Day 58–72: Life Changing Excursions
I wish I could find a way to package up nicely what the last two weeks has meant for me, but I’m struggling to articulate it even with all the time in the world. Simply put, it was life changing in absolutely every aspect of the journey and I wouldn’t have traded and changed it for the world.
I’m going to attempt to give you an abridged version off the cuff, but will again likely do it no justice. Anyway, here goes.
An 18+ hour flight landed me in Arusha, Tanzania by way of Kilimanjaro airport. It’s one of five biggest regions of the country that boasts a population of 47 million total. I was picked up by one of the tour company’s staff and throughout the airport and in meeting him I was absolutely breath taken by the sincerity and helpfulness that I encountered. They were curious. The were genuine. They were passionate to share their culture. They were articulate and thoughtful, and spoke absolutely gorgeous English.
Driving through Arusha (which houses about 1.7 million Tanzanians) is like many third-world countries. Stopped by frequent cattle crossing on main highways, communities tightly packed near the street with their weathered doorways, women & children brightly dressed balancing what appears to be dozens of pounds of produce/water/clothes/any goods on their heads without using their hands. Again, breath taken and remained to be throughout my entire trip.
Josh and I headed off on Safari while our friends hiked Kilimanjaro (all of them made it!) due to my knee injury. Now here’s where I’m going to abridge — just do me an effing favor and put the Serengeti on your bucket list immediately (the park is disappearing from global warming so get on it)! We got to see all the “big five” meaning buffalo, lions, leopards (which are really hard to spot), elephants (the baby ones OMG), and rhinos (REALLY hard to find because humans have killed so many of them) and were constantly surrounded by absolutely gorgeous scenery.
Okay, I’m burying the lede here a little bit. Let’s get to the real life changing part of this journey. As magical and mystical as the cheetahs getting within arms reach were (and believe me it really was amazing), something more extraordinary and life changing happened.
Now if we’re Facebook family, you may have already seen the post, but let me paint the scene for you in more detail. It’s our first evening in the Serengeti and we’re staying at one would call a “luxury tent”. It’s serious glamping, but still outdoors. Anyway, off to the campfire we head for a glass of wine from the fully stocked bar before going in to the dining hall for dinner. We share a lovely glass of crisp South African white wine, and then an employee of the camp/hotelish-type-thing comes to take us to dinner. I head toward the dining hall, but am ushered in another direction toward a giant black open safari vehicle behind the dining room.
Completely confused I look a Josh and shrug and climb in. “He must have arranged on of those night safaris they told us about at the front desk,” I thought. I looked at the two men in the front of the car, one carried a serious gun and the other gently held a champagne bucket next to him while he drove. Strangely the one with the champagne bucket driving made me more nervous. But on we went in the dead of night buried under a blanket of shining stars and surrounded by roaming buffalo, wildebeests, antelopes of every kind, and lions roaring in the distance until we finally stopped at a lone table in the middle of the bush. It was surrounded by oil lamps which brilliantly lit both the table and the chef and server that stood there alone to greet us.
If it wasn’t obvious let me say it simply — this was the most exceptionally romantic dinner ever (sorry Eleven Madison, Daniel, and even Tuscan wine-soaked moments Josh & I have shared). And there is where he kneeled on one knee with tears in his eyes and waterworks in mine, and he told me that I had “bewitched him body and soul” (if you don’t know that’s a quote from my favorite book/movie Pride & Prejudice) and offered up the most exceptionally beautiful ring as a sign of engagement. It was perfect.
We rounded out the trip with some time in paradise (aka Zanzibar) with our friends who had climbed the mountain. Strolling through Stone Town(the island’s central city), and on to the Fumba Beach Lodge (HIGHLY recommend) where we spent 5 days lapping up the waves, snorkeling the reef , sipping piña coladas, and mowing perfect seafood, we had an absolutely spectacular time.
It’s going to be hard to get back in the groove, but I’ll somehow find a way to make it happen. My absolute complete and total serenity will certainly help!
PS: all travel was arranged by Above Safaris, which is one of only a few companies in Tanzania that give their employees a fair wage. If you’re thinking about hiking Kilimanjaro, going on safari, or checking out the sacred shores of Zanzibar, check them out.