Back to my home country with my sons

30 October 2017

A report of my trip with my sons in October 2017:

Day 1: October 14 – Arrival Kilimanjaro Airport
Day 2: October 15 – Arusha
Day 3: October 16 – Tarangire National Park
Day 4: October 17 – Tarangire National Park
Day 5: October 18 – Lake Manyara
Day 6: October 19 – Lake Manyara National Park
Day 7: October 20 – Rhotia Valley
Day 8: October 21 – Rhotia Valley
Day 9: October 22 – Serengeti National Park
Day 10: October 23 – Serengeti National Park
Day 11: October 24 – Serengeti National Park to Arusha and Amsterdam

October 14, 2017
I (Marjolijn) departure to Tanzania today with my 2 sons (7 and 9 years old). For the first time on safari with mom. And how excited they are!
Back to where I grew up; a large, important part of my life they’ve never seen.
Seeing friends, telling memories about our lives and getting an accompanying image! Sleeping in the tent where I used to lie as a child as a fat elephant was standing next to it, swimming in the swimming pool that Grandpa helped to build…
Bob and Guus are finally going to get to know that part of the beautiful country and its people. I can’t wait until we get there!
And yes, with a critical eye I also go to work!

October 15, 2017 – Arusha
Our rental car is ready and we drive into the center of Arusha from Ilboru Safari Lodge. A fine lodge; friendly people, beautiful grounds, a swimming pool and comfortable rooms.
While driving from Arusha I tell stories about the past. We drive past the hotel where I went swimming as a little girl (when we didn’t have a swimming pool in the garden yet), along the golf course and across the avenue near our house where the beautiful Jacaranda tree is now in full bloom with purple flowers. I can imagine the city will be a purple sea of flowers from above!
We turn to the dirt road near our house. I park the car about 200 meters from our house. You still have to enter a small dirt road to reach the house and I want to do that part with them on foot.
Bob is walking on my left. To my right is Guus. Together we walk to my parents’ house. I get a lump in my throat … walking this path with all those beautiful memories with my children is very special.
We arrive at the main gate and a friendly lady greets us. The house is now a school, we may enter. We walk through the garden (one hectare I think) and can also enter the house (the school). Our kitchen, the playroom where Marloes and I spent hours, the living room, large doors to the terrace, long corridor with all (sleeping) rooms … Wonderful to be back here. The children run through the corridors and ask everything.
The house used to be tightly painted with a lush garden. Unfortunately, there is not much left of it now. But there are plenty of happy memories.
Then we walk from home to my primary school. See the gate I used to walk through. I tell stories about our tropical schedule; go to school every day until 1 p.m. and always play outside and swim with our friends in the afternoon. We would go to the tennis court every late afternoon.
That was our next destination. We drive past my kindergarten to the tennis court (Gymkhana Club) where I am very warmly welcomed by Nico. Nico used to be a ball boy and is now the tennis coach. Yes, there were ball boys at the Gymkhana Club. Not that we were professional tennis players, but these street kids earned their penny.
Bob wants to play tennis and immediately a boy stands up who lends him a racket and wants to hit a ball with him. In the meantime, these ball boys are real tennis talents practicing all day long. If they find a sponsor, some people manage to move forward. My friend Eddy is fully engaged in the “Youth Development Program”. I meet some friends of my parents from the past and despite the fact that we don’t see each other often, we chat like if it was yesterday since we last saw each other; it feels like it used to be.
Then I take a ride through the center and show them the many shops. The boys are impressed by everything we pass. People, poverty, wealth, beautiful mountain Meru …
It’s hot and we decided to drive back to the lodge. Time for a swim in the refreshing swimming pool and a delicious lunch with friends and colleagues.

October 16 – Tarangire National Park
Finally on safari! At 8.30 am we are picked up by our guide Zeph in the large safari land cruiser.
We first drive past the office. My colleagues Odilia, Vincent, Rose and Lauren are very happy to see Bob and Guus after all the stories and photos they have seen. Bob crawls behind the computer to send aunt Marloes an email at the office. Suddenly Mozes stands before me. Mozes is the son of Gabriel, our cook at home. We had a gardener, cleaning lady (also our nanny) and Gabriel at home. All three were our great friends with whom we grew up. We used to chat with Gabriel on the counter every day … naturally asking what we were going to eat today. “You don’t get to eat today,” he always said with a smile.
I don’t know how Mozes knew I’m here, but he graduated as a cook and is looking for a job now. He saw his chance and came to the office to see if I could help him find one. I’ve done a good word for him and hope he’ll soon be able to work as a cook. Chances are, he’ll have a job in June.
After this pleasant visit we start our safari. First, we stop at a store to buy a big box of cookies, soft drinks (Fanta orange of course!) and beers. For how great is it to enjoy the views of your safari with a drink in your hand!
We drive out of the city and into the vast plains. We stop at a Maasai market. A huge market where people come from all over to sell their goods. Fruit, vegetables, cows, chickens, goats, clothes etc. From the car we watch and I explain what’s happening here. Guus sees the chickens. They are worn per 5 on their heads with a string around their legs. Guus looks, asks what happens and I explain as much as possible about how and why. To soften what’s really going to happen to the chickens, Zeph tells the boys the chickens are kept for their eggs.
We drive away and Guus bursts into tears. I’ve never seen him cry so deeply and heavily. I ask him what is going on and he says he is very sorry how the chickens are being held. Suddenly I notice a cultural difference for my children and how I’m not prepared for it. I grew up here and have seen this from childhood. Even how a chicken literally ran headless because it escaped from a slaughter. For me it’s “just” how things are here and you don’t actually ask any questions.
I try to calm Guus, but I can’t. With those beautiful big eyes of him he looks so sad and the tears and deep sobs persist.
Zeph asks if Guus wants him to go to the police, to tell the police that people are not allowed to treat their chickens like this. Guus thinks that is a good idea and calms something. Zeph drives a little further and stops at the police standing by the roadside and talks to her. Told he about an intensely sad boy in the car. The police played the game, came to the car, looked at Guus and raised her thumbs to inform that she understands the story and is going to do something about it. Guus is satisfied and we continue on our way.
We turn towards Tarangire National Park and count down when we are almost at the entrance! This park is also a kind of home. In the past, Marloes and I often went with our parents to Tarangire National Park, to the same lodge. After the paper formalities and paying the entrance fee, we drive into the park. “Mamaaa! A zebra!” The first animal they see in the wild. Bob and Guus scream and Guus takes pictures with his borrowed camera from grandma. Zeph asks: is a zebra white with black? Or black with white? Good question … it appears to be black with white stripes. The zebras walk with the wildebeest. Why is that, he asks the boys. These animals complement each other in the wild. A zebra can see well, a wildebeest can hear well and together they are stronger. The zebras and wildebeest are all heading in the same direction. Where are they going, Zeph asks? Apparently to the river to drink water.
We drive to Tarangire Safari Lodge where we stay one night. This lodge has the most beautiful view that exists! View over the park and the Tarangire River. You can see the animals walking downstairs with the naked eye; currently elephants, giraffes and buffalo. On the way to our tent, impalas walk along the path. We throw our bags away and jump right into the pool. Time for lunch and a few hours to cool off.
At 4 pm, when it is slightly cooler, we meet again with Zeph and we go on a safari. Elephants giraffes, baboons, impalas, buffalo, 2 lions in the river bed next to a dead zebra, vultures waiting in the tree. After a few hours we drive back to the lodge and enjoy the beautiful view while the sun sets. What a fantastic first safari day!
As we go to bed, I leave all the canvases open so that we can feel the breeze and see the sun rise tomorrow morning. The three of us fall asleep like babies.

October 17 – Tarangire National Park
After some pancakes and a tasty omelet, we go on an early safari in the morning. We see 3 cheetahs on the plains! Why do cheetas live on these plains, asks Zeph? Bob knows: so that they can see their prey well. We see a group with as many as 40 elephants. A little further, 4 lazy lions (1 male with 3 females) sleeping. One female is very attentive because there is a Red Buck in the distance. But it runs on the other side of the river, so the lion makes no attempt to attack. We see dozens of buffalo running across the road and causing a lot of dust. Even more elephants with little ones and lots of birds. A great morning!
A long safari is not for children. That’s why it’s so nice that we (when they have had enough) can drive back to the lodge in the park.
We drive back for a wonderful swim in the pool and continue our journey to Lake Manyara National Park. We have brought a packed lunch and along the way Bob asks if he can give his bananas to 2 children along the road. Very sweet … we stop.
It is completely dry everywhere. It is time for the rains to start here. The children notice that a man with 2 buckets of water is cycling past. He has probably cycled for hours, because for the time being we don’t come across any water source. That’s impressive. For the time being, he uses those 2 buckets of water to cook, eat, wash, etc. You have to be careful with that, otherwise he’ll have to cycle for hours again. We just turn on the tap … infinite water often seems to be.
We drive through the colorful village of Mto wa Mbu just before Lake Manyara National Park. A village with local shops, markets, plantations, ladies along the road that sell everything. Our “activity center” is also here. From there, we organize tours through the village with Explore Tanzania; walking, cycling, tuk tuk and a delicious local lunch. So really getting acquainted with the local village life. We’ll do that tomorrow!

October 18 – Lake Manyara
Today we do nothing for a day! Not to the village, but a relaxing day at the lodge. We stay in a lodge on top of the Rift Valley (Great Slenk) with Lake Manyara National Park below. From the pool there is a beautiful view of the park where we also go. At the swimming pool we enjoy ourselves most of the day. Baboons come to drink and Bob and Guus swim and play. There is also a pool table, we play cards and the children update their travel diaries. It’s great to plan a “day of rest” during such a safari with children. In the afternoon, clouds cover Lake Manyara. We see rain coming, nice for the population, animals and agriculture! Apparently there is more wind, because a huge cloud of dust blocks our view of the lake. We suddenly look out for dust instead of the lake. The children make extensive phone calls with dad, they already have many wonderful stories for him!

October 19 – Lake Manyara National Park
This morning, we drove into the village of Mto wa Mbu with Zeph. From the lodge we drive down the Rift Valley and we’re in the middle of the village in about 15 minutes.
It is Thursday, which means there’s a market. Not the regular market as is in Mto wa Mbu every day, but the real local Maasai market. Clothing, shoes, fruit and vegetables, cows, goats, chickens, etc. Guus is outside of its comfort zone and would rather stay with me in the car. I respect that and let Bob walk into the market with Zeph and Chrisple. He thinks it’s amazing and together with the men he walks around.
We buy a necklace and bracelet from the Maasai ladies and drive back to Mto wa Mbu.
We are going to film at the local market in Mto wa Mbu to promote this excursion that we organize. We walk around the market with many beautiful fabrics, piles of fruit and vegetables, local cooking supplies and handicrafts. The perfect place to buy a souvenir; you have to be a star in bargaining!
We see all kinds of fruit and bananas in all types and colors (red, green and yellow).
We drive through the village and the beautiful green plantations, park the car and walk along the many banana trees to a local restaurant for lunch. Along the way we learn about the banana trees and we see how beautiful things are made from the bark.
This is not your typical restaurant. But a few tables and chairs under a thatched roof where a local lady cooks the most delicious local dishes. Years ago we started this collaboration for our guests, a great way to get acquainted with the Tanzanian kitchen; fried banana, pilaf, cooked meat, spinach … it is delicious!
While the chickens cackle and the kittens play, we enjoy our lunch. Bob and Guus see a little kitten, of course you have to play with that!
Satisfied we walk back to the car and continue to the Lake Manyara National Park, which is less than 5 minutes from the village. At the entrance is the Treetop Walkway. A walk through bridges and wooden platforms high in the trees, built by our local partner Wayo Africa. It is a beautiful walk and we see many monkeys and birds high in the trees.
Then, our safari starts in the Lake Manyara National Park. Lush greenery through underground water that always enters the park. Giraffes, baboons, elephants, zebras, wildebeests, lizards. At the end of the afternoon, we arrive at our Green Camp on Lake Manyara, in the middle of the park. Bob’s a bit nervous about our whereabouts in the car; in the middle of nature. He asks a lot of questions about what he can expect and I notice that he finds it all a bit exciting. Upon arrival at the camp, he looks around breathtakingly. “Mama, this is the coolest place so far!” The fear of the unknown is gone and as soon as our bags are in the tent and we have a cold drink he wants to go for a walk! Zebras are walking in the distance. It’s wonderful to see how he completely relaxes, enjoys and feels no fear here in the middle of nature. That’s how it should be.
Together with the guide, the children walk towards the lake.
It is getting dark and Bob and Guus have the greatest fun in the kitchen together with the crew of the camp. They help with cooking and play a game with Zeph. They sing, play with each other and I hear them howl with laughter. Guus helps with hanging lanterns around the camp.
The large bag in the tent is filled with hot water so that we can shower.
We sit by the campfire for half an hour (of course I order a gin & tonic) before we go to the table. The boys almost fall asleep but still eat something.
After such a day full of impressions I carry them to their beds …

October 20 – Rhotia
This morning we enjoy a delicious breakfast after which we drive out of the park to the village of Rhotia, which is approximately half an hour from Lake Manyara National Park.
We stay at Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge for two nights. A beautiful lodge set up by Joris & Marise. The profits made by the lodge go to the adjacent orphanage. A wonderful initiative that has now been expanded with its own vegetable garden, cows, bakery and dairy.
Bob would really like to bring something for the children of the orphanage. They already get plenty of toys, so I suggest buying fruit for the kids at the market. That is a real treat for them!
Along the way we stop at a number of ladies from whom Bob buys two huge banana bunches. On the way to the lodge I see sugar cane being sold along the way. I ask Zeph to stop because my children should taste that!! They love it.
Around lunchtime we arrive at Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge. We say goodbye to our dear guide Zeph because we fly to Serengeti and a new guide is waiting for us. The children still have to hug him very hard and practice their newly learned hand gestures with him. They made a new friend!
The children immediately take a dip in the pool, play with the dogs, enjoy a huge plate of spaghetti bolognese.
We agree with Joris that Bob can give the children the bananas at 5 pm when they have finished their homework. Bob asks about every 15 minutes if it is already 5 p.m. And then the time has finally come! Bob runs to his big basket full of bananas and together we carry it to the neighboring hill where the children are playing. They really enjoy their banana! Then Bob and Guus give them some toys that they no longer needed at home. And together they play a little until the sun sets.

October 21 – Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge
The children at the orphanage have classes in a playful way this morning from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m. It’s finally Saturday, so no real school, but a morning of tinkering, puzzling, drawing etc. Bob and Guus are very excited to join them and enjoy themselves all morning.
Bob proposes to distribute the sugar cane we have among the children. Another delicious candy!
In the afternoon, we have a nice lunch with Joris and Marise and later we visit the Coffee Corner of Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge on the main road near the village of Karatu. A beautiful place with particularly beautiful views where you can enjoy a delicious lunch and a good cup of coffee. Nice place for a stop when you are on your way to the Ngorongoro Crater!

October 22 – Serengeti National Park
Today we fly to Serengeti National Park early in the morning. We arrive just in time at the airport at Lake Manyara and are kindly met by the pilot of Regional Air.
We fly over Lake Manyara and the Ngorongoro Crater. It is a clear day and we have a beautiful view. The Dutch pilot leaves Bob in the front seat next to her and he can steer for a moment. How proud he is!
At the airstrip in Serengeti National Park I meet our customers who enthusiastically tell about their journey with our guide Prim.
We are welcomed by guide Imma and together we drive to our Green Camp in North Serengeti. Along the way we see six lions napping around a tree. Welcome to the Serengeti!
When they arrive at the camp, the children explore our tent with enthusiasm and get to know the camp crew. Table tennis bats are brought out and on the grass they play with one of the waiters.
After a delicious lunch we hang out at the camp. The location provides the widest view of the Serengeti plains you can imagine! You can sit and watch for hours here.
At the end of the afternoon, Bob would like to go on a safari for a few hours and together with Imma we will set off from 4 p.m. to around 6 p.m. Guus stays behind in the camp with the crew. We see ostriches with little ones, giraffes, many elephants, one with a tusk the other way around. It was wonderful to be on the road with Bob. I can see he enjoys nature and animals.

October 23 – Serengeti National Park
A relaxed morning at the camp. The children are still in the tent for an hour after breakfast. They watch a movie on my laptop and play UNO. They have come up with their own rules and have a lot of fun.
That way I can also have a quiet coffee and brainstorm about the company with a panoramic view of Serengeti National Park.
Mid-morning we drive to our hiking camp, about a 30-minute drive from the main camp. This is a crazy camp on a river that is now dry; there are still puddles of water. There are plenty of wildebeest here, we constantly hear running hooves around us.
Bob wants to walk again! It doesn’t feel any kind of fear anywhere, it is nice.
After lunch there is some more clouds making it slightly cooler and we can go for a walk on the rocks in the riverbed with Imma and an armed ranger. We have to walk through a channel and see a large crocodile trail. It’s a very fresh track so we have to get out of here quickly.
We walk and see a lot of beautiful things, also all kinds of bones that the children collect and photograph in the camp.
After an hour Bob wants to walk again … haha .. He walks to the crew and says “can we go for a walk?”
He sets off again with Imma, the park ranger and waiter at the camp. I peek at them with the binoculars. They do cartwheels, throwing elephant dung. Bob is laughing hard and I recognize myself during my childhood. Playing with lovely people. I see again how very sweet Tanzanians are, “taking the children away from you” and having fun with the simplest things. That is how Marloes and I used to live and play. Bob is lifted and thrown from one to the other … great fun!
At dusk we enjoy a drink by the campfire and Bob and Guus do a contest to see who can build the highest stone tower.
By candlelight we eat a delicious bite with roaring lions and hyenas in the background.
The three of us crawl into our dome tent … very cozy. Guus wakes up at night, he cannot sleep. I pull it towards me and within a minute it falls into a deep sleep in my arms until we are awakened by the rising sun.

October 24 – Serengeti National Park
We leave early for the Kogatende airstrip in Serengeti. Along the way we see a rhino! It was still high on Bob’s wish list. Guus falls asleep on a chair with his legs on my lap; he seems to be sleeping everywhere.
The flight is a bit bumpy on the way to Arusha. Upon arrival in Arusha, I take my chance to buy some nice local stuff; my favorite Indian snack Chevro and after that we go shopping at the Maasai market. We buy beautiful Maasai necklaces and beautiful souvenirs made by the ladies on the spot.
We drive on to Rivertrees Country Inn where we have a day pass. Here we can have a quiet lunch, the kids bathe and I enjoy a long and warm shower after the safari. You don’t even think about staying clean. On the way we bought sugar cane again, which I chop into pieces for the kids.
We are taken to the airport in the late afternoon and evening we travel to Amsterdam. The kids want to, but also do not want go home. Yes, to see dad, family and friends. No, because they think Tanzania is so beautiful. They fell in love with “my Tanzania” and now know a little better where mommy comes from. They talk a lot about everything we have experienced.
When we get home we cuddle with our sweet dog for a long time and take him to the forest. At best, you come across a deer or boar here. Nice to be able to experience that contrast together with them. We look at the trees and there are plenty of mushrooms. Here too, we enjoy nature.
I’m glad to be home. After all these years, the Netherlands is now my home too. Where my dearest family is. Where, with all my passion, I organize the most beautiful trips to Tanzania with my sister Marloes, with the knowledge that I can return to my other home soon.