Closely surrounded by a large herd of elephants, our family and two Samburu guides sit silently awed in our parked open-sided safari vehicle.
With just the slightest bit of imagination, one can envision oneself a part of the herd. We are in very close proximity to these gracious, enormous animals. They are fully aware of our presence but are not spoked since the Samburu guides leading us can understand many of their actions and noises and act accordingly, making the elephants completely comfortable with our being there.
One elephant slowly and completely scratches his neck and trunk against a large tree branch. In the silence we hear the rough sound of his skin rubbing along the bark and clearly see his contentment.
Zanzibar island in Tanzania, was not on my radar when initially thinking of our time in East Africa. Kenya, the quintessential image of Safari Africa, was slotted for the month of December, following our customary pattern of spending about a month per country, our magic time frame for acquiring a feel for a place. Because I knew a considerable percentage of our time and monster portion of our budget was going towards safari and that Christmas is considered high season almost everywhere, I began attempting to plan Kenya in November while still traveling in Morocco. Weak internet, the lack of a Kenyan guide book, and honestly not a clue about East Africa, I was becoming overwhelmed just as I received an email from a friend gushing with rave reviews of her recent multi-family trip to the island of Zanzibar. And as simple as that, a little inestinguishable light was lit. A quick google search of "images of Zanzibar" secured a spot for this white sand island in the Indian Ocean on our itinerary.
From my current vantage point of my villa in Zanzibar, Tanzania, it's a bit of a struggle to recall all the details of the last ten days of our visit to Morocco and the 24 hour stopover in Itstabul, Turkey.
With my toes covered in the powdery white sand, and images of kids frolicking in the Indian Ocean filling my mind, its tempting to just skip a bit of this journal blog.. just Be-In-The-Now. Insistently, our story calls me to keep a complete account.
But I can allow the sea breeze to persuade me to keep the prose short and stick to a more visual presentation.
Over a two week period we we visited four distinct cities, most of which would appear on a great number of travelers' bucket lists; Marrakech, Casablanca, Istanbul and the lesser known but equally intriguing, Essaouira on the coast of Morocco.
Acknowledging the fact that in general we are more of a rural-loving family rather than a city-thriving group we really wanted to optimize our time in the remote areas of Morocco between the must-visit cities of Fez and Marrakech. A tour was really out of the question, price and freedom wise, and a good friend had informed us that he had no problem renting a car and driving himself when he visited a few year prior. So we opted to rent a car in Fez ($34/day) and take 2 weeks to explore before dropping it off upon entering Marrakech. I did read something to the effect that Morocco has one of the highest rates of car accidents in the world but really is it any more dangerous for Kiko to be driving than a hired driver? At least with Kiko driving, we were the ones deciding the speed and risks we were willing to take when passing.
Armed with the recommended Michelin map of Morocco and our handy google maps on our phones we headed south out of Fez towards the Sahara. After a little adjustment as far as timing of pedestrians, bikers, and mules crossing the road, and getting accustomed to the fact that drivers tend to pass at times that seem totally inopportune, Kiko was soon driving with confidence. We loved the freedom and the changing landscapes were truly breathtaking.
One of the secrets to making our long car rides enjoyable for all, has been books on tape. Funny right?, but it keeps us entertained and all eyes available to check out the ever changing scenes out the windows. The best is when we are able to access free downloads from our home library, which pertain to our current travel. We learned about the life of Da Vinci in Italy, and listened to Arabian Nights in Morocco.
Kelly Perozo, Mom of this traveling tribe, telling our story of a 12 month, around-the-world journey; the good, the bad, and the crazy.