Tanzania via Amsterdam (Oct 15-Nov 2, 2016)

 Animal Communication workshop and safari with Carol Gurney.  An exceptional jouney on so many levels!

Back to Africa, Tanzania to be more specific.  A place I visited a decade ago and am curious how it’s all evolved.  The journey to the “Dark Continent” can be a long one so I’ve opted to break up the flights with a night in Amsterdam.  It turned out to be a wonderful side trip with the hotel offering great workout facilities, super friendly staff, nice new rooms and best of all, it’s next to a super lush, tidy and sprawling farm filled with pastures of friendly ponies, curious goats, grazing cows, shy sheep, social chickens, ducks, swans, geese and probably some pigs in there too that weren’t visible from where I walked.  All the animals had huge green pastures, some with ponds, none were over crowded, it’s a good example of a happy farm from what I saw.

 

Anyhow, since I’m heading to Africa as part of a small group of animal communication students with Carol Gurney as our teacher, it was a joy to hang out with animals for a bit of pre-workshop inspiration.  I spent as much time as possible nuzzling with and just sitting with the little horses and goats until my fingers began to freeze in the chilled northern breeze as the sun sank into the flat Dutch horizon.  Boy, do I miss being around animals all the time!  Funny, I didn’t see or hear a single dog, but I’m sure there are a few that accompany the owner and/or manager.  Oh, what a treat to get and give kisses to the horses, they really are special beings, or “friends” as I tend to call them all.

 

During my time with the animals I tried to be calm, to breathe, and to share with them my intention at that moment and on this journey to Africa, my sincere desire to find that place in my heart that can really listen and hear what nature is saying and to perhaps even be able to make a positive contribution along the way, even if only to bring some joy to the animals I have the privilege of meeting.  I long to know for sure that I am doing so and be able to clearly hear if there is anything more or different I could or should be doing in a lucid and uncomplicated way I can easily distinguish from my own thoughts.

 

An image I love from this afternoon was of the sweet soft chestnut noses of the 3 horses that I spend time sitting with (they’re small ponies in size actually).  They’d nuzzle my bangs and I’d blow in their nose to have them return the gesture.  I’d kiss their nose and they’d wriggle theirs gently feeling my face with their kind dexterous upper lip.

 

The goats made me giggle a bit as I put my hand out for them to approach as they liked.  2 goats and I connected a bit, they’d lick my hand, then give a face like a kid eating a lemon, only I’m sure my hand tasted rather salty having just worked out.  I think they got as much a curious kick out of me as I did of them.  The male goat, was rather proud as well and seemed to really enjoy my compliments of his handsome-ness and his lovely ladies.  He seemed proud of a little one that was grazing next to him with a very strong father/son sort of connection.

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16 October

Tanzanian arrival.

I sat next to a couple on the plane, Anette and Neil, who hail from the UK, and travel quite a lot to Africa to experience the always surprising life on Safari.  We chatted about a few places and settled on bragging about a particular guide in Botswana, who ironically we’d both traveled with.  Alwyn it seems, has quite a following.  I know he’d taken the princes, William and Henry on a safari, but it seems he’s the guy to seek out in Botswana.  When they mentioned his particular love of the wild dogs, that sealed the deal that we definitely had the same guide.  They asked me to Email them info I gather from Gennifer about getting a hold of him

2 days post-departure from LA and I’ve finally arrived, greeted by the ubiquitous series of queues to stand in for visas, visa check and customs.  $100 buckaroonies it cost for the visa now… A far cry from 2007, but then again, nothing remains as it was.  I didn’t sleep much last night due to the time change and with a day filled with travel then arriving in the dark, I kinda feel like I don’t know where the heck I am, but am assured by the lovely full moon, earthy scent of this glorious continent and sounds of crickets that tomorrow will bring a new day on with a smile.

I was quite special to see Lawrence again and I look forward to getting to know the others as the weeks progress.  For now, it’s off to attempt a proper night’s sleep.

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17 October – day one (free day)

I have to admit to going into this Safari with a bit of a negative attitude due to the excessive cost of the trip, which I’m aware is double what it should have been, and it didn’t help that Gennifer let me know we won’t get the camps to ourselves since the group is small. At the risk of sounding snobbish, I’ve been fortunate to experience more than most here, so I’m more aware of that issue than the others.  I know we’re getting a bit taken cost-wise and it makes me feel challenged to be as open as I’d like of from the start.  Nonetheless, I’m really trying to put all that aside and be in the moment in this very special land.

 

After an only slightly better night’s sleep/rest than the night before, I awoke early still and hearing birds begging to awaken, I took a gander outside my door to see the morning light.  A loud sound came from a lovely lush marsh just a few feet away, it was like a million crickets and cicadas all singing at once, when suddenly a powerful “whoosh” washed through the morning air as probably 100 thousand tiny birds set off in elegant waves into the early morning sky.  Like the bats taking flight into the evening skies pouring out of limestone caves, this was like the yin to their yang. They flew with such perfect choreography, like waves washing enthusiastically upon the shoreline at a surfer’s paradise.  Never one out of sync, nor a crash to be seen…complete harmony.  I could so easily have closed by eyes to listen, but the sight of this short-lived event was to memorable a moment not to take it in as fully as possible.  It was a stunning experience to see and only lasted a minute or 2, leaving a few to linger in the reeds a bit longer, perhaps the later risers of the population.  This happened about 5:30am or so.  Peggy mentioned at brekkie that they do the same in the evening… I hope not to miss that too.

 

I did a little yoga right there then took the winding footpath along the edge of the marsh and out to a lovely bird watching island that is also where they’ll serve brekkie later. The sky illuminating in the day’s early rays shedding pink light first on what I think is Mount Meru in the distance with the lingering full moon just to her left.  Oh, how I’d love to go hiking there… Mountains have that affect on me.  As pink turned to golden and the warming rays begun to shine on the tallest acacias trees, the day came alive in vibrations of life.  The bees woke with the sun setting them off to busily collect sweet pollen from the little soft white flower bundles the tree offers this time of year.

 

Different birds flew here and there.  A “V” of white Ibis took flight and I reveled in the soft sound their wings made as they gently padded through the sky above me.  A lovely medium sized bird was in the path, so I greeted him and introduced myself.  He looked at me curiously, initially looking like he’d take flight, he instead seem to become interested in me.  I reminded myself to just be with him in the moment without expectations, just love.  He was stunning, much like a roller bird, the one’s I’m familiar with being of brilliant blues, violets and greens, this one was in neutral shads of brown and grey, but still wore the black mask and elegant beak, perfect for picking of his favorite insect snacks.  Later in the day one of my favorites showed it’s distance feature and giving him his namesake…his bright yellow hornbill.  They are intelligent and cheeky characters, whom I fondly fell in love with through our morning visits 1.5 years ago in Botswana.    This seems to be a heaven for the bright yellow weaver birds to play and frolic throughout each day as well.  Oh, and another special sighting of a kingfisher with his blue back and distinct bright red beak.

 

The chattering of birds grows stronger as the sun begins to make it’s way toward the western horizon.  Time melts away as I sit and watch the feathered beings return from their day’s work and seem to share their stories with the frogs, crickets and life giving fauna made possible by this watery marsh area that boarders Meru National Park and in the care of the dominating Mt. Meru in the distance.  A black ibis squeaks as it flys over, cows moo in the background and memories of the darling kids I waved “Jambo” to during my morning bike ride through village after village of friendly faces, hard working women growing crops for their families, playful children taking a break from one of the many schools in the area and men chatting about wiling away the day at leisure.

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I’m defiantly feeling better and refreshed after the morning’s moments in the presence of Mother Nature.  I’d forgotten how much glorious life there is here still and what magic it is to be in it’s presence.  I’m in Africa and loving it!

 

The rest of the gang took off for a day of shopping, getting clothes made by a tailor friend of Gennifers, having lunch complemented with free WIFI and shopping at a local Tanzanite and Malachite shop an hour’s drive away.  I’m so happy to have this day to enjoy, to listen, to get caught up on sleep, to connect with this place…and revel in the bird’s evening happy hour as it grows more and more lively and new birds begin arriving in light waves, flying in elegant S-curves through the reeds without a single mishap to jar the grace of movement.  The reeds buzz with excitement and vibrate with movement, the black and the white ibis noisily take flight soaring from one tree to another to find their perfect branch.  The largest wave came just prior to the final sun’s glowing rays behind Mt. Meru when the largest population of birds all came at once as though it was a call to dinner for a flock of hungry children.  It was a vision to watch them all come in with a blur, some flying just past my head, like the swarms of crocuses seen in African nature films.  They flew in low, fast and with perfect navigation, just over the reeds by the thousands, they were quieter than this morning’s dance of the majestic waves, but unique to the evening.  I reveled in the moment, it was truly a sight, sound and a feeling to behold.

 

As the light fades to pink on it’s way out, the birds begin to settle, the party fades into a more peaceful place as a cool breeze picks up wiping away the days heat.  2 Black ibis take a perch above my head, waving their cape-like wings… 3 more join this gathering making me feel incredibly joyful to bear witness to this day here in Moluku Lodge at the edge of Mt Meru National Park.

 

Nature doesn’t stop as the sun gives way to the moon and stars.  The birds calm to a quiet chatter and settle in, the ibis start their calls, other birds come to life and fun enough, so do the bats.  As I walk back to my room in the barely-light, bats swoop past me just a couple feet from my head.  I smile yet again and wish them well in their evening feasts and frolics.

 

Sadly and joyfully, I didn’t share the evening with a soul.  I wanted the others to return to take in this life that is so prevalent and vibrant here in Africa.  I love taking time to just be, enjoy and watch what happens.  Their day was delayed somehow and didn’t arrive back a the lodge until well after dark, but with happy stories of new items to add to their collections.

 

18 Oct – to Tarangire NP

A long day of travel that seemed to be dominated by yet more stops at shopping facilities for souvenirs, but we finally made it. A sense of peace replaced the wiriness of the journey as the prevalence of humanity all around suddenly gave way to Mother Nature and the beautiful life that thrives on this incredible planet.  I was like entering a new and wondrous world.

 

*** I’m having trouble trying to avoid comparing this trip with both my last visit to Tanzania and my last travels here to Africa.  There is much excitement amongst the group being their first time.  I tried not to look at all the development and dirtiness that has amassed between Arusha and the National Parks, not to mention the construction and Tarmac roads with full signage about getting from Park to Park as though it will become a more popular self-drive event in the future as so much of other African countries are.

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Arriving in the park, we were almost immediately greeted by a family of elephants numbering around 15 or so complete with babies of varied ages. A mama elephant and 2 young ones seemed to be our greeters to this natural place.

 

Monitor lizard, pelican (didn’t know they were in these parts), gazelles, hartebeest, ostrich, kites, Frankolins, zebra, wildebeest, more elephants, a large heard of Cape buffalo, and we nearly passed by a lovely leopard that Gennifer spotted.  She was on a dead branch right next to the road side lounging in the crux of the branches watching the vehicle fly by without noticing her. We backed up slowly and had such a lovely sighting.  She seemed to be showing off for us, getting up to stretch and pose in the setting sun.  She then jumped down and hid behind the log just as a 3rd vehicle drove up loudly and honked its horn, people laughing.  3 obviously wealthy Muslims covered in gold jewelry and embroidered silk outfits smelling as though they’d just marinated in a vat of perfume drove up.  They got a quick glimpse of part of the lovely leopard, then drove off in a puff of dust… Thankfully.  She then came back out to pose a bit more for us before walking just past the back of out vehicle where she laid in the sand and rolled over showing us her furry white belly, then got up and sauntered over to a large acacia tree leaping gracefully as though defying gravity, becoming invisible in the green of the tree canopy.

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Our camp is a new one, having just opened in June.  I seems to sit right in the middle of 2 fires burning to keep the foliage under control.  A lovely glow at night, if a little eerie.  The staff is super friendly welcoming us with big smiles and such.    Tents are spread out with lovely views of the valley below.

 

Did 1st session with Carol around the fire after the other guests had gone inside for dinner.  Kinda strange sharing a camp with others and trying to learn animal communication.  It’s a bit distracting.

 

Tomorrow I’m going to try to be more present, and be as I was my first time here… Open to all and without comparison to other visits or prior knowledge of Africa and her workings… Nor the fact that we over paid so much for a trip.

 

19 Oct

“No one ever expects the Spanish Inquisition” (Python Boys)

The fires continued to skirt the property through the night, coming so close to Peggy and Carol’s tent, they went for help and the boys stayed up nearly all night fighting it off and making fire breaks.  This morning they seemed to calm just a bit, thought we could still hear the crackle and our lungs were still filled with smoke.  We moseyed out on our morning safari having some beautiful sightings of a lioness and 2 cubs right as we set out, watched the brilliantly colored violet-breasted roller birds feast on grasshoppers as they leaped from the edge of the hot flames, spent time with elephants, hornbills, jackals, Impala and such, returning to camp with big smiles and contentment.  The morning progressed and we had some down time, when Semele and I were opening up and having a lovely conversation about life relaxing on our patio lounge chair.  I happened to note that fires have a cleansing connotation and this metaphorically is a nice way to start the safari from a spiritual standpoint.

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By the time we met for class about 11:30am the winds were picking up in the wrong direction…strait toward camp!  The flame grew taller and every staff on the property came running with large fly-shatter-like tools to stamp out the fire, they ran in with buckets of water and drove in with a big black tank of water, which later melted into the once red, now blackened soil. The energy rose and the fire gained momentum and strength against all efforts.  For us to get involved would have been a burden so we turned our attentions toward holding back the fires energetically, but Mother Nature had other plans, she was going to purify our group with fire and that was that.  The flames grew closer and the winds picked up despite everyone’s efforts and it became clear we needed to get out and let Nature do as she will.  The smoke was so thick and billowy no one could see to go in and see what state the tents were in.  The boys looked disappointed, throwing their buckets down in defeat, standing back and watching knowing their jobs were about to change from service to rebuilding very soon.  I did hear the place was insured, so that is good news and I hope it covers the salaries of every man.

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We all piled into a couple trucks and drove off away toward the other end of camp, where the fires had raged in the wee hours that same morning. The smoke and flames moved onward motivated by the winds and eventually passed enough to see what was going on.  Philip and Gen managed to go in around the back of the tents to gather the bags and belongings they could immediately find, stuff them in the truck and come back around to the front of the camp’s main tent which skirted the excitement by just meters.  Time seemed insignificant, so eventually the fires passed leaving a black landscape in it’s wake and all 4 tents standing.  The grasses had been cleared for about a meter around each structure which was enough to keep the tents safe in this case, but much of the plumbing and infrastructure was melted and destroyed rendering the facility sadly non-functional.

 

We were allowed back to the tents to remove any remaining items and say our good byes to what was our temporary “home”.  Thomas managed to serve us a lovely pasta lunch and we topped it off with celebratory warm beers.  He showed us their gas tank, which they’d removed from the back and brought to the lobby for safety for if the flames had gotten to that, he words were; “it would have been like an Al-Quetta” bombing, so in the end we all had much to celebrate, first of all everyone’s safety and second to all the guys who poured their hearts into rescuing the place.

 

After repacking, we loaded up the truck and said sad farewells to our new friends who returned the heartfelt hugs with a dance that made us want to stay all the more.  The clapped, sang, danced and wriggled with big 2-handed waves and thumbs up… We returned the enthusiasm as the truck pulled away.

 

Throughout the day we thought of the guys and arriving at our new locale at Tarangiri Lodge, a far more popular and established joint, we longed for them all the more and thought about then as we faded off to dream land.

 

Between the fire and the Lodge, we had yet another spectacular safari experience with a suddenly appearing lioness and 2 cubs on a fallen baobab tree in the shouldering surrounds and the lovely morning light, many zebra, lovely times with elephants, Impala, hornbills (“Zazoo”), brilliantly colored roller birds feasting on grasshoppers leaping for their lives from the flames, wildebeest, reed buck, juvenile harrier and saddle billed storks, an exceptional time with 2 brother cheetah gnawing in the shade of an acacia on the remainders of a young antelope, we returned later to see the outgoing brother on display for the photos next to the road and his brother enjoying his privacy on the other side of the bush.  We spent time with more elephants rumbling their summons to bring another couple with them then onward to see a huge heard/family of perhaps 75-some odd all together, a good bunch of whom hung with us for some time.  We connected with them, me with young lady taking diligent and loving care of a baby for it’s mum and one Carol had connected with way before even arriving in Africa that matched her description and conversation with her to a tee.  Many of us found it emotional, inspirational and truly lovingly powerful.  We were surrounded in the love of those brilliant ladies and their families and all felt something quite profound in wonderful ways.  It was another connection with the Ellie’s I’ll remember forever.   I hope we’ll be fortunate enough to come across that group again tomorrow and have time on our own to just “be” with them.

 

… Speaking of “being”, the bees have been hanging around as if reminding us to just “bee”…. Or to just “be.”

 

A lovely luxurious evening at the Lodge, which we are enjoying but miss the guys and the special-ness we all felt at that camp.  Here we’re more of a number… Except for the truly warm connections with Lila, our hostess and server.  She brightens up this lovely place. Yes, we missed out on our AC session today, but Mother Nature had other plans for us, so we obeyed.

 

20 Oct

Waking with yoga at Tarangire Lodge as the sun began to light the day is a peaceful experience and accompanied by Impala, baboons, hornbill, and other feathered friends.  My 1st sun salutation up-dog I was met quite delightfully by a white headed, black masked, curious feathered friend who hopped strait up to me standing just shy of a meter from me seeming to joyfully greet me to the morning.  I returned the gesture and off he hopped, then flew.  He returned a couple times to see what the heck I was doing during my practice.  Others flew in to see too including a hornbill who seemed to linger longer as I chatted verbally with him.  A “go-away” bird/touraco sits on a branch as I write, they’re quite striking I think.  The view from the lodge makes up for the larger number of people her with a vast lookout over the river and tree dotted landscape.  Baobabs stand sentinel over the landscape and offer great wisdom to those who’ll listen.  This morning I connected with one, or perhaps it with me as I wondered how it’s roots are growing under the Earth.  I was looking for one answer and for it to come in words somehow, but the wise tree reminded me to listen to and trust my heart.  The question to me was “how do I feel with my heart the roots grow?”  From that I felt their extension into the earth, their vast grasp into the network of nature going deep and spreading wide, far greater in breadth than what I’d assumed, more like the tip of the iceberg and I got a glimpse at what beautiful and energetic life reaches below, a foundation for all life above.

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It’ll be a more leisurely start to the day after yesterday’s excitement with brekkie at 8 and departure at 9am.

 

Nice drive with good variety from lessons in flora, to mating rituals played out with ostrich, competing Eagles (Batalure vs Tawny), male and female baobabs, orchids growing wild in the loving branches of the grand succulents, playful mongoose, cheeky monkeys, a zebra sighting that turned into a spectacle when the trail of the stripped “equines” didn’t stop looking off as far as we could see, a wriggling line of them.  Down in “paradise valley” the migration continued to a backdrop of gorgeous elephants, lush grasses and trees, Eagles, monkeys, Impala and such.  They all were keen to move onward toward the Tarangire River.  Back up on the hill we overlooked the river where migration was in full force replicating the big Mara migration on some level.  Hundreds (rather than thousands) of wildebeest, zebra, a few elephants (unique to this) and others were all running for the waters to drink in a sort of frenzy (aside from the casual elephants) one might think had a serious consequence to like being eaten by crocodiles or crushed by hippos, but none of the later were present in this scenario.  It was an odd happening, but quite a delight to play whiteness to for us all.

 

In the meantime, about 100 Cape buffalo were encroaching on the river below the lodge sharing space with a small family of elephants, giraffes and a few local zebra.  A variety of birds like only Africa can offer up soared overhead and in the trees, the “go away” touraco bird was nearby telling others to “gway, gway”.  A Pearled owl blended perfectly with a baobab by our tent and fervent monkeys galloped with babies attached at the stomach through camp looking for any opportunity to snatch a treat or two.

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We shared an afternoon session with Carol addressing body scanning and learning how an animals feels physically.  We then did a case sharing a personal animal with another.  It felt great to connect heart to heart in a direct way without distractions as I’m accustomed to.  It took a while to tune in, but eventually did and I’m looking forward to finding that connection with some animals here in the wilds.

 

An afternoon drive was mellow.  We did finally get a good sighting of the wildebeest and I had a beautiful moment with a mama/auntie elephant and her darling wee-one.  They were eating away at the tough grasses and it seems the little guy was just figuring out how to pull it up using his foot to loosen or cut the roots liberating the edible bits.  Mum was to attentive staying close and waiting how he was doing.  I could have stayed with them for hours.  I felt connected and so joyful, but that’s as far as it went, no messages or such and I didn’t know what to ask anyhow… Gotta work on that.

 

21 Oct

To Ngorongoro Crater via cultural stops

 

Early departure after brekkie at Tarangire Lodge and overlook watching a massive herd of mostly female, Cape buffalo wend their way past the lodge to the river.  It was like watching a thick trail of ants migrate along, working together moving almost at one huge entity.

 

A little culture shock to see people along the roadside again driving between parks, but interesting all the same.  Our first stop was a secondary school that turned out to be one of the AWF sponsored schools.  We toured some of the classes and got an insight to schooling there.  The kids were incredibly well behaved, as so many are here in Tanzania with such emphasis on respecting elders.

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Then to see Daniel…an incredible elder with a near photographic memory.  We learned the history of Tanzania, his Irqw tribe dating back some 2000 years, life as it was, life as a Tanzanian, marriage and the importance of family and growing of such.  He built a traditional house, as he grew up in for 20 years made into a hill and of sticks and mud.  The room of about 30×30 would be divided into a kitchen area, an area for guests and other men to sleep, a place for the wife and kids and a place for the man of the house and any male relatives… Oh, and a place for their 12 or so cows and some chickens and goats, since that was their wealth and as important to protect as a bar of gold would be to us.  He recited facts about the USA that even we didn’t remember from our schooling, then shifted to the UK.  He can recite every US president and every state’s size in square miles.  Wow.  He showed us his methane accumulator for energy utilizing dung from his cows, urine and water, and demonstrated spear tossing and other useful things to fend off his property if needed…AND he was a complete delight.  We spent a few hours with him before heading off to Ngorgongoro high up in the local hills.

 

Oct 22, Ngorongoro

The crater didn’t exactly rise to the level of the expectation the place promises in brochures and things, but it’s still a unique place.  Having been here in another season years ago, I am grateful for that.  Back then, the place was green and lush throughout, lions frolicked by the roadside, elephants were more plentiful and best of all, there wasn’t a plethora of vehicles crowding the roads.  Now it is dry season, the place is golden and the grasses nibbled down to nubs allowing winds to pick up funnels of dust devils.  The plain seems baron with very dispersed animals…lots of animals, but many were at quite a distance.  The silliest part were the number of vehicles creating traffic jams.  It didn’t help that the king of Oman was here, his caravan of about 10 vehicles speeding past, kicking up clouds of dust.  He sat atop his own private Toyota, which is normally not allowed in the parks, but somehow he’s an exception.  His family and protective entourage following like train cars trailing behind.  Of course, he had lunch in a special locale… Gosh, the fear that permeates the lives of such folks!

 

The scenery is quite unique here, even when the animals are more space, there are still loads of animals all around.  You could stop nearly anywhere and be able to watch life play out from a distance with a mix of warthogs, Thompson’s Gazelles, Hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra, Cape buffalo, other gazelle, black backed Jackal and hyenas mix with a plethora of both ground and air dwelling birds.  Another scene included a lovely water pond with hippos, some with tiny babies, egrets, ibis, Jesus birds, ox-peckers, an otter (so cute!), herons, pelicans and such.  We spend time driving through the forest area, which reminded be a good bit of Mana Pools, looking for the black rhino (there are about 45 in the park), we even stopped to tune into him/her and all got similar information which included the animal preferring to be away from the roads having withdrawn his outward energies.  We saw Cory Bustars, Great Crowned Cranes, fervent monkeys, spoonbills, hammer cop, vultures, Eagles and kites and the always stunning starlings.  The trees were an artistic attraction in themselves offering a lovely grounded feel to the area.

 

The day is mostly sunny and warm, with a cooler breeze… That is once the early morning chill burned off.  The smells are subtle, earthy and sweet.

 

Carol mentioned the wildebeest are the least welcoming of the mammals here and by mid-afternoon I can see why.  The vehicle numbers soared to a constant motorcade buzzing by full of paparazzi and such.  I hope we might have been at least somewhat an exception with our time stopped to tune in an listen to the animals.  Everyone heads to the same place for lunch and upon arrival, we joined probably 50 other vehicles pulled up along the lush pond where hippos like to frolic and wile away the day.  We found much humor in the circumstance, especially when the fancy 5-star vehicle pulled up next to us hosting a Swedish couple. The driver unloaded the wooden chairs, table dress in linen, silver, glass and a chilled bottle of white wine.  We giggled and such as we picked away at our box lunches eaten in the comfort of our vehicle.  Picnicking by the lake isn’t allowed mainly due to the fact that the black kites swoop in en-masse to Harass anyone with food spread out in front of them.  We got a good example by one group, who quickly move back into their own vehicle.  Another baby hippo was nearby, his mum laid over in the shallows so the wee-one could nurse.

 

That kinda summed up our day’s drive… Good, with some highlights, but looking forward to our next destination.

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22 Oct (Sunday… I think…)

To Seronera, Serengeti

A long, bumpy, dusty road with stops at a rather touristy Masai Boma for demonstrations… Why? I’m not sure.  I did, I think, get proposed to by the single guy who showed me one of the smokey mud huts.  Then off to Odovai Gorge to that rather fascinating museum documenting the ancient finds of the evolution of modern humanoid, findings of the Leakey’s and their foundation.  Also a bit about the Japanese explorer who retraced the route from Africa (Tanzania) to the tip of South America on foot, bike, local transport keeping his as connected to the earth and cultures along the way as possible.

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Then off to continue the long drive with a lunch stop to register and pay fees to enter the park.  It’s nice to be back in the world of animals, rather than damaged landscape by humans and their large intrusive footprints.

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Philip took us off the beaten, “corrugation on steroids” road and off to the little tracks where fewer autos rumbled by in a cloud of dust.  We were rewarded with lovely looks at the Kopi jies or outcropping of rocks formed by old mountains, worn by time.  The plains surrounding us were created as a result of 9 volcanic eruptions leaving a massive flat plain of layers of ash and soil.  The outcrops make perfect homes for all sorts of critters from hyrax to lizards, birds, lions, cheetah, and so forth.

 

We then did what most drivers do and headed for a place where other safari vehicles were and found it well worth the concession as under a small non-descript shrub… The only one within about a 500 meter radius, was a lovely healthy looking cheetah mum and 3 darling cubs. Wow, that was a rare sighting as the usual number is 1-2 cubs.  Tuning in to connect with her, 3 of us got the sense there was a 4th at one time…a lesson to the youngsters about the fragility of life and need for awareness in the wilds here.  There were perfectly posed with big full bellies.  Mom seemed so content and so confident in her life and survival.

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…entering Seronera area…

 

Elephant encounter with 100 or so Ellie’s…communication as a group.  Matriarch rumbled to call her heard who was broken into groups.  All came together to bundle up and cross the busy road as a safe group protecting the young.  Later we stopped by a male by the roadside wanting to communicate, looking at vehicles as though reaching out, but coming up against humans who aren’t receptive… Mostly because they just don’t know they can.  Another connection with a male by our vehicle… We’ll chat more with him later.

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For now, it’s getting dark and we must be in camp by 6:30… park rules.

 

23 Oct  - lovely morning in Seronera.

 

Lions all around.  One might think there isn’t an issue with the state of lions and their threatened populations, but alas they are very threatened, mainly by corruption in the canned hunting industry.

 

 

Driving along the river in the early morning, we joined other trucks of safari-goers enjoying a nice viewing of 4 younger lions drinking from a shallow section.  They seemed quite comfortable with the trucks nearby.  The older boys tried to wander off away from us, but the younger female had other plans, refused to join them, instead wandering toward us slowly until the others joined her.  They paraded alongside the vehicles, taking us on safari with them for quite a ways, often coming so close to the vehicle, we could have reached out to touch them.  They seemed out of sync with their young sister, who seemed most keen to hone her skills.  The boys flushed out a rabbit toward her, but she hardly flinched to help out.  Seemed she had her sights on a feast they all could enjoy that’d fill their tummies as growing lions require.

 

I felt they were showing us their ways, emanating confidence in all they did, even if it did vary between the males and female.  She seemed most keen to test her skills and learn her lessons of life, while the others still seemed to take life for granted.  The young girl later set her sights on a heard of zebras, whom she sent on a rampage of alertness.  She was successful at separating one animal, but the others didn’t partake… Just strolled along. That’s as far as the hunt went, when she returned to rest and recover from her run under a tree.  She seemed less than welcoming to the others for not partaking, but was panting too hard to do more than snarl at them a bit. One day, she’ll likely be great huntress and provider for her future families.

 

Just past where they rested were another 4 lions who seemed to be a part of the larger pride and got a sense they all hunted beautifully as a team, but were separated to hone skills in before reaching maturity.

 

Later in the morning we say a lone adult female who’d recently taken down a wildebeest on her own and napped by the river, under a bush next to her kill with a big full tummy.  Perhaps a glimps at the skill the 1st young female is learning to acquire.

 

Further up the road, was a leopard in a beautiful sausage tree with a Thompsons gazelle as his lunch.

 

Nearby, elephants cooled themselves under the shade of a tree with ears flopped open enjoying the breeze and calm of the mid-day heat.  I love spending time with them and could just be with them for hours/days… Etc. Unfortunately Philip, our driver, was always anxious to drive onward past anything that wasn’t feline in nature and I find it quite distracting.

 

Darling baboon family by the water

Elegant giraffe

Huge herds of wildebeest and zebra

Fun family of busy Mongoose

 

Peggy spotted a serval… Wow, what a spot that was!  The elegant spotted cat was crouched in the long blonde grass looking quite stealth.  She nicely showed herself here and there, but only enough for a glimpse, then she scurried off into invisibility.  The clear photo attached is from a book, just to show what a serval looks like, the one that’s hard to see, is the one we actually saw.  Of all the time I’ve spend in the wilds of Africa, I’ve never seen a serval in the wild.  They tend to be more nocturnal and being small, hide easily in the brush.

 

Carol has done a great job teaching us all along the way and encouraging us at every turn.  We all are making progress it seems tuning in to various animals at hand and finding we all come up with similar connections verifying our connections.  Today we tuned into the lions on their walkabout, and later an interesting communication with the spirit of the gazelle who’s body was then being consumed by the leopard.  We tuned into the moments leading up to the animal’s attach and death and where/when the spirit took flight.  We all seemed to come up with the same thing.  Yes, there certainly is truth and reality to telepathically communicating with animals.

 

By the way, the communication with the gazelle was quite lovely really.  Yes there was adrenaline, struggle and a fight for life, but then there was a moment when it was time to give in and part from that earthy body for the sake of another’s life.  None of us felt great fear, nor great pain in the way we might think and we all saw or felt the animal’s spirit expand out and away to a place it could observe from afar and was free to carry on to whatever was next.

 

It’s an active trip for sure and we’re rewarded with very special sightings along the way.  I wish we would spend more time just sitting in the animals’ presents, more like we did yesterday with the elephants.  Today seemed rushed during some sightings, especially in the last 1.5 hours or so… I know I have expectations that are higher having been fortunate to have been with some incredible guides in the past.  I try to keep my frustrations at bay, it’s hard in come circumstances especially when Philips impatience/inexperience gets in the way of communication sessions.  I feel bad speaking up, but I do on occasion and that is how it is, I likely put my foot in my mouth – as usual.

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Evening drive:

Cheetah #9 got Philip super excited being his favorite animal, he was at a distance, but nice to see so many knowing how fragile their species is on this planet.  We also saw and delighted in:

Lili’s love birds

Topi, Cape Buffalo, Hartebeest, zebra, wildebeest, etc.

Lovely male lion on the plain looking majestically out for his pride of 3 females and 2 cute Cubs.  He looked so regal and fatherly in his protective locale.

Another large heard of elephants with a beautiful matriarch and fun loving family.  She is such a good mum looking out for the kids who truly love her, with the baby hugging close to her in affection.  Philip was good to give her respect when she wanted to cross the road with her young kiddos, which we all greatly appreciated.

We checked on the leopard from earlier again… Still there and still nibbling on his catch in the tree.  Compared to the cheetah who can’t fend off their food and must eat quickly before thieves come and steel it away, the leopard hauls his/her dead carcasses into a large tree and can nibble away at it as he/she pleases with naps in between.

A gorgeous African sunset with Ellie’s in silhouette made for a lovely ending to the evening along with a very playful baby I would have adored watching for a while, as he was so playful and fun, but Philip doesn’t seem to get the love some of us have for the heffalumps of the world.  I asked him to stop so we could watch for a moment, but he refused. Well, I got a glimpse and have a fond memory nonetheless.

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It’s our last evening here in this camp and the staff was so fun to make us a special cake which came complete with dance and song performance by the entire crew… What a treat.  Philip joined in on the fun, he’s a great dancer and his enthusiasm for festivities is contagious.  Semele and another guy were asked to cut the cake, sending Semele’s hips dancing around the table to join the fun.

Tomorrow is yet another long drive on a very bumpy and dusty road to Lobo in Northern Serengeti, so off to bed we headed to rest up.

 

25 Oct

To Lobo, Northern Serengeti

A long drive, but far better than the one leading into Seronera from the gate, with far fewer cars, a better road and lots to see along the way… Including lots of lovely elephants.  Even in the more barren looking areas with small trees that seemed to be struggling themselves here at the end of the rainy season, it seemed there were loads of animals to see of every variety scattered evenly along the way.  Zebra, wildebeest, hartebeest, giraffe, buffalo, Gazelles, even lion and eland.  Departing Seronera, we saw more lions and a lovely sighting of a cheetah in the grass… That makes the 10th we’ve seen on this trip so far!!  Also, a wonderful family of Ellie’s including a tiny baby, who was being looked after by his 2 slightly older siblings.  They spent time playing and frolicking in our humbled presence.  Entering Lobo, we had the great honor of seeing a family of happy elephants who seemed to be really enjoying their new little one with everyone seeming to look out for the darling kiddo along the way.

The lodge is remote and very friendly and with lovely food, including avocados… Heaven!  Carol taught a session before dinner from her “heart talk” program and we all named an animal we were drawn to, said what what we liked about that animal as a way to better see aspects of ourselves.  It’s a beautiful insight we all seemed to get a good glimpse into.  I chose the elephant, as that is a being so close to my heart, she resides as my heart-chakra animal in my meditations and walks paths with me in such states.  Others chose the warthog, zebra, Tawney eagle and Lion/lioness.  We were asked to describe what we liked about that animal, what drew us to that form and in doing so we were describing a good bit about our own selves mirrored in the animals.  It’s a beautiful perspective and one I hope to spend time journaling about in the future letting whatever animal be the topic on any given day to show me parts of my life to pay attention to.

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Tomorrow is an early day (again… Ugh!), but that is life on safari.  We’ll see what comes.

26 Oct

Migration and beyond in Northern Serengeti.

Speaking with Mother Nature’s canvas (the land), another exercise Carol gave us. A perfect woman of her own creation came vividly to mind with the trees/roots and rocks all making up the epidermis, the sky the lungs, the migrations and movements of animals, the circulatory system, the river the intestines and the hair, protecting and regulating from the elements and Her heartbeat is that of all living life on Earth (and Sky).

Conversation with trees makes me feel so grounded and in tune with all that is around. Multi-thousands of wildebeest and a new generation making the circuit.  Herd upon herd of zebra joining in, utilizing the masses for their safety.  Jackal and her pups…oh, so cute! Mating lions, eland, waterbuck, families of warthogs, Impala, Thompson’s gizelle, dikdik, vultures, Batalure Eagles soaring overhead, friendly and curious lizards… They seem to me to have a special connection with us and have things to share or offer us humans. A hyena, crocodile, hippos all hanging out in the Mara River, and darling bee eater birds… Some of my favorites!  Also, roller birds and reed buck.  So much life all around.  We spent time tuning into the trees and the incredible rock formations that take on animal-like shapes welcoming folks to this lush part of the country as it does the animals of the migration each year.

Lunch under a tree at a local airstrip.  On the way back, Semele and Gen spotted a lovely black rhino and her curious baby… What a complete treat – notes in my notebook on communicating with her.  Conversation with the rhinos (4 of us received info that she’s had 3 babies already, she seems to understand the importance of being seen to better protect her species, best from a distance)

Class tonight was a review of talking with the land.  Fun dinner as always with much laughter and conversation.  Semele and I got into hysterics brushing our teeth… Adding to the fun was her offer of “tooth paste” which was really lotion in a similar tube…a mistake she made early this morning.  Also, giggles about trying to talk while brushing and sharing a bowl for spitting… loads of silliness and fun.

Philip continues to frustrate me as a guide.  He’s a great driver and fabulous with the group in camp, quite generous and friendly.  As a guide, he needs great amounts of improvement as he doesn’t get the concept of listening to the clients and what they’ve come to see or experience.  He remains on a mission to take us at single-mindedly to see what he wants to see and show, passing by the things we long to see, or stopping briefly for a photo then “can you move?”, he asks again and again, as he starts the engine and moves without thinking if anyone might be taking a photo or filming.  He tends to do this just as a situation gets interesting and/or we are starting to tune into/connect with another being.  He flys past elephants to spend time chatting it up with buddies in other cars or chatting on his cell… Ugh!  When he pulled that at our special rhino sighting, he lost my tip contribution… Or rather it changed into a written tip about his guiding… And strengths too, but financially, he lost my vote.  It was supported later as he flew past elephants again and cut short our safari in favor of more chatting with his chums.

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27 Oct – An incredible connection

I met my soul mate this afternoon on the way back from our last day’s drive.  The tusk-free elephant in my meditations, who walks the path in my favorite guided meditation with me and is my current animal residing in my heart chakra.  She stood welcoming on the road with her lovely family, ears spread out wide creating a giant heart shape, and she emanated a truly loving spirit.  She seemed to be greeting us and wishing us well as our safari time comes to a close.  She stood there with her heart warming self connecting with me heart to heart in such a kind and beautiful way, my chest suddenly felt it was glowing with love and light.  She is unique in that she does not have tusks, as I feel different in many ways too, but that is what makes us special and beautiful.  She is such a kind soul looking out for the other kiddos in the most loving and gentle way.  Her family seemed among the most fun and light as her young brothers play-spared across the road as if showing us their improving techniques, behavior they’ll utilize as older bulls.   She was patient letting her elders and the youngsters drink before she and her younger sister made their way to the stream to slurp up the fresh water.  A tiny baby was a part of her family as were a number other ellies of varying sized and ages scattered calmly about in our presence foraging and frolicking .  She let us stop right next to her and her young sister/baby to enjoy them slurping and refreshing in the stream.  Her brother seemed keen to look out for her as we passed, putting his games on hold for a moment.  I could feel a special connection between them all and a wonderful playful, light-hearted spirit surrounding them.  It was as though she were the one putting up the friendly “pink light” so we’d feel comfortable to really “be” with her.  My heart pounded with joy as I witnessed her truly inspiring presence in reality.  Tears welled up and continued to so as we slowly drove past and then away back to camp.  An incredible joy took seed in my heart that made me both smile and cry for quite a while.  The rest of the evening was half in dream-land as I reveled in the majesty of the experience.

My soulmate

Carol and I both shared such a personal moment with elephants, I feel we have a deeper connection as fellow humans through our extraordinary experiences on this trip.  Others on safari were attracted to a variety of other animals for various reasons.  Our “Heart Talk” lecture let us get closer to those animals and find out why each was attracted in some way to a particular being (s).

 

28 Oct

Thoughts:  A revelation occurred to me as I ponder why we get messages from animals, what’s in it for them to help a human?  Then I got the notion that animals already are quite familiar with our wayward human ways and need for help to connect to this planet again, strengthening or reacquainting our relations with Mothers Nature, and spending more time “being”, as we are human “beings” after all.  What’s in it for animals to connect, share and help is the wellbeing of this incredibly resilient planet as a whole.  A preservation of the great gift we have of being a part of the connectedness that all “other” life is so familiar with.  We, as a species, have wandered far off track and it benefits the whole system if we are brought back into alignment.  It makes me long to improve my communications with Nature all the more and renders this trip completely worthwhile to have experienced.

 

Good-bye’s are always difficult, especially following a spiritual journey such as this has been.  The animals we met on the way to the airport seemed to take note coming out to wish is farewell.  6 young lions lined the road just feet from our vehicle. Klipspringers, elephants, eland, wildebeest, zebras, worthogs, giraffe, gazelles at play, and more all were there in the beautiful morning light.  A giraffe sent us on our way with a session of urination that was truly impressive, not only do they have 4 stomachs and 2 hearts, but also a massive bladder!

 

Many tears were shed by all as we made a point to stay in touch.  Peggy and I talked about the fun it would be to visit Semele, as the 3 of us seemed to have loads in common and just enjoy one another’s slightly goofy company, and shared love of animals.  The groups split up today as we took flight via 2 different airplanes, with Carol, Gennifer, Lawrence and Semele heading to Zanzibar for a few days, and Peggy, Emmy and I catching the long red-eye flight to Amsterdam.

 

We all have much to ponder and no doubt we all will experience some dissonance integrating back to life in the US.  Lawrence made a lovely meditation sort of talk, letting us project to the future and our transition back, having the strength to take this experience and muster up a better existence utilizing our improved connections to make positive impacts on things and beings near and dear to us.

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Next stop… Brugge, Belgium via Amsterdam for a few days

30 Oct

The journey here via 3 trains from Schipol Airport took more like 4 hours, rather than 2, but it’s worth it.  I love this fairytale little town in Belgium, especially now in the fall as the leaves are all starting to turn brilliant colors and the air is clean and cool.  It’s easy to get away from the masses of tourist who are bussed in here daily, making me so glad I chose to stay a couple nights here to see it in it’s peaceful state early and later in the day.  It’s odd being in a place with solid walls, clean drinkable water from the tap, and heated towel racks, modern amenities letting me know I’m not in Africa any more. There’s a strange black box in my room too… I think it’s called a Teli/TV!  Haven’t seen one in a while, nor did I miss it, but will add that this particular one seems to be a bit haunted.  It turns on when it wants to and runs through the channels like a pro-channel-surfer at will.  I finally just unplugged the thing, and hope I didn’t offend the one behind the game.

 

I slept for 12 hours last night!!!  Something I don’t think I’ve ever done in a healthy state, but it sure felt great!  I didn’t realize I was so tired.  A bonus was that the time change occurred last night too, giving me a whole extra hour to sleep and not feel I’m puttering the day away too much.  A morning run/walk took me out around the entire city perimeter with lovely views of the outer canal, giant trees, past windmills, live-aboard barges, fellow exercisers, and the life of the locals here passing small neighborhoods and commercial/industrial sections.  8 miles worth and I didn’t get lost!!!  I feel my intuition is in alignment somehow and my “feeling/hunches” about directions have been serving me exceptionally well the past couple days.

 

Wandered around the medieval part of town with it’s many small passages leading to hidden courtyards and other charming surprises.  Visited the Flanders museum with it’s wonderful collection of Flemish art, my favorite being Jean Van Eyke with his truly stellar attention to detail.. Wow, wow, wow!  His paintings are even more special in person!  Then to the Cathedral of our Lady, which was under restoration.  It houses a sculpture by the great Michel Angelo of Mother and child.  Further exploring lead me to the street lined with chocolate shoppes all with their own unique flair and most family owned and made with family secrets.  One interesting combinations, such as hemp, wasabi and rose fillings. I love wandering casually and at will in such a small town, allowing me time to head back to my room for a rest between activities.  I took the night walking tour with “Legends of Brugge” and loved it.  Hendrick, the guide, was a fabulous story teller and added a ghostly theme being the eve of Halloween.  It’s a tour showing a more off-the-beaten tour of sights less known such as the first “stock market”, old trade buildings, Van Eyke Square, stories of the man taken by the golden eel, the ghostly woman who was heard and seen playing her piano under a chandelier, until she finally passed over and rode off via horse and buggy, and the stalker who murdered a beautiful nun, who continued to haunt the House of Purgatory for ages afterwards.  We also passed the oldest pub (1515) and the last private cathedral in Brugge. which also played a part in the film “En Bruges.”  We ended at the windmill and most went in for a free beer tasting, but I opted to walk back for an good sleep so I could get up for an early run before heading to Amsterdam in the morning.

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31 Oct

Happy Halloween

My intuition is still so tuned in, what a treat!  I awoke for a morning run along the canal and windmills, then wandered the old part of town while all is quiet walking in parallel with 2 lovely white swans who were out for their morning swim before the tourist boats all got going.  Brugge is truly a fairy tail town and I look forward to returning one day.  Perhaps I’ll see about staying on one of the lovely barges, perhaps a house-sit or something.

Trains to Schipol then taxi to the spa/fitness/hotel for 2 nights.  I’m thinking a massage will feel good… Kinda depends on the price of the taxi, I hear they’re pricey and rightly so, being that they are Tesla’s… Wow!

Love love love and elephants….

2 November – departure back to USA

Strange dreams before departure… but great omens as I ran into Carol and Semele at the airport and saw a lovely double rainbow arching over our KLM plane at the gate.

 

 

 

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