Kenya and Tanzania - and Dubai - Fall 2015 travel blog














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It was a mostly driving day as we headed southwest away from the Equator to Amboseli National Park. The route took us back through Nairobi and without bypass roads was slow going. This gave us a chance to drive the whole length of Kibera slum and really comprehend how huge it is. In town as we waited at endless traffic lights, vendors strolled between the cars selling neck ties, toys, and snacks. The countryside was interesting to observe. Most people were busy doing somethings, but generally in a small scale sort of way. The highway was busy with trucks, belching soot. They made me appreciate how far we have come controlling air pollution. Traffic on the roads was 95% trucks and we passed wrecks and crashes every so often. They crawled up the hillsides and there was generally nowhere to pass. There seemed to be no good spots for geezer American tourists to stop for lunch along the way, so we brought sack lunches packed by the hotel to a gazebo behind a gas station. The potty stop was at the local office that plans OAT tips in this area. Tourist infrastructure needs some work on this route.

Days spent in a vehicle are never a waste when you are driving with a guide. The longer we are here, the more I realize that I really know nothing about Africa. When Nelson Mandela was released from his life time of imprisonment and became president, none of his persecutors were punished. Those who had run the system of apartheid were not punished. During the truth and reconciliation conferences, those who had committed atrocities confessed and then life went on. I couldn't believe it and thought Mandela must be a saint. I did not realize that this is the way Africans have always handled conflicts. Fred talked to us about local system of justice and how they are tying to blend our highly regulated system with punishment for the guilty with their talk-it-through mediation approach. For example, after the Hutu and Tutse atrocities in Uganda, over one million citizens had committed crimes against their countrymen to various degrees. Our justice system could not handle so many criminals at once. With this system, those who confessed before being tried were generally not punished at all and all their trials were finished in less than two years. Some ringleaders were tried under the auspices of the United Nations and after nine years and literally millions of dollars they were punished.

I have always felt guilt by association when I thought about the injustices in the treatment of the locals by the colonial system and have wondered whether Africa's slow emergence into the modern world was caused by the experience of being a colony. Fred said that the colonial era was just a blip. Colonizers worked through local chiefs and the people's experiences varied with how cruel or benevolent those chieftains were. It had nothing to do with which European country was in charge. Far more serious and still ongoing is the hatred between various tribes. The strife in Uganda was an example of this and ancient hatreds still keep reappearing.

When we arrive at Amboseli and Fred paid our entrance fees, our jeeps were surrounded by vendors who shoved trinkets in the windows and urged us to by. This is the first time we have seen the aggressive approach here and it did not pay off for them. No one bought a thing. The drive was on a featureless, dusty plain. Mt. Kilimanjaro loomed in the distance, but was surrounded by clouds. Its immensity at 19,000 feet is dramatic, because it rises so abruptly from the plain. We are staying in a real tent with a bathroom stuck on the back. It's so dry here mosquito netting is not needed. The internet leaves a lot to be desired...

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