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Published: June 13th 2017
Geo: -3.2077, 35.4628DAY FOUR (Monday, September 7, 2009)
The rhythm is gonna getcha.
We awoke at 4 am. Guess our body clocks are having trouble adapting to East African time.
At dawn we sauntered to the main lodge only to find we were STILL too early for breakfast. But we found coffee and a few new friends so we were happy. I also found some more things to photograph, including a black-and-white casqued hornbill that was humongous, with a very large, very loud mouth. Highly entertaining, however.
Breakfast was a buffet. We chatted with Ed Mershon and Joy Difilippo of Ocala. Following checkout, we had another group briefing on the lawn. We had a group photo taken on the front steps and then loaded into our safari vehicles, which are custom Toyota Land Cruisers that seat 7 behind the driver and have a raised roof so you can put your head out for photo taking. Not a smooth ride but great photo opps. Our "car" mates were Tim and Barb Templin of Houston. Our driver/guide was Emmanuel.
We drove back through Arusha along the path we came from the airport yesterday. By now I have learned we are not supposed to take photos of public buildings,
From our hotel room
public officials or folks along the way. I snuck a few photos clandestinely (this is the gal who took photos in the Sistine Chapel and the Kremlin) but since Tauck's name is plastered on the vehicles, I tried to hide my bending of the rules. Rules are just guidelines after all. ;-)
We passed Mount Kilimanjaro and Mount Meru, 1st and 2nd highest mountains in Tanzania, and beautiful tropical plants which seem to be thriving despite the desperate drought.
We then headed through Maasai country, where these native people farm, herd and hunt. These are the men who wear the gorgeous red plaid shukas, elaborate jewelry and carry spears. To become a warrior, they must kill a lion with a spear as part of the rite of passage. Well, OK, that was before the lion was protected.
Once again, nix on the photo taking. Damn. They are such good material. They live in interesting round grass huts and move where the water is so their animals can survive.
Our first destination was Lake Manyara National Park, a verdant oasis in an otherwise brown and dusty wasteland. It's in the Rift Valley, which was created millions of years ago when Asia and Africa became two
different continents when the plates they rested on separated.
Our guide Emmanuel pointed out the animals, birds and plants along the way. The forest is full of baobab trees (the tree of life, as featured in Disney's Animal Kingdom) as well as some VERY large mahogany trees.
1. First up was the blue monkey, about a foot high, with a shiny black coat that shimmers with a blue tone in the sun.
2. Next, the elephant, the first of the Big Five (elephant, lion, rhino, Cape buffalo, leopard) everyone tries to see while in Africa. Fun to watch the adult couple, but even more fun to watch the baby we finally spotted in the trees.
3. Next an open plain of giraffes, who wandered toward our vehicles, almost charging one. They are so fun to photograph. They share their plain with 100s of gazelles.
4. The hippos hang around the aptly named Hippo Pool, which they share with flocks of birds, including one that looked very much like the American eagle. Ugly guys, those hippos. And noisy. But good subjects.
Having eaten roughly three pounds of dust throughout the morning, we were pleased learn it was to time for real food. We headed to Lake
Manyara Serena Lodge with a lovely overlook of the Lake and the park. Buffet lunch on the veranda was perfect.
The drive to Ngorongoro Crater, in the Serengeti National Park, was not the most pleasant. Teeth jarring, as a matter of fact. I am not one to get carsick but I had a headache and a rolling stomach by the time we arrived at the Ngorongoro Serena Lodge. I later learned that some blogs recommended bringing a seating pad for the excursions, so I'm mentioning it here because we wish we had. Also, front row is far preferable to back row as far as comfort is concerned.
Just before we arrived at Ngorongoro, we were rewarded with two things:
1. A stop at a scenic overlook where we got a bird's eye view of the very large crater we would be visiting tomorrow. At this point, we were 7500 feet above sea level and the temperature had dropped from mid-80s to mid-60s.
2. A herd of zebra were up close and personal … about 3' from our cruiser. Love the welcoming committee.
We were formally greeted with champagne and juice in the lobby and a group of young Maasai warriors danced a greeting for
us. Luckily, because they were paid to entertain, I got to shoot the fellows in their red robes. I'm loving their shukas and considering buying one to use as a table cloth for a beach table in Florida.
Our rooms overlook the crater, so the view is spectacular. The beds are not – they are harder than the crater floor. Stephanie Foote, a fellow traveler, opened her curtains to find four Cape buffalo outside her deck. Yikes.
Before dinner, we did a little unpacking. Patrick found a bottle of Pepto-Bismol, brought along to treat the bugs that are NOT contained by mosquito netting, had leaked out of the bottle, through the Ziploc bag it was packed in and on to a portion of his clothing. We sent off 8 pieces to the laundry so they could remove the bilious pink before it became a permanent fixture. It only cost $8 US for the entire laundry bill. THAT was some good news.
A Tauck cocktail party followed, with more Maasai dancing, followed by a welcome dinner. Our dinner companions were Stephanie Foote and Carol Sobel of Denver, who are regular traveling companions – they have seen the world together.
Food is underwhelming. I am
trying to be adventuresome, tasting the local stuff where possible. But parrot fish is not something I'll order again – it's for the birds (har, har). Luckily, dinner included a salad and dessert bar so I compensated myself.
When we left the restaurant, we stopped at a lobby stall the Maasai run. We inspected jewelry, shukas (Maasai cloth), wall hangings, baskets, wood carvings. No decisions yet.
Two final evening notes:
1. Before retiring, I stepped out on the deck and took a photo of a beautiful moon over the crater. Very chilly but worth the trip. I was ever so mindful, however, of the things that go bump in the night.
2. The room was quite cool (temps now in the low 50s) so the hotel's way of warming things up is to add a hot water bottle to the bed during turndown service. How quaint.
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