If I had even an ounce of vision, talent, imagination, or creativity this is something I would have done for the Winter Carnival. I am taking no credit for this video, other than seeing it on the internets. I hope I do not go to jail for any kind of plagiarism. Other than the dating scene, there are not positives for me in jail. I will post all the info I could find about Shane Black below the video. Thank you Shane Black for being my new hero, making something so gorgeous and inspiring, giving me a new life dream to shoot for, and sharing this with the world.
7-hour drive through the Serengeti
I do not think I would classify myself a bird watcher, at least not by the most common definition. I was told when we booked a trip to the Serengeti that if I love birds, this place would be fantastic. I don’t hate birds, it’s not like they are children. But I never thought birds would captivate me to the point of asking for a pitstop while I take photos. Last year in South Africa we were introduced to a spectacular bird called the lilac breasted roller. Never heard of them before last summer, and I don’t think they migrate anywhere near Fair Hill. My goal last summer immediately became to photo one of these amazing looking birds in flight. They are gorgeous when they are sitting still, but when they take flight, the lilac breasted roller looks like a rainbow in flight. I hoped I would get that chance again this year, and I did. I did not capture any breathtaking photos of the bird in flight, but I did at least get some action shots. Maybe another time for the memorable shot.
Today was our 7-hour, 150-mile drive from Klein’s Camp in the north Serengeti to the Ngorongoro Crater. I believe we drove through the entire Serengeti, north to south. We saw lots of animals along our drive including some imported camels. There was a cluster of Maasai that had several camels in tow. I tried to figure out a way to say cameltoe, looks like I failed. The camels looked out of place, we knew they did not belong in this area. We asked Rabine, and sure enough the camels were imported from Egypt. The Maasai that possessed these camels walked all the way from Tanzania to Egypt, and back. This trek is thousands of miles, each way, on foot, in African heat…sounds exhausting.
We are so glad that we did not do safari in the south Serengeti, and that we spent the extra money to travel with a reputable outfit, and stay in the privately owned game reserves. Driving through the southern Serengeti the areas we saw vehicles looked like an assembly line. Vehicles were lined up all to see the same group of animals. There is not much to see without being able to go off-roading, and drive wherever the ranger desires. There were too many vehicles, and no scenery except for the few and far between animal sightings. I guess it might be great if we did not have our memorable personal experiences to compare.
We found 3 geocaches along the way. Rabine got super excited after the first one we found. There was a hide at the Serengeti Park checkpoint. Rabine had to stop and do some paperwork. Wifey and I did a short walk to a beautiful, elevated, scenic vista point. We would not have found it if not for Wifey’s amazing geo-senses, and her ability to read the sign that said “Scenic Trail this way”. I was ready to give up and declare that we could not get there from here. We found the cache and walked back down to wait for Rabine to finish his paperwork. We explained geocaching to Rabine during the drive, so naturally he asked if we found our hidden treasure. We told him that we did and asked if he wanted to see. He said yes, so he and I walked back up to the top of the trail. I showed him the compass and explained that he was within a few meters and start looking for something that did not belong. He found the container, his eyes got big, he saw the log sheet with hundreds of names signed, and his eyes got bigger. He could not believe there was something like this at a place he has been hundreds of times. He almost immediately asked if there were anymore. I told him about another one that might be on our driving route. He said, “no matter, we go there next.” He was in control of my obsession now. It was funny and cool to see his immediate enthusiasm and excitement for something he knew nothing about. It blew his mind that I knew of something hidden in a place he goes all the time.
The drive itself was somehow the greatest and worst idea ever. 7 hours of nonstop bouncing. Not a flat spot on the roads, they could hardly be called roads. It was well worth the driving trip for the experience and adventure.
We arrived at the Crater Lodge. This place is beyond decadent. The view is amazing, our lodge was situated just on the edge of the rim around the Ngorongoro Crater. The lodge was so dangerously positioned on the rim edge, it feels like you could push the entire place down the slope. Our personal room was also ridiculously lavish for being in the middle of nowhere Africa. The only other things in the area, other than the Ngorongoro Crater, are villages of the Maasai tribe. They live all around the rim of the crater. They raise their cattle and spend entire lifetimes herding cattle around from one water source to the next. The Maasai have fake villages set up in several areas for the tourists. They come to the fake villages during the day and hang out waiting for tourists and then go home to their real village and mud huts at night. Rabine explained to us that these Maasai do not want outsiders coming near their “real” homes, families, and cattle. It seems silly to build two working mud hut villages. Just live in the fake one. Stop being such a nomad already.
Safari in the Serengeti has countless inherent potential problems. Inside the bush are numerous ways to have your safari shortened, life ended, nightmares made reality, and bring out the fears of even the bravest man. I never imagined that theft of my underpants would be one of those fears. They are nice enough to do your laundry at Klein’s Camp in Tanzania, but they DO NOT guarantee safe return of said items. Applicable warnings have been highlighted below.
Then you can be a friend of mine. This past Saturday was a fantastic event put on by PAWS for People. It was the 5th annual Wag-n-Walk at Glasgow Park. It was a great time, everybody had fun, and Charlie the Dog was treated like a rock star! I can’t believe how many people came over to ask if this was THE Charlie?! Hillside could not be happier or prouder to be involved with such a fantastic organization. HERE is an album of a few pictures I took and processed.
Klein’s camp day 3, last day here
I got a good look at myself in a mirror this morning for the first time in about a week. Yikes. I looked like bag of unshaven dog turds that got smacked in the face with a bag of dog turds. This morning was a late start, around sunrise. We went back into the Serengeti Park. There was not a whole lot to see this morning. The highlight was probably a giant herd of buffalo. They were essentially surrounding us, but never too close to feel surrounded. The herd sprawled out in every direction we looked. The effect of us on the buffalo was like oil and water. The closest we got to any group was about 50 feet. We would drive slowly and the buffalo would part. When we stopped to watch the buffalo, they did the same thing. They stopped shuffling around long enough to watch us. It was a weird sensation having several hundred, maybe thousand, buffalo staring directly at us. At one point they formed a line and watched us, like we were the animals in this situation. I hope they tipped their safari guide to see such amazing humans.
We followed 2 lioness and four lion cubs as they strolled along the riverbank and bed. We drove slowly and watched/followed them for about 20 minutes. It was Wifey’s favorite scene of the day, I agree, pretty cool. They strolled and we followed them. They would go down the bank, into the river, back up the bank, over and over. We drove parallel to the river with them on our right hand side. We would lose site of them for a few seconds while they were at the base of a riverbank, then they would pop up again. Watching the lions leap from bank to bank was impressive. Just like most people in the world I always root for failure, trouble, or chaos. These are the moments that make life interesting and worth living. The lion cubs not making the leaps and falling into the water was hilarious and fulfilling for my dark mind. This was the one time of our trip that it truly felt like observing animals in the wild, not knowing they were being watched.
After the morning drive we went on a walking safari. It is exactly what it sounds like, a walk. We climbed to the top of Kuka Hill, the highest point here in Klein’s Camp. It was an unreal 360-degree view of the valley and mountain on one side, and the Serengeti Park on the other side. Rabine asked us if we wanted to see anything in particular. Without missing a beat Wifey said honey badger. Rabine asked us if we saw the YouTube video. Of course we have. Honey badger gives so few shits that they have even obtained celebrity status in the wilds of East Africa. Awesome.
Once we made it to the top and took the obligatory photos, the topic of dung spitting came up. I made sure to let the guides know that I was the current reigning world champion of dung spitting. Rabine said he could take me down, no problem. I was worried that maybe all my bragging was in vain and that I was allowed to win last year, since I was the tourist. Not the case. I am definitely the greatest dung spitter to grace this planet. Jimmy vs. Rabine, only 1 man can win, it played out exactly how it should. There is video proof that will long outlive Rabine or myself. Bore yourself with that video HERE. It has to be unheard of for a foreign white boy to be so amazing at dung spitting. Word got around camp pretty quickly. Two-time world dung spitting champion, I am having a belt made.
After winning and wandering around the top of Kuka Hill for a while we started to circle back and head down. A giant herd of zebra came by. They were a bit off in the distance, maybe 100 feet. It was crazy to see this giant herd up at the top of the hill. We sat and watched them graze for a few minutes and then something startled them. As they ran off, away from us, the ground shook below our feet. It was surreal to hear and feel the rumbling in our ears, our entire bodies, and below our feet. Something only an IMAX experience in Disney could simulate.
On the walk down we were getting pop quizzes on which piles of shit belonged to which animals. As a team Wifey and I were pretty good. We came across one mound of crap that looked like bone. Turns out it was hyena poop. Rabine gave us the hint that it looked like bone because it was so calcified from chewing on bones. Wifey made the educated guess of hyena, and was awarded a gold star. Some animals eat the hyena poo-poo platters for the calcium, like turtles to harden their shells. Once hearing that, it was like a signal that I immediately needed some calcium in my system. I did just get finished having former impala food in my mouth, what’s the big deal? I wanted to see if it felt like bone as much as it looked like bone. I reached down and Rabine stopped my quickly. Rabine said that hyena crap contains anthrax, so no touching. I go from one poop in my mouth to not being able to touch another because of anthrax. Just another normal day.
When we got back to our room there were elephants just off our front porch, within 30 feet. We watched them for a while, took some photos, and hoped not to get trampled. It was beautiful watching a large herd of elephants just mosey their way through our view. They were so close, somewhere between scary and mesmerizingly close.
We went out for a night game drive that was a bit uneventful. The sundowner time was amazing and made up for any lack of animal sightings. There was a surprise campfire in the middle of the bush. We were too early arriving at the campfire site, so Rabine drove us behind some tree line and faked that the truck broke down and would not start again. I could see in the distance what looked like a setup with fire and chairs, but they were not quite done setting up. This is when Rabine diverted us to the imaginary breakdown location. He had us get out and push the truck to get it jumpstarted. He really committed to the bit. A few minutes later there was a call over the radio and Rabine was alerted they were ready, in Swahili of course, so we didn’t understand. They may have been saying the pot of boiling water was ready to cook whitey. So off we went for some drinks and snacks around a giant campfire in the middle of the bush. Another safe activity brought to you by the East Africa Tourism Board.
After sundown it was time for the drive out and back. The only animal we actually saw was the smallest of the antelope family, the dik-dik. Wifey and I had a discussion earlier in the trip just in case this exact situation came up. I gave her a great line to use, but when the time to use the line arose, she choked. It was a good line too, I am done being a comedy write for her pro bono. Back to the room for another surprise, candlelight dinner for just us two on our porch. It was delicious and romantic. The only thing we did not like was chicken liver pate. We did not like it but did not want to waste it either, so we threw it off the porch for the animals to have. We were really embarrassed and torn between wasting the food and not wanting them to know we did not like it. About the time we tossed the food overboard we noticed that a Maasai Warrior had been standing guard of us the entire time. We still can’t decide if he had been there the entire time or did he just show up because we wasted the food and we were being disciplined. Guess we will never know.
Most of the newest pictures are HERE. Some we really like.
This posting brought to you by our official sponsor, Geocaching, the game that some nerds
will actually leave their parents basements for. Geocaching is my newest, most recentest, favoritest hobby. I without a doubt have an obsessive personality, so when I find something I like, I do it until it is not fun anymore. What is the point of enjoying something? I would stop looking for things to enjoy if I still enjoyed anything. Duh. Many weeks ago, August 31st to be exact, I set out with my archenemy Josh on an epic day of adventuring, treasure hunting, laughing, falling down, and most importantly, completing milestones.
August 31st marked the culmination of several landmarks in my short geocaching career. I had a personal streak going for just over a year. That means making a find each day, streaking. I was enjoying streaking, but a couple months ago it just go to be too much. I was out making silly finds JUST to keep a streak alive. It stopped being as much fun. I decided to end the streak. Right around that time geocaching came out with an official challenge for the month of August, streak the entire month for 31 days and you could win a…nothing, you could not win anything. You could have bragging rights along with a bunch of other dorks. Count me in! So Josh and I completed August together against both of our better judgments. Then came the final day, August 31st, it was a Saturday, the end of the August streak, and definitely the end of my personal streak. I was leaving for Africa the next day, so there was no way to continue a streak over there. What great timing for an adventurous day out to put an exclamation point on the end of a month, a year, and some personal challenges.
Josh agreed to accompany me to Cunningham Falls Park in the middle of Maryland. I had completed the Maryland all-counties challenge and needed to make my way to Cunningham Falls Park to claim my prize. Again, no actual prize, just a fantastic hike. Josh and I saddled up for a long day of driving and hiking. We left before sunrise and were gone for about 12 hours. This was the beginning of my almost 48-hour awake, hiking, and working marathon. I raised a lot of money for The Useless Parents of Helpless Kids Fund. We made many geocaching finds throughout the day, did about a 6-mile extreme hike, and had a ton of fun. We found the 1 geocache we drove all the way there for, and many others. That day was the end of 31 days of August, a personal 370 day streak, and in hindsight the end of the obsession to make a find every single day. I am glad that has been removed, it was not fun everyday anymore. 340 were fun, the others were me feeding obsession.
I felt like processing some different photos besides Africa. I had these, and hoped there would be some beauts. I am happy with some, but none are breathtaking, unless you count Josh’s rugged, hillbillyish good looks. HERE.
My stomach is mostly back to normal. The Dinty Moore Beef Stew Factory is closed for business. Today was an early morning rise. We were out on the trail before sunrise with The Londoners. Today was their last day here in Tanzania, they leave for home tomorrow. Chris and Sara, quite a lot of fun to be around. They hiked to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro before coming here to Klein’s Camp. That is one hell of an accomplishment. We found out all the details, peak names, and other jargon so if necessary we could lie to people some day and make it sound like Wifey and I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Since we left before sunrise they cooked us breakfast out in the middle of the bush. It was quite an extravagant setup to feed four losers breakfast. We partook in a fully cooked hot breakfast of bacon and eggs, all out in the middle of the Serengeti. We could have been eaten while eating. Just before we stopped for breakfast we saw 3 lazy cheetahs. They were just relaxing. I tried to get them to run but no luck. I told them I was definitely faster then them, in hopes of self-concious cheetahs needing to show off. We also ran into a part of the pride of lions again. There were 2 lionesses and several of the cubs. They were full from eating and also just relaxing while the cubs play fought. Adorable, and obviously harmless. I wish I had my red laser pointer.
The real part of today was the visit to the Maasai village. Unbelievable. I still do not have the words to describe the experience, and I have had a couple weeks to digest and think about the visit. It was a very powerful life moment. One thing I always think is they would
not want to trade lives with me either. As humans we only know what we know. The visit was truly one of the most gratitude lifting, eye opening, humbling life experiences to date. The way they live is exactly what Sally Struthers showed me on television. No matter what I may think with my white guilt-filled mind, they seemed like a truly happy people. The children were laughing and playing with giant smiles. They were nice enough to take all the pictures I wanted. They lined up, posed, and were overly excited to have their pictures taken. As soon as I was done snapping photos they came running over to see the pictures on my camera. I was told this would happen. It was pretty damn cute, if cute is the appropriate word to use.
We headed back to camp after a long morning for lunch and a quick afternoon nap. Lunch almost did not happen. We walked to the eating area and were told that our lunch had been prepared, set aside in the kitchen, and then promptly stolen by naughty baboons. It turned out this was the African version of a prank. We fell for it, laughed, and then gobbled down lunch.
As soon as we woke from our nap it was back into the Serengeti Park. We saw a leopard with a fresh kill. A zebra he had murdered for food was in a tree overhanging the river. It looked like a safari meat locker. It was one of the top views of the entire trip. Truly the food chain hard at work. About an hour after that we saw 12 lions with another freshly killed zebra. It was a bad night for the ol’ black and whites. We saw an entire elephant family, about a dozen. They had a baby that was so tiny, in elephant terms. The baby was only a few weeks old. Somewhere along the road today Wifey got stickers in her butt when she got out to pee. Pictures of that can be seen HERE.
I think the best story of the trip may be something that happened later this evening. There are a lot of rules in the Serengeti. It is a national park, so there are guidelines to adhere in order to use the park. There is a sunset curfew, currently 6:30pm, not allowed to have a tracker riding on the front of the vehicle, no “off roading”, many rules to keep the park as safe as possible and preserved. As with any government owned park there are rangers enforcing these rules. Klein’s Camp, where we stayed, is a private concession of land rented from the Maasai tribe. There are no rules on the plot of land that Klein’s operates. You can do night drives, trackers sit on the front of the vehicle, feed the animals (at own risk), and the guides can drive off road or anywhere they want. This plot of land borders the Serengeti with no fences or physical borders. At 6:30pm we were an hour drive from the park exit closest to Klein’s Camp. Once we got near the entrance Rabine off roaded us out of the park and back onto the private land, circumnavigating the entrance gate. I didn’t notice the detour in our route, but Wifey and the Londoners surely did. They asked Rabine about the altered driving route and the paperwork that was supposed to be filled out when we exit the park. Rabine answered very casually, “Maybe I’ll do the paperwork tomorrow.” It was rebellious and hysterical at the same time. Breaking the rules in Africa is exactly what it said in the brochure.
Tonight during dinner, which was scrumptious, the Maasai men put on a tribal dance for us. It was quite unique and the voice rhythms are hypnotizing. It was a ritualistic dance that the men did to impress women. I slept alone that night.
After dinner on the walk back to our room, due to the darkness and scariness, a Maasai Warrior with a spear escorted us. It was extremely badass. As we approached our room there were 2 buffalo within feet of our door! The Warrior Escort punked the buffalo away without a fear or care in the world. It was either brave or stupid, either way we survived.
The newest pictures added are HERE, some pretty good ones.