The Smart Blonde Goes On Safari!

There is always a beginning to a story, some are just better than others!

The Blonde sent in the name and address of the Husband to the cruise lines to get him interested in something other than sports!! She filled in every information card with his name and address she could get her hands on. Soon, the new mail started arriving in numbers. He just couldn’t imagine why he was getting all this attention from cruise lines. (The travel agent must have done this.) He would read anything that had his name on it.

After so many brochures with their glossy photos of far away places and beautiful women serving drinks, his interest was piqued. He could only take so much; he went to the travel agent. He sorted and the agent sorted through the gigantic list of ocean going vessels. He settled on a smaller ship that had a special going on…buy one fare and get the second person free!! What a deal!!! That was just the beginning….

The first ocean voyage was great fun, but now they were hooked. One cruise is never enough. The Husband decides to do a more exotic cruise….”Let’s go to Africa!!’ he declared!! The Blonde looks at him narrowly, as this little prank of filling out travel postcards has gone way too far. “Oh, God, what have I done now!” Visions of many African scenes came crawling through her brain: Teddy Roosevelt, ‘The African Queen’, ‘The Jungle Book’, Tarzan, zoos, the ‘dark continent’, animals killing and eating, blood and guts! It just made me sick! Just what is a Blonde doing in the heat, slime, and dirt with no hairdryer and curling iron?? This is AFRICA!!! Blondes really stand out over there, don’t they!!

A deal was struck. They would do a short safari as a pre-cruise excursion. ‘It would be just fine and very safe,’ as he gently cooed..The Blonde needed all the reassurance she could get.

They flew into Gatwick, England from Phoenix, Arizona in the early morning for the long wait of the evening flight to Nairobi, Kenya. Since this was their first trip to Kenya, or much less anywhere else, they didn’t know any better. Instead of touring the surrounding area or getting a day room, they spent the whole day in the British Airways lounge. Waiting in any airport for more than one hour is barely tolerable, but seven hours was grounds for divorce.

After all the cucumber sandwiches and white wine she could stand, the Blonde reluctantly settled into a hard chair to read her book. There she was in her new suit and shoes, trying to look so nonchalant, like she had done this a million times. The book was boring and her back hurt. Several hours later, a smartly dressed woman sat down within the same area of their homesteading. It did not take her too long to size up the Blonde. Since all other flights had left except the one to Nairobi, the Woman asked if this was the Blonde’s first trip to Kenya. That introduction opened up a long passage on the dangers of Nairobi and Kenya. After the Woman finished, she had successfully put such agony and fear into the head of the Blonde that an enormous chill merged through her body. The closer the time of departure came, the more fearful she became. Anxiety was building: cold, sweaty palms, trembling, and the smell of fear. The Husband smiled cheerfully at the Blonde and said, “It’s time for us to leave for Africa! We’ll have a Great Adventure!!” Those words came into her fear-muffled ears. Going to Africa for fun was one thing, but deliberately going there to be killed was another!! The closer the Blonde came to the doorway of the ‘death transport’, the more she knew she had been sentenced to die. The Husband tried to make light of the situation by saying ‘The lions do not like the taste of Blondes!!’ Fleeing for her life off the airplane was a real possibility, but the whole trip had been paid for with no refunds. The long trip was filled with crying hysterics and glasses of liquor. The Woman had really done a head-trip on the Blonde. Husband tried to quiet the Blonde, but nothing stopped the fear and tears.

The sun rose bright and clear, another day. The Blonde fixed her makeup over the swollen, red eyes, and prepared for her execution. Arriving in Nairobi, Kenya was much like any other foreign airport. The escalator did not work, and the local people went about their own business. There was absolutely no one there with spears or guns to kill her, or lions ready for a Blonde Breakfast!! The cruise handlers were there to take everyone and their luggage to the hotel.

The Nairobi International Airport is many miles from the downtown hotels. They were cautioned to keep the windows of the van closed, and never put your hand outside to prevent theft and assault. That part of what the Woman said was true.

There are several hotels in downtown Nairobi. The Grand Regency is a really big hotel, or stay at the Norfork Hotel for a colonial experience. After checking in with the safari extension of the cruise line and the hotel, the porter took the frazzled Blonde and Husband to their room. Looking upward through the center of the building to the ceiling, the floors above seemed to stretch out of vision. Riding a glass-sided elevator at supersonic speed can be nauseous and unsettling—look at the door instead!!

The porter opened the door to a smallish, mildew, and smoke residue-smelling room. The Blonde did not care at this point: just a private place to be with clean sheets to lie down. One by one, the luggage pieces were placed on every square inch of floor to cover the whole room. All the luggage was opened to reveal everything had shifted to a huge lump in one side or another. The Blonde was sure she had not forgotten a thing in her two huge luggage pieces, enough clothes for six months.

The Husband had two pieces of luggage too, but the Blonde had used some of his space too!! He had his clothes out and hung up in record time, then turned his attention to the new documents he had received at the safari desk. Having several questions about the procedures, he said he was going back down to question our handlers. With a relief of the whirling dervish leaving, the Blonde continued to go through her jumbled mess of clothing and shoes.

As she was standing there in her underwear striding the cavalry of suitcases on the floor, the door opened and a hotel porter appeared. In real shock, the Blonde came to attention watching the man and knowing this was ‘It.’ The man had opened the door with his pass key! He just wanted to take the ashtray from the room. (Do you think so? The Blonde is not that stupid!) He snatched the object and hurried out. God, she never thought that only an ashtray made the difference between a smoking and non-smoking room!!! At least she was still alive.

The Blonde sorted things out while the Husband was gone. She discovered that she did not have enough right clothes for this safari thing. The Husband returned from dealing with the front desk in a foul mood. Businessmen are always on business. The Blonde said she was going downstairs to the shops to find the things she needed. She got a key, and swept out of the room. The one thing the Blonde does not do real well…remember the exact number of the room! It would be simple to look at the number when going in or out, but she seems to rely on location. She remembers the route like a bloodhound, but sometimes it takes several tries. After an unsuccessful shopping trip, she boarded the elevator to what she thought was her floor. She arrived at the room, and tried the key. It did not work. That is not unusual for any hotel. So she started knocking on the door for the Husband. After some persistence and calling his name, a woman’s voice in a foreign language called out in fright. The Blonde had the wrong room!!! Well, she could not remember what floor she was on and all the floors look the same! She went back down to the concierge and got the right floor! Smart Blonde!!

That evening, everyone in our safari group assembled for cocktails in the penthouse floor of the hotel. It was quite pleasant. The view was great. It was dark, and everyone looks young!! We met everyone we were going to spend an intimate time with for the next five days. It is always like the first day of school. Who are these people and will we like them???? Are they as crazy as we are?? In Africa???

The trip turned out just fine. But being awakened in the middle of the night by a huge loud honking pod of hippos, and baboons jumping on our tent was really scary! Despite those moments, we made it home safely. In fact we have ventured there for over ten years!

Planning The Trip: How To Get There and What To Take

You’ve decided you want to go to Africa..big decision. How do you get there?? A very nice way to go is through a tour company or as a pre or post cruise extension. A travel agent is most necessary to arrange all your tickets and transfers. Don’t do this by yourself. This person will get your intercontinental airline tickets and inter-country tickets arranged.

The Blonde had no clue as to how to prepare for a major trip to a foreign country, much less an African safari. Shots, did someone say ‘shots?’ If you are traveling to Africa, you must have all the series of shots. The entering countries ask for your immunization yellow cards with your passport. It would be a frustrating trip to be refused entry into a country if you didn’t have all your necessary immunizations. Some countries might give you a shot on the spot with who knows what needle and serum!! Find a doctor that specializes in foreign travel about 6 months from your trip. Anywhere you go in Africa it is wise to take malaria pills, doxicycoline. Maleron will make you sick.

SPECIAL NOTE ON TRAVELING WITH PILLS AND MEDICATIONS

Even if you are taking just vitamins and supplements with you, bring a document from your doctor to verify just that.

The Blonde and Husband had just landed in Johannesburg, South Africa. They had vitamins and supplements to last the two of them for two and half weeks in their luggage. They had been there before, but not after 9/11. South Africa was on alert. The local agents were inspecting everyone entering the country. The first mistake the Blonde made was making eye contact with the entering agent. The agent signaled for the Blonde to step out of line and be in inspected. The Blonde called for the Husband. The Husband came back to find out what the problem was. Instead of inspecting the Blonde’s luggage, the agent took the Husband’s luggage! The agent completely searched his bags. She found several plastic bags with the vitamins. Fortunately, the couple had prepared for this—they had a letter from their doctor. After some digging and frustration, the Husband found the letters from the doctor. As it turned out, the agent couldn’t read English, even though that’s the language they spoke. She brought over her supervisor who could read some English. He thought we were physicians. After some jumbled talking, he let them go. What they agents didn’t know, was the couple made daily supplement injections. The Blonde had the syringes in her luggage. Dead meat!! Lessons Learned: They never brought any injections with them after that trip. They, however, did take the vitamins on later trips, but divided them among all the bags. When going through security, if one is stopped, the other one must go on, no matter what. It’s better to have one person’s bags searched and than everyone’s bags. Each person must carry their own documents and passport going through security. If there is a designated person in the group that carries all the documents, they must let the others carry their own through security.

Passports

While arranging the shots, get your passport if you don’t have one. If you do have a passport and it’s not expired, don’t put off making sure it is not going to expire on your trip and has plenty of extra pages. If the pages have been mostly used, it is time to have the passport sent in and have additional pages added. Foreign and domestic immigration officials take a very dim view of your passport if they can’t find many open spaces to stamp your passport.

WHAT TO TAKE!!

Luggage

After 9/11, the luggage scene has really changed. Don’t even think about using the big pieces anymore. Use the medium sized bags. You are allowed to two pieces of luggage to check, and one carry-on, not including a personal bag—purse, side bag. (This has even changed!) You can fudge the ‘purse’ here. Even a fairly large handbag will work, but don’t get crazy. They are weighing everything. Don’t get caught at check-in shuffling stuff in your luggage to get it down to the maximum weight. Use your bathroom scales to determine the weight. Know what the weight limit is for your airline, usually 50 pounds per bag. You can buy a special lock that only the airline inspectors have the key to for your luggage security. Buy several.

The Blonde always goes on safari prepared, but too much luggage won’t fit on light aircraft in Africa. Buy the largest Eagle Creek duffle for your luggage on safari. The Manolos are off limits!! Anything that is heavy, shoes and coats, must be worn traveling. This isn’t always great looking for Blondes, but it serves a purpose. The heavy stuff is out of the bag and not weighed. If they started weighing people instead of bags, the Blonde would have several extra outfits to take on the trip!!

WHAT TO BRING ON SAFARI

Clothes

The best clothes to have on safari are regular safari outfits. The best quality comes from the Tilley Company. They have the best clothes and hats anywhere. They are a sincere company dedicated to customer satisfaction. Most safari camps have laundry service. Remember, you are in Africa. Even the best camps don’t have the same capabilities of your home drycleaners. Dry cleaning…just don’t bring items with you that need dry to be dry cleaned. Most camps don’t have the machinery anyway. The best clothes to take are four pair of long pants, two pair shorts, two each of long and shorts sleeved kaki safari shirts, one washable pair of black slacks, and one black other top, two or three t-shirts, and one pair of simple black flats. Take more if you have the room. Everything must be washable…even if you do it in your sink. You’ll need several pairs of socks, but don’t take white….kaki or black only. There’s nothing against white, the camps just won’t get white, white!! The socks will become kaki or gray anyway!! Depending on how long you’re on safari and if you’ll need special clothes, a large duffle will be your bag. For a short safari and cruise, you’ll get everything in your duffle. Again, it’s all about weight. You’ll find your own way to get it all into the bag as simply as possible.

Toiletries

The Blonde loves this part of the trip. Everything extra has to left at home. One tube of lipstick!!! Small travel lipsticks are good for safari. Keep the makeup to a minimum. Hair conditioner works as shaving cream. Shampoo, conditioner, lotions are usually top quality in your lodge. If you want your own, put them in plastic bottles to throw away along the trip. Anything you can dispose of as the trip goes by will make room in the duffle for all the African goodies you’ll buy!! Above all, put anything that is even slightly liquid in a plastic zip bag. No matter how good the caps are on the bottles, something always leaks. Bring extra plastic bags with you.

Electrical Appliances and Cell Phones

This can be tricky. The Blonde managed to burn up a hairdryer, curling iron, and portable iron in London before getting to Africa! Those electrical adapters mostly don’t work right no matter where you are. Some camps don’t even have enough electricity to run a hairdryer anyway! You’re glad to have hot water! If you are lucky to be in a camp with great electrical power, ask the reception for a regular transformer box. All the better camps have hairdryers in the rooms, or they can get you one. You can buy 110/220 curling irons at most beauty supply stores in the U.S., but don’t. Trying to buy a curling iron in London or Hong Kong if impossible. You might try a new hair style for the trip. Hats cover up most bad hair. If you are bringing a cell phone with you, the regular transformer boxes are a must. Burning up a curling iron is one thing, but an expensive cell phone is another.

Cameras and Film 101

You’re so excited to be in Africa that you take a picture of everything!! You must decide just why you’re taking these photos. If you recording the trip to show your family and friends, please be kind to them. Don’t make them suffer from a long trip down your African memory lane album. Take a decent mega pixel digital SLR camera with you, do not delete anything until you get home, then adjust the photos. Afterwards, burn everyone a CD for a slide show on their own computer. If you want more photos, each person will have his or her own digital 35 mm camera that will take all the lens brought on safari. The only reason for this is to use the interchangeable lenses for more photo opportunities. More often than not, the great photos of the animals will be determined on how your telephotos can fill the frame, not clip a paw or head, and how clear the resulting photo is. If this is all fuzzy for you, skip this part and stay with the point and shoot camera. If you want to take a lot of camera equipment, take a lightweight tripod or monopod. Great photos that are out of focus do to hand shake are worthless. They are too fuzzy to enlarge. Buy a Lense On! to stabilize the image stabilized lenses to get great, sharp photos. Get your equipment down to a manageable weight. Everyone has to carry his own camera. Carry on camera cases can be minimal to include a telephoto lenses. Get as much as possible in this case. Additional lenses should be in your carry on bags. Tripods, cords, and other equipment go in the duffle bag. The Blonde saw the ultimate in camera-lense handling on her last trip. Boarding one of the small light aircraft, one woman had two 35 mm cameras slung on her shoulder. They weren’t in any cases. The surprise was each camera had a 400 mm lense on it!! She must have been really worried about the weight in her bag…again, they didn’t weigh her and her cameras!! If you want to get better at photography, take a photography class. It’s fun and you’ll learn how to take really excellent photos. The next best alternative is subscribe to photo magazines. They are very helpful and regularly review the new cameras and products.

CAMERA, FILM, AND SECURITY

Don’t put any cameras or film into your checked bags. The x-rays are so powerful they cook everything, including film. Even if I don’t have film in a camera, I don’t put it in the luggage. Baggage screeners aren’t perfect either. How do you take care of your film and cameras? Unless you are taking infrared film or ultra high speed, put everything through the regular boarding screening. The Blonde has stressed out too much about this, only to find nothing happened to the film. You can also request a hand check, which I’ve done with no problems. You can always mark the bags as 3200 ASA or infrared to keep eyes out! If you are carrying professional film that needs refrigeration, a child’s soft lunch carrier works wonderfully. Leave all film in the plastic containers, get rid of the film boxes that take up space and add weight. Use the frozen packs to put over the film. This will keep the film reasonably cool until you get to your destination and can re-freeze the packs. Even if you can’t refrigerate film, you can put it on the floor under your bed. But, who wants to deal with film anyway!