East Africa

Dar es Salaam Travel Blog

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Dar es Salaam, Sunday, 20 September 2009 I am relaxing at South Beach after more than ten days of adventure and self-improvement. After being for some time in Cairo, I finally took Egypt air flight to Nairobi. Landed at 4 am, fortunately everything run smoothly and nice for me and my luggage.   I paid $50 for the Kenyan visa at the airport and $20 for the shuttle I had reserved in advance.    Arrived at the Kenyan Comfort Inn Hotel at almost five in the morning and had an English breakfast at the charming restaurant on the first floor.    The good news; I didn’t have to pay for the night and went into my private room at six.    I was really tired and had a nice nap until 11 am. Then, met Sammy and his taxi and did a fast reconnaissance tour of Nairobi.
  First, we went to the elephant and rhino orphanage, where I had the nicest experience with the babies and child elephants. These mammals live almost 80 years and the little ones act as humans do for their age. A five-year-old elephant plays like a 5-year-old human.    The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust Orphans Project helps them after the lost of their mothers by different causes.    Poaching, illness, even human war destroys the future of these wonderful animals.   They take care of them for years until the creatures are ready to return to the wild. The little ones are fed with giant milk bottles.    Everyday lots of tourists come here for a memorable picture.   A specialized biologist gave us a class about elephant behavior; I also gave my finger for a baby elephant to suck.
So nice… At the end of the visit, I encountered a baby black rhino, lovely creature but less intelligent than the elephants, I could see the difference between a solitary animal and a highly social one…  Next stop, the Nile crocodile farm where I observed and touch the reptiles, I had lunch there and made some words with a Brazilian group that where also visiting, then we head to the Giraffe Sanctuary;  here, these tall and graceful animals take the stage.  At a tree house is possible to feed them at their height. Nice work!!!   I even gave them concentrate with my own lips.  Disgusting… but a really nice experience. I also enjoyed my first contact with bushpigs.   
     Nairobi is a beautiful and clean city.
You can smell English heritage in every corner.   Bougainvilleas of all colors just make the city a garden.    I have read that the Kenyan capital has become one of the most dangerous cities in the world.   I didn’t have this impression but I saw a gigantic slump outside the city;  and I am sure, things are quite different there.    I visited also Karen Blixen house-museum, as did the Prince of Thailand while I was there.    I had a glimpse of him and walked around the house and beautiful gardens also saw the coffee mill and toaster of the estate...        At 5PM had my pre-trip reunion at the Boulevard Hotel. Nice hotel, nice people, and NICE friends I met there… Jenny, Ginette, Rachel, Stephen, Any, Sean, Owen, finally our guide John and driver Karimi.
  Later I went with some safari friends to have dinner at Citrus, a butchery-restaurant!!! Local Kenyans come here to buy meat or eat it right there on the grill.   I devoured one kilo of roasted lamb leg and chicken for less than 5 dollars. This was the real African restaurant in Nairobi. The waiter kindly makes you wash your hands before and after the meal with hot water and home made soap. A out of the ordinary but healthy idea.    Then we headed to the top disco in town to enjoy some East African nightlife.  Smelly…But fascinating and fun.   Next day at 9AM we head for the Rift valley… The bus comfortable and self contained with all the necessary stuff for camping. AFRICATRAVELCO have done the out-lander trips for years, and with more than 80 trucks, they just know their business.
I felt secure and well with them.   In Masai Mara campsite, I had my first encounter with this proud people. Also, my sleeping bag and camping-stuff.   I was in heaven!!!         Early in the morning we began our Safari (voyage) on Masai Mara National Reserve. I saw, filmed and photographed; Gnus, Vultures, Giraffes, Thompson Gazelles, Eagles, Buffaloes, Zebras, Secretary birds, Baboons, Elephants, Ocelots War hogs; and finally a lyon mating with a lioness. The Mercedes Benz truck stopped at the Keekorok Airstrip where I learned a lot about animal dung that I saw there. Elephants and Zebras droppings are quite different in size and form. Tommie Gazelles also very special and unusual. In the afternoon we visited the Mara River where crocodiles and hippos are.
This is the place where millions of animals; Gnus, Zebras, Gazelles and others cross every year on the big migration that begins in Serengeti and finishes in Masai Mara.   Here, also thousands die either drown or eaten by the crocodiles and other carnivores. I had lunch accompanied by Black face monkeys and saw a giant crock on the river rapids. At night we visited a Masai town and went inside the chief’s son hut. Neanderthal living I think…The Masai made fire with two pieces of wood, impressive! And I had them as a gift!! What a great day…!
     Next morning we woke up very early and head for Namanga (Tanzanian Border), we stopped for lunch and I met and help the cook Martin on the Kitchen.
   Also met a Check Republic group and Felicity and Laura, nice and really funny Melbourne Australians. Also Mark and Stephen; serious but intelligent Swiss guys from Lausanne, practiced my French a little ;)   Finally arrived at Arusha where we slept.  This was my first encounter with a real camping tent. The campsite really nice and a great bar owned by South Africans. We discovered Arusha and prepared for our trip to Ngorongoro and Serengeti.   At the cultural Heritage Center I saw great African sculptures and paintings. Also learned about Tanzanite, a semi-precious stone and saw a lot of Coffee plantations nearby.
     A real Safari!! With our own land cruiser and a great group, we headed to Ngorongoro. Our drive Kopa, did really OK and showed all about game life and else. This was the first time I saw Baobabs in my life. We experienced drastic change in temperature, flora and fauna. We slept at Karatu campsite and begin very early our journey to the crater. Marvelous!!! A world heritage site, the Ngorongoro caldera is really astonishing… The rim is cold and cloudy but descending into the basin, a whole paradise just appears. Lyons, Zebras, Hyenas, war hogs, Hippos, Ostriches, Flamingos, Gnus, Zebras, Chitas, Rhino, and much more animals and plants live and die in this incredible place. In the afternoon we headed for Serengeti plains; magnificent and extraordinary.    Serengeti at night can be dangerous and we were told not to get out of the tent if we saw some “eyes” blinking with our flashlights.   I was really tired and slept like a baby, no time to see or hear something at the park.   Next morning we woke up at 5 am so we can witness the sunrise. Great event… An impressive instant in my life.    All day we did a fabulous game drive, stopping at the Serengeti main offices and wonderful museum. Here I learned a lot about the great migration and the dawn of mankind.   Unfortunately, I couldn’t visit Olduvai Gorge because it was very late and i had to arrive in Arusha for the night. (It is hazardous to travel after dark in Africa.)   Next day the truck drove painfully to Dar es Salaam, more than 12 hours…  I had a glimpse of Mighty Mont Kilimanjaro and different ecosystems down the road.   Our arrival at Dar was chaotic on traffic and Ramadan, a pandemonium;  sometimes it felt and looked like Dante’s Hell.  Next day I woke up in Paradise.  South Beach, Dar es Salaam.   I slept in my private hut with a nice bed and an a bug net. All for 15 dollars a night. I felt like Robinson Crusoe!!!   White sandy beach, the Indian Ocean with its turquoise waters, most important;   a strong breeze blowing west from the sea. (No mosquitoes). In the morning I took a taxi then a Ferry to Dar downtown.   I asked a local cab to take me to the Indian consulate but found it closed, I learned that I could have my visa in one day, finally I decided that I will do the pertinent actions in Zanzibar Indian consulate.   I went to the bank and changed dollars so I could have some Tanzanian Shillings on me.    Had lunch in a very good local Pizza Franchise. GREAT bottled orange juice!   In the afternoon I visited the National Museum, where the Olduvai and other very important anthropological discoveries are.    I saw the Zinjantropus 1.2 million years old (Australopithecus Boisei), also Neanderthal, Australopithecus Robustus, Homo Habilis, Tang and other skulls. Most important, the fossilized steps of Australopithecus Afarensis dated 3 million years old at Laetoli.    A pilgrimage to atheism!!!   On my way home I saw but didn’t went inside the fish market. It smelled really bad and I couldn’t stand it.   At Kipepeo Hotel I enjoyed the lovely beach and observed the end of Ramadan from my hut door.    A real party for Islam… All weekend, hundreds of very exotic people walked by the sea. Black women dressed beautiful clothes and ornaments, her faces hidden by also fine-looking veils. At night gangs of drum musicians playing perfect rhythm and locals dancing in a crazy frenetic trance…
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