Safari Mikumi

January 4th 2016 – day 1.
Firstly,  happy birthday , Fizz. Wish you were here sis!!!

I can honestly say that today exceeded all my expectations. It was AMAZING!! I literally ran out of adjectives to describe the many wonders of nature I saw today.

Kathy and Fanuel picked me up just after 7am and we headed North. What a delightful pair. I’ve really fallen on my feet choosing them to take me on safari! Kathy is an American nurse who fell in love in more ways than one on her own safari four years ago, and Fan is a local  –  the guide. His knowledge is phenomenal, on animals, birds and plants.
It took a good hour to get clear of the city and the small shops than line the highway

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The country side, once clear of major human influence, was quite how I expected. It’s similar to parts of Aussie really. It was a lot greener than I expected though.

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The soil is really red, from the high iron content. Interestingly, Kathy said her once chronic anaemia has righted itself and that the local women traditionally added soil to food if they needed iron.
We stopped at one point to buy slow cooked goat meat from some Masai. It was yummy!! They are still the one tribe who hold on to their cultural roots. They look wonderful with their herds of cattle, wandering the land at will!!

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It was about a five hour drive to Mikumi National Park. The countryside became steadily higher. The flood plain the park lies in reminds me of the MacKenzie Basin at home – a huge, largely flattish plain surrounded by mountains. But instead of tussock land the terrain is much more lush. It’s currently the short rainy season here so it’s green too. Vegetation is mostly shrubs with large trees dotted around.

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It hasn’t rained much though and it’s so refreshing when it does, one cannot mind!! It doesn’t last long either. We hadn’t even entered the Park for our game drive when we started spotting animals!!

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Troops of baboons hang around the roadside, hoping for scraps thrown from cars. Not a good idea on the tourists part. The babies hang underneath their mums and later ride on top!!
I hadn’t really twigged but I’m here for the breeding season too, so I’ve seen all the babies, so adorable (how dare predictive come up with Aussie instead of adorable!!)

Once we entered the Park the abundance of wildlife astounded me. I had thought to see one or two different species each day. I feel privileged to tell you I saw buffalo, zebra, elephants, giraffe, warthogs, numerous birds, hippo (albeit their snouts and tips of the back!!), a crocodile, impala and, thanks to Fan’s superb eyesight and expertise, a huge lion.

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It was the most wonderful experience and it’s only my first day on safari. I’m so grateful to these two gorgeous people. I felt a real sense of peace out there, just quietly watching the animals go about their lives. The best spirit food in the world.
I can barely believe I’m here and so blessed. I may never go home!!!
(course I will, guys in NZ!)
Dinner and bed, now! You have no idea how wonderful my cold shower was!!

There are no Rules!!

Said Josh and boy was he right!! The driving here is maniacal. Astonishingly I haven’t seen many crashes. Everyone just shoves over or drives the kerb!! I’m pretty sure I’m the only one wearing a seat belt too.
Still, I got everywhere safely, if with a fractionally raised heart rate.

I started the day slowly having slept in till 0900. Chatted to a student from Boston at the next table over breakfast, and a Danish mountain guide over coffee!! Very interesting guy who have me more goods tips.

1) Don’t have the air con in my room too low as the constant temp change with outside will give me a cold. I suspect I’m too late having woken all blocked up!!
2) Get a local sim card for my good phone. Don’t have two devices and theft isn’t common if you’re careful. Everyone has a phone anyway. 
3) Use the anti malarial called Malanil or its equivalent. Best for local mossies.

This I had on my list of things to do, so dutifully hailed a crazy cab and went to the pharmacy. It cost US$25. Same stuff at home would be 100 bucks.
The sim card shop was shut and my driver insisted there wasn’t another. Which translates as “I want you to buy from my friend”!!! So I told him to return me to the hotel, didn’t tip him and got another taxi to go to the Museum!!

That was well worth a visit. It’s TS6500 to get in but has a good display on the origins of man.

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And on rock art in Africa, which is truly beautiful.

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There was quite a bit on the various colonial influences too.

The afternoon was lazily spent by the pool, too hot to move!! Then went to the Cape Town Fish Market to meet Mini for dinner.

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A gorgeous spot, great live band and, again, superb food. I had a tuna steak, Soooo good. Home and bed and here I am awake at 0530 again!!

Tips and Tricks, Thoughts and Impressions.

I figured I should pass on some of the ideas given me by others and things I’ve found out by trial and error!!
It could end up being a bit random but we’ll see. I’ll just add things as they come to mind over the next couple of days 🙂

Planning.
If you really want to do it, don’t let others be wet blankets on your dreams. It’s your life!

Get a second job, do whatever it takes – you won’t regret it.

Research well, ask anyone you know who’s done similar stuff, set goals. Make a date, buy the tickets. It’s amazing how having a date focuses your effort.

Have a drawer or bag that you throw gear, ideas, maybes into. Write lists, keep a pad and pen by the bed. It’s intensely annoying to get a great idea in the night and be unable to remember it in the morning.

Depending on where you’re going, check if you need jabs of any sort. Ask people who’ve been to the area recently as travel docs give “best practice” advice but it’s not always what actually is needed at that time.

Flights and Standovers.
Think about how your body works. Are you a wriggler? Do you sleep well on planes?  Do you need to go to the loo often? Are you tall?  Sore back or joints? Other health considerations? These things determine whether you want a window or aisle seat.

Long stand overs can be a boon or exhausting, depending on how you handle then. My feeling is, if it’s daytime, do something with the time. It not only passes the time quickly but you move about and that helps mitigate the risk of dvts etc.
I had 8 hours in Sydney and took the train into town, then the ferry to Manly. It wasn’t rushed, but got the wind in my face, a good walk, some relaxation in the sun. I boarded the long haul refreshed and pleasantly tired.

Don’t eat too much!! International flights mean long periods of inactivity. Your bowels slow down and not much is worse than being bunged up, take it from a nurse!!
Ditto alcohol. I’m not saying don’t have it, just have water as well and avoid dehydration.
Grab kiwi fruit, prunes and licorice when you can! Avoid bananas, they constipate many people, and watch out for grapefruit if you’re on medication (check the interactions on the packaging), it seems to be the main ingredient in all fruit salad!!

Visas etc.
Look up online what you need. American visas can usually be done online. Many African countries let you get them as you enter. I got good advice from Mini. She told me to grab the paper and fill it out ASAP, when I arrived in Tanzania. The queues can be long so get in line quickly. I did and actually got through faster than she did!!

Find out if you can barter!! Taxi drivers here will quadruple the price, so establish your price before getting in!!
Ditto goods and services.  Check about tipping too. It’s optional here so I’m doing it when someone has been good to me. There’s no hard and fast rule about the amount here, either!!

Getting About
So far I’ve only used the taxis. Only use the proper taxis in this neck of the woods, don’t try any Uber type arrangements.
Make sure they lock the doors as you get under way. There’s street hawkers everywhere and they’re very persistent.
It seems to be normal practice here for your driver to take you somewhere and wait for you to return you home. They don’t seem to mind how long you’re gone and you pay after, so you know you’ll have a ride waiting. It’s rather good, really!! Most are happy to be paid in US dollars or Tanzanian Schillings.

I’m told the little motorised 3 wheelers are good too, but they only work round the town centre, it seems, so I haven’t used one. My hotel is a bit further out of town by the beach.

Drink driving is rife and there don’t appear to be many road rules!! The driving makes your hair stand on end. Makes Christchurch drivers look like angels of mercy!!

Money
The exchange rate between USD and TS changes quickly. Check it in the paper daily and you’ll know roughly what to expect. Most exchangers give you near enough to the advertised rate. One thing though BEFORE YOU COME check the issue dates on your USD notes. Online you’ll be told they accept 2006 onwards. Not so in reality. Most places balk at notes older than 2009 so make your bank give you new notes.
Plus only bring 50’s and 100’s. The exchange rate for small denominations is terrible.
If you find yourself with a note you know is a liability, pay your taxi driver a US$20 instead of TS40000!! They tend not to care!

Maisha ni murua – Life is Good!!

I thought I was going to lose weight coming on this trip but at this rate I’ll be rolling home! Breakfast was scrumptious. Every sort of tropical fruit, cheeses, sliced meats, spicy dishes and kebabs, wonderful juices and even really good coffee.

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Those dreadful looking rolls are my favourite! Mutton kebabs. That was my second helping which really is disgraceful!
After skyping Igor and Olivia, including a hello to Whisky (I miss my meow!) I got a taxi to the Slipway which is like a local market by the wharf.

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Shopping heaven!! Got pressies for the whanau!! And wine, of course. They had Laphroaig in the super market, only $50. I restrained myself, Matt!!

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The art work is amazing. I could bring home suitcases full but sadly had to content myself with photos!!
My taxi driver dozed in the shade and was waiting for me, two hours later!! $US20 round trip.

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Hopefully I remembered the spelling of the heading phrase correctly. It’s on flags along the streets. I like it!!
35°by the way . Loving it. Swim time. Oh, and I’ve decided to stay on here till my safari. They’re treating me too well to leave!!