Let's off road

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Africa » Tanzania
February 3rd 2005
Published: February 3rd 2005
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Lake VictoriaLake VictoriaLake Victoria

Apologies for the horizon - had just packed away then quickly took a last one, which turned out to be the best.
I guess the problem with the phrase "game drive" is the second bit. Early in the trip we were able to walk and mountain bike amongst the game (due to the lack of Lions, Leopards etc). In the Serengeti and around this just ain't possible, as we will see. The other problem is that wild animals are anti-social beasts, a bit like schoolteachers, getting up at ungodly hours of the morning to have their breakfast, instead of a civilised eight-o-clock. I think on only one day of this section have we risen after dawn, and several days have been up at 5.00am or earlier.

In truth this last part of the trip, from Jinja in Uganda to Zanzibar off the Tanzanian coast has been quite tough, but rewarding and quite full of incident. We left Jinja for a long days drive to Nakuru in Kenya, where we were joined by a further 8 co-travelers, taking the total in the back of the truck to 19. I guess Exodus have to make their profits, but frankly this is too many to be comfortable .. although to be fair every other overland truck we have seen has been packed full, and I have only seen one truck with a better layout than ours. The upside is that we went from four cook teams to seven, giving more time to relax between duty sessions.

At Nakuru we voted to change the itinerary to spend the night in Nakuru national park. This was wild camping with very few amenities, a precursor to the Serengeti area. On the afternoon game drive we didn't see a lot we hadn't seen before, and the drive was terminated by a typically huge thunderstorm. We got to the campsite, ascertained where the high ground was (which was difficult as the wild animals present dictate that we have to erect our tents together, close to a fire), and erected the cook tent. Despite the wet and wildness of it all everyone mucked in and by the time the rains passed dinner was well on the way and tents were quickly erected. The dawn drive the next morning made up for it, with a misty sunrise and lots of animals to see.

The next day was a long day drive down to Tanzania, camping right on the edge of Lake Victoria. The beach, the breeze and the sunset made
Fancy a cup of tea, Earn ?Fancy a cup of tea, Earn ?Fancy a cup of tea, Earn ?

Nakuru National Park, Kenya
this an extremely pleasurable experience, along with the bride and groom in full regalia who came to have their pictures taken with the sunset.

Another long drive, but this time through the Western corridor of the Serengeti into the central portion. This was interesting but to be frank the Serengeti is so big there is not a lot of game to be seen. However the wide open spaces were worth the trip. We also got our first taste of Serengeti passing places, whereby an African driver in a Landcruiser saw us coming and promptly drove off the side of the road to let us past ( despite the fact that there was a genuine passing place about 50m behind him ). We then had to push/pull him out, but it was fun.

Again, as we approached the campsite the sky darkened ominously. As we arrived we realised we were in the middle of one hell of a thunderstorm, and it was right above us. In fact the lightening was striking all around. Thankfully there was a shelter to cook in but the thunderstorm lasted for at least an hour, and is probably the closest I have ever been

in the dawn mist, Nakuru NP, Kenya
to lightning strikes. Matt got some great long exposure shots of the lightening arcing into the campsite, plus one of sheet lightening where the campsite is more brightly lit than in daytime. That night a trio of laughing hyenas patrolled our tents. It is amazing how much control you can exercise over your bladder in such circumstances.

The next day proved incident packed. After a moody dawn we followed the rivers in the park looking for game. Now when Exodus describe their trucks as "ideally suited to the rigors of overland travel" (or whatever) they neglect to mention that most of them are rear wheel drive. Now the roads in the Serengeti are dirt roads full of craters and potholes etc, and it had rained bucket-loads the night before. Suffice to say we were entertained by some great shows of "truck surfing" on several occasions. Amazingly we didn't get stuck.

Sometime before lunch we rolled up to the visitors centre. The paved walkway had been closed as they had seen lions there early that morning. To describe the next incident in brief, myself and Nick were at the edge of the car park, myself trying to take pictures
Serengeti MigrationSerengeti MigrationSerengeti Migration

and the chief said "Death by Bongo"
of Rock Hyraxes, when a lioness jumped out of the nearest bush. As we sprinted towards the truck the lion thankfully sprinted off in the other direction. To cut a long story short, this gave us a real feel for just how close a large animal can get without being seen.

Which of course made the next incident even more "amusing". On the way out of the park we had seen a pride of lions lying on top of a large rock. This of course was a wonderful sight and the drivers were encouraged to try to get closer. This resulted in the truck ending up with one of the back wheels firmly jammed in a deep ditch off the road. Bugger. We started digging it out from underneath the truck in order to get the sand traps and rocks in place. As I emerged I looked at the rocks and the lions had gone. This, I think, gave everyone an uneasy feeling, although of course we couldn't see them in the grass around. I don't think there was any real danger but it gave an edge to the proceedings. After a few goes we realised we were probably not going to be able to push out ourselves, although it was close. Most vehicles passing were not large enough to tow us. One guy in a big van stopped, agreed to tow us, and then in true "lets play a joke on the hitchhiker" style drove off. By this time Kim and Ellie were clearly getting frustrated, and stood in the middle of the road to prevent the next truck from passing. They used their feminine charms to plead with the driver, whilst our driver sneakily attached our towing cable to the back of his truck. At this point a safari vehicle stopped (they couldn't pass anyway) and started aggressively giving the truck driver hell for stopping to help us. The suffering driver simply responded - these guys are blocking the road and I'm already hooked up - what am I going to do ? It was really quite incredible to see the utter lack of charity from this safari driver - to be honest I'm sure his clients were more than happy to watch the proceedings, given it was probably a lot more interesting than driving round a vast empty game park anyway. Even with the extra truck we only just made it, and I think without our preparations we probably wouldn't have, the towing truck not having enough power to pull us on its own.

On the way out of the park we passed through the migration of Wildebeest and Zebra, which was extremely impressive. We drove for 20km through wildebeest as far as the eye could see on both sides of the road.

The long afternoon drive up to the Ngorongoro Crater was spectacular, through high mountains and scenic Masai villages (some no doubt real, some no doubt positioned for the tourists). Our wild campsite looked over the crater and thankfully this time it didn't rain. A pleasant night was spent around the campfire before the morning game drive in 4x4's. That night we were awoken by the thundering of running feet, a twang as something hit our guy-line, and the sound of the feet receding into the distance. We had the sides of our tent rolled up and Kim said she thought it was an elephant (very common here). I got out to go to the toilet and the armed security guard came and said "wild pig". Thankfully for my will power it was now safe to go to the toilet.

The next day dawned cloudy and moody, which I believe enhanced our trip to the crater. Mist rolled down the crater walls forming cadaverous fingers in the ravines. The whole thing looked a lot like Scotland, but with lions and elephants. This drive was probably one of the highlights of the trip for many people, and I was happy just sitting on top of the vehicle taking in the scenery, although we also saw a fair old bit of game.

We took two nights to recover at the "Snake Park" campsite. Suffice to say that after a morning visit to a Masai village and an afternoon visit to Arusha, which took several hours longer than scheduled, we didn't feel rested at all. The Masai visit was very thought provoking. Unlike the Turkana we had visited in Kenya, the long hands of Western civilization have very definitely reached the Masai. The trip started with a museum tour with a village mockup that would do any western museum proud. This really helped us to understand the Masai culture and way of life, which in many ways is/was very noble. Perhaps like the Australian aboriginals we have a lot to learn from them. The village visit was more ambiguous however. There were lots of kids, and we played with them a lot; ring-a-ring of roses; the incongruous sight of Nick running round a Masai hut being chased by several little ones; I span one little kid around in the air so much that I knew he was going to have problems when I put him down, and I also knew he didn't know this. Sure enough he started to walk away giggling and then staggered sideways at an alarming rate. Thankfully I was on hand to catch him.

That was the kids. The adults, mainly women, were less welcoming, and there was a clear sense that they felt they were prostituting themselves ... which of course didn't stop them asking for more money - rubbing their thumbs across their palms when the guides weren't looking. Even the one I found who was welcoming and was happy to have me play with her baby still couldn't resist the cry for money as I got up to leave. I guess we all left in a thoughtful mood understanding that very simply that is what continued contact with capitalism does ... it robs you of your self-respect. Had they been accepting of the deal - you pay us, we put on a show - then there wouldn't have been a problem ... but with this village something was wrong somewhere.

I guess the US$420 we were quoted for a small ebony giraffe at one of the better shops in Arusha indicates just how much tourist money is knocking around in Tanzania, and maybe these Masaii felt they weren't getting enough of the action, despite the fact that the Snake Park seems to have made a good attempt to make a sensitive tourist attraction with them.

A long 13 hour day got us to a beach campsite near the centre of Dar-es-Salaam. Hot and humid, the poor cook crew, of which Kim was one, suffered with the lack of sea-breeze, as the cooking area was sheltered behind the bar. We took a beach hut and kept the door open in order to try to temper the oven-like conditions somewhat.

And then to Zanzibar, where the sea-breezes helped to cool the temperatures. I suffered my first bout of "Africa" (Kim had suffered in Nakuru) which was good because we had a cool room to sleep in, but bad because everyone else has been eating great food and carousing into the night. After about 36 hours of starvation I forced myself to go diving on the Mnemba atoll and after two great dives I felt a lot better and started to eat again. So exhilarated were we that we sat on the front of the boat for half an hour on the way back, and of course got demon sunburn ... doh .... so today is a resting day sitting inside and typing this up (whilst Kim is out windsurfing). At least I can now eat - the fish curry last night was exquisite.

And tomorrow we go back to Dar, rejoin the truck and the truck routine, and after saying goodbye to some really great characters who leave us here, head back to the Tanzanian highlands on the road to Malawi.

Additional photos below
Photos: 18, Displayed: 18


6th February 2005

Best photos yet...
Your pictures are incredible, even the wonky lake! Looking forward to reading the incredible stories that no doubt go with them. - Martin. - Martin
8th February 2005

Amazing photos
Hi guys, looks like you are having an amazing time - i hope you are enjoying it as much as it looks! We are missing you here in Sheffield and looking forward to hearing all about the first section of you trip in April, keep having fun! - Jenny W
12th February 2005

Thought that would get your attention (sorry Steve and Margaret). I am missing you both. I think that your pictures look fab and I am very jealous of your trip but so glad that you are having a great time. Looking forward to seeing ypu in April. As I write this me and Lou and Andy and Al are having a little tipple of G and T. Take care and we promise not to trash your house any more (p.S we have demolished the kitchen and built you a conservatory) Jaimie xxx - Jaimie
28th September 2005

Great journal
I took the Kenya/Tanzania leg of this trip with Exodus this September. It's great to read another journal to compare memories and insights of places. Thanks. :)
10th November 2005

beautiful! ur pix brought back all the memories of home! thanx!
14th March 2010

this is super cool im doing a project for school and i was wondering what africa looked like and i found my answer here!!!!! the is the coooollest
13th January 2011
Lake Victoria

hey i love the pic i am doing a project in school about it it is the most beautiful lake every.
8th March 2011
Lake Victoria

Lake Victoria
Really fantastic, thanks.
31st March 2011
Lake Victoria

I like the fresh water fish from lake victoria coz are so fresh and tasty. The environment around the lake is so natural and so cool. Lake victoria is the place to be for holidays and its make me proud to be a Kenyan. Loved 2 be born around the lake. Kisumu city yawa
12th July 2012

really great pics keep on the hard work

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