Saturday, March 31, 2012

Day 15 - Tanzania - Fourth day on safari

Day four starts out at the usual 8am time this morning. Unfortunately I can't convince Ben to get a sunrise start again. As it turns out it's probably a good thing. I woke up this morning needing to rush to the bathroom. I'm not going to get too graphic with the details but just say that I've got the worst case of diarrhea that I've ever experienced in my entire life. Since returning home and telling my stories to so many people one of the most common questions I get asked is why I decided to climb the mountain first and then go on safari. Most people think that after climbing the mountain you would just want to come home and rest. In fact, this is the exact reason why I wanted to do the climb first and also the reason most other people do the climb first. The chances of getting a bad case of traveler's diarrhea increases every day you are in a foreign country and spending the extra five or six days on safari prior to going up the mountain just increases your chances of having problems when it's time to go up the mountain. I've been in Tanzania now for eleven days and it's just hit me. Over breakfast this morning I find out that the couple from Denmark are also having the same problem. It's amazing where the conversation turns over breakfast in a tent in the Serengeti. Apparently it was something we ate at dinner last night. The couple from Germany are nowhere to be seen so we are not sure if they are in their tent with the same problems as well. We all ate the same thing last night.
After breakfast it's a mad dash for the tent once again and now I'm getting a slight bit worried about how I'm going to manage the rest of the day. There are not exactly Porta-Potties stationed all over the wilderness out here. Even drinking the bottle of water is flushing through me in a matter of minutes.
Around 8am I meet up with my driver, Ben, and explain my situation to him. He's concerned as well and we decide to hold off departing camp until I am sure that I'm OK.
The schedule for today is to spend a bit more time driving around the Serengeti and then head back towards the Maasai village for a tour and finally end up at the Highview Hotel for the evening. We don't have to actually start heading back right away so we stay in camp until 9am when I finally feel as though I am "empty". I learn rather quickly that if I drink a large amount of water it to will run through me very quickly so I start a process of taking tiny sips every ten minutes or so just to keep some fluids in me. This turns out to work alright.

As we leave camp I still manage to grab a few shots along the way.
This giraffe is just outside our camp.


Next up, another elephant, only my second sighting for the entire trip and I'm excited to get another angle on this magnificent beast. He's alone and I wonder if it's the same one I photographed near the end of the day yesterday?



It's now around 10am and I'm not feeling too well so I ask Ben to go ahead and head back towards our hotel. It's still a five hour drive away. He starts making his way towards the main road, that long bumpy road we came in on, when he notices several trucks parked near a cluster of trees. Could I possible get a cooler shot then the lions late yesterday? Maybe so. Ben heads that way since it's not really too far out of the way of the direction we are headed anyway. As we near the cluster of trees I get a glimpse at what everyone is looking at.

It's hard to see at first but I guess that's the point of these animals blending in with their surroundings.
Driving around to the other side of the tree I'm able to get a better view but we are still very far away. Even with the giant 840mm lens I'm shooting with, this baby is just out of range. Here's a shot that's been heavily cropped to show the leopard lazing around in the tree.

And moving another 20-30 yards down the road I'm able to get a glimpse of a second leopard higher up in the tree.

Both of the images are very heavily cropped from the original 21 megapixel file. They show only about the center 3 or 4 megapixels to give you an idea of how far away these animal were from our road. Unfortunately this looks like my only chance to see a leopard on this trip so we take what we can get. They don't look like they are going to be moving anytime soon. We wait for around twenty minutes or so and as I suspected they don't budge an inch so I tell Ben I'm ready to go. Twende.

Finally out on the main road and I let Ben know that we really need to make good time getting to the park entrance. Time for me once again to pay a visit to the porcelain god. Ben pulls over to put the top down so he can drive a little faster and as he's doing this I see a head pop up from the ditch along the road. And before anyone ask, no, Ben doesn't have to get out of the truck to put the top down. It's all done from inside.

Can you tell what it is? I'll give you a hint. It was watching me eat dinner last night!

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Eventually two hyena's pop up and move away from us. They really are afraid of humans. Who's laughing now?



This turns out to be my last shot in the Serengeti.

We eventually make it to the park entrance and while Ben goes to sign us out, I head to the bathroom yet again and not a moment too soon. We still have about an hour drive to the Maasai village and Ben is hoping I feel better by the time we get there. I am too because I am really looking forward to the tour and the chance to do the famous jumping dance with the young warriors. I'm sure there's at least one I can out jump, right?  As it turns out things are only getting worse. By the time we reach the turn off for the village I'm really feeling bad. Not just needing to go to the bathroom again but weak from the lack of any nourishment in my body. I tell Ben to keep driving and get me back to the Highview hotel as fast as possible. One more stop at the entrance to the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area and one more trip for me to the bathroom. Next stop in about an hour, my hotel.

We finally make it to the hotel around 3pm and I settle into my room. Comfortable that I'm near a bathroom I now eat my box lunch that I was afraid to touch while traveling and start drinking more water. It really seems pointless though as everything I take in rushes through me in a matter of minutes. At this point I remember that I've got a prescription for Cipro, an antibiotic that was specifically prescribed to me for this, so I start taking it. I really need to get past this because tomorrow we are supposed to head into the Ngorongoro Crater. There's two animals I haven't seen yet and the crater is my last chance. The Black Rhino and Cheetahs are both regularly seen in the crater and that would finish off my list of animals I want to capture on film...well, CompactFlash card anyway.

Dinner is served at 7pm and I sit alone because I do not see anyone in the dining area that I recognize. The German and Denmark couples are staying in the Serengeti another night. Dinner is buffet style and I make my way through the line looking for something I think I can hold down. There's not much that seems to fit that bill so I just get a large plate of boiled rice and a few small pieces of fruit. The tiny bananas they have in this country taste so good but I don't see any so I settle for a slice of watermelon. The server makes her way to me to take my drink order and I request two bottles of water. I'm going to need them this evening. These are 1.5 liter bottles. By the time the server makes her way back to my table with my water I can tell already that I need to head for my room. I explain to her that I'm not feeling well and ask for my check so I can depart quickly. A few minutes later I'm approached by another hotel staff member that is concerned about my illness. I tell him I'll be just fine with a nights rest but he insist on bringing me food to my room. I request the tiny bananas and head for my room. Within 10 minutes I have a knock on the door and I'm brought a huge plate of bananas and oranges along with another bottle of water. They really want to make sure I'm going to be alright this evening. It's nice to know they are concerned as I head off to eat and try and sleep. Eventually my body has cleansed itself yet again and I'm able to get some sleep
Ben is scheduled to pick me up at 7am to head back to the Ngorongoro Crater Park so I need to get some rest and hope that I'm feeling better in the morning.