I know you're all expecting an epic travelog - and I seriously don't want to disappoint, but one of the main reasons I have been so silent since coming back from vacation, is, well...I'm SPEECHLESS.
There is no beauty like Africa. Vast plains, gorgeous sunsets, wild animals, beautiful people. I loved every second of my trip and am starting to wonder already when I might go back again.
I am still working on editing approximately 2000 photos of my trip. So what I will do for those of you who want the entire travel-blog is post a link to my albums that I am painstakingly going through, editing and narrating as I go. There are videos there as well, so it's an all-encompassing look at my vacation from start to finish - "African Sickness" included.
From a Spark perspective, I don't feel like I would have been able to do this trip, nor would I have enjoyed it half as much 120 pounds heavier. In fact, I don't know that I would have even had the courage to book a vacation like this. For 12 days we camped through the Masai Mara in Kenya, the Serengeti in Tanzania, the Ngorogoro Crater, the Great Rift Valley, Lake Manyara, the foothills of Kilimanjaro in Moshi and all the red dirt roads and acacia laden plains in between. I successfully used a squat toilet for the first time in my life (and even managed not to pee on myself - which is a substantial feat in my books). I ate the local food and drank the local beer and enjoyed every ounce of it (except maybe the banana beer which is more like fermented banana juice mixed with plain oatmeal). I saw a herd of over 100 elephants on our first night in the Mara and cried at the shear beauty of it all. I saw lions mating (lots of lions mating, and elephants, and wildebeast, and zebra, and ostrich...it's all about the circle of life kids!), and leopards eating their prey. I heard exotic bird calls, and hyenas laughing (some right outside my tent at 2am, which is the one night I didn't sleep very well - can you blame me?) - the likes of which my ears have never heard before. I met local tribes people, and made new friends in the small village of Mtu Wa Mbu where we visited a kindergarten classroom and fed the kids trail mix for their morning treat. I noticed a small boy crying and as his sister ran to comfort him I noticed that he was wearing a torn sweater from my Alma-matter in Toronto - one of the most touching and striking images of my entire trip. I schlepped a 15kg pack all over East Africa and was amazed that my feet didn't hurt once. We helped load and unload the safari jeep at every stop - but honestly, we were spoiled by our guides so much that I didn't have to carry or heft as much as I expected. I learned a few words in Swahili and am now convinced that I want to learn the language and go back to speak it. Even though my brother and I got terribly sick for 2 days at the end of the trip - I'm forgiving. It was all part of the experience and it was the price we paid for probably being a little more adventurous than we should have been in the food/water department. Who knows. But even a trip to an African hospital was an adventure and something we will talk about for years to come.
I had some amazing bonding time with my brother and my cousins. And I no longer feel like an outsider in that group. For years I have felt "less than" when it comes to my family. Because of my lack of physical fitness, I couldn't keep up and therefore didn't feel like I was one of the gang. But this trip proved all of that wrong. Not only did I fit in, I matched the fitness level of the rest of my crew. I didn't hold anyone back. I didn't need help getting around. I was part of the team - and nothing can describe the relief and happiness I felt because of it. The only question now is "where to next?"
Overlooking the Masai Mara.
The Hippo Pool on the Mara River
A visit to the local Masai village - the kids were hungry for trail mix.
Clothing from home - this little one has on a sweatshirt from York University (my Alma-matter!)
My brother and I at the top of a Pride Rock overlooking the Serengeti.