Tons Of Hippos

September 22

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Andy has proven his guiding skills before the day really began: he inquired about when the SUGAR group was to have breakfast and then scheduled ours half an hour before. This meant getting up early but it also meant that it would be a quiet experience. And it was good! After breakfast I again called Essan, then we packed up and left the camp around 9, heading to the northern Serengeti. It was amazing to see how quickly the scenery was changing once we left camp: everything got much greener pretty much instantly, and more populated. We drove through one long noodle shaped town which didn't want to end, seeing lots of brick houses and cattle, and even power lines, something we haven't seen in ages. We stopped at the Galaxy Motel for refueling and enjoyed the originally labeled restroom / wall.

Not far from this village was a prison. We weren't allowed to take pictures in this restricted area, so you have to take my word for it, but it was a prison unlike any other I've seen. It was like a small village, with people of various ages as well as cattle roaming the streets - and then some barracks with prisoners in orange jump suits working around. No fence. No guards that I could see. I guess this wasn't a maximum security prison, but still - I guess it's neat when you can rely on lions doing the duty of security.

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From the prison it was not far to the entrance to the Serengeti National Park. Unlike in the south, as soon as we entered we were surrounded by various types of antelope and wildebeest and all the other staple animals. Did I mention that it was nice and green? I like it green. That's why I like Oregon and Washington. Ok, it wasn't quite so green here, but the animals were cooler too. However, at first we didn't go on a game drive but rather to check in at the camp, and have lunch. Lunch was quite simple for me - salad with some fries, since both main courses were contaminated with cheese, and as you know cheese is my mortal enemy. This certainly further added to my weight loss, which was not a bad thing.

After lunch we went for a game drive, and suddenly it felt very much like the southern Serengeti: where are the animals? It was pretty tough to spot a zebra, and you know you're in trouble when you can't see those. The other notable difference to the southern Serengeti was the equal absence of people. While in the south we would have forty something cars watching the one confused zebra, here was literally nobody. And because it was more green it was less dusty, on a relative scale anyway.

Towards the end of the afternoon trip our wildlife watching was saved by some giraffes and hippos in the Mara River. Graham was trying to capture some hippo grunting noises on his audio recorder, but he pretty much got just a recording of some of our grunting, making fun of him. When he eventually gave up and turned off the recorder the hippos went into overdrive and performed a minor opera performance. Poor Graham.

On the way back to camp I went trigger happy with some sunset and cloud shots, all the way to the death of the 5D battery. Because I simply could not decide which ones to post here you'll have to suffer through way too many. Since I was again riding with Valerie and Pete, and both Val and I could easily agree on clouds and trees, we were the last car to arrive in camp - very much to Derek's bewilderment. We arrived so late that Jim had even finished taking a shower before I even marched through the tent door. And what a hot shower it was! Absurdly hot, Essan would have approved.

At dinner we were discussing the inevitable upcoming flight home. It seems that I was the only one who spoke up and told Thomson that the suggested return flight was unacceptable and that I wanted something else. Therefore, only Andy and I would get home on the same day as arriving in Amsterdam - everyone else would get stuck in Boston overnight and be forced to spend the night before continuing the next day. Instead, Andy would fly from Amsterdam non-stop to Houston, and I to San Francisco. As a result I would arrive in the Bay Area 28 hours before David and Luvonne. I guess sometimes it pays to be a pain in someone else's butt...

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