Meeting the Maasai

We are on the move. The days are predictable and the program imposed. In many ways we are children, being told what will happen next and having little say in where we will go, or what we will eat.  I’m out of my comfort zone where I call the shots minute by minute.

We climb into our safari vehicle arrange our gear and prepare for another long day. I’m always bitter at the beginning of the day, my mood improving with each animal sighting and subsequent photo. We are on our way to Ngorongoro Crater and to get there will travel out of the Serengeti.

The animals are so plentiful and we stop for a time to watch the Wildebeests and Zebra decide whether they should cross the dry river bed to follow the rains.  Stephen knowingly advises that their survival depends on this decision. The Wildebeests look confused and I recognize this immediately having been lost in more than one subdivision, looking for a patient’s home.  The Wildebeests have an extra level of difficulty as they need to pass by crocodiles who are waiting to cull the herd, whereas my lack of direction will only make me late.   We ask if they should cross and Stephen tells us they are already on the correct side. The lead Wildebeest is in charge of making a decision for the herd and lacks GPS, he must go on instinct.  We are kindred spirits and I send good thoughts to the leader that they will stay where they be. It’s a harsh place where wrong decisions can mean the end of life.

SONY DSCWe meet up with the remainder of our group.  It’s great to see them, unfortunately, Illness and sunburn has plagued some of them. We chat about the animals we have seen and our respective accommodations. They are staying in lodges.   John has found fresh brewed coffee, wine and pringles. I’m in love all over again with him, such a treat. The place we have stopped is set up for tourists, complete with proper toilets and running water.  I linger and enjoy soap and savour the moment by allowing the warm water to run over my hands.   We enjoy our boxed lunches and sit at tables surrounded by an oasis.  Too soon we are off bouncing along in our respective safari vehicles.

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A short distance away, Stephen stops the vehicle,  reaches for the binoculars and tells us he spies a Cheetah. We are awestruck that he can see a speck on the horizon and know its a Cheetah.  When asked, he smiles and with an expanse of his arms he gestures at all we can see and tells us this is his office.

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We are asked if we want to stop at an authentic Maasai village. The consensus is yes though our decision is motivated chiefly by a chance to get out of the vehicle. The cost is $50.00 per Safari vehicle. The Maasai who appears at the window to collect our money sports an expensive watch. It seems there is nothing authentic here. We leave the vehicle and they dance for us just outside their village. The focus of the dance is jumping high. We are then split into groups of two each with our own guide and enter the village.

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We duck inside a home and as our eyes adjust to the darkness, gradually the space comes into focus. It’s small and smoky as fires are lit inside with little ventilation. It is the job of the female to build the home, while men are valued for their herding and hunting skills. The children are filthy and all seem to be suffering from illness. Later Stephen tells us many of them suffer from AIDS. We are ushered around a circle of items that they want us to buy. As we walk it is clear that the lives of the women and children will not change with the buying of a trinket and though there is not much I can do for them, I choose to not buy to fund another watch. The man walking us around is not happy with this decision and the tour for us is at an end.  He begins to usher us out when I remind him we have not seen the school as promised.  He brightens and ushers us into a dismal building, says something to the teachers and students and we are treated to stares by all. We go to leave and are asked for a donation to support the school. We decline and are given the bum’s rush out the back entrance.  We hear from the others in our vehicle that  if a trinket was bought, the children in the school would perform.  We all agree this is a tourist trap.

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A very short distance away we see authentic villages, children waving with happy smiles and families proud and hard at work. It costs us nothing extra.  We travel through this area and see children tending goats, some as young as 4 or 5 years.  They seem happy, though I can’t help but think that their childhood is compromised.

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We stop at our home for the night, tucked into the woods with a canopy of trees overhead.  Its beautiful.  A Maasai warrior will stay the night with us.  Stephen tells  us that they are paid as we are camping on their land.  The Maasai is friendly and helps with the chores needed to make dinner and camp. I know that I will enjoy a deep sleep comfortable in the protection of the Maasai warrior

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Rejuvenation

Such an amazing year we had, climbing Kilimanjaro, going on Safari, relaxing on the beaches of Zanzibar, seeing the Northern lights and mushing a dogsled. What’s next? I muse as I sift through the thousands of photos that chronicle our year.
Europe is on the list for 2015 and yet seems so far away, too early to plan.

Then it happened, a group of friends 12 to be exact are running the New York Marathon and now John and I will too.

My training began yesterday with a 5km run. Today I’ve read every word of the Runners World magazine and last night I fell asleep searching for fancy new shoes.

I ran this race in 2006 and generally never do the same thing twice and yet this will be different and the same. I’m running and training with my husband and our Kilimanjaro friends and enjoying the same tour of New York City.

Life never ceases to amaze me, with its twists, turns and curve balls. I never imagined this until we said yes and perhaps that is the best advice? Say yes, and figure the details out later.
Hang on tight, your life is waiting.

Pssst, hey you

Hey you, yes you.  I know that you are tired after working all day and are looking for peace after your day of calamity.  You are searching for balance and are needing an escape.  You don’t have much time. There never seems to be enough time.  News bombards and demands attention as another sad event unfolds.

Your energy stores are depleted and need a boost. You search for the positive, everywhere, anywhere to restore equilibrium. A vacation is exactly what is needed, but there is no time, no money and no way that you could go anywhere.

What if you could go to an exotic locale, feast your eyes on amazing photographs, and exist in that place for a short time?  Imagine yourself on Safari, climbing to the top of Kilimanjaro or mushing a dogsled.  Leap into the stories with me, hang on to the edge of your seat as you experience all this wonderful world has to offer.

Painting with Snow
Painting with Snow
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Painting with leaves

Hello is anyone out there?

Hello, is anyone out there?

I have signed up for a course in blogging and following is my first assignment.  I hope that I will find myself a year from now looking at the first blogs written and marvelling at the growth I have attained.  I want to become the best that I can be and to this end will seek  all the help that I can find or is offered.

I started a blog last year before embarking on a trip to Africa   I wanted to share this trip with others and at the same time have a written record of the experience for myself.  I kept notes to remind myself of the main points.  I also want the experience to be real and I do not shy away from my less than stellar moments.  I will write about travel.  I will also write about the positive in the world as the news media seems to have the negative covered.

Writing and photography are my first and second loves and thanks to technology I have the ability to share with a larger audience, including family and friends.  Gone are the days of lugging around photo albums after a trip and of keeping a written journal of the experience that only I would view.

The days of the handwritten letters are gone, but blogging provides a chance to share ideas, thoughts and photographs with a few mouse clicks and to receive instant feedback from around the world. It provides an opportunity to research a new place and to see that place through the eyes of a multitude of people each with their own unique way of viewing and experiencing the world. It opens the world wide and allows us a front row seat.

Blogging connects us and creates  a family of support.  It provides an outlet and a chance to perfect the craft of writing and story telling. When I sit in my living room drinking my coffee  and see that someone from another part of the world has read my words, and then I read theirs, the world is much smaller and more attainable.  We are more alike than different as we share uniquely human experiences.

Once I had a dream of becoming a Journalist, but somehow life got in the way.  I currently have a  fantastic career in healthcare and know that I have made a difference so I have no regrets.  Still, I wonder if there is time to explore the road less travelled?