By Stephanie Amaya-Smith (First Fifth Global Advocate)
My home away from home, like I previously mentioned, always has people passing through. I have met some exceptional people living in this household. I had been wanting to do a safari to Ngorongoro Crater since I’ve heard so many great things about it. Each time I tried, timing was off and it simply didn’t work out. Then I met Carina, a journalist from southern California, who was on her journey traveling through Africa and onward to Southeast Asia documenting her experiences and people she encounters along the way. It was downtime at the St. Timothy’s and she was going on an overnight safari to Ngorongoro Crater passing through Lake Manyara. It was the perfect opportunity for me to go on this overnight expedition.
Our journey started at 8:30am on headed to Arusha which is the next major town about an hour away from Moshi. I really enjoy Arusha each time I go. It’s more city like with lots of commerce, people, and of course traffic. It’s a lively place very green with parks and such. We passed through the town stocked up on water at the supermarket. We went to the nearest cafe for an iced chococoffee and we were on our way. After about an hour and a half drive we reached Lake Manyara. It was everything I had been longing for. It was a big beautiful lake with green everywhere. Green trees, green hills, green landscapes, everything was so green! I fell in love. We saw baboons picking the bugs off each other, colorful exotic birds, monkeys, zebras, elephants, wilder beasts, giraffes which here in Africa two types exist, the yellow ones we are all used to seeing and a darker brown version which are known as Maasai giraffes, and hippos. We were on a mission to find simbas (lions in Swahili) but as we ascended into the jungle like forest we were attacked by the tsetse fly.Not just one, many! The tsetse fly is only found in sub-Saharan Africa and is known to carry the sleeping sickness disease. Out of all the vaccinations I had to get before coming to Africa, this was not one of them. The sleeping sickness happens in two stages.
The first stage consists of fever, headaches, joint pains, and itching. Fever is intermittent, with attacks lasting from a day to a week, separated by intervals of a few days to a month or longer. Invasion of the circulatory and lymphatic systems by the parasite is associated with severe swelling of the lymph nodes often to tremendous sizes.
The second stage begins when the parasite invades the central nervous system. This causes disruption of the sleep cycle. Infected individuals experience a disorganized and fragmented 24-hour rhythm of the sleep-wake cycle, resulting in daytime sleep episodes and nighttime periods of wakefulness. Its effects are mental, emotional, and physical leading to a coma then to organ failure and death if not treated. You can imagine how freaked out Carina and I were. I took off my shoe and started killing every single one that would come into our vehicle. It was almost as if we had a whole tsetse safari in our car! I can’t remember how many I killed but each one bled the blood they had sucked out of some poor human.
Thankfully, Carina and I were not bitten but our driver Amini was not so lucky. As he was driving one flew on him and he slammed on the breaks. He was looking everywhere for it but we couldn’t find it. I was ready shoe in hand and all waiting for the attack. Carina screams, “it’s on his head!” and I scream to Amini, “can I kill it on your head?!” He said no because he knew the concussion I was about to give him had he said yes. I refrained, sat down and watched him as he tried getting the fly out of the car. No luck though, he ended up getting bit. He’s ok and alive. No sleeping sickness for him. We decided that was our call to go to our lodging site and chill for the rest of the day. Killing all of those tsetse flies took all the energy out of me. We stopped by a bar and had a well-deserved beer on the way to the lodging site.