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This is a coffee plantation in Arusha, Tanzanika, where I spent a night in 2007. The guest houses were scattered among the coffee plants. The experience turned me on to African coffee. -- Photo by Pat Bean

This is a coffee plantation in Arusha, Tanzania, where I spent a night in 2007. The guest houses were scattered among the coffee plants. The experience turned me on to African coffee. — Photo by Pat Bean

“I believe humans get a lot done, not because we’re smart, but because we have thumbs so we can make coffee. “ — Flash Rosenberg

When You Drink It with a Straw

A selfie showing my bandaged face after a basal cell carcinoma was removed. I drank my coffee this morning through a straw. The big bandage, thankfully, comes off tomorrow and then there is just the tape over the stitches.-- Selfie by Pat Bean

A selfie showing my bandaged face after a basal cell carcinoma was removed. I drank my coffee this morning through a straw. The big bandage, thankfully, comes off tomorrow and then there is just the tape over the stitches.– Selfie by Pat Bean

I drank gobs of coffee when I was a deadline-writing reporter. There was always a coffee cup near my hand. And I liked it black as sin and as strong as a desert sun at noon.

But after years of the habit, my stomach complained. So cold turkey, the same as my mother did when she quit smoking at 76 because the blinking things became too expensive, I gave up coffee.

After a couple of headachy days, I felt fine – except that I was no longer sleeping very well at night. I conceded that the headaches were a result of my coffee abstinence, but didn’t relate the sleepless nights to a lack of the beans. I mean coffee is supposed to keep you awake, right?

Then a couple of months later, when I had a late meeting to attend for work, I decided to have a cup of coffee. I’m not sure the caffeine helped my alertness, but for the first time in weeks I slept all through the night.

Hmm. I thought. I should have known. I have never been one to react like the crowd. So I went back to drinking coffee, only this time in moderation. I now drink two strong cups of “good” coffee – call me a coffee snob if you like – daily, and generously lace the liquid ambrosia with half and half.

No more stomach problems, and sleepless nights only when I can’t turn off the little gray cells.  Even coffee won’t stop that chatter.

Blog pick of the day.

Blog pick of the day.

Bean Pat http://tinyurl.com/nvbteas  Fairytale Rooftops.

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 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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 “Be grateful for luck. Pay the thunder no mind – listen to the birds. And don’t hate nobody.” – Eubie Blake

Verreaux eagle owl -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: “Stop, Stop!”

As we drove out of Arusha, leaving Bilal and Tanzania behind for Kenya, I touted up my number of new life birds. Adding the ones I had seen in Tarangire National Park yesterday afternoon and this morning’s wildlife drive, the total was 135.

Some like the more exotic hoopoe, grey-crowned herons and noisy go-away-birds had been easy to identify, and Bilal had stopped the Land Rover for closer looks automatically. But most of the time, and especially for the smaller, less flamboyant birds along the way, it was me who was always hollering “Stop, stop!”

Lilac-breasted roller -- Photo by Pat Bean

I could see I was annoying Bilal, and Kim said stopping the big Land Rover with all its gears took time. I tried, honestly I did, to curb my actions, but my enthusiasm for a potentially new lifer simply couldn’t be contained.

I truly did get as big a high from spotting a lilac-breasted roller or even a plain black sooty chat as I did from seeing an elephant or a lion, which I’m sure only another addicted birder will understand. And while Bilal never missed stopping for any big cat in our vicinity, he often seemed blind when it came to many of the birds.

White-bellied go-away-bird. They're quite noisy and everybody usually ends up telling them to go away. -- Wikipedia photo

So it was with great delight that on one of our wildlife drives it was Kim hollering to Bilal to stop – and if anything she did it more commandingly and every bit as loud as my frequent calls for halts.

Almost jumping up and down, she ordered Bilal to back up to a spot beneath a tree we had just passed. The bird she had seen, and which I had totally missed, was a magnificent Verreaux eagle owl.

Silvery-cheeked hornbill -- Wikipedia photo

Unlike most of my calls for halts, Bilal didn’t roll his eyes this time. He was as impressed as we both were.

Like so many of the owls I’ve seen sleeping high in American trees, it stayed put and simply blinked its sleepy eyes at us a few times. Slightly bigger than a great-horned owl, this African species had a ruffled white feather collar and pink eyelids.

Since it was the only one we would see during our Safari, I owed Kim big time.

Bird Log of New Lifers: White-bellied go-away-bird, ashy starling, lesser grey shrike, green-winged pytilia, hammerkop, cardinal quelea, yellow-bellied greenbul,. Tarangire National Park, August 27.

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” Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts.  Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  ~Mark Twain<!–, The Innocents Abroad, or, The New Pilgrims Progress, "Conclusion," 1869; CTO–>

A tree grew through it. A parting look at the Tarangire Treetops Lodge's main building.

African Safari: Photo Op

It was with regret that Kim and I left the Treetops Lodge the next morning. We both would have loved to have spent more time in this place where childhood fantasies were a reality. All too soon, it seemed, a guard was outside below waiting for us to descend from our trap-door entrance so he could walk us to the main lodge for breakfast.

Elephants and giraffe's shadowed us for our final wildlife drive with Bilal. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Later, looking at the lodge’s website, I realized we couldn’t have afforded it. One night’s stay at the lodge, which has only 20 tree-house suites, cost over $600. It had been one of the luxuries that we had included in our African Adventure Company package. I’m glad we hadn’t known the cost it added to our trip or Kim and I might have forgone staying here.

As it was, our tree-house night will forever be part of our Africa memories. And so would Bilal.

Cheetahs, like this mom with three youngsters, were frequently seen on our wildlife drives with Bilal. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

The macho, dark-skinned man had looked out for us for a whole week. He treated us with respect and professionalism in all his actions, and we came to respect and care for him.

Today, we would have one last wildlife drive with him, before he deposited us in Arusha, where we would have lunch at the Flame Tree Restaurant, a dropping-off place for various safari companies, and where we would be met and driven across the border into Kenya.

Giraffe, elephants, zebras and other wildlife shadowed us for the usual bouncy journey. While they, like the superb starlings and cattle egret, had become familiar sights to us this past week, their antics were still awesome to watch.

Kim and I say our good-byes to Bilal in Arusha, where he handed us off to a Ranger Safaris' driver who would take us to the Kenya border, where we would continue our safari. Just for the record, we tipped him well.

We arrived in Arusha early, and Bilal drove us around the busy downtown area, where I kept seeing images of Elsa Martinelli being chased by baby elephants in the 1962 John Wayne film “Hatari.” The town was quite a bit bigger these days, with lots of hustle and bustle and color. But my imagination had grown bigger over the years, too. And so I could still see the town as it might have once been.

Both views were exotic and strange and wonderful, and expanded the mind.

Arusha Market -- Wikitravel photo

Then all too soon it was time to say good-bye to Bilal. Kim and I both hoped he had enjoyed his time with us as much as we had with him. He posed with us while another guide took our picture.

It’s one of my favorite photos of the entire safari.

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“What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? — it’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s good-by. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies.”- Jack Kerouac, On the Road.

Sharing the road -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Maggie and I are on the road today, traveling from Ogden, Utah, back to Lake Walcott State Park. I’ll try to write a post later today about our first night-time safari drive. 

In the meantime I thought you might enjoy these photos of  a couple of our drives with Bilal in Tanzania. Then if I don’t get back to blogging again as promised, I won’t feel so guilty.

I must say I liked sharing the road with these travelers much better than 18-wheelers.

Zebra crossing -- Photo by Pat Bean

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 “It’s pretty hard to tell what does bring happiness. Poverty and wealth have both failed.” – Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard 

Baboons were a frequent sight on the outskirts of towns. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: Ngorongoro to Tarangire

 Our morning drive with Bilal took us on a paved road for a change. It seemed, what with no apparent traffic rules, more dangerous than driving among the lions and other wild beasts. Our destination was Tarangire National Park.

 On the way we passed an overloaded bus – I never saw one that wasn’t – with a rhino painted on its rear and the message: “More money, more problems.” It started another one of those enlightening conversations with Bilal. I mentioned that while so many of the Africans we had seen had so very little, they seemed happy.

 “Why do you say that,” he asked.

 “Because they seem so cheerful and always have big smiles on their faces,” I replied.

 “Just because they smile a lot doesn’t mean happiness,” he said. His words gave me a lot to think about, and has changed the way I look at people.

I think of bananas as coming from South America, but Tanzania, Kim and I learned, has its share, too. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

 A bit later, in one of the small towns we passed through, Bilal stopped and bought some bananas from a roadside business run by women. “I like to support the women,” he said, “because they are often mistreated by men.”

 The bananas were good, and Bilal’s words had yet again endeared him to Kim and I.

 Then our attention was drawn to a couple of baboons making it in the middle of the road. We all laughed.

As I’ve aged, I’ve begun to think of laughter as a great indicator of happiness, especially the ability to laugh at oneself. But even today, four years after my conversation with Bilal, his words about smiles and happiness not meaning the same thing still lingers with me.

A yellow-collared lovebird photographed in Tanzania. -- Wikipedia photo

We stopped for lunch at a small tented lodge, where I had time to do a bit of birdwatching. The morning turned up four new life birds, including a yellow-collared lovebird that kept us company while we ate in a rustic dining room open to the outdoors.

 Bilal then picked us up for an afternoon game drive in Tarangire National Park, where we would have our most frightening encounter with wildlife of our entire safari. Stay tuned and I’ll tell you all about it next.

Bird Log of New Lifers: White-naped raven, pygmy falcon, white-bellied canary, blue=spotted wood dove, yellow=collared lovebird, Aug. 27, 2007, drive from the Ngorongoro Crater to Tarangire National Park.

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 “A journey is best measured in friends than in miles.” Tim Cahill

Morning pickup at the large Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge was somewhat of a traffic jam. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari

Our morning started early, supposedly with a packed breakfast. We thought Bilal would provide it, and he thought we were supposed to pick it up at the lodge before we left, which is the most likely.

Anyway, it was a day without breakfast, although thanks to another guide whom we met up with during a wildlife watching stop we did get coffee. He had brought some along for his two safari clients and was kind enough to share.

Zebras enjoying a patch of green grass in the crater. -- Photo by Pat Bean

His passengers were a delightful Irish couple, Des and Karen. Des had bought an African spear souvenir, and joked that he wanted to be able to protect his own woman and not have to depend on the guide.

The remark jogged my memory about Bilal’s comment about women guides, and so I asked his fellow guide what he thought about the idea.

Mom and young wildebeest. We would see a lot more in Kenya where most of the wildebeest had already migrated for the season. -- Photo by Pat Bean

“Oh they would be too scared,” he replied, echoing Bilal’s comment.

Karen, meanwhile, commented that Des actually bought the spear “to protect his beer from me.”

After we parted from our friendly interlude with the other safari team, Bilal began seriously searching for the rhinos that supposedly make their home in the Ngorongoro crater. I say supposedly because we never saw any.

Sacred ibis -- Photo by Steve Garvie

The crater is one of the very few places left in Africa where one can see black rhino, and the fact that we couldn’t find any brought home the fact that this species has been dwindling significantly in recent years.

Bilal, who kept muttering “no rhino” all morning seemed more disappointed than we were. He was on the radio frequently quizzing fellow guides in the area, but everyone it seemed no one was seeing any rhino .

One of the black rhinos in the Ngorongoro Crater that we didn't see. -- Wikipedia photo

But what we did see this morning included wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, elephants, hyenas, lions, buffalo and jackals. The latter always came in pairs with one leading and one following. Bilal said the female is always in front.

“She leads the male.”

The morning’s drive also turned up another nine life birds for me, as well as a lot of those I had already seen. Some of my new birds were now becoming old friends that I recognized on sight without the help of my bird field guide. That make me feel good.

Ruppell's griffin vulture -- Photo by Rob Schoenmaker

Bilal, however, was still bemoaning the lack of any rhino sighting when he dropped us off for lunch back at the lodge. I don’t remember what we had, except that it was good and Kim and I ate enough to make up for our skipped breakfast.

Bird Log of New Lifers: Rufous-tailed weaver, grey-crowned crane, black-bellied bustard, chestnut-bellied sandgrouse, Ruppel’s griffin vulture, sacred ibis, black-headed heron, wattled starling, and common stonechat. Aug. 26, 2007, Ngorongoro Crater.

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 “No journey carries one far unless, as it extends into the world around us, it goes an equal distance into the world within.” Lillian Smith.

A Maasai community -- one set up to show tourists how the Maasai live -- welcomed us with a dance. -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari :

There’s a scene in the 1962 John Wayne movie, “Hatari,” in which co-star Elsa Martinelli, dances with Maasai women. In the dance, the women jump up and down making their wide, bead collar necklaces bounce.

Graceful I was not, but one of my best memories of Africa was getting to dance with my Maasai sisters. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

I had long thought that would be a fun thing to do. In what was pretty much a recreation of the movie scene, Kim and I watched a group of Maasai women dance and jiggle their bead collars for us when we visited a model Maasai community as part of our guided tour activities. .

The native leader of the small group, which lived in traditional, dark, dung and twig huts built by the women behind a barricade of thorn bushes to keep out wild animals, asked if someone wanted to dance with them. And then he approached Kim.

I was crest-fallen because he hadn’t approached me. .

But Kim, who has never been quite the ham that I am, shook her head and stepped back. Before he could ask anyone

An impala quietly grazes near the Maasai village. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

else, I eagerly stepped forward and volunteered.

What had looked so easy watching the women get that necklace bouncing wasn’t easy at all to accomplish. My collar ornament barely moved at all.

But then the beautiful bald-headed woman standing next to me gave me a quick lesson, and soon my necklace was bouncing up and down, too – although not with quite the rhythm and grace as those of my African sisters.

After the dance, I bought one of the collar necklaces that was handmade in the village by one of the women. It was the only souvenir I bought for myself on the entire trip.

It was such moments as dancing with the Maasai women, along with watching a leopard stalk a gazelle, adding new birds to my life list, and gazing at Africa’s amazing sunsets at the end of a long day, that drilled a piece of Africa into my heart.

That piece, now four years old, is still there and shining bright with memories.

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 “It’s a strange world of language in which skating on thin ice can get you into hot water.” – Franklin P. Jones

Duma -- Photo by Pat Bean

African Safari: The Power of Words  

In Swahili, the national language of both Kenya and Tanzania, the word for hello is jambo. It was a word we heard frequently, and one we spoke in reply, accompanied by a nod of the head.

I liked the word, and the acknowledgment of human recognition it implied between two people who did not speak a common language.

But on our third morning in Africa, one polite man used two words in greeting me.

“Jambo mama,” he said. Then turned to Kim and simply said: “Jambo.”

I asked Bilal later what that was all about. And he said “mama” was a term used to show respect to elders. While my vanity was a bit hurt, the respect offered me was appreciated. After that Bilal started calling me Mama, too, while Kim remained Kim.

I guess she couldn’t help it that she was 21 years younger than me and still a “hottie.”

Another Swahili word I was already familiar with was simba, meaning lion.

 

Big tembo and little tembo -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Other than those three words, Bilal’s radio conversations in Swahili while talking to other guides out in the field, was a lot of mumbo jumbo, which is a good old English phrase for confusing and meaningless.

Since all our guides spoke excellent English, I never had any reason to use any of the other Swahili words listed in my African travel guide, such as:

Duma, meaning cheetah

Twiga …giraffe

Impala … swala

Elephant … tembo

Kiboko -- Photo by Pat Bean

Mister … bwana

Hippopotamus …  kibuko

Rhino … kifaru

Then there is choo, the word for toilet, and chui, the word for leopard.

I already have a Texas twang that can sometimes be misunderstood, so I can easily imagine myself mispronouncing these two words, and telling someone that I had to use the leopard.

The Swahili word for beer, meanwhile, is prombe.  Kim and I, however, learned to call it Tuskers.

 

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 “There is just something spectacular about seeing wildlife in its natural environment that thrills us … Arun Kejriwai

We were too late to catch our leopard up in a tree, but I couldn't resist sharing this Wikipedia photo of this magnificent one out on a limb.

African Safari: A Day to Remember

I welcomed my first morning in the Serengeti from the balcony of our spacious Sopa Lodge suite, breathing in Africa’s morning light that left me eager to start the day. Red-cheeked cordon bleus – what a strange name for a bird – welcomed the morning with me.

After breakfast, and more great African coffee, Bilal picked Kim and I for a full day of wildlife viewing.

Red-cheeked cordon bleu

The day’s fantastic wildlife started as we exited the lodge compound’s gate – beginning with a green wood- hoopoe (another strange bird name) and a troop of baboons that included several babies being lugged around on an adult’s back – and never let up.

We saw impalas, water buffalo, hippos, lions, cheetahs, ostriches, dik-diks, zebras, wildebeest, Nile crocodiles and of course many species of birds – all before we stopped for a nature hike in a developed tourist area where the wildlife were sculptures, well except for the monkeys, one of which tried to steal Kim’s box lunch.

Kim being funny during our nature walk among the wildlife sculptures. -- Photo by Pat Bean

After lunch, I wandered around doing my usual bird hunting until Kim came rushing up telling me to come quick.

Back at the Land Rover, Bilal said “Come on mama,” and then we were off on yet another wild ride.

This time we were racing toward a leopard sighting, which Bilal had learned about while talking Swahil on his radio with other guides. We weren’t the only racers. Only about one in five visitors to Tanzania are lucky enough to see a leopard, we had been told.

Our leopard intently watching a Grant's gazelle. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

It was like a traffic jam at the sighting site when we got there, and learned the leopard had just jumped out of a tree and disappeared.

Then suddenly, as all binoculars were turned toward the distant landscape trying to find the animal, it walked right in front of our Land Rover. Our spot in the traffic turned out to be the best one for leopard watching.

Little bee-eater

Ignoring all the human fuss going on around it, the leopard stayed in the area for the next 30 minutes or so, patiently stalking a Grant’s gazelle. The gazelle finally spotted it, however, and was off and running, while the leopard simply slunk out of sight.

For once, I forgot to look for birds.

Bird Log of New Lifers: Red-cheeked cordon bleu, green wood-hoopoe, red-billed oxpecker, spotted redshank, brown snake eagle, lilac-breasted roller, black crake, sooty chat, blue-capped cordon bleu, speckled-fronted weaver. Verreaux eagle owl, Hilderbrandt’s starling, speckled pigeon, grey-capped social weaver, purple grenadier, lesser masked weaver, wood sandpiper, yellow-breasted apalis, white-headed vulture, hoopoe, little bee-eater, white-bellied bustard, bare-faced go-awaybird, white-browed coucal, Aug. 24, 2007, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania.

Next: Swahili

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