Three Weeks in Africa

Clouds cling to Kilimanjaro, hiding the face of Africa’s highest mountain. Our truck has parked itself in a tiny village called Marangu while half of the crew treks to the base camp of Kili. I’ve shied away from it, determined that in the next month and a half, I’ll walk the whole thing—Hemingway would be so proud!

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of people and places and memories that etched themselves into my skin and soul. In the Maasai Mara, we stopped at a Maasai village, welcomed by a traditional dance by the men and women. First the men, clad in crimson to ward off lions, jumped up and down, paced by the deep guttural chanting of the leader. Seed bead earrings, necklaces and belts hopped with the warriors, and then they snaked away, out onto the dry, barren earth. The sight of one swinging red blanket hanging over a tree limb, accompanied by the dancing, the chanting, the magic of an ancient culture made me dry my eyes. I was here. Africa. When the women danced, I was the first to join in line with them, their song and colorful printed fabric a brilliant contrast to the men’s and the empty earth. We kicked our feet out, wheeling around the others, holding hands, singing what sounded to my Catholic ears like, “Hallelujah!” Inside their dung huts, smoke ebbed from a small fire and the dark cloaked all of us, white and black alike. Though I could see daylight wafting in through the peephole and then through the long hanging earlobe of the Maasai warrior.

The following day I splurged and drifted up into the Maasai Mara skies in a hot air balloon. A leopard skitted down a road, the balloon lifted higher, the sun chased us into the sky. Masaai magic. A proper English champagne brunch followed: I hadn’t seen anything other than toast and jam in the morning for over four days, so I admit, I took the hyena approach, and scavenged all I could. (Off both tables.) The pastel linen tablecloths and never-ending champagne kept my sprits floating long after I bailed out of the balloon’s basket.

In Nairobi our truck hit up the infamous Carnivore restaurant, where I ate more meat than I weigh. It was not a pretty sight. No need to elaborate.

The last three days a small Land Cruiser carted us around the Serengeti and Ngorogoro Parks. Despite my initial, “another game drive? Argh!” attitude, I popped out of the roof hatch with a grin on my face when we spotted our first animals: a pride of lions lounging in the afternoon sun. Cheetahs ran across our truck tracks, elephants made us move our vehicle, too, lest they have to walk around us. The sweeping plains, beautiful in their sparseness, provided a home to creatures I’ve only ever seen in the zoo. The acacia trees burned with the sunset, a reminder that across the world, the sun sets the same as in the Pacific: beautiful and without pause.

Today in Marangu, despite the rain, I’ve eaten my share of fried chicken, had three pots of coffee and cakes for under $3, and wandered as one of only handful of white people in the market. This Africa place has something to it—a magical quality of ethereal time and place. I’m determined to venture here again.



3 Responses to “Three Weeks in Africa”

  1. 1 Emily
    July 21, 2008 at 7:52 pm

    I am sooo excited you liked Africa – especially kenya and the maasi mara. You have always been so good with words, at least better than I, and you explained what I felt when I was there. It almost made me cry I wanted to go back. There is no other place in all the world like Africa, it truly does have something about it that draws you there, makes you feel at home, puts you in a state of awe no other place can, and makes you dream of the next time you get to return.
    I am so glad you are enjoying it.
    much love and many thoughts 🙂

  2. 2 Helen
    July 25, 2008 at 2:39 am

    I find myself checking your blog every few days, in spite of knowing you are deep in the jungles and deserts of Africa and God knows where else, and probably not hitting up the Mickey D’s for free internet. I am living vicariously through you, hanging on your every word as you tell your wonderful stories of far away lands and your connections with strangers of a different culture. Kudos to you for going and doing … and I SO MUCH look forward to hearing about it. I guess it doesn’t hurt that you have a great way with words. 😉
    Max says hello, gives the cutest grin you have ever seen to show you his two new teeth, and then he crawls away!

  3. 3 Nikolai
    July 29, 2008 at 5:58 am

    More bedtime stories please. I love you.

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