Tanzanian Adventures: On A Safari (Ngorongoro Crater) Part 2

Nants ingonyama bagithi baba (there comes a lion)
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama (oh yes, it’s a lion)
Nants ingonyama bagithi baba (there comes a lion)
Sithi uhhmm ingonyama (oh yes, it’s a lion)
Ingonyama
Siyo nqoba (we’re going to conquer)
Ingonyama
Ingonyama nengw’ enamabaal (it’s a lion and a tiger)

Once at the bottom of the crater the animals were all within sight. Pumbas (Warthogs) were very curious of us, and looked like they wanted us to feed them. There were three elephant sightings in various parts of the park, and the guide told us it is at time rare to see elephants in the park. Lions are hanging in the sun like fat house cats, and the whole place is alive with animals going about their day without a thought about the safari jeeps passing by.

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These guys were quite the animal. Nothing like the wildebeest that run out in front of the jeep like they wanted to get hit ( I think they would do more damage to the jeep then a deer would). They stayed pretty much away from the roads and hangout among the gazelles. Which leads me to….

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Gazelles are just graceful of all the safari animals out there. No wonder why there is a a car named after them. When they are running it is just pure ballet on the Serengeti. They didn’t disappoint us when they run across the road or chase each other around. Even the babies are too darn cute to handle!

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This lion is a male who is roughly around a year or two and is yet to get his full mane. My cat at home has a better well developed mane then this one does. The lions in a group saw him coming and greeted him with so much love and attention. This is the only pride we saw in the whole crater, so theses must be the lions everyone talks about.

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At one point someone did slip on the bank and put a foot into the hippo pool. Hippos are not cute creatures when they are upset! Lucky no one got hurt and they stayed in the water, but we all know it could have ended up ugly. We were allowed to walk around the small area while having lunch. As long as we ate in the jeep, the Black Kites would not steal or rip our fingers off to get our food.

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The elephant population in the crater is older elephants that come here for the soft grass and to die. They are safe here in conservation area away from the big game reserve close by. Most of the animals in the crater live in harmony of each other. Even with the lions, it seemed there were an overpopulation of wildebeests and zebras, but the flamingos were not in abundance this time.  As we ascended out of the crater we passed into Lerai forest where the monkeys were. It seemed like most of the animals here are nocturnal and were asleep when we passed through. The forest had those trees that have the look of an African tree with the vines hanging down. To bad a picture was out of the question because of a group of baboons were hanging out close by. You just have to take my word for it.

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Last stop before heading back into town was the Heroe’s point where we were earlier that morning. Here you can see the crater spread out, and the setting sun over where the jeep had been. A perfect way to end the day of safari, and perfect reminder of how precious this place is for future generations. An expereince that I will never forget and the people who made it special.

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The view
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Map of the area

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Tanzanian Adventures: On A Safari (Ngorongoro Crater) Part 1

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It was six in the morning when we all headed to the Ngorongoro Crater for our safari to begin. Along the way, the jeep passed all sorts of the scenery of northern Tanzania including the very large military base in the middle of the bush. As we got closer to Ngorongoro the driver pointed out the African part of the rift valley. This valley starts from Jordan and runs all the way to the West African coast. The Maasai are believed to have descended from the people who migrated through the rift valley and the first humanoid skeletal remains was discovered in the area of the crater a few years ago. We passed through Karatu, there were baboons hanging out along the side of the road causing trouble to all who walk by. As we drove further up to the main gate, there was glimpse of the lake Eyasi ( a huge lake when you see atop a hill) and the valley below. A few small shanty towns are along the way where a few people live within the gates of the park. At the park entrance we were all informed to keep all cameras, phones or anything you did not want stolen off you by the baboons in the vehicle. Our group was luck because the baboons were not around, and probably were the same ones we had passed earlier in town. After our bathroom break, we all began our safari journey.


The beginning of the safari there was an overcast fog hanging around the top if the crater. This is the reason why in the pictures below half of the crater is shrouded in fog. As you can see this side of the crater is lush and green compare to what lies on the other side of the crater (Serengeti National Park and Maswa Game Reserve) which is what you expect to be tundra like in the Lion King.

After many selfies taken by the whole group, all of us jumped back into the jeeps to warm up after the chilly wind blowing.

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The jeep had to climb up the side of the crater in thick vegetation. Here there was not much to see of animals since this part of the park was within the rain shadow, and overcast. It is amazing at all the lush green there is and trees with jungle vines hanging down. It makes you think of the Jungle Book and Mowgli is about to come swinging through the trees or maybe Tarzan.

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Seeing the Maasai village as we take a view of the slope in the crater. This picture does not capture the real true beauty of this scene. You dear reader need to see it for yourself!

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Following the red dirt road towards the floor of the crater. This section of the crater has a view of the Maasai village below. As you can see the sun is out! This part of the road had a few wildlife such as cows that were fat from grazing all the lush grass.

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The Maasai tribe here in the crater want money if you want to take a picture of them, and the children we saw as we made our way down to the crater floor ask for “lunch” which is begging for money. This Maasai tribe are the only people permanently living within the park’s boundaries and have grazing rights for their livestock and hunting. Not such as friendly as the ones I previously encountered back in Arusha, but when you think about it, a lot of tourist hand them money all the time and this is why they are so bold into asking for a handout.

After a while we descent down into the crater we all had another pit stop to use the toilet (another squat toilet) and to stretch our legs. From here we can get a sense of how vast the crater is, and there we could see the large lake in the crater (Lake Makati) along with seeing a pair of elephants in the distance. From here it was windy with puffs of heat. Having sunscreen on is a must even under the shade of the safari view canopy. I could feel the sun’s full force on my skin after a minute exposed. After spending twenty minutes taking in the view and everyone hopped back into the vehicles to start the finding animals. Next post is where the real safari begins.

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Tanzanian Adventures: Unexpected Hike

Hiking in Tanzania was an unexpected adventure with a whole lot of people. I was talked into going on this hike with a whole bunch of people because we could have a view of Mount Meru from the top of a hill just behind the hotel. The said hike was to hike to the top of Suye hill before sunset. We did all make it up just as the sun was setting, and we all got a great view of Mount Meru and the rest of Arusha valley below.

It all started with crossing the busy road full of crazy motorcycles and cars. Not something for the faint of heart in this country! The beginning part of the trail started up a steep muddy rock step between a cluster of houses along the slope of the lower part of the hill. Once in the tree line, it was climbing up the steep embankments with slippery mud clinging to our shoes, getting almost lost in the brush when the group was split up, and finding out the cobblestone path was not complete enough to take anyone to the top. It took around an hour to hike up this trail to the top to see the sunset over the valley and to see an unobstructed view of Mount Meru. The guide from the hotel said Mount Kilimanjaro could be seen from the top as well, but it was hidden by cloud cover and this was true for the whole time I was in Tanzania. Most interesting part of this hike was seeing two people living in the shack on top of the hill. Remind me of people living deep in the jungles of South America.

Now going down the hill was an adventure in the dark. I have never hiked in the dark, and hiking down this hill in the dark was not an easy task. What made it easier for me and those around me in the group was the headlamp I had packed just in case. Going down the side of the hill was a challenge with all the slippery mud on the steep parts, and the vegetation that liked to reach out to catch us as we passed by. People were slipping and falling at times. I even when down hard after I had told the people behind me to watch out for a slippery part. Slowly we all made if safely to the bottom with a few scraps, scratches, mud caked on clothing and shoes. It was worth it in the end! I earned the dinner back at the hotel, and it was one adventure worth going on.

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Tanzanian Adventures: Wooden Desks

Schools I have become a theme for Convoy of Hope in Tanzania. Before I left Tanzania Convoy of Hope wanted to show the team what a successful child feeding program looks like in a school. We all embarked on a tour of a successful school in Arusha that showed great improvement from this program.

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The background: The school in question once had a high truancy rate where students either came to school hungry, unmotivated to learn and in poor health. When Convoy of Hope came in to help, the school went through a huge transformation. This transformation resulted in more students eating nutritious meals at school, motivated in the classroom to learn, and more have healthy habits. Convoy of Hope installed a hand wash station, helped set up a kitchen to cook large amounts of food for the students, and helped find funds to build a special building for students with disabilities. All of this caused the school to become one of the desirable places to send children to be educated.

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Just like the Maasai tribe, parents at this school are encouraged to be involved in the community programs Convoy of Hope has established. This could be helping with funding for the food for meals, able to pay school fees of their children, and being involved in their children’s education. The kitchen serves over 1,000 meals to students and staff using the latest cooking technologies. Below picture shows a modern cooker which keeps the food hot and cooked in a fraction of the time it takes cooking on a three stone fire (second picture below).

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We also have the opportunity to tour the schools garden where just like the Maasai school, is where the student agricultural club learns about techniques of growing plants. This garden had a problem with drainage of water during the rainy season. I was apparent that the water channels dug into the raised flower beds just pooled and caused the roots of the plants to rot. Another problem faced by the school’s garden was the fact some neighbor’s livestock would get into the garden and eat the plants. Also, the fact bugs like locusts is still a problem in the city school’s garden as well. I would learn the reason for all the locusts is that every so many years during a stretch of drought the locusts become a huge problem for crops. Around the time I was in Tanzania the drought had been going for at least three years.

The school’s headmaster gave us the opportunity to talk with some of the parents who children go to the school and how Convoy of Hope has helped them generate income in supporting their families. We did see the children, but we did not have time to play with them. They were very curious about us, and most just said hi from windows of the classrooms.

Before giving Convoy of Hope our observations for community development, we all had one last lunch at the Milestone Club in Arusha. This time I tried bottled Sprite, with Tanzania beans and ugali. This is also where we all received a gift of shuka (Maasai red wrap) for being a part of the Convoy of Hope. In a way, all these white people with shukas on did look funny to the locals. But I love my shuka! After lunch, we all headed back to Convoy of Hope headquarters to give our insight into what would help strengthen the various programs.

Global Goal No. 1 - No Poverty The ideas that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world. - Dr Paul Farmer:

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Tanzanian Adventures: The Maasai Women & Community

 

Half the Sky Movement- Women Hold Up Half the Sky: Going to the Tinga to visit the Maasai children was not all about playing with the children and feeding them, it was about getting to know the Maasai tribe. A part of the children’s feeding program is women’s empowerment program. Just like the program on the streets of Arusha, this program is to empower the Maasai women in their community. The women in our team sat down with a few of Maasai women who are a part of the program to discuss their culture, customs, what they need in order to provide for their children and community. Surprising all the questions asked and answered pointed to how each of us women is interconnected with wanting the same things in life. All women no matter the culture want the same things in life, and those some things are what connects us as women in this world. We asked so many questions of them and they asked a lot of question of us as well. Here is what I gathered from the discussion;

  • Maasai women marry at a very young age 15-16 years old
  • First child come roughly after marriage
  • Marriage is seen for bring children into the world and raising them.
  • Maasai women are surprised by how Western society marriage is more for companionship, love and not all about having children
  • Children help support the parents when they get old
  • Women in Western world marry later in life and produce children much later as well.
  • Women are more educated in Western society then they are in Maasai tribe. Maasai women are encourage now to finish primary school.
  • Maasai women want to see their children successful.
  • Convoy of Hope as helped them find ways to help feed their family and they are grateful for all Convoy of Hope has done for their community.
  • They considered us women like daughters to them. Daughters who are empowered to do great things in our own tribe.

I love their humor and their warmth towards outsiders who take an interest in who they are. I found their humor about western society’s concept of contraception methods to be hilarious (especially pull out method) and cause a roar of laughter from them. As a gift for participating in the discussion, we gave them each 2kg of nutritional rice to take home to their families. We also have the opportunity in seeing their village and going inside their huts. It was a cool experience in seeing how they live, which is primitive, but cozy feel. I wish our team has the chance to spend the night with them, but this time of year with the rain would make it difficult to do. The tribe is very welcoming, not like the other Maasai in the area that like handouts first before being hospitable. The only downside to being at the Maasai village was the flies that were everywhere! The amount of flies became almost unbearable when we all decided to a prayer circle with them. At one point it became difficult to concentrate on the prayer when the flies where crawling all over my face and in my eyes. I really don’t know how Maasai tolerates having flies crawling all over them.

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The road that leads to the school and village in some parts had crushed African pink quartz with some specks of Tanzanite (yes the gem stone) and rubies mixed with the red clay. I was told there are mines further down the road which mines the quarts, the precious gemstone Tanzianite and other gemstones. I did not get a picture of this unfortunately, just imagine walking along and seeing the ground with specks of red, blues, and semi blue-brown lumps in pinkish-red sand. These natural resources give huge profits to multinational gemstone enterprises, but most of the people of this region and Tanzanian people do not see any of it flowing into their communities or country. Some of the Maasai men have been recruited into working in these mines with little to no income generated from their work. To pick these gems off the ground would lead to being confiscated at the border or worse jailed.

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Clean water is a vital resource we all need in order to live. In Africa clean water is hard to come by for the Maasai people. The school through Convoy of Hope was able to secure $22,000 in funding for a well that pumps clean water to the surface. In Tanzania the real problem is most of the water is not exactly safe to drink even in the cities, and out in the bush water reservoirs are polluted by the wild life using the water as well. Taking a shower at the hotel results in brown tinted water coming out of the pipes and everywhere I went there was massive amounts of brown muddy water. Bottle water was always given to me on this trip, and there were a few times some of the children wanted to take a drink of water out of my bottle. The well Convoy of Hope built has a pump that pumps fresh clean water to the surface for children to drink and carry home to their families. Once the well was put in the school there was  fewer children sick and those who benefit look a lot more healthy.

Also the school grows its own garden to teach the children agricultural practices. In the small green house there was Chinese cabbage, and a few other greens. Upon further inspection there was a lot of plants with something eating at their leaves. It looked like a tiny moth was flying around the greenhouse was possibly causing the plants to die from disease. It could also be locusts that are finding a way into the greenhouse and eating the plants. I saw a whole bunch outside in the bushes when viewing the water pump. Sadly the old enemy of all crops strikes and caused damage. I hate grasshoppers and locusts with vengeance!

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On the way back to civilization of Arusha, we were all treated to a sighting of a giraffe. My joke for the following picture is “run away from life’s problems like a giraffe.” It is amazing how graceful these large animals are! It closeto a run like a horse with a very long neck!

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Meeting the Maasai is and will always be a highlight of my trip to Tanzania. I found the whole day full of surprises and full of laughs. A moment of time I will surely hold onto until I return again in the future.

***Bonus story***
Learning To Squat Like A Pro:
TMI alert ahead! You are warned!
Let’s talk about squat toilets. I mean not the ones you think when going in the woods. I mean the ones you see in Africa and not Asia. My real first encounter with a true African squat toilet was at the Tinga primary school. A hole in a concrete floor with a water bucket nearby without toilet paper. Think what the water bucket was for, now you know why there was no toilet paper. I have a hard time as is in peeing in the woods, let alone trying to squat over a public toilet in the States. So imagine me “squatting” over a hole in the middle of Africa. An adventure in itself. So here I was confronted with a hole in a concrete slab, with foot markers to help keep my feet from slipping, and wondering what the hell did I get myself into. So here I was squatting over the hole with both hand resting on the walls keeping me balanced (yuck I know), with my head  between my legs looking down the hole and hoping I don’t pee on my pant legs or shoes. Lucky I figured out how to squat which meant putting my butt at an angle, aim my vagina towards the hole, and make sure to keep the pee stream from missing the hole. It was torture when I realized how full my bladder was from drinking all that damn water, and realizing no matter how much I squat in the gym, it did no prepare me for this type of squatting. In the end I did not pee on myself in the process (Yay!) and someone had the sense to bring toilet paper for all of us to use (no nasty bucket water!). Good thing is the squat toilet does not even smell awful as a Honey Bucket or God awful boy toilets. I hear the Maasai women just go where ever even while standing and talking with someone! Just creates a puddle around their feet.

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Drop it like a squat!

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