Friday, June 30, 2006

Africa - Serengeti, Tanzania

Africa - Safari Itinerary

After the wedding, we took a flight to Kenya with our friends for the start of a 4 day, 3 night Safari! Never in my life did I think I'd ever go on one...Lion King came to mind. Lance and I had gotten 7 immunization shots before we left for Africa. These included Yellow Fever, typhoid, tetanus, polio, hep A, meningitis and malaria pills. Ouch!

The itinerary was as follows. (travel agent schedule has been edited in purple italics to reflect real experience):
Day 1:
8:00 Depart from Nairobi via dusty small shuttle bus full of tourists. Arrive Arusha where Tanzania Visas are checked. Also where you can buy African jewelry and souvenirs really cheap from residents. They will attack you thru the bus window.
12:00 Box lunch we will be eating the same lunch for the next 4 days.
14:00 Continue to Ngorongoro Lodge for the most delicious buffet dinner and overnight.

Day 2:
8:00 Get up super early. Drive to Serengeti via Olduvai Gorge. I was asleep
12:00 Lunch same lunch as yesterday. Ate at a picnic area. Next to us was another tourist group on a "Luxury" safari, using real silverware and wine glasses. Talk about roughing it.
14:00 Afternoon game viewing of the Serengeti plains. Amazing animals - cheetahs, lions, hyenas, wilderbeest, and zebras...
Dinner and overnight at the Lodge in Serengeti. Beautiful Lodge and amazing buffet dinner!

Day 3:
8:00 Morning game drive in Serengeti Park. Witnessed animals finding their breakfast.
12:00 Lunch guess what - same box lunch as yesterday
15.30 Drive to Ngorongo Lodge. Afternoon Safari drive of the crater. This place was incredible, hippos, flamingos, elephants...
Dinner and overnight at the Ngorongoro Lodge. Can't say enough about the food. I will crave honey from African honeybees for the rest of my life.

Day 4: 8:00 After breakfast depart for Arusha to arrive by 1pm in time to board
The shuttle back to Nairobi

Rate per person - US$875
Shuttle transfer one way - US$30

Above costs included:
Shuttle transfer in a 25 seater tourist bus from Nairobi – Arusha return
Full board accommodation while on safari
Transport in 4 x4’s while on safari
Drivers allowances
Services of English speaking driver guides
½ day crater tour in Ngorongoro
Crater and Park fees

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Africa - Ethiopia - Trivia

We landed in the capital of Ethiopia, Addis Ababa, 4 hrs. after leaving Dubai. Addis Ababa reminds me of parts of Mexico or Lance compared to South any developing country. Here are some facts we learned:

-Ethiopia was never colonized by another country (like how Kenya was colonized by the British). The Italians had tried in the past, but Ethiopia fought hard against it.

-Ethiopia used to have a Communist government

-If you hit an Ethiopian with your car, the fine is equivalent to $1,000 US dollars. If you paralyze or hurt the person with your car, you have to pay for them for the rest of their lives. So the joke is better to make sure they're dead.

- Donkeys carry eucalyptus leafves down from the mountains and forests for fuel for cooking.

-The Ethiopian currency is the Birr. The current exchange is 8.6 Birr = $1 US

-You get the weirdest looks if you are Asian...from personal experience

-The country is about 50/50 Christian and Islamic (which explains the loud singing at 5 a.m. outside our hotel Monday morning)

-Most of the cars are used. Luxury import cars carry a 100% import tax. Still we saw many Mercedes Benz. Gas is still leaded and they use diesel. Air pollution is very apparant.

-Climate - hot days and cold nights.

-Coffee originated from Ethiopia. It is still their main export as well as tea.

Typical Ethiopian Meal

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Africa: Ethiopia - A Wedding in Addis Ababa

Our stay in Addis Ababa was for about 3 days. We checked into the Sheraton - and it is a GORGEOUS 5-star hotel. The pool and restaurants were fantastic. The contradiction is that right outside the Sheraton gates, was a run down area of the city. Though it can be difficult to see, at least the tourists bring money into the country and help make more jobs available.

The next day was our good friends' wedding. Being able to attend was a once in a lifetime experience. The church ceremony started at 6am - 9:30 am. There were 5 couples total getting married at the same time. The church is Christian and completely packed. Turns out it was also St. Gabriel's day so there were tons of people dressed in white spilling outside thru the parking lot and out the gates. They were all facing the church worshipping. Inside everyone was elbow to elbow and it was steamy!

Later we all got in cars and traveled together to a place to celebrate and have lunch. We drove out of the city and up the mountainside into the country. The air was so much cooler and more it was beautiful scenery. You start seeing more asses (as in donkeys, get your mind out of the gutter), cows and horses. The houses look like they're made of wood, mud or clay. We finally stop as our friends each mount a horse. This is very old tradition. We completely hold up traffic while everyone's walks down the road singing to a guy playing the drum. The lunch reception is our friends' Godfather's house.