Monday, May 26, 2008

It's a bird ... It's a plane ...

Several slaps of the Snooze button later, we awoke to an horizon ablaze. The sunrise again restored life to the island of Zanzibar and brought forth the next leg of our journey. I take deep regret in saying that for our last breakfast at Tembo Hotel, there was no Passion Juice to begin our morning. We did, however, share a breakfast showing off our freshly finished farmer's tans and discussing the latest episode of Larium dreams, which seem to be more exciting than the normal as Larium (our malaria medicine) has listed hallucinations as a side effect.

A short bus ride led us to the Zanzibar airport where we would depart for lunch at Moshi (which most of us have begun calling home) before the five-hour drive leading us to the first pitstop of our Safari. Although half of us did not receive boarding passes, we made it safely onto the planes.

Our plane, slightly larger than a coat closet and less than four feet in cabin height (two of our group and the seven dwarves made it just fine), fit twelve passengers, so our group found itself split in two. Thankfully, most of our group found itself in the more exciting flight of the two. Chris made his father (a fighter pilot) proud by taking the co-pilot seat after our Belgian pilot informed us that he was our only lifeline. Kili, however, was our companion, flying wingside for the duration of the flight and presenting us with a fear- and awe-inspiring sight. Soon, seven of us will begin our trek to the top.

BAM! Uh oh, we hit a bird. In the plane. And, in all-American style, it turned out to be a beautiful eagle. I doubt it's beauty is still a point of pride, though, the poor guy is no longer with us. The pilot, however, gave himself ten points and employed the 'frat snap'--an international gesture of cool and tough excitement--in response to taking out the beautiful bird.

Upon landing, we discovered a massive dent in the wing, compliments of our lost eagle friend. Soon after, however, we were greeted by a twenty-first century Mystery Machine (this is for all you Scooby Doo fans). The van, old as molasses, had a tint of pink in the paint and 1970s plastic seat covers with a subwoofer in the back and a set of tassles hanging from the rearview mirror. It was bound to be a great ride. After several sputters of the engine, though, we worried the van would not start up. Thank goodness, a little bit of elbow grease and a manpower push, gave the van a burst of life. To top off the journey (this is for all you Whose Line fans), we played a little game of Props--swapping out random household objects for something other than what they are--for the hour and a half drive to Moshi.

After the stop for lunch, we had another long journey ahead of us in order to get to Highview Hotel, right outside of Ngorongoro National Park for the first round of our Safari. On the way, we stopped at a Maasai Cultural Park, which also housed a Snake Park and a Camel Ride. Yes, we rode a camel. And it was awkward. Although we missed any camel spit, the camel hump was awkward in its own right, as was the mount/dismount. The Snake Park was home to any deadly slithering beast that comes to mind. Pythons, Mambas, Vipers, and Cobras were not enough. No, the Indian Red Poison Bird--the most vicious of all the beasts--claimed a concrete partition to itself. Disclaimer: this is just a joke, one of our number was able to fool several others that a three-ounce birdie was lethal and dangerous.

As the sun set, we hit up Lion King Nation as we approached Ngorongoro Crater and our home for the night. "This is the Garden of Eden," Mama Moshi tried to convince us as we drove past the open plains, "the Cradle of Life." Rest assured, many songs followed as did Mama Moshi's wails of anguish in response.

Finally, the night ended with another birthday celebration--Happy Birthday Bryan! and thanks for the speech!--as we scarfed down our third birthday cake of the trip (good odds considering there are only thirteen of us on the trip). As a continuation of the celebration and a welcome to the new hotel, we were received by a welcome party of a traditonal cultural dance group. The initial dance, a mating/fertility ritual, pre-occupied our thoughts for the first half of the evening but was soon overshadowed by a Cirque du Soleil-esque dance crew. As if the flips, cartwheels and ariels were not enough, one of the members squeezed his entire body through a ring less than a foot in diameter. The performer soon followed by several other skilled moves, none of which would I do justice if I attempted to describe. After the crew solicited for spare change, they were gracious enough to bring us on the floor. Douglas--shimmying--and Brittany--getting low--both deserve Gold Stars for their skills on the dance floor.

Good day, and good night. Love you Dad, Mom, Cullen, and Mary Win!

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