Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Update from Africa

Posted by David Keelan on Thursday, July 20, 2006

The last few weeks have been more eventful as we just concluded a trip to Mkumi, a game reserve. Safari here means a trip or journey, not what we construe. Mkumi is the 3rd largest preserve in the country, about 250 sq kilo. Selous and Serengeti are larger and clearly better. We chose the closest to Dar as we also wanted to drive across part of the country for an appreciation of the villages and people. It provided us the chance to sip coffee, visit a village and buy baskets and tomatoes on the way.Mkumi was a combo of hills and plains which afforded views of impala herds, elephant, hippo, zebra, crocs, and several others in reasonable abundance. On our 4 game rides we always saw plenty of animals although not the huge number and variety as on the  Serengeti. Managed to get reasonably close to baboons, elephants, crocs and giraffes. Our guide was very good as we were picked up at home and delivered there by the same guide.We stayed in  a tented camp site with all meals provided. Great food and very cool nights. Blanket weather in the hills. Every time we drove up to the camp after a game ride we ran across animals by the roadside as we were stayed in the game reserve. While we had 2 nights there it was enough.

Coupled with our trip to Zanzibar, a Muslim island in Tanzania, we have seen most of the available tourist vistas. Only more game parks remain.

My experience with traffic here has been a wonder. Polite people behave like maniacs when put behind the wheel of a car. They all play chicken and just push into traffic, run lights, go over curbs, park on pedestrian ways and generally bully the foot traffic. In defence the people walk slowly, perhaps are fatigued. Sometimes I think they may be sick as they look a bit haggard and tired. Most walk as they drive and take up the entire walk, stop anyplace along the way and rarely yield as a courtesy. Part of the culture not to give way.

In town there is a constant stream of sellers carrying all sorts of things from a few belts to shirts, pants, soap, you name it and they have it. I stopped for a beer on the side of the road while walking one day and managed to buy sandals from a street vendor for about $6. I suppose you could call it a shoppers paradise for contraband goods and cheap articles. Really good stuff is hard to find.

Most drugs can be purchased over the counter for a fraction of the US cost but you never know where they were manufactured.

The locals tell us that 80% of the people have malaria and take treatment 2-3 times a year. Probably accounts for some of the listlessness. TB is almost as bad.

Food is adequate but expensive for western stuff. If we eat casava and greens cheap. Anything else about US cost.  We haven’t lost weight though.

Fortunately most people speak a smatter of English and some quite good. The British twang though. My Swahili may get me around but I usually need the English and fingers to shop.

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