Day 15: Lake Manyara National Park

Kapanya told us we would have a long day. After almost two weeks of hanging with Kapanya, I knew that if he said it would be a busy day, I would pretty much be wrecked by the end of it. I loved how I was learning to re-think my life. I am known to complain of “busy” days at home. They usually include a morning workout, 10 hours at the computer, 2 hours reading, a short nap, and ample snacks. I’m physically fit, sure, but this trip was showing me that I really have no idea what busy is.

We set our alarms for 6 am. We woke up, packed, ate breakfast, and got all our gear up front to load into the truck. I was sad to say goodbye to Welli, who had shown me such kindness. We had a big last hug before our trucks pulled out of the drive.

We stopped in the town of Arusha so that Larry could buy maps. It was congested and it took us forever to get through. We stopped just outside of town to do the only shopping we would manage on our whirlwind trip. We went to the Arusha Cultural Heritage Center and tried to grab one of everything to take home as gifts. There was a large group of young Americans crowding the gem table, though, and no matter how long we waited I couldn’t get access to the area to buy a Tanzanite. I asked Kapanya if there was somewhere else we could get it. I explained that I wanted to set it in a ring my mother gave me before she died.

So we stopped at one more shop and I found the perfect stone. Back in the truck I thanked Kapanya, and he said to me, “Thank you, Trish, for telling me what was in your heart.” And I didn’t let Kapanya see this. He was sitting behind me in the back seat. My eyes just welled up with tears. His statement made me think about how often I fail to communicate my feelings. Somehow Kapanya’s sentence made so much sense to me: that allowing him to fulfill my wish fulfilled a wish of his. I sat quietly for a while with that lesson, so grateful to know Kapanya, this wonderful teacher.

So we had a bit of a drive ahead of us. Soon after we got out of town we started to see young Maasai boys dressed in all black wearing white face paint. Before I knew not to do it, I took a few pictures out the window. In the last picture I managed to take (before I realized it was super rude to take them), one of the young men was both spitting at me and giving me the finger. I started asking some questions of our driver, Sylvester. He told me that the boys were in black because they had recently been circumcised in a coming of age ceremony. No wonder they were grumpy!

Soon our 2 trucks pulled over to the side of the road and Sylvester looked at me. Did I mention yet that Sylvester was, um, really, really attractive? He was 28 years old, wearing dress khakis and a black dress shirt rolled casually at the sleeves. His skin was so smooth it looked like polished mahogany. He had these delicately curled eyelashes and clear brown eyes. He had a sly smile that started just at the edges of his full lips.

“We’re checking the tire pressure,” he said to me, flashing that smile. I sat still for a while until I saw him taking a leak in front of a bush. Hooray! Yet another euphemism for peeing! So we all filed out of the truck and peed.

When we were safe inside again an old, bald Maasai woman came to Sylvester’s window. She was wrapped in gorgeous blankets and covered in beaded jewelry—a traditional necklace, huge ear gauges, and bracelets covering her entire forearms. She and Sylvester had a heated conversation in Swahili that culminated in him giving her some ginger cookies. As we pulled away we asked Sylvester what she said. He smiled and reported this:

Old woman: That man in the other car took my picture. Give me money.
Sylvester: No. He was taking pictures of the landscape.
Old woman: You don’t love me like I love you.
Sylvester: Oh I love you.
Old woman: I want some money!
Sylvester: I’m not going to give you money. Take these ginger cookies.
Old woman: Come on! I want some money to buy a Pepsi.
Sylvester: Enjoy your cookies! See you later! Bye bye!

We all laughed as he translated their friendly argument.

Soon we arrived to Lake Manyara National Park. We enjoyed a picnic lunch of quiche, fruit and vegetables, cornbread, and chicken. Then we started our short drive into the park for wildlife viewing. We weren’t moving for 3 minutes when we saw a family of elephants. Since they were our first ones, we were pretty worked up! It was really exciting to see the whole family walking down the road, taking up dirt with their trunks and blowing it over their backs. We watched them for a good long while before we moved. I took some video of it for you.

We left and then we saw: olive baboons, monkeys, giraffes, zebras, dikdiks, impalas, wart hogs, and mongoose. But the most exciting spotting was a group of 3 lions in a tree. We took lots and lots of pictures. With wildlife, it takes about 50 bad pictures to get 1 good picture. So we shot our hearts out and laughed about how many hours it would take us to sort through the pics back at home.

After lots of viewing, we hit the road. We had a long way to drive to get to our next spot: the Hotel Serena in the Ngorogoro Crater. In fact, we got there quite late and didn’t eat dinner until 9 pm. We were in bed at 10 pm. Before I fell asleep I thought again about what a “busy day” represented back home. I smiled and thought, Not. Even. Close.

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