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MUZUNGU in AFRICA

MUZUNGU in AFRICA

Journals of My Adventure During August 1996

Muzungu, a Swahili word which means “a man who moves endlessly, never resting.”  In recent decades, many African tribes have been, both benevolently and malevolently, visited by white men.  The  ‘pink-skinned’ strangers came into a village, did whatever they were going to do, then moved on.  Because whites never stayed, the word became transmuted into a new meaning:  white man.”

Date    Destination

 

1-3     Travel to/in Muscat/Oman

4-5     Travel to/in  Zanzibar

6-7     Travel to/in Tanzania-Dar es Salaam

8-10   Travel to/in Tanzania- Along coast to Fazi

11-13 Travel to/in Tanzania/Kenya-Masai Meru/Serengetti

14-16 Travel to/in Kenya-Nairobi

17-20 Travel to/in Kenya-Rift Valley & environs

21-23 Travel to/in Uganda (Leave from Entebbe)

 

Why I decided to go to East Africa.

“Why Africa?” was the first question Marcy asked me when I mentioned my plans.  I’m certain that the roots of my desire to go to Africa reach back to childhood, watching television programs of Tarzan or Rama of the Jungle.  Like every young boy of my era, I grew up wearing cowboy, or spaceman garb at every opportunity.  All three of these lines of adventure had one common thread running thickly through them, that is the chance to be on the move, exploring new territory where few had gone before them.  Underneath my daily business clothes, I can always imagine that I have, concealed cleverly, a silver-colored plastic ray gun that shoots alternating red and blue rays of light, and a worn red cowboy kerchief tucked in an inner pocket of my jacket

 

So many mysterious adventures always took place in the most primitive continent.  William Holden mastering the jungle in many movies or Cornel Wilde in Naked Prey all made me as a boy, think of the so-called dark continent as an almost unobtainable quest.  Even Bob Hope and Bing Crosby added to my wonderment of this part of the world in the movie, The Road to Zanzibar.   So exotic, so mysterious, so inviting, I had to go.  I couldn’t refuse.


Stories of Dr. Leakey’s explorations and other fairly factual accounts appeared in almost every issue of National Geographic during the fifties and sixties, abundantly filled with photographs of unabashed bare-breasted women frolicking through thickets.  The idea of being there tantalized every boy as much as the possibility of space exploration.  So the seeds were planted.

I guess everybody has dreams of going too far off distant places.  In that respect, I am the same as anybody else.  My hedonistic difference is that I stubbornly refuse to grow up and follow some of my childhood dreams.  So it was with this trip.  In February of 1996 when one of my friends asked me “Where are you going next?”  The words “East Africa” just spilled out of my mouth.  That day, as I sat eating a tuna sandwich on rye bread, working at my desk, I realized that to make this trip is probably possible. Europe is possible, Canada is definitely possible, but East Africa?  I thought I’d see how far I could get to by just making up some plans.    

Now as a fifty-year-old adult, I am supposed to have more reality-based reasons to do things.   Sometime in July of 1995 I was watching a travelogue about the Serengeti and a few other parts of Africa. While animals have never been a major part of my travel plan, I thought about how primitive and simple life must be in this part of the world.  From this dream began my desire to visit this region.  Talking with a well-traveled friend from the Santa Monica Youth Hostel, talking to my travel mentor at a travel book store in Santa Monica, and reading several books, all added mortar to the building blocks of the realization that I could really do it! I fancy myself as an adventurer of sorts.  In all honesty, I’m not willing to cut the path to a never-been-explored site, but I am willing to be second down that path, and smooth the path out for others to follow. 

 

At the very beginning of 1996 I knew I would be stepping on a plane going to East Africa. I laid out my plan of how I’d like to schedule my time.  I figured out which month to go by examining weather patterns, reading about seasonal changes, high and low tourist periods, and the migration of animals.  Next, I contacted a few travel agencies that specialized in African tours to see where they go, why, and when.  The prices they charged seemed much higher than what I thought I should have to pay according to the information printed in the travel books about East Africa.


The tourist offices proposed two-week tours priced between six thousand and eleven thousand dollars, excluding the flight cost. They safely prepackaged and preplanned everything, but I knew I would not be happy on such tours, this is not how I enjoy traveling. I had to plan this on my own, which meant a lot more work and thought before going there. Visa requirements, medical preparation and inoculations, a budget and funding were all things I needed to carefully plan. Slowly, deliberately, with plenty of time available yet, I began assembling everything. 

 

 

Date

 

   Destination

 

1-3

 

Travel to/in Muscat/Oman

 

4-5

 

Travel to/in  Zanzibar

 

6-7

 

Travel to/in Tanzania-Dar es Salaam

 

8-10

 

Travel to/in Tanzania- Along the coast to Fazi

 

11-13

 

Travel to/in Tanzania/Kenya-Masai Mesa/Serengetti

 

14-16

 

Travel to/in Kenya-Nairobi

 

17-20

 

Travel to/in Kenya-Rift Valley & environs

 

21-23

 

Travel to/in Uganda (Leave from Entebbe)

 

By the time I purchased a journal in late June, many of the things I needed to do were already handled or well underway. It wasn’t until the end of July that I made my first journal entries. I knew I had to write SOMETHING down in the journal, because the first words committed to paper are always the most difficult for me.   I started with a general plan, subject to change based on nothing more than a whim. At this point (not having left yet) I expect to cover areas in this approximate order, shown in the chart that follows.  I will try to call or telegram once each week if possible, but I may be in a  primitive area for an extended time so I’ll do what I can do.

 

 

July 30, 1996  Tuesday     Sherman Oaks, California

The moment I am scheduled to depart approaches, yet all that must be done is not yet finished.  I haven’t completed packing.  I have not purchased Marlboro cigarettes or ballpoint pens, which are always useful for trading.  Nor have I bought a bedroll, which is necessary to assure me that I will have a clean place to sleep.    A bedroll is simply a large sheet folded in half, and then sewn to create a large pocket in which I could sleep without fear of insects or slithery animals crawling in with me.  Most importantly, I must get my passport back from the Tanzanian Embassy in Washington.

 


The Kenyan Embassy, in Beverly Hills, returned the approved passport in three days, Oman, in Washington, D.C. took four days.  Uganda doesn’t require a visa stamp.  Each of these places asked for money and a post-paid return envelope to enter the stamp. My big problem was saved for the last.  The Tanzanian Embassy in Washington claimed that they had no pictures (I think they took the ones I had sent them and added them to some bizarre collection somewhere).  I had some more pictures taken then brought them to the post office and express mail them to Gertrude, the woman I had been in contact with at that embassy. 

 

I called two days later, and she told me that the visa was being processed.  Still, no passport was returned and time was getting short before the trip.  I called the embassy and she couldn’t find it.  I called again and again trying to be a polite thorn in their side until the passport is returned.  I kept calling until I spoke with her supervisor, Mr. Robinson.   He said he has it there and will send it out today.  Since I leave in two days (today is Tues. and I leave on Thurs.) I let them use the credit card number for shipping it by Federal Express next day delivery.  The number is 112-5869-695.  I called Fed Ex at (800) 463-3339 but now they have no record of the package.   I called the Embassy at (202) 939-6125, Gertrude answered saying she’s certain it went out.  I received it later that day.

 

 

August 1, 1996 - Thursday, LAX, Los Angeles, California

3:45 p.m.” my watch says.  So it starts -- a new adventure more thrilling and mysterious than any trip I've planned before.   Africa, Black Africa, is the big adventure behind a smaller excursion I hope to take into Oman. 

 

A number of people called to wish me well and to have a safe journey, including my brother Steve, and my sister-in-law, Sue. Marcy's brother, Ross, and Paul & Karen also called.   My parents and my adult children spoke with, or called me yesterday, but not today.  I know my parents, Al and Golda, are worried and think that there is no good reason why I must go to a place where there is constant turmoil, which is easily discovered from stories printed almost daily in the newspaper.  My children are jaded, and nothing I do, and no place I go, surprises Carol and Mark anymore.   They prefer a vacation of relaxation and luxury; I’m not headed for that.  Sarah, who prefers the safe haven of home, was in disbelief that I would WANT to go to such places.  My wife Marcy was espcially worried and saddened by my intention to travel without her.

 

Not having fully completed the first third of the flight to Heathrow, I have an opportunity to reflect on the minor mishaps during this flight already.  I know why I am having all these negative thoughts:  I'm on a nonsmoking flight!  Over nine hours without a puff -- ouch!  I really tried to be too clever again.  Realizing that for the last five years or so all domestic flights are "nonsmoking," I would pay the extra dollars to arrange an International flight from LA to London!  Isn’t that clever?  Smoking is usually allowed on international flights.  The travel agent never asked, "Nonsmoking or smoking?" 

 

Not until I boarded the plane was the issue of smoking mentioned.  The red light glared at me overhead.  Almost as if it were sticking its tongue out at me as it constantly read, “No Smoking.” I would soon discover the entire airplane was a No Smoking zone.


Important Places To Visit:

Zanzibar

Dimbani Mosque inscription from 1107

Maruhubi Palace from 1870 to 1888

Old slave caves

Prison Island/Kobandiko Island giant tortoises

So here I sit, after consuming a spicy shrimp dinner with rice, carrots, and green beans prepared especially for those flying in Economy Class.  Beset by an overwhelming urge to light up a cigarette, I accepted a graciously offered cup of coffee by the plump, middle-aged stewardess.  She smiled as she set it before me.  In return I gave her my most fake grin, because I was so annoyed by being unable to smoke.  Later I began to wish I could apologize to her.  It’s not her fault I cannot smoke, but I needed to blame someone.

 

I was prepared for a lengthy journey, so among the items I brought for flight comfort I included my black slippers, a liter of mountain water sealed in a plastic bottle, a small, oblong roll of burgundy-flecked salami, a large leaf of sharp white cheddar from New Zealand, and a small yellow and white cardboard box of salted wheat crackers.  While everybody else in the "Coach" section waited two hours for meal service, I had eaten a full meal already. That doesn't mean I refused the meal served -- on the contrary, I ate that, too.  I was hungry and eating occasionally made me forget I couldn’t smoke.

The seating arrangement is a little more comfortable than I had during the flight to China.  I have plenty of room to move my legs.  I changed seats so I wouldn't have a window seat, opting instead for the pleasure of stretching my legs alongside the open aisle between the rows of seats.   I had to do this to release the pent-up gas in my stomach.  I have tried to exercise caution so I’d do no damage to fellow passengers as I moved, trying to find a long-term position of comfort.  Only rarely did I thrust my head backwards to pummel the backrest, trying to find the most comfortable position, and failing miserably.  The black lady sitting to my rear has never smiled yet, as I glance toward her, since every movement I make affects her comfort, or lack thereof.   She doesn’t realize that this is as still as I can sit.

 

Although I sat less than twelve feet from a lavatory in front of me, I was curtly advised by a young dark-haired stewardess, that the loo to the rear was for “coach” passengers.   The walk was quite a distance from where I sat and unlike the one near my seat, it had a line of impatient future occupants.   I joined them for a while and mimicked the impatient “aisle dance” that they had been doing.  Meanwhile my anger and resentment were building as I watched the toilet in business-class remain unused.  I learned to hate business-class people.

 

My watch says it will be midnight in eleven minutes, so my first day has passed.  A forward seated passenger lifted the curtain that had covered his porthole-sized window, and peeked outside to see the first strands of morning light.  We have rushed to greet the Sun as its rays reveal the mottled blue carpet, stained with smokey white billows,  rolling beneath us.

Expenses August 1-3                

 

 

 

$85         Battery

$20         Taxi ride in Dar Es Salaam

$5           Coffee shop in Omanair

$10         Food and water at Heathrow

 

Aug. 4

$35         Room

$70         Boat trip to Zanzibar

$10         Tax for above

$10         Room Zanzibar

$10         Taxi Zanzibar

$10         Dinner

$5           Lunch

$275       Total


The flight, scheduled to land nine hours after departure, hasn't but two hours left in this NONSMOKING flight.  I have eight and a half hours to wait in Heathrow/London before I leave for Muscat, Oman.  Now I'm tired.  I still have two long hours before I'll land in Heathrow 8/2/96 3:40 p.m. Pacific Standard. My watch is still set for L.A. time.

 

The airplane to Africa should leave at 20:30 local time, still two hours away.  I had enough time to go to Harrod's Department Store and look around.  I stopped in a small British pub within the cavernous walls of the huge shopping complex of the Heathrow airport.  The young waitress, dressed in a frilly British version of a dirndl, brought a large frosted mug of ale with fish ‘n chips.  The thick blue-rimmed stoneware platter held a mountainous serving of deep-fried, golden cod and the other half of the plate was piled high with french fries. Yellow oil pooled in shallow circles, shimmering on the hot white dish.

 

Throughout the airport, everywhere I look menial tasks are usually assigned to Indians.  There were only a couple of Brits sweeping the floors or cleaning ashtrays. I saw a sweatshirt that might look good on Steve or Ross from St. Andrews Golf Course, which is the first golf course, created, but the seventy-dollar price-tag stopped me from buying even one.  The sign above the money-changing booth read:

Exchange rate for dollars:  "Buy = 1.615   Sell = 1.524."

 

Looking around London was drab and dreary, not even worth getting the camera out. It's about fifteen miles from Heathrow to Victoria Station, which serves as a main meeting point. I agreed to take two-hour taxi tour at fifty-five U.S. dollars.  The weather was foggy and heavily overcast.  If I were to do it again, I would take a taxi to Victoria Station, and then hire a local taxi from there at a much lower rate.

 

The wait in the airport gave me enough time to realize that I had not taken my medicine today.  I bought one slice of pizza from Sbarro and a small bottle of water; the clerk accepted a five-dollar bill to pay for those items.  I bought a special high-performance camera battery for eighty-five dollars, slightly more than I would pay at an American discount house. I packed it in my backpack and looked inside to make certain I had everything I needed.  I drew a chart of each pouch and wrote the contents within the drawn box in my journal.  It won’t be until much later that I’ll learn if I have all that I need.  I should note that I have packed no t-shirts, which are daily wear for me.   It’s cheaper to buy new t-shirts and wear them for a couple of days than to have the same article of clothing washed. The job of washing clothes is often not done with modern appliances, and their understanding of clean often does not match my understanding of what constitutes clean. 

The call to board has been announced over the loud speakers.  I am first to board the plane.  The costumes assigned to the stewardesses include a westernized chador, which is an Arabic-style flowing headdress usually worn by Islamic women, in pink chiffon with a light gray skirt.

 

 

 

First aid kit

Clothes

bug spray

Rubber bands

Pens

Salami

 

When I boarded the plane, I was turned sideways as I was wedged between several large stainless steel carts filled with stainless steel trays of foil-covered dinners.  I struggled to my seat, closely followed by oceans of people pushing me forward like a heavy tide.  I pushed forward,  undaunted by any physical obstacles like seats or other people. I found the smoking section, but no one has lit up yet.  I expect it will occur soon.  Arabic men occupy all the seats in the smoking section.  Notably, no women sit in this section.

Those boarding this plane look very different from each other.  People have different dress, skin color, even body odors (something I began to notice during other travels), compared to those on my first flight.  I expected this change, but not until I was on the third leg of this flight.  The signs are all in Arabic with small English and French translations printed below. The temperature in the plane was warm, almost hot, probably in the high seventies, so it didn't take long for the aromas from everyone's body to begin to saturate the air.  At first the smell was difficult to bear, but after the first twenty minutes I became oblivious to the acrid swirl of fragrances.  After almost a day of travel I don’t imagine I smelled so wonderfully myself.

The turbine engine started with the reluctance of an old donkey that can barely get up any longer, but will get whacked until he starts to work.  In less than a minute the whir of the turbines became uniformly loud with the synchronization that my ears expect to hear.  I am very sleepy, but I nervously observe the last leg of my journey.


The plane interior has cooled comfortably now. Those around me speak English even when they talking to other passengers who are not in their clique. I conclude that, like India, English may be a binding language where many dialects abound.  I remind myself that the region I have chosen as my destination once was known as British East Africa.

 

Sitting next to me is a young man from Oman who invited me to visit his house when I am in Muscat.  He was in London for medical treatment of his arm.  The arm was heavily wrapped in beige elastic bandages.  I became calm when he explained the injury was due to an industrial accident, not some weird disease.

 

The menu was offered for the evening meal.  I ordered "Sheech Tawook," some sort of cubed lamb stewed in a thick brown sauce.  It was presented with balsamic rice and a boiled, peeled, and thickly sliced potato covered with pea curry.  Other main dishes offered on the menu are all European except the densely black Arabic coffee.

 

The plane landed in Oman, but with only two hours to get the next flight and about a thirty-minute drive into town, I couldn't go into Muscat until my return trip.  While in Muscat, I was able to retrieve my backpack from the luggage hold with great difficulty.   Had I not gotten it then, since it was checked through to Dar Es Salaam, I'd have had to go there, rather than get off at the first stop in Zanzibar.  I felt guilty that I had lied to the stewardess about needing medicine from the backpack, but I had to get the job done.  

 

I stowed the backpack aboard when we were advised to go board the place after a wait in the Oman airport.  Small and very Arab in architecture, the coffee shop had few of the items noted on the menu posted overhead.  For two small chilled bottles of water, two cups of coffee, and a yogurt, I paid $5.00 US.  I sat with Ken, a black-skinned Indian who owns a gas station in London.  I listened intently as Ken continued his story, for everybody has one.  His father died two years ago in Tanzania, and he comes to Dar Es Salaam to check on the small clothing manufacturing plant his father left to him.  His cousin manages it, but he is concerned that his cousin isn’t being totally honest with him, so this is a surprise visit.  He was worried he would have some difficulty getting in without a pre-approved visa.

 

The time change for Oman was three hours earlier than London, but one hour was gained back in Tanzania.    The food served on this flight was acidic, a kind of vinegary rice served with ground lamb lying in a wide dab of ketchup.  I ate or tried everything on my plate.  It wasn't the best meal I've ever had by a long shot.

 

After several hours, we landed in Zanzibar.  The plane descended from 3700 feet cruising altitude and went below the cloud cover, revealing scattered small islands floating on a patchwork ocean of distinct blue and blue-green.  The plane bounced hard, then quickly slowed to a halt.

 

I gathered my gear and attempted to disembark, but they would not let me off.  My boarding card said Dar Es Salaam, and that's where I was getting off.  I talked to several people with the authority to release me, but to no avail -- I had to sit for the rest of the trip to Dar.  I was mad because they held me on board curtly explaining that they feared I could have left a bomb on board.  I argued with all of them impossibly.  I sat, doomed to ride to Dar Es Salaam.  Now I must plan to go to Zanzibar tomorrow.  Ken and I resumed our casual conversation.  He politely refrained from asking details of my failed mission.

 


 

August 3, 1996   Saturday    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania  

Thirty minutes later I was in Dar.  After a brief walk through customs, I exchanged some dollars for Tanzanian shillings.  The exchange rate is $1 US equals 571 Tsh. I’ve already learned one common word, Jambo, it means hello, or welcome!  I looked outside the airport building.  Curious black faces looked inquisitively through the glass walls at the largely white crowd disembarking from this, and the preceding flight. Seven or eight men whom I presumed to be taxi touts or drivers were trying to get my attention.  One gray-haired Negro man with a friendly smile got my attention.  As I left the building, he came to greet me and bring me to his beat-up Peugeot taxi with broken door handles.  He spoke British English, so his speech was difficult for me to understand.  He offered to drive me in his meterless cab to Hotel Continental.  We drove along the main street which was lined with old, industrial buildings interspersed with myriad shanties and plastic-sheet-covered stalls selling old parts of cars, used clothing, and other stuff.

 

Having been frequently cautioned of the likelihood of being robbed, I took all my gear with me when I examined the interior of the gated hotel.  I was also forewarned of the pestilence of insects and other telltale signs of poor sanitation so I examined the room closely.  I was told to look for small blood spots on the walls.  This would suggest the probable infestation of mosquitoes or other such repugnant vermin.  I was so focused on detecting any of these signs that I didn’t even think to look for mice or other such creatures.  The bed was soft -- too soft -- but the sparse, patched room was clean. The bed had a large white mosquito net slung above.  It was knotted loosely to keep it suspended above the bed without touching it.  I took the room.  At first the receptionist said 3200 T.S. shillings but said, only moments after the taxi left, told me that it was 9300.  I accepted anyway.  I had not showered, shaved, or changed clothes in three days.

 

I met an interesting 31-year-old white, South African fellow, Robert Mackenzie.  Happily married now for four years (his second try at it), he was born and raised in Johannesburg.  He says little changed with Nelson Mandela or any other "so-called social changes" in South Africa.  He thinks Mandela is without an original thought or the spirit to really change things.  He said everything in Africa is the same as when he grew up, with the same people who were behind the scenes before "pulling the strings" still doing it today.  He has not yet traveled out of Africa, but with his new job selling refurbished copiers and office equipment, he will go to the US (New York, LA, San Francisco) with his Taiwanese employer.

 


Robert and I drank a few Kenya lager beers.  Even at 8:00 p.m. it was still warm outside but the beer (costing $1.20 US) was cold and refreshing.  This area was not in a great neighborhood.  The trash slowly swirling along the stained street gutters. African women, carrying a bundled child on their back or a lot of sticks on their head, cautiously walked along the street, which was dotted with wide cracks and potholes.  The asphalt was so thin that dry tan earth seeped through it and mixed with the refuse.   As we sat in the front court of a small restaurant, Robert tried to order from the adjacent restaurant using the tattered and worn plastic-coated menu. He requested one thing after the next, the waiter told him, each time, time they didn't have what he read on the menu. He asked what they had.  Only chicken.  He chose not to order.  We talked during the early evening.  The central market closed at 7:00 p.m., and it was now an hour and a half later. 

 

We were to meet a taxi driver to take us around Dar, but after talking with the driver we learned that only a couple of restaurants were still open, and the disco.  I gave the driver two US dollars and dismissed him.  Everything around the hotel seemed closed.  Poorly dressed blacks of all ages and sexes walked carefully along the street.  I sat back in the restaurant and enjoyed another beer.  If we wanted it cold, the waiter would have to put it in the freezer for a while.

 

At nine p.m. I left after we agreed to meet at eight, tomorrow morning, to see what we could of the city.  I often looked in the Lonely Planet Guide of East Africa to learn where to go, but no guide can completely prepare someone for the true experience of being there.  The best I could manage was still only guess work.

 

Back in the room I quickly fell asleep, but was awakened at 3:00 a.m. by loud church music, and I do mean LOUD! The sounds were blurred by the shut windows of my unit, and it was difficult to tell how far away the heavy soul rhythm was coming from.  I turned on the lights and wrote for a while, then tried to sleep again. I had the TV on softly, watching the Olympics in Atlanta.  The U.S. and Yugoslavian basketball teams broke for halftime, and they posed for pictures with Mohammed Ali.  It was live by satellite on all four channels.  The ceiling fan made a clattering sound that wouldn't let me sleep again.  Then a "wrong number" called and hung up at 4:30.  My biological clock had not reset itself yet, but even if it had, this would have been a sleepless night.

 

 

August 4, 1997      Sunday        Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

I tried to sleep again, but even this Sunday morning was filled with an early cacophony of blaring horns and loaded trucks bouncing hard over  potholes or curbs.  I could hear metal of low riding truck bumpers scraping over huge asphalt risers intended to slow drivers as they travel through the city.  I didn’t realize that this hotel was a block away from the center of commerce until an early walk. It was Sunday, but fresh produce and fish must move. 

 

Here, at the Hotel Continental -- as I discovered in the morning -- the clientele is black; other than Robert and me, there were no other whites here.  I felt little discomfort in that.  The rage that is visible behind the eyes of many blacks in Los Angeles and other U.S. metropolises is not seen in the eyes of the Africans to me yet, if it exists at all.

 

Hotel Continental included a free breakfast.  I was dressed and in the “Always Open” restaurant at 7:30 a.m. local time.  I checked my watch; it says it is 1o:30 in L.A., much too late to call.  Rob said he’d be here at 8:00.  The "free" breakfast (I was advised by the singular attendant) did not include egg. Nor was there “free” bacon or sausage of any kind.  Well -- Jambo!

 


I asked for coffee.  I was given a damp, cracked ceramic pink coffee cup and a small orange-colored tin box labeled "Ariba Coffee."  The lid was slightly ajar, and there was almost enough remaining in the tin to fill a teaspoon.  I was served a glass filled with a lemon-colored liquid, which I was told was fresh-squeezed orange juice.  It was very thin and tasted sour, but I drank every drop of liquid anyway. My lips puckered from the experience.

 

The young, very black, waiter left to fetch some toast and jam, but returned sadly to announce that while there was no jam, there is toast.  I wasn't that hungry.  Next course is the fresh fruit.  Two large pieces of yellow-orange fruit were delivered.  A small oval-shaped brown bug and a companion were already enjoying the elongated section of melon when it arrived.  I had not the heart to disturb them.  The other fruit appeared to be more edible. I peeled the skin from what I believe was a plantain and smelled it.   It had an unfamiliar odor that did not remind me of bananas, plantains, or any other palatable fruit. I left it on the plate.

 

After leaving the restaurant, I walked outside the hotel to where a line of cabbies lined up, waiting patiently for fares.  I hired a cabbie named Ali to drive me around Dar at 8:30 a.m. since I saw no Robert.  He was to meet me at eight and wasn’t answering his phone in his room.  One cabbie, Ali, agreed to 9200 Tsh for three hours.  Ultimately I paid him 14,000 for four hours and paid for his lunch too.  The weather was clear and sunny, just a bit too hot and a little too humid -- but still comfortable by my broad standards.

 

I had my choice of four modes of travel from Dar to the island of Zanzibar.  I could go by plane ($120 r.t.), hydrofoil boat, diesel powered ferry, or dhow.  I listed the different ways to make the trip by speed, the quickest is plane, then hydrofoil.  The dhow is the most romantic, however it takes all day to make the trip and there had been several dhows that failed to complete the trip recently.  A dhow is a wind-powered wooden sailboat, usually big enough to hold eight passengers and a crew of three   I purchased a ticket to go to Zanzibar and back to Dar by hydrofoil.  The ticket seller would only take US dollars from nonresidents, and they asked for three times as much from all foreigners.  I had to be at the dock by two p.m. for the hydrofoil that leaves for Zanzibar

 

Ali brought me to an African restaurant where there was a small crew filming a movie.  Some sort of comedy . . . Ali said he recognized the actor from other comedies he had done.  The filming began with one video camera recording the drunken Chaplinesque routine performed by the short, stocky, very black actor.  There was only one take, and then they were finished.

 

 

 

Ali and I inched our way through the crowd of onlookers into an adjacent large room where the menu was posted on a big black chalkboard hung high on the wall.  The menu was visible to people strolling down the street through the street side wall of glass.  The waiters were very busy, and had no time for frivolity or small talk.  The choices must be made, for although posted in English, I was unfamiliar with all but the most basic of dishes.  Grilled fish, lobster, or prawn . . . there was some Indian influence, but no Arab dishes.

 


As the chef finished cooking a huge batch of one thing or another, he would have an assistant bring the filled pot into the main room.  Then he would pour the pot's contents into a large rectangular stainless steel container that was placed in full view of patrons so they could see what they might eat. I sat in a lightweight plastic chair with flimsy aluminum legs that flexed as I eased all my weight into it. I pulled my chair close to the long wooden table upon which the food was served.

 

Ali asked me what I would want to eat, but lacking the knowledge of the ingredients, except the most basic, such as Mutton Marsala, I knew -- or at least suspected -- that dish would contain at least some mutton.  I asked Ali to order for both of us; however, I was getting dehydrated from the heat, so I asked for a liter of bottled water.

 

The food was served quickly, and the waiter paused by us, in a rare moment of inaction, anticipating my pleasure when I tasted the food.  It was lamb, cut in one-inch sized cubes and drenched in a glistening, spicy, reddish-brown sauce.  Splinters of carrots and green bell peppers tangled in the sauce with a quarter of a peeled and boiled potato.  To accompany this, in a separate pile, was a carefully measured block of hot, steamed white rice.

 

I enjoyed this meal very much and smiled broadly, pleased, to the anticipating waiter.   He smiled back.  I ate it quickly, facing toward the back of the restaurant, while most all other eaters enjoyed the meal facing toward the street, watching the overhead television with replays of earlier Olympic events in Atlanta.   After finishing the last morsel, I paid for both meals.  I left an appreciative tip for the waiter, then we left the busy restaurant.  Ali explained that tips are not usually given.  I’ll remember that when Ali and I part company.

 


Ali brought me to the city marketplace of the town. Few other places were open today because it is Sunday.  First I had to get money changed, so I drove to a fancy hotel where they had a small shop that exchanged currency.   This fancy hotel had mainly white guests; although there were a few black guests, and some Indians too.  I noticed that most whites and Japanese tourists travel in large packs. There are few that travel alone, leaving the tropical gardens and the high wrought iron fence that surround the hotel and grounds.  Seldom were its guests found strolling along the public streets.

 

In most places that Ali had brought me I was the only white, and the marketplace was no different.  It was only about a mile from the Hotel Continental, and as I got out of the cab I began to film the colorful scene.  Many people, especially the women, carry heavy buckets and boxes on their heads -- carefully and (by necessity) walking smoothly, keeping a very steady gait so the load balanced on their head wouldn't spill. 

 

I was being watched intently and with suspicion by the people as I walked and filmed.  I was often waved away by Africans who objected to my filming. Often, if I paused to make a photograph, people would move out of range, stop what they were doing, or ask -- no, demand -- money for the picture I would take of them.  That diluted my desire to continue with the camera, and while using the video I could seldom pause on a subject long enough to really capture it.

 

However much fun it was to film people, we were in the marketplace for a purpose, so we went on to find a shirt for me.  I wanted a white or tan long-sleeved shirt, but the only white shirts were dressy, and tan or light brown was not to be found. We walked further into the huge sprawling open-air marketplace, checking the stalls of six or seven vendors unsuccessfully as we passed. 

 

Through the mosaic of rutty dirt streets stood a three-story monolith, standing out as the heart of this active marketplace.  We entered and walked the steps to the second floor, where most shops were closed.  One shop, geared for tourist stuff, had some tee shirts, so I bought one, then another from a neighboring stall.  Each cost four dollars.

 

I took off my green Chinese sweatshirt right in the store and donned the new tee shirt.  I felt immediate relief from the oppressive heat that the sweatshirt bore me. The heavy sweatshirt I was wearing was saturated with perspiration. Had I taken off the sweatshirt before I would have smelled badly since I had not changed my shirt in two days.  I had brought very little clothing with me because I intended to buy most of it while I was in Africa.

 

While I was trying on the tee shirt, I had an inexpensive watch stolen.   It was fastened around the handle to my brown satchel.  I noticed a native look at it admiringly.  I was separated from the bag about two minutes, and when I reconnected, I noticed the buckle of the strap was fastened oddly, not a way in which I would have done so.  A few minutes later, when I was already blocks away, the disappearance was noticed.

 

I needed one more item.  Prior to leaving I knew I’d need a small electrical adapter for the charger used for rejuicing the camera battery. Among the stalls outside of the main building we found an electrical booth with a decorated facade of salvaged parts from appliances no longer useful.  He directed Ali and me to an adjacent shop where I might find the necessary plug.  The African arrangement used a three-prong male/female design I had never seen before.

 


After a fruitless search among the street vendors, we visited four stalls in the half-empty interior.   Each time we were directed to another stall.  In this stall there were two men behind the glass counter, where their entire inventory was visible.  The teenage African showed me how to plug my European AC adapter into the East African outlet, so I needed no adaptor.  He was surprised that I gave him $2.00 US, and I gesticulated as I spoke in case he did not understand English, which most merchants spoke as a second language.  I said the money is not a tip, but that I was paying him for his knowledge.  He understood, and he was flattered.  Other people standing nearby were surprised.

 

Ali and I got into the cab.  Ali enjoyed wearing the solar-powered fan hat.  Many people were amazed by it.  Ali liked the Gumi Bears, a chewy, fruit flavored, gelatinous candy, and Salem cigarettes, too.  But most of all, he wanted the solar powered fan hat.  To him, this white baseball cap, already sweat-stained, was a true marvel he had never seen before.  He had seen large solar panels, but never a unit that was so compact it could be worn on the head. 

 

He drove me by Kenyatta Drive, on which many Embassies are found.  The clear blue ocean was on the other side of the narrow paved street.  Further down the road was a broad expanse of white sandy beaches sporadically held together with a low-lying green vine.  Ali said that very often this beach is full of people, but there were few on it today.  A young boy came up to me immediately after we had parked on the beach to hawk packets of shelled peanuts.  While I didn't buy any, I offered him a Gumi Bear which he fingered suspiciously until I took one and ate it.  I found it funny to observe how quickly his face lit up when he realized that he liked the candy.

 

I had Ali drive to the boat terminal next. There I paid Ali 14,000 TS.  We had agreed on 9,000 for three hours, but four hours had passed so I paid him more.  The boat would not be leaving for another hour, so I was escorted to a ragged, dingy waiting room where parts to a disassembled outboard motor were left scattered on the rough cement floor.

 

A young man came up to me to "practice his English."  We conversed until he walked outside the room to talk with a policeman sitting in a chair. He came back and said the policeman said I must pay 2,000 TS for my luggage.  Suspecting this as some tourist ploy, I told him to tell the policeman I said "no."  Not an emphatic  “NO!”, I said just simply, but politely, “no.” Then he came back and told me the policeman said "Okay."  The young man quietly left when he realized his plan didn’t work and I might be a little harder to work.  I positioned myself in a very visible area outside the cement box and took caution in case he had considered robbery.  I was a tourist and an American.  I knew that he considered me as fair game.

 

The boat I would board had docked and was being prepared for new passengers.  At 2:05 p.m. local time I boarded, having paid for first class passage because I didn't want to sit with freight or crowded among the minions.  I stowed my backpack and bag alongside me, not knowing what else to do with it.  The crew turned on a television set, where two episodes of Mr. Bean, an English comedy series done primarily in pantomime, were shown.

 


While many Africans boarded, few sat up front. Most opted for a slower boat that was only 1,000 Tsh for residents of Tanzania.  This boat takes about one hour and 15 minutes for the journey, but the slow boat takes three hours. 

 

While I got comfortable, I noticed an American man sitting behind me.  We began to talk.  Robert and his girlfriend Cia, a young pretty black woman, were planning to spend four days in Zanzibar.  Robert, about sixty but in great physical condition, explained he has taught physical education in Oslo and other Nordic countries as well as other African countries. He's tall and thin, but muscular, slightly balding, with white hair and sporting a white goatee. Cia was soft-spoken but intelligent, with a quick and hearty laugh that was infectious.  Her hair was done in a hundred braids and cut shoulder length.  Our conversation continued about traveling and such until the middle of the journey when the water got very choppy, and I was not feeling well.  I began sweating, which I recognized as the first sign of seasickness.

 

We seemed to have so much in common, and after docking I asked if I could follow them if they knew of a room.  We walked through customs and out to a taxi -- the three of us and the driver with his friend and guide, so five altogether.  We drove over the bumpy, partially paved roads, checking one lodging after another, until a vacancy was found about seven miles from town.  The accommodations were cheap, but the room was spare.  The rooms were clean and seemed to be a good choice, especially because it was our only choice.  After Robert paid the taxi driver and the friend, I said I only have dollars and would pay in dollars, but generously he said I could pay tomorrow when the banks open.

 

 

After we put our gear into our respective rooms, we walked in the early evening (it was about 6:00 p.m. now) along the incredibly soft white sand to a restaurant nearby.  Here we had some "Safari" brand beer.  You must specifically ask the waiter if you want it chilled.  I drank it slowly.  Next came the food.  I let Cia order for me because she wanted me to try the Tanzanian food.  Soon each of us were served chicken pieces sauteed in a tasty brown sauce with rice.  It was delicious, and I ate all but skin and bone.  As the sun was setting, it was a stunning sight, and magically different from a sunset viewed from the beaches of LA --somehow it all looked  much more ancient.

 

African music was playing loudly in the restaurant, although no one was on the outdoor cement dance floor.  The music was definitely African, yet so Jamaican. I could understand how the musical roots of the Jamaican beat came from here. As we left the restaurant, it was made increasingly uncomfortable by the upturned volume of African, Jamaican, and rap/hip-hop music that blared through the open-air dance floor.  Although it was barely lit by flashing blue, red, and yellow lights syncopated to the rhythm, I noticed few (ah - maybe no) women on the dance floor.  An extraordinary number of young men slowly bounced to the beat of the music.


After the Sun had set, the beach became almost totally dark, due to the fact that no moon was shining.   Even the ceiling of stars was not enough to light two feet in front of me.  Wandering along the beach, my flashlight was very useful to prevent me from stumbling over the numerous outcroppings of black rocks, worn smooth by the endless waves. I followed my new friends’ lead -- they knew the territory, not me.  I was too shy to take hold of Robert’s shirt, although the black darkness was disorienting. We made it back safely. Along the way Cia asked to hold my camera.  Only later did she tell me that she thought someone might try to steal it from me, but they wouldn't take it from her.  There must be some sort of unwritten thief’s ethics that were in play here.  I didn’t ask her to explain this to me because I thought it might prove embarrassing for some unexplained reason.    I went to my room after giving Robert a roll of American toilet paper, as I had offered.

 

August  5, 1996   Tuesday    Zanzibar, Tanzania

I woke very early, still not totally adjusting to the time change.  At 3:30 a.m. I needed to pee.  The old style latch on the door wouldn't budge regardless of how finely I finessed it. When the old-fashioned key finally broke off in the lock  I was locked inside my room with barred windows and no way out, and I really had to go to the toilet.  I was a prisoner in the room I realized that short of waking the entire camp, I would have to wait until morning when others were around to rescue me.  How was I going to relieve myself?  My solution: I drank as much of the water in my water bottle as I could, then peed into that.

 

Feeling better now, I took a deep breath of relief, then rested a bit.  I sat on the thin bed mattress quietly watching for the sun to come up and waited for my salvation from the prison that my room had become.

 

We rode in the back of a small minibus from Bububu Beach Guest House, which is at the northwest end of Zanzibar. I went over to a few taxi drivers and negotiated for the cheapest English-speaking four-hour ride around town. I paid 9,000 TS, which is about $15, then he drove me around town.  He needed to stop twice, once for Islamic prayers, and once to bring his brother to the ferry station.

 


The ancient (circa 1500 AD) town had been rebuilt many times.  Recent explorers found an inscription that dates to 1107 AD. in one of the many caves. It is commonly believed that Zanzibar has been occupied since very early times of mankind, but writing or pictographs were not in use until around 1107.  The Arabs brought this method of recording here.

 

The heat was in the high 90's, and the humidity was also high.  I was prepared for it, so there was little to complain about.  Robert took me to a local restaurant to enjoy Zanzibarian food -- his favorite.  The small frond-covered building had one circular cement wall, painted white, enclosed the tiny hibachi-equipped kitchen and a four-seat bar area.  The restaurant had no name posted on it, but there was a large paved patio.   The swarthy Muslim owner was thin and looked glum, as though a recent tragedy had befallen him.  He had a constant scowl that seemed molded on his face.  The small restaurant and patio were over manned with a crew of ten.  All of the women and girls wore traditional Muslim garb.  

 

The meal was served to me -- a great portion of savory, spice-flecked rice accompanied by a very bony chicken, which had been expertly grilled with the skin on.  The chicken must have been a skinny bird, there was not much meat on this fowl.   A potato was peeled, boiled, and placed on top of the rice.  Each item had its own place on the plate, and other than the potato each item was separated from the next by a small clean space on the plate. My driver said this special meal was often served at African weddings. Good food, filling, and only about $2.25 US.  We sat in a corner of the screen-covered patio. 

 

Large black flying insects found this area to be desirable too.  Miscellaneous airborne pests made menacing circles around my head and over my food-filled plate.  My driver-guide was undaunted by the midget monsters and ate contentedly.  I, on the other hand interrupted my meal with heavy-handed swats in the air, which yielded no result except stirring up the insects to target me as fresh blood.  I looked over at my guide; he was oblivious to the two large flies that rested just below his left eye.  Watching him made me uncomfortable and anxious to finish this meal.  I had to fight with myself to resist the temptation to swat the flies on his face.  The kitchen, visible from the dining area, was clean, and the dining area, too, was thoroughly scrubbed after the departure of each patron, yet vast hordes of airborne insects found this area to be like a veritable Valhalla.

 

I stood with the lunch bill in front of an ancient cash register.  One of the young waitresses came over to take the money.  Instead of a few small coins, which the cashier had offered as change, I took two bags of the freshly made popcorn in super-thin plastic bags.  I gave one bag to my driver and I ate the other quickly within the protected isolation of the air-conditioned taxi. Each kernel was similar in appearance to that in America except each morsel had much more bulk to it making it more satisfying and filling.  It tasted more authentic and substantial than the scientific hybrids commonly available in America.

 

The day was warm and many people were out walking, shopping through the many rickety stalls erected streetside.  A long row of these family businesses stretched one after the other for a mile along the main street.  We walked through the marketplace where the natives buy their daily staples of perishable food.

 


The fish market was a walled area with shallow unpainted cement stalls for each vendor.  They lined two sides of the long rectangular room.  The palm-frond covered roof was supported by several thin, wooden pillars over its low walls.  The walls didn’t meet the roof, but instead, had a two-foot gap, opened to vent malodorous fish guts that had escaped the slosh bucket used for fish remains when the fish were cleaned at a customer’s request.  Octopus and other unusual sea creatures were very common to see here. Although it was one p.m. it was almost time for the fish section to close.  Flies were over everything, and nothing was done to control the problem . . . large silver fish, resembling tuna, with less than a quarter of its filet body remaining; sardines lined head to toe in a flittering silver blanket were mottled with small gathering of black flies.  Most of the small and unusual sea creatures are usually sold early in the morning; I was here to see the market close for the day.

 

The meat market was contained in a two-room building.  Huge metal doors were pushed to the side to let customers in.  Various organs of cow, goat, and sheep hung from black metal hooks suspended in the air above the sellers' stall.  As buyers would select a piece of the fly-covered flesh, they would remove the flesh from the hook, finger it indiscriminately, then advise the seller how much and which part after a price was negotiated, for no prices were posted anywhere.

 

The fruits and vegetables were sold on large wooden platforms, raised above the ground by a one-foot high platform.  For most of these vendors the sky was their ceiling. I saw bananas and chili peppers, yellow oranges, then more bananas -- four times the size of the largest I had ever seen before.  The most popular however, were the two or three-inch variety. These bananas were the most commonly eaten kind for they were sweeter than sugar and deeply saturated with a beautiful banana fragrance that wafted far outside the marketplace. It seemed every creature ate bananas -- I even saw a cat eating one. 

 

Coconuts were partly peeled of the rough, light green outer coat.  Then a silver dollar-sized circle was hacked off the coarse-hair covered shell to drink the milk, and then the white inner flesh would be picked out with adept fingers, or even a pen knife.  It was a principal part of the diet.  Green pea pods, red and dark green bell peppers, large orange carrots, and huge bags of rice were also common.  The choice was varied, and all the vegetables and fruit looked free of pestilence.  Brown one-inch roaches crazily scurried from one heap of discarded vegetation to the next, only occasionally would they dare to cross the brown dirt path on which people busily tread.

 

Since I was protectively accompanied by my black taxi driver, people were less intimidated or belligerent when I would ask to take their photo, but I was still, albeit infrequently, refused.  It was extremely common for the subject to ask for money or something of value from me.  As we walked, he did his shopping, stopping at two p.m. to allow him an opportunity to do his Muslim prayers.  He wanted to find a pharmacy, which he found just outside this marketplace.  After a discussion with the young Arab behind the counter, he asked for medicine for his wife.  She had a "bad stomach."  After explaining her symptoms, the clerk dispensed the medicine, yet, as I observed, there was no payment of money.  He would pay later, I was told, as much commerce is done on a credit basis here. Nothing was written that I saw, just a promise to return soon to settle his debt.

 


The only soap sold was one brand commonly used for clothes washing and sold by weight in whatever container the customer would bring, often it was a plastic bucket. Azure blue grains would be poured into the pail according to weight requested.  Beans and grains were all sold further away in closed and shaded stalls. They were displayed in tall heaps, rising high from the ground.   I watched as a scoop or two would be taken, somehow without the mountain of grain sliding off the straw mats on which they rested.

 

I traveled with my driver back to the taxi, where we drove to a site on which ruins of a former Omani palace stood. The site was being swallowed up by the jungle, as little was being done to preserve the structure.

 

I took a picture of my driver, who asked that I send him a copy.  He asked about America, for he explained his dream is to go to America with his wife and six children.  Could I help him get a job, he asked?  Cautious of extending myself too far, I only laughed rather than being so blunt as to just say  “No.” I wished him well after he safely delivered me to Bububu Beach Guesthouse.

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After I sat outside to reflect on the day's experiences, I met Robert who returned from his visit to a local school.  Soon afterward Cia appeared, so we took a walk along the beach to the same restaurant where we tried to order from the menu. Ultimately after requesting several different items and refused because they had none, we asked what they had.  "Only calamari" was the response.  It was served in a tomato base, and was to be mixed with the measured loaf of steamed rice.

 

A little later we all went for a swim in the warm Indian Ocean.  Robert, a physical education instructor at Dar Es Salaam University, was teaching Cia how to swim.  I floated in the warm water, enjoying the refreshing salt water. After twenty minutes we left.   I walked to my room and, without undressing or washing, I fell on the bed and immediately slept.

 

I awoke at 7:30 p.m. at the insistent knocking at my door. Robert and Cia wanted to go to the Emerson Teahouse in town.  We had transportation and a guide to find our way though the dark, rutty streets and alleyways.

 

A large brown, metal studded door opened as though they anticipated our arrival.  We were led up five flights of narrow, winding, mysterious stairways to the rooftop, which was already filled with people eating.  As we sat on the balcony overlooking the stone town of Zanzibar, lights glittered throughout the town.  Many tiny flickering points of light glimmered from the plethora of candles that burned in the blackness of a moonless night.

 


Below, people were gathered in groups outside their houses as though they were involved in some sort of religious experience. Robert and Cia didn’t know what the event was.  Soup was served.  I could taste the strong leek flavor in it, but because it was so dimly lit, I couldn't see what it was.  It was a wonderful combination of good food and a romantic ambiance.  I wish that Marcy had been with me.  I felt out of place being there with them at that moment. 

 

None of us had ordered, but the routine was that everybody got the same thing.  Next, we were served fish and rice.  The fish was flavorful and firm. We talked and ate slowly, savoring the timeless moment. A small cup of rich Arabic coffee accompanied a white dish, which held a tiny orange-colored pastille and two tablespoons of fresh fruit ice.  The bill for 27,000 Tanzanian Shillings was put in front of Robert and he graciously picked it up. I offered to pay my third of the bill but he generously refused.

 

We were last to leave the closing, and we had to struggle to get a taxi back to the Bububu Guesthouse.  After wandering through dark and twisted alleys we entered a small patio where we were guided to a waiting taxi. 

 

The taxi was a ragged carriage on its last few days of usefulness.  This “vehicle” had exposed wires, ripped upholstery, and only one cylinder of the engine worked.  Fumes of burning oil escaped from the sides of the hood and poured into the hot interior of the car. Funneling plumes of black gases choked me as more of these fumes came in through the slightly opened windows.  I laughed to myself when I thought what little chance this dilapidated transport had to complete its mission.  I was alone in my laughter. 

I abruptly stopped chuckling when I realized everyone in the cab must have thought me an idiot.  No one else doubted its likely completion because, as I was told later, most taxis are just like this one . . . they were used to it.

 

We did get back to the hotel, paid the driver, then we sat outside at a picnic bench till one a.m. talking of many things . . . just talking because I enjoyed their company.   Later, when I was back in my quiet room, I straightened up my pack, set the alarm, and went to sleep.

 

 

August 6, 1996      Tuesday      Zanzibar, Tanzania

I got ready to go to Prison Island.  This small island is just beyond the horizon.  It has a very popular beach and snorkeling area.  I waited with Robert and Cia, who I am now almost constantly following. There are six other passengers who intend to go on this water adventure.  We would go there by dhow.

 

The little dhow, an open wooden boat, was untraditionally powered by an outboard motor.  Including the small crew, the vessel held all twelve of us, but because it lacked seats we had to sit on the sides to balance the boat.  I was concerned I might not be able to hold any food down so I had eaten no breakfast, just some coffee.  I jumped into the boat, and being one of the first entitled me to pick my own spot, so the exact middle is where I sat.  It was important that I found the place where the least amount of rocking would be.

 


The temperature was quickly rising, it was very hot at 11:00 a.m., but when we arrived, thirty minutes later, it was ten degrees hotter. 

 

I looked for the tortoises that roamed the island. Each was numbered with white paint.  The small island had soft, white beaches, turquoise water, and a restaurant/snack bar.

 

The Sun was deceivingly hot.  I had a good tan before I began the trip to condition my skin, but I wasn't prepared for this hot sun. 

 

I was soon tender to the touch.  I looked for the shade of the huge coral rocks that created the small highland of the island.  I climbed the battered cement stairs to the top of the flat highland, where I walked along the dirt path lined with whitewashed stones.  It is toward the other side of the ½ mile square island named Chango Island. Now the island has been renamed for tourists as Prison Island because it was used, a hundred years ago, as a place that was inescapable because sharks patrolled offshore. Before that recently captured slaves were brought here to keep them secure until they were shipped to another destination.

 

I saw eight tortoises, but they are landlocked animals, not equipped for swimming.  Each of the green-brown adult creatures must have weighed in excess of three hundred pounds.  Some were over a hundred years old, but there were two adolescent turtles there, too. 

 

I stood astride two of the largest turtles, one foot on each.   I watched as someone fed a banana to the turtle.  He stretched his neck far out of the shell to get it.  I felt the rough, leathery hide of this animal as he meandered away, impervious to my existence atop his back.

 


Bob, Cia, and I went snorkeling in the coral reefs about twenty meters offshore. The sea was very alive  -- angelfish, bright red starfish, neon fish -- many kinds swam in and through the beautiful coral reef.  Colors were everywhere -- it was spectacular!  The water was not so deep as to be over my head within forty meters from the island shore.  It was easy to float in the peaceful Indian Ocean due to its high salt content.  I kept a watchful eye for sharks, although it is uncommon for them to traverse shallow waters like these. 

 

We had lunch in the little restaurant. Although it hadn't been gutted entirely, and neither the head nor tail been removed, the deep-fried fish was served on a heavy, thick, white plate.  The edibles were presented astride a huge mound of glistening french fries.  Bob poured the dull, watery catsup over everything on his plate.

 

The boat to take us back to the guesthouse was moored on the beach in front of us.  I was ready to go at 4:30 p.m.  Nothing, it seems, happens right on time.  The forty-five minute ride back in the dhow was smooth because it was a low tide. The boat was moored quite a distance from the shoreline.  Each passenger had to walk fifty yards over slimy, algae-covered rocks that covered the water’s edge.  I was well equipped to do this painful obstacle because I wore water-boots.

 

Later, after relaxing at the beach house and cleaning up, the three of us decided to go to old Stone Town for dinner.  We rode in the back of an open-bed pickup, covered by a small tarp of floor linoleum.  No only did this let fumes of every car with a blown gasket (and that was most of them) shoot black exhaust into the open transport, but thick black fumes from the minibus doused us all.  I made no complaint that this left my skin sooty and oily, because the ride was free and the other passengers were pleasant companions.

 

We looked at Africa House, a very well known restaurant for expatriates and travelers, but it was so crowded with Europeans we left disappointedly.   Robert knew of another restaurant just down the street at which we stopped, called Omani.  The view was spectacular, especially from the narrow balcony that overlooked the ocean. I appreciated that Robert treated me to dinner this evening.  The meal was about 2,500 shillings per person.  The Omani restaurant, which served simple foods at expensive prices, was unremarkable.  I haven't called Marcy yet because I am unable to find a phone that is both operating, and will allow a call to the U.S.  I can only call from the post office, which is not open today.

 

We strolled along the very dimly lit streets, occasionally finding tiny areas illuminated to an uncomfortable brightness by mercury lights that street vendors erected over their little street stall. I could have easily stumbled on the rough-hewn rock streets, but I had brought my penlight so the stroll went without mishap.  We were looking to find the place where the Bububu Guesthouse minibus, which had brought us into town, would be meet and return us all to the beach lodge. 

 


Once back at the beach house, we had soda and talked until midnight.  I rinsed off with all my clothes on.  I believe, whether right or wrong, that this will wash them at the same time that I wash my body.  I hung the clothes out to dry in the warm evening, but the night air and the length of time were not sufficient to do the job thoroughly.  I stuffed all the wet clothes in a large clear plastic bag brought from L.A.  I couldn’t be late for the ferry.   I had to be ready to go at 5:30 a.m.  (which means six a.m. in Zanzibar time).  Clocks are used as guidelines here, not precise instruments of time measurement.

 

I awoke before the alarm sounded.  I dressed without showering because I expected to spend a long time with many Africans, who would also need a bath. Besides, I washed last night, that should be enough.  I said warm goodbyes to two new friends, Robert and Cia.  Ciao!

 

 

August 7, 1996   Wednesday     Tanzania:  Zanzibar  to Dar to Arusha

A few minutes after six a.m., the lorrie was prepared to go.  On the early morning truck were about ten young Europeans from various nations who had gotten together to travel through Africa, and their chaperone.  I was the only one traveling from the Americas. They had covered many countries, and enjoyed Zanzibar very much like I had.  The island was a wonderful place to enjoy.  I would have liked to spend more time here.

 

At the ferry station I followed them because their tour leader was familiar with most of the procedures.  My ticket was different from theirs in that mine was first class (costing five dollars more each way), and my ticket was marked with yesterday's date.

 

I was not allowed to board the hydrofoil. Instead, I had to go back to the main office and persuade the Station master to alter time and date.  Because the early morning trip was full, he listed me for the trip at ten a.m. rather than the current one, scheduled to leave at 7:30 a.m. Bob told me that if I missed the 7:30 boat, I would have to stay in Dar overnight because buses leaving on that trip only depart between 9:30 - 10:00 in the morning.  Most trips by bus are long, and during the evening, the roads are extremely unsafe due to disrepair, and highwaymen.

 

I lugged all my gear to the Station master, who was very accommodating, but the 10 a.m. departure would be too late if I didn’t want to spend another dull evening in Dar.  So I tried to board the hydrofoil again, quickly flashing my signed ticket to the crewman. This time he waved me on. Surprised by my success at boarding the early boat, I found the first class section only half full, while second class was very full.  I stowed my backpack in a place I could keep constant watch of it, then sat down and relaxed. All this activity made me sweat profusely.  The cool sea breeze was a comforting welcome.

 

After the hundred minute journey amidst pushing and shoving, I disembarked from the boat and was immediately assaulted by a few young black men wanting to carry my bag. One offered to take my backpack to a taxi and guide me to the proper bus.  Four thousand TS is what I paid him for storing my backpack on the bus -- I didn't want it below where I couldn't see it.  I offered the bus ticket writer 500 TS to get me a good seat, which he did by asking another passenger to move out of the front seat, so I had extra leg room. The fellow glanced at me askance as he moved toward the middle of the bus leaving me feel a bit guilty, but not enough to tell him to sit back down.


 

I was told the ride is six hours by other travelers, seven by the bus driver, but it took a total of nine hours of travel time to get to Arusha over the predominantly unpaved roads.  A few stretches of the highway were paved as well as a few other areas that were in or near Dar es Salaam, and other larger townships. 

 

I had nothing to eat on the bus ride except Gumi bears and one liter of water to make the journey. I drank it sparingly because I might have to urinate.  As it turned out, it was difficult to urinate at the three rest stops the driver randomly elected to make.

 

I saw the first urinal, black-stained walls, a dark fungus growing on the floor, and too many people pushing over damp urine-covered cement floors.  I saw one man exit whose pants had been accidentally peed upon by another.  I would just have to wait. I was carrying my camera gear at all times in a brown canvas satchel. If, amid the crowd, I had something stolen, fall out, or was lost, it would have been a calamity so I reboarded the bus, vowing to drink my water even slower.

 

While I was on the bus, they played avideotape on a television set mounted high on the front of the bus by the driver.   It was a Van Dam action thriller in English. Fortunately, I sat up front so I could hear the barely audible words.  There were few women aboard, and those that were carried heavy loads, usually sugar or rice in large bags and a baby or two along with it all.  The men carried little more than a suitcase or small satchel.

 

I stopped in Moshi, a town about ninety kilometers west of Arusha that is used as a base for those intent on climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.  This distance translates to about ninety minutes on the road by bus.  A local told me that I was lucky because the buses often break down and the journey easily can take overnight (there was nothing pleasant in that jarring thought).

 


I was able to arrange a ride from this bus up a major part of Mount Kilimanjaro to the base camp/restaurant/hotel complex.  After having a light snack of small curried meat chunks with rice, I began a four-hour hike up this mountain.  Just above this camp, at this altitude, was a rain forest that opened out to a meadow strangely reminiscent of open areas I have seen in the Alpine region of Germany.   I was able to leave my goods in the hotel for a small fee.  Since I was supposed to have a guide at a hefty price, I felt a little insecure, although the trail was well marked and many people passed me going both up and down the mountain.  I wasn’t in a rush, just out to enjoy myself.  I could feel the cold air dropping in temperature as I passed through thermoclines, which are stratified regions where temperature varies by a few degrees in a matter of inches.  I made the return journey in less than fifteen minutes.  I could have made it quicker if I fell.

 

I had a short timetable to follow because I hoped to catch the later bus to Arusha, for which I was holding a ticket. I was told when I was in Moshi that the last bus of the day had left so I hired a cab to drive me into Arusha. It only cost me twenty dollars and I thought that was a bargain for the road hazards the driver had to endure. He brought me to a bus stop that was ahead of the bus, which had made a detour to a neighboring town.  The bus driver let me on the crowded bus, but it was only a short distance left.  I could endure it.

 

 Arusha    Tired and exhausted from the cramped ride, I let the first tourist tout I met at the bus stop, Moses, take me to Midway Hotel, at ten dollars a night.  The floors are cement and the room is sparse, but all I need is a bed and I got little more.   The toilets and showers were communal.  I would soon discover that water was not always available and hot water was an infrequent luxury.  During water outages the toilets became cesspools which attracted flying insects of all sorts.  I soon learned to adapt, bringing a rolled newspaper with me as a weapon whenever I had to use the toilet.

 

Moses came back to the hotel at 7:30 p.m., as we agreed earlier, to discuss the trips through Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengetti.  He advised me that the usual cost he charges is eighty dollars per day.   When I told him three French people had just returned from a safari with Ali Baba's tours (located in Arusha) as listed in the Lonely Planet Guide, they were charged sixty a day, Moses suggested that we split the difference.  “No, I'm going to go to another Safari tour office.”  He relented, he'll do sixty dollars, too.

 


I invited Moses to eat dinner with me.  It was nine o’clock, and the aroma from the food cooking in the kitchen of this small hotel smelled enticingly  foreign.  Moses ordered beef liver cubed and sauteed, served with a huge mound of overcooked rice. I ordered oxtail stew, having never tried it before.  Moses recommended it as typical of indigenous Arusha  tribespeople.  It was served with rice and a small patch of stewed vegetables.  I had to interrupt our dinner to leave and find the bathroom -- quickly.  I was not feeling well.

 

 

Although I had agreed to meet Moses at 7:30 p.m., I had been up throughout the night at the toilet, with seldom more than one hour of uninterrupted sleep, so I asked him to come tomorrow morning. During the day I tried to pack for the trip to the National Park a short distance outside Arusha, a one-day adventure, but I had not the strength or desire to wash and shave.  I went back to sleep.

 

At eight a.m. I awoke to insistent knocking at my door (Room 66 on the third floor with no elevators).  It was Moses.   I explained briefly my ailment, and he said he would return for me later today to discuss details or, if necessary, tomorrow morning on the trip.  I agreed, then went back to sleep.  If I feel a little better I will try to find some way to call home, telegraph, or fax.  I wrote a letter, which, if given the opportunity, I will fax to my office. Around noon I am feeling much better, so I decide to wash before going around this dirt street town. 

 

Still a little shaken from the diarrhea, I have brushed my teeth and shaved for the first time in three days.  My back is still sunburnt, especially on the shoulders, but it is healing well.  I have on the rubber booties and swim trunks to go into the communal shower room. They have been very handy numerous times.  Some people wear tennis shoes (a sign of some affluence), or lightweight rubber beach thongs worn until they are totally unserviceable, and they are frequently repaired to get additional use from them.  Bare feet are de rigeur of the poorest people here.

 

Two hours later Moses knocked on my door again to tell me he needed twenty American dollars for admission to the park.  I told him I'd pay tomorrow.  He begged for the money . . . he said, “The other tourists are waiting for me to get the entrance fee which must be in American dollars only.” I suspected a ruse, but I brushed my suspicions aside and gave him a twenty-dollar bill. 

 


Before I go to take a shower, I must lock everything up in my backpack.  It is kept securely chained and locked to the heavy bed frame.   I'll take my passport and money (enclosed in a plastic bag) with me in the shower.  Anything else of mine if stolen can be replaced, but lack of money or no passport would put the brakes on this trip very quickly.  Not feeling well, I elected to pass on the shower for this minute because I’m still a bit ill, the water is very chilly and the sun hasn’t come out yet.  I must eat to regain my strength.   I didn't eat for two days.

 

 

 

I walked about three miles through the town of Arusha.  Other than Nairobi, in Kenya, most safaris begin here, but they cost much more when purchased elsewhere since there are more hands to get some profit.  I walked, occasionally asking directions from someone who looked like he might speak English -- generally a better-dressed native. I would have liked to film the streets of Arusha, but I felt too uncomfortable while walking alone.

 

Most women are carrying something large, whether the burden is a child on their back, large bags, or boxes on their heads. Many women had their heads shaved and often wore colorful sarongs around their waist and breasts.  Usually ears were pierced in the upper part with beautiful earrings suspended from them.

 

Today is Saturday, I think.  Most stores are closed, including the main post office where I had hoped to fax a note home.  I am unable to find a fax or intercontinental phone.  A few old men sit in a group around one friend who is a vendor.  As people pass, they try to convince potential clients to enter the stall.  Unemployment seems to be a major social problem.   Many people walk around with nowhere to go. 

 

I watched ears of corn cook over a hibachi-type barbecue until the kernels became brown-flecked.  Corn is a staple in the diet, second in quantity consumed only to rice, which is served with absolutely everything.  Grilled goat is also cooked over the small bucket-turned-hibachi.  It is the Tanzanian equivalent to American fast food.  It can be found “for sale” on every street of open-air commerce, so that is almost every street.  There are way too many bananas in their diet.  Every time I see bananas on my plate I find myself making Harpo’s pursed-lipped ‘face of anger.’   It is beyond my imagination to envision how many of the yellow-skinned fruit they actually consume.

 

As I walked to the New Safari Grill I noticed there were not many whites who walk along the public street.   All who did walk were backpackers, easily recognized by how they dressed.  Usually we greeted each other, although we might be English, French, or German.  I found no Americans here yet, although there are a few British and Australians.

 

I crossed a small stone bridge.  The stream passing below traveled north, since I am below the equator.  The water in the stream was muddy and looked polluted, but I saw no trash in it.  Next to the stream was a large group of natives selling poor quality handicrafts and cheap goods that looked exactly that, cheap. Many vendors sold used clothing. A few had new t-shirts or other new articles of clothing highlighting their display. 

 


The streets were filled with blacks doing their shopping.  I know that meat, fruit, and vegetables must be sold in another area, for none except packaged goods were sold along the streets I passed.  Often buses would make their way up the streets jammed with people. Passengers would be hanging out of the windows and clinging to the doors.  I was certain that the next bump the bus flew would send people flying, but they were adept bus riders, and I never saw one passenger lost.

 

As I came close to the New Safari Grill (well recommended in my guide book), I looked in to see only a couple of whites in the clean, appealing restaurant.  It was an early hour for dinner.  I sat by the glass window closest to the street so I could watch passers by.  I was handed a menu that only had a few items on it.  The African items were either fish, chicken, or beef in a corn porridge base. I chose the mixed grill, which had liver, kidney, chicken, and beef.  Everything was doused in a thin brown gravy flecked with large black flakes. It was served with a large mound of steamed white rice and grossly undercooked french fries which were glistening from oil.  Because I was recovering from my temporary ailment, I ate little of it -- it wasn't great at all.  You'd think little could be done to raw grilled meats, but the chicken was cut in a way that seemed bizarre to me.  However, chopping the body into four equal segments was the most common method to third world countries.  Skin and many small bones were left in the chicken and the beef was riddled with gristle. The meal was 3,000 TS or about $5.25 U.S.  Hardly worth it - there were better places to eat if I had questioned other people rather than accepting the advice from a guidebook immediately.  

 

There were many vegetarian restaurants scattered around, influenced by the large number of Indians living there.  The Indians seemed to represent the entire middle-class, with very few exceptions. I'll look for a better place when I return from Serengetti and Ngorongoro Crater in six days.

 

I must visit Arusha Park, too.  After returning to Midway Hotel, I readied my pack for tomorrow and laid out the gear I will wear -- jungle stuff.  I sprayed some of my clothing to resist bugs and I’m bringing the Gators, too. I don't exactly know what's in store for me, but I welcome the excitement I'm certain this foreboding uncertainty brings.

 

 

August 8, 1996  -  Friday Arusha, Tanzania

I slept much of yesterday, yet I was not able to have a peaceful rest.  I know the night was over when the local imams loudly sang the morning prayers from the large metal loudspeakers placed high on the spires of the mosques.  I noticed that it was five a.m . . .I could only doze lightly, for although the night was pleasantly cool and the bed was not lumpy, I was filled with anticipation.  I am about to experience wonderful sights through the next five days if all goes well.  I’m juiced up and anxious to go!

 

At eight a.m., ninety minutes before I should leave here, the pangs of hunger struck me.  I went downstairs to have breakfast ,or at least determine what they have and order from that.  I asked for coffee, a roll (or bread), butter and jam (It was at this moment I thought about a bagel and cream cheese fondly).  My money was holding out just fine, and I briefly thought about how I was offered the safari for $150 to $500 a day in the U.S. . . .  now, buying it from the source, its only $60 here.

 

As I sit here at the table, I recall the beautiful batik sarongs the women wear, yet the stores sell stuff with Mickey Mouse-type characters printed on it. Strange.  Also, an absence of dogs was noticed.  Televisions were a rarity, and those that were on and visible to the public usually had music videos, an even mix of American or African dance music with skimpily clad women.  The women danced to the rhythm and gesticulated suggestively.  A common theme was often a clumsy man surrounded by several women.

 

Contrary to what I had expected in a hot humid climate, the people were not malodorous at all.  I may have been the greatest offender there.  I left the small restaurant, went back to my room for a few last minute details.  It is now less than an hour before Moses should pick me up.  He said the trip would not demand much walking, but that we will camp at night, with the exception of one night, where we stay in a guesthouse.

 

The breakfast was a cup of hot water accompanied by a tin of instant coffee, three slices of roasted (not toasted) bread, one dollop of a thin red sweet jam without any distinct flavor, and a large teaspoon of butter that tasted amazingly fresh and sweet.  The meal cost six hundred Tanzanian shillings

 

I got a telephone call from Moses saying that the tour was canceled for today, but we may be able to go tomorrow, or the next day.  Moses realized I didn’t have the time to spare.  It turned out to be a twenty-dollar mistake when I lent the money to him because I'll never see that money again.  By this time in my life with a full head of grey hairs and the years to match I should have been sharper . . . well, that's no lesson because I've been taught this same lesson so many times before.

 

So now I must rally to make new plans.  I hired a taxi, who took me around looking for a safari tour office.  Sunny Safaris was recommended by an English couple who said its office was right around the block from the hotel.  They were solidly booked for another week, so I had to go elsewhere. Several others were either booked or so outrageously high-priced -- one asked me to pay $1,400 US for six days! They said I must pay a supplement of $210 US because I travel alone!  One of those six days was breakfast somewhere, then back to Arusha in time for lunch, so that was like $1400 for five days or $280 a day. On some safaris they also count the evening before if I were to leave late in the day, which only a few did.  

 

After many failed attempts to book a safari, I tried Ali Baba.  Friendly, cooperative, cheap, and he had a safari for three days leaving tomorrow. After explaining my experience and my loss of twenty dollars, he laughed heartily and said, “It often happens here in Arusha!  Just like that!”   I paid him in his office, twenty dollars in Traveler's checks, then he promised to have the driver pick me up before 9:30 tomorrow morning at the Midway, just down the street from many other hostel-type hotels.

 


With arrangements made for tomorrow, I only need to figure out how to spend today in Arusha.  I tried to find a tour of the Arusha Park, but that was not possible.  I tried to find a fax -- even at the main post office.  I found none that hook up to America, they only hook up to East Africa.  A small secretarial services office in an adjacent building to the post office offered to do it for me at a cost of $20 for a single half page.  Since that was what was available I did it.

 

While walking back to the Hotel, I stopped to get postcards and stamps.  I paused too long because in moments there was a throng of hustlers around me.  I noticed no other white people in the vicinity, so I immediately turned to one of the peddlers close by and began to negotiate (which is very proper form for these parts of the country).  I told him I would pay him, but I don't want so many people around when I take out money.  He made almost all of them scatter when he yelled at them angrily. I felt relieved as I reached into my pocket for 500 TS (less than one U.S. dollar). Now, I had a small stone trinket to add to my bag of souvenirs.

 

A few other vendors slowly came in to encourage me into their shaky wooden box stall to view their carvings.  While all the items were handcrafted, the same fashion of earrings reappeared in almost every stall.  I saw the women beading necklaces, but they used cotton string so the item couldn't last for long before it breaks into a thousand separate little beads.

 

I bought several necklaces because I saw them being painted and carved, then strung with a few beads on a leather thong. I chose not to buy earrings, knowing it might be a bad idea to give them as a gift because of so many terrible diseases here . . . if a drop of blood was on the wire, and then the wire pricked the ear of one of my friends -- well, that would be terrible gift to give! I was constantly on alert for possible infections or diseases prevalent here.

 

My hat with the solar panel and fan causes people to turn and look, some even run ahead of me to see it operate.  One vendor tried to trade with me for it, but we couldn't find anything he or his friends had to sell or trade that I wanted. Batiks were all over the place, carvings were mediocre, and trinkets were not worth much.

 

A young vendor insisted we find a piece that he could buy much cheaper as a Tanzanian, then trade to me for the hat. I saw a tea set made of ebony, all pieces were hand carved and/or turned, but he wanted 30,000 TS (about $52) plus the hat.  I wouldn't have bought the set in America -- why was I seriously thinking of it now?  I wanted an even trade, but he couldn't get his friend to do it.  I walked away after shaking his hand and saying, "We tried."  Even if I did trade, how would I get this awkward item home?

 

On the way back, I stopped at an Indian cafeteria, expecting only vegetarian fare like other Indian/Hindu places, but they had good food cheaply priced.  I took a tray after watching several patrons go before me to see what and how they chose items . . . then I followed.  I ate something similar to Shepherd's pie and a little triangular pastry --filled with spinach and shredded goat.  It was delightful with a bottle of Coke at 800 TS.  I saw, now, why these two items were selected by almost everybody.

 


I walked back to the Hotel, sat down, and wrote a few postcards and brought my journal current.  While I miss everybody, this is the longest I've been apart from Marcy, and I miss her often, several times a day.

 

After spending a few quiet hours in the hotel room, I went outside for a few minutes to "see the town."  I had walked it before, but I had no mechanical or photographic equipment to record it with, only my perceptions.  I hired the first taxi driver who spoke a small amount of English, and had him take me around for a while.  I would pay him two thousand TS for a half-hour.  That was fair -- we drove, and I asked him to maintain a slow pace, occasionally stopping to film some people working.

 

I was often asked for money, and often not by the subject I filmed.  Feigning ignorance, I queried my driver why they wanted money for doing nothing but their jobs.  His reply was as I expected.  "You are American -- rich.  They want money." 

 

I bought a few tee shirts for 1,500 TS at an Indian-run store -- that's the cheapest yet . . . they look fine.  I hope they fit because they say 2xx on them. I paused and tried one on just now. Yep, they fit fine, and they are all silk screened -- none of that cheap laminate that is used like in the U.S.  1,500 TS a shirt equals $2.63 each, and no tax is charged on that.

 

When I got back to the hotel room, I looked at some of the video I filmed. I'm certain I'll enjoy it while relaxing at my new house that I will soon share with my woman.  Already I have lost weight, and got a tan.  Every day is a physical test of my strength, much more exertion than a few minutes at the gym.  In order to keep my strength in best form, I daily take a vitamin, the gout pill, and every Wednesday the a pill for the prevention of malaria.

 

It is almost six in the evening, but the sun still lights up this burg like noontime.  I will look at my guidebook and study what to do if I cannot see Arusha Park on a day trip when I return. I spent the evening preparing for tomorrow mornings safari.  I was slightly surprised to find plenty of hot water since my shower last night was cold. Other guests here said they always had hot water.

 

After a shower and shave I stayed in my room reading a guidebook about Kenya and Uganda, and I underlined all the important sections. Without putting all my stuff away, I went downstairs to the restaurant and looked at the same short menu as before. No pork chops are available, yet it is listed on the menu.  I asked for chicken with only breast meat and Safari beer.  5% tax is charged.  Here, too, there are very few whites.  Most natives are here to enjoy a beer, watch music videos played loudly, and talk with their friends.  No women except those employed here are present.  My food takes long time to appear before me. I’ve been hungrily waiting for thirty minutes.

 


The meal was served.  It really looked good, although the chicken meat was one skinny double breast, and somehow a leg was attached.  I can't figure that out since there doesn’t appear to be a thigh in between them.    I expected that the chickens in Africa might have such small breasts. Accompanying the breast was fried cabbage -- maybe kohlrabi -- that had been cut into strings.  Next to that lay spinach and last but not least, a huge mound of crisply fried french fries. Except for the sweet and sour cabbage I ate everything on the plate.  The meal seemed a bit oily and my stomach moved in an unfriendly way.  This meal cost 2,300 TS plus 200 TS as a tip.

 

This night passed better than before, partly because I took the second blanket from the other bed in my private room, and secondly because I was less distressed by feeling sick.

 

August 9, 1996   Friday     Arusha, Tanzania

After awaking at seven, I quickly dressed. I brought my gear downstairs to the lobby to wait for the driver.  I went downstairs to eat a light breakfast.  I asked for a small pot of tea that was served with toast, butter and a watery, dark-colored jam that lacked any distinguishable flavor.   I had a chance to look into the kitchen that serviced this restaurant.  One worker, a woman in her mid-20's, roasted the bread over a fiery hot pail used like a hibachi.  The bucket sat in the middle of the small cooking area.  It seemed fairly clean, but not well-lit.  The loaf was turned, like a pancake, between two large black skillets, either of which would cover the top of the pail.   The cement walled room was bare with exception given to the small hibachi stove, and the large white single-tub sink which abutted one wall.

 

 At the moment I was looking out of the window I saw a VW Combi, a minibus, pull into and stop in the gravel covered front courtyard of this hotel.  The driver entered the restaurant area to find me. His memory was good enough to recognize me from the short time I spent in the small office yesterday arranging this safari.  I must confess I had difficulty remembering his face or his complex African name, which required my tongue to utter unfamiliar sounds.  Try as I will, the unusual names depart my brain almost as quickly as they entered it.

 

The four-wheel-drive vehicle in which I was a passenger had certainly seen better years, but its engine sounded fine -- although the brakes frequently required some very active pumping. I would often react with motionless hysteria when the driver wildly gyrated while pumping the brakes. I felt reasonably secure in the ability of the Masai driver, "Juma," who picked me and four other people from the small crowd standing in front of Ali Baba's Safari and Tour office.

 

As we left the limits of town, I noticed a huge expanse of flatland scarred by erosion and misuse by commerce.  Tiny Masai boys, who carryied long sticks, maneuvered herds of cattle and goats.  Only rarely did I see donkeys or other livestock.     

 

The black ribbon of road we traveled was dotted with many "gift shops.”  Each was posted with signs confirming that they were offering the "best art" of the Masai, for we were deep in Masai country now.

 


 

Just outside the City was a huge marketplace. Each stall was made of a wide, rickety, wooden table small enough to be carried by one man.  Over and alongside each table, colorful blankets were laid to display the vendors’ goods.  Kilimuro Marketplace, its name given after the community in which it is.

 

We stopped at one Masai area, built like so many other roadside businesses that catered to tourists.  I bought three liters of water since I was the only one of the six passengers who neglected to bring any.  Here the liter bottle cost eight hundred TS; in town they cost five hundred.   At this site a number of Masai women and their children massed together. None allowed photos taken without being paid money first.  They were adamant about getting paid, often chasing violators (not quite playfully) to reinforce their conditions.

 

We left the main road and headed south into the Lake Manyara area.  The national park was two miles from the guesthouse where we spent the two-hour break after a three and a half hour drive.  The Africans wanted money for their picture if taken.  Once as we traversed the weeded flatlands, bumping over the eroded path I spied a group of young Masai boys, in traditional garb. They were throwing a long stick, playing a common Masai child’s game.  Having kept my camera at the ready I quickly snapped their picture. Immediately their demeanor changed diabolically as they barefootedly pursued the vehicle, throwing long sticks and stones as we sped past them.  At this time the driver reminded me of their notion of trading their photo and of compensation.

 

We arrived at a small town etched out of the scrub brush and trees.  No roads were paved and the main street was pocketed with anthills and had huge areas eroded away requiring exceptional maneuvering by our driver/guide to bring us to the gated compound.  The large wooden gates were left ajar to let traffic through, but the children and other locals knew not to enter.  Just outside the gates several children stood, selling brown hard-boiled eggs, or just begging for a treat or pen or anything else of value they thought you might part with if they persisted.

 


All those within the transport became better known to me as time progressed:  a French couple in their 20's, newly married and enjoying each other's company very much; an Italian couple, probably in their late 30's but in good physical condition, as was everybody in this group.  Two women in their late twenties, from Spain were quietly talking between themselves, and there was Teodore, a Pole, who became my roommate since cabins were filled with two per unit and, like me, was traveling alone.

 

The conversation would drift from French, which allowed the two women to participate, to English, which was when I could join.   Each pair was dispatched to an assigned room.  Teodore and I went to #103.  The compound, about 20 feet wide by 200 feet long, held the picnic tables where everybody ate all meals.

 

Lunch was ready for us as we arrived.  Rows of sweet, sliced tomatoes and a tall column of thin slices of stiff yellow bread, large, brown jacketed Spanish peanuts, shredded carrots, slices of sweet oranges, bananas, and hard-boiled eggs. This seemed sufficient to the others, but not to me.  Nonetheless, unless I left the compound and was prepared to negotiate a purchase from the natives at a nearby marketplace, I would have to be content with this. Quietly, I was.  Jama requested that we reconvene at the jeep parked in the compound to prepare for the first short leg through the park that abuts Lake Manyara.

 

Jama and two others changed all four tires to a much heavier type, and then lifted the top of the cab so that we could stand inside and see the wildlife around the lake.  Everybody boarded and took the same seats as they occupied earlier.  I thought I'd be content to sit up front and convinced myself that along rugged roads it would also be a safer position in which to sit.

 

The journey in yielded the first visions of wildlife.  The animals were visible almost immediately after passing the ranger station.  We had to stop at the station where a $25 fee, payable in American money only, was given.

 

Many monkeys and baboons stood watchfully, hoping that some visitors might disregard posted signs cautioning against the feeding of the animals.  Some baboons were oblivious to the visitors, preening each other or feeding from the bountiful berries growing on low lying bushes nearby.  As we approached the lake, more and more animals were spotted -- elephants, zebra and wildebeest in great herds. 

 


A deep pond, cut off from the lake held twenty partially submerged hippos.  The huge animals often had little more exposed to air than nostrils, rotating ears, and eyes.  A sign that hippopotamii were present was the birds that symbiotically existed with them. These small birds picked parasites from the skin of the lumbering beasts.   It was a six-mile drive, which we made in three hours, departing the park just moments before the six p.m. closure.  The early evening closure was necessary, we were told, because of poachers who would take game from the park.  It was explained that shooting could often be heard, although it was strictly prohibited and, I was told, the guards would brutalize the transgressors who had been caught before by cutting off a finger or toe.  I took many photos and shot much video. 

 

A common practice of the indigenous people was to wear colorful or interesting clothing for the purpose of posing for an amateur photographer and earning a small fee.  The costume should have been representative of the Masai tribe, but a few other tribespeople made these parts their home too.  The first thing to look for on Masai was the pierced ears which left a lower loop of skin up to eight inches long. 

 

 

Afterwards, we arrived back at camp. The dinner consisted of tomato soup, then a communal bowl of spaghetti, meat sauce, and an odd assortment of mixed vegetables, which I stirred together in a bowl. In the lantern-lit evening I was barely able to see it, but it tasted fine. 

We sat as a group, somehow more bound by our common experiences than by language because there were several other groups in which each of us could have found a few people speaking English, French, German, Spanish, or Italian.

 

Instead, we spent the evening, bound together quickly by the unique experiences of this day.   Interspersed with conversations of today’s events, there was much talk of travels to other far off places and the adventures we had.

 

 


 

 

 

August  11, 1996    Sunday     Lake Manyara, Tanzania

 

I awoke before any visitors and spent the early morning hours recapturing yesterday's experiences on these pages. Watching the Sun rise over Africa, from darkness to the long shows of dawn accented by the wake-up songs of a hundred different birds brought warm feelings. I felt at ease although I was a million miles from home.

 

Instructions for today began with last night, when Jama said “We are to leave by eight after we eat breakfast at seven tomorrow morning.”  The meal was brief and simple.  Several varieties of fruit were attractively displayed on the old wooden benches. Bright yellow bananas outlined lime colored apples in an oval straw basket. Bunches of green grapes and nuts filled in the gaps left in the basket.

                                                     We drove for three hours up the outer wall of the Ngorongoro Crater, and then down into it. The minibus was heading for the dark specks that Jama identified as herds of wildebeest and zebras.  We crept closer -- very slowly because of the steep, and rough trail that narrowly clung to the inner bulwark of the crater. The specks grew to the size of buttons, yet each dot remained very difficult to identify, but not impossible, especially after we had been told exactly what they were.

 

 

 

                     

 

Groups of Masai gathered expectantly in the middle of the dirt road since it was a clearing amidst heavy brush.  Men, women, boys, and girls chatted among themselves usually by a scarce, shady spot under which tourists might pause.  The road was too rough to remain in your seat for the duration of the trip.  Everybody was thrown out of their seat at one time or another.

 At one stop a group of Masai children danced in hopes of luring our tourist-filled vehicle to stop for them.  We obliged at the captivating scene.


 

                         Almost immediately we were besieged with Masai women and children. All had something to sell, but trinkets and jewelry predominated by far.  We agreed to pay 3,000 TS to the chief for their cooperation while I video taped the dancing, and those with cameras took many photographs.  We had offered to exchange items of clothing or food to the chief, but he wanted money.

 

I guess we were not the first white people they had seen, and I suspect he might have been a little jaded from other travelers before us.

 

We disgorged from the jeep, cameras in hand, each of us taken separately by a few natives.  The time passed quickly.  I was absorbed in the costumes -- more so by the adaptation to plastic beads for costumes than the mere decorations.  Everything they possessed was for sale, a price on all.   Each of us bought something.  The driver Jama tried to gently prod us back to the jeep, but we were too absorbed in the exciting clash of cultures.  The chief spoke some English, but most of the conversation was translated by Jama.

 

Back into the jeep, we continued deeper into the crater.  More animals than yesterday and different creatures appeared in the midday.  The topography consisted of scattered low brush, and grassland that stretched across most the three-mile, interior only broken by a few trees and the edge of the lake.  The sky was warm blue, checkered with immense billowy white clouds suggesting the possibility of rain, but Jama said it's not likely to happen, and he could read the signs of nature.

 

 Because there were very few trees, the animals were visible from far away.  A pride of lions slept in the midday sun, scarcely turning or showing movement other than the rise and fall of their chest or lungs filled with the clean African air.  Monkeys and baboons were on the skirt of the interior, hiding amidst the thickly leafed trees.  Only rarely did any of the monkeys look at us.

 


At the lake's edge we paused for a light lunch of sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and fruit, all of which had been packed in the minibus this morning.   Finding thousands of pink flamingos as our quiet neighbors created a placid scene. The birds walked through the salty brine along the edges of the shallow lake eating algae or plankton, scooping it up in their beaks.  They used their beaks like a sieve to let the water pour out.  Since the lake was shallow, the birds could walk far from the edge and comfortably stand on their stilted legs, often folding one into their body and turning an oddly shaped head to rest on the pink feathered body.

 

The ascent up the interior wall of the crater challenged the abilities of the jeep, but Jama was experienced, and we pushed forward without faltering.  I could feel the tires slipping a bit, trying to grip the dusty dirt road beneath us. As the sun set, the road became almost invisible to me, but we were delivered safely back to the encampment.

 

Since the town had no gas or electric, the camp had no gas or electricity.  Since there was no gas, electric, or coal/wood-burning furnace, there was no hot water for a shower.  I took a quick and rather cold shower to remove the oily hot grime that blanketed me.

 

Now I had to find some source to recharge my camera batteries.  Thomas, my roommate from Poland, knew that there was a generator at the bar that was a social place for unmarried adults of the village.  The proprietor allowed the usage of the outlet for $2, which I paid.

 

A couple hours later, I went back to the bar with the aid of my tiny flashlight.  Thousands, no millions of mosquitos and tiny flies moved around any light source, or any thing that moved (meaning me).  I hated that! But the journey had to be made. Mosquitos and flies were everywhere. When I opened my mouth the miniature creatures would enter and, unwittingly, meet an unsavory death.  To maintain my sanity, I had to imagine that I was being forced to eat poppy seeds.  Periodically I took a swig of water to rinse the bitter taste from my mouth. Any effort to brush the flying insects away merely stirred their ire, and they swarmed even heavier around me.

 

I decided to sleep.  It was dark -- only a few lanterns dimly lit the camp.  The room was totally dark, barely visible with the tiny flashlight I had.  Under the protection of the netting, I fell asleep fully clothed except for my shoes. The angry buzzing in the darkness fell away quickly as I dozed off.

 

 

 

August 12, 1996     Monday        Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

 


I have lost track of time . . . I suspect it is Tuesday, but the others I queried gave answers as varied as my guesses.  As more trekkers woke, more food began appearing on the wooden picnic tables . . . same as yesterday.  I ate from the assortment displayed.  I washed it down with some brewed coffee.

 

When one needed the toilet they would find a dark, damp closet cut out of a corner of the building.  There was absolutely no ventilation, except for the stirring of the air cause by the myriad of bees, wasps and other bugs that found refuge from the hot African sun here.  In this closet there was nothing to note except for a dangerous hole cut in the center of the floor, like a Turkish toilet.  There was no light except through the cracks of an ill-fitting door. The latch to lock the door had been bent in such a way that it was no longer serviceable, and served no purpose except that one would hope it will jangle to announce that someone else had entered this privy.  The feat to protect the door from accidentally opening while I occupied it was a minor acrobatic miracle.  I had to extend one hand, but that could only be accomplished with my back to the door. Sometimes I wished that I was at home, with the door locked and a newspaper.  I'm ready to leave the campsite whenever it is announced.  I repacked my gear earlier this morning.  I loaded everything I would take with me today onto the truck, and we headed out of town into the savanna. 

 

 

On the outskirts of the town a small sign was posted pointing to the trail to follow to enter the game park.  The animals are the same species we saw at other areas we've traveled through.  Strangely, I am struck by the fact that I saw no elephant, lion, zebra, giraffe -- or any other of this type of animal outside the game parks.  Knowing that the animals cannot know the borders of the preserve I questioned Juma.  He explained to me that there are two reasons.  First, there are many game parks, but they cover huge amounts of land and are built around the animals and where they congregate.  Secondly, animals outside the parks do not have the same protection as they do within.  Villagers will often hunt, kill, and eat those outside the perimeter of the park that they discover.

 

Juma popped the top of the vehicle into a higher position, allowing all of us to stand within the jeep for a good view around. Even though we traveled at a snail’s pace, all welcomed the breeze created by the moving jeep.  The heat of the equatorial sun was difficult to escape.

 

Mosquitos were, as always, a constant problem that we were prepared for, but this time we had been warned by Juma of the biting flies. With the foreknowledge that we'd confront new insects, each of us brought the best insect repellant available from their home country.  Each of us felt secure that our lotion against mosquitos would work against the flies better than anybody else’s.   Brown and slightly longer than a common American housefly -- they would, as Carlo the Italian said, "kiss you" right through clothing -- jeans or heavy shirt

The insects could bite right through any clothing. My repellant, which I had thickly applied in the morning, was the only effective protection from them.  For awhile, when these tiny demons became thickest, I put on the mosquito net head gear I brought from California to save me from the thousands of flies that would congregate in grey-black clouds.  

 

No amount of protection could completely work. But I was certainly bitten the least. I know this because in the comfort of a small, enclosed roadside cafe, that night, we each had an opportunity to take tally of our wounds.  Most had suffered from the sharp "kiss" of the flies four times or more.  Carlo got it six times and me, only once.

 


I became closer with others of my group. We began to feel clannish and often talked among ourselves to the exclusion of two other groups who were also using the encampment as their base of operations.  A great spirit of camaraderie swept over us -- we exchanged addresses and promised to write while including the best pictures from this adventure.  This was a wonderful moment we shared, recalling the trip we took.

 

All day the sky had been threatening rain, but it never delivered.  We saw a massive array of clouds surrounding the Mt. Kilimanjaro far off in the distance.  Like a giant bracelet, it circled the monolith, faintly reflecting the sunlight, causing the upper part of the bracelet to be white, and the bottom to be dark gray.  We had ascended from the upper base of the Great Rift Valley to a road which led from the town of Moshi, about fifty miles west of Arusha. 

 

That evening we returned to Arusha.  Juma stopped in front of the small street-front office of Ali Baba's, the tour promoter.  The owner, a native Tanzanian, Abdul, was there to greet us along with several of his employees.  I wasn't able to discern whether it was true happiness or feigned surprise they showed, when we spoke of the wonderful time we had.

 

There were a few issues to resolve, like getting $150 we, collectively, had lent to Juma to get us into the last reserve. The Italian couple had prepaid for their bus to Dar Es Salaam and the ferry, although I couldn't figure out how they could do so since the ferry ticket must be purchased at the dock.  I CAN imagine that Abdul could make the purchase for 8,000 TS -- the Tanzanian resident's price versus the $30 US charged for standard passage that foreigners must pay.

 

We met at a small restaurant that was owned by Abdul.  We sat, all of us including Abdul, at one outside table bordering the dirt street. The evening was cool and fresh -- only rarely was the air stained by a passing truck with plumes of oily exhaust. Not much commerce passed before us at this late hour in the day.  A warmth spread across our multinational table, French, Polish, American, and Italian, with a Tanzanian host.  While the food was simple, small cubes of spiced goat, barbecued over a small hibachi served with two thin slices of tomato and fried potato sticks, the evening had a special charm for the bonds of friendship it fostered.

 

After the meal, we all were sad to part.  One taxi took all of us to our respective places of lodging.  Mine being closest, I was the first to exit.  Carlo looked deeply saddened, more so than the rest, although it was sad for all of us. 

 

I walked a very short distance to the Midway hotel where I was staying before the safari.   When I asked for a room the clerk said "All full."  Then she added reluctantly, "One room, but downstairs, very noisy."  As tired as I was, I'd accept that room -- noisy it was, from the men drinking in the tavern area.  Each of the men, when speaking, had to modulate above the musical noise from the television set.  I didn’t complain. I was very tired and the room looked clean.

 


The bathroom was upstairs, so I had to shower there.  The water was cold, and there was hardly any pressure behind the drizzle that escaped the enormous silver showerhead that was mounted high overhead.  I soaped up, and then did a quick swirling dance under the showerhead, hoping to wash all the soap off before I froze.  Happily clean I walked back to my room where I rearranged my gear while I drip-dried from the shower. 

 

To the bed, I added a second blanket that I removed from the unoccupied second bed onto the one that I would sleep. Then I removed my outer clothes, crawled into the bed, covered myself with the mosquito net, and turned out the light.  I had bolted the door shut much earlier.  The raucous noise from the bar would have prevented most others from sleep but not me, after this adventure I had today.

 

 

 

August 12, 1996        Monday           Arusha, Tanzania

 

I awoke before six, but the sun was out and the hotel was strangely quiet. Usually I awoke to hear the imams' singing praises to Allah around five every morning.  I must have slept through it today.  Quickly, I got my gear out and walked to a cab.  After a brief session of bargaining, I put my bags in the cab, and for a thousand Tanzanian shillings he drove me to the bus station.

 

I had tried to get a quick breakfast at the Midway; however, the waiter was too slow and attended others even though I was first to sit.  Now that I had plenty of time I decided to look around for a good meal to start the day.

 

With a ticket in hand to make the four-hour journey to Nairobi, Kenya, I walked up the street after meeting one of the African guides from Ali Baba's.  We talked and walked, and ordered two cups of coffee and plain doughnuts (that was the only flavor available).  We walked back together to the ticket and bus station.    I had been told they leave at 8:30 a.m., but neglected to look at the 8000 TS ticket on which was plainly written "eight a.m." so I missed the first bus.  I was informed I was ten minutes late, and it had long gone.  My mistake.  So that's just how it all goes. 

 

I decided to leave my bag there with my Masai staff, and I would walk around town a bit.  I exchanged forty dollars to shillings and bought a few more gifts.  I looked for the tea set I had seen days earlier, but I couldn't find it now.  A boy of ten followed me.  He continued to talk with me in English, and I amused him with a couple magic tricks. The mystique of foreigners always attracts.

 

A cheap, but very good place to eat was the cafeteria in the Arusha Naaz hotel.  I sat in the large cafeteria to write, kill some time, and eat an early lunch.  The busy restaurant was filled with an endless line of Africans and Europeans.  I had been to this Arusha cafeteria before and enjoyed its clean, bright, simple atmosphere.  Run by Indians, the food was tasty, hot, and cheap. It was located a few yards outside the central town circle.  The architecture was very British in this attractive area of town.

 


After a satisfying 1200 TS meal, which included a Coke, I went to the post office to purchase a couple of postcards and stamps. The waif sat cross-legged outside the restaurant until I walked out.  He rose and continued to follow me.   I am convinced his preoccupation with me is more than idle curiosity.  He definitely wants something.  I am puzzled by what it could be, although some money or robbery are the first two things that come to mind, shortly I was to discover he wanted to bring me to his brother’s tiny shop.  Since I was standing just a few yards from it, I obliged. The boy’s brother had a stall that had nothing of uniqueness, yet as a courtesy, I bought a pair of earrings from him for what would translate to thirty cents U.S.   His stall was in a dirt alley near the post office.  The alley was solidly lined on both sides by rough hewn wooden closets whose double doors opened out to display their goods, some of which were suspended from nails fastened to the inside of the doors. 

 

I went back to the bus stop, bought a couple packs of Tanzania cigarettes and a liter of water for the trip, found a chair outside, then sat.  I have a full two and one-half hours to kill till the bus leaves. Realizing that I might be called upon to pay some sort of tax in dollars or shillings, I walked to the local bank and went through an arduous process of being sent to one window to approve the legitimacy of the traveler’s checks; then another to give passport and checks; getting a tissue paper receipt which I had to bring to yet another window.  At the third window of this bank, I finally got the shillings, but I noticed the same dark-skinned woman was now helping me, and she had helped me from behind window #two.  The bank was busy, and most other patrons milled around and looked just as annoyed as the bank clerks.  It wasn’t a pleasant place to be.

 

Still with time to use up, I walked to a t-shirt store where I bought four new clean ones to wear. I can take the old ones I've worn and use them to cushion several Tanzanian masks I bought from the Masai. I decided to walk around because every time I took a taxi ride, long or short, to anywhere from anywhere in town, it cost a thousand shillings.  The best part of town was around the clock tower, except for the Novotel Hotel.  The Novotel was the only  expensive hotel in town, costing seventy dollars a night,  and it was about a mile outside the city center, which is by the post office. 

 

The buses, except private ones, all leave in the early morning regardless of their destination.  They are cheap, but my advice is to get there early to tip the drive so that you can bring your pack in the bus, not on it.  Plan on a 50% increase in time from when they think you should arrive.  The driver will, invariably, make several unscheduled stops for his friends.  Generally there are low prices for most services, but many tourist-type goods have two prices; the one that Tanzanians pay and a much higher price, usually more than double, for tourists.

 

Small Masai villages are all over through the countryside.  Usually there are five to ten huts, each of them constructed of mud walls reinforced with dried branches tied horizontally across heavier wooden planks standing vertically around the circular hut.  Only one opening, the doorway, is unfettered by a door or cloth, except in time of heavy rain.  The roof is made of long dried fronds of grass laid carefully from the center out with the edges of the thick carpet manicured evenly.  Often a modest fence of twigs standing vertically will surround the compound.  The chief's house is usually in the middle.

 

I saw no livestock, except some bare-necked chickens within the living area.  As the Masai tend cattle and goats, during the day they would go as far as necessary to feed them.  They have small farming areas with the principal crop being corn.


 

 

August 13, 1996    Tuesday    Going to Nairobi

 

I've already put the first book away, and I don't exactly recall where I left off, but I think I was waiting for the bus to Nairobi when I stopped. The clerk who sold me the ticket assured me there would be plenty of room, but there wasn't.  Every seat was sold.  The blue and white bus was reminiscent of the buses making journeys through Mexico. 

I glanced at the tires, but was not reassured by the lack of tread left on them.  Some of the paint was peeling away, but notably absent was any graffiti inside or out of the bus.

 

I brought my backpack on the bus as did a few other passengers.    As I boarded the bus, I had tipped the driver five dollars to allow me the privilege to bring the backpack aboard.  A definite likelihood of theft occurs when it is tied to the roof of the bus. I was told the bus will make many unscheduled stops along the road for the Africans to be closer to the land of their tribe or township.  Often the natives had to walk ten miles or more, man, woman, boy, or girl carrying their cargo, balanced on top of their head, to get back to their village from the main road. 

 

Most passengers carried huge sacks of things as they went inland, bus bound, from the busy commercial town of Dar es Salaam.  There was much chatter among the other passengers because I was allowed to bring a large backpack into the bus.  Disgruntled conversations among the passengers died down after the driver quickly stood and turned around, then he erupted with angry words directed at the black passengers. I sat meekly by, staring out the window, pretending to be oblivious to what could have been the precursor to riot.  Each of the blacks were well aware of the risks they had taken allowing their valuable goods to be lashed to the roof this bus.   Africans are used to being treated poorly, and the commotion was quelled.

 

As this bus left its last departure point, I was relieved that I could keep my bag next to me on a vacant seat.  When the bus was about ten miles outside the city, a taxi raced ahead of the bus, honking madly.  The bus driver pulled over to let a huge Indian family on.  I, ungraciously, surrendered the chair that my pack rested upon.  The children that now joined us were unhappy to be pent up for a long time on the crowded ride that took over seven hours.  The children didn’t want to be on the bus, yet they were prepared for the long trip with many items that entertain children.  Indians represent the thin middle-class of Africa, so I had expected the eight-year-old boy to pull out an electronic computer game.  I was surprised that he didn’t have one.

 


As we headed into Uganda, the topography changed a bit when we passed the uneasy border between two unfriendly countries.  On the Kenyan side there was a small enclave of Masai near a village of round-faced Kikuyu tribesmen, which dominated local Kenyan tribal groups.  They swooped down on the bus like a crazed horde trying to hawk their tschotkes with the fevered pitch of fleeing refugees.  They began shoving things through the open bus windows, pleading to sell poorly made goods.  Desperation seemed to be their theme.  No one on the bus bought anything.  When another bus came, they left us quickly, en masse, to go to the new "fresh meat."   "Okay, how much?" was the retort by native women at the constant rebuking by passengers who uniformly refused to buy anything. The words "Okay, how much?" still ring in my ears.  The merchant tribespeople spoke it literally, hundreds of times when the subject of their sales pitch refused the first price quote they mentioned.   It was amazing to be assaulted in this manner.

 

 

At the border we had to get out of the bus twice, once on each side of the border at the checkpoint office.  The two offices were separated by a four-foot tall chain link fence.  Tanzania required a departure card, and Kenya required a visa and an entry card to be completed. People pushed, all wanting to be first at the customs counter to each nation.  I just did what everybody else did.  I pushed too, but my inexperience showed here -- after pushing to the front of one line, I was directed to another line instead, so I had to start all over again.  Somewhere inside me I felt there stood a reasonable chance that I might get left behind by the bus, stuck within the milling ocean of natives buzzing around without any clear purpose other than selling trinkets or stealing from tourists or anybody else who looked weak and vulnerable.

 

Everyone got back on the bus, it seemed just as full as before. As I looked out of the window, I saw ostriches looking back at me from the scrubby plains and a very large airborne bird gracefully circle high above. It may have been some sort of condor, or possibly a vulture.  Not being trained as an ornithologist, I could only ascertain it was really large and if I had ever seen one in my own backyard I think I’d go inside and make sure all doors and windows were shut.  I’ve never seen a bird so big aloft.  Had I been standing outside of the bus, I would be worried that it might have carried me off in its talons.

 

Within my tight spot on the bus, it was difficult to determine how many hours later we arrived in Nairobi.  It was dark, and I was so frequently forewarned of dangers I was hypersensitive to any unusual behavior.  Despite my vigilance, I proved that nothing can surpass ignorance when I was grossly overcharged for a five minute ride to the nearby hotel.  He charged me 250 Kenya shillings, about five US dollars.  A fair price would have been seventy to a hundred shillings, but he got the money as soon as I arrived with the shillings, after exchanging dollars for Kenya shillings on the black market.  I found that there was little difference between the bank and street prices of money but, like in Tanzania, US dollars in cash got a much better return than travelers’ checks.  In fact, when he gave me the Kenya shillings I counted them for appearance sake.  If he had given me twenty shillings for my $50 US cash, I had no way to know that 56 Kenyan Shillings would exchange at one US dollar.

 

I found out the next day that I got a fair rate of currency exchange.  Now with the shillings I paid the driver and the clerk at Dolat Guest House on Mfangodo Street just outside the downtown circle, but for the 460 shillings a night (about $8.20) it was clean, and it had plenty of hot water in its private bathroom.

 

The bed was not furnished with a mosquito net, so I wore the nylon mesh hood I brought from home.  I don't think I was bitten, although there was a mosquito in the room with me.  I chased it for ten minutes but it proved to be too elusive.  Hopefully he has eaten recently and isn’t craving exotic blood.

 


All night, I imagined that a mosquito had found my forehead and drank of my blood.  I arose from the bed and sprayed myself with bug spray.  In the morning I searched my reflection in the mirror to find any tell-tale sign of my dream being reality.

   

 

August 14, 1996    Friday    Nairobi, Kenya

 

I woke up early and began to recount the events of the day in my journal of yesterday (since the bus trip), and finished the last available pages in the journal.  I need to purchase a new journal at a local stationery store.

 

I found a fine restaurant where it costs 540 Ksh for unlimited visits to a lavish “All You Can Eat breakfast bar.  And I ate plenty -- all kinds of fruit juice, large and delicious sausages, fried potatoes, pineapple, cheese, cake and other well-prepared foods.  Other than a small box of cookies, it would be all I ate during this day.

 

Central Nairobi is a metropolis filled with very modern skyscrapers, and countless human indignities.  Grossly deformed people begged for a few pennies outside the beautiful front doors of the many "Save the (fill in the name of your favorite endangered animal here) Foundation."  This city is a hodgepodge of wealth and misery.  Overcrowding of the slums just outside the well-heeled downtown area is a major problem. This situation is endemic to big modern cities situated in third-world countries.   I don't understand why the blacks elected to live in such a disheveled city since there were miles of clean arid land right outside the outer edges of the collection of shanties and dilapidated wooden structures.  There were some pollution-creating industries, but they only dotted the land lightly.  I wondered if the Africans living in this area stayed here because it was closer to a job they had, near friends, or maybe some other reason. 

 

I discovered, as one might suspect, that there are a very high proportion of unemployed living here, and crime is rampant, rivaling the escalating rates of slum areas of Brazil.  This poses an interesting question of human nature.  What are the reasons for this conundrum to exist?

 

The tangled body of a beggar crawled along the street on calloused and bruised hands and knees, mingling with the crowd of pedestrians, each of whom ignored the beggar as though he were an invisible non-entity.  Another indignity of humanity I saw was a man with no hands or feet attached to his limbs, probably amputated in some unspoken horrific incident. The grotesqueness was illuminated as he dragged himself along the sidewalk on a large square side of a cardboard box, displaying many bright yellow sores on his knees and elbows.  Every successful beggar prominently displayed his disfigurement, but most people walked by them without noting the human suffering. 

 

A sad sight appeared before my window at dusk. A Masai warrior walked into this huge city wearing traditional wool wrappings, and carrying a walking stick or spear.  This was obviously his first time in a big city, and I could feel his bewilderment. Soon, unless he escapes back to his village, he will be swallowed by the city.  He will find himself trapped in the slums, eating from trash bins behind restaurants and trying to find occasional work as a menial so he’ll have a dollar to buy a bottle of whiskey. 

 


All of the luxurious encampments of various Save the Wildlife Foundations could look to benefit mankind first. They raise money throughout the world to save one animal or another, yet the same donators are less aware or affected by the suffering of their brothers. I see now!  How sad it is that this has escaped me for so many years.  All of these “foundations” are self-serving!   I imagine some of the money is used to lavish upon certain other “organizations” that sponsor breeding programs.  They spend many thousands of dollars flying rhinoceroses all over the world for mating programs, often pulling mates from the wild.  If only some of the money was used to reeducate those who have chosen to remain in the city, and to help the smaller agrarian tribes in the hinterlands to achieve a modicum of survival skills in a changing world.  They have been pushed one way or another by the empowered ruling class. The Common Man wouldn’t need to hunt endangered animals to survive if they were educated and given knowledge of agrarian horticulture.   As it is now, they do this because they see no other options for survival easily opened for them. 

 

The indigenous people do not appear to me to be an industrious lot.  The blacks, admittedly, are not struggling (as I saw it).  They, almost easily (at least to my eyes), have accepted a lower station in life. +/ They are not super achievers in the traditional modern world. They seek a simple life where contentment reigns supreme.  Owning property, acquiring riches that are not necessary for everyday life is not important to the average African.

 

I guess my lack of sympathy for mothers with a batch of hungry children is some sort of sad lack of compassion.  I could pass by this mixture of human misery with miscreant oblivion.  I often noticed that while the children begged, the mothers chatted nearby, amongst themselves of the latest gossip, or whatever they have to talk of. They acted almost oblivious to the activities of the children.  Adjacent to the gleaming towers of finance and commerce, the streets were littered with legions of street beggars and street vendors trying to earn a living.  Here were many stalls selling used clothing of all sorts.  Proliferate shoe stalls had mountains of bent and worn shoes discarded by someone, quite often imported from the U.S. and Europe, and they will become a treasure to the next possessor.

 

I found myself, armed with my camera, lacking the skill to document the bitter flavor of this scene.  I realized that even a 360-degree photograph would only show the veneer of this situation.  Sad, very sad, how will people ever understand the rank injustices put upon the indigenous people of Africa? The streets were very clean around the big and fancy office buildings.  I noticed three or four older black men, each dressed in a mustard colored tunic and white pants.  Slowly they walked the quarter-mile length of each commercial street to pick up trash to assure that these six streets remain clean.  Often they would pick up a bit of refuse, examine it closely, call over other members of the team, looking closely to see if it could be used or sold. I could walk one block away from this district and smell the stench of warm raw sewage seeping into the streets, its dankness permeating the air.  Most of the impoverished blacks wore ragged shoes -- often the back counter of the shoe was bent down so that the shoes were worn like slippers.  It was necessary to do this because it seemed infrequently to occur to them that they might find a serviceable pair that really fit them.  Many children only had rubber thongs to cover the bottoms of their feet.  I was drawn, temporarily, in a flash of compassion into this insanity.  I had learned in India how to shut these sights out of my mind because to think of these problems is too vast for me to comprehend.


 

I walked to the main post office, about a mile away from Dorat Hotel and paid almost $20.00 for three minutes so I could talk with Marcy.  The time is eleven hours earlier here, so her time in L.A. is 3:00 a.m., while my time in Nairobi is 2:00 p.m. the same day.  I had to wait, in a short line, spent twenty minutes talking with the clerk, then it forty minutes to get through to her.  It was wonderful to hear her voice, and I was happy that she missed me, even more than I missed her although I wasn't certain how that could be so much.  The operator terminated the phone call before I had a chance to say goodbye.

 

I really miss Marcy badly.  My children -- Carol, Mark, and Sarah, my parents and Steve's family are also missed.  The end of this wondrous time draws to a conclusion quickly; I will be home soon. I wrote out four postcards to friends while waiting in the post office.

 

African and American Black music blared loudly from stalls selling tapes and compact music discs, most were obvious copies with the front piece copied on a cheap color or  black and white copier.  City buses seemed to work without timetables.  The doors would open and mobs of people got off, then a fresh mob would pile in. Almost everybody was carrying a large package usually wrapped in blue or tan propylene tarp and bound with sisal twine. Many more men were unburdened than women.  Women often had a basket or box of fruit, vegetables, or sugar balanced on their head, many times with a baby slung on their back in a sarong.

 

I had returned to my room at six p.m. to get my gear together in preparation for tomorrow's journey to Mombasa.  I am only taking a small black case with both cameras and a few essential articles of comfort.  I must buy a bottle of water to bring on the seven-hour bus trip. Since I have been forewarned of the hot and humid weather found often in that city, I have brought protection against mosquito attack.

 

Going to Mombasa -

What must I bring?

 

1)     Wallet

2)     Camera gear

3)     Pills

4)     Watch

5)     Flashlight

6)     Knife

7)     Jacket

8)     Bottle of water

9)     Insect repellent

10) Mosquito net

11) Guidebook

12) Wet wipes

With night approaching the din of the street traffic and commerce did not fade.  It continued, nonstop, until the wee hours of morning.  I spent this evening in my stark, second story room overlooking an unpaved alley.  I gazed out of the window, framed with torn lace curtains that once had been white, and now from annual washing had turned a muted gray. I tried not to let the smudges of insect remains smeared indelibly on the glass obscure my vision. All sorts of goods and services were exchanged within my sight.  

 

During the quiet that existed in my room I could notice when the street gained a momentary calm.  The sky quickly darkened, and rain began to pour from it. Almost all pedestrians and vendors had cleared the streets.  Most were merely dirt roads, except in the city center, and quickly flooded with the rainwater, having nowhere to go because of the already overtaxed sewage system.

 

 


The rain quickly turned streets into a thin brown soup with few high points by which people could safely hop-scotch. The pedestrians still out had to walk in single file this way and that to avoid a shoe full of mud.  They walked in a strange column like rows of drunken ants, careful to make the same step as the man before them.  The rain sizzled and steamed off the large, round metal sheath that protected the hot street lamps.  As quickly as the rain had started, it ceased.

 

I paused from watching the street scene to examine a few small gifts and a shirt I bought earlier today.  I looked at masks they sold here in Nairobi.  There had been few of quality, even in the finest shops from Kenya.  Almost all were imported from Zaire, but I saw a few from the West Coast of Africa, and even less from Tanzania.  Those that were for sale had prices exceeding eighty American dollars most often, and several times went up into the hundreds of dollars.  I bought none.

 

Inexplicably bored momentarily, with the activity below I laid out my plans for the next few days.  Tomorrow morning I will walk to the bus stop to go to Mombasa, then I'll take the train back, either the following night or the one after that.  The bus leaves at 9:30 a.m. and arrives in Mombasa the next morning.  I compared that to the train that leaves Mombasa at seven p.m. and arrives at its destination, Nairobi, at eight a.m.  Those were my plans, so that I would see different sights, I would take the bus there and the train to return.

 

My plans were being formulated using Nairobi as my base.  I'll go to Masai Mara for three days, and then to Uganda where I'll leave to go to Oman, then home.  Already I can see the end of this coming too quickly.  I will truly remember Africa, Black Africa, with warm trepidation -- friendly but mysterious, like opening a long unused closet and discovering spider webs aplenty tucked into every unseen corner, hiding treasures long forgotten.

 

Still in the eight days of this journey that remain, I shall see more wonderful things.  If possible, I will return on the train.  Once in Mombasa I'll arrange to hire a guide to see the seaport town with more depth than I could see armed only with a guidebook. 

 

 

 

 

August 15, 1996    Thursday    Nairobi, Kenya

 

I paid a thousand Kenyan shillings for a first-class bus trip to Mombasa.  The journey was scheduled to take seven hours.  I should have gone north along the coast to at least Mombasa, then back to Arusha by way of Nairobi.  Since I'm in Nairobi now, I'll make the best of it, but I know I’ve missed something by going directly west and continuing from Dar Es Salaam to Arusha.   

 

I ate a brief breakfast before meeting "Dennis," as he calls himself, for European visitors.  It isn’t his real name but he feels that he fits in better with white people.   His hope is to one day work with tourists as a group.  Maybe it was a bit naive for me to have followed him but I felt the risk was worth the chance to explore a different part of Nairobi than most tourists see.

 


I waited in the lobby until he was ready to guide me through the maze of streets to the point where the bus would depart. I waited with the other future passengers of this express.  A few Brits, but mainly Indians made up the passenger list.  Most people had large packages to carry.  The largest were put atop the bus, then wrapped under a large well-used canvas.  Stacked high, the bundle was secured with various lengths of heavy sisal twine.  I planned to make this a two-day adventure so I loaded only the bare essentials in my camera bag and brought no other luggage. It facilitates ease of travel when I travel light.  I left my heavy backpack, a canvas bag of gifts, and the Masai staff in a secured area of the hotel.  The young Indian woman said it would all be secure at thirty shillings per piece per day so I left it in her charge.

 

By 10:00 a.m. we were on the road, heading out of Nairobi on Highway A109. The minibus held twenty passengers, much less than half the capacity of the larger buses.  The larger buses usually made many stops, both scheduled and unscheduled. While the seats were designed for two across on each side, this bus was very cramped amidst the collage of boxes, bags, poles, and other miscellany.  I was much more comfortable in the seating arrangement because I had just enough space to stretch my legs periodically. 

 

The bus jerked forward from the moment the driver sat down as he heavily pressed on the accelerator.  I could see, immediately, from the driver’s determined, steely grimace that we were going to set some sort of record for making this trip, or die trying. At this same instant several people who had the unobservant misfortune to be standing in the aisle, began to spin wildly toward the rear of the bus as the laws of nature, which govern inertia, were displayed. As they struck stationary objects on their uncontrolled tail spinning flight to the rear of the bus they hurled epithets in a language other than English.  

 

I was spellbound that the driver traversed the potholed avenues of Nairobi so quickly and, more often than not, on the wrong side of the street.  The highway -- if you want to call it that -- was in a state of disrepair and was slowly being attended to by small gangs of laborers who congregated around one worker who was actually working.  The rest of the group was either supervising or just watching. Of all the repair crews we passed, never more than one man was at work, and quite often less it was less.

 

The bus flew across the disheveled road at breakneck speed.  A four-wheel drive vehicle with special tires would be the way I'd recommend to make this journey.  The driver passed rows of heavily laden trucks loaded with slate, charcoal, petrol, and other goods not always visible to me since they were crated securely or, rarely, packed within a huge cargo crate toted on the back of a big truck. We passed everyone.  Our driver, rather than staring intently forward, watching for the next situation of danger to appear before us, steered this death vehicle with the quiet aplomb of an expert video game player.  Sometimes I couldn’t even look out the window, instead I glanced downward and watched the driver’s untucked shirttails fly this way and that as his feet danced rapidly from pedal to pedal, carrying a conversation that only he was a part of.  It must certainly have been a commentary on road conditions and the ability (or lack thereof) of other driver’s skill.  Whenever I saw a pedestrian trying to cross the roadway, I always looked down at a book or my feet.  Buses have the right of way, and this driver was asserting that right.

 


Gangs of baboons lined this highway, hopefully watching every vehicle in the hopes of acquiring some discarded booty.  I felt cowardly when we stopped at a crossing and one of the baboons stared me down.  They looked mean, like they could kick my ass.  I sat quietly on the bus, after first checking to make sure that all of the windows were closed around me. I looked to see my small bag of peanuts was well hidden.  I began to read until we began to move on.  I tried to ignore these quasi-human creatures, knowing full-well that if one of them could somehow get on the bus I would remain passive as it rifled through my goods, taking what it pleased, meeting little resistance from me.  I noticed that these baboons had that angry look that separated African-Americans from the Africans!

 

To Mombasa  We passed through the Tsavo National Park.  The terrain of low-lying trees and scrub was like that in the Serengeti of Tanzania. The sky was filled with dark ominous clouds, checkered with wistful white ones.  Dark clouds became more preponderant as we headed east toward the coast.  Road construction or repair was being carried on every mile we passed, and like earlier, with crews of ten yet never more than one was actually working.

 

When we were about a hundred miles out of Mombasa, I began to notice young boys along the roadside with large, elongated woven baskets holding many fist-sized pieces of charcoal.  Each boy had his own small wooden stall decorated with bits of colored plastic or metal strips to distinguish his stall from his competitors.   A few trucks had been heavily laden with many of these baskets, each filled with the black substance.

 

The bus stopped once, midway, to refuel and allow the passengers to stretch their legs.  Others spent the fifteen-minute pause eating at a nearby snack bar.   I chose to spend my time dickering with a local craftsman selling his carvings much cheaper than I would find in Nairobi.  I was culled of 1,100 Ksh, 300 for some wooden carved spoons and 800 for a rhino carved of heavy wood, both bought from a man who claimed to have been the carver of these items.

 

Soon I was able to release my tight-fisted squeeze on the chrome bar above the seat in front of me.  Maybe I had gained a modicum of comfort in the driver's skills, more likely I had resigned myself to face the ultimate fate as a passenger, and just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.  Or at least try to enjoy the ride.  I didn’t look forward to the prospect of becoming an unusual white and red skid mark on an obscure African road. The time on my watch said 4:03 p.m. as we began to descend the modest grade of the last hill before entering the outskirts of the city.

 

Both sides of the paved street were lined with vendors selling all kinds of goods, from staples of daily life to tourist crap. There were many stalls selling used tires, a few blacksmiths, four or five merchants of produce, and a motley assortment of other traders.  Every vendor prayed that we should stop by his establishment, and fortunately for us,we didn't.   The view was very pleasant as we approached the city on our descent over the last hill. The wide bay looked singularly spectacular, wrapped in the cerise blue from sky and ocean.

 

The roadside sellers grew more concentrated as we approached the heart of old town of Mombasa.  Passengers with foreknowledge of their destination within the city clamored around the driver to encourage him to make their specific stop first.

 


Using the East African guide published by Lonely Planet, I hoped to find lodging for one evening in Hotel Splendid in the middle of the old town, supposedly among the most scenic sections, but all I noticed as we made other stops was an atmosphere of commerce reminiscent of old Tijuana, Mexico.  A pleasant atmosphere, but far from spectacular.

 

The driver yelled to me when the bus stopped by the hotel I intended to stay at.  I left after thanking him and adorning his young son who sat alongside his father with a metallic band-aid, which sparkled brightly in the brilliant sunlight.  The father appreciated the gift to his son more than a tip of a few shillings.  The boy smiled broadly as he wore it proudly.

 

I walked across the street to the hotel and got a room that was a bit shabby and tattered, but no signs of dirt or insects were visible.  The fan worked, and I was assured that there was hot water now even though I overheard a couple of old British women discussing how there was a problem with the water this morning.  The hotel management seemed reasonably trustworthy, and the hotel clerk delivered my washed and ironed thirteen pieces of dirty laundry for 500 Ksh in three hours from when I had given the sweat stained bundle to them.  The cost of washing is almost as expensive as buying new clothing.  The clothes were not totally clean, and I got someone else's ragged socks instead of the new socks I’d purchased just before starting this trip.

 

After inspecting the room and talking with some current British guests who were residing here, I elected to pay the 800 Ksh for one night's stay here.  As anticipated, the air was humid but not too hot -- very comfortable now at the five p.m. hour.

 

After putting some gear away, I negotiated with "Godfrey," a local cabby, to take me to the rail station to get passage for the return trip to Nairobi tomorrow night.  I could see that there might not be much in Mombasa to keep me here.   The station was a couple miles from the town center. Godfrey accompanied me into the quiet terminal and pointed a big black finger to direct me toward the proper window.

 

 I found an English-speaking clerk who offered me some help.  The train stops here, and only goes to Dar es Salam, in the south or Nairobi, in the west.  I secured a seat on the Mombasa to Nairobi 7:00 p.m. train.  The clerk issued a stern admonishment that I must be back at the station by 6:30 p.m. tomorrow to confirm my seat.  Godfrey watched me leave the window, ticket in hand.  He chaperoned me back to the large old English-style taxi. 

 

We stood outside the cab and had a brief, cordial dialog during which he offered me a four-hour tour of the city.  We needed to set a price.  He started at sixty US dollars, but we sealed the deal at thirty-five US dollars.

 

I expected hordes of mosquitos, but there were few as I wandered about the twisted streets near the hotel.  All larger shops were just closing at six p.m. Some small shops were still open, but they were not selling handicrafts, and that was all I was looking to buy.

 


I took the tatty elevator to the third floor and walked into my room.  Outside, in an interior garden stood a tall sweet-smelling flowerless tree that sang loudly from the small birds that teemed from it by the hundreds.  I went back to my room, took a cold shower -- as there was no hot water -- but in this temperate region I found a cold shower very refreshing (or so I told myself).  I had to wear the same clothes as before since I brought no change of clothes, just the dirty clothes which hadn’t been returned yet.  I brushed my teeth and shaved, too. 

 

Carrying my journal, I climbed the narrow staircase one flight to the rooftop restaurant.  I found a table quickly.  People here looked at me since I was the sole Caucasian among them. Music played loudly nonstop with a strong African beat, as I sat and waited for menu and service.  Eventually both appeared.  The menu offered primarily fish or chicken-based stews or curries, some lamb and beef dishes were on the short menu, but local entrees were the fish and chicken. 

 

The bread was typical Kenyan chapati, a flat fried bread of thin but heavy dough, like soft pizza bread with no topping. The fish stew I had ordered was 211 Ksh. While tasty, it was only a small bowl. I hadn’t eaten lunch and I was really hungry.   I ordered Arabic coffee and french fries. I paid 410 + 40 tip in Ksh because the waiter had been particularly helpful in bringing the menu and explaining the foods. I thought he was unwittingly funny when I queried about the chicken, if it come boneless and skinless in the stew.  He looked at me very surprised, almost astonished, and replied, "The skin can be removed but I think the chicken must have bones!"  I laughed, “he's right,” I thought, “ how do we do it?” 

 

The stew was pleasantly spicy, although the waiter brought a local pepper sauce as though it wasn't spicy enough.  I wrote while enjoying my meal.  The sky was my ceiling as I watched darkness fall. Industrial sized propane heaters were lit to mask the night chill that crept in.  A tree, planted in the atrium garden in the center of the hotel was home to thousands of small birds who chirped through the warm afternoon, but now they were silent, supposedly having found a warm perch for the cool evening.

 

I felt a little dizzy at 9:45 p.m. so I went to my room, wrote a bit, then prepared for sleep by stripping down to my shorts and a tee shirt.  Above me the fan turned rapidly, but slightly akimbo, suspended securely on the scarred ceiling.

 

August 16, 1996       Friday        Mombasa, Kenya

 

When I awoke in the Hotel Splendid, I looked around and was struck with the realization that I am in AFRICA.    How strange it is to wake and realize how far from home I was.  I didn’t get out of bed right away but lay there thinking about how much I miss Marcy and my whole family.  I spent the first long early minutes of the morning thinking of them as I have often during this journey.  It is very early -- my watch says 3:00 a.m.  The night was so hot and humid I wasn't able to sleep well.

 

I bought no water or snacks last night so I'm very thirsty now.  I tried unsuccessfully to go back to sleep, but I can't.  Time passes slowly until five, when the local Imam sings praises to Allah.  The chirping in the tree outside my door overshadows his devotional songs.  There are so many birds nesting in this one tree.

 


 In three minutes I was up and dressed, then I went upstairs for the breakfast provided, compliments of the hotel.  The spread included fresh juices and plenty of fresh fruit -- pineapple, oranges, something that looks like avocado, toast, jam, and other items one would normally find on a European breakfast table.  I was the singular white in the dining room with ten other visitors, who appeared to be African. 

 

I walked around the area briefly before I realized I needed a shower, even though I had just taken one ten hours ago.   I had no change of clothes so I put the used ones back on.  Since I intended to be gone only two days, I wanted to travel as light as possible so I brought no change, expecting good weather, not this mugginess that Mombasa is so well-known for.

 

As I walked along the main street of old Mombasa, I stopped to buy a t-shirt.  The store was quiet in the morning hours and the street was just waking up at 8:30 a.m. I stood still momentarily, pondering a purchase when loud yelling began on the street.  One man, over all others, was most vocal.  I stuck my head out of the doorway to witness a man on the street, tall and thin, in striped bedclothes, imploring the crowd of natives that had gathered.  He was bathed in his own sweat with closely cropped graying hair.   The wild look in his red eyes could have frightened anyone. He was given wide berth as he erratically walked around the alley.  Everybody came to watch, including a policeman.  I was surprised to see the policeman did nothing other than watch the group of onlookers.  He suspected this might be some sort of ruse to cover a crime (like pick-pocketing).

 

I asked the shopkeeper who had acquired interest in the morning event, too:  "What is happening here?"  I asked. He explained, without alarm or trepidation, this man had got malaria, and was very sick.  Never having witnessed this before, to me, it was all startling.   The Africans who stood around him, seemed totally unsympathetic, even when the police finally took him away.

 

I bought a Kenyan mask, which looks to be from Gabon.  The seller was a bit uncertain.   I paid about $17 US for it.  Often the sellers will part with their goods for a fifth of the original asking price. I had finally found a t-shirt in Swahili and German for about $5.  That's expensive for Mombasa.

 

At eleven I had already checked out of the hotel and met "Godfrey," the taxi driver. He brought me to a crocodile farm. It had an admission price of about $5, but Godfrey said it is very interesting to see. I walked four miles through that place.  At one point I was offered a camel ride for 50 Ksh, but I declined.  Tired and worn, I climbed the escarpment that bordered the park to sit in the cool shade.  Godfrey was asleep in the cab.  As I approached the car he awoke and scurried to open the door for me.

 

He suggested I walk the Baobab Nature Trail built on top of the leavings of a quarry and cement excavation pit.  They had an admission charge of $4, which I reluctantly paid to walk a trail.  Nothing spectacular here, but I was in search of Mombasa, not amusement parks.  I ate a great lunch at the Nature Trail:  crocodile kebabs with rice, beans, flat bread and hot sauce -- at 700 Ksh it cost about $11, much more than what the menu indicated but while arguing politely with the waiter he said I was given the dinner plate. It was one of the best meals I had eaten on this trip.

 


A long cement bridge spanned the bay, which separates Mombasa from the mainland.  I saw no useable beach area for swimmers, but there were several small ships and many boats moored along the coastline.  Several dhows were scenically moored away from the dock. 

 

This seaport town was created by draining the swampy land, and building embankments while the British occupied this section of the world.  The town was controlled by Oman for many years and the Omani influence was felt along the coastal regions of East Africa. Two large carved tusks of wood mark the land entrance to the old city. 

 

Several men approached me to be “my guide," but I wanted no part of it.  I told each to leave, for I intended to pay nothing but the admission charge of 200 Ksh to go in and look. When I tried to walk around unencumbered, one man decided I needed a professional guide so he tagged along, talking to me.  Certain that this grizzled tenant of Mombasa intends to put a price tag on his “tour” of the port, I attempt to elude him but he is more skilled than I anticipated.  He followed me into several small touristy shops before I began to engage in a lengthy conversation with a shopkeeper.  He saw several old Germans milling about outside in a small group and Africans have Germans tagged as big spenders with little desire to bargain.  Consequently Germans are sought out by merchants and almost always charged more than anyone else.

 

Like many countries, bargaining is an integral part of the purchase, an almost obligatory interaction between every buyer and seller.  Posted prices are usually just a guide from which the bargaining begins, not where it concludes.  The only exceptions to this are all government offices and some large American-style stores.  To buy without bargaining not only costs more money but, more importantly, it is regarded as rude and aloof behavior.  The merchant expects and truly desires the interaction with the buyer. 

 

To view the old port I was required to pay ten Ksh admission.  Now that is no great sum of money but to charge tourists to walk along a public street was audacious.   I snapped a couple of non-prize winning photos and got back in the cab for a short ride to Fort Jesus.  The fort was held alternately by the Omani and the Portuguese, and not given to the Kenyans until this century.  The fort was interesting in its brief history, although it was a bloody one. Many old artifacts had been excavated from this area during its recent renovation.  The fortress has changed its flag often.  It was occupied by the Portugese, but more recently by the British, who tried to establish their presence here in the 1800s.  They lost interest here when the slave trade was banned in England.

 

Godfrey left to run an errand for his brother but promised to return in thirty minutes.  He was to take me to the train station later, and there I'd wait or try to take the earlier train.  As I exited the fort grounds I saw him, got in the cab and off we went.  At the station I took all the stuff I bought and my camera gear.  I paid Godfrey as agreed, but I gave no tip.  Tipping is not as customary as in the U.S. and he provided no special enlightenment to me about his city of residence.   I thanked him and complimented his safe driving skills.

 


The clerk informed me that there is only one train to Nairobi at 7:00 p.m. and it always fills quickly.  So I should wait at the station snack bar/restaurant until 5:30 p.m. before I can go to a window to confirm my seat.   While I waited I met a young Dutch  man who had broken from his group so he could go to Mombasa while they enjoyed Nairobi. We talked for a few minutes, then I introduced myself to him, and he told me his name is Erich.  We conversed in a strange brew of English and German. Although the train is scheduled to leave long past 6:30 p.m., the train is in the station so Erich and I part company. He boarded his second-class car and I headed toward my seat in first-class.

 

Mombasa - Nairobi   The car I must travel in is far up front of the long train.  I meander to the car and up the steep foot railings used to board a train.  Already tired, I ate some crackers I brought with me, then sat back and waited for the train to get going.  This certainly will be more restful despite the four extra hours it takes than the speedy but jarring bus.

 

Hopefully I'll get to Nairobi in time to shower and change clothing, and then go on a safari again.  If not, I'll get a ticket to Uganda by whatever means necessary.  I don’t want to spend more than a day in Nairobi, which will include a meal at the Carnivore Restaurant, recommended highly in my guidebook.

 

The train will not leave yet for another hour, but this car is already filled with a conglomeration of languages, sexes, and ages. I imagine the night humidity and heat add to my potential for irritability.  Since no one else is sitting in my two person booth, I anticipate who it might be.  The station clerk indicated compartment assignment is done always by sex and that all seats on this train are sold out.   I have been sweating intensely, and I will offend another occupant's sense of smell so I wish I'll be alone in this booth, but that is too much to hope for on a crowded motley train such as this is. 

 

Just as the train slowly lurched forward for its first inch of the overnight trip, a young Indian man, Kevat, entered the cubicle. I welcomed him to enter as though this were my home.  Soon our conversation was in full swing.  He was a financial manager for a large hotel in Mombasa near Hotel Splendid, where I stayed.  He had followed his brother's footsteps, leaving Delhi, India to earn more for his talents elsewhere.  Out of necessity, although it didn't seem so, we quickly became friendly companions.  The train gathered speed as we distanced ourselves from the city edge where the train station was. 

 

Almost as if it were synchronized with our departure, night fell.  I took a moment to reorganize my two bags in the broad but thin closet within our temporary domicile.  I was given a ticket, while approaching my pre-assigned car, it was distinguished from the other first class cars by a small black and white plaque displayed to the right of the door.  It read; “1205".  The ticket indicated I was assigned the second seating for dinner. My call for dinner was at 8:30 p.m.

 


We sat and talked for a while, just very pleasant chatter.  He is the same age as Mark.  At 8:30, the car steward walked through this car striking three notes on a small hand held xylophone. It was the first call to dinner. Along with our boarding pass each passenger was given two small gray cardboard cards with the number “one” or “two” printed on them.  The card was used to gain entrance to the dining car for the first or second seating. Our cards had the number “one” printed in big red numerals.  The aisles were extremely narrow and, as we traversed several cars, it was not infrequent that the lights in the aisle were out.  I had a flashlight so the walk was not impossible.

 

We were requested to stand in line until the steward had an open table.  We were seated four to a table and handed a simple menu, which included choices of a vegetarian stew, mutton stew or chicken curry.  I chose the latter, but all three choices were present at our table.

 

We sat adjacent to a newly married Dutch couple who were enjoying Kenya for three weeks.  He sported Van Dyke facial hair, and she carried an extra thirty pounds. Both were friendly and discussion opened to travel safety in Africa compared to elsewhere.  Last year they traveled to Indonesia, which they reported, was both very cheap and very beautiful.   Although they had been forewarned of the dangers of being robbed, it happened to them on their third night there. They were robbed of jewelry and money during an incident too common for tourists.  They had left their goods in a hotel room and when they returned from dinner the valuables had vanished.

 

The food was served very ceremoniously by two black porters, who bowed as they served the food.  My meal included a broadleaf spinach served everywhere, plenty of rice and the curry.  Tusker Lager, a local Kenyan brew, was brought to me, chilled, to wear away the final layers of mugginess I brought from Mombasa.

 

It was a struggle to return to the car since one car had its lights out in the hallway and the doors were closed. Still, I inched down corridor after corridor until we had traveled through six cars to get from the restaurant car to my compartment.  When we returned, bedding was laid out and the covers were turned back.  The price of this trip in first class was eighty dollars, compared to second class at forty-five.   This is great! I like this mode of travel very much.  In a couple of minutes I was asleep, not waking until 8:00 a.m. for breakfast. I heard the chimes and was quickly dressed for breakfast.

 

 

 

 

August 17, 1996      Saturday      Mombasa to Nairobi

 

I had a cup of thin coffee with toast and jam. Now we are twenty minutes outside Nairobi, if we are on schedule.  Later I discovered we were much further away from our destination. But that was fine.  As I ate breakfast I looked out the window and saw that we were still in Tsavo National Park.  Zebras, wildebeest, and giraffe wandered through the grassland.  I felt like Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot as I witnessed this daily spectacle from my breakfast table.

 

As the morning wore on it became more and more apparent that an 8:45 a.m. arrival time is out of the question.  We passed through a town called Aruna, which is three-fourths of the way.  The porter said Nairobi at 11:00 a.m.  I prepared for such changes by bringing cookies and water purchased on my way to the Mombasa train station yesterday.

 


Other than the lack of good toilet/shower facilities, I feel remarkably well rested, and very comfortable.  I have no reason (other than I wanted to go on the safari today) to need the train to be timely.  I took out my timetable to see when I return to the U.S.  I needed to check not only the date but also the time of day for departure, and it means this trip is drawing to a close.  Of August, I have the seventeenth through the twenty-first for another safari. I also must use the twenty-first to the twenty-third to get to Entebbe, Uganda.   I leave on the twenty-fourth at 10:45 a.m. from Entebbe to go to Oman in the main city of Muscat.  As mentioned earlier, I arrived according to my "adjusted" schedule.

 

The train pulled into the station and although I noticed no sign saying Nairobi, I was told by two who know that this is my separation point. I took my two bags and said goodbye to my new friend and left the train.  Delays such as mine are commonplace, and as such they must be incorporated into any plan.  I had no concrete plan I needed to follow.  I walked around until a taxi drove towards me as they always do, hungry for a fare.  I didn't quibble at all when he said 250 KSH for the ride to Hotel Dolat on Mfangano St. 

 

The trip was a complex one through the tangled streets.   By air miles it was only about three miles, however the circuitous route the cabby took, due to the traffic clogged streets and one-way boulevards, made the journey seem three times further.  The fare, having been pre-negotiated, left me the pleasure of leaving the problem of how to get there entirely in the hands of the driver.  I paid the fare, then alighted from the shabby, forlorn interior of this vehicle.

 

I checked into the hotel and recovered the goods I’d left in storage, finding all just as I had left it.  I brought everything to my room and sorted through it all.  Now I need to confirm future arrangements.  I must buy a train ticket to Uganda and set the wheels in motion to go on another safari,so I can see the Masai Mara.  I went to the clerk of the hotel to store all of the gifts I had bought. I had taken a brief journey into a shopping area near to the hotel and had Dennis, a young local who seemed to accompany me everywhere, go in to buy a large cloth bag to put the stuff I bought as gifts. 

 

The posted prices were for the tourists, not the locals.  The posted price was 699 KSH.  I was willing to pay 650 KSH.  Dennis bought the bag for 550 KSH so I gave Dennis 100 KSH, having promised the cash difference to Dennis as a reward. 

 

I followed Dennis to a ticket office where they assured me that there would be a trip tomorrow to Masai Mara.  I didn't want to make any deposit, but the ticket agent said I should at least pay a thousand KSH, to which I relented.  Then I walked out of the office with Dennis, who was talking to two of his friends he had met on the street.  Exercising caution, I made certain that I wasn’t put in a situation where I could be easily robbed.  The fact that they looked like clean-cut students can often be misleading.  I wanted to buy the train or bus ticket now to Uganda.  The city of Entebbe, where the airport is located, is about twenty miles outside of Kampala.  Kampala is the capital and largest city of this country.  The train station was about four kilometers from where we were standing so I hired a cab.  Dennis went with me.  He told the driver to bring us to the gate where tickets are sold.

 


Many people were waiting for the train, camping of a sort in the third class waiting area.  Although the area was asphalted and roofed each of the small family groups had huddled together for protection from others.  Dennis said much crime happens there.  Another area where crime occurs very commonly is on the street leading to the station.

 

The office for first or second class ticket purchases was in another part of the building.  We wandered around a bit before locating the proper window. Passage costs 4,700 KS, about $85 U.S., and takes twenty-three hours.  It only leaves on Tuesday every week.  Today was Saturday so all of the people camped out by the third class window would be waiting another three days!  I couldn’t take that trip because I'd be back too late on Tuesday. I had to arrange for a bus. Hopefully, I’ll get a good bus where I could keep my belongings with me.  Dennis said he'd try to arrange the train trip while I'm on safari.  We went from here to Inside Safari, a travel agency.  Because today is Saturday, the travel office was closed.  Most businesses were either closed all day, or had a shortened day for Saturday. 

 

Close to the train station there was a gathering of ramshackle stalls built of old discarded boards and sticks.  Old, ragged tarpaulins were covered with sisal twine to bind it all together.  This place is where local craftspeople gather to sell their goods to the shops, who in turn sell to the public, especially made for, of course, the tourist trade. I bought a few items here. Everything here was much cheaper than in the Nairobi stores and the handicrafts were just as good.  Most imported things could be found in Nairobi, where everything could be found cheaper than elsewhere in East Africa, except for crafts.

 

I was driven back to the hotel where I packed the large bag with all gifts for Marcy and my family, then will put it in storage tomorrow when I leave for safari.  They will take my backpack to storage, too.  I fell asleep at about seven p.m., waking at eleven, still holding pen in hand at this journal.  I crawled under the thin blanket because it was a cold night.  I didn't wake until five.

 

 

August 18, 1996 - Sunday   Nairobi, Kenya

 

Up early, I finished packing and sprayed my clothing to prevent bug attacks while on safari.  During the night I recollected an event that I forgot to mention. As often happens, just before falling asleep I would run the day's events through my mind.

 

As I was being driven back to the hotel, I witnessed three young native boys circle menacingly around an unwary young woman of twenty.  Her attention was on two elderly men, arguing at a bus stop instead of the two large shopping bags and her purse that she carried.   One of the boys swooped in on the well-dressed black girl and pulled her purse from her shoulders quickly, too quickly for the woman react.  The three boys ran wildly across the busy Nairobi boulevard.   Two African men in their mid-twenties then pursued the boys.  The young thieves had made quick work of this, and had quickly disappeared.  Pursuit was impossible.  The boys were in their home turf and knew how to vanish completely.  The streets were their home, more so than others here.  I tried to watch the escaping boys but it wasn’t possible.   The boys lived, slept, and often died here.  They would get money however they could.

 


I allowed myself to remain impassive to the girl’s pleas for help while I watched the distraught face of the bewildered young girl who was still laden with the grocery bags and therefore unable to run after the boys.  Dennis remarked that I should be further cautioned by what I had just witnessed. I took note.

 

So back to this morning, the 18th of August. After dressing and final packing, I walked through the Sunday morning streets at 6:30 a.m.   Amazingly it was just as noisy as any other day.  In this section of town, which is heavily populated with blacks already, in the short distance I must travel, I encountered numerous taxi tout trying to get me as a fire.  I was singled out because I am white, and they assume correctly, that I am just passing through.

 

Two nubile young black women stood on a Nairobi street corner, wrapped in long sheets of colorful cloth wound around themselves attractively from shoulder to ankle.  As I walked through the crowd of people, the two women brushed their breasts across my shoulder intentionally.  I looked back at both of them, rather startled. They had a sheepish smile on their faces.  One stepped forward, giggling, she said girlishly, “Hello, how are you?” with a very strong British accent to it.   The other girl, at first, looked on shyly, covering part of her face with her shirted arm. After I had halted, surprised by all this, I shook the first teen's hand as a friendly greeting.  The scene was repeated identically for the second young girl. I don't exactly know why or what for, but the conversation was concluded.  I smiled and walked on.  During this incident I was on high alert for something to happen.  This is one of the moments when weird stuff often occurs. Later I thought about this incident, trying to figure out what it all meant or maybe it meant nothing at all.

 

The cleanly uniformed police, wearing blue shirts and dark blue sweaters, carry big black billy clubs, are present everywhere. They often nod and smile politely to me as I pass.  Yet they don't do so for much better dressed blacks.  I wonder if it is because I am suspected of being a tourist, or if it is because I am white? 

Unlike the U.S. where every nation and race is represented, here the socially dominant race is clearly white.   Blacks are often looked on very suspiciously.  I remembered yesterday how frequently I had been encouraged by street tours to enter their shops, but Dennis, a native of Nairobi, had to wait outside.  Clearly he was uninvited.  Indians and Asians make up the merchant middle-class, and are considered “colored”. Outwardly I saw no signs of Apartheid. I’m certain the separation of races exist, its just not visible to the casual visitor.

 

As planned, the driver from Sabuka Tours met me at the hotel, and then delivered me to the ticket office, where I paid the balance due on my ticket.  After boarding the minibus, we pulled out of Nairobi.  About ten miles out of the city, the bus crested a hill, then descended into a deep broad green valley.  Small native craft shops scarred the otherwise pristine landscape.  We stopped at one little outpost of craftsmen, and the black merchants saw my solar-powered fan hat and were willing to trade whatever they had for it.  While two men vied to hold it, I perused the items they had but neither possessed anything I desired.  No deal was struck.

 

We got back into the van and began noticing wildlife, however common, almost immediately.  I was seized by some strange impulse to conform to the pattern the others set -- I began to photograph inconsequential stuff, too.  I felt like I was with a busload of Japanese tourists!  There was a beautiful view, regardless of which direction I looked.

 


Although Kenya is heavily populated with Kikuyu natives, the Masai dominated the Serengeti countryside with their small villages and herds of cattle, goats, and chickens. 

The sky began to cloud over.   Hopefully it would bring a short shower to cool things down. From ten until six p.m. we drove, only stopping briefly except for lunch and gas. We sat in the beer garden of a restaurant eating a light lunch of cheese or tomato slices with a heavy white bread.  Halved bananas were there for those who wanted dessert.

 

Animal wildlife was much more prevalent here, compared to the trip along the road from Arusha.  Ostrich, wildebeest, many zebra, giraffes, unusual birds, dik-diks, and antelopes were seen nearby as we approached the camp.  No elephants, lions, rhinos, or hippos were seen, but I expect that tomorrow we'll see them.

 

Brought to the campsite, we were met by the camp master, a Masai.  Most of his assistants were Masai as well.  A young Masai directed us to separate tents as night fells.  Several visitors, like me, sat around a campfire with four or five Masai, each group modestly attempting to communicate with the other.  The Masai held a distinct advantage because no tourist understood their language. After awhile, in this part of Africa, I began to see that all the Masai men had huge earlobes.  The lobes were slit then stretched, often creating a loop of skin large enough to let a baseball pass through.

 

 

 

 

 

After putting my backpack on my bed, I walked back to the camp center to enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee.  No sooner had I entered the main building than the drizzle became a brief but heavy rainstorm.  It wasn't long afterward that everybody was within the building.  We were all hungry and waited not so patiently for the meal, which was to be served at 7:30 p.m.  A delicious soup of an unidentifiable flavor was hot and good.  Each person was given a thick glazed clay plate on which was heaped a small mountain of rice, covered with stewed chicken and a dark collage of vegetables.  In the darkness, hardly visible in the dimly lit open-air canopied hall, the food's appearance was not discernable, but texture and flavor were good and welcomed.

 

Most of us sat around talking of world travel about miscellaneous subjects until late into the night.  Our conversation drifted to a premonition several of us had, including me.  The thoughts were of a camp invasion by marauding troops of animals during the night. This topic was spurred on by recent stories of this very occurrence at other camps. Because my tent is at the very end of the camp, this talk did little to help me sink into a restful sleep.

 


One fellow told a story of another camp that was completely trampled in the middle of the night by a herd of elephants. This would affect me all night -- every sound woke me.  I did not sleep well.  Around 6 a.m., when a lion roared in the too near distance -- or maybe it was something else -- I was not certain, I got up, turned on my little flashlight (for that was my sole source of illumination within the canvas cabin).  Before I alighted from the bed, I visually inspected every inch of the floor and walls around for any other living creature.  Is that being scared?  I thought I was just being cautious.  All sounds emanated from the exterior regions, and nothing within the tent was moving that I noticed.  Next, I was prepared to check my boots, which I had suspended from an interior support bar to prevent any small, slithery denizens of the Mara from joining me and lodging in one of my boots overnight.  After I shook the boot, but not probing its innards with my fingers, I put carefully put the boot on and tightly locked the laces of each one.  I tried to rest a bit more, even though I was completely dressed, but could not even shut my eyes.

 

It was still dark outside, and no light was on in any tent -- only a wood-fed fire where the Masai camp workers had gathered around to stave off the 40-degree chill of the night. 

 

The Masai indicate their individual status several physical ways.  One of the four levels for men is Chief, identified by a black club with a carved ball at the end, which he always carried.  Next were men with huge skin loops cut into the lower lobe of their ears, stretched so that the loop is four or five inches long.  This group will often carry a flyswatter made from the tail of a wildebeest or zebra.  The third highest ranking is clearly seen by looking at the extended ear loops.  Men will identify themselves as members of this ranking by tucking the loop in on itself, almost like a knot.  The fourth rank is warriors who carry metal spears as a status symbol.  Boys and all females were in the last caste.  It was not unusual for a highly ranked man to have several wives.

 

 

August 19, 1996 Masai Mara, Kenya

 

I slept fully clothed all night, except for my boots, which I put on early this morning.  I was up and out, quickly zipping the tent behind me.  With aid of the flashlight I was able to find the path leading to the main hall.  Once there I wrote for a while.  As the sun tinted the starless night with the azure blue of early morning I saw that the jungle vegetation had refreshed itself from the brief storm of last night.

 

I sit alone, except for the camp workers who are busy preparing breakfast.  As they work, they chant ancient tribal songs and talk amongst themselves in Swahili. I sense the morning joy of an African waking.  I no longer need light from the flashlight, and I stopped writing long enough to look about and smell the delicious morning air.

 

The sounds of jungle birds abound.  To the east there are many dark clouds.  I talked with two young men who had been here three days already, and they said every evening it would rain, often late into the night or early morning.  There are twenty visitors in this camp and six workers, all Masai.

 

At 7:00 a.m a bell rang and white people left their tents, hurrying for breakfast.  Most were trying to exercise some manners, yet it was so transparent, the strange appetite that this type of environment brings out in us.  Each ate with a repressed fervor that I felt was uncomfortable until I realized I possessed the same attribute.

 

For breakfast there were hard-boiled eggs, toast, and beans.  I ate little, but the very black coffee stirred my soul.  I have always had a penchant for a hot cup of coffee to awaken me to a new day.   Coffee and camping go together so well.

 


Around 8:00 a.m., not 7:30 as scheduled, we departed the campsite for the heart of Masai Mara.  The road was no less rutted than when we arrived yesterday; in fact, because of the softening effect that rain has with dirt roads, it was much worse.

 

While the distance to the gates of this national park was close by air miles, maybe ten, the byway was a very circuitous route. The road meandered with only short stretches of the tan dirt path being straight.   Steven, our driver, assured all seven of us that this was certainly the most direct route.  I bounced with every bump and joltingly swayed with every rut.  The other passengers met with equal difficulty, trying to remain comfortable, yet this was impossible.  The road to the gate was about thirty miles from the campsite, but because the road was so severely damaged we seldom rode in the middle of the partially asphalted path. Instead, like the vehicles we followed, and those that were oncoming -- all rode the skirt of the road.

 

This leg of the journey used two and a half hours of valuable daylight time to reach the gate; seldom did our kph exceed 15. Because it was already warm we opened side windows of the Combi, always rushing to close the before bilious clouds of tan dust, kicked up by an oncoming truck, could get in our vehicle. We treated this almost like a contest, waiting until the last possible second before shutting the vent.

 

Wildlife was overly abundant.  Zebra and wildebeest (or gnu) over grazed the huge plain, but their numbers were in the thousands.  All animals on their annual migration were fat and healthy.  Lions stalked zebra almost nonchalantly, with the casualness that overeating brings.  The very old, young, or sick animals were culled out, usually becoming a meal for another animal one step higher on the food chain.

 

The river that separates Tanzania and Kenya, called the Meru, was flowing well, and there was plenty of water for the animals.  Due to the rains that often occur in the late day, the grasses were verdant, rich in nutrition for the many herbivores predominating the Mesa.

 

Today we found herds of elephants grazing quietly on a hillside.  There were ten of the pachyderms that lumbered slowly.  A baby, maybe four months old, sheepishly raised his trunk in childish triumph while he stood very near to his one-tusked father.  The father had many battle scars, including the broken tusk.  Hippos lazed in the afternoon sun in a wide bend in the river.  They remained motionless for long minutes, and then raised only nostrils and ears.  Not far away a crocodile sunned himself mid-river with his mouth agape, as though bounty would errantly find its way into the huge crevice.  If his mouth was not open he could have easily been mistaken for a log drifting in the water.

 

As we traveled overland there were few places zebra and gnus were not.  They fill the grassy plains.   Gazelle and antelopes were plentiful, but they congregated in quiet corners, sometimes intermixing peacefully with other herbivores.

 


Around three in the afternoon, rains started. The wildlife didn't recede, and neither did we.  As we drove along Steven would, in halting English, attempt to name the various species. We paused to watch a hunt.  A lion laboriously walked along the dirt path toward a huge herd of zebra.  Slowly and cautiously he crossed the dirt trail before us.  As he approached, the black-striped horses bolted away.  The lion half-heartedly attempted to chase them. But the plan was more devious than it appeared.  A second lion lay in wait, ready for an ambush, hidden behind a small hill that the wide-eyed animals were running toward   Still, with this plan, the lions were unsuccessful, and all zebra escaped unscathed.  While these horses responded to an alarm of danger, other grazing animals stopped eating and picked up their head to watch with the same aloof intensity I have when I drive past a recent auto accident on the freeways in L.A.  It was that exact same look!

 

Steven tried to select the right paths, but there were so many twisted trails through the grasslands it took several false starts and missteps before we finally made it to the outer gate.  The ride back to camp through the soupy maze of paths seemed endless.  I could envision our small bus pitched to its side, as we inched along the edge of the road, lodged deeply and inescapably in the brown mire.  We saw other such buses that suffered that fate. 

 

I was relieved to find that through the rain and all, Steven had successfully maneuvered this bulky land craft to the tenting grounds.  He had to make one detour because last night a poisonous spider bit him, leaving his right arm numb and swollen.  It was clear that he needed some medical attention but the neighborhood nurse was not to be found, although he spoke to several villagers who said the nurse had been by a few short hours ago.  The end result was that no remedy or treatment of any kind was given. 

 

At 7:30 dinner was promptly served.  Pea soup preceded the main course. Spaghetti sauce over macaroni and cheese.  Sounds disgusting, but I ate it with gusto.  After dinner, we sat around and talked until we were invited to watch some traditional Masai dances.  The fact that it was raining didn’t seem to dampen their enthusiasm.  The campfire burned brightly while the Masai danced and sang around the flames.   A couple of hours later I was very wet from sitting in the open on a log, in the rain. Finally the Masai stopped and closed the evening by gathering their spears, walking sticks and blankets and walking off into the dark night.  I struggled to get up and go to my tent.  It was on the outer perimeter of the camp and one of the most vulnerable.  I closely inspected my bed and every corner for bugs or other creatures.  Anything could be lurking around.  I saw none, so I went to my tent damp from the rain, put all blankets from both beds on one bed, and then in total darkness, I went uneasily to sleep.

 

 

August 20, 1996   Tuesday     Masai Meru, Kenya

 

I awoke, as usual, and dressed very early without showering or shaving.  The water was as cold as the night air.  There was no hot water to complement the absence of artificial light or electricity, just as it was the night before.

 


The chief cook was considerate of me.  That point was illustrated clearly when he brought me a cup of coffee when he saw me sitting, alone in the hall, writing.  I appreciated his action.  Coffee and a smoke was enough breakfast for me.  I wasn’t until seven that breakfast was served, the beginning of which was marked when the suspended metal triangle was sounded. That was the breakfast call.

 

The sun rose, as it always does, over the hills to the east.  I watched the sun cast long shadows over the hills, spilling onto our quiet campground. It was hard to believe this was the same sun that makes its daily visit over California.

 

Not until 8:30 were those of my group ready to go back to Nairobi. We discussed one stop at a Masai village that made itself available to visitors (for a 500 Ksh price tag).  I willingly paid, for my next trip to East Africa may not be very soon.

 

Cow droppings mixed with the muddy soil at the Masai village.  The village was only about an hour's drive from the campsite.  While I did have the video camera on and recording, I felt abashed that I would pay a fee to invade their lives and households . . . forgeting for a moment that they had set the price and were willing to prostitute themselves for the almighty shilling.

 

I bashfully entered one of the daub and wattle abodes that was near the van and looked as though it was prepared to expose itself to me.  A fire was going in the main room.  It was heating the home, and soup was bubbling in a small cauldron suspended over the fire. Soot and caustic fumes filled the room and my lungs.  I had not the ability to remain and see all.  The fire's smoke was vented through a small round hole about six inches across. Rather than the hole being in the roof, it was placed high on a sidewall.

 

The women of the village clamored around me -- first to get a pen, which because of a limited supply I had to throw only four of them, and whoever got one got one.  Then to sell jewelry to me . . . I was not in need of any more, having already purchased enough.  But the women pressed around me, and I made certain no quick fingers could retrieve any treasure from one of my unattended pockets.  The Masai are an honorable people with a strong sense of morality and ethics, but it would make little sense to tempt them.  No such event occurred, although I alerted all my senses to be aware of such a possibility.

 


As I left with two small pieces of jewelry purchased form the women, a Masai man approached me directly.  He wanted my solar powered fan-hat.  We opened negotiations.  I wanted his spear.  His spear has special significance, and few males would surrender such a personal artifact without good cause, so as we were about to part we reopened the talks by coming lower in price and no hat for him, just money.  I gave the equivalent of $15 US, and the deal was done. Just like business everywhere, everybody and everything has their price.  Since we were going out for one last adventure among the wildlife, I had befriended the small tribe with a little antiseptic and a band-aid which I put on the head of a small boy.   His father was the chief.  Several of his wives witnessed this tiny act of compassion and reported it to the father who was appreciative.  The boy’s father, “Dovshu” appeared but looked as though what was done was of little consequence.  He spoke to me in clear English.  We talked for an hour.  He had not met someone from America for over two years and was interested, he said in how America perceives the Masai and Africa.  He was aware of racial problems in metropolitan areas of the U.S.   I spoke carefully and deliberately, realizing that this new friendship was very fragile.    He invited me to stay overnight if I wanted to really see how they lived.  I accepted quickly.    I separated from the group for the remainder of the day, with the plan established that I’d meet them in the morning when they return from an overnight journey.   

 

I was invited to put my things in a hut with his wives where I would sleep tonight.  I had to bend down to enter the mud and wattle hut.  The bed I was to use had a frame of thick wooden branches over which heavy, thick leather was stretched.  The Masai are a tall people, but the bed was not intended for them, I guess, because it was six inches too short for my six foot frame.   There was a fire in a fire pit over against the wall. There was no chimney, instead, high on the wall, over the fire pit was a round hole which provided the only ventilation for the thick black smoke.  It was not adequate.  Smoke filled the interior, but even that wasn’t enough to stop the flies and other insects from making their residence here too.  

 

 

In the darkness, lit only by one sparsely fueled fire, the meal was only some sort of maize mixed with water and had a wretched stench.  The children ate from one communal bowl and the women did likewise.  I was provided my own bowl but I was torn between good manners, which dictated that I pretend to enjoy the “maize” and then discard it at some obscure corner of the tiny village, or if I should be honest, and say that I do not like the meal.  I chose the later.  My response seemed to make many laugh.  Next, I was offered a dark liquid with a very aromatic, but putrid smell.  I was shown from where this liquid came.  A piece of twine would be twisted around the next of one of the cattle.  Then the animal would be garroted until a vein would protrude from its neck. Another man would stand by wait for this moment then he would shoot a tiny arrow from a miniature bow into the vein. Blood would pour out and the natives would gather the blood in a quart-sized container made of clay.  The animal was released after an adequate collection was made.  Dung would be put on the wound to expedite the healing process.   A small wooden twig would be dunked into the vase-like container to pull out the coagulants.  The sticky mess caught by the fingers then it was eaten like extra icing on the batter bowl.   This process was repeated several times with several cattle.  

 

The people gathered and I was asked politely to wait in the hut.  I do not know what happened after this point.  The women came into the hut within twenty minutes, and went to sleep. Hushed tones and giggling with the hut kept me awake for quite awhile.  The flies and bugs didn’t bother me as much as the smoke.  I wanted to sleep outside if there wasn’t so much cow dung. I wanted to be back in my tent. This was a tough night to go through.

 

The next morning the van came to the village early in the morning.   I thanked the tribes people for their generosity to me, especially Dovshu. I was happy to see them all.   Everybody piled back into the van, and we drove a long way over bumpy roads, only stopping twice.  I would have appreciated more frequent stops.  All was enhanced by rain.  The return to Nairobi seemed exceptionally long.

 


In Nairobi I was the first off the bus during crowded rush hour.  Steven could only stop in the single lane, down the street on which Hotel Dolat was, blocking heavy vehicle traffic.  I quickly said goodbye to each member of the group, pulled my bag out of the back, and went into the house.  I put my things away and decided it was imperative that I arrange Kampala transportation immediately.   Even though I was tired I must have firm plans established to avoid a wasted tomorrow.

 

Dennis was out front, and he was glad to take me to get the ticket on Royal Coach Bus Company, the only bus to Kampala.  It takes 23 hours to get there.  I checked around, Royal Coach Lines is the only place to get a bus to Kampala.  I bought my ticket for 1,800 Ksh, and then stopped at a store to buy some snacks for tomorrow’s 7:00 a.m. departure.  Cookies, cigarettes, water, and peanuts should be all I need.  My guidebook says that I need a visa, but when I called the Uganda Embassy before leaving, they said it wasn't needed.  I hope to cash some travel checks so I have enough currency to do it.

 

I walked back to the hotel, Dennis in tow. He said he'd be up to help me in the morning.  I might be up by 6:00 - 6:15 to get to the one site the bus picks up from, in front of the bus station where I bought the ticket.

 

Rain continued to come down hard.  I showered and shaved, then put on clean clothes, using the dirty stuff as packing for the gift bag.  I wore the heavy raincoat and the jungle hat for protection against the rain.

 

It wasn't easy to find an available cab, for the rain always gets all taxis put to good use.  I found one in the darkness.  He charged 500 Ksh each way to the Carnivore Restaurant.  I had heard much about this place, so I decided that it would be a good experience.  The ride took thirty minutes, traveling far outside Nairobi city limits.

 

The restaurant proved to be an amazing place. Immediately on entering I could tell this would be a grand experience.  For a "prix fixe" of 1050 Ksh, it was an eat-all-you-can experience of many unusual meats.  Few vegetables were served.  The ones that were served, were served as garnishment to the meat only.  At a restaurant called The Carnivore, that's exactly what one must expect. 

 

When I walked in I saw a huge charcoal pit with numerous skewers of meat turning, suspended above the red glowing embers. The area for the many spits of meat covered an area larger than most swimming pools.   First, the black waiter in a starched white uniform sat me, and then offered a moist, hot towel for my hands and face, then a gigantic circular sauce tray was brought to my table.  I ate alone, but everybody else sat at huge tables.  This must be where the parties are held.

 

Zebra, pig, boar, crocodile, antelope, sausage of veal, chicken, gazelle, and, of course, there was the mundane beef -- all of it cooked over the charcoal pit.  The meat would roast slowly, then a steward would take the skewer of meat and serve it, slicing a piece or two onto a customer's place, then moving on to another patron until the meat on his skewer was gone.

 

The plates were of black iron, and heated so they would be hot to the touch.  When the first morsels of meat were delivered to me, they sizzled on the plate.  A small paper flag was atop the sauce tray. One steward came over to me and said that they have special rules, which I must learn. 


 

Mombasa Expenses

 

Hotel Splendid - 1 night   $12.00

First Class Train Passage

 to Nairobi                           54.00

Dinner                                       4.00

Taxi - Day                               35.00

Taxi - Miscellaneous trips  16.00

Mask                                      60.00

Tee shirt                                8.00

Bus to Mombasa                20.00

Food and water                 10.00

Admissions                           13.00

   (3 places: 1) crocodile farm 2) Baobab nature trail  3 Fort Jesus                           $232.00

 

Left 9:30 AM Thursday - 11:00 AM Saturday - $77 per day

When I have had enough, I must remove the flag to indicate that "I surrender," until then waiters will continue to bring more meat.  After the flag went up I was offered dessert and Kenyan coffee.  All was delicious, and it was a great experience.  Outside, it was still raining and the taxi waited for me.  I ate for over an hour.  The driver took me back to the hotel where I fell asleep quickly, waking before dawn to prepare for this part of the journey.  Dragging my four pieces of luggage (up from two when I started) . . . They were 1) my backpack, 2) the canes, spear and walking stick, wrapped in burlap cloth.  3) A brown bag containing food and my camera bag, and 4) A huge new bag I purchased in Nairobi, filled with souvenirs and gifts.  I locked or wrapped each container firmly.  I must be very careful of all that happens and watch my possessions if I hope to bring them back to California to share them with family. 

 

 

August 21, 1996      Wednesday         Nairobi, Kenya

 

In the morning Dennis was waiting to bring me to the bus depot.  An early morning taxi cost 300 Ksh, and I promised Dennis 500 Ksh if I got on the bus and had a good seat.

 

As promised, it was a large bus with few passengers.  I had to stow my new bag in the luggage compartment, but everything else went with me. I tried as best I could to situate myself so that I'd be comfortable.  I sat right behind the driver -- a great seat, probably the smoothest seat on the bus.  Shifting and turning my things, I was able to settle in.  I said goodbye to Dennis and paid him the promised 500 Ksh.  I brought cookies and water so I would be able to skip lunch since this would mean leaving the bus and not maintaining visual contact with it.  I watched the scenery pass for two hours before I drifted off for a short nap. 

 


The countryside was beautiful -- maybe the most beautiful I have ever seen:  the rolling hills dotted by small farms and tiny hamlets.  Every mile of roadside often held a minion of vendors, grouped closely together, with homegrown vegetables or fruit.  Sometimes they had goods, like toothpaste or clothing soap, purchased in a city like Nairobi and they wanted to resell it to the country folk, who seldom or never traveled far from home.

 

I watched the hills get bigger and the farms get larger.  Atop one high sloping hill were four huge tea plantations.  The workers were out in the field, each given a brown and yellow vest to distinguish them from the non-invited.  They were hunched down, picking what they were hired to do. Further on, as the hot afternoon sun was at its most brilliant, women were washing clothes in tiny grass-lined ponds, laying the clothes on rocks to dry.  Little girls, sometimes three or four children in a line, walked along the highway carrying huge faggots of sticks atop their heads.

 

We drove for many hours, but the bus was comfortable and the streets were smooth.  The countryside was a thing of beauty.  Even the squalid hutches of the vendors and mud huts that were sprinkled alongside the asphalt ribbon under me all added to the primitive ambience that could be seen in all directions.

 

The people walked unhurriedly to their destinations, often burdened with heavy sacks of cane sugar balanced on top of the backs of many women.  Several commodities were sold in Nairobi for consumption elsewhere -- toilet paper by the gross, sugar in forty pound sacks.

 

At the border in the straddling town of Busia we had to depart from Kenya through the police station put here for that reason.  The guard stamped my passport, then I had to walk about one kilometer to the Ugandan station.

 

Since I had no visa, I was concerned that I would be waylaid here while the visa is obtained.  Back in Los Angeles (before I left for this adventure), the woman at the Ugandan Embassy said no fee or visa is required of a U.S. citizen.  Nervously, I stood in a long line waiting to talk with the Entry Visa Officer.  He took my papers and passport, stamped them and advised me to go.  I didn't hesitate for a moment.

 

The Ugandan side of the border was littered with errant waifs trying to eke out a meager living. Unfortunately, bus passengers were extremely wary of them and the policemen didn’t think twice about grabbing one by the shirttail and whipping him around till the boy falls, prostrated on the dusty, hard earth.  The crack of police batons often could be heard.

 

A few of the young boys and several adults were selling one cigarette at a time, or warm bottles of soda as well as a score of miscellany that might fill some need of a traveler.  Often they would trade among themselves.  If a new bus pulled into the huge yard, the young boys would race to get to them first, however if an adult arrived the adult would chase the boys away.  Usually only words had to be spoken to the boys who sheepishly left.  Undauntedly they sped away to meet a new bus, which had just arrived


 

Every ten minutes a guard would walk through this area with a supple branch with which he would whip the slowest of the boys. As I was about to re-board the bus now parked inside the Ugandan border, I was stopped by a policeman who asked to see my papers then, very politely, asked me to identify my large bag. Although it was muddied and marred now, I pointed to it and asked if he wanted me to open it.  "Yes," he replied, "What is in it?"  I said small gifts and mementos of my journey. "What value?" he persisted. "About $100 US," I said. He advised me that I must pay duty tax on it.  I looked puzzled and surprised that I should be singled out like this.  Then he said "Never mind."  Do I have a gift for him?  No nothing but pens.  He took two. I was advised by the bus driver, who had sat at his seat and quietly watched this episode, to re-board the bus. The hydraulic bus door shut with a huge hiss, and we resumed our journey.

 

In Kampala the traffic was snarled at one corner in particular because there were no signs or lights, and everybody tried to push through the hodgepodge of traffic, making it impossible for any vehicle to go straight through the intersection.  Everybody, including the large bus on which I rode, twisted and turned to weave its way through.  It took an hour to travel one mile in this section of Kampala.  If a policeman could have taken control of the crossing it would have happened in two minutes.

 

After finding a waiting group of taxi touts who know exactly where to wait for this arriving bus, I had befriended a young New Zealand couple, Shane and Janice.  They were on their way to Zaire to see the gorillas.  My goal was much more mundane, I want to see people and cultures, that is it.

 

Besides being close to the airport   I want to see the Tombs near the city, and Queen Elizabeth National Park before I leave for home in two days.  Two English-speaking drivers soon pounced me upon. Janice had a good recommendation of a hostel.  I cordially agreed to share a taxi to their pick of places.  They started at 5,000 Ush (about $5 US).  The other driver said 4,000 Ush.  I turned to the first cabby and queried "3,000?"  He said yes.  The two drivers were friends, but this caused a brief spat between them as we loaded our luggage into the chosen  cab.

 

The hostel was small and on the second floor up a dark flight of cement stairs.  The clerk said we must share a common room for 7,000 Ush each.  All of us were exhausted from the journey so we took the room.  It was now early evening, about seven, but it wasn’t dark yet. I was getting hungry

 

Because none of us had Ugandan shillings and all banks and Forex money exchange offices close at six, it was too late to easily obtain local currency for our dollars.  But the cabby -- Edward, as he introduced himself -- knew to take us to the Sheraton, which is open until nine every night.  There I exchanged one hundred U.S. dollars for 100,101 Ugandan shillings (Ush), that means ten shillings to the penny.


 

Now we could pay Edward and find a place to eat dinner.  We walked around looking for a good place to eat.  Across the street from the hostel was a huge marketplace for the locals to buy produce and other staples of daily Kampala life.  We found no place acceptable to us, so we stopped a cab driver who agreed to take us to a cheap, clean good Kampala restaurant.  The Curry Pot was the name of the place.  It was a bad sign that there was only one patron eating there, but since locals eat dinner earlier we sat down; it appeared clean enough.  I ordered a local favorite, Matooka and goat curry. Matooka is a banana and maize baked and fried thick pancake-type bread.  It doesn’t taste good alone, but dipping a piece into the curry sauce gave it a sweet and sour flavor that appealed to me.  The goat curry was flavorful and good, though a bit greasy.  I ate most of it; there was too much matooka so I left some if it.  This meal cost me about five dollars, a bit on the expensive side, I thought, but tomorrow I will be able to compare more accurately.

 

Plan A  (If everything happens right)

 

 

 

15 - 16            Mombasa

17 - 19            Nairobi to Masai Mara

  19           Nairobi  Carnivore       20 - 23            Uganda

24                    Leave Uganda to Oman

We walked a bit, and then took a taxi back to the hotel.  The streets seem too dangerous for a white man to walk alone.  Back at the hostel we overheard a German man with a representative from the German Embassy talk with the clerk here.  The German man in his twenties was given a biscuit that caused him to sleep.  When he awoke all his possessions were gone and his shoes, too.  Bad story, but it put me on alert.

 

There were a couple of tiny mosquitoes in the room. They escaped capture or annihilation by Shane and I.  We lit a mosquito coil to serve as defense.  I had showered before we left for dinner, so I went right to sleep, waking during the hot, humid night to the angry buzzing of an ear-biting mosquito. I threw the sheet over my head as a last ditch effort to protect myself until morning (which came too soon).

 

 

August 22, 1996     Thursday      Kampala, Uganda

 

I got up while Shane and Janice noisily prepared to leave.  I dressed however, since I slept almost fully dressed except for my shoes, it didn’t take long.  I waited for Edward, the cab driver, impatiently.  A few minutes before our meeting time of 8:30 a.m. I bought a big straw mat for 3,000 shillings and some twine for $.50 US.  I brought these things back to the hotel to wrap the long wooden cane and the two poles even better.

 

A young black boy of five, also staying in the hotel with his father, was mystified by me.  I gave him a pen, and did a couple of magic tricks for him.  He loved the magic and the attention.  We became silent friends since he understands no English, and I knew only six word in Swahili. 

 


The boy saw me working to prepare the package of poles and he walked over to help me wrap the sticks tightly.  I thanked him, and then left the hotel for the day, not returning until just before five, local time.  I walked a few feet from the hotel until I was confronted with several cabbies.  I discussed the price to go to the Tombs and back.  Not knowing how far away they really were put me at a distinct disadvantage, which I tried my best to conceal.  I took the cheapest offer from a cab driver and for 10,000 Ush (about ten dollars), he would take me there and back.

 

The ascending road that led to the Tombs was a deeply rutted dirt path, not far from the hotel.  The street, as it was, ended fifty feet beyond the Tombs.  Here was the earthly remains of a King of Uganda who is somehow still revered so much that his son recently returned from exile in London and now vies for power amidst a quiet clamor to bring back a King. I don't understand how a people can want such an omnipotent leader regardless of how benevolent he may be; yet on the other hand, there is a secure peace among the people now with the current President, who has outlawed other political parties (for the present, he says). The masses are strangers to what Machiavelli said about power.

 

The cabby walked with me into the gigantic oversized thatched hut where the Ex-King was entombed.  I saw it alone; no one else in the town was there except one old woman caretaker. I left a monetary offering, as was the custom. Afterwards my driver explained some of the significant artifacts displayed.  It wasn’t anything that I wanted a postcard of. Just as a note when I am new to a town, I always look at the local postcards, which are always available except at the most primitive of places.  Narratives found in travel guides reflect the opinions and feelings of the writer.   The postcards tell me whether I’m going there or not.

 


Next he drove me to the Uganda Museum, which was actually quite good. It mostly had things, acquired locally, which involved the history of this country. Nothing here would ever find its way on a worldwide tour.  It cost 3,500 Ush for non-Ugandan adults.  But they wanted 3,000 more if I wanted to videotape anything.  I figured I’d look around then if I want to film I’d pay the extra money.  It was interesting but it just wasn't that impressive.

 

Next he brought me to a place where local crafts of Uganda are sold in a circular conglomeration of independent stalls. I bought a few small things as gifts.

 

I stopped at a tour operator's office to go to Queen Elizabeth Park, but for one day it would not have been easily (or cheaply) possible.  I arranged to have one operator pick me up in Kampala, help me find a hotel in Entebbe, then take me around the lake by powerboat. Cost:  $120.00 US.  Since this would be my last day here, I felt that it would be very relevant and educational for me.  He is to pick me up at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning here.  I had to exchange more dollars to KSH so I can pay tomorrow when I am picked up.

 

I went back to the hotel, which was by then quiet.  It seemed almost deserted.  After a half hour, I left and found the cab driver out front waiting for me -- he made good money, twenty US dollars, taking me around this morning

  

It is two hours past the noon hour and the sky had darkened considerably.  Everyone knew the rain would come soon.  The driver brought me to a Forex money exchanger, then to the China Palace where I had a very good lunch, even though it was three times more expensive than a regular restaurant.  The eggrolls were exceptional, but the meal cost thirteen thousand Ugandan shillings.

 

The rain continued, but the wetness was not enough to deter me from making the short trip to Lake Victoria.   To get to the town on the banks of the lake, this cabby made his aged vehicle swim through large ponds that grew in the low points of the road.  A parade of cars made the wet journey, many were in front of us and many more were behind.   One pond was fifty feet long and about two feet deep at its deepest.  I came back to the hotel, having enjoyed this wet experience.

 

He drove me to Gabba, a lakeside-fishing town. Like other parts of Uganda, small time commerce was very active.  I walked along the edge of the gigantic lake.  I filmed the town and a mass of fifty huge birds that congregated at a nearby grassy knoll that the Ugandans avoided.  Each bird had a mottled rusty red head, and their neck was un-feathered.  The two foot tall bird had a six-inch white tufted collar that circled its shoulders. Gray feathers covered the rest of its body, except for the clawed feet.  These roguish birds looked like some sort of vulture and clearly seemed to be waiting for discarded fish, for this was a community whose commerce was heavily based on fishing.  As I walked along the water’s edge the fishermen were cleaning their catch. Looking back at the birds, I noticed they were hopping around in nervous anticipation of when the people would leave and they could enjoy the fish entrails left behind.

 

Now that it was very close to my return to the U.S., I spend much more time thinking of Marcy and my family. I look longingly forward to returning. There were many times when I wished Marcy was with me, but even with the hindsight I now possess, I don't think this would have been her favorite adventure.  It was just too tough.  I know she would have put on a happy face through the tribulations I had to bear, but the everyday discomforts were sometimes hard for me to carry.


 

The humidity hangs in the air with the heat making it difficult for me to relax in the room in the early evening.  I'll take a shower soon -- with good fortune there might be hot water, although I don't expect it.  While writing the last few pages, power went out in the neighborhood three times for ten minutes at a time.

 

Tonight I shared a room with a teacher from northern Uganda and a student from Zaire.  They took great interest in the items I brought from America -- especially those things that were new technology.   Simon, the teacher, told me that his school only gets 600 Ush a day per student  -- just enough for two cups of tea and a bowl of beans with flour or maize. 

I offered to exchange some of my stuff for art or crafts of high quality, but Simon said it is 250 miles to his home where crafts are very cheap, and the other fellow from Zaire had a very limited knowledge of English and spoke a different language than Simon so translation had to be done through another fellow who understands both.  We are both trying to bridge the language barrier, but it is tough. The three of us found much humor when, in the darkness, I shined the laser light, from our third story window, to the walkway used by pedestrians on the other side of the street below. Laughter transcends it all and never needs translation.

 

 

August 23, 1996   Friday    Entebbe, Uganda

 

At 3:30 a.m., I awoke to find lights on brightly across the street at the produce marketplace.  Only a few people were busy.  I showered and shaved without electricity (ergo; no light) and without hot water (no electricity).  The air was moist and warm as it had been throughout my trip, so the lack of hot water was no great inconvenience.  My small flashlight was adequate to light the small room and hallway, so I felt comfortable showering a few minutes later.

 

Having spent carefully and under budget, I decided to splurge a bit for my last full day in Africa.  I went to a fancy restaurant.  Everything requires negotiation.  I arranged for a short drive up the hill to the restaurant.  Even after negotiations were concluded at $1 U.S. he wanted to renege insisting the drive was further than he anticipated.  Being the soft touch I think I am, I paid him $1.50.

 

I had time to reflect about East Africa over a good cup of coffee.  The morning started early again for me, but the restaurant didn’t open until six so I waited until it opened.

 

When I returned to my room, I spent long minutes watching the men labor over huge truckloads of cane sugar and green bananas on heavy stalks.  The women massed in one corner of the street, where they seemed to be managed by one man who, I could tell by his facial expressions, gestures, and tone of voice, cajoled the women.  That is what he did: building spirits and preparing them mentally for whatever it was that was their task to do.  I saw not what they did because they were led out at night in the huge marketplace.

 


Women of Kampala -- like other women in the East Africa I have seen--- live life subservient to the menfolk.  Often carrying a child wrapped around back and waist.  Women will carry heavy loads balanced atop their head.  I noticed that in the evening women are seldom seen on the streets since household chores require tediously long hours without the aid of modern technology.

 

The Ugandan teacher, Simon, who I met last night, was explaining to me that, like many poor countries, the parents will often keep their children out of school because schooling is not compulsory yet and the parents, lacking education themselves, feel that it is necessary to have the children toil in the field.  The predominant feelings of the fathers reflect a personal philosophy that says if it was good enough for me to have little or no formal education, so it is so for my children   This is especially true for the girls who have a much lower 'value' in the eyes of the current Ugandan society.  Signs of the women's struggle for equality are beginning to glimmer in dark corners of Kampala, but it will be years before the impact of the changing ways of the world are felt here.

 

As I was on my way to breakfast, I saw a banner proclaiming a site was being used today for a conference for women judges of Uganda.  I had also noticed numerous signs regarding family planning were directed specifically to men.  One sign said: "Men who care about their family - plan," then some verbiage about birth control.  No such signs did I see directed to women or people without reference to men only.  To the most cursory of visitors, the answer to this question is clear.  In this part of the world all important decisions are made by the father.   Women are seldom consulted for their opinion.

 

Having finished breakfast, the sun was shining nicely this morning, I decided to take the three kilometer walk back to my hotel. If I get lost then I'll take a taxi, but I think I know the way.  Without much delay or missteps, I found the hotel.  I sat down and began a discussion of travel and travel philosophy with John, a 23-year-old from England who was well traveled in Africa, but elsewhere not yet.  He has the travel fever, and I'm certain he'll get around much further before too long.

 

The sky was clear and offered no suggestion of rain.  When Moses came to pick me up, I was ready.  I had them take my bags carefully to the waiting cab.  Both the driver and guide went by the name "Moses" . . . easy for me to remember. 

 

First, as I had instructed them, we went to a Forex money changer.  Then, I could pay the 120,000 USH.  If it looked like heavy rain would happen, I wouldn't go.  After paying Moses, we left for the trip to Lake Victoria.  I was the only fare-paying passenger.  The driver and guide were there for me alone.

 

The next stop was at the hotel, this one in Entebbe, close to the airport.  While this room cost $17.50 for the night, it was clean, quiet, and the bed was firm.  The restaurant-bar downstairs offered its posted menu on a blackboard behind the bar. My selection, if I go down to it later, will be the barbecued (they said, "roasted") goat on a skewer with chips (in America we'd call them french fries.)  This will cost 3,599 Ush or $3.50 U.S.

 

After leaving my stuff in the hotel -- everything except my camera gear and light jacket, I got back into the waiting cab. They had selected the hotel, it was not in my book, but I looked at the room and it really seems okay.

 


Next stop, the airport.  The new Entebbe airport seems modern  -- much bigger than the old one, which is now a deserted parcel of land with a few decaying buildings remaining amidst tall weeds.  The unwanted encroaching vegetation was fighting to reclaim the entire lot, pushing up through slowly widening cracks in the abandoned asphalt runways.  No picture taking was allowed.  The old airport had served as the site of an airplane hijacking in the seventies, which ended when the Israelis covertly flew into Entebbe and rescuing hostages. That was during the reign of Adi Amin, a loathsome despot still hated and despised by Ugandans today.  He had a heavy hand in repression of the Ugandans.  Battle scars and bullet holes from those days are visible occasionally throughout the city of Kampala and elsewhere.

 

Once past the outer security gates of the new airport, the cab stopped to let the guide, Moses, and me out.  There was no open booth for Gulf, but a rifle-bearing guard directed us down a long dark hallway on the second floor.  There were very few people in this terminal, and no airplanes in sight.  Although it seemed prepared to handle heavier traffic, it was uneasily quiet -- I always expect an airport to be very busy.

 

At the end of the hallway was a door with a sticker from Gulf Air.    We knocked softly, but no one responded.  Not to be deterred, I tried the doorknob to discover it was unlocked. We entered the small 20' x 20' office, where two young women sat.  The tall clerk offered to help while the other was deep into a phone conversation in Arabic.  She said I needed no further check-in, but she will send a telex to London confirming my passage on the flight. Moses said, after he spoke with the lanky girl, that I should have called to confirm seating two days ago. Since she had confirmed my seat on the flight, I thanked her then we left.

 

I hope my return trip is smooth but I realize that until I reach London, many things just happen differently in this part of the world, just more casually here.  Timetables, seating, etc. are not as rigidly structured as in the so-called "Western (civilized) World."

 

Moses #1 and I rush back to the taxi where Moses #2 is sitting behind the steering wheel.  Moses #1 says we are running a little late on the schedule he has prepared. Our next adventure was out to the shores of Lake Victoria, where we stopped in a small fishing village. Moses negotiated with two older boys to take me out to an island which is occupied by one extended family occupies as caretakers, "Nfo Island." 

 

 


The boat was outboard-powered, so we made a quick 15-minute journey through calm lily covered waters.  Like other villages, this one was busy in its own way. Since its commerce centered around fishing, almost all activity was by the shoreline.  Women tended steaming cauldrons, filled within an inch of the top, with myriad concoctions of dark, mysterious African flavors.  Each flavor wafted through the air like invisible waves caressing my nostrils with wondrous odors, all enticing.  Nonetheless, I'm careful about what passes my lips.  While my palate craves the adventure, my intellect instructs me to exercise caution.  I decide to have no meal here.  I wandered through a string of fishermen preparing boats and nets to earn their living for today.  I climbed aboard the skiff and off we were out to the island.

 

I saw beautiful wildlife, including monkeys, eagles, and numerous other birds that I couldn't identify by species.  I spied a crocodile, hidden among the water lilies, waiting for an unsuspecting bird to rest near its motionless body. The eagles were a spectacular pair with a huge erratically shaped nest constructed of large twigs.  I walked past a small cordoned yard which held several tall marijuana plants that the young men had cultivated for personal consumption.

 

Back in the boat, we circumnavigated the island, pausing to purchase a fresh catch of Tilapia fish very commonly found in this lake.  We paid two hundred Ush for a large one that, back on shore, an old man fileted for 500 Ush.

 

It was lunchtime, so we chose a fish lunch -- what else?  After slitting the belly of the fish and cleaning out the internal organs from the fish it was wholly deep-fried by tossing the fish, with head and tail intact, into a large deep black skillet filled with hot oil.   We sat and picked the delicious, fresh flesh from its bones. The two Moses’ and I ate three fish apiece. Each fish was about six inches long, so the meal -- even at three fish -- was not a large one.

 


I got back into the cab as three small groups of young naked children converged around me.  One child had a dirty worn bandage covering an infected sore atop his head. I took out one of the metallic bandages I brought with me.  With the mother's permission I daubed a bit of antiseptic on the wound and changed his bandage.  There were others there that could have benefited for some simple treatment but I was twenty miles from my first aid kit, and the trip was over rough roads. I regret not having made the journey back to my medical supply kit now.  I admit my selfish behavior with shame, instead I chose to use my last day in Africa for myself.

 

We drove off after I threw six pens to the gathered village children through the open window of the car.  The children scattered for them as we drove off on the dirt road.

 

The children chanted a word at me, all looking at in a strange way and pointing a finger at me.  They word they chanted was MUZUNGU.  It means white man, but it also means one who always is moving, always traveling.  From their perspective, whites don't ever stay long, they just pass through, hence the moniker they had for me and those like me.  I certainly epitomized that term.

 

Our next stop, the Ugandan Botanical Gardens, would hardly be described as wonderful, more likely the word would be mundane. The area did have some nice trees and a pretty walking path that followed the coastline of the lake, but there was little of interest to me, and the absence of flowers in a botanical garden was strange.  I had always imagined I would find lush tropical gardens on the steamy equatorial regions.  A black and white monkey was high in the trees eating fruit, dropping discarded remains to the ground below with a thump.   Children played in the open fields of grass, happily running up and down the graceful knolls.  A cloud-filled sky floated over toward Kampala fifteen miles away.  I could see that meant certain rain for the city.

 

I walked with Moses #1 and Moses #2 along the two-mile path, enjoying the good weather here in Entebbe.  The humidity, once very comfortable, was now becoming too moist.

 

The two Moses' drove me back to the hotel in Entebbe.  I walked to a tiny grocery next to the hotel so that I might purchase two bottles of water and two boxes of cookies.  As I was bringing them to my room, I met Amir, the owner of this nice twenty-room hotel.   He claimed Canadian citizenship with his cousin who shared a room with him here. Our casual conversation grew to a discussion about the raincoat and the hat that I traded for a mask and a wall carving of his.  I didn't really want to bring the dirt encrusted hat or the heavy rubber raincoat on the flight home so I was happy to leave them with Amir.

 

We discussed other African crafts and where I could get them.  Naturally, the best and cheapest are directly from the craftspeople.  This was no surprise to me, but where? He invited me to take a short drive in his jeep to a nearby woman's house.  She expertly weaves baskets.  I wanted none, although I admit to apprehension of walking into the wretched home.  It was clean, but only lit by a candle, and the six inhabitants of this tiny wooden dwelling shared mats or mattresses cast in two of the three-room cottage.  I respectfully admired the baskets, which she asked little money for.  I couldn't carry any of these easily damaged artifacts.  I bought nothing.


 

Amir drove me back to the hotel and continued the conversation in a very friendly manner, which mildly alarmed me.  I was thinking of what calamity could befall me, not having any major loss of property or other setback happen yet, I was still expecting one.  I thought of all kinds of weird stuff, not excluding scenes from "Psycho." I securely locked my door.  I worked in the warm room, trying to securely pack everything in preparation for the flight tomorrow.  I fear some of the things I bought may break, despite precautions I have taken to pack well.  I tried to use my abundance of dirty clothes as cushioning in each bag.

 

 

August 24, 1996   Saturday    Entebbe, Uganda

 

I awoke early, showered, and shaved, then because I was still tired, I went back to sleep.

 

I walked around after getting up 45 minutes later.  I was looking for a place to eat some light breakfast.  I could not find a restaurant or snack bar that would open before eight this morning.  I stood on the street for a moment, and a cab driver found me.  I didn't have to look for one; I only have to "look like I'm waiting," and drivers will ask if I want a taxi.  If I were black, they would not queue up for me.  It is my whiteness that betrays me as a outlander. He originally asked for $10.00 to deliver my bags and me to the Entebbe Airport, but a few words of negotiation to use his services brought it to $6.00; the 500 USH (about $.50) was a tip. At the airport five miles from the hotel, I paid the driver $6.50.    Bargaining is an integral part of the exchange of goods and services in most impoverished countries. 

 

I got out at the airport and a porter took my bags and assisted me with everything so that I could park it comfortably until the window for Gulf opens in a few minutes.  I had much to carry now, much more than when I arrived in Africa.   I wrote some last minute postcards in the airport cafeteria.  I was not able to buy coffee since it wasn't made yet.  I mailed the postcards -- all to family -- then waited for the Gulf Airlines' window to open for my 10:45 a.m. flight to Oman.

 

When the counter opened, inauspiciously, other passengers saw and pushed to form long lines instantaneously.  I laboriously walked over to join the queue. I seemed to pick the slowest of three lines.  When only two other people were checking in before me in my line, I noticed the first fellow at the counter had many bags . . . way too many.  He was checking in for his eleven-member mischpoke.   As other lines let passengers through quickly, my line was at a standstill.  The clerk had to confer with someone else whether extra charges or if no permission would be granted at all.  While she stepped away for a moment, all power in the building was shut off for a minute, and she had to re-enter each parcel and passenger on his set of tickets all over again.  And the clerk took forever. 

 

The lady in front of me had a diplomatic passport and only one bag, so it was a mystery to me why it should take almost as long as the Indian fellow before her.  I was growing impatient in a country where patience is paramount. “Ahh, it’s my turn!”, I screamed ecstatically (to myself).  She slowly wrote the slips and paraphernalia that would allow me to board.  The young woman behind the counter checked my bags all the way to LAX.  She said that it is okay to do that, and  was reasonably certain that the bags would almost magically appear there at the same time I do.  I was willing to take the risk and hope for the best.  I mean, what are the odds here?


 

Once in Oman I hope to go into Muscat and meet my friend, who I met on the plane coming into Africa. I let the clerk reserve a seat on the plane by a window in the Smoking Section.  Anxious to be home, I quickly thanked her then moved on, no longer burdened with my bags except one bag containing valuables and camera equipment.

 

What happens next is anybody's guess.  The airport seemed quiet once I got past the ticket counter.  I sat, knowing that I will have at least thirty minutes to wait until the gate opens and I can board the plane.  My mind thinks of Marcy, Carol, Mark, Sarah, Mom and Dad, Steve, Sue, Michelle, and Jessica. I miss them badly, especially Marcy. I don't look forward to going back to the office because there will certainly be some sort of major problem awaiting me, then issues of the new house and seeing that Sarah does well. Mom and Dad's health is something I am concerned about.  Carol's situation with Mike and her job.  I wonder how far the earthquake plan with Steve moved forward.  Mark and Marcy -- I think they have things well in hand. If they didn't behave as they do I know I would feel much less comfortable through this journey and study of East Africa.

 

I would like, in the future, to visit West Africa.  I have been told it is considerably different and the political climate more volatile. It would not be good to be there when things are exploding.  I don't think that I'd enjoy a trip without Marcy in the near future. 

 

I neglected to mention one brief episode of minor consequence when I was in Kampala.  One evening recently I was attempting to trade with the transitory residents of the hotel.  While the people I conversed with professed to have or acquire quickly any craft of a local nature, I gave three of the men a ballpoint pen as a gift.  Each welcomed the acquisition and thanked me.  I gave as a gift the bottle of vitamins I hardly used at all to the schoolteacher for his students living on such a poor diet as I have described earlier.

 

Flight #714 on Gulf from Entebbe to Oman had a one-hour long stop scheduled in Nairobi.  Leaving was scheduled at 10:45 P.M., 45 minutes later we'd be in Nairobi.  The longest leg, from Nairobi to Oman, would land at 7:45 P.M. local time, losing one hour for a flight time of eight hours.

 

The seats were a bit tight, and the plane filled rapidly with passengers.  I found my seat and waited for the take-off.  The take-off was delayed 35 minutes.  When we landed in Nairobi I watched the left wing wobble in an unusual manner.   I bought a carton of cigarettes for $9.00 when we were in the air again.

 

They served a good lunch of grilled chicken breast with potatoes, peas and carrots.  Coffee and a marzipan candy finished the meal.  I ate ravenously, having not eaten breakfast.

 

During the flight I watched Sergeant Bilko with Steve Martin in the starring role.  The seating arrangements allowed for seven passengers across in "economy" section.  Along the side where I sat two seats adjoined each other, separated from the other seats by an aisle. 

 


My assigned seatmate was Rageet, an Indian who has a low-level job working for the Somalian mission to the UN.  This allows him sufficient pay to afford to go to his hometown at the southernmost tip of India for a family wedding Hindu-style.  We carried on a very cordial conversation, although I had difficulty understanding his English because of his heavy Indian accent.  He was fluent in his native dialect and Swahili, along with English.

 

He has traveled much more than ninety-five per cent of residents of Nairobi, where he works.  Most people find themselves saddled with a strong unfulfilled desire to travel to foreign lands, but issues of finance impede those wishes of almost all but the most affluent.

 

I’ve grown tired, but I’m afraid to sleep because we will land soon, and I'll have to change my slippers for my boots before disembarking.    The Muscat landing in Oman was quick.  I had problems using my visa.  It was thoroughly inspected.  Finally I passed through, even though it will only be for five hours.

 

I hired a taxi to take me, in the darkness, into the town.  Military men walked along the street with their rifles slung over their back.  As I drove through the main circle of old Muscat, the river -- which supplied the fresh water to Muscat -- gurgled loudly.  The streets were quiet and though it is only 9 a.m., almost every business is closed.  Historically this Sultanate has great meaning with East Africa.  The Portuguese from Goa (in India) traveled through East Africa getting slaves and trading goods.  The slave trade boomed for a few years then, influenced by Dr. Stanley Livingston in Britain, it was slowly stopped.  The last slaves were shipped here from Zanzibar and Dar Es Salaam in the late 1800's .

 

I drove back to the airport after eating a delicious rice, cashew nut, and chicken stew with bell peppers and chunks of a soft yellow vegetable (possibly squash).  It was somehow perfumed, maybe as the result of a mixture of sweet spices, smelling of lilac.

 

At the airport I paid the driver about $11. The rial in Oman is worth $2.65.  There is a smaller denomination of paper money down to the 100.  Then 1,000 equal one rial.

 

While sitting eating a small bit of candy, I began talking to a man who sat in front of me on the flight from Kampala.  His name is Abdihoshi Ashkir.  He flew to Muscat and awaits his flight with his assistant.  He offered me a cup of tea, which I accepted.  Then he began his tale of woe. 

 

While he currently lives in Kampala, he did live in Mogadishu, Somalia, which he still calls home, but because of the civil unrest that continues there he will stay in Kampala, Uganda until the dust settles.  He owned a large compound that was used by the US military and a support firm called Brown & Riding. While the military forces -- US Army primarily -- occupied the huge 1,000 meter compound containing a large hotel swimming pool, office building, and small homes.  Another fellow, Tifow, an employee of Ashkir, claimed ownership, so the US paid Tifow $9,000.

 


Now the US, having recognized its error, is negotiating for the food, services and supplies the troops and officers used while there. The U.N. feels that Hosh (as he is known) owes money to the UN.  Obviously all the pieces don't fit here.  No attempt, according to Hosh, was made to seek recompense from Tifow.   Further, he contended that an officer of the UN visited him after he was recognized as the true owner and it was not, as first believed owned by another "clan."  The unnamed UN official said that for Hosh to get his money he must pay (under the table to the group of U.N. officials) half of what he is to get paid.  The UN official said that since there is no recognized government currently in Somalia, in order for things to get done the official must get paid. Having already concluded an agreement with the Army and B&R, there was no room to split the money, which he would have done.   They asked for the money AFTER the deal was negotiated.

 

Hosh refused to pay them and consequently found himself embroiled in a legal battle on international grounds.  He feels he is losing the battle and believes all of this is unfair and was the result of refusing to pay a handsome kickback to the unnamed UN official.  His assistant sat by quietly nodding his head or responding with an affirmation in general tones as his employer spoke.  Konyashi or Kolyashi was head of the UN commission asking for the money.  Part of his story he supported by showing me documents indicating that the UN was seeking some sort of payment from him. Needless to say the problem, without resolution, has come to higher authorities, out of African courts and into some "civilized" courts in the US.  He sees the slow progress now likely to culminate in a solution soon.  He still employs the old uneducated bodyguard Tifow since he was merely a pawn in a game set up by somebody else.  Tifow only got $1,000 of the $9,000 and really had no clear idea what he was doing.

 

 

August 25, 1996   Sunday  Going Home/In the Air

 

I suffered through a long journey from 1 a.m. to 8 p.m. in a middle aisle seat, which I was given when I gave up a preferred aisle seat so a woman could sit next to her daughter.  I sat in a seat that left me pushed between two large men.  Since I’m not exactly small either, this made for a very cramped existence.  I slept very little, only getting two hours of sleep.  Unfortunately, the two hours were not together.  I only fell asleep when meals were being served.  Once, I had to bring to the attention of the pink-costumed stewardess my lack of a meal, which she quickly remedied in a very kind fashion. 

 

When we arrived at London Heathrow I was glad to step onto the ground, regardless if it was within the confined spaces and halls allocated to transferring passengers only.  It was quite a long distance to walk along the "Duty Free Shops" that lined the spacious halls of the airport terminal.  I bought a few small edible gifts for friends back in LA, some chocolate, and a couple packs of cigarettes, I checked in for the final leg of the flight home, truly wishing this torture of flying would end, but I need to endure a bit more.  Everywhere I stop or sit I meet interesting people coming or going to new and unusual places.

 

The flight to L.A. boards a few minutes after ten in the morning, local time.  We're expected to taxi-off forty-five minutes later.  Although I was very tired I got on the plane quickly.   I stopped to eat a crisply toasted baguette stuffed with cheddar cheese and a thick slice of ham.    I washed it down with a few gulps of coke -- all before boarding.  I'll sleep better on the plane after having eaten.

 


I put all my gear overhead and plopped down in my seat.  This airplane offers more space in its seating arrangement than Gulf.  This is American Airlines.  A successful take-off, and  in 11 hours I will reach L.A.  Cruising air speed is usually around 500 mph and altitude in the 3,700 foot range.  I know Marcy is as anxious for my arrival as I am to see her.  Strange, I don't expect my family to meet me, but I know Marcy will be there.  Not that any one of my family wouldn't come if I called them -- I know they would show --but Marcy wouldn’t want it any other way. Every minute that ticks by I know I'm that much closer to her.  At 6 p.m. a noticed flashed on the television monitors overhead: “4128 miles to L.A.; estimated time of arrival - 2:12 p.m.: altitude - 10,100 m or 33,000 ft; 1,718 miles from London, so the trip is 5,846 miles from L.A. to London”, and we have 8.14 hours to go. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections of East Africa  - Looking Back through my Eyes

 

I had difficulty arranging my thoughts immediately after the trip so I let the barrage of sensory input brew a bit in my brain before I committed to thoughts on paper.

 

There still is a great deal of beauty in East Africa.  Its immenseness allows nature to find comfortable places to reside.  I found shocking the mistreatment of the Africans. The abuse by so many fraudulent, or at least self-serving, “foundations,” which pandered to citizens of wealthier countries pleading the case of defenseless animals and the need for financial support.  These groups raised money to build a nicer building or buy another expensive Hummer, which is a luxurious jeep-like automobile.

 

I was angered by their methodology, although I have never supported any of these “foundations” to save any animal.  The answer is to help the people to earn money so that they don’t have to commit these so-called “transgressions”.   The fear of the loss of the tourists dollars is, I think, what has motivated these countries to put on the face of concern about animal welfare and preservation of rare species.  But the people have been overlooked.  The humanitarian causes of this part of the world are disjointed from the humans that are indigenous to this soil.  It is strange to realize the poor focus that Americans, especially, have. We can easily see the suffering of “poached” animals used for eating and the sale of certain animal parts, but we lack the vision to see WHY the problem will never end until the people are dealt with.

 


I was surprised to see other Muzungu bicycling along dirt paths that were identified to me by Moses, but I should have been able to identify them myself.  They were always young clean-cut young Caucasians wearing dark pants and white shirts.   Mormons! I could hardly believe it, but after I saw them cycling from one village to another.  They seem to be the only ones really helping the African people.

 

Wherever I looked, there were no signs of the work of the “foundations.”  It is possible that they played some part in the financial support and staffing of the animal preserves.    Maybe they just worked “behind the scenes,” maybe they were in places I didn’t go to, or maybe as I suspect, they have no significant, useful purpose.

 

Dare I write words that others who read them will find the words expressing unpopular thoughts?  I dare.   The black people of America denigrate themselves by calling themselves African-American (This term is currently in vogue.)  They must cease this practice and call themselves “Americans”.  They are not African, not even a little bit.  Everybody who is an American citizen is no hyphenated American, we all came from somewhere other than America, with the notable exception of Native Americans. 

 

The suffering of slavery, mistreatment through many years and segregation must be mixed with the opportunities of America.   If one can “make it,” then others can too.  The blacks of America must thank God for the sacrifices of their ancestors, because in Africa today, from what I have seen, they are treated much worse.  All of our ancestors, who made the journey to America, made such sacrifices.  Not all did the journey willingly, but they are here nonetheless and must make the best of it.   I look forward to an opportunity to talk with a black person who has made a similar journey to mine.  I really wonder if he perceived the same reality differently than I did.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                       WHAT PERSONAL LESSONS I HAVE BEEN TAUGHT

 

The more I travel, the more I realize that every man is the same.  We all want only three things:    peace        food on the table         a warm place to sleep.

 

Uganda                  93 exchange rate

 

 

Kampala                $1 = 1185 Ugandan Shillings

To see Murchison Falls (3 day $400 plan)

and Kasubi Tombs (near to town)

To stay (pg. 369):

1)     Nakasero Lodge

2)     Kampala Tourist Motel on Kampala

 

Wars are government-made, and only if people can be deprived of one of those things will they really be motivated by any external force to fight.  Fighting for freedom is fake.   Fighting for “freedom” is the result of strong governmental laws of conscription and great advertising.   No country and no man is truly free unless he is free from the shackles of governmental laws that exceed the boundaries of natural law by one inch.

 

It is the journey, not the goal that must be enjoyed for a happy life.  The achievement of a superficially imposed goal lasts for but a passing moment.  As quickly as it is attained, a new goal must be set -- if one needs that sort of guidance.  I once heard it said that a ship with no rudder will never reach a port. But I think that the pleasure of life, the real fruit, is the journey through it.

 

Jambo

 

Hello

 

Karibou

 

You are welcome

 

Asanti

 

Thank you

 

Maji

 

Water

 

Kwaheri

 

Good bye

 

Salama

 

Hello

 

.


The spices of an adventure are its problems. Without adversity, without a problem to solve, a vacation is even more boring than everyday life.  The memories people hold dearest are how they overcame and triumphed.  If the trains are all on schedule, if the food is always served timely and well, if the lodging is always clean and up to expectations, there is no verve to that, no sparkle or interest – well then there is nothing to speak or write about. Yes, it is the problems that challenge our abilities and create a lasting memory in the way we meet that challenge.

 

There are those that relish a vacation with a strong emphasis toward relaxation.  I can only speak for myself when I say that in some number of years I will catch up on my missed periods of relaxation.  I will have an eternity to do so.   Now, I have a few moments of life and I do not want to wait until I am old, and then talk of what I should have done.  I have heard a friend once comment that any man on his deathbed has never uttered the words, “I wish I would have spent more time at the office.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Journals of My Travels through East Africa

During the Month of August 1996  


Lived and Written by Mike Richards

 

 

 

 

 

These pages were written each day while I backpacked, by myself, across

parts of East Africa, including Tanzania, Zanzibar, Kenya and Uganda