So everything has gone a little too smoothly so far, so something bad was bound to happen and as they say: "When it rains, it pours."
*After Sipi Falls we head west past Kampala and into western Uganda, near the Congo border. There late at night we arrived at a town near Queen Elizabeth II National Park, about 30km from the Congo border. There at a local hotel called "The White House" we stayed the night. A few things about this place, one there was an UN convoy parked outside, two there were no westerners and three there were no women staying at the hotel except Kim. The interesting thing about the UN convoy, as explained to me by Kim, it was a peacekeeping supply convoy; the letters were black not blue. Also the next morning we wanted to leave early, 5:30 am early. At this point we realized that every door was bolted and locked; there was no way for us to leave. At 6am we were able to get someone to open the door to the courtyard. After loading the truck we noticed that they had misplaced the keys to the gate. At this pointed they were using the butt of an AK (Yes, a machine gun) to dislodge the lock. We (Dave, Kim and I) made a point to stay away from the pointed end of the gun in case it went off. In the end they managed to pry the lock off with a crowbar; a much safer option.
* Arriving at sunrise in Queen Elizabeth II National Park, we immediately saw a lioness. It was laying in the road when we showed up and moved herself into the tall grass as we stopped and stared. Throughout the morning we spotted many more animals. After the early morning game drive we had an expensive late breakfast at a safari lodge. At this lodge we had breakfast outside, which was beautiful and full of birds. And it was the birds that started my slide into a deep abyss. First they shit on my food and then on my camera lens. It was either because of this shit or the car shaking that later broke the lens. So as of now I do not have a wide to medium view lens. I only have an old point and shot camera and a 300mm to 800mm (super telephoto) lens. I am currently in the process of trying to get it fixed; not sure how that will work.
* The second incident happened after breakfast and we were heading back out of the park. The road was a hard dirt bed covered with gravel. I was taking a nap and was woken up with the SUV swerving and Dave shouting "Solomon, step on the gas...". The SUV started fishtailing out of control, spun around, hit a ditch and flipped over. While upside down in a ditch we accessed our situation. We realized the passenger side (driver's side in the US) was buried in dirt. Dave, behind the driver, had his window closed. Then we realized the driver's window was open and clear. Our driver climbed out, after kicking me a bit. I followed him and Dave followed me and Kim came out last. I suffered some scratches trying to exit through a briar patch. Dave and Kim seeing this simply climbed over the car back onto the road, which I had to do because the briar patch was very thick. We dragged out all our stuff, found that only Dave's camelbak was busted. We physically had no injuries. With the help of locals driving by we flipped the car back over. Solomon changed the flat tire, we pushed roof back up and the driver drove it to the nearest police station. Dave, Kim and I hitched a ride with a ranger and went to the Safari lodge where we paid $400 (yes, USD) for a room. The next morning Solomon returned with another car and we drove to the police station to make a statement. The statement consisted "It was 2:30pm, we blew a tire and the car flipped over. We are all OK." and then left for Kampala.
* Dave and I flew to Tanzania with minimal issues. The only weird part was our flight was 2 hours early, which is really weird considering it was a 45 minute flight. Not sure what happened. Dave and I were a little nervous about our Kilimanjaro guide as he should up with a Toyota Corolla to pick us up but everyone else was being picked up in Land Cruisers and buses. To top that off the Corolla initially wouldn't start.
* The climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro was awesome. The first day was muddy and below the clouds. Once we passed the clouds we were greeted by a sea of clouds. Mt. Meru was barely peaking out of the horizon, a thoroughly breath taking hike. It got the point when we'd get another beautiful vista, I'd go "Yea, what's new?" The final push to the summit was a grueling 24 hours. You wake up 6 am on day four and you start a hike up and down to 4200m from 3900m for lunch. You continue the hike up to 4600m for dinner at 6pm. You sleep for 5-6 hours, and wake up at 11pm for tea and biscuit and the hike to the summit at midnight. This involved what I call the 4-count-2-step-breathing hike. You move one foot, breath in deep for 2 seconds, move the other foot, breath out for 2 seconds and repeat for 6-7 hours until you reach the summit. Reaching the summit was memorable. On one side the sun is rising, on the other side the moon is setting over Mt. Meru. The view of the glacier and the thought that you just summited the tallest mountain in Africa is just overwhelming.
* The picture I'd paint for this part of the trip again involves bodily functions. This time taking a piss at 4am. The sky was cloudless, the moon had set and the Milky Way and stars were so bright across the sky that you didn't need a flashlight to walk to the toilet. Then as you finished your business you catch a few minutes in the cold night enjoying the stars and Kibo peak before scurrying back into your warm sleeping bag and tent.
* After climbing Kilimanjaro Dave and I went out to the local Indo-Italian Restaurant where we met two women from Germany Mika and Anika (who come into play later...). Dave then arranged to have his flight leave the next day. The next morning I found out that I had left my ATM card in the ATM machine (incident number 3). Too bad for me it was Sunday and the bank wasn't open. I worried about it all day. Later that afternoon I got contacted by a friend of my Kilimanjaro guide who suddenly had a safari going Monday, previously he had one leaving Sunday and Tuesday but none Monday. Dave and I joked that was Mika and Anika because they had been thinking of doing a safari and the schedule fit theirs and it was last minute as well. Now, for those who've travelled in third world countries you know that the USD is gold, everything is priced in it and they prefer to be paid in it. So for the safari trip they wanted USD upfront and I didn't want to pay USD. So I decided to pay in TZS but I didn't have enough cash on me and my main ATM card was missing. Long story short I paid 2/5 in TZS 1/5 in USD and then 2/5 the next morning when I could withdraw money again.
* The 4 day safari to Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater was awesome. We saw so many animals in all sorts of environments. It got to the point where we went oh, another zebra, giraffe, elephant, lion, wildebeest, hippopotamus, etc.. etc... The only truly rare animal was the leopard and rhino. We saw a leopard sleeping in a tree and when the wind blew you could see the back of its head. The rhino was also a tough spot, as it was lying on the ground and every time it shifted you could see the horn moving around. Otherwise even the cheetah which is supposed to be rarest animal to see, we saw it three times. So the story behind Mika and Anika is that they were on the safari and it was them that decided last minute to join a safari.
* I saw this commercial that was really funny. It was black and white, a scrawny kid about 6 years old, going after scrawny looking 6 year old girl. He gets her flowers, cards and gets beaten up by bullies to protect her. Then you hear him say "I believe in starting investments early and watching them grow into it..." On screen the girl is introducing the boy to her mother who is definitely a hottie. And it was for a investment management company.
* A few small things. I've realized that I'm really annoyed that people assume I'm Japanese. There isn't anything wrong with being Japanese. However when you walk down the street and the touts shouting 'Hey you, Japan.' it gets on my nerves! I deal much better with 'Hey friend, where are you from?' I've also discovered that I'm a walking talking ATM machine as everyone assumes I have money to spend on something...
That is it for now folks...