Thursday, May 10, 2012


Hi!  If you followed my Africa blog posts, I hope you enjoyed the re-cap of our amazing adventure! 

All of the entries were taken right from my beautiful journal (thanks Allison & Stephen!), which were perhaps written a little disjointedly, as I didn't have a lot of time to find my pen while bumping around in our safari rig or flying over the Serengeti in a bush plane!  (Seriously, it was so damn cool!)

Our plan, for those who have inquired, is to put together a "best-of" print showing of some kind...perhaps at the local Art Walk this Fall...and I am working on a photo book...and definitely a calendar, as is tradition for our family and friends!  I will keep you posted!

If an African safari is on your "Bucket List", my advice, of course...DO IT!  It seems impossible, I know; the planning, the saving money and vacation time, and those infinitely long flights...but I promise you won't regret it!  It was certainly on our list and we are so grateful that the chance to go on this incredible trip with Henry Holdsworth and our crew of equally excited adventurers presented itself!  And I am so grateful that my husband, who at times, I am certain, thinks I am far too spontaneous and far too quick to say yes to crazy travel opportunities, well...he said YES to this trip as eagerly as I!  And we had an amazing time!

We've been back for just over 2 months now...sweet little Harper is growing so fast, it's hard to believe...and, of course, our life carried on after Africa; with work, time with family and plenty of home projects.  We are looking forward to the warmer temperatures of Spring and Summer...heading to Yellowstone with our new "African" friends, Lyle and Sue; heading to the coast to breathe in some sea air; seeing family and friends; watching Harper grow;...Mike is competing in a Spartan Race!; and we'll be spending some time on the water in kayaks and in the Sportsmobile exploring...never stop exploring.

The morale of the's an incredible world with so much to see and do...say YES!  You won't regret it!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Our last full day...and then the trip home!

Our last full day on the island of Zanzibar, in the country of Tanzania, on the continent of Africa, we planned to do nothing!  And that's pretty much what we did!  We were pretty content to be lazy most of the day, spent a few of those lazy hours in chaise lounges near the waves.  I booked a mani/pedi in the spa so my nails would look decent holding Harper!  And we took a couple of kayaks out for a bit - and though I loved that, it wasn't Mike's favorite as the swells made him kind of sick.  (I saw several of the biggest, brightest starfish I've ever seen and lots of huge spiny urchins!)
We spent some time on housekeeping stuff; downloading the last memory cards and backing up everything just in case we lost something along the way.  It's been pretty amazing to us that we've had our luggage appear everywhere we've gone, though it never seemed that there was any method or organization to their airports or shuttles!  The last test would be to see if our camera bags would be with our driver in Arusha as promised!
Our lazy day ended with more power outages, kind of a challenge when you are serving yourself from a buffet dinner by limited candlelight and you can't really identify what you are eating!  The staff tried to make translations and reassure us that "you like it, all good"...!  At all of the places we've stayed along our journey the people, the drivers, the staff have been exceptional and kind...and really seem to appreciate our feeble attempts at Swahili!
We went to bed in our huge fort one last time, ready to make the long trek home!

Saw these women every evening on the beach...

About 14 steps to the sand...

The lines of the horizon blur with the waters...


Ras Nungwi

Our hut.
Up early to shower and eat and pack up the last few things, checked out and met our driver, Omar again, who was waiting for us.  About an hour's drive through all of those villages (would love to go back and be on foot for a bit with the locals) - I was continually surprised, in the most positive way, at how genuinely happy everyone seemed!  Kids playing soccer in the mud surrounded by trash, women carrying babies is the streets' gutters and selling fish laid out on blankets along the road - all smiling and laughing and happy!  I wondered if these people visited the US if they would feel and see the same sort of happiness and generosity.
We made it to the airport and Omar asked us which airline we were taking...and we didn't have much of an itinerary for this part of our trip, just a departure time, so those questions were unanswered...but somehow it all just seemed to work out!  We wandered up to the ZanAir counter and showed them our departure time and he said, so cheerfully, "you must be the Ryan's?"  Yep, we are! 
We got our boarding passes, passed through minimal security and waited for our last bush plane ride!  Another beautiful flight over the aquamarine waters and we arrived in Arusha to meet our new driver.  He took us into town for lunch at a nice hotel while he collected our camera bags and other luggage from the tour operator (YAY!) and then drove us to the Maasai gallery we had visited on our first day of the safari.  We apparently hit rush hour, as the traffic was insane...a bustling, crazy drive!  The traffic reminded me of Chiang Mai, everyone sort of creating their own lanes!
We picked out our zebra mask and then Mike found another mask, an eland-type animal called a kudu that he loved...we got a little something for Allison and Stephen (tried to find a turtle and a giraffe mask, but only found one of the two!) and something for Ashley and Harper!  I told the women in the shop, Maasai women, that we had just become a Babu and Bibi (Grandpa and Grandma) and they were really sweet and excited for us!  I turned my phone on and showed them the pictures I had saved of baby Harper and the video that Ashley had sent me and they all gathered around me, smiling and laughing and hugging me!  Once we were done with our purchases the shopkeeper gave me a gift...a traditional Maasai wrap (kind of like a sari) and she told me that it was a Maasai tradition to wrap the women in the family all up in a cloth and have a ceremony to signify that no matter where we go in our lives ("girls, they move on", she said) we would be strong women and we would always be a family.
We left there and made our way through traffic again and over to the Kilimanjaro airport for the first leg of our long journey home.  Our driver stopped once to point out the area that they mine Tanzanite and also where we would, on a clearer day, be able to see Mt. Kilimanjaro.  A bigger airport, crowded and hot...a two hour wait and then we were off!  A quick stop in Dar Es Salaam and an 8 hour flight to Amsterdam...a 2 hour layover and then another 8 and a half to Minneapolis!  Yikes!  We watched a couple of movies, napped, read, walked...and it actually seemed to go by fairly quickly.  A 3 hour flight to Salt Lake City and we were officially anxious to get home...a shuttle, and then the final 2 hour drive home! 
Exhausted and exhilarated are two conflicting emotions but that is how we felt - being home was wonderful...and finally getting to hold 5 1/2 day old Harper was the best thing ever!  It was like I could finally exhale!  Ashley looked amazing and Harper was the most perfect, tiny little thing!  I could've never let her go that night, and every night since!
Mike's dad made us some delicious pb&j sandwiches, complete with chips and applesauce!  Yay!!!  And Mark, Kelly and Gail came up to visit and through our sheer exhaustion we just enjoyed being home with our new mjukuu Harper!  Kind of the perfect ending to our amazing adventure!

Harper's first Nana photo!
We've been home for 2 days now, I spent Sunday over at Ashley's just hanging out with the girls...and I finally got to hear the full birth story, which went so well it's almost unbelievable!  Mike came over too and we relaxed, taking turns holding sweet little Harper.
Africa seems like a dream, as all vacations do once you return to your "real life".  Over the next few days, weeks, months, we will be sorting through the 15,000 images we took, mostly of all the exotic, incredible animals!  Africa will come back to us in memories and images and we'll be excited to share our experiences with anyone interested in hearing about it!  We will be particularly excited to get together with Lyle and Sue, who we shared most of the trip with, along with the shared excitement of having a new grand-daughter!
The highlights for me - the elephant lumbering across the crater floor, the incredible black rhinos, the crazy, bumpy road to the Serengeti!, the lions on the hunt (which probably ranks #1 as far as safari experience), the day at Dunia Camp (letting Africa come into me), the laughs we shared with the whole incredible group, the amazing experience of lying in a luxury tent at night listening to lions talking amongst tremendous thunderstorms, the lodges and all of the sweet people we met along the way (Godfrey & Martin, our amazing guides, Richard & Edward at Dunia and the nice ladies at the Maasai gallery).
Like I've said many times in this journal, the pictures will help tell the story, and it seems like a surreal dream now, flying over the Indian Ocean while our first grandchild was coming into the world - it's a crazy, big, diverse and wonderful world and I cannot wait to share it all with Harper!
I don't know if I truly did "discover the secret of Africa"...but I do feel like I carry a bit of Africa with me today, and into tomorrow... 

Spice Tour and Stone Town.

Alarm @ 7, got dressed and had a quick breakfast in order to meet our guide, "Bacari" and driver "Omar".  We wanted to see the old part of the city, called "Stone Town", famous for it's old wooden doorways and infamous for horrific slave trade.  We also booked a spice plantation tour, which was our first stop.
Not so much a plantation, as we had imagined it, more like a grove of trees and weeds along a tiny dirt road!  We were introduced to another "Omar", a young man who was to be our guide for the tour.  Barefoot with low rise jeans he reminded me of Mogli from the Jungle Book, especially as he ran around in the trees to cut a piece of fruit for us, or to peel bark from a tree or crush leaves for us to smell.  He was very sweet and funny and it was pretty interesting to see where cinnamon grows and how vanilla beans are tied up.
The tour ended with a performance, a young man climbing a coconut tree while singing in the most incredible voice!  Fresh coconut milk, a shop tour and sampling of some yummy fruits...and then on to Stone Town.
The roads became more and more crowded with the "lanes" of traffic flow seemingly decided upon by how big your vehicle was!  Omar took us first to a bank, as we needed to get some cash.  I asked him, in this highly guarded parking lot, about the government of Zanzibar, which is governed separately from Tanzania though a part of that country.  He searched for words for a bit and finally said quietly, "I don't really like my government.  You see, they get richer and the people get poorer."  In Zanzibar the economics polarization was clear, big, new government buildings (including this bank) next to crumbled shacks of homes.
He drove us to one of the main sections of Old Stone Town and Bacari walked with us all around the old churches and courtyards that used to be the hub of slave trade.  We went into the basement of one of the buildings and saw the rooms they housed 100's of slave in, shackled and literally in piles, while awaiting slave auctions.  It was sad, really horrendous to imagine.
We toured narrow alleyways, filled with bikes and school kids and vendors...and then a "farmers market" with rows and rows of vendors selling everything from fresh fruits and veggies to whole alleyways of fish and meats.  How healthy people eat meats that have been sitting out all day on concrete slabs covered in flies is beyond my comprehension and some of those sights and smells were a little much for me!  Mid-afternoon he walked us into a newer, A/C cooled hotel and restaurant - a stark contrast from everything we had just seen.  It was an Indian-owned place - pretty yummy Indian food, not too spicy!
After lunch we walked more with Bacari, toured a museum (remember Lyle's comment earlier about museums, yep, we were in and out of that huge museum in about 10 minutes?!) and then made our way back to the vehicle.  The roads, mostly paved and plenty wide for two lanes of traffic were being widened in places, especially the busier villages and many of the buildings near the road had numbers on them in spray paint.  Bacari explained that they were going to be destroyed in order to widen the road and attract more tourism, and Omar elaborated later that the government had no plan to subsidize relocation for those people whose homes or shops would be destroyed.  I don't really like the Zanzibar government either, Omar!
We made it back to the hotel and freshened up and took a walk on the beach.  I checked in with Facebook and email - Ashley was headed home and doing well...I missed them!  Dinner was a bit rich for me that night...and I started craving a good PB&J!  A storm blew in that evening which blew the power, so sleeping was a little harder without our fan!  This place had a huge bed...two queen sized mattresses pushed together with a big canopy frame and mosquito was the best fort ever!  And, you couldn't beat the view...a stone's throw to the Indian Ocean!

Lipstick fruit!

Serenading us on his way to the top!

Getting us a really fresh coconut!

A steeple in Stone Town.

Stone Town is famous for it's beautiful and often intricate doors.

An artist representation of the slave trade.

The basement of the church...where slaves were literally stacked, awaiting an auction.

First day on the island.

No wake up call!  Yay!  For the first time on vacation we had no place to be, nothing to pack or unpack, and no one to meet up with!  We spent the entire day at leisure...wandered up to the breakfast buffet and enjoyed a relaxing meal and caught up on my coffee drinking!  (Did I mention that I love coffee in the morning, but after realizing that trips to the bathroom, while on safari, are few and far between I had given up my morning java...?!)  Ahhh, to drink coffee again...! 
We made our way to the pool where we spent much of the day lounging and taking quick dips in the pool as the heat came on.  We walked along the sand at low tide, picked up a few shells for my collection and enjoyed our quiet day.

Those who know me can most favorite thing to do is to walk on an isolated beach.

The guests here range in age and nationalities; a couple of families with small kids, and some honeymooning couples, but primarily middle-aged couples, seeking quiet, I think!  Pretty sure we may be one of the only Americans here as the English we hear definitely has a more European accent.
We had lunch by the pool, yummy fresh fruits for me, a huge biscuit hamburger for Mike.  We got on the internet periodically, to check for messages and pictures from home!  Lyle and Sue made it home and posted sweet pictures with Makenzie which made me wanna cry all over again, but instead we decided to try again to give Ashley a call!  (We had tried last night but the lines were down.)   
It was so good to hear her exhausted, happy voice!  She was still in the hospital but likely headed home today - all was well with Harper, except, I am certain, she was wondering where her Nana and Papa were! 
We spent the rest of the day enjoying our leisurely pace...had a really lovely dinner in the dining room and got to bed pretty early as we had to be up at 7 for our tour day!

Travel day.

In the morning, by 6 a.m., we had to have our bags packed for Martin, as he was driving them all back to Arusha for us (limited weight allowances on the bush plane we were taking back).  We had breakfast (the first daylight breakfast we had all had together!) and arranged ourselves in one vehicle, with cameras on our laps, and did a short game drive with Godfrey on our way over to the airstrip.  We didn't see much on our drive, lots of impalas, elephants in the distance, hippos in the river...I think we had already "checked out" in a way and were just trying to take it all in one last time.
Henry, Mike, Godfrey, Lyle, Gene, Margaret, Martin, myself and Sue!  (Thanks, Debra, for the picture, I wish you were in it!)
The airstrip was interesting - a gravel/dirt open area with monkeys running around, who looked like the ground crew!  And then in it came, a 15-passenger, twin engine bush plane with an American woman, Rebecca, as the pilot.  After we loaded up, Gene asked if he could sit in the co-pilot seat, enamored by the plane, flying, and the pilot, he reminded me of my brother-in-law, Mark, at that moment, happy as a clam!
We made two stops on the way to Arusha, both at tiny little airports, no, not airports, landing strips!  It was beautiful to see Africa from 1500 feet!  You could see parts of the migration and the landscape change from lush to arid to mountainous near the top of the crater and then the plunging walls of the crater itself.  It was spectacular!  And hot!
Rebecca had come to Africa, she told us, to volunteer for a year for a medical evacuation service.  She had been in Africa for several years now, married to another bush pilot who was flying today with their 2 year old daughter as his co-pilot, carseat and all!
We arrived in Arusha and happily someone greeted us with "are you going to Zanzibar?"  Up until then we weren't sure anyone knew our itinerary at all!  A quick good-bye to the group, (promising to stay in touch with Lyle & Sue and looking forward to seeing them in the parks this summer, and Henry & Gene mentioned planning a Jackson reunion, which would be a lot of fun!) and they were off in a van to head to their flights home...leaving Mike and I, eating our last box lunch in the tiny Arusha airport!
A couple of hours passed, several planes coming and going and they kept saying "yours is coming"...and eventually someone came to take us to another small building where we waited a bit, and then boarded a severely cramped plane!  And we were off!  About an hour over land and then an hour over the spectacularly aquamarine waters Indian Ocean!  Another tiny airport, miraculously our bag arrived and we found a man outside holding a sign RYANSPTY2 (Ryan's party of 2!)!  An air conditioned van ride on paved roads (neither of which we had experienced yet on our trip!) through a terribly poverty- ridden island.  Lots of small markets alongside the road, from fish to meats to veggies and tshirts, through small villages and then open spaces (too rocky to plant or build, according to our driver).  Lots of bicycles and people walking everywhere!  School must've been let out recently as their were lots of kids walking, mostly in uniforms.  And carts, pulled by oxen or cows, loaded down with rocks or wood or palm fronds.
About an hour's drive, we turned down a rocky, bumpy dirt road, which led to a gate, which led to paradise.  A hutted main lodge/reception area with a strip of huts that were the garden rooms and various individual huts scattered amongst palm trees and acacia trees.
We were led to our hut, a duplex right on the beach - #2! - and then given a tour of the place; the bar, the games area, the pool, the dive shop, the restaurant...really lovely!
While walking through the bar I had noticed a few people on their computers on the internet and it had been awhile since I had been able to do that for any length of time, so we headed up to the bar with my phone and I logged into their wifi to read -
"Harper Jean arrived! 6 lbs. 10 oz. 5:37 a.m. Feb. 27th!" 
on Allison's Facebook wall! 
I burst into tears right there at the bar!  So sad that I had missed it, but happy she had arrived and was well!  The next bit was kind of a blur, searching for any more info...discussing catching the next plane out...!  Allison started IM-ing me so I could hear some of the rest of the news, Ashley was fine, Harper was fine, and everything had gone amazingly well!
Yay!!!!  I'm a Nana!  We were in flight over the Indian Ocean when Harper Jean arrived, what a story to tell her!
In Swahili, a baby is called a mtoto, whether it is a boy or girl or lion!  A grand-daughter is called a mjukuu (mmm-jew-koo)!  Welcome to the world my beautiful mjukuu Harper!

We wandered the beach a bit, a lovely low tide, ate dinner, a yummy seafood buffet and spent the rest of the evening sitting and staring at each other, both with smiles and tears.  Part of me wanted to be home, most of me wanted to be home, but we resigned ourselves to enjoy the calm and peace we felt settling in at Ras Nungwi.
The sand was like light brown sugar...okay, so we can spend a few days here...!