Entry #29: Beautiful and Magical Africa

I'm sure that at some point you've all read a book that portrays Africa as a magical place. I'm here to testify that it's all true! Okay, so maybe I’m being a bit generous since I have only been to Tanzania's capital and it's world famous national parks. I'm sure my opinion would be different if I had also visited Sudan or Rwanda. Sort of like someone traveling to San Francisco and Yosemite and assuming all of North America was just as great...but, hey, this is my website and I'm going to take some artistic liberties in writing my blog.

My experience in Tanzania was magical, not in a Harry Potter way, but more in a Ouija board sort of way. I can't quite point to one specific thing that made Tanzania mystical; it’s the vague way that a collection of 5 second experiences culminate into an overall positive feeling.

Maybe it is the way the golden grassy plains are spotted with green flat top trees like the fur of a leopard.

Or maybe it’s the way the vibrant blue and red robes of the nomadic Massai tribesmen speckle the distant countryside like the first stars after sunset as they herd their skeletal cattle and goats across the great river rift valley.

Or maybe it is the way millions of pink flamingos create a pink thread that rests on the horizon of Lake Myanmar.

Or maybe it is the way that 50 hippos belching and farting to some chaotic chorus in a way that would make any 8 year old boy (and this 32 year old) giggle and laugh with glee.

Or the excitement of having an Elephant charge the Safari Jeep you’re in and for that moment before the jeep speeds away to safety, you think you are living in a horror movie where your panicking that something is about to go wrong and the driver will not get the car in gear in time or he'll stall the engine or the Jeep will get stuck in the mud bog.

Possibly it’s watching two Zebras fight in the first rays of daylight under a 500 year old Balboa tree with its enormous trunk and short branches.

Or maybe it’s the fear that sneaks into your heart when you realize that something is sniffing outside your tent and your not sure if its a lion, a hyena, a wart hog, or the drunken Swede that had too much whiskey after dinner and would think roaring like a lion as he jumped on your tent would be funny.

Or maybe it’s the way people greet you with a genuine smile and give you honest advice, which is in such contrast to my visit to India. Those experiences have made Tanzania a breath of fresh air, literally and figuratively.

The wildlife is so abundant upon entering any of the national parks, it seems surreal. It is like going to the zoo because the animals are so close to the Jeep, if they aren't directly in the middle of the road. As you will see from the photos, you don't just see 1 animal at a time, but instead you see a herd of 4,000 Wildebeest that has 300 Zebra mixed in, as 10 lions watch from a rocky perch looking for their next meal.

There is something that is different about seeing 1 of something as opposed to having your whole field of vision encompassed by thousands, if not millions of something. Think of seeing one person verses a sea of people at a protest or a festival, there is a different energy from seeing that. It has been an incredible experience and has been a highlight of my trip.

As far as cultural oddities, the strangest thing I have encountered was a guy from New Zealand who was on the Safari trip. He used to be an Olympic trampoliner, but now jumps on trampolines at Fashion shows around the world! What the...! If my guidance counselor had only told me that tramplolining was an occupation, I can only imagine how different my life would be. Is tramplolining listed on the Myers Briggs test? And what sort of personality combination do you need to be matched with that “occupation?”

I feared that at this far into my journey I would be wowed out--numb to new and wondrous things, jaded by beautiful sights and tired of experiencing new cultures. But, I am glad to report that Tanzania has really excited me for the last three weeks of my journey: the Pyramids; Petra; Jerusalem; and Athens.

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All Photos by Sean McGrail