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Posts Tagged ‘Ranger Safaris’

“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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“At dawn in East Africa the sky bleeds raw swatches of color … the sun rises with passion, like a reckless dangerous lover. It ignites the world in reds and golds and vaporizes cool mists collected overnight. Within minutes the passion burns itself out.” –David Ewing Duncan

African Safari: The President Passes By

An African sunrise, enough in itself to warrant traveling to the Dark Continent. -- Photo by Pat Bean

As I look over the notes I took about the drive from the Kilimanjaro airport, through Arusha, to a coffee plantation where we were to spend the night, I find myself almost as overwhelmed again as I was observing it originally.

Color was everywhere. African men and women on bicycles wrapped in blue, red, orange and purple robes making their way over packed red earth. A pickup truck with a gigantic load of yellow oranges bouncing on the rutted road ahead of us. Grey burros plodding beside the road with green leaves of some sort loaded on their backs.

The banana truck -- Photo by Kim Perrin

There were small boys, whom I thought should have been in school, herding cattle and goats; and women in long dresses walking purposefully with huge bundles on their heads, sometimes with an empty-handed man walking ahead of them.

I watched, and smiled to myself, as a man pulled a load of squawking chickens down from the top of one of the smoke-belching over-packed buses we frequently passed.

And I was amazed at the way our Ranger Safaris driver weaved in and out among traffic and people. I was sure he was going to hit something or someone. But he didn’t. Even when a car decided to create a passing lane down the middle of our narrow two-lane highway and we passed him three abreast.

From my journal -- Photo by Pat Bean

But the strangest thing of all was when a bully of a policeman came along and made everyone pull off to the side of the road. Our driver, who was on the cell phone at the time, didn’t respond quick enough and so was singled out for a Swahili chastising.

Kim and I sat unusually quiet during the confrontation, wondering what was going on. .

A few minutes later, a pickup truck with armed guards standing in the back passed us, and soon traffic was back to its chaotic normalcy.

“That was the Tanzania president,” our unfazed native driver said.

Next Episode: African Tanzanite

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