A Travellerspoint blog

Travel to Snake Park

6th November 2010

We are driving back towards Arusha via Lake Manyana. We have come this route on the way up, but today the landscape looks much more dramatic through the interplay of clouds and light.

The temperature has been pleasantly cool in the last few days. Cool is relative of course. It’s still T-shirt weather, but I am no longer sweating buckets.

We pull up at our last camping ground near Arusha at 9.30 am, one of the shortest journeys we had in the last 3 weeks. (We left at 7am this morning, and I expected to keep going until lunch time.)

AH and I don’t know what to do with all this leisure time. Suddenly we have time to take photos of the process of erecting a tent. Usually, it has been a race against sunset...

We’ve chosen a spot under a pepper tree. AH is currently a bit obsessed with them after being told in Zanzibar that peppers only grow as creepers. He now points out every single pepper tree along the way.

We also have a view of a beautiful flame tree, the kind of tree I already admired when we were travelling through Zambia.

I’m glad we got here early because this site is popular with overlanders. Haven’t seen so many trucks since Kande Beach.

The wildlife here consists of guinea fowl, superb starlings, goats and snakes from all over Africa – the latter are luckily behind glass.

Everything else roams freely. Wonder whether anything will make its way into the truck or into the tents. The starlings are bold enough to come right into our dining area to pick up crumbs from the plates...

I like that the owners of the campsite are really involved in the community. They have started a free hospital that specialises in treating snake bites. 8 classrooms for 40 pupils each have also been built (usually classes have more than 100 pupils, just like in Malawi), and a village got its own watering hole at the cost of 10,000 US$.

Posted by TTraveller 05:09 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Ngorongoro Wildlife Hunt

5th November 2010

We finally arrive at the place that I will probably never be able to write or pronounce without stumbling.

Ngorongoro is apparently the sound the Masai cowbells are making. Mmh, not the first sound that comes to mind when I think of cowbells...

Inside the crater, all we see are plains in pastel colours and a huge salt lake when we look down from the rim of the crater. Hard to believe that it is supposed to be teaming with life.

In contrast, the sides of the crater are covered in dense green forrest, with moss growing on trees as clouds frequently get caught in the hills.

While we are travelling into the crater, the clouds start spilling over the rim, looking like a waterfall frozen in midair.

A key feature of the conservation area are the Masai. They have argued for their right to stay after they had to leave the Serengeti. That’s why Ngronogoro is a conservation area and not a national park.

I feel they have a point. After all, they have been in the area for thousands of years. Us Europeans have only been in the area 130 years and already caused a lot more damage. (In the visitor’s centre they are pointing out our positive contribution to conservation, but then one has to keep the tourists happy...)

Even the Masai have been affected by the presence of white tourists. There is now a law that forbids taking photos of Masai kids for money at the crater rim because the kids are meant to be at school.

The only Massai we see are men. One herder runs after us. I think he wants money because he has seen me take a photo from a distance, but he wants to flog us his raised spear...

At first our hunt for wildlife is slow going: vast spaces, with the occasional herd of common animals like zebras. They are not bothered at all by jeeps. They virtually come within stroking distance.

They are pretty, but what I really want to see are lions. Finally our guide points across the savannah at a darkish speck: „A male lion“, he says. I can only take his word for it because even with my zoom lense all I can see is a vague shape of something. The view is a bit clearer with binoculars. I can just about make out that the guide is right.

Distances can easily be underestimated in this vast plain, so for all I know, this lion is a mile away – but I want a close-up.

There are some jeeps gathering in the distance, so there must be something to see there: „There is a Chitah at 10 o‘ clock.“ Oh, really? What does that mean, at 10 o‘ clock? Give me proper direction, guys and don’t talk in riddles to someone who is spatially challenged.

Finally, I see what everybody is pointing at. Correction: I see part of what everybody is pointing at. I see a bit of fur hidden in the undergrowth. For a split-second the head lifts, but this may have been wishful thinking on my part...

It looks like the most impacting scenes today will be the herds. I like the description of a gnu as a „spare-parts animal“ (head = ox, body = antelope, tail = horse).

Apparently, there is a saying in Africa that where there are gnus, there are lions – just not today.

We see great clouds of dust, but that’s usually other jeeps. However, I quickly learn that they should still not be ignored.
When we approach the next group of jeeps, we see a young male lion who is lying down for a midday nap about 5 metres away.

Not much to see at first, as he has turned his back to us, but suddenly he stirs and looks around. He seems to be investigating who has been disturbing his rest.

Soon he is walking towards the jeeps. What powerful muscles! Not the kind of lion I would have wanted to take for a walk. In fact, shouldn’t we better close the roof?

He passes by as if the jeeps are nothing more but boulders in the landscape.

I am still watching him, when someone says: „Look around.“ A second lion has appeared from a ditch and follows him.

When we drive on, we see another lion sleeping near a riverbed, but by now it has almost become old news... (Overall, we see 7 lions, with 3 in close up.)

I like to watch the interaction between the tourists and the animals. The careless tourist can easily become the victim of an animal prank.

There is the vervet monkey who climbs in through the roof of a jeep, while its owners are shouting into their mobiles outside. I wish that monkey had nicked those phones to teach them that the only busines to be conducted in Ngorongoro is wildlife watching.

At a popular lunch spot by a pool where hippos like to dose, there is the sign that says: „Do not feed the animals.“ We soon find out why. Here the animals like to help themselves.

A kite swoops down and tears the plastic bag out of AH’s hand, even though he is sitting right under a tree. The only thing that was left in the bag was a piece of cheese, so I guess the kite will have been pretty disappointed with its „prey“...

Our guide keeps telling us that we are seeing many highly unusual sights, even for a site that is famous for its wildlife: a group of female elephants with young (usually only male elephants are found in the crater), a black rhino in the savannah (they are usually found in the bush area) and two serval cats (they are usually found on their own).

To top it all, a huge leopard saunters across the road when we are already on our way out. We have just put the roof down, and no-one has their camera ready. So although there have been 7 photographers in the jeep, there is not a single photo!

Truly an eventful day in a fascinating landscape.

NB Here is a list of the animals we have seen today according to our group’s joined brainstorm: The big 5 (lion, leopard, rhino, hippo, elephant), lots of birds (bee-eater, kite, superb starling, secretary bird, ostrich, flamingo, egret, ibis, crown cane, kori bustard, guinea fowl, lilac-breasted roller, eagle, oxpecker bird, yellow-billed and saddle-billed stork), game (gnu/wildebeest, gazelle, zebra, cape buffalo), jackal, warthog, baboon, vervet monkey, chitah, serval and hyena – wonder how many species we still missed?

Posted by TTraveller 04:13 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Surrender

5th November 2010

I decide to go for a prayer walk, releasing my frustration about the broken Netbook and especially the broken camera.

I reflect on how I always have the sense of missing out on something and might indeed miss out if I always look at things through the viewfinder.

And maybe I’ve also missed some valuable insights and experiences by writing about my experiences on the move.

So maybe it’s good to only have one camera to play with today and so take photos more selectively...

At breakfast I mention that our compact camera has given up its spirit, and lo and behold, one of our fellow travellers has a spare compact camera, giving AH a chance to also go wildlife hunting today. Things are beginning to look up again in my little world.

Posted by TTraveller 04:13 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Kudu Camp

4th November 2010

Once again I have a cold shower, as no hot water seems to be available. I am at the point where I am no longer trying all that hard to have a hot shower...

Otherwise, I have no complaints about the camping, as we have the whole camping space for ourselves, and the site remains well-lid throughout the night.

It would of course been nice to stay in one of the lodges. Kudu is the nicest complex we have been staying in, with tasteful, „arty“ lodges, restaurant and bar in a beautifully maintained garden. They are also working on a swimming pool.

Unfortunately, I find it hard to appreciate my surrounding. First, my Netbook dies on me and refuses to be revived. How am I going to update my blog now? I got so used to typing up my handwritten notes on the Netbook, uploading the latest adventures on a USB stick and then updating the blog whenever there is a decent internet connection. I’ve got attached to my little routine. Now all I can do is handwrite my notes until we get home.

An attitude of „Hakuna matata“ (No worries) will never come naturally to me, but when I next have trouble uploading my photos onto a computer and then on my USB stick and then my compact camera develops a fault, I am positively stressed. None of these technical problems seem to have any logical reason I can think of. And the timing couldn’t be worse, as we are going on our biggest wildlife trip!

I’m not surprised when the traditional dancing and drumming show stops just when I’ve finally made my way from the camping area to the performance stage, stumbling along by the ever weakening light of my torch.

I don’t get a single photo, but a performer still runs after me, asking for a contribution. Now I really have enough. The only solution I can come up with: Bed!

„One day at a time, take one day at a time,“ becomes my lullaby.

Posted by TTraveller 04:12 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Journey to Karatu

4th November 2010

The first key stop is Arusha. The area where we stop (as usual, by the supermarket!) seems to have attracted a lot of expats. Not surprising really, as Arusha seems to be a modern town.

Just outside Arusha, we see Masai driving their cattle across the savannah. We will be stopping here on our way back.

It’s strange to see these traditional people on bikes and mobile phones.

When AH grew up, the Masai were still true nomads, but now many seem to be settled in villages...

The other thing that intrigues me are the many shop signs that are crossed out in red. At first I think that many businesses must have gone bust, but on some roads that would have meant that 90% of businesses had died. And as far as I can tell, business is thriving...

I later find out that the crosses mean that the shops have been built too close to the road – not that anyone has done anything about that in the last 10 years or so...

Posted by TTraveller 04:11 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

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