As evening grew long and we tired of reading on our last night, we heard a percussion band start up by the
pool. Sue retired to the tent, but I opted to check out the music. After a set of drumming that nearly sent me to join
Sue, the band announced a performance: four women and two men entered to do a dance. The women did what I would label
an African belly dance - or maybe a hip dance. I kept waiting for their hips to dislocate!
After two sets of that, they segued into gymnastics. Incredible! One-handed cartwheels, flips, juggling while
balancing, synchronized tumbling. I was thinking they could change the music and make it a Cirque du Soleil act with
no other alterations.
This morning our day began leisurely, as we read our books then took another walk. On our drive back to Arusha,
a police car with sirens blaring raced toward us, forcing all cars to the shoulder. Moments later, another police car
followed, closely trailed by the presidential motorcade. (We waved at the president, but he didn't see us.)
Saturday morning traffic in Arusha astounded me. We inched forward, marveling at the crush of humanity -
pedestrians, bicycles, carts, trucks, cars, all mixing on roads with no traffic lights and no lane markings. Dennis
finally turned down a side street, then parked in front of a line of shops. He led us into a Maasai herbal remedy shop,
where he interpreted as the Maasai proprietor explained the properties of his wares. For joint problems, boil this tree
bark in your tea; for chest pains, drink this fluid extracted from zebras; for rashes, rub this ground root on the
skin; and more fascinating details. You'll never find that in America, since the drug companies can not profit from it.
We then headed north on the Arusha-Nairobi highway, through a hilly landscape dotted with farms, bomas (Maasai
compounds), and grazing lands. As we admired the scenery, Dennis asked if we were ready for our picnic lunch. "Want to
climb that hill for a view while we eat?" he suggested. Next thing we knew, the Land Rover was parked at the base of
the old volcano, and we were carrying our chairs and lunch boxes up the 300'-400' slope, trailed by four Maasai kids
and a herd of cattle.
The view from the top stole our breaths away - a sweeping 360-degree view of the surrounding hills, volcanic
cones, farms, bomas, highway - all anchored by the dominating presence of Mt. Meru, Africa's 4th-highest peak at
~15,000'. We ate while soaking in the vista as the Maasai kids (now numbering nine) watched us from a respectful
distance. Then Dennis held out a bag of potato chips. One child left the group to take it, then returned to share it
with his friends.
The rest of our lunch followed this pattern, as Dennis, then Sue, then I, offered the children parts of the
abundant lunch Prosper had fixed for us. We then hiked further up the rim, letting the kids guard our chairs. From the
top, we looked into the collapsed crater of our volcano.
Back at our picnic site, we sat to enjoy the view a bit longer, the kids again moving a short distance away.
Then I pulled out my journal, remembering that I hadn't written down the message on the sign at Lake Manyara. Before I
knew what happened, the Maasai kids had surrounded me, watching intently as I moved my pen across the paper. (Dennis
told me later that the Maasai kids wanted nothing more than to learn to read and write. Thus, before we left, I wrote
them sentences on two sheets of paper and handed it to them.)
After we hiked down the mountain, Dennis took us to the Ilkurot (Maasai for 'dusty place') Nursery and Primary
School, which is a charitable project started by our safari company. Donna Duggan met us there, giving us a tour of the
grounds and telling of the school. Most of the younger kids attending the school have never developed fine motor skills
- instead of crayons and coloring books, the children learned to wield a stick with which to herd cattle, or to carry
a jug to get water. As a result, when they were first handed a pencil and paper, the kids would mash the pencil into
the paper, breaking it. And when they installed monkey bars, the kids would try to walk across them.
To finish the day, we followed Donna home, where she let us shower and freshen up before beginning our long trip home.
We spent our last ground hours in Africa chatting with Donna about safari, and travel, and exotic places. Quite a fine
way to wrap up an incredible journey.
Of course, we still had the ride to the airport. People lined the road leaving Arusha as market day wound down.
And as a going-away present, the near-constant ceiling of clouds had disappeared, leaving us with unobstructed views
of Mt. Meru - and our only distant views of Mt. Kilimanjaro, glowing in the fading light. it's hard to believe that
I climbed that a week ago...
It's hard to believe most of this incredible vacation!