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    A Boy and his Hyena

    February 17th, 2007 by steve

    There’s more to Snake Camp than snakes. There are also crocodiles, a rare narrow snouted alligator, injured endangered owls and hawks. Their newest edition was acquired 9 months ago when the local Maasai killed a striped hyena and found a helpless 4 day old pup. The Maasai didn’t know what to do with it so they gave it to the camp. Striped hyenas aren’t just endangered but they’re almost never seen in the wild because they’re skittish solitary hunters, much more elusive than cheetahs. A simple inquiry and we found ourselves locked into the makeshift space between the snake cages with a gray and silver furball energetically bounding directly at us. She was a pretty sight with all the hair on her back sticking up, wild wide black eyes, black stripes traveling up the legs, and a big gaping mouth full of sharp teeth. You could tell she was being playful and at the same time sense that she was wild. At nine months she was as big as a grown lab and you couldn’t help but wonder when her instinct would overcome her domestication. She was romping on Steve, using him as a chew toy and teeth sharpener. First she had her jaws wrapped around his ankle then caught his forearm with her canines. The more she played the more aggressive she became and you could tell her self restraint was waning. The guide wasn’t able to calm her down so he said it was time to go. In two weeks the hyena would be handed over to a group that would release her back into the wild so we were lucky to catch this rare opportunity.

    - Mary

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    Morbid Curiosity

    February 17th, 2007 by steve

    Just outside Arusha, Tanzania we stayed at a compound called Snake Camp. And you betcha they had snakes. They had an impressive collection of deadly reptiles including pythons, vipers, cobras, and mambas. The owners were kind enough to arrange a feeding frenzy for us. One by one guinea pigs and baby chicks were tossed to their doom. Some of the snakes struck before the furry snacks ever landed on their feet. Others slowly slithered toward their cuddly new friends, tasting them with their forked tongues before lounging at them with lightning fast attacks. One, two, even three bites! No mercy. We all watched with gruesome interest, yelling instructions to the guinea pigs to play dead and a chick to stop pecking the black mamba in the head. It was really neat to see the hoods on the cobras expand before the strikes. Once the critters were paralyzed by venom the snakes opened their hinged jaws and ever so slowly swallowed them whole. We could see the muscles of the python undulating beneath the skin as it wound itself tighter around its gerbil turned marshmallow.

    Seriously, little buddy, don’t peck at the viper.
    -Mary

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    Cheetah Stalking

    February 17th, 2007 by steve

    The highlight of our second trip into the Ngorongoro crater was a cheetah sighting. We were wow’d by how close we were able to get to the gorgeous creature. Her spotted skin and supermodel skinniness gave her a sleek stealthiness. We followed her to a patch of grass from which she surveyed the green plain. Then something in the distance caught her attention and she rose with purpose. Her target was a lone gazelle cluelessly fattening itself up. The cheetah quickened her pace, lowered her stance, and never took her gaze off her prey. Whenever the steak paused from grazing to look up the cheetah immediately stopped and ducked under the grass. She was down right sneaky. But it was effective because she was within striking distance and we were all holding our breath in anticipation. Then a stupid LandCruiser got too close to the gazelle and spooked it off. I think I actually saw the dismay in the cheetah as she watched her filet mignon hop off into the distance.
    - Mary

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    Overland Truck part Deux

    February 8th, 2007 by mary

    We’ve spent the last week back in Nairobi doing a bunch of research for our travels post Africa and getting ready for the next overland truck that will start on Feb. 9 (tomorrow) and take us down to Cape Town, South Africa over the next 2 months. We will cross through Tanzania, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Botswana and I forget what else. We’re nervous about meeting our next group and crew but at least we’ve got the camping part down (if our cheap tents from Cairo survive).

    After the last 6 weeks on our own we’ve grown accustomed to clean rooms, bathrooms, and sleeping on beds so it’ll be hard to go back to questionable/lacking hygiene. That and we won’t be able to have bacon everyday for breakfast any more. That may be the hardest adjustment of all. *sigh*

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    Island hopping in East Africa

    February 8th, 2007 by mary

    From Zanzibar we continued our island exploration first in Pembe, Tanzania then Lamu, Kenya. Our tans needed to be refreshed but its kind of hard in muslim countries where skin is definitely not in.

    In Pembe there was nothing to do but dive in their hurricane class currents and wait for the next home cooked dinner. Seriously, its so untouristed that there is literally nothing to do but watch each other perspire in the heat. We did a lot of that because the power would sporadically go out, alot taking the oscillating fans out with it.

    From there we flew back to the mainland and took the long bum bruising bus ride to Lamu. This small island off the coast of Kenya is still deep in swahili culture but the tourists were running rampant. That detracted the charm of the island for me but they had awesome fresh fruit drinks for basically free. Our favorite combo was mango and passion fruit. The crab was barely edible though, but the seafood samosas were deliciously dripping in grease. Atleast here the electricity rationing was scheduled so we could plan ahead for dark, dark nights.

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