Monday, July 28, 2008

Day 4: Scariest night ever...for a while

If you have ever heard the growl of an elephant then you know it will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. If, like me last night you have been alone in a small tent in the middle of a pitch black night and not only heard but felt the growl of an elephant less than five feet away from you followed by a loud trumpeting alongside the obnoxious and scary laughter of a pack of hyenas with the screams of many baboon's then you know as I do that it will stop your heart!

Because the campsite was so empty last night (only my tent and Nixon's), a herd of elephant's paid us a visit. They tried to knock the outside sink from the bathroom to get the water to spray for them but it had long since between rendered elephant proof so they only managed to knock the soap dish off the wall. They came so close to the tents we are lucky they didn't trample us. The trumpeting and growling was a sign of agitation so there was very real danger involved. Even Nixon admitted to being afraid which wasn't very reassuring in hindsight :) He was debating whether or not to attempt to run for the vehicle but decided they were too close and he wouldn't make it. I was deciding whether or not I had a clean enough pair of underwear to change into once they left.

The elephants arrived at 4:00AM. Coincidentally, like clockwork at 4:00AM every night, my bladder is full. Last night was no exception and I had to pee in a bad way. Clearly there was no way I was getting out of course so I laid there and suffered. I mentioned my dilemma to Nixon in the morning and he said had I stepped out of my tent there was no question they would have charged me. I'm glad I held it :)

So two very long hours later, the Tembo are gone and I exit the tent. It's still pitch black outside when I go behind the tent to relieve myself. While doing my business, I shine my flashlight and am startled to see multiple sets of eyeballs intensely staring at me! Once again, my heart stops! It was a pack of hyena's about 30 yards away! I didn't have anything to worry about though. I clearly marked my territory..and then some :)

So, I charged up the defribilator, started my heart again. Had a cup of coffee and Nixon and I went back out on safari. Right next to camp we saw two trees filled with those pesky, screamin baboons. I was taking some photo's of silhouettes when I heard louder than normal screams from the trees. I looked over just as a large baboon shoved another right out of the tree! It was a brutal fall and I was surprised he survived. The cries were unbearable.

Sightings: many birds, wildebeest, zebras in beautiful tall grass where I got some nice shots with Sophie in mind specifically (she asked for cool zebra photo's for her room). Saw many warthogs, a pride of 8 lions very far away. Nixon spotted fresh Cheetah tracks but we couldn't find him. We stopped at a high lookout point over Tarangiri river and I was overwhelmed by the view.

Camp is packed-we are heading to Lake Manyara!

-We are at Lake Manyara. Yesterday, Nixon suggested we camp outside the park at a different public site. I said I would rather camp here and I'm very glad. The other site looked terrible! Right in the middle of a very crowded town. I would not have enjoyed staying there at all.

We arrived at Lake Manyara Park and it was like we were in another country. Lush, tropical plants, trees and monkeys. Very beautiful. At camp, we have it to ourselves again. I guess not too many tourists are as crazy as I am to see Tanzania this way. I am beginning to question the sanity of my choice right now as upon arrival I was greeted with XXXXXXX(OK, I've decided to spare you all the details of my bathroom problems. Let's just say I was not feeling all that great at this point in the trip :)

We are going on safari at 3:30 (It's 1:00 now).

I'm napping in my tent and Nixon and Swalehh just left in the car. Yikes-now it's really solo. I look out of my tent and two large baboons are rummaging through our stuff. Weird.

The Monday evening safari at Lake Manyara Park was OK. It was neat seeing elephants in a jungle habitat though there weren't any ideal photo ops. The foliage is very dense here so we could have driven past a leopard and not known it. My stomach is pretty upset. It took some Immodium (a must bring if you are travelling to Africa) and I've been eating Pepto pills as though they are PEZ. The highlight of the park by far is the Hippo Pool. 40 or 50 hippo's ranging from tiny babies to gigantic monsters. There was a lot of downtime followed by loud fights and big yawns. Thousands of birds, zebra's, cape buffalo in the same general area. It's much different here though I must say I prefer Tarangiri.

We're back before dark. Another guide from Naipenda Safari's is in camp and is agitated about something. No introductions were made, no English was spoken. I'm feeling pretty isolated today. Double that with the nausea and I know that is why the negative tone. I miss Lea, Savannah and Sophie very much. This park is beautiful and it's incomprehensible that I'm used to seeing such diverse wildlife now. Swalehh is cooking some sort of chicken dish with lots of garlic. I hope I have an appetite. I barely touched lunch.

I enjoy listening to people speaking Swahili. It is a neat language that reminds me of French with a fun flare.

-Dinner was good. It was a nice dish of Mbuzi Kataliki. The chicken was for lunch tomorrow. Mbuze Kataliki is translated in English as Catholic Lamb. It was a Pork Chop and a tasty one at that. They call it Mbuze Kataliki because many people here are Muslim and do not eat pork.

-OK, this moment is what separates the men from the boys. After dinner, Swalehh and Nixon said they had to go to town to find ice. There is no one else camping here so that leaves me and me alone in this pitch black campsite. The sounds of the jungle are calm and peaceful. Millions of crickets, the occasional owl and sometimes baboons. Once again there were glowing eyes watching me when I flashed my light in the jungle behind my tent. I'm not freaked out by :)

During dinner I asked Swalehh if he cooks at home for his wife. He looked at me like I was insane. Nixon explained that in Africa, married men never cook or clean. It is the wife's job. He then confided that he does not mind helping out every now and then. Once a friend came over to visit him and saw him in the kitchen. "You are cooking!? But your wife is home!" to which Nixon told him "She works hard too, and she is tired." He is a very nice man and I'm sure many of the woman reading this will appreciate that. Apparently, as soon as his friend left he began telling everyone what he saw and the story spread like wildfire through Tanzania and to this day he still fields a great deal of grief for it (sorry if this post rekindled the gossip Nixon!).

-I just spoke with Lea, Savannah and Sophie. I miss them a lot. Lea told me about car problems we are having and that seemed so unusual to me. I am so in a different state of mind right now.

Next update will be on Thursday. Thanks for reading my blog!

My neighbors the baboons hanging out before the sun comes up.
I'm a sucker for zebras in tall grass.
A couple of White Backed Vulture's just waiting for something to die.
Yours truly above the Tarangiri river.
I do love the Warthogs.
The locals nickname for Impala is "McDonald's." Can you see why?
Baby is hungry.
Male Ostrich
Vervet Monkey
Home at Lake Manyara.
A pair of Silvery-Cheeked Hornbills. They mate for life.
I need some help in identifying this bird species. If you know, please shoot me an email. Thanks!
African Spoonbill.
A flock of Great White Pelicans in flight.
An African Fish Eagle being pestered by what I believe is an African Pied Wagtail.

Mother and Baby Hippo's
Young baboons eating the fruit from a sausage tree.
Cape Buffalo


Ms. 122 said...

HIPPOS ARE MY FAAAAVORITE!!! Aww!! I'm so excited you got to see them, in real life, in the wild. Amazing.

Ms. 122 said...

Also, is the bird the grey-headed kingfisher?

Anonymous said...

Yes defiantly scariest experience. You a very brave man!!!!LOL.Love the two zebras. Are you going to put any on Fotolia? I would not. They are worth way more $.Thanks for sharing

kerioakdobes said...

My favourites from today have to be the zebras and those two grinning hippos :-)

sherrie steve said...

Okay Matt. I scrolled through the Photo's TRYING to pic a favorite. I feel like I am at a resturant trying to pick off an menu that has ALL my favorite things on it. I LOVE every single picture you took. I can't choose which is my favorite. I LOVE the Zebra's.....the elephants are amazing. I especially like the one with the baby feet inside the mama's. I also enjoyed every sunset you have taken so far. The Birds are amazing as well. Your stories put such flavor to the pics....I feel as though I am there inside the tent shaking from fear with you ;o) Of course if I was there...I would not be fightened. JUST KIDDING !! Steve said his favorite is the Tiger marching toward the sunset. Keep em comin !!