Thursday, January 04, 2007

Africa: Giraffe day!

In Mbeya, we agonized over whether to take the 2 day train to Dar es Salaam, which would be a scenic, long train through the entire country, and supposedly you see plenty of safari animals out the window. Or we could take the quick 11 hour bus - that's right, I said quick. 11 hours is "quick" to me now. The catch was, if we couldn't get on the train, we could be stuck in Mbeya another day, because when the train station opens, the busses have left for the day. We gambled, and actually Kathy talked me into the train. Actually that's good because I was too cheap to actually take a full blown safari - actually I figured there wasn't time to do one. I have to take animals where I can get them.

We got there as soon as the ticket office opened, to try to get first class tickets in our own cabin. African trains are not like Amtrak, they are sort of like Italian trains but much, MUCH smellier. After waiting in the ticket office all day long (with no real restaurant, just a few guys selling pop and cookies outside), we were stuck in 2nd class in a cabin with a whole family. Fortunately, they separate cabins by sex so that you are never stuck in a cabin with any leering or stinky men. We stuck it out for a few hours with the family (3 ladies and three children) - then, luckily after dinner we were able to upgrade to our own cabin. They pull out musty sheets, blankets and pillows for you and deliver your food in first class (always chicken and rice). I actually slept pretty good once I put my earplugs in - the train is LOUD, maybe built in the 1930s. It had some faded elegance into it - like 50 years ago it was progressive and classy, but it was still totally ghetto. We agreed that it was a cool train ride - AFTER we got our own cabin. I have no idea how we would all sleep together in the old one. Still, definitely one of the most memorable train experiences, if not the most memorable I've had.

I laid down on my musty bed and went to sleep over the clack-a-clacka-BANG BANG-SCREEEEECH!-clack-a-clack-a-clack!!!.

The next morning we were really eager to see the animals we would supposedly see when we went thorough the game preserve. I have always loved giraffes - they are my favorite at the zoo. Kathy and I kept our eyes peeled and ran from window to window.

GIRAFFE!!!! SARA!!!! GIRAFFE!!!! Kathy yelled


All of the sudden, for the next two hours, we saw tons of giraffes, impalas, antelope and a few zebras. Oh, and the biggest anthills I have ever seen. Every time we'd see a herd of giraffes, we would run to the window and try to take pictures. It's hard, taking pictures through a moving train window. I got one good giraffe picture and Kathy got a couple. The only other person on the train who seemed as excited by animals was an older Japanese guy. There were about 8 other backpackers on the train - a few from England and a bunch from South Africa, none of whom were that excited, and preferred to stay in the old-fashioned, grubby red velvet decrated first class lounge, watching a chinese western that was mysteriously playing on the one TV, or reading.

The train pulled into Dar es Salaam at around 3PM and we tried to resist hawkers, got into a taxi and took it to a posh hotel, where we have a nice suite. After two days on a train, where my hygeine has really reached some new lows, I don't care. Plus, Dar is kind of dodgy and we need some air conditioning.

Through Tanzania, I've seen more and more gradual signs of the muslim world - more and more headscaves, islam symbols and mosques. At about 5AM in Mbeya, I was awakened by a call to prayer - If you've ever heard one, it's really eerie/spooky but sort of pretty at the same time.

Tomorrow - Zanzibar

sorry - I tried so hard to upload pictures to this one - the internet place just isn't very good. You'll have to imagine the giraffe and the train.


Anonymous said...

I'm so excited that you got to see a giraffe! I imagine it sort of being like the first time I saw a buffalo, but much much cooler.
Keep up the good hygiene, we don't want you to be not so fresh.

Kate C said...

That's so cool that you got to see a giraffe in real life and not in a zoo.

It sounds like you guys are having a blast.

Oh so I took a personal day and Kathy, Rosie is not on The View this week - she is on vacation. However, the feud is still strong and now Ivanka is getting into it. Oh and in other news, Justin and Cameron broke up and today we got the first woman Speaker of the House.

sara said...

I'm enforcing a new rule. Rosie/The View/Britney talk is officially BANNED from my blog.

Yes, I'm a hater!

On another note, they keep playing "do they know it's Christmas?...There won't be snow in africa...this christmas.." in the internet place.

Anonymous said...

so last night we went to the irish oak to listen to a guitarist...and we totally got him to play "Africa" by Toto in honor of the 2 of you! it was really special :)

congrats on the giraffe, etc. sitings! can't wait to see the pics! continue to be safe & have fun! --trisha

HYME Kimmy Lynch said...

Apologies this is my first opportunity to get to your blog you my friend are amazing, interesting, great, well you get my point..i'm so impressed with you...can't wait to hear more...btw, if your hygiene is bad you know what will start itching and it will be itching on both the inside and the outside...remember Julie's camping issue 05.... honor of you the other day I went to the vending machine store and had deep fried mac and cheese croquette while in da club by 50 cent was blasting...

Anonymous said...

Jaime, it wasn't the hole!

K8 said...

There wasn't any snow in Michigan this Christmastime either! But I did know it was Christmas. Feed the world, Sara, Feed the world.

k8 said...

ps. I'm eating peas right now. I don't know if they are canned or frozen, but I bet you would! Pea challenge 2007!!!

sara said...

pea challenge 07 is ON!!!

I am so gonna win. Kate C and I can tell a canned pea from a frozen pea FOR SURE.

I heart Zanzibar. Went on a spice tour today and swam in the indian ocean. It's hot as hell here. I should have a good post coming about some interesting people we met last night...I got a massage from a blind lady and drank with some Massai dudes in the same day/night.

We miss everyone! Trisha, how cool that you played Toto in our honor. I guess the rain is in Africa, it has rained a few times. Although I am not close enough to see Kilimanjaro rise like a leopress above the serengetti..

And HI-may - the mac and cheese....Oh how I love it.