Thursday, December 6, 2007

Africa Journey Coming to a Close

Note: AAI Communications Coordinator Shawn Olson has been in Africa to climb Kilimanjaro and explore the game preserves of Tanzania and South Africa. This is her last dispatch before heading for home.

Greetings again from Zulu Nyala,

From beginning to end this has been an amazing trip. The safaris and animal viewing have been awesome, matched only by the ascent of Kilimanjaro. I’ll never forget the beauty of the climb, the diversity of the landscapes on the way up and then the way down by a different route, and the thrill of standing on the top of Africa.

Distant View
Kilimanjaro towers above the surrounding plains. Keith Gunnar

Tanzania was a great country to visit – very easy to explore. I have to say the same thing about South Africa, though it’s quite different – more comfortable. South Africa is very different in that it is a lot more....well...comfortable in a more developed, less dusty, less visible poverty, easier-to-be-there sort of way. But actually, from everything that I've seen here so far, Tanzania looks very special and unique, and I am appreciating that more each day. Don't get me wrong, South Africa, is amazing, beautiful, and full of surprises...just very different and not as wild.

We also went on our final safari of the trip and saw many baby zebra, impala, and warthogs. The warthogs are by far my mom’s favorite. They sometimes run around in circles because they have so much energy. Their tails go strait up in the air when they run about. We also saw a frog walking, not hopping. If you’ve paid attention to frogs, you can imagine how odd that looked for what we think of only as a hopper. One of these small frogs excretes a sticky liquid if it’s picked up; if you ingest this liquid you die right away. We kept our distance. Smart, right?

Image:Lightmatter warthog.jpg
A warthog, not more or less handsome than his colleagues.

We also got to play a little “bush golf.” Quite rough terrain, I have to say. Not to mention there were zebra and an impala on the course! They have 6 flags and there are only 3 clubs to play with, but we made it work. We have spent time with a really good group for the last 4 days, and we all played this version of golf together.

Image:Impala ram.jpg
Adult impala weigh 145 to 165 pounds and can
long jump up to 30 feet and high jump up over 8 feet.

I have seen some large dung beetles and crickets here. We saw a dung beetle rolling a dung ball the size of a golf ball down the road. They use zebra and elephant excrement to make them, then lay their eggs inside. The newly hatched beetles have to eat their way out. The crickets are large and their buzz sounds like an airplane. Last night in the bathroom I had one buzz by my ear, then it landed on my leg – it was huge! So I locked it in the bathroom for the night and let it out this morning. I’m getting the hang of these little adjustments.

This morning we leave for the airport for check-in at 1pm. We fly to Johannesburg, to Amsterdam, then to and Seattle. We will get home Thursday evening. I am excited to come home, but really sad to leave. I have had some really, really good experiences! I even have a nice tan going.

Home soon,


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