, she is literally in tears, holding a paper cup over one ear. That is a new one but I assume it must alleviate pain associated with an earache. If we escape any illness after this exposure it will be a miracle.
When we land in Istanbul we are behind schedule since we left Dar so late. There are five of us that are spending two days in this city, Brian, Daktari, Cheka, Vitabu and Paul and I, so we don’t have to rush off to catch another flight. Our safarists that are catching another flight hurry to get on the first buses that are waiting to take us from the plane to the terminal. We wave goodbye as the buses carrying our friends drive towards the airport buildings.
When the five of us get off our bus and walk into the terminal, we find Vidole Juu, Uwino, Nyama, and Ngruwe waiting for us. There are hugs all around and Nyama is teary eyed which makes us respond with our own eyes tearing up as we say a proper farewell. The foursome leaves us and move on toward the gate that will fly them home to Kansas. The five of us make our way to the baggage claim and are delighted when our bags appear immediately. We catch a glimpse of Tembo and Mbuzi as they are whisked to the gate for their flight. We wave goodbye to them, Mbuzi sees us but we can’t get Tembo’s attention.
When we exit the baggage area we find our driver holding up a sign with Hesse on it and we follow him to his car. We will spend two nights in Istanbul and I will write a separate blog on this fascinating and beautiful city.
This ends my version of our terrific safari in Tanzania. There was a request from a reader asking me to give the English version of our Swahili names. The cast of characters are as follows.
Bwana Vidole Juu-Mr. Fingers Up
Mama Uwiano-Balancing Lady
Bibi Nyama-Meat Lady
Bwana Ngruwe-Pig Man
Bibi Bahati Njema-Lady good luck
Bwana Mkatagiza Usiku- Mr. “he who cuts the night”
Bwana Cheka-Mr. Laugh
Bibi Vitabu-Ms. Books
Mista Tembo-Mr. Elephant/Tusker
Mama Mbuzi-Goat Lady
Bwana Mawe-Rock Man
Mama Uchunguzi-Research Lady
Daktari ya Moyo- The heart doctor
Mzungu Mrefu- A Tall White Guy-none other than our fearless safari leader Brian
Mama Ndege- Bird Lady
Bwana Mapumbo- Mr. Testicles
Some of these Swahili names, like mine, are straight forward. Others have a story behind the name such as Paul’s.
The end, Nancy