Saturday, 13 February 2016

Homeward Bound........

February 2011 was Ireland’s last General Election, coming on the back of the Financial Crisis, IMF and our Government’s meltdown, and in this election, we saw the collapse of Ireland’s dominant political party, the Soldiers of Destiny were blitzed in a sweep of National anger in that election, Ireland was at a very low ebb.

For me personally, it marks a point in time also, where I faced my own crisis like so many Irish people at the time, a business brought to its knees with all the financial and personal strain that that brings, I faced the reality of having to look abroad for work and an income, and so a few months later, I boarded a plane at Shannon, Dubai bound, via Manchester and on to Kandahar, Afghanistan to 53 degree heat in the weeks after Osama Bin Laden had been taken out by the US. Was this going to work?

Well, I sit here in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania today five years on from that last General Election In Ireland, heading into my final week of the ex-patriate life, yes, I’m going home next week and it feels damn good.

That journey has taken me from dusty Kandahar to mountains of Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan Province, on to Helmand for a short few months, to Riyadh in Saudi Arabia in 2012, where I lived until October 2014, with all its oddities and peculiarities, and had the opportunity to visit the wider Middle East region, to places like modern Dubai, the oasis of Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, Jeddah by the Red Sea, Doha, Abha, Dammam, Bahrain, Amman and Petra in Jordan, and Istanbul. The last stage of this period spent in Accra, Ghana and finally here by the Indian Ocean in Dar es Salaam.

I can already feel the excitement and emotion of taking that last flight next Friday from Dar to Abu Dhabi and arriving in Dublin on my birthday, and in time to vote again just like five years ago.
In that period, there has been tough times, sad times, lonely times, times when I missed my loved ones and watched my sons grow at a distance, missed birthdays, nights out, work colleagues, friends and neighbours, even a missed Christmas Day spent in Riyadh. There has also been some good days, days when you discover you had reserves of strength, days when you rediscover lost confidence and get excited and passionate about your work again, a particular day when I stood at Dubai airport misty eyed and emotional to welcome my two young sons who had flown on their own for hours from Dublin to spend a week the old man in the UAE.

I have met and made new friends and colleagues, many of them Irish like myself, who took to the airport in the same way to work abroad in this remarkable period in Ireland’s history, we have even lost some of them too sadly.

Thankfully, I return with the financial issues now resolved, I did not get into property, or lose money on shares, I simply had a small business connected to the Construction Industry that got caught in a perfect storm, like so many others. I also return to a different life, and know that it will take time to adjust back to Ireland, to a new life again and a new job. I look forward so much to Sunday lunches, walks on the beach, Friday nights with the Late Late, open fires, cycling with the lads, the odd gig, a decent pint of Guinness and even the mundanity of making breakfast for hungry young men while discussing the latest U-Tube hit or video game villain ! It’s all Good and I can’t wait to get back……..

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Safari to Mikumi.....

Tanzania is long known for its impressive National Parks, an impressive 16 in all from the world famous Serengeti in the north to Selous in the south, covering over 40,000 (approx. half the entire area of Ireland).

Mikumi National Park is the closest one to Dar es Salaam and within driving distance, so ideal for a weekend road trip out of the hot and humid capital city.

An early Saturday morning start north out of Dar es Salaam, was the advice to escape the clutches of the weekend market traffic, especially on the Morogoro Road, so the advice was to travel north to Bagamoyo, then west to Msata, south to Chalinze and then turning west again directly to the city of Morogoro, a city nestled at the feet of the Uluguru Mountains and the gateway to Mikumi National Park. A journey of some five hours along very decent roads, so even though I took the trip alone, it was very enjoyable , I even managed to avoid the notorious Tanzanian traffic police, and at one stage found myself going down the wrong way on a oneway street in Morogoro packed with Saturday traders and shoppers ! (signs are kind of optional extras in Tanzania).

I stayed at the Nashera Hotel which I would highly recommend as it has amazing views of the Uluguru Mountains (named after a local tribe), has decent food and a nice bar, where I sat with a few locals and discussed the continued demise of Chelsea FC, while watching their latest capitulation! I also bumped into a couple from Killarney, Co. Kerry on a business trip here (Irish turn up everywhere, really, don’t they ?).

Early start Sunday morning, picked up by Hamad my guide and companion for the day, at 5am, for my safari trip to the heart of Mikumi (Safari is the Swahili word for “journey”) and off we went into the dark morning further into the mountains for an hour and half until we arrived at the gates of the Park just in time for breakfast. A National Roadway runs through Mikumi, as it’s a major transport route from the busy Port city of Dar es Salaam running westwards to inland cities and indeed further to countries such as Zambia, Congo and Malawi. It makes for an unusual sight as large container trucks cutting through wild grasslands with giraffes grazing by the roadside.

After a welcome breakfast, we spent our day inside the Park, animal spotting. What struck me was the beauty and openness of the grassland savannah landscape and the surrounding mountains, Tanzania is a truly beautiful country, and to see the herds of Wildebeest and Buffalo wild in the open was breathtaking to be honest.

I had been promised by Hamad that I would definitely see Giraffe, Elephant, Impala, Zebra & Baboon, but that seeing the mighty Simba (Swahili word for Lion), can be a little more challenging.
We saw Zebra, Impala and Giraffes u close and personal and most impressive of all was the two families of Elephants bunched closely together under the shade of tress, and also cooling themselves in a lake, nothing compares to seeing them in the wild. We then also struck gold and came across a Lion with a few cubs, who came very close to us and prowled about, Hamad noted that she was angry but it was just amazing to see them in their own habitat up close like that. This is the real Africa at its rawest and most awe-inspiring.

Lunch in the Park completed a fantastic day, and i started back on my journey to Dar es Salaam.

A very satisfying weekend trip, thanks to Hamad and the folks at for a great trip, hopefully I’ll fit in a tip to Serengeti soon.