Posts Tagged With: Mikumi

On the Road Again

Last night was our last night at the hotel; we had a little breakfast and got picked up around 9am by Rodney (the VETA IT teacher and the same guy who drove us to Mikumi National Park). I was all set to leave when Rodney told us we were headed to VETA instead of hitting the road right away, because he had to pick something up. We got to the school and headed for the computer lab where I e-mailed and facebooked my friends and family to let them know that this would be my last time communicating with them until I get home on Tuesday. After about a half hour and more goodbyes, Rodney was ready to go. It was harder to say goodbye this morning compared to last night but it was still nice to see everyone one last time.

This road trip was a lot of fun and was a nice change of scenery for me. I got to sit up front with Rodney which meant I got to make sure that he didn’t blast anymore Shania Twain or Celine Dion with the bass cranked. I was also really thankful that we had done a quick grocery run yesterday considering that we didn’t stop once for food or anything else besides gas. I did try to subtle tell Rodney that I could go for lunch but I think something got lost in the translation; he just started talking about how he wanted to have ugali and that he was hungry, but I think he meant it more as a statement than anything else.

There wasn’t anything too interesting to really mention, the only thing that stood out was the insane traffic once we hit Dar es Salaam. We were switching lanes every couple of minutes to gain inches and almost cut off an ambulance since we were sideways and blocking two lanes. Luckily the car keeping us from merging moved ahead a bit and we squeezed in. We were in rush hour for a while and then went a bit off road. Rodney told us that we were actually going to meet his parents before taking us to the New Africa Hotel, so we went along with it. There wasn’t much of a point in meeting them besides saying a quick hello and taking a few pictures, but it was still nice to see a more intimate home setting.

We got a call from Anthony letting us know that the ferry bureau closed at 6pm and that we had better get a move on if we wanted to get to Zanzibar. We made it to the hotel with seconds to spare, got checked in, through our bags in the rooms and ran back down. Anthony was already downstairs waiting for us, and through sheer luck he knew the cruise company and asked them to stay open for us since it was nearing 6:30pm. We were running across the street when Anthony told us what the costs were so we had to make a quick bank detour and then fast walked as quickly as we could without getting hit by oncoming traffic or talkative pedestrians. We bought our tickets which are priced according to locality, so we had to buy the more expensive tickets; but they were worth it!

I can’t even attempt to begin explaining how epic it was to sit down, take a deep breath and then make my way upstairs for dinner. I was so tired, I had a wicked headache and I could sleep for a month; but the food I ate that night was a hundred percent worthwhile. It was a Thai restaurant located on the top floor of the hotel which overlooks the harbour. The atmosphere was very lively, they had karaoke and dancing and the restaurant off to the side. There was also a big football (soccer) match on and everyone was up there watching it and cheering them on. I picked what I wanted to eat and drink in about a millisecond and could not wait! I ordered a green vegetarian curry with steamed rice and spring rolls; A-MA-ZING! I’d recommend this restaurant to anybody traveling out that way, it was so good.

The only part of this whole experience that was a tad unfortunate was that my harbour view room was right underneath the dance floor and that wasn’t about to help my headache. On a positive note though I was so excited to wake up at 5am to grab the ferry over to Stone Town at 6:30pm that I didn’t care.

*Sneak peek of the harbour while we were taking off*

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Mikumi National Park!

Today was an early one.  I got up at 5am to give myself a bit of time to get ready and organized before getting picked up at 6am. VETA set us up with transportation and a driver to take us to Mikumi National Park; and by transportation I mean a tiny Toyota Odo and by driver I mean the IT Tech at the school, Rodney (haha). It was way cheaper this way and was an experience I won’t ever forget!

From Dodoma to Morogoro it’s about 3 hours and then another hour or so before hitting the park. Driving is always interesting, especially over long distances on the main highway; lots of bicyclists, pedestrians and other obstacles like transport trucks and speed bumps. It should realistically have taken us half the time but there are only two lanes for traffic and the congestion is bad since there is only 1 highway connecting Dar es Salaam to Dodoma. It also takes a long time because of the way the towns along the way are set up. The towns overlap the highway, so there are speed bumps through them so that people have a chance to potentially cross the street (still really dangerous). After a while, the constant speeding and slowing is hard to have patience for and hard on the stomach! But it’s the only way to get around so it’s just one of those things I had to suck up.

One thing that drove me crazy on the way there and on the way back was Rodney’s idea of old school music. I was assuming MC Hammer, Marky mark, and other pop/rap old school bands; I was very wrong. We listened to the same 3 songs on a 4 hour drive – a Michael Jackson song with Maracas, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston – Listening to IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII WILLLLLLL ALLLLLLLWAYYYYYYYYS LOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUUUU, maracas and Mariah just about drove me insane – I find a lot of people here only listen to a few songs at a time instead of a variety like I’m used to.

After 4 long hours, we finally reached the last highway leading up to the park. On this stretch of road there were baboons just roaming for food, but it got us all really excited (plus they’re really cute!).

It was $20 US to get into the park which really wasn’t too bad considering how long we stayed in the park. When we made our way in, the first thing we saw was more baboons; we got to see a mom baboon with her baby on her back which was absolutely adorable! Right now it’s considered the rainy season (even though I’ve been here for two weeks and haven’t seen it rain here yet); so animals are in their mating season and have already started to give birth to their offspring. The park is big but not huge, we made our way through the circuits and landed at the hippo pond where people are allowed to get out of the car and walk around. At first we didn’t see anything, but after a little while all we could hear was big pig snorts; we turned around and all we could see is a bunch of hippo noses coming up for air. They didn’t fully come out of the water or open their mouths, but we did get to at least see them swim around with their heads out of the water. Also, the reason we aren’t allowed out of the car other than at the hippo pond is because of something called Tse-Tse flies who carry sleeping disease. These bugs are everywhere that there is tall grass which is basically the whole park, unfortunately. I did take my chances outside of the car to get a better picture of a giraffe. A couple flies managed to get into the car so we had a couple minutes of fly hunting, just to make sure no one would get bit.

We drove around for a while without really seeing anything; I was a happy to be there but a bit disappointed that we hadn’t come across anything on a more intimate level. We were taking the path back to the entrance when all of a sudden we spotted an elephant in some tall grass. We decided to watch it for a little bit to see if maybe it would walk over to a less grassy area, so that we could take some better pictures. The elephant started to walk towards the road and as it did so, we realized that the elephant was actually a mom and her baby was right beside her! They made their way across the road and ended up going to a small mud pit to cool off. As we were watching them and taking pictures, Rodney starts to point and laugh and said “There’s another one!” We all turned around and saw a big bull elephant! We think that he was the dad making sure that we weren’t a threat to his family and then joined them, and they walked off together. It was so amazing to see these animals interact with each other and us! The other animals that we saw were warthogs, zebras, and antelope. I really wanted to see a lion or cheetah or some kind of big cat, but they’re not out during the afternoon because it’s too hot for them.

On our way out of the park, along the highway, we got to see a ton of elephants, baboons and giraffes. It was really nice to see them when we were leaving because it was almost like getting more for my money (even though we were in the park for about 2 hours). It took about 5 hours to get back to the hotel, fully loaded with Celine Dion and Mariah Carey (thank god for Ipods!!!).  I’m hoping to make another African trip sometime in my lifetime and visit the Serengeti and as many other national parks as I can!

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Marketplace Madness

This morning was nice because there wasn’t really a schedule. Sarah and I had to go to the bank, get some snacks and other errands before we headed over the VETA to determine a few things. We met with Anthone and the Registrar and were told that 60 kids are going to Arusha for a presidential conference and at first it was for a full week, but they’ve since changed it to only be a couple of days. We were a bit concerned because we were going to present to hospitality students on Monday, so if no one was available we would end up teaching other faculties about things that may or may not be of interest to them. But, since they changed it we should be in the clear for next week.

We met with the Registrar to discuss if he had written and sent any municipal letters to the local authorities involved with the piece of land they plan to develop. He insists that it takes two weeks to do this, so we had to really push him to realize that it could be accomplished in a couple days rather than weeks; I still don’t think he believes that it can happen that quickly for some reason though, so we’ll see if anything even starts moving on the environmental project. It’s strange to have such a clear idea of what the first steps are to propose something like this, and not be on the same page as the person in charge of actually doing it.

Anyway, after (hopefully) given the registrar some motivation to get started on things, Sarah and I decided to go shopping for fruit at the big fruit market. We had heard that it was massive but had no idea until we got there. All you can smell is sweet oranges and rotting sardines – such a weird smell – but once we were a bit used to it, it wasn’t too bad. We ended up getting a bunch of bananas, a mango, a papaya and a cucumber for our big trip tomorrow! The produce is all imported but it’s still a lot fresher and healthier than what we get at home (no chemicals). The Market is so packed with people that it’s hard to physically get anywhere and harder still to keep our bearings as to where we are, and how we get out; it just never seems to end!

It was a last minute realization today that on the way to Mikumi National Park and when we’re on the safari, there won’t be any food around;  so glad we realized it last night so that we could prepare a little bit for it. Hopefully at the end of the day we can stop in Morogoro for a big dinner or something!

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