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Published: March 3rd 2010
After the Masai Mara it was time to cruise down to Tanzania, which is an exaggeration in itself owing to the shitness of many of the roads in Africa I’ve had the good fortune to travel along, its almost like driving along a cattle grid permanently. We stopped of for camp in a place called Arusha at a campsite named Snake Park, which held a large collection of snakes from huge man eating African Rock Pythons to the deadly Black Mamba, it also had a cool bar with a gigantic crocodile skin hung on the roof.
The next morning we departed for the Serengeti (a Masai word for ‘endless plain’) National Park in a land rover driven by a friendly local called Brown, it was quite a way but there was plenty of banter to keep the drive from being dull. To get to the Serengeti you must first pass through some spectacular hills littered with green trees, East Africa is particularly good looking at the moment as the rainy season has just begun, rendering it incredibly humid prior to a rain dump which habitually begins around four in the afternoon. We descended from the luscious hills towards the Serengeti stopping whenever there were Giraffe, Zebra, and Gazelle to look at; there were also Masai villages dotted in small clusters around the landscape. Upon arrival at the Serengeti its name begins to take on it full meaning, its perfectly flat with very few trees because of the hard volcanic rock underneath, it stretches further than the eye can see and you drive through this bleak landscape where with the exception of the road there is little or no evidence of human existence. On our afternoon game drive we headed to the centre of the park where there is more vegetation and therefore more animals in the hope of seeing the elusive leopard that has successfully evaded us at the Masai Mara. We saw some Hippos, Lion, Giraffe, and plenty of other deer type animals but no leopard. Leopards are hard to find because they are active at night and spend most of the day asleep in trees, also game drives must be finished at 18:30 which is understandable because if I was a lion I’d e pretty pissed off with an endless paparazzi of tourists following me all day. Finally, our luck changed and we had a radio message relating the location of a leopard in a tree, so we sped off as fast as Brown could drive. We arrived just in time as it was waking up, this was almost certainly the highlight of my safari trips so far, but then the rangers arrived and told us to bugger off because it as getting late.
That evening we stayed in a campsite in the middle of the Serengeti plain with no fence at all, so the advice not to put any food in our tents in case it attracted Lions or Hyenas was heeded by all. The campsite was pretty basic and the toilets should have been consigned to the dustbin of history long ago. The following morning we set off for another game drive, we had a few problems here however as one of the other trucks had a puncture. It seemed to take a very long time, although it wasn’t a problem as we were well prepared; out came the vodka and Fanta, as we relaxed sat on the roof watching in amusement as our driver seemed to be doing everything in his power to avoid getting his hands dirty or provide any meaningful help whatsoever. On the way out of the Serengeti we stopped off at the gorge where the earliest human footprints were found, where a helpful local man explained the significance of the area and what all the layers in the ground were. Apres ca we headed to our campsite on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater, which is simply one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen, especially as the sun was setting in the background. That night we rejoiced with drinking around the campfire whilst unknown to us our campsite was infiltrated by hungry buffalo, they look like big friendly cows but they’re pretty territorial and generally malevolent, even lions seldom attack them, so we kept our distance.
That morning it was time for our game drive in the crater; we descended down a dodgy steep jungle track into the crater where a large pack of Hyenas ran past cackling. We saw many more animals than I’d expected; Elephants, Rhino, Lions, Hippos, although no Giraffes because their legs won’t let them go down the steep slope into the crater. There was even some Lion sexytime on offer. The best bit of the crater was the lake, where the shore was saturated with Flamingos shining perfect pink in the sunshine, no photos would do the area justice but I gave it my best shot all the same (no pun intended).
That afternoon we headed back to Arusha for Kev’s leaving do (a hilarious Canadian guy who was ending his time with us to go and climb the mighty Kilimanjaro, the rest of us had to make do with drinking some beers of the same name). It turned out to be a huge piss up which certainly helped group bonding, it still remains a mystery how Kev managed to get up at half time the next morning to start his six day trek. The next morning while we were struggling to deal with the reality of the hungover situation, we were greeted by the landlady who wanted to know who had broken into the bar after closing time to get a camera charger, breaking the door down in the process. Kev was the prime suspect as he was the only one who would have needed to get in there as we were the only tour bus there, and amazingly nothing else was amiss from the fully stocked bar.
The next thing on the agenda was Zanzibar! In order to get there we had to drive all day to Dar es-Salem where we’d stay overnight before taking the ferry. It was incredibly hot, humid and sweaty, which was made worse as the queue for a small ferry to take us to our beach was right outside the fish market, very unhelpful. I was delighted to arrive at the campside, right on the beach to the Indian ocean, I didn’t realise just how good the beach was after such a long sweaty time on the bus. We swam for a few hours, had some food, more beers, then settled down to a very hot and mainly sleepless night, followed by an unwelcome biblically early morning to catch the ferry to Stone Town, Zanzibar.
In Stone Town it was cloudy in the morning but it cleared up in the afternoon in time for our spice tour. The spice tour turned out to be surprisingly good, our guide was an amusing fellow called Ali T who was fluent in cockney rhyming slang, and spoke with a south London accent. We saw and smelled all sorts of tasty spices from vanilla to ginger, and also the stuff which lipstick is made with, although the name evades me. We were then treated to a selection of local teas and fresh fruits which were particularly tasty, personally I’d be happy to eat the local pineapple here for every meal, its that good. The highlight of the spice tour was one of the local guys climbing up a 30 metre palm tree to chop down some fresh coconut for us, which was also really nice. To make an already great day better we were then given hats and ties made from palm leaves which added to the comedy of the afternoon. The general amusingness of the trip stopped pretty immediately when we arrived at the old slave market, where a church has now been built in the place of. This was the last operating slave market in the world, which was eventually stopped when the Royal Navy turned up to shut it down , very little remains bar a monument which features chains actually used for binding the necks of slaves for the long walk across Africa to Dar. There is also an old slave waiting room where slaves were kept prior to being taken to market, it was what an estate agent would call ‘compact’ with just eight of us in there, so we were all pretty shocked to find that they used to put 70 people in there all piled on top of eachother, in such a disgracefully hot place. That evening we headed to the night market where local fishermen grill and sell the days catch. Its basically one incredibly cheap fish take away where you can get a lobster and octopus kebab for around three quid. After eating a huge variety of beautifully cooked seafood we headed to Mercury’s (a bar on the waterfront in honour of one of Zanzibar’s greatest exports) for a few beers to celebrate Kate, one of the ladies on the trip’s birthday.
The next morning it was beachtime! We headed to sunset bungalows on Kendwa beach which the Guardian informs me is one of the best in the world. It did not disappoint, beautiful clear water, and a pure coral beach, with sea temperature that was warm enough for a bath. I won’t go on at too great length about the place, there’s no point, its just that good that no next would even get anywhere near explaining. We all stayed in the sea pretty much all day and then had abit of a party at the beach bar that night, which involved alot of night swimming and general messing about. The next day was much the same which was fine by me, I could spend a few weeks there with enough books, beer money, and fun people. On the final morning we had a few hours in Stone Town to pick up any last bits and bobs, which to me is a better way of shopping for souvenirs because the extra urgency makes it easier to barter. For $10 I purchased a nice pair of handmade leather flip flops which our tour guides swear by, this was welcome as my other ‘sandals’ were a sort of hybrid neither here nor there contraption between sandals and shoes which were far to hot and had gotten rather smelly. One thing I didn’t anticipate was that having a surplus pair of shoes would make me a popular man in those parts, and I managed to swap my sandals for a quite large very nice painting that had been painted in that very shop, bonus!
That’s all for this post, I’m now in Malawi by the lake, but all the fun from this country can be saved until the next post. This trip is so far proving to be a triumph! Hope all is well back home.
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