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I’ve finally finished compiling the footage I took on our overland trek from Johannesburg to Nairobi. I struggled with this package more than I do with most. I assume one of the reasons is because I am emotionally attached to most of the video, which makes it very difficult to edit pieces out.

I also found that while I wanted to write a script, I couldn’t find the words. I wanted to give the experience the weight it deserved. I wanted to make it poetic. But I found Florence and the Machine’s “All This Heaven Too,” said exactly what I wanted to say while letting the video speak for itself.  I hope you enjoy.

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And since I had so many nice moments left over, I put together some of the pieces which ended up on cutting room floor. Thanks to everyone on our trip who put up with me shooting video while you were sleeping, sweaty, and or just generally ruffled from camping for a month.

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For more stories from our African Adventure, start here.

~ Molly

Day 23

Today we take the ferry from Zanzibar back to the mainland Tanzania where we rejoin Raymond and the truckbus for the final stretch of our trip – the Serengeti and the Ngorogoro Crater.

We drive to an unremarkable campsite and crash for the night.

Day 24

It will be a short drive to Arusha today. The plan is for us to overnight at a camp where we’ll get picked up by smaller four-wheel drive safari jeeps for the ride into the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti wildlife preserves.

On our way to our campsite we stop at cultural center – one that sells tanzanite. Tanzanite is a precious stone that is most often purple with reddish highlights but can sometimes be blue or even green.

We get a tutorial on tanzanite from the dealer at the shop, who shows off some of the most expensive stones he has on hand. Nellu and I have no business buying jewelry on this trip. But don’t worry tanzanite, I’ll be back – maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and I’ll have you for the rest of my life.

Tanzanite heaven. Photo by Nellu.

Day 25

It’s safari time. We’ve packed a few belongings into smaller bags because we’ll be traveling for two nights once again without Raymond and our truckbus. I don’t know if you remember our discussion earlier about the two nights of “participation camping” – whatever that means. Well that little secret is revealed. Participation camping means that handlers at the campsite inside the wildlife preserves will set up our tents and we won’t be responsible for helping with the cooking or the cleaning – a small luxury.

Three jeeps arrive to take us on our trip and our group splits up. Nellu and I join our Canadian friends Bob and Christina (North Americans sticking together!) as well as the South African/Australian couple Brett and Angie, who came on board our trek in Zanzibar. The vehicles look exactly like what you’d want your safari jeep to look like, complete with pop-up roof for viewing.

Photo by Nellu

Our driver and guide introduced himself. “I’m Emmanuel.” he said. “Emmanuel, like Jesus Christ.” He probably shouldn’t have said the last part because for the remainder of our days with him, we neglected to call him Emmanuel and just went with “Jesus.” We had way too much fun with him, shouting out “Jesus Christ” or “Thank you, Jesus” whenever we thought it was appropriate.

Jesus and the jeep. Photo by Nellu

From our camp we drove first to the Ngorongoro Crater, where we stopped to take pictures at the crater’s edge.

Our Ngorongoro picture for the parents

We’ll get an chance to go into the crater when we return. We also stop at a “traditional” Maasai village. It’s actually not their real village but one that they’ve set up so that safari tourists can see what traditional Maasai life is like.

Our Maasai guides. Photo by Nellu

Mazza tells us to keep and open mind during our visit. We’ve come to realize that this is what she says when she knows that people are going to try to shake us down for money or pressure us to buy something. Which is what happens. Nellu gets pretty close to buying a spear from one of the Maasai but backs off when the reality of taking a spear on multiple airplanes sets in. But the guy kept following Nellu around calling him “a good business man.”

After the tour, we continue to the gates of the Serengeti.

Photo by Nellu

As we approach, the scenery begins to change. Much of the green vegetation goes away and the wide open plain begins to appear. These next few days will be the most remarkable of our trip.

Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Our group hadn’t seen a big cat in our whole trip through Africa but there on the first day we saw a lion in the shade of a tree on a distant rock.

Day 26

These next two days were all about the animals so I am going to let Nellu’s pictures do the talking. You can see more of his pictures by clicking here. The highlights on Day 26 – a cheetah, prides of lions, and the great migration.

Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Andre and Chloe and either Line or Kristine wave from the other jeep. Photo by Nellu

Tony and Claire. Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Oh and on our way back to camp that night, we get a fresh sprinkling of what they call African powder – dust from the road heaved into the air by passing jeeps. We try to close the windows for a moment while the jeeps and their dust clouds roar by but Nellu still comes back with an interesting effect. We think he looks like Moses.

Moses and Jesus

Day 27

Today we descend down into the Ngorongoro Crater. The name is one of those spectacular words derived from a sound. They say “ngong, ngong” is the way the cow bells of the Maasai herds sound, hence the name.

Here not only do we see another cheetah and a rare black rhino, but we get to see lions in the honeymoon period where they mate several times an hour for days while being guarded by another male lion.

Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Lions taking a break from mating. Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Oh and a lion came over and sat in the shadow of our friends’ jeep. The video is by Claire Walton. Our jeep missed it but it was just too amazing not to show.

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We return to our campsite in Arusha. While we are gone, Raymond has been tasked with the grocery shopping for our last dinner together. He picks up meat for a traditional South African barbecue, a  braai.

We arrive back to camp in the early afternoon and spend much of the remainder of the day hanging out in tables outside the bar. A portion of the proceeds from the bar at the Snake Camp go to supporting the Camp’s charitable efforts, so we feel doubly good drinking a little for us and a little for charity.

While we drink a local kid shows up, joins the group, coming in with Nellu, and begins laughing loudly at the jokes. Raymond is disturbed by his presence and asks him what he wants. It’s clear that he came in to bum a smoke or even ask for money. He leaves.

But the situation gets me thinking again about compassion. I spoke a few weeks ago about the tension I felt in Africa because of the clear contrast between the visitors who have so much and the locals who lead far simpler lives. Raymond must be exasperated by the constant harassment he has to deal with for the job. It makes me wonder about my level of compassion (or is it empathy?). Too often I feel myself getting ruffled by encounters like these when I should give people a little more room. I’ve watched other friends on this trek engage people who bombard them for a sale, talking and laughing with the vendors when I would have simply brushed them off. Even Nellu seems to have gotten to a better place since India. When did I become so closed off?

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That night during our braai, Mazza and Raymond make an impassioned speech, asking us to tell others about the danger faced by the rhino populations of Africa, which are being poached at an alarming rate because their horns are supposedly important to eastern medicine. 203 rhinos have been found poached so far this year. (Their horns are cut off and they are left to die.) The issue has recently gotten some publicity in National Geographic and other publications. You can read more here.

Just a little more to come…

~ Molly

Day 11

We leave Livingstone and get back on the road. There’s just 11 of us from our original group and we’ve gained 3 more people from a tour that came up the west coast of South Africa starting in Cape Town. The 11 of us on the trek from Johannesburg have really started to settle into a groove so it will be interesting to see how the new three change the group dynamic. We’ve also got a new guide, Maretha (or Mazza), and a new driver, Raymond. Both Maretha and Raymond will be with us for the rest of or days on the road. It’s oddly reassuring to have stable “parents” for the rest of the trip.

We pack up our tents in light rain. This is the first morning it’s been raining since we’ve been on the road, which is nice because technically it’s the wet season. Camping in sunny weather is one thing. Camping in the midst of torrential downpours is totally different.

We make our usual, almost daily stop for supplies. Our tour provides most of our meals, but for water, snacks and beer, we’re on our own. Most of the places we’ve stopped along the way so far have been modern supermarkets – right in the middle of strip malls. Not what I thought we’d see in Africa at all but I guess perceptions are made to be broken.

This is also Africa.

There’s a game park next to our campsite for the night. We here there is a family of giraffes with a baby giraffe in the area. We see the family from a far and after tiptoeing around some muddy paths, we get pretty close to them.

Lots of Mud. Photo by Nellu

It’s surreal being on foot so close to exotic animals. It’s very Jurassic Park.

Photo by Nellu

Day 12

We park for lunch at a rest stop off the main drag today. About a dozen local kids see our truck pull in and come running.

The set up for lunch for 16 people is by nature quite elaborate. We pull out the folding chairs, tables, plates and utensils. We have bins for washing our hands and bins for washing dishes as well as all the food and food prep materials. And Mazza adds nice touches to our meal time rituals with a table cloth and plant. It must be an odd show for the kids – all of us arriving in this big truckbus, jumping out for lunch, and then just as quickly packing up to go.

The kids just stand by the edge of the road and watch but do not cross an invisible line. It’s only when people from our group approach them with cameras that the fun begins. First the kids pose, many of them striking defensive stances with fists toward the camera or something out of martial arts film.

Chloe and Claire share pictures with the kids. Photo by Nellu

Photo by Nellu

Then they come in to look at the digital images and laugh at each other on the screen. And then, the kids want to try to take pictures themselves.

Thanks to Claire Walton for the photo.

Nellu and a few others are brave enough to hand over their cameras for some pretty interesting results:

One of the pictures the kids took with Nellu's camera.

Photographers in the making.

To be continued…

~ Molly

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