Thursday, 27 May 2010


Happily, not here and not even bad. But it was the main subject of conversation last night, when the research manager from Grumeti Reserves (where I had such fun in February) came over for a meal and discussion of future ideas. Fire is, to me at least, one of the big questions in the landscape here. Around 80% of Serengeti burns every year - though they say they aim at only 46% (rather precise if you ask me!), mostly deliberate burns set by the National Park authorities with a number of aims: to cook ticks and prevent wildlife disease, to stimulate fresh and nutricious new growth for the animals to eat, to keep the plains open and free of woodland and (bizarely) to prevent fires... But what evidence is there to support any of these activities, and what is the real impact of the burns in the long term? Unfortunately, in Serengeti and other national parks, there's no way anyone will even consider a large-scale experiment to find out what really happens. But it looks like we might be on for it in two sites outside of the National Parks - at Grumeti, particularly in the northern section, the Ikorongo Game Reserve - a huge section of the Serengeti ecosystem that currently has absolutely no development for tourism or anything else - it's wild! And also in the Simanjiro plains, lying to the east of Tarangire NP and where all their wildebeest and zebra go to have their babies in the wet season.

So I'm trying to sell the idea to the people who can make it happen, and then find lots of scientists who want to play with some long-term and huge-scale experiments on the impacts of fire in the savannah ecosystem. What does it do to the nutrient cycles? Do fires in June/July (a popular time for the managers, as it's still moist and the fires are relatively controlable) cook all the birds that are busy nesting in the grass then? What about invertebrates? Should the firest be set every year, every other year, twice a year even? Should they be trying for hot burns or cooler, faster burns? Could it be that the current fire management is the reason some rather rare species have nearly disappeared from Serengeti (like Roan Antelope, for example)? And what on earth are the impacts on carbon cycling or nitrogen and other nutrients? If I can really sell the idea, and then get some other interested people on board (I suspect there won't be too much of a shortage of willing folk, given the obvious impact of fire in these places, but the complete lack up to now of any experiments - and the rather pleasant place to do some fieldwork...) I think we could have a fantastic set-up for lots of interesting ecology. Hurrah! And in the shorter term, it (unfortunately for me) means I'll have to head back there and try selling the idea to the man with the matches... Tough, huh? Particularly as the best time for me will probably be just around the time the wildebeest are crossing the Grumeti river with all those big croc's snapping at them. Shame. (Though I'm told they don't know what they're doing at the moment, and seem to be sneaking back north via the eastern portion of the park this year. Haven't they seen all the maps and read the guidebooks? Naughty nymbu...)

So, anyone got good ideas for ecological things to tack on to a big burning project? Anyone else with particularly pyrotechnic tendancies? Let me know and we'll get the applications together...

And in other news, we'll be offline for the next little while, as we head off on safari tomorrow afternoon with two nights at Lake Manyara (will we see the lions in the trees this time, I wonder?), then three nights camping over at Lake Eyasi. I've spent the afternoon running about town getting last-minute things done - making sure we've got cooking pots, a fire grid, spare oil for the landrover, that sort of thing. And Mama B has just been busy baking flapjacks to sustain us - yum yumm! Hopefully we'll have lots of good tales to tell of the birds, beasts and hunter-gatherers when we come back. And we will definitely pack the camera somewhere obvious this time...

Oh, and Mama B is completely over her nasty, Kitty got it yesterday, but seems better too now. Hopfully the Mancub and I will be exempted this time...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Nothing to say...

Mama B is no longer clutching her stomach, but has still to get over the aches and pains and general tiredness. Still, an improvement. And I have persuaded someone to accompany me at least one way on my trip south - Hurrah! I'm going to be doing it with a long-time resident and safari guide who knows the Tanzanian bush better than nearly anyone, so it should be a good trip. We met up this afternoon to have a brief plan and concluded that all the planning we needed was to meet on the Sunday morning with a tent and some food and we'd take it from there. That's my sort of planning for a 10 day trip into the bush... Not so easy with two small children in tow, sadly, so this will be my adventure... And if anyone wants to join me for the return journey, karibu! I'll probably be leaving Iringa on about 14th and there's plenty of space in the landrover. (I've taken the precaution of having a full service and check over today, so we should be good for the trip...)

Anyway, I have to apologise to S for calling atmospheric physics (or at least some aspects of it) 'dry'. She is quite right. It can be very wet too. And does, ultimately determine so much of the landscape and habitats of Tanzania it really can't be dull. In fact, that's why I'm so keen on heading south soon - they have a rather different climate down there, enjoying a single rainy season from December to early May, rather than our two rainy seasons up here. And it's all down to the Intertropical Covergence Zone, which I now understand the physics of for the first time thanks to my swatting up for guide training. (Though I'm still puzzled as to why we have a short rains and a long rains up here - if it's all to do with the wobble of the earth, why aren't the times the ICZ passes over head on the way South and North the same length. Hmmm. Answers on a comment please...). Down there they are tucked in the middle of the ICZ in January, giving them one long rainy season, up here we have two - and the ecology is rather different as a consequence. Most woodland/bush up here is Acacia dominated, down there it's all Miombo (Brachystegia for any botanists lurking around) and has a quite different set of birds. Hurrah! So, whilst it might be a challenge to teach a bunch of Tanzanian trainee guides all about Hadley Cells, ENSO and the ICZ (all, I confess, rather wet things here), the impacts and additional diversity it gives Tanzania has to be celebrated I guess! (NB, have I ever mentioned the fact that Tanzania has around about 1113 bird species recorded here - almost all regularly, since there really aren't enough birders here to find any vagrants... Isn't that amazing?! The whole of Europe can't get close to that total, despite the absurdly inflated lists of the UK and other sites...)

Anyway, you probably guessed I'd nothing to say really. So I'll stop...

Monday, 24 May 2010

Weekend camping

So, Mama B is currently lying in bed clutching her stomach with hopefully nothing more serious than one of the various bugs some of our visitors have picked up on their stays, but so far we've happily avoided. And I'm left on my own in the evening. So far I've persuaded one set of friends to join us for a weekend at Lake Manyara this weekend, on our way to camping at Eyasi for some of Kitty's half term (and a bit of unofficial weaver spotting - should be good for Rufous-tailed over there methinks...). And I've been trying to recruit someone to accompany me on a longer safari down to visit the good folk from the Tanzania Bird Atlas who provide me with lots of data and useful ideas - but unfortunately live in Iringa, a good two days drive from Arusha. I've been meet them again since we arrived, but one thing or another has conspired against us and it's time to sort it. Should be a fun trip though - I've not ben so far south in Tanzania before, so there are lots of new birds too see en route as well, and since it's going to take so long Mama B has granted me extended leave from family duties to explore a little. Surely just the opportunity someone would be only to pleased to keep me company in? We'll see - but if anyone fancies a free trip starting Arusha and driving the back roads to Iringa via lots of birds and beasts in a couple of weeks time, let me know!

Still, the real post was to be about our camping trip 10 days ago now, but sadly neglected. Still no photos, I'm afraid - the friends we were with are pretty busy at the moment finishing off a book on the Wahadzabe. They'll have to come later. But it was a grand adventure, as as you'll have gathered from the fact we're off again this weekend enough of a success to be keen to try it again (and we definitely need to get our own camping stuff out here...). We picked up a rather excited Kitty from school at lunch on Friday, made a bried (but successful) stop at a shop en route for marshmallows (can't go camping without marshmallows), and wizzed on down to our friend's house on the edge of town. There we moved all our kit into their already rather full landrover and set off south on a road I'd explored in our first few weeks here. Much improved since November (and with Rufous-tailed Weavers in evidence on their nests this time), as soon as we left town two of us abandoned the cramped inside of the car (I'd had Kitty on my knee up to then...) and climbed onto the bench strapped to the pickup part at the back of the Landrover (simultaneously slapping on lots of suncream, as it was a rather exposed spot!). Very good way to travel through the bush. After a couple of hours on the dirt road, we hit a sand river (i.e. the course of a seasonal river that only flows during/shortly after heavy rain and headed off the track for a hour's beautiful drive down the river and onto the flood plain. The river was lined with fantastic riverine forest, great sand banks with barbet nest holes and lots of baboons and vervet monkeys. And we swapped so Mama B got to sit on the roof and I got to persuade D to driver under the nice low branches to keep her awake... We also located a great place to camp along the river there one time...

Eventually we came out at the bottom of the river and picked our way cross-country towards the swamp visible in the distance, passing a nice herd of impala and a very healthy group of c.60 Grant's gazelle en route. Pulling up near the water we were amazed at the densities of water birds - easily 20000 birds in view, a mixture of ducks, coots, herons, egrets, terns and all. Very beautiful. We scouted out a few sites on the far side before settling on a great campsite under an acacia right on the water's edge, trusting that the mozzies wouldn't bother us too much. No sooner had we started to unpack the landrover than the local Maasai arrived for the spectacle, and we slung up our tents (just the inner bit of course, so we could see the stars through the mesh at night...) and pottered about in the evening light for a bit. With the littlies getting a bit peckish, we were very impressed with the organisation of our friends who just pulled out boxes of pre-frozen meals and after a very short period on the fire dinner was ready. Amazingly, Kitty happily ate everything and the Mancub did some good duty to anything stolen from Mama... Needless to say we've been cooking extra in the last few days and sticking it in the freezer to repeat the experience we we go off on our own. After a little bit of the required camping bedtime silliness the littlies were asleep and we could enjoy our beer and chat around the fire. Only disturbed briefly by Mama spotting (somehow - there was no moon!) one of the nastier small scorpions crawling out of the log in the fire by our toes. Only about 3 or 4 cm long and a pale pinky/orange these are the nasty ones - but it dived back in the crack and no harm done... We did remember to tap out our shoes in the morning though...

Kitty and the Mancub were pleased to wake up at dawn the next morning all crowded together (actually, the Mancub had decided his sleeping mat wasn't up to scratch and had spent most of the nice sleeping on my legs anyway, but there you go), but it was a bit chilly really... Completely by chance and rather bizarrely, the old university of D had arranged an alumni big birding day for the Saturday, so we then spent the morning pottering around the camp notching up as many birds as possible. With a mixture of semi-arid bush to one side, and the swamp to the other we did really rather well - and concluded our day total would probably be rather better than the other alumni who had never left the US. I think we cleared 80 species before we finished breakfast and were well over 100 by lunch. After lunch (and quite a bit of 'when will we go in the boating' from Kitty) we inflated the inflatable canoe as well as possible with a leaky valve in one side, and D and I (with Kitty on my knee) headed off into the swamp, disturbing a rather smart dwarf bittern on the way (new bird for me - not often we get one of those nearby!). A short loop later I swapped D for Mama B and Kitty for the Mancub and off we headed again. It wasn't particularly deep - much of the time we were more punting than paddling, and a short expedition through the sedges convinced us that despite the huge volume of bird noises (mostly Purple Galinules I think, but probably some more interesting things too - I'm sure I heard Red-chested Flufftail during the night) the effort involved in moving through it and the sharpness of the leaves were going to prevent us from finding anything too exciting there. Still, great to see African Fish Eagle from the water, and a huge colony of ibis and egrets, and both Kitty and the Mancub thought it great to be on a little boat!

Once this was over we packed up and headed back for Arusha, stopping a few times en route to add to our day's haul of birds and getting back just before dark. Had we got there 1/2 an hour earlier I think we'd have managed another 20 or so species in the wetter woods of our friend's garden and surrounds, but when we totted up a day total of 166 bird species was pretty respectable I thought - and 95% of those were within 500m of the tents! I do love the diversity here - and love to be in a place where you can just roam around and spot things. It's so much easier to bird on foot than from a car and whilst seeing lions and iother scary beasts hasn't lost it's charm just yet (still got to find Mama her leopard...), there's little to beat the bush on foot when you don't have to worry too much about being eaten... So, we'll be heading back there I think - it must be truly amazing when all the palearctic migrants are there as well as the residents. And the camping experience will be repeated very soon! With more photos next time, I promise...

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Wet Weekend

Last weekend we went camping. Next weekend we're off camping again, for 5 days this time as it's Kitty's half term. So this weekend we opted for a nice quiet stay at home. Just as well really, as it has rained almost non stop.

So, none of this (newly installed in the garden)
 but lots of rainy day activities.

We did have a couple of visitors. 'Nona' and her Mum came for coffee on saturday, and to collect some luggage.

 And a garden visitor, a Hadada Ibis

Fortunately, the rain mostly held off on friday afternoon as we were at a 3 year old's birthday party in the garden of a cafe. Kitty metamorphosed into a princess while I was busy supplying the Mancub with chocolate chip cookies and myself with white wine (and chocolate chip cookies).

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Guide training

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, nothing bad (and not even a major shortage of things to talk about - I know we still need the full run down of our camping adventure at the very least - but we failed to locate our camera for that trip, so I'm hoping we may get some pics from the good folks we were with to illustrate it with), but a very frustrating internet connection at the moment - seems like our network card is playing up and it takes me 5mins of juggling cables and wires to get the computer to talk to the world. Which is not always the most exciting evening activity... Anyway, to get to business:

Unlike my big sister I'm not, nor ever have been a guide, guider leader or any such thing. But this last week I spent a happy day doing some training for a bunch of newly appointed guides for one of the smarter safari camp chains. The 30 guys (all men) in training are approaching the end of an eight-week intensive course timed so they'll be ready to head out to the camps to be resident guides for the start of the new tourist season on 1st June (the wet season is on the way out, though you could have fooled me today!). They've all done the standard 2-year course run by the local college, and plenty of them have been guiding a while too, but this was a special course to bring them up to the level expected when you're paying a small fortune for your tented accommodation. I'd been asked to give them a day on climate change things with the promise of some free nights in their camps by way of payment (sounded like a good deal to me, as I can't officially earn in Tanzania), so they got a fairly standard fare from me, split into four sections: some basics of how climate shapes ecology in general and the main processes that shape Tanzanian climate; the basics of the carbon cycle and climate change science; some specifics of climate impacts in Tanzania including my own work here; and finally a bigger picture session, covering everything from 550 million years of climate change to the general (lack of a) balance of nature. It was quite fun putting it together - you can go into a lot of detail in a full day - and I had the opportunity to brush up on a few things that I've sort of known before, really ought to know, but never been 100% certain of (e.g. what do the various models predict climate will be like in East Africa...). Isn't that why people enjoy being teachers? I also managed to get lots of gratuitious bird pictures on the slides to test their general bird ID skills (mostly found wanting beyond the most common and obvious species, so I've promised I'll get them out in the field some time too...) which made sure even the driest bits of atmospheric physics had some ecological input to them. And I really hope that they'll now be able to hold an informed and sensible discussion about global change with their wealthy clients - even the rich Texan oil barons (though actually, if I'm honest the only ones of those I've heard of here in Tanzania have been, rather predictably, taking part in major hunting safaries blasting away at the big five...).  And they definitely won't be giving Kilimanjaro's snow as a clear example of climate change... I also enjoyed the lunch, as the gourmet cooks for the camps were all being given their last-minute training sessions before being sent out for the start of the season and needed folk to eat their wares. Yummm. If they can produce anything half as tasty in the bush I'm going to enjoy redeeming my free nights...

But I was very interested to see what else the classroom training sessions have been about - they had 6 weeks in the field with a friend of ours before the final two weeks of classroom activities. Some, like mine, were fairly standard ecology type things, others were slighty more surprising... The full programme of 12 classroom days runs:
(1)  population genetics and ecology revision, particularly termites and ants (mmm).
(2) Mammal evolution
(3) Hosting and guest etiquette (what are all those forks for anyway? And do I really have to turn my mobile off in the bush?)
(4) Me

(5) Setting up bush 'sundowners' and mixing cocktails (did they need tasters? Apparently not...).
(6 & 7) Car mechanics
(8-12) Yes, five full days with the Arusha psychology unit on small groups, personalities and personality type, conflict resolution, stress management, and interpersonal relationships.

 I suspect they'll not only be well trained guides, but perhaps we should be shipping them to Darfur...

Anyway, all in all quite a fun day. And I look forward to meeting some of them in their natural habitat some time in the next few months. And maybe I'll be inspired to convert some of the training into some super educational blog posts too, when nothing better to talk about...

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Sayings of the Mancub

Time for an update on the children methinks. Especially as the confident predictions of the lawyers have come to nothing and we've been told today that permit things are unlikely to be resolved this week.

So, let's start with the sayings of the Mancub. He is two now and talking nineteen to the dozen, with an ever expanding vocabulary, but without Kitty's clear diction at the same age, so only Mama and Daddy tend to understand a lot of his chat, and even we struggle occasionally.

When thinking about a response to a question, he tends to "ummm" as well as the rest of us, but can be very polite too.

"what would you like to drink?" "ummm....milk pead Mama"

"Mancub not find dat car, not anywhere"

"Mancub rowdies not on properly" (Mancub's trousers not on properly)

during a debate about the likely existence of a second gate as beautifully decorated as one we pass every day, he declared definitively "two peacock gates actually"

"where Mama gone?"

"do dat own" is a frequent and insistent refrain,  now occasionally varied by "do dat on self"

"unna one bikpik" (another one biscuit)

He likes to eat "bango" and "bambamboot" (mango and passionfruit) for breakfast and "odip" (olives) at lunch, although occasionally he's suspicious of the quality of the fruit.

"dat one not bery good at all"

Tonight, through the baby monitor, we heard the usual procrastination ruses first, those undoubtably familiar  to most parents of young children: "Mancub want drink water", "Mancub need do wee in potty", "Mancub got notty bit" (i.e. wipe my nose), "Mancub nappy not bery uncomfortable" (slight confusion there) and then "Mama mama mama mama....." Then, a new one, at least for the start of the night (sadly increasingly common at about 5.30/6.00 ish): "Mancub got soggy bit". Wondering how he could possibly have sogged through his nappy already I went in to find the soggy bit was actually the sheet under his head. When asked how it got so soggy the response was "Mancub eat it". On turning the lights on I discovered that this also included having chewed several holes in the sheet.... where do they get these ideas from?

He knows how to save a situation and melt our hearts again though. Often the last thing we hear as we're leaving the room having said goodnight, is (repeating what he hears)

"Mama n Daddy love oo bery bery much"

What else is he up to? Playing with cars, trains, cars, buses, cars, cement mixers, cars, nee-nahs, cars, lorries and cars. These have to be "brummed" very seriously along the sofas or along the lines on Mama and Daddy's quilt, and then all lined up facing the same way in the 'carpark', and Mama has to count them. Enjoying occasional playtimes in Kitty's school playground, especially the trampoline, slides and sandpit. Loves going for walks through the shambas (little fields, banana plantations etc) in our area, especially when there are puddles and mud to wade through. Very into helping bake and decorate cakes and biscuits. Lots of songs with actions and LOTS of dancing round in circles to music like a demented wilderbeest. Getting almost 100% proficient with the potty now and increasingly keen on the 'chupis' (pants) Granny and Grandad brought out for him. Will always wear bright green or orange given the choice. Loves books, especially ones with flaps or noises and especially Thomas the Tank Engine and Spot doggy or his all time favourite "You Choose". Jumping on top of Mama and Daddy and trying to squash us flat. Jumping off just about everything. Oh, and racing around the house after a bath shouting "'Ello mister naked boy!"

What about Kitty? She is 5 and getting more grown up all the time. She is getting very good at reading her reading scheme books and has a go at other books, labels, cereal box info etc as well. Her vocab is also expanding rapidly. She told me today that "originally there were 9 planets in our solar system but because Pluto is so small they have decided that it's not really a planet, so now there are only 8". They have been studying space at school and she is very into it. She decided to tell me all about it on the way home from school today, telling me the names of all the planets, whether they are gas or rock planets, whether they are close to the sun and hot or far away. Which ones have rings or moons etc. She seems to have Mr B's ability to not only be interested in lots of detailed factual information, but also to retain it. Definitely not one of my traits. She has a few little friends now, one of whom, sadly, has just left. She likes, occasionally, to have them over, but is very happy playing on her own a lot of the time. She is still very heavily into drawing, painting, stickering and anything else arty crafty. She makes up a lot of games, which I get drawn into playing with her, and also creates schools, houses, palaces etc for her imaginary friends out of building blocks, duplo etc. Esmerelda, her imaginary mouse friend, is still with us, although we don't hear about her as often as we used to. Esmerelda's cousins Bella and Polly, Molly and Jolly are normally somewhere close by too. Occasionally baby Grace joins our family, or Tawana, depending on which dress Kitty is wearing. She loves to go to the pool or playgrounds.

They are both looking forward to our trip back to the UK in the summer. I think the Mancub is most keen on seeing his cousins Mog and Little Fish again, and, of course, going on a plane, whereas the highlights for Kitty are going to a fish and chip shop and apple picking. Mr B's looking forward to catching up with old friends, and Mama's looking forward to seeing some new babies... and chocolate not costing the earth as well.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Camping and crocodiles

We're off camping for one night tomorrow, with friends who've lived here forever and know all about it (and have all the equipement and spare to lend us). Kitty's hoping to see a leopard. Mr B's more judiciously thinking about possible Dikdik. While I would love to see a leopard at some point, I am hoping that moment does NOT come at any point over the next 36 hours when we are not in a vehicle and trailing two leopard snacks children. The Mancub scorned the Dikdik idea but confidently awaits zebra, and most definitely does NOT want to see a black crocodile. These vile creatures have now taken over the role of stalking his room by night (except when the black frogs are taking their turn). Apparently he saw one on the bedroom floor when he woke up one morning.... makes a change from the big plane and white car anyway.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Kitty's school trip

It was a long time ago, but we've only just been sent the digital photo by the school:

Not sure what species but she didn't thin it was venemous...

Monday, 10 May 2010

Busy weekend

And we've been busy again today, what with visiting the new school (Kitty), a birthday party for our neighbour (the sight of me carrying a buch of baloons and birthday cake up the road had various locals in hysterics this afternoon. Can't think why.) and Friday's postponed birding session rearranged (me). So I'm not going to write much, just offer a few pics of the events (starting with more trainer-related wildlife above).

Kitty starred in the special (US) Mother's day assembly at school where she and a few others were asked to say something about their mother. Surprisingly, there was no "My mummy like to shout at Daddy" or similar, and Kitty got away with the (admittedly also surprising) "My Mama like dresses".

Plenty of powercuts have featured too. But won't stop bed-time stories with visitors for the Mancub...

More wildlife at Lake Duluti

And Kitty's unconventional hair band, also at Duluti.
The Mancub kept a wary eye on the flame-thrower until such time as the cake was safe to eat... Definitely the best thing about any party...

Thursday, 6 May 2010

And the answer is...

The oil cap, of course... Just a gaping hole in the top of the engine. Hmmm. (Got a nie shiny new yellow one now though) And the glass object is, apparently, a milk rattle. Nothing to do with small babies (no more of them around here, thank you very much...), but saves you making quite such a mess when boiling the milk if you want to have milk deliveries from a local cow and avoid TB and Brucellosis, etc. It was supposed to stop milk bioling over, but I have a talent that overcomes such devices...

Otherwise not much excitement to report. I'm sneaking off to the big outside world tomorrow morning with a safari guide who I met out in Grumeti when I was there and if I'm with him we can more or less claim I'm being a tourist. In return, I'm going to teach him a few new birds, which seems like a fair deal to me - hopefully it won't be pouring wet in the morning. And as to whether there ever will be a resolution to the current issues, I've been down with the lawyers again today. The letter for the minister is now all ready and sitting on my desk, but it's delivery has been delayed by the lawyers being in Dar earlier this week and having one last try at sorting things with immigration down there. We spoke to the senior person today, who's trying to get the instructions from Arusha overturned and he's asking for a few more days to try things, before we involve the minister. But I've explained that I've been asked to talk at a conference in Nairobi at the end of the month and wouldbe very keen to have my passport back by then, one way or another. And I'm told I really will know what's happening before then - certainly next week, I'm told. Which I take to mean, we'll probably hear something soonish... But definitive? Well, I'll believe it when I see it...

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


Believe it or not, there are a number of differences between Tanzania and the UK. But one of the things that you have to get used to here is the way things get done. A fundi, literally, an engineer or expert - but usually a guy (never met a female one) who thinks he might know something - is what you you need when something goes wrong. And they'll fix you up. More or less. Some are actually incredibly talented - working out of a shack by the side of the road with a few basic tools they can create extremely attractive and functional pieces of furniture, for example - if they were provided with some proper wood/iron working tools rather than home made chisel and hammer I think they'd do something amazing. But mostly, you're looking at a more or less type job. So here's what our drive looks like today:

No, it's not some major archaeological dig - it's the plumber arrived to assess the feasibility of connecting the cold tap in the kitchen to the water tank. (Our rent is due for the next 6 months and the landlord has finally agreed we might need cold water in the kitchen...) There's about 3 metres of trench here, and can they find a pipe? Not yet it seems...

Actually, plumbers seem to be the real stars here, when it comes to botched jobs... When we looked over this house before moving in, we said we really wanted a house with a bath for the kids. No problem, we were told, a bath can be installed. And here it is:
The observant among you will be wondering whether we have tile chewing mice in Tanzania? Well, no - that's because when the fitted the bath they didn't both fixing the plug to the drain, just hoped the pipes were close together. So, when the bath drains the water runs all over the floor, seeking the drain, and much of it has to flow nicely out of these two holes. Very convenient. And until today nothing more than a minor inconvenience - but what happens when your funny-tummied little boy doesn't make it out of the bath in time? Not nice, huh - and can I reach any of the unpleasantness that must be under the bath? Hmmm...

On the other hand, people are so used to this sort of solution, that nothing fazes people. Here's my landrover's engine as it was on return from safari with Grannie and Grandad:
When I opened up to check the basics before our drive on the first morning, I immediately spotted that something had (somehow) dropped off on the bumby drive in. After a bit of consulatation with the guys at the lodge, we found some old bits and pieces of wood, a nice bit of sizal (previously used to tie the tent together in the evening after putting kids to bed - don't want the Mancub escaping and being eaten by beasties...), an old bit of rubber and a few acres of tinfoil and off we went. A couple of hour game drive, then a four-hour round trip to the airport, another couple of game drives and a three hour trip home, all rigged up nicely - about 400kms I think. And what had come off? There's a prize (well, a beer at least - you have to come and claim it though) for anyone who can work it out from the picture... The clues are there... I just love the fact that people here don't worry about rigging things like this up to keep the show on the road - I can't imagine what would happen in a similar situation at a country hotel in the UK...

And whilst we're on mystery photos, here's the latest Tanzania-special piece of kitchen equipment we've acquired: It might look the the top of an old preserving jar, but has a different purpose entirely. One for the oldest generation to ID I suspect...

But again, you'll have to come out to claim your prize - we need more visitors! Until this morning we were without booked visitors at all, but now we've got one set of friends coming at the end of September / early Oct - hurrah! But there's lots of other opportunities to visit before then (and after then too), so if you're hesitating, don't! We like visitors! And we also heard today that a friend from Aberdeen days is about to move out to Arusha, so why not joing them and consider the longer option too!

Monday, 3 May 2010

Close Encounters

Close encounters of the wildlife kind can be exciting. Just ask Granny and Grandad who were with us for this:

Alternatively, they can be rather uncomfortable...literally...such as this:

This is a close up of the lining of the inside wall of my right trainer.

I tried to put it on this morning and couldn't think how the lining had got so old and rumpled overnight. Taking it off, I noticed a hole, and when I tried to squeeze whatever was inside back out again, this fellow appeared.

Here's a better look at him, post-extraction, and before we returned him to his natural habitat:

On a completely unrelated note, we arrived out here with 5 or 6 matchbox sized cars, and now the car basket is full to overflowing. Where did they all come from?

The Mancub is feeling much better from his weekend bug. He is also still as vehicle-mad as ever. He can see a traintrack in a piano keyboard or a solitaire board. Our sofa is a near-permanent car-park. At one point he abandoned fluffy toys in the cot and had to sleep with a car in each hand. He still asks for the toy grey jeep which we owned for about 3 weeks before losing it, about 5 months ago. Slightly more distressing is the fact that his bed-time phobias now seem to include vehicles. Fear has been a recent development and Kitty has taught him how to say "Mancub scared..." It's been followed by, predictably, "dark", sensibly "car" (when walking along the road), but now we have a bedtime phobia. It's not the bogey man, it's not monsters under the cot. Each time he is put down to sleep he declares "not want big plane come close Mancub!" "not want it come in cot!!" and we have to reassure him that there is no big plane coming to get him. Where has this come from??

And just to end, a pirate in the living room.