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“Let your mind start a journey thru a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be … let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.” Erich Fromm

Bilal, in an unguarded moment. He was a bit camera shy. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: Bilal

Breakfast the next morning was interrupted by a black and white bird strutting around on the open-air dining room floor. I chased it out to the pool, East Africa guide book in hand, before finally identifying it as an African pied wagtail. Cute little black and white bird.

This interruption of meals for bird and other wildlife watching would become a common, and delightful, routine for the next two weeks.

After breakfast we met up with Evans, a Ranger Safaris supervisor who carefully went over our arranged itinerary with us, and then introduced us to Bilal, our native guide and driver for the rest of our stay in Tanzania.

“Bilal’s our best guide, but don’t let him push you around,” Evans said.

I figured Evans said that about all the guides when introducing them to their clients. As for pushing us around, well both Kim and I are assertive women not prone to letting anyone direct our actions.

Bilal standing beside his Land Rover, whose top and sides were removed for our sight-seeing pleasure as he bounced the two of us across the African landscape. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Bilal actually did try to push a few times, but it was always only out of concern for our safety. Mostly we let him, but a few times we didn’t. As to him being the best guide, Kim and I quickly came to the conclusion that Evans had spoke the absolute truth.

Bilal, who was older and looked out after some of the younger guides working in our general area, spoke very good English, drove his Land Rover down rutted roads and rough off-road terrain with great skill, and always knew where to find wildlife.

 

African pied wagtail -- Wikipedia photo

Some of the best moments of my time in Africa were spent standing up and bouncing around in his Land Rover – overjoyed at the lack of seat-belt rules – as Bilal rushed to a lion, cheetah or leopard sighting.

Kim and I finally discovered that Bilal was divorced. While he expected his son to look out for him in his old age – he worried that we also had sons to take care of us in our later years – it was his daughter, who had recently presented him with a grandson, whom he talked with regularly on his radio

Like Africa, Bilal was a bundle of contradictions. But then aren’t we all.

Next: The drive to Lake Manyara

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