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We're up bright and early this morning -- we have lots to see and a long way to travel today.

My very own cottage by the shore of Lake Victoria.

 

The lake is as lovely at sunup as it was at sundown.

 

See?

 

Some locals on the way to work.

 

I hate to leave this place.

 

Because it's pretty here.

 

Ah well...off we go.

 

We'll do a lot of traveling today.

 

First on the itinerary is to get from Speke Bay Lodge in Tanzania to the Migori airstrip in Kenya.  That will require passing through several small towns as well as clearing customs at Isibania.  Everybody got your yellow fever inoculation card?  They won't let you back into Kenya without that card!

 

We'll see more people than animals today.

 

And the animals we do encounter might not be roaming free.

 

One big sign of civilization is kids on the way to school.

 

Look at all the young scholars in their school uniforms.

 

Marching off to get that education.

 

The backpacks look familiar but not so much the books on heads.

 

You want to see weird-looking birds walking along the side of the road?  Come to Africa. This one's a saddle billed stork.

 

Rice fields.  Rice is the second most cultivated food and commercial crop in Tanzania after maize, with a cultivated area of over 1.5 million acres, which represents 18% of the cultivated land. Yields are generally very low as most is grown with traditional methods.

 

Everywhere you look somebody is hauling something on a bicycle.

 

Some of the nicer structures.

 

It's clear the people are poor. The homes and businesses are neatly kept, but they often have dirt floors.

 

Maybe I need to practice carrying loads on my head.

 

Or on my bicycle.

 

Bicycles really come in handy around here.

 

Mornin' kids! Study hard!

 

Toting water.

 

OK, maybe not all the buildings are kept up nicely.  That place needs some upkeep.

 

The local Radio Shack.

 

Lumber yard.

 

Shopping mall.

 

It's a way of life foreign to me, and seeing it first hand, confirming its reality, is one of the reasons I'm here.

 

Just look.

 

There's a mixture of modern and traditional architecture.

 

Lots of tradition.

 

But like the three little pigs, houses of straw and sticks are giving way to houses of brick.

 

Even with a bicycle, hauling water uphill is hard work.

 

We're about to cross the Mara River.

 

The Mara River basin is one of the ten drainage basins that feed into Lake Victoria, and is therefore functionally and ecologically related to the socio-economic activities in Lake Victoria and along the River Nile.  And now you know.

 

There are mountains in the distance.

 

And it's a long way there.

 

Whatever it is, you can get it there on a bicycle.

 

We have to say goodbye to our Tanzanian drivers now, as we prepare to cross the border back into Kenya.  I hate to leave Mohammed (Moody), as he's been just a marvelous companion for the past week. But he needs to get back to his family and his new baby, and we need to continue on to the Maasai Mara in Kenya.

 

And here we go.

 

We've crossed the border and we have new vehicles (that's the rest of our group up ahead) and we're back in Kenya.

 

Looks just like Tanzania.

 

But now we're about to take a shortcut, substituting a long drive with a flight into the heart of the Maasai Mara, Kenya's answer to Tanzania's Serengeti National Park.

 

We've arrived at the Migori airport.

 

It's...Spartan.

 

Not much to see.

 

OK, there is a terminal over there.

 

With a gift shop! This very nice young lady sold me a couple of little figurines. Her name was Stacy.  Yep, that's what she said, and she was such a delightful young lady I couldn't possibly leave here without buying something from her.

 

Here's what I bought: an elephant and lion.  They're carved from local sandstone and they're pretty heavy for their size. I know a couple of little boys in Nashville who will enjoy these come Christmas.

 

That's all nice.  But where's the airplane that'll take us outa here?

 

There. See it? The little black spot?

It got bigger. Itís a Cessna 208B Caravan, the largest single-engine airplane ever produced by Cessna.

 

And we got on board.

 

Right up there.

 

Of course I sat right behind the cockpit. Nobody else seemed to want to, and that was the only place I wanted to be.

 

Here we go.

 

We're zooming by the airport gift shops.

 

Come fly with me...

 

The pilot seems to know what he's doing, but I'm keeping a close eye on him anyway.

 

Soon we'll leave civilization and cultivated land behind.

 

Nice view.

 

Cruising along at 7,600 feet.

 

That cliff, part of the Siria Escarpment, marks the beginning of the part of the Serengeti known as the Maasai Mara.

 

We could have driven, but flying is faster.  The name of the area comes from the local people, the Maasai, and the word Mara, which means "spotted" in the local Maa language.  See those trees?  The place is spotted with them.  Maasai Mara.

 

The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania and the Maasai Mara National Preserve in Kenya are both part of the Serengeti ecosystem. When the animals migrate in that circular pattern Iíve showed you, they donít stop at border checkpoints. Itís all one big Serengeti to them.

 

Uh, oh, the copilot is consulting the landing checklist. This was a short flight -- 20 - 30 minutes max.

 

Another barebones airport approaches.

 

We're not alone here.

 

And the gift shop is downright luxurious.

 

The warthogs appear not to know what to make of all the tourists and their big noisy birds.

 

A kid looks on as we drive off.

 

And after another bumpy ride, we've arrived at our home for the next couple of nights: Fig Tree Camp.

 

Nice place.

 

A patch of civilization out here in the middle of nowhere.

 

My tent is right along this path.

 

There we go.  My tent.  Yes, it is so a tent.  See the zipper door?  That makes it a tent.  And see that doormat?  I'll soon be warned to keep it leaning against the zipper when I go out because the baboons have learned how to unzip tents and they just love to burglarize tourists.

 

The view from my front porch. Wonder if there's any wildlife in the river?

 

Yes indeed.  Hippos, in fact.

 

Lots of 'em. 

 

A veritable bloat of hippos, right outside my zipper.

 

Here's the view from inside the tent.

 

And here's the walkway back to the camp's reception area/dining hall.

 

At least I think it is.  A fellow could get lost around here.

 

OK, we've settled in.  Now let's go see how Kenyan wildlife compares to Tanzanian.

 

It's kinda hard to read, but the red rocks spell out Fig Tree Camp and the white rocks represent...um...a jellyfish?

 

The picture is kinda dark, but I think I see a herd of...

 

I thought they were topi, but they're elands

 

Just common elands.  Yawn.

 

Nothing common about zebras.

 

Or a dik dik. Cute animal, unfortunate name.

 

That's a baboon.

 

That's two jackals and a baboon.

 

And that's a rabbit.  Actually it's an African savannah hare.

 

When a jackal meets a hare, somebody could be lunch if he's not careful.

 

This baboon has found a perfect perch.

 

I think he's contemplating something important, like when will the tourists go away and leave me alone?

 

Know what you call a bunch of mongooses? A business.

 

These guys are certainly busy doing something.

 

Turns out they have their noses buried in a big pile of dung.

 

Don't look at me like that...I know what you're eating.

 

Sure there are tasty grubs crawling around in there.

 

But it's still a pile of doo doo.

 

You've got some on your nose.

 

I guess this is a real feast if you're a mongoose.

 

Doesn't look a bit embarrassed.

 

The tortoise is having none of it.

 

The cape buffalo is hiding from it all.

 

Or maybe he was discreetly staring at that monkey's rear end. I have to admit I was staring too.

 

He has blue balls.

 

Don't try to hide...I see them.

 

Like those we saw before, it's a vervet monkey. Didn't notice anything blue then, but there's no mistaking them here.  I've been reading up on this condition and I've found the monkeys are as proud of their blue nether regions as the Galapagos boobies were of their same shade of blue feet.

 

Are those dark clouds?

 

Could it actually rain out here?

 

Our driver kept something interesting in easy reach.  I'll admit at first I thought it was human hair.

 

Nope -- horse hair.  It's a fly swisher.

 

The road was rough.

 

Never pass up an opportunity to take a picture of an elephant.

 

Even one that won't pose.

 

Was it something I said?

 

Relaxing at the water's edge.

 

It's a popular place this afternoon.

 

I dunno...those clouds are getting darker...

 

But Kip seems unconcerned.

 

So does the lion.

 

But I gotta tell you, if I were napping next to a crocodile I'd keep at least one eye open.

 

The peaceable kingdom I guess.

 

Life is good on the savannah.

 

With nice soft gravel for a pillow.

 

No troubles here.

 

Unless you worry about dark clouds.

 

Classic view.

 

OK, let's look around.

 

And pose for the camera.

 

Roar, or just a yawn?

 

What do you think?

 

Hey, am I being spied upon?

 

Only by about a gazillion tourists all craning their necks to get a good look.

 

And a good look is what we got.

 

Jim and Donna and Marsha are seeing it all.

 

This is just great.

 

Hi Marsha!

 

Get a good shot, Donna.

 

I think she did.

 

Bill is loving this.

 

And he's not alone.

 

They take pride in their appearance.

 

And they look good.

 

And they yawn.

 

And they have really big teeth.

 

She's not impressed by the teeth, though.

 

She's seen this all before.

 

The big guy has some big paws.

 

Rowr

 

She's got some big ones too.

 

Maybe it's time to head back.

 

The sky didn't rain on us today, but it did provide a mighty nice sunset.

 

Very mighty nice.

 

But the day's not over!  This is a Road Scholar trip, so naturally there's going to be an evening lecture by the campfire.

 

Presented by a genuine Maasai tribesman.

 

Have a listen.

 

His presentation was interesting, but I'm getting hungry.

 

So let's have dinner under the big tent.

 

Maasai Dinner Dancing

And enjoy a little Maasai dancing and singing for entertainment.

 

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billanderson601@yahoo.com