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Tanzania, East Africa -- July 07 to August 01, 2012

My sister, Cathy, is a professor of political science who works on land-conflict issues in sub-Saharan Africa, especially theories of political economy and economic development (land tenure policies). She began studying African politics while an undergraduate, studying for a year in Nairobi, Kenya. She has returned many times over the years to conduct further research, and currently is working on a manuscript tentatively titled: Property and Political Order: Land Rights and the Structure of Politics in Africa.

For Cathy, this trip was just another busy field season with too much to do in too little time. For me, this was the chance of a lifetime to visit a part of the world I never expected to see in person. Cathy had one open seat in the vehicle and needed someone to act as gopher, body guard, gear guard, and familiar company, and after years of offering to tote her gear in Africa, I finally get the chance!

Link to Trip Map, Tanzania Map, Arusha Area Map, or Dar es Salaam area map.

July 7
Departing Las Vegas

Day 01. Saturday, July 07. Las Vegas, NV, to Austin, TX.

0700 hrs. Bright sunny morning. I gave the cat one last scratch behind the ears and departed the house. Liz drove and stayed with me until I got to security. The airport was packed, and check-in took a long time, but security was quick and easy.

The flight was pleasantly uneventful -- just how you want it to go. Peter picked me up at the airport and took me to the house. Just back from China, Cathy and Peter went back to bed. Mom (who was house-sitting while they were away) and I sat outside and read. We had take-out pizza for dinner, then we started preparing for the next flight.

July 08
Layover in Austin

Day 02. Sunday, July 08. Austin, TX.

Today was a layover day in Austin. Cathy and I coordinated packing and made our final arrangements. With little to do, I mostly relaxed and read. Josh did this trip with Cathy last year, and he gave me some good tips on what to expect.

In the evening, Mom and I went out to dinner with Dad's brother Peter and his wife Mary. It was a nice chance to get out of Cathy's way, visit with relatives, and enjoy a last dinner of familiar Mexican food before heading to Africa.

day 3
Flight delays cascade across the globe

Day 03. Monday, July 09. Austin, TX, to Dallas, TX.

Peter took Cathy and me to the airport early, but afternoon thunderstorms in Austin and elsewhere around the US messed up airline schedules. We were already an hour late, but just as we were about to begin boarding the plane, a storm cell moved over the airport and safety officers ordered the baggage handling crews indoors. As a result of the storm hitting at that critical moment, our flight was delayed even longer, and we flew out of Austin 2 hrs late. Finally in Dallas, and missed our flight to London. Apparently, all flights to London from Dallas leave in the evening, and because we missed our connection, we would have to wait another 24 hours for another flight.

The airlines were less than helpful, and gate agents in Austin outright lied to us in a successful attempt to calm the irate crowd. Unfortunately, they passed an outraged crowd to unsuspecting colleagues in Dallas. Eventually we headed to the Fairfield Hotel for the night expecting to waste another 20 hours sitting in Dallas. Little did we know, the storm in a critical 15-minute window would cost us 3-4 days of delay.

July 10
Finally ready to board the plane and depart Dallas

Day 04. Tuesday, July 10. Dallas, TX, to London, England.

Cathy spent many hours on the phone during the night and morning trying to arrange flights and unanticipated overnight stays. It looks like we will be delayed 4 days getting to Tanzania because flights do not go there everyday, and the next flight is full -- we will have to wait for the second flight out of London to Tanzania.

After much anguish and time on the phone, Cathy worked out flights from Dallas to London (UK), London to Nairobi (Kenya), and Nairobi to Arusha (Tanzania), bypassing Dar es Salaam this time. Everything will take longer than expected. We recovered our luggage in Dallas and rechecked it to London so that it won't end up in Dar es Salaam without us. We booked online for a hotel near the airport in London.

We finally departed Dallas on-time at 5:30 PM on an overnight flight to London.

July 11
Cleared Customs and setting a free foot in the UK

Day 05. Wednesday, July 11. London.

After an extra long flight because we had to turn back after an hour over the Atlantic to Newfoundland to repair the toilets, we arrived in London around noon. Finding ourselves stranded here for two nights, we set about making the best of it. We checked into a room at the "Ibis London Heathrow Airport" Hotel, which was, literally across the road from one of the busy Heathrow runways, then walked down the road about 1/2 miles to a county park. The walk outdoors was a nice relaxing change of pace: it was a good chance to see a few European birds flying about, and it was a chance to photograph several brands of European jets landing across the street.

Link to Google map of London Heathrow Region.

Big Ben from bridge over Thames River, London

Day 06. Thursday, July 12. London.

Stranded in London. We rode the subway downtown and spent a nice, warm, sunny day in London visiting semi-natural parks and traditional London landmarks. We then spent a second night, a cold and rainy night, at the Ibis Hotel.

The day was fun, and I especially enjoyed seeing Red Foxes (living along above-ground parts of the subway) and birds in St. James Park. We saw lots of geese (including Bar-headed Geese, Nene Geese, wild Greylag Geese, and Canada Geese), lots of ducks (including Common Pochard, Tufted Ducks, Red-billed Teal, and Mallards), a Great-crested Grebe, two species of white pelicans, European coots, Common Moorhens with chicks, and many other species that I've not yet identified.

Flying over the Sahara Desert

Day 07. Friday, July 13. London, England, to Nairobi, Kenya.

We finally caught our 10:30 AM fight from London to Africa. We had clouds over Europe, but Italy and North Africa were clear with nice views of Libya and the northern Sahara Desert. Unfortunately, clouds blocked the afternoon view of the Nile River and Great Rift Valley. We arrived in Nairobi after dark, and to avoid various lack-of-visa issues, immunization issues, and very expensive hotels in town, we spent the night in Nairobi airport.

The airport was busy all night, and it was interesting to see so many different sizes, shapes, and colors of people, all with so many kinds of dress. We "slept" next to several guys who looked to be from Somalia and were engaged in some sort of questionable activity, judging from the people who visited them during the night. It was an interesting experience, but not one that I'd like to repeat.

July 14
Mount Kilimanjaro from the air

Day 08. Saturday, July 14. Nairobi, Kenya, to Arusha, TZ.

We never really slept, and while up in the darkness, I noticed many large reddish bats hawking moths at outdoor lights. The bats were very busy, and a Cattle Egret picked up moths that dropped to the ground to avoid the bats. In the early morning hours, I saw two species of swifts (one was Little Swift), Superb Starlings, Red-winged Starlings, Speckled Doves, a Black Kite, and Pied Crows at the airport.

We caught a 35-minute flight from Nairobi to Kilimanjaro Airport (Moshi town) on Kenya Airways (Mt. Kilimanjaro was visible), then took a 1-hr shuttle van to Arusha. At the hotel, I stayed awake long enough to see sunbirds and mousebirds outside the room. In the late afternoon, Cathy and I walked to downtown to get TZ sim cards for our phones and bottled water. Lydia, Cathy's TZ assistant, arrived in the afternoon.

Link to Google map of Arusha Region.

July 15
Variable Sunbird at the hotel

Day 09. Sunday, July 15. Arusha, TZ.

Today was a day to relax in Arusha, catch up on sleep, and bird the grounds of the hotel. Cathy and Lydia hope to visit political opposition party members this afternoon. We expect the Professor, with a car and driver, to arrive this evening.

Despite the lack of sleep, I got up at dawn when the birds started calling outside my window. The morning was cool and cloudy with a bit of fog, so not the best birding conditions (without sunshine, iridescent sunbirds look black). Breakfast was fruit, fried eggs, toast, and coffee. They have pet tortoises at the hotel!

Visiting with the political opposition never worked out, but we three walked around Arusha. The shops were closed for Sunday, but the street vendors took over the sidewalks. Our driver, Tano, and vehicle showed up alone in the late afternoon.

July 16
Crossing the Masai Steppe southbound

Day 10. Monday, July 16. Arusha, TZ, to Babati, TZ.

We got up and out early (departed hotel at 0700 hrs) traveling by private vehicle (Toyota Land Cruiser provided by the University with government license plates) from Arusha to Babati. The trip was amazing (landscape, people, wildlife, birds) and took the expected 2-1/2 hrs, even after Cathy asked the driver to drive more slowly.

We checked into the White Rose Hotel on the south end of town near Lake Babati, then went to the Regional Commissioner's office to register Cathy's Tanzanian research permit. That took longer than expected, but with the proper papers, Cathy is ready to begin her interviews. I tagged along until after lunch, then returned to the hotel. I saw lots of new birds along the highway and around the hotel today.

July 16
Black Kite above the White Rose

Day 11. Tuesday, July 17. Babati, TZ.

Cathy and Lydia are out conducting research. The professor did not arrive.

I spent an amazing morning out with a local guy (Mbazi) birding around Lake Babati. Too many life birds to list them all, but Barbets, Kingfishers, and Bee-eaters are on the list!

After lunch, I spent an hour in an internet cafe listening to loud African Rap and updating the website.

In the afternoon, Mbazi and I birded another area of Lake Babati. African Fish-eagle was the highlight there.

July 18
Don't annoy the elephants!

Day 12. Wednesday, July 18. Babati, TZ.

Cathy and Lydia conducted research interviews. I went to Tarangire National Park to see lions, elephants, giraffes, and a bunch of new birds! We were out all day, leaving here at 0530 and returning shortly before dark.

Tarangeri is an amazing place, but you have to be careful to avoid annoying the elephants, as we got charged by a momma elephant twice. The birding was awesome, and the driver knew the names of most species. Birding at home may never be the same, but maybe because I won't have to look past herds of zebra and wildebeest to spot little things flitting on the ground. Highlights included a zebra carcass with all three species of plains vultures, African Fish Eagles, Marabou Storks, Pygmy Falcons, Lilac-fronted Rollers, and of course, lions.

July 19
Dugout canoe on marshy fringe of Lake Babati

Day 13. Thursday, July 19. Babati, TZ, to Mbulu, TZ.

Cathy and Lydia worked in the morning, and I went out on Lake Babati in a hand-made dugout canoe with a local fisherman to look for birds and hippo. The dugout canoe was tipsy enough that I never took the big camera out of the plastic bag, but we saw some fun birds: including lots of African Jacana, Red-knobbed Coots, Purple Swamphen, Black Crakes, and Malachite Kingfishers. The hippos apparently were down at the other end of the lake, so I didn't need to worry about them tipping the canoe.

After lunch, we drove three hours from Babati to Mbulu. Tano is a good, professional driver, but he drove fast and the road was a bit harrowing. Cathy and I walked near the hotel for an hour or so before dinner.

Link to Google map of Mbulu Region.

july 20
Farm in the mountains above Mbulu

Day 14. Friday, July 20. Mbulu, TZ.

Cathy and Lydia conducted research in farming regions in the mountains to the east and to the south of Mbulu, and I tagged along, but first we tried to deal with banking. It turns out that the ATM in this town doesn't accept Visa-network cards, and the only bank in town will not exchange dollars. We had to get money back from the driver that we already paid him, and Lydia is helping until we get back to Babati or somewhere where we can get local currency.

The farming regions were interesting to see, and the birding wasn't too bad. Common Stonechat, White-browed Scrub-Robin, and Black-backed Puffbirds were the highlights of the identified birds. A spectacular, gray-banded forest hawk was the bird of the day, but it is unlikely I can identify it.

july 21
Birding with the locals above Mbulu

Day 15. Saturday, July 21. Mbulu, TZ.

Cathy and Lydia conducted research in the same two farming areas as yesterday, and I tagged along. The birding around Mbulu is a bit slow compared to where we've been, and I saw few birds today, although I did confirm two sighting of Swahili Sparrows.

At the end of the day, I made it to an internet cafe. I got one email off to Liz, but generally it was a bust. We spent the evening at the hotel as the sounds of the Saturday night before the monthly Sunday market waft up the hillside.

July 22
Flat tire in the thorn scrub

Day 16. Sunday, July 22. Mbulu, TZ, to Katesh, TZ.

We awoke to a cool (57 degrees) and overcast morning in Mbulu. There was a slight breeze, but not enough to carry away the smoke from cooking fires that settled over town during the night. As we left town and drove south over the mountains, the sky cleared and the remainder of the day was nice and sunny.

From Mbulu, the drive and the birds kept getting more and more interesting. I saw too many birds along the morning drive, then too many in Haydom. During the afternoon drive, we got a flat tire, and I used the time to find new birds in the arid thorn-scrub habitat. The spare had a slow leak, so we stopped in the next town to fix it. I wandered into the bush and came out with some half-dozen new birds. At the Summit Hotel in Katesh, there were even more new birds! It is fun to see so many new birds, even if I'll never identify them all.

July 23
Farm on the slopes above Katesh

Day 17. Monday, July 23. Katesh, TZ.

After a breakfast of scrambled eggs, toast, and coffee, Cathy and Lydia headed out on foot to get letters of introduction, which should have taken only 30 minutes. They left me at the hotel expecting to return soon, but came back 3 hours later. I used the time to bird the grounds and photograph several new species.

With letters in hand, and an extra "minder," we headed south into a farming district about 20 minutes south of Katesh. As we pulled into the official building complex, Tano started calling "Ndege, Ndege!" (bird, bird! in Swahili). By the time I got out of the vehicle, they were gone, but Tano asked for the book and looked up Fischer's Lovebirds. I think he is catching the birding-bug.

Summit hotel with "barn" swallows on the wiresSummit Inn hotel grounds full of birds

Day 18. Tuesday, July 24. Katesh, TZ, to Arusha, TZ.

Drive from Katesh to Babati and Arusha. Stay in Le Jacaranda Hotel in Arusha.

The day dawned windy with clouds on the northern horizon, but by sunrise, the sky was clear and the wind subsided to a nice breeze. I was up before dawn working on the computer, but the early calls of the Red-winged Starlings and Speckled Pigeons got me out early. It looks to be another good day starting.

We stopped past Babati to conduct interviews in the Kiru Valley, a hot-bed of discontent regarding land issues (including recent murders). While Cathy interviewed, Tano and I spotted Little Bee-eaters, African Golden Orioles, Slate-coloured Boubous, and a cool whiptail-like lizard.

July 25
They really like President Obama

Day 19. Wednesday, July 25. Arusha, TZ, to Dar es Salaam, TZ.

Drove about 11 hours from Arusha to Dar es Salaam. We dropped Lydia at the Moshi Airport for her flight home. Stay in Heritage Motel near the harbor.

Long day in the car, but I saw a few good birds along the way, including Green Wood-Hoopoes, House Crows, Black-headed Herons, a black stork, and two troops of vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus).

Link to Google map of Dar es Salaam Region.

July 26
Dar es Salaam Harbor

Day 20. Thursday, July 26. Dar es Salaam, TZ.

After a good night's sleep and a short walk around downtown, Cathy left to review documents at the University of Dar es Salaam library. I still have a good case of "traveler's trots," an air conditioned hotel room, and a fast internet connection -- all of which provides the perfect excuse for staying indoors and working on the website.

After Cathy came back, we walked out for dinner, bought a few trinkets on the street, and photographed flying foxes feeding at a tree next to the hotel. The photos didn't come out well, so I'll try again tomorrow night.

July 27
Indian Ocean

Day 21. Friday, July 27. Dar es Salaam, TZ.

I started Cipro today to try to control my "traveler's trots," took some Imodium, and headed to the University of Dar es Salaam with Cathy. After a brief introduction to campus and locating the student restrooms, Cathy went about her business, and I went looking for birds and monkeys.

I found no monkeys, but I did see a Striped Kingfisher, a Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta), one of the brown hawks, and a few other species. Cathy finished her work early, and we returned to the hotel for a quick lunch, then headed out for what was a long walk across town and along the shore (saw some birds this time!). At dusk, we met a grad student for dinner and didn't get back to the room until 9:00 PM.

July 28
Periphery of Central Market area

Day 22. Saturday, July 28. Dar es Salaam, TZ.

Cathy and I took a long and sometimes hectic hike around the city today. We spent the morning in the market, a crowded and seemingly insane place, but we survived without being pick-pocketed (so far as we know).

After making strategic purchases (fabric for Liz), we took a cab out of the area (how could a car move in that mass of humanity???) to the National Museum. That was a bit of a bust, but 1,000 screaming school kids added to the atmosphere, and I would go back next time. We walked out of the museum, made more strategic purchases, and returned to the hotel to recover. We went out for dinner at the Indian Restaurant, packed, and got ready to start home tomorrow.

July 29
Departing Tanzania

Day 23. Sunday, July 29. Dar es Salaam, TZ, to Nairobi, Kenya, to London, England.

A long day of travel. We departed the motel about 11:00 AM, departed Dar es Salaam at 2:30 PM for a 1-1/4 hr. flight to Nairobi, Kenya. We laid over in Nairobi for 7 hours and departed at 11:45 PM on a 9-hr flight to London, England.

Most of the first flight was cloudy, but I got nice views of Dar, a few glimpses of Zanzibar, and views of Kenya when we got back below the clouds. On the other side of the plane, Cathy got nice views of Kilimanjaro from 36,000 feet.

Link to Google map of Nairobi Region.

July 30
Long hours at night in the air

Day 24. Monday, July 30. London, England, to Austin, TX.

We arrived in London Heathrow, England, near sunrise. Layover in London 3-1/2 hrs. Depart London mid-morning on 10-hr. flight to Dallas, TX. Layover in Dallas 2 hrs. Depart Dallas after lunch for 1-hr flight to Austin, TX, arriving in time for dinner.

Link to Google map of London Heathrow Region.

july 31
Getting back to normal life in Austin

Day 25. Tuesday, July 31. Austin, TX.

Today was a layover day in Austin, giving me the chance to relax, clean up, sort travel gear, and get back to doing the normal things in life -- like taking the dog for a morning walk.

Jet-lag is hitting pretty hard as we try to switch to a nearly 12 hours different schedule (from our body's TZ perspective, we now need to sleep all day and stay awake all night). I did little around the house, Cathy ran some errands, and Josh cooked a nice pasta and salad dinner.

August 01
Home again!

Day 26. Wednesday, August 01. Austin, TX, to Las Vegas, NV.

Going home day. I am so excited to get to see Liz today!

After breakfast, an exchange of photos, and final good-byes, Cathy took me to the airport about 10:30 AM. Checking in and Security was a breeze with so much practice over the last few days, and I quickly settled in to await my flight home.

Depart Austin, TX, mid-afternoon on flight to Las Vegas. Arrived home about 3 PM. It is so nice to be back.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 120818

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