Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Day Four

Over ten years ago, our parents went to Africa, visited the Ngorongoro Crater and stayed at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. Today, our trips will converge.

I remember that Emily, my stepmom, organized the trip as a surprise for my Dad. We had a babysitter (Gretchen) for 3 weeks and I remember fun times with the parents on the other side of the world. That's a different post entirely.

Before we get back in our safari vehicle, I pop a few Dramamine. In addition to preparing the PDF, I also took great effort to prepare a first aid kit - I even consulted with an MD/Carleton Grad who had done the Kili trip a few years prior.

Shout out to Emily Pike: Thank you so much for your answers and reassurances before and even during the trip.

For some reason, I find myself compelled to organize the first aid kit. Repeatedly. I think it's how I'm dealing with a little bit of anxiety I've been feeling.

Before we departed my Dad told my sister (in his very Dad-esque way) "Don't go looking to make adventure. It's already there."

Today, I start to understand what he means.

The road into the crater is steep and narrow. It makes me nervous. I have no idea. No idea how my Dad did this without peeing in his pants.

Then, for no apparent reason at all, my door flies open. Luckily, I'm not leaning on it or anything but that also scares the shit out of me. I tighten my grip on the roll bar and armrest. No seatbelt, remember. If my hands were free, I would be doing some serious first aid kit rearranging right now.

We also have little to no visibility due to dust. I've already gone through a pack of WetOnes and I have no idea how much more dust we're going to encounter on this trip.

The road is rough. "Free back massage" - according to our guide.

As soon as we get some visibility the first thing I see, off a cliff on the side of the road, is a safari jeep. Upside down. Driver. Died. I am stirred. I feel sick.

I think about the fine line between adventure and danger. I think about manufacturing adventure. I wonder what it means that I'm on the other side of the world. It's not like I have a dull life and I'm out here to liven it up and find some new meaning for myself. In fact, I'm extraordinarily happy with my life at home. I think the fact that I am as content as I am is what makes this trip a little different than others. I even have a picture of *home* and the picture gives me great calm. The fact that I'm feeling so emotional so easily and so soon concerns me. I blame it all on the Malaria medication.

We finally make it into the crater and the game drive begins.

Live action warthog.

This feels like a tourist standard issue observation, but we really can get quite close to the wildlife. The encounter with the mama and baby lions (meow, my precious) is remarkable.

Like all good travelers, we stay hydrated. Which means, we also need to pee. But, we're in a crater. With wildlife. So, our driver pulls over and we moon some Wildebeast. Also, you'll note from the video how windy it was. That was tricky.

I made it a point to wear my Durham Bulls baseball hat. My hope is that I'll encounter someone familiar with the team. Do these guys count?

Most people don't spot wildlife. They simply spot a collection of jeeps and figure there's something interesting around. We see such a collection and venture to see what's so intriguing. I mean, really, I see camera lenses that are so hard core I really think that Princess Diane might be hiding out in the crater.

Turns out it's a black rhino. Apparently, this is very rare. To be honest, the rhino is so far away, and so indistinguishable, I'm not entirely convinced it's not a tire.

Our guide provides us with some information about what we're seeing, and there's a Lonely Planet guidebook in the jeep, but I do wish I knew more about what I was seeing. After my last big trip, I considered doing a trip with my college. In fact, it was the Carleton College Alumni Adventures brochure that gave me the idea to go to Africa and try Kili in the first place. We opted not to do the college route due to price, but I still see the appeal in traveling with an academic group and am keeping that on the consideration list for trips.

As we head back to another Serena Lodge, the knob comes off of shifter on the safari vehicle. I'm at the point where I have to laugh at that sort of thing.

The Serena lodge is just as nice as the last one and I'm glad for it. Most people are dressed casually but we do notice one woman who is dressed to the nines, dripping in jewels wearing monster heals. There's a performance at the lodge and as she watches the acrobats she has just one remark "That's just not possible." Seriously, it's like she's a parrot and that's the only thing she says. Teri and I find great amusement in this scene and when we laugh about it, we refer to her as "Heels."

After dinner I find the internet. Friend Colin sent me pictures from the dance weekend and I find them comforting. And, Colin is on chat and it's nice to connect to someone from home. In fact, given that he keeps bizarre hours Colin was online quite reliably when I logged on and it was nice to be able to send and receive a "Hello." So, thanks Colin for being my Africa chat pal.

Some pics from the day.

Hippos. Hungry, Hungry, Hippos. Remember that game?

Jamie, Teri, Crater.

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