Safari Journal Part 13

Part 13

It’s early on Sunday morning. I am putting my tent together when I am told I have a visitor. This throws me a bit. A visitor? As promised Mama Christina has come back to the campsite with her husband and children. She is talking so fast that I can hardly understand her. She introduces me to her husband. He is brief in his introduction. I ask him many questions about how he began his teaching and what prompted him to do so. He enlightens me on the fact that there are very few schools here and that he enjoys it so much that he does so basically voluntarily. He embraces English and is very fluent. He sounds like a turtle compared to his wife. It’s nice to wake up thinking that you will be driving for 3 hours and then to be surprised by a family that has so many things to say. By this time all of the Americans are pretty much talked out. You can only say what you do back home so many times, you know. I meet with the children and ask if we can take pictures. One of the children want to take the picture, they have never held a camera so I get the opportunity of teaching them about using the viewer and the shutter button. They are listening very intently. When set, I get in the middle of the family and one of the children takes hold of my hair. Stretching it all the way across so it lay on their shoulders. If just one of them asked me to cut it off so that they could keep it I would have. Our vehicle pulls up behind us and Gebra tells me that it is time to go. I get their address and get back in the truck. The children have a need that is like a sponge. Gathering every nugget of information that they could from me. I don’t feel drained. I feel encouraged that someone is interested in – me, just for who I am. I have performed no tricks. I am only just me.

We are passing the Ngorongoro Crater. We will circle around it to get to the Serengeti. As we climb the outside crater wall the scenery becomes much greener. There is also a great deal of travelers here. Not even ¼ of the people on the expressway everyday in Cincinnati but a lot for Tanzania. Curving up a hill at a snails pace we start to stop. This is not an ideal place to stop to use the bathroom. Gebra says “Shit” under his breath. That word seems to be universal. We are on a road that barely fits two vehicles and we have another flat tire. Gebra says that he hasn’t had a flat tire on a safari in years and this is the second of our trip. He motions that I bring him bad luck by holding his fingers in a cross. “Figures” I say, “at least the view is nice”. There are flowers along the roadside, what little of that there is. I get out of the truck, pick a flower to put in my journal and look out to the horizon. You can see for miles from here, we are about 7,000 feet up. Several other trucks stop to see if there is any help that they can offer. Of course all of the other vehicles are much smaller and the spare that they are carrying is about one half the size we need. Because we have already used the spare the crew has to use an air pump to inflate the flat. I urgently have to pee, boys in the front, and girls in the back that’s the rule. No matter where you are standing the back of the truck is in clear view of everyone. I stand next to the bumper and pull down my shorts. As I crouch a Rover passes, nothing that they haven’t seen before, right? Another Rover passes and I get a little bit antsy. I pull up my shorts in mid-stream. As the pee continues to flow, I look up to see Solomon and Francis just sort of looking at me. “It’ll dry,” I say trying to convince myself as much as them. They smile, kind of. I stand on the side of the road anxiously awaiting the smell that will surely follow me through the day. I get my baby wipes and clean my legs off. I can’t help the shorts, the socks and my shoes. Well my shoes have been doomed since I packed them.

After about two hours our spare is re-inflated and we drive on. We head back down the crater and arrive on a long flat road. We stop for lunch in an area that has little foliage and a dried up stream. The only shade is that from branches, no leaves. The streambed has many beautiful rocks to offer. Most of them are quartzite. They glisten in the sunlight. The game begins. Find the prettiest rock and show it to the others. Now that I think about it we must have looked like a kindergarten class on recess. You can only stand in the sun for about ten minutes before you have to take a rest in the shade. I ask Solomon if there is anything that I can do to help to prepare lunch. He has me set up the food table. I get the dishes out of the boxes. I have to ask more questions than the help is really worth so he says that he will get it. Francis is currently trying to remove the rim from the first tire. He is using rocks and a small hammer. You can hear a sigh of disgust after every new tool that he picks up. The adventure is obviously not going well for the crew. We eat and take off again.

We are about twenty minutes driving time from the entrance to the Serengeti National Park. We stop again. The tire has again lost air. If you are getting tired of hearing about flat tires, trust me it’s nothing like being delayed by them. This setting is not so nice. There are no trees and no stream. The only things you can see are animal carcasses out in the distance. There are the normally unseen, but familiar heat vapors rising up from the ground. One could make a great movie about desperation here. The crew is disgusted, the Americans are worse. I seem to be able to keep my peace at this moment, a far cry from my fellow travelers. Small fights erupt from inside and outside the truck. Fights may not be the best word, just a general restlessness as you can imagine. Debra and Jim talking about getting money back for the trip and such. Gebra and Solomon are bantering about how to best fix the tire. I get out of the vehicle. I can’t have them tainting my thoughts right now. I go about 50 feet from the trouble and say to myself “God, you will not stop me. I have been complacent for far to long. I have accepted what you have given me and I have never questioned it. Now you will listen to me and you will get me to my destination. Tonight!” Well, the clouds didn’t part, the wind didn’t pick up and the tire wouldn’t inflate. I have put to much trust in fairy tales it seems. A Rover stops and John gets a large piece of rubber from the driver. The hole that is in our tire is all the way through the intertube and it is to hot for the glue to adhere. We are stranded.

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