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Our June 2012 African Vacation Diary

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"Leave only footprints, take only memories" (...and maybe some pictures)
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6/21/2012 8:30am All luggage is loaded into the Toyota Land Cruisers followed by the people and we are headed for Tarangire National Park.  In our Land Cruiser we have Sallyann, Fred, Barbara, myself and Celina.  Celina is here with her Grandfather and sister but seating is tough due to the size of each group traveling together. 6/21/2012 10:15am On the way to Tarangire NP we stopped at a large shop that sells tanzanite, hand carved wood (mostly ebony) figures and other souvenirs.  I bought Barbara a nice pair of tanzanite earrings as an early birthday gift and to remember the trip.  Barbara also bought me a pair of tanzanite earrings to remember the trip and as a very early birthday gift.  We both also bought wood carvings (giraffe, elephant…) for souvenirs. We saw: magpie shrike, agave lining the roads (used to make Tanzania tequila), many Maasai, baobab trees (up- side-down tree), Maasai boys coming of age wearing all black with faces painted white in their family pattern, drivers using branches in road in place of flares when car/truck breaks down. 6/21/2012 12:15pm Another stop on the way was a shop that also sold hand carved animals.  This time you could watch a few young men behind the shop doing some of the carving.  I bought a warthog and cape buffalo at this shop. We saw: superb starling 6/21/2012 12:50pm Not far from the last shop was the entrance to Tarangire NP.  We had a quick stop at the gate while the drivers registered and we used the vyoo (Swahili for toilets).  Back in the trucks and a game drive as we head to the lodge. We saw: We saw: zebra, wildebeest, elephants, waterbuck, red-billed hornbill, secretary bird, magpie shrike, white- headed magpie, lilac-breasted roller (bird), hamerkop (bird), ostrich (male & female), impala, cheetah. 6/21/2012 2:30pm We arrive at the Tarangire Sopa Lodge.  We are rushed off to a pool side lunch while Robert does all the paper work and gets our rooms assigned.  He issues keys as we finish our meal. We saw: rock hyrax (closest living relative is the elephant), black-faced monkey. 6/21/2012 3:45pm Check out room and relax for a few.  Take a little breather and unpack a few things. 6/21/2012 4:45pm Then off for an afternoon game drive in Tarangire NP. We saw: Buffalo weaver (bird), waterbuck, impala, candle tree, ring-necked dove, trees grow out of old termite mounds, buffalo wallow, diadem butterfly, lilac-breasted roller (bird), guinea fowl, red-necked spurfowl, yellow- necked spurfowl, umbrella acacia tree, dikdik, bee eaters (taking dust bath in road), go away bird, ground hornbill, giraffe (darker color means older animal), harrier hawk, greater blue starling, elephants. 6/21/2012 7:30pm Back to room for quick shower (hot water only available from 6 – 9am and 6 – 9pm).  Dinner at 7:30pm (until about 9:15).  The lodge is much nicer than I ever would expect in the wilds of Africa.  Better than I would expect in the wilds of America for that matter.  The food is very good.  Mostly European or American style dishes with a smattering of local fare for the adventurous. Next it is back to the room for a good night’s sleep to prepare the body for the next adventure. 6/22/2012 6:30am Up early to meet Sallyann & Fred for breakfast.  Coffee here is great.  It is smooth and flavorful with no burnt or bitter taste.  Buffet style breakfast with several types of fruit juices, pancakes, French toast, beef or pork sausages, bacon, a few varieties of breads and rolls even an omelet station. We heard about (but did not see) happenings in the night: baby elephant crawled under a land cruiser with damage caused by its mother.  Frank, trying to make a cell phone call, climbs a tree for better reception only to find a lion is already in the tree. 6/22/2012 8:00am Meet up with tour group in hotel lobby to start the day.  Gently pushed by Robert to get in our vehicles and depart on time.  Today we (S, F, B & J) share the truck with Mahala while her sister and Grandfather ride in another one.  She is, understandably, unhappy with the seating arrangements.  This morning is a game drive in Tarangire NP. We saw: zebra, go-away bird, ashy starling, sand grouse, wild coffee tree, white-ink flowers, emerald dove, honey badger (saw but no pics), bateleur eagle, elephants, black-faced monkey, ostrich, termite mounds, wild palm tree, hamerkop, white-browed couscous, black-chested eagle, wild dogs (very rare, the guide had not seen them for 6 years), magpie shrike, cape buffalo. 6/22/2012 1:30pm Back at the Sopa Lodge we head for the pool for anther outdoor lunch.  After lunch some time to unwind and relax. 6/22/2012 4:30pm Clustered in the lobby again waiting for an afternoon game drive through the park.  At some point during the day, Mahala, Celina and their Grandfather discuss the seating/truck arrangements with Robert.  After that and for the rest of the tour the three of them ride together in another vehicle.  That leaves Sallyann, Fred, Barbara and me with our own Land Cruiser driven by Mwittah.  We saw: waterbuck, agama lizard, go-away bird, lilac-breasted roller, elephants, black-face plover, giraffe, cape buffalo, kori bustard, leopard, ostrich. All the animals are amazing.  So many and so close.  But the best of the afternoon was two leopards as we were nearing dusk.  Then back to the lodge. 6/22/2012 7:30pm Dinner.  Tonight is barbecue night.  Seating is indoors but the food is served outdoors, buffet style.  All the food is very good.  So much variety that I would find it hard to believe that anyone could leave the table hungry.  Again there were familiar foods next to some unfamiliar, local foods.  At the end of the meal a group of the cook staff along with many waiters and waitresses came out of the kitchen singing, accompanied by a few with drums.  The first in the line was carrying a cake.  As they sang they danced their way around the dining room and ended up at a table where they placed the cake in front of a couple.  Their anniversary?  After that was done the staff took up position on the stairs between the dining hall and the lobby.  There they sang a few more songs for our entertainment.
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