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... 

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