Wednesday, September 11, 2013

you are here

When the alarm jolted me out of sleep at 2:45 AM on the morning of departure, I jumped out of bed full of anticipation, energy, and enthusiasm for the journey ahead.

Our 4:00 AM rendezvous, pep talk, and prayer circle

What was I thinking? Ahead of us lay a twenty hour flight followed by a four hour overland trek along rough, dusty roads into the bush. Feeling like sardines crammed into a tin can--in our airplane cabin. Bouncing around like popcorn--on the road. When we finally arrived at camp we were rewarded with the task of setting up housekeeping in pup tents--in the dark--to the sound of hyenas yipping at the moon.
This is where we found ourselves when the sun came up. Note the choo (toilet) and bafuni (shower) between the tents. Ah'h'h, the simple joys of life in the bush...
Make no mistake about it--I love international travel. It is always an adventure. Sometimes bad weather intervenes, flights are delayed or cancelled outright, and personalities flare with jet lag.
All of this, of course, makes for good storytelling later on.

On our flight from Dulles to Addis Ababa, the story line had to do with the extraordinary number of infants and toddlers protesting their captivity. The plot took an unexpected twist when a member of the team took sick--scary sick. The "yuck factor" kicked when we landed in Addis Ababa at the filthiest airport in recent memory. If you can avoid it, do not use the restroom facilities in the terminal at Addis Ababa. If you prepared for the attendant to give the door to the stall you're squatting in a good solid kick to check its occupancy. Scared the shit out of me, literally!
Even though travel can be a nightmare, certain concessions to comfort make it all bearable. One of them is a visit to The African Tulip in Arusha

Stay here  if you ever have a chance to visit Arusha...especially if your next stop is bush country and you plan to stay there for a week. Indulge yourself first. Fortify yourself. Get a hot shower if you have time. Then, prepare to bid goodbye to everything that is familiar and convenient in life.

After lunch we boarded safari vehicles, and pulled out onto the dusty streets of Arusha. We passed Mount Meru, the second tallest peak in Tanzania, while Mt. Kilimanjaro, as usual, hid in the clouds.

Moumt Meru

Two hours later, we veered off the so-called main road and headed into the bush in the deepening dusk, pitching and lurching into the wilderness. How did we miss our turn? Because there are no street signs out there! We had to double back and make our way through the dark until the glow of the cook fire appeared in front of us. Somehow we managed to unload and sort through all our luggage, claim a tent, and settle in. The cook staff surprised us with a full meal in the dining tent...

...and then we gathered for our first campfire in the open air.
From there my eyes were irresistibly drawn to the night stars too bright and numerous to the Milky Way stretching overhead from the eastern horizon to the west...just like this except that my camera didn't do it justice:

The universe in all its glory! In all its immensity...which pretty much puts my life into perspective.

How about yours?

"It is like a piece of my soul had been lost,
and it is now filled with
the light of a million stars."
--Beth Revis--
In my next post, we'll be setting up a tent!

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