Then slowly the end came nearby… the day after tomorrow I would go back to the Netherlands. Back to my family, my friends, my girl… Suddenly I didn’t have to worry anymore about a place to stay, transportation, washing clothes, taking care of my backpack… no more planning, preparation, new things to see, new cities to discover, new people to meet. It is almost over and with a big smile on my face I secretly dare to already look back. It has been perfect! I look forward to coming home as a content man who has travelled the world and experienced all the things he wanted! I lived this dream! The girl from U.K and the hostel owner were going to Kenya. The dropped me off at the airport. I played “Coming Home” by P. Diddy and felt it! I was coming home.
I travelled the world with a luggage of 16 kg including only 5 T-shirts, 3 shorts and 2 trousers. I travelled for more than 6 months, sleeping in 69 different beds, getting in to 36 flights and crossing a distance of more than 90000 km, I finally made it back home to find what is near. smile emoticon Thank you! People who gave me inspiration, lessons, love, light and fun along the way! I am soo thankful that I was able to experience this adventure and return back as a rich man, saying memories are my new currency. Travelling made me feel alive! My life is my message!
“Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near” ― Paulo Coelho, Aleph
I got picked up to do the five day Safari. We were going to Lake Manyara, Ngoro ngoro crater and the Serengeti. I met up with a female from Argentinia who lives in Germany, two guys from Germany and Juleas the driver. We first drove to Mto wa mbu a village near Lake Manyara. We put away our stuff in the apartment and did the Safari at Lake Manyara. We saw giraffes, monkeys, wildebeests and elephants. Also we saw the 3000 years old giant boabap trees. When we came back we had a walk around the village. We were immediately approached by two friendly local guys who were more than glad to show us around. They introduced us to a lot of people! I even got a wedding proposal from a girl. Funny! We also had a cook with us. He prepared dinner, which had a unique twist to it. Soup served with popcorn. He also introduced us to ugali. Famous local dish that consists of maize flour cooked with water to a dough-like consistency.
The next morning we went on our way to the Ngoro Ngoro crater. On the way we were stopped by police, because Juleas had expired papers. We had to go to the police station, but it turned it the police was wrong. At the entrance of the park we saw a monument for the rangers that were killed on the hunt for poachers. This is a fierce and deadly battle! We passed the night in tents at the Simba camp site just outside the crater. Our cook assembled in the kitchen with the other cooks from the other safari’s. The kitchens were really, really dirt places, but the food that our cook managed to prepare was delicious. Only the lunchbox supplied us with was sometimes funny. A motley collection of a chicken leg, pastry, empanadas, cake, banana, chocolate, bread and a boiled egg. By the way, the egg yolk is white here in Africa. #crazy!
During the safari in the Ngoro ngoro crater we saw elephants, zebra’s, monkeys, lions, hippo’s, wildebeests and ostriches. The first time you see each animal is amazing! After that you somehow get used to it. The first time we saw a lion in the wild, we were star struck and kept on making pictures. But after the fourth time you don’t even take out your camera hahaha.
We were aiming to see the big five: Lion, Elephant, Buffalo, Leopard and Rhinoceros. We still needed three of them to complete the deck. The moderate breeze seemed to easily form mini tornados which you can see now and then. Beautiful!
There was almost no wifi during the safari, so for five days I was mostly out of internet. Even power sources were scarce. Every day we ate in a large dining hut where people were fighting for power sources. That evening we were visited by a large elephant while we were eating. Suddenly it stood there. Impressive! An English lady who had lived in St. Marten and was on a three week safari bragged about how she and her man stood eye to eye with a lion when they wanted to leave their tent. It was hard to believe, but on the other hand… all the animals can visit the camp site. Also the lions hahaha. That night I slept badly, because it was very cold, people were snoring and I constantly thought an animal was pushing our tent, but it was just the wind Hahaha.
The next morning we went on our way to the Serengeti, which means endless plain in Swahili. The Serengeti is twice as big as the Netherlands. On our way we stopped at a viewpoint where we saw Soupabs, nicely colored birds and an Agama lizard which is a pink/purple lizard. Beautiful!
During our Serengeti safari we saw a lot of lions. We were joking about witnessing a hunt would be the optimum right now, when suddenly Juleas spotted a cheetah lying down in the grass. Before we knew it, the cheetah started sprinting to hunt a gazelle. I wanted to take my camera out, but it was over before you knew it. It got the gazelle in seconds! Epic!!! We decided to make more jokes about things we would like to see ;-)
We also saw hyena’s, buffalo’s, a rhinoceros in the distance and a leopard in a tree. We were lucky with our guide. We were always one of the first at the spot, without radio communication. Most of the jeeps listen to the radio communication. If one of them spots something interesting that spot gets crowded with jeeps within minutes.
We passed the night at camp Sero Nera in the middle of the Serengeti. At night you can hear animals graze outside of your tent. Also, one night we heard a very loud sound of an animal and no one knew what it was. Another night I really had to go to the toilet and went . The camp site was full with tents and completely dark. I had to use my flashlight to see where I was going. I was a bit afraid that I would suddenly shine my light on some eyes of an animal. This wasn’t completely unthinkable because the night before a group of hyenas plundered the trashcans on the camp site. Fortunately the only animal I encountered was a huge spider underneath the sink at the toilets.
We enjoyed the Umbrella Acai trees and dotting this vast savannah are outcrops of granite that stick out like rocky islands in a sea of grass. They are called kopjes, a Dutch legacy maybe?
At one point we stopped in front of a herd of elephants and a pawn. We watched the whole scene of the elephants approaching the pawn, drink and wash. A beautiful sight!!
We also smelled a strong, ugly smell in the air. This seemed to be a dead hippo. It was laying on it’s back an can be smelled for miles away.
We saw the big five! The last day we enjoyed the sunset over the savannah. I put on some jazz music and everyone in the van felt the moment! We were content. This is life!
I arrived in Tanzania by night. The bus was swarmed by people who wanted to drive me to my place. The bus driver advised me to wait in the bus, because it is not safe out there. Even when the guy from my hostel came to pick me up, I didn’t really trust it. He was a laidback dude. I started talking to him about the safari I wanted to do. He responded faintly. He told me about the road that was being asphalted one km a year. The asphalted part now stops just in front of his hostel. From there on you get the Tanzanian massage ;-) hahaha. I used this metaphor later on to take a cab back to the hostel when I lost the address of the hostel.
We arrived at the hostel, which was his parental home converted to a hostel. I continued about the safari and all the demands I had. The guy still responded faintly. He even gave me a guide to read myself. This pissed me off, but instead of ranting I suddenly calmed down. I looked at my self and thought… let me try to understand first instead of being understood. And this changed everything. I found out that he had just lost his child. We made a real connection. He invited me to come and help plant trees for a hospital. I set aside my selfishness and agreed without hesitation!
The next morning we got up early. Me, him and some other people. A female lawyer from London, a girl from Germany and a Maasai. We walked to the hospital and he brought the trees. We had to dig about 40 holes. It was hard work. The ground was hard and the shovel was heavy, but I worked my ass off till I had blisters on my hand. We worked for two days in a row. It was beautiful. Kids were staring at us. I also saw tiny kids playing and having the most fun with… nothing. Just running after each other. This moved me! And the funny thing is, during these two days he received a deal for a safari which was half of the price with all the things in it I wanted and I was invited by a maasai to visit his village. He was the son of the village chief and one of the guys helping as well. He must have been impressed by my hard working ;-) Hahaha.
During my time in Arusha we formed a small click with the people who helped at the hospital. We went to the city and went clubbing together and I learned a lot. Local transportation is mostly done by the Dala dala, a small bus. When something unexplainable happens we just said T.I.A. (This is Africa) meaning this is how things go here. Hahaha. The handshake in Arusha consist of hooking fists and rubbing thumbs a few times. I also learned a few words Swahili. When someone greets you Mambo (whatsup) you say Poa. Asante sana, means something like thank you very much, Sawa means Awesome and so on. Beautiful language. And another thing that made me feel really at home is the fact that no one in Arusha is good at soccer. We played “oddball” and they were as bad as me. Lol!
We went to the Longido, a Maasai village nearby Arusha, by evening. Me, the girls from U.K., the girl from Germany, the hostel owner and the chiefs son who invited us. This was no tour, no commercial tourism, this was real life! The people in the village almost never receive people from outside. We knew we were going to slaughter and eat a goat. The German girl was a vegetarian, but still she came along. We stopped along the way to buy some “Konyagi” the local drink. In the middle of nowhere, somewhere in a desert like area under the starlit night there was this almost mystical shop. While the owner bought the drink, me and the others gazed at the stars. We continued our ride and suddenly the chiefs son said: “Here it is, go to the right” I have no idea how the hack he knew it was here, but we drove off road in to the nightly dessert. Suddenly we saw little kids appearing from everywhere, running and laughing alongside the car. We arrived at the village which consisted of a couple of Kraals (loaf-shaped maasai houses made of mud, sticks, grass, cow dung and cow’s urine) arranged in a circular fashion. We waited in the car until the sand fell. We were invited to the home of the chiefs son, where we drank tea, met his wife and kid and the chief himself. It was beautiful!
He explained us about the Maasai, how they were in war and would die for their tribe. He also explained about polygamy. His father the chief had four wives and about 7 kids with each one of them. He himself would get a second wife as soon as he had more cattle. One of the girls soberly asked if there are more women than men, if every man has at least one woman? Smart thinking! Hahaha
After we drank the tea went on to slaughter the goat. The vegetarian girl went away to take some distance. I must admit that I felt bad looking at the goat who was going to be killed. It felt a bit like attending a dead sentence. They held his neck over a bowl en slit his throat. After some convulsions the goat died. The village people then drunk the goats blood from the bowl. They asked me if I wanted to taste as well and I took a zip. It took hours to skin and prepare the goat. They use each part of it. From the head to the paw. In the meantime we listened to music and played with the kids. The loved my camera. We kept making pictures of them and they went crazy when they saw themselves on the picture. They just couldn’t get enough of it! I then got the idea to teach them how to make pictures. I showed them how to make photo’s, gave them my camera and off they went. Afterwards my camera was full of hundreds of pictures and they had great fun with it. Even the elderly loved it on the sly. And some of them turned in to real models, striking a pose in front of the camera hahaha.
Then they started roasting the goat. In the mean time the local dog caught a rabbit. He brought it to us and we posed with it. Wrong? It is nature I guess. First the elderly eat. The kids were waiting patiently and looking at us with watering mouths. They cut off little pieces and divided them amongst the ones in the circle. I had no idea which part of the goat I was eating, but it was delicious!! No spices! Earlier on the hostel owner joked about the custom of giving the goats balls to the guest as a sign of respect. Then the chiefs son took something out of the fire. “You want to try?” he asked. Without asking I agreed. “This part contains the sweet juice” he tipped me. It were the goats balls. I took a bite and it was leathery. I wanted to give the residual piece to the dog, but everybody was watching. I put the whole thing in my mouth and chewed like there was no tomorrow and took a zip of Konyagi to wash it away Hahaha They even put the whole head in the fire!
After the elderly finished it was time for the kids to eat. One kid was depicted the leader. They roasted their own meat and the leader cut the pieces himself and divided it. There were some struggles but he asserted his leadership and waved around with his machete. Wow! Impressive how they create leaders at such an early age.
After our bellies where full we played with the kids. Beautiful to see how kids are universal. They just want to play! We took them on our necks and ran around with them. They loved it, just like my little nephews back home! They even started to quarrel about who was next. I had to break a fight of to little Maasai boys, which wasn’t even that easy. They were strong as hell Hahaha And one of the little guys wanted to hold my hand all of the time and didn’t let loose. Then he surprised me by counting in English. One, two, three… fifteen, sixteen… all the way up to 20. Wow! Then he went on, all the way up to 30. These were some smart people. Respect!
While we were eating earlier on something special happened. I was so content that I started humming. The guy next to me looked at me, smiled and hummed along with me. Even though we don’t speak the same language we understood each other…
I would have never dreamt that I would love Africa this much! I feel grateful! Asanti Sana!
“Sometimes you have to travel a long way to find what is near” ― Paulo Coelho, Aleph