October 21, 2016 – A day to catch up…..

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Having spent the last four days continuing our “neuromobile” as someone close named it, we were looking for a little break to catch up on our administrative work. For the last several years, we have been collecting general data on the patients we’re seeing here, such as age, tribe, location of visit, return or new, diagnosis and medications we’re prescribing. It is helpful not only with the keeping track of our volume and demographics, but also something as simple as knowing what medications to order extra of before we arrive. In addition to our general neurology database, we also have been collecting somewhat different information regarding our epilepsy patients, such as seizure control and dose changes.

So, as we had not advertised today as a neurology day (that will continue next week), we decided that it would be a perfect day to begin gather data for our database. Somehow, I have managed to avoid participating directly in the data entry and Laurita and Kelley did not let me down as they immediately offered to do the work. Besides, I did have several other duties to attend to like catching up on my blog and, perhaps more importantly, get our vehicle since we had plans to leave later in the afternoon on safari which would be quite difficult without it. Soja called and told me everything had been repaired and it was ready to pick me up so I hitched a ride down with Moshe, who is in charge of everything that goes on at FAME. I had been sitting in back of the stretch Rover that was about to head to town with a number of FAME employees, but was rescued by Moshe at the last minute. The vehicle was finished and though it was a bit more expensive for the repairs than I had anticipated, it was still only a fraction of what it would have cost in the US. The steering rack and all bearings had been rebuilt and replaced, the hinges on the bonnet (hood) had been completely replaced, the emergency brake that hadn’t worked since the vehicle had been rebuilt was completely repaired and lastly, he had built a latch to keep the room from dropping on our heads when it was up on safari. All that for a little over $400!

I drove the Land Cruiser home and then finished posting my blogs when I got word that Yusef, our driver had arrived to FAME. We found Yusef and all when to have a quick lunch in FAME’s canteen before our departure. We had just a few things to finish up with and so Yusef checked out the vehicle and got it ready for our weekend safari. We ended up leaving right around 3pm which is what we had planned since I thought it would take about two hours to get to our lodge. That was a bit optimistic, though, as the Simba Tarangire Lodge is on the opposite end of Tarangire near a new entrance gate built in the Kigoma region adjacent to Lake Burunge. On the way, Yusef was stopped for speeding in a 50 kph zone. The traffic police have now begun to use electronic devices to record speed and I am very certain it was done as a revenue generator rather than a deterrent to speed. After talking with the officer for a bit of time, Yusef came back to the car and informed us that he would have to pay a penalty for his speeding and asked if we might have an extra 10,000 TSh, or about $5 – far more reasonable than any speeding ticket would have been in the US.

We eventually made the turn off the tarmac traveling to our lodge near the Sangaiwe gate of Tarangire. Not the best marked route such that we had to ask several townspeople all the way even while I was using my GPS navigation program knowing the coordinates of the lodge, we still were able to make it there and all before sunset. The Simba Tarangire Lodge is a relatively new facility and we were extended resident rates due to our working at FAME. It is a hybrid lodge/camp model where the “tents” are permanent with hard floors, bathroom with plumbing and hot water, an indoor and an outdoor shower, all overlooking Lake Burunge outside the park, but in the middle of a wildlife reserve so that herds of zebra and wildebeest roam in our view towards to the lake.

Sunset from the pool deck

Sunset from the pool deck

We were greeted with cold washcloths and cold juice as we got out of our vehicle from our long drive and the staff couldn’t have been more pleasant and helpful. They gave us a little rundown on the grounds, where meals were served, where we could watch sunset and then were our rooms were. You’re not able to walk to or from your rooms at night or in the dark as there are lots of dangerous animals close by that would not be very pleasant or safe to meet up with in the dark or otherwise. Laurita and Kelley were staying in one tent and I had my own for the two nights. We dropped our things off in the rooms and made a beeline for the observation deck that looked out towards the lake and was the best spot for viewing sunsets which was about to happen. We sat on the deck enjoying a cold beer after the day and couldn’t help but think of all the amazing things we’ve already done this trip and the amazing safari we were about to have.

Relaxing on the observation deck after our drive to the lodge

Relaxing on the observation deck after our drive to the lodge

We had asked for dinner at 7:30 and there was a choice of grilled chicken or pork chops. Yusef joined us for dinner as it the custom with safari guides here and we sat down to enjoy an incredible meal of vegetable crepes, followed by a wonderful vegetable bisque with homemade rolls and then our main course. Both the chicken and pork were great though I thought the pork was really exceptional. Desert was a delicious caramel flan-like dish (notice the Hispanic influence on the description that Laurita just gave me).

My lovely tent

My lovely tent

The view outside

The view outside

After dinner, we all sat out on the pool (Yes, they actually had a swimming pool) deck and stared up in the sky fully lit with stars the most beautiful Milky Way any of us had seen in some time. There was to had been a meteor shower this night, but we weren’t entirely clear if that included being in the Southern Hemisphere and half-way around the world or not. Regardless, we all saw a number of shooting stars somehow with me seeing less even though we were all looking at the same sky. As we sat on the edge of the deck and furthest away from the lights of the lodge, the askari continually came by to check the bushes just beyond our feet for any overenthusiastic animals that may have decided to take a closer look. Lions do roam these premises as the many bones of previous victims are readily apparent immediately upon leaving the confines of our camp. It was just a bit unnerving to Kelley and Laurita who pulled their feet closer in hopes of avoiding any curious felines. We all eventually realized it was way past our bedtimes considering we had to get up early for breakfast which was at 6:15am so we could get an early start on our first day of safari. We were all escorted back to our tents by spear wielding askari who continually shined their flashlights in all directions as you are not allowed to walk alone in camp after dark for obvious reasons.

I was fairly certain we’d all sleep well that night until I heard all the animal sounds that I was sure were new for Kelley and Laurita and could disrupt their sleep. I’ve heard them so many times here that they’re more relaxing to me and I drifted off to sleep after some reading with thoughts of a successful game drive in the morning.

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