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Posts Tagged ‘Tazania’

Baobab: A Tree Worthy of Its Legends

With a top that looks like roots and a trunk that can serve as a house, the baobab trees in Tarangire National Park were worthy of our admiration. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

“The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber. The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.” Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “The Wisdom of the Sands.”

African Safari:

So often when you travel, you look around and see places and things that remind you of home. In Japan it was the same species of pigeons that commonly hang around public buildings in America. In Ecuador it was a river walk that took me to San Antonio.

But that never seemed to be the case in East Africa. From the chaotic streets of Nairobi to the tall termite mounds in the Serengeti, the landscape always seemed to hold strange, new and wonderful sights – and never anything that spoke of my native country.

It was a different world entirely, or so it seemed.

Among the more exotic African sights for Kim and I were the abundant baobab trees in Tarangire National Park.

Some call these the upside down trees because they look, especially during their long leafless period, like their roots are sticking up in the air. One African myth is that God was so displeased with the taste of its fruit that he turned the tree upside down.

Another legend has it that the baobab complained that it wanted to be taller, like the palm tree, and wanted flowers like the Flame tree, and then that it wanted tastier fruit like the fig tree. The constant whining soon upset the gods, and so they replanted it upside down to shut it up.

I don’t blame them. I don’t much like to listen to whiners myself.

An elephant approaches a huge old baobab tree during its brief time of leaves. -- Wikipedia photo

An elephant approaches a huge old baobab tree during its brief time of leaves. -- Wikipedia photo

In actuality, the baobab tree, which can grow to over 80 feet tall and live for thousands of years, grows and looks like it does to fit its often arid environment. It sheds its leaves quickly after they sprout to conserve water, and its huge trunk is its own water storage reservoir to help it survive the dry times.

These trees, at least to me, had a strange beauty about them, especially as we saw many different kinds of wildlife gathered beneath them for the shade they provided. And later I learned that both wildlife and humans sometimes make their homes in the tree’s hollow trunks.

What an amazing tree.

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“This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.” – Susan Polis Schutz

Our hike up the escarpment started in tall grass. Adrian, with his rifle, poses for a picture with me before we begin. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

African Safari: A Pleasant Afternoon Walk

This afternoon’s wildlife drive included a hike, a rare opportunity for us to to truly to get close to Africa’s landscape. Bilal was not happy about it. He had to stay with the Land Rover, and he kept telling us we didn’t have to go if we didn’t want to go.

Kim and I suspected he was nervous about trusting his two ladies to another guide, this time one armed with a rifle. I also suspected – since the hike was uphill to the top of the Ngorongoro escarpment for a view of the smaller next door Olmoti Crater – that he didn’t believe this old “mama” could make it.

Kim in front of one of the big trees we passed on the way up. -- Photo by Pat Bean

While I was admittedly slow on the steeper sections, we made it to the top in 50 minutes, 10 minutes short of the hour allotted to get up there. As a veteran hiker, I subscribe to the philosophy of just putting one foot in front of the other until you reach your destination, and as always it worked. .

The hike took us through tall grass, which had me thinking about snakes, and then into a forest of giant trees. The trees were awesome. As was the view from the top. And my body enjoyed the exercise after several days of bouncing around in our metal beast.

Our guide, Adrian, who seemed quite pleased to have two women to guard, asked if we wanted to hike down into the crater. Both Kim and I were tempted but decided against it. Kim was worried that Bilal would be worried, but I was more worried about the climb back up.

The view from the top was spectacular. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

It only took us 30 minutes going back down, where Bilal had our chariot waiting for us – and a welcoming smile.

Then it was more sight-seeing of birds, monkeys, buffalo, zebras and other wildlife – but still no rhinos – on our drive back to the lodge for another delicious dinner and a night of restful sleep in our soft, mosquito-netted beds.

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 “Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.” – Mark Jenkins

Bilal always had our Land Rover swept and washed when he picked up us each day for our wildlife adventures. Above are Kim and I in our regular wildlife-watching positions. -- Photo by Bilal

African Safari: Afternoon in the Serengeti

Mating lions -- Photo by Kim Perrin

Bilal picked us up after lunch for an afternoon game drive in Serengeti National Park, one of the largest wildlife refuges in the world.

Meaning endless plain, the Serengeti is spread out over 5,700 square miles and ranges in elevation from 3,120 to 6,070 feet. The park provides habitat for over 500 birds and hundreds of mammal species. USA Today lists it as one of the seven wonders of the modern world.

A Coqui francolin posed for us beside the road. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

A Coqui francolin posed for us beside the road. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

It was with great anticipation that Kim and I looked forward to seeing it. And Bilal, with his knowledge of where to find animals didn’t disappoint us.

Our list of mammal sightings included Thompson’s and Grant gazelles, hartebeests, topi, waterbuck, elephants, giraffe, cheetahs, baboons, zebras, lion, and of course lots of birds, including many of those already one my life list and new ones to add to it.

Because I often saw birds before other wildlife, the running joke soon became "Oh, there's an animal beneath that bird." In this case it's a water buffalo with an yellow-billed oxpecker on its back. -- Photo by Kim Perrin

One of our stops was even at a small lake where we saw quite a few water birds, including a family of cute red-billed teal.

On the grasslands, we watched a secretary bird stomp across the plains, then stop to wrestle with a snake of some kind, its favorite meal.

One voyeur viewing was of a pair of lions mating, which Bilal said they would do every 15 minutes or so for about three days. There was a lot of quiet ignoring in between the love sessions, and a lot of snarling during it.

Lion dads, while sometimes aloof around young cubs, do stick around to help protect them after they are born. Cheetah dads, meanwhile, go AWOL and leave all the raising of his offspring, to mom. Most of the cheetahs we saw this day, and for the remainder of our safari, had three or four young ones in tow.

Red-billed teal -- Wikipedia photo

Meanwhile, it continued to amaze me at how the animals acted as if our Land Rover was no threat. Of course we weren’t. Bilal said they just considered us a metal beast that wasn’t good to eat – thankfully.

Way too soon it was time to head back to our lodge for the night, where after dinner in the main lodge, we were walked back to our rooms by a guard. He told us to sure and keep our balcony doors closed against a baboon invasion.

Sleep that night, beneath mosquito netting in our luxurious two-bed suite, was accompanied by a hyena chorus, while our morning wake-up call was served up by howling baboons. It was all awesomely different from our regular routines – and we loved it.

Bird Log of New Lifers: Ruppell’s long-tailed starling, red-necked spurfowl, African white-backed vulture, Coqui francolin, red-billed teal, three-banded plover, Kttlitz’s plover, four-banded sandgrouse, little stint and little grebe, Aug. 23, afternoon drive in the Serengeti.

Next: A feminist conversation with Bilal.

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