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Posts Tagged ‘Pollman’s Safaris’

 Souvenirs and Memories Go Home With Me

 

One final serengeti sunset -- Photo by Pat Bean

“Any traveler who doesn’t return from a trip a changed person has taken only half the journey. Step by step, I went the entire distance.” – Pat Bean

African Safari:

So sad, I thought, as the last day in Africa drew to a close. Just as the wildebeest had started their migration, so must we migrate back to our homes in America, for which I truly had new appreciation.

I'll miss Africa's bright colors, and the beautiful faces of the Maasai women. -- Photo by Pat Bean

Or I could write an entire blog about our flight being delayed three hours, leaving us with nothing to do but browse the airport’s souvenir shops because there was no place to sit.

Kim and I both thought this was a well thought-out ploy to make sure tourists didn’t take any money out of Africa, although we willing obliged the shop owners because we both had family and friends back home who expected presents from our adventure.

These things were minor in comparison to the memories we were taking home with us. I’ve been fortunate that during my life I’ve had many fantastic adventures. I’ve paddled down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, visited the Galapagos Islands, which prompted Charles Darwin to write “Origin of Species,” and spent a couple of days on Miyajima, what many consider Japan’s most beautiful island.

Hadada ibis in flight. This was both the first and last bird I saw in Africa. -- Wikipedia photo

This African safari, however, topped them all. As I finally got to lean my head back and relax once we boarded the plane I thought of all the things I would miss. The list included our wonderful guides, educated men who watched over us and showed us the best parts of their country.

I would miss the sunrises and sunsets, and knew that I would understand the next time I read or heard someone talking about Africa’s amazing light. It really does have a special glow to it.

One of the black rhinos in the Ngorongoro Crater that we did not see. -- Wikipedia photo

And oh how I would miss Africa’s colorful birds. I had added 182 lifers on this trip, the final one being a bronze mannikin flitting around the garden at the Karen Blitz Cottages. I wondered also if there was some hidden meaning in the fact that both the first and last bird I saw in Africa was the hadada ibis. I haven’t figured that one out yet, but for some reason it seems important.

I would miss Africa’s wildlife, much of which is disappearing. Kim and I were told we were fortunate to see it while it was still there. I hate to imagine an Africa without big cats, zebras, elephants, wildebeest, jackals, hyenas and all the rest.

And I'll miss the funny antics of baby baboons that tease and then run back to their big dads for protection. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Just the fact that we saw no black rhinos does not bode well for the future. Where in the 1960s, there were about 70,000 of them, today there are less than 3,000, and they are considered endangered. Their decimation has come about because of their horns. The Chinese want them for their perceived medicinal properties, and the Arabs want them for their elaborate daggers. One the black market, a rhino horn is worth thousands of dollars, too big an incentive for subsistence farmers to resist. 

And I would also miss the cacophony of color that I saw everywhere, from Africa’s red earth to the clashing colors of the robes and clothes worn by the Maasai. I’ve always thought bright colors are joyful, and wondered why so many Americans – definitely  not me – mostly choose to wear drab colors. It’s as if we want to blend into the background and not make a statement about who we are.

Africa awakened new insights in me that will color the rest of my days. Travel, I have learned, is as much about discovering oneself as it is about seeing new sights. Anyone who doesn’t return a changed person has taken only half the journey.

Step by step, I traveled the entire distance. And I want to go back.

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 “When you’re traveling, you are what you are right there and then. People don’t have your past to hold against you. No yesterdays on the road.” – William Least Heat Moon

African Safari:The Dark Continent Beneath Our Feet

Nairobi skyline at dust. It was all so different, and colorful, and chaotic. I loved it. -- Photo courtesy Wikipedia

A nine-hour, cattle-car flight – well that’s what it feels like if you fly economy – deposited us in Amsterdam, where we caught an eight-hour connecting flight to Nairobi, Kenya. We had left Houston at 3:30 p.m. on August 19, but with the 17 hours of flight time, a short layover and the eight-hour time zone difference, it was late evening on the 20th when our feet first touched Africa.

A Pollman’s Safaris’ driver met us at the airport for the ride to our hotel. He stuffed our luggage and six other passengers into a van that had seen better days. In fact, I don’t recall seeing a single vehicle in Nairobi that didn’t look like it had seen better days.

But the color and intensity of Nairobi at night stirred my blood, as did our driver who would have put a New York taxi driver to shame when it came to dodging oncoming traffic as he zoomed in and out among vehicles that seemed to follow no set rules.

The word Nairobi comes from the Maasai phrase “enkare nyorobi,” which means the place of cool waters. The city, founded in 1899, is better known however as the Green City in the Sun, or the Safari Capital of Africa. It has a population of about 3.5 million and is the fourth largest city in Africa.

The other three pairs of travelers, who had flown in on the same flight as we had, were each staying at different hotels, and they were dropped off first.

The Norfolk Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya, where Robert Redford and Meryl Streep stayed while filming "Out of Africa."

At one of the hotel stops, guards looked under our van with mirrors. At the next stop, the Stanley Hotel, there was no such safety precautions and we could hear partying and music coming from inside. It sounded like a fun hotel.

As we drove through the city, I observed a sign that said 16.7 million Kenyans live in poverty. In contrast we passed huge well-lighted Toyota and Yamaha factories. More interesting, however, was one car driving on a flat as if nothing was wrong.

Like Dorothy, we weren’t in Kansas, or Texas, any more.

It was about 10 p.m. when our driver finally took us past a guarded barrier to let us off at the elegant Norfork Hotel. The precautions emphasized the travel warning to Kenya which Kim and I had chosen to ignore.

The armed guards made the warning seem more real, but any fleeting thoughts of danger quickly faded when we were graciously greeted to the quaint hotel by a doorman in a long green coat and a tall green top hat.

Next Episode: Hemingway Slept Here

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