A Travellerspoint blog

September 2018

Kilimanjaro Day 1- Machame

Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

This portion of my blog is from the journal I kept (on paper) while climbing. Some of the thoughts I had at various points may seem like premonitions, foreboding, or irony given later events, but this is what I was thinking at that time. If it seems as if my mood is like the Katy Perry song Hot and Cold, that's because it truly was.
We got a good look at the outskirts of Arusha on the way to the mountain. In general, the main street area was lined with brightly-colored one-story shops, usually built of concrete. They had their names painted right on the building in big, bold letters, but they were also usually at least partly open so that you could see right inside as you passed, and check out the goods.
Many of them had names like "Glorious Luminosity gas shop" or "Praise Stationery," reminding me of some of the shop names in The Number One Ladies Detective Agency books.
Behind these shops, little shantytown streets stretched back some distance. Many of the homes were still corrugated metal. Occasionally, we would see another fancy building behind serious walls (like our hotel) and note that it was labeled also as a hotel or resort. I'm wondering if a lot of the tour companies put people up in places like this just as a stopover. There's not much to do in the surrounding area other than visit the little shops, so I would guess tourists don't really leave the compound. As long as they're not leaving, the location doesn't matter too much, and so the tour companies can save money by putting tourists up for a night well out of town. The hotel makes an extra killing overcharging for food as there aren't any options nearby. Ours even had a warning sign in the room letting us know that we were not allowed to bring in outside food because the hygiene was likely lacking in the nearby shops.
One of the ways the barbershops we passes advertised their services was either painted-on pictures or photos of various hairstyles they could give. Many of the pictures were of celebrities, which is a typical way of advertising. But I was amused to see Justin Timberlake and David Beckham among the other celebrities at one shop, given that their hair type is so drastically different from everybody I've seen here (except tourists).
Another quirk I found interesting is that seemingly almost every shop had a wakala, mpesa, tigo, or vodaphone logo out front. These are all logos related to cell phone services and mobile money. Using phones for payment has clearly leapfrogged credit cards here.
At one point, the road became divided. Somebody was slowly driving the wrong way down the road. Several drivers who were driving in the correct direction slowed and there were several places he could have used to turn around and fix himself, but he kept on driving the wrong way down the divided highway as if going slowly made it ok.
For the past several days, we've been on safari and driving over very bumpy and uneven dirt roads. The smoothness of the city streets feels like such a drastic contrast compared with that.
We left the main town and entered an area with more jungle or forest and green with the occasional large house behind a fence before entering more agricultural areas with lots of cornfields. I also noticed cabbage, peppers, coffee, chickens, and crops that I couldn't identify. The scenery for most of the rest of the drive alternated between agricultural areas and small towns set up as we've previously seen. Some of them also had some light industry visible from the main road, mostly cement block making and furniture making (by hand). The finished goods were just sitting in the yard, waiting to be admired from the road and covered in dust as there didn't seem to be any warehouse to hold them.
In addition to furniture-making by hand, the agriculture seemed to be by-hand as well. People picked weeds or tended fields, but I didn't see tractors or much heavy farm equipment. Most of the fields were too small for the heavy equipment to really be practical anyway.
Some of these small farms had cows. After days of seeing large Masai herds of tiny nomadic animals, seeing a single large cow in a fenced enclosure was quite the contrast.
We made a stop at a gas station so that the crew members could get something to eat, but also for us to pick up some last minute snacks for the mountain. We already had some snacks, but it's better to be safe than sorry. We had heard that you lose your appetite as you climb higher, but of course you need as much energy as you can get to continue. So, we bought snacks that answered the question: what would I want to eat no matter how full I was? Of course, they didn't have my reduced fat Skippy, but they dad have spicy banana chips, cashews, and a plastic container of mango pickle. Glass would have been bad for weight and breakability reasons. My partner got oreos and juice.
Finally, we got our first glimpse of Kilimanjaro, after almost a week in Tanzania. We couldn't really see the top, as the clouds blocked that from view, but we at least saw the base of the impetus for this trip.
Shortly, we passed an unassuming sign in the middle of a cornfield welcoming us to Kilimanjaro National Park, but it was no larger or bolder than the signs we had passed for various schools, so it was quite easy to miss.
Despite being inside the park, we still passed signs that people live here. Corn fields, cultivated fields blooming with red flowers, coffee plantations, and banana trees dominated what scenery wasn't cut off from view by lines of woods along the road. Scattered homes and eventually a small town showed that people continued about their normal lives near the base of the mountain.
As we got closer to the entrance to the climb, I spotted a fancy mega church next to a building with a prominent ATM in what looked like an either soon-to-be hotel or a rundown hotel. Other rundown buildings looked as if they once may have been popular hotels or lodges, and I wonder what drove them out of business, considering their prime in-park location.
As the van climbed toward the dropoff point, I could already feel the air starting to cool a bit. And then, we had arrived.
We waited in a picnic shelter as the porters unloaded the van and started organizing the bags. Our chef, George (King George, as everyone seems to have a nickname), brought us lunch that consisted of eggs, juice, and mostly carbs. While others seemed to have those lunchboxes that we'd been having on safari, our lunch was presented on a platter and we had plates and silverware to eat with. It wasn't necessary at this point, but it did feel fancy.
A couple of cats roamed the picnic area, looking for scraps, and my partner made sure to pet the cats and get them chicken bones from other groups' trash.
I observed the other tourists as we all waited for our groups to take off. Everybody had pretty professional gear. Nobody seemed unprepared. I haven't even seen this much performance clothing at a gym. I heard dozens of languages as this was truly an international group. One group from Malaysia had "Kili over 50" t-shirts as it consisted just of older folks. Another group had an Irish flag. (There was actually a vendor selling flags out front, in case you forgot yours at home.) A French lady stood outside the pavilion and smoked.
Seriously. I half-jokingly wondered if her plan for dealing with the low oxygen at altitude was to just quit smoking on day 2 so her lungs healed and handled better.
We signed in to the mountain at the ranger station, as we would do to each site each day, and waited some more.
I used the last restroom I expected to use for days. It had running water and flush toilets, but the toilets didn't actually flush and one was missing a seat, so they weren't that great. But they had toilet paper, so that was good.
We waited some more.
The government has imposed strict rules for the porters- each is only allowed to carry up to 20 kg, and they have to get weighed. Depending on the size of the group, there might be 10 or more porters. So, it takes a long time for all the porters from all of the groups to get weighed.
Finally, we were off into the jungle.
As soon as we rounded the first bend from the entrance gate, we saw porters sitting in groups along the side of the road, rearranging their bags. Apparently, it is typical practice to somehow sneak in a bit of extra weight and rearrange just out of view of the rangers.
porters rearranging

porters rearranging


As we trekked through the jungle, we saw some monkeys, impatiens violets, and some impatiens that are endemic to Kilimanjaro. We heard hyrax? or some sort of tree mammal.
kilimanjaro flower

kilimanjaro flower


The path was mostly dirt and mud, retained by pieces of wood. Periodically, a break in the path would allow for water flow (during the rainy season) to cross only in specific locations.
It was a generally nice path, although somebody was eating some sort of candy and littering wrappers like they were Hansel and Gretel and needed to find a way out. My partner picked them up and we sort of hoped to find out who it was so that we could return their trash to them.
At first, we were going at a good pace and were actually passing some groups. Of course, the porters were passing us much faster. Our assistant guide, James (007), was walking with us while the main guide was doing something with the porters. After a while, we started slowing and people passed us. It's not a race and I was only using them as a reference way to know how we were doing. I was carrying way too much in my daypack, but nobody had checked the weight until significantly into our hike, when James took my water bottles to help me along. Eventually, my back hurt and he ended up taking the whole bag, even though I hadn't asked. I was sweating profusely, so my wicking clothes were wet. Yet, I was still hot and sweating more as it started to get dark and everybody else added layers.
jungle path

jungle path


We had been walking through green jungle filled with moss, ferns, and tall trees. It started to get dark, but then we exited into the mooreland and got some extra light.
Our main guide had rejoined us, and even had some porters come down from camp to help carry our stuff. They also brought us light as even in the mooreland, we would not make camp by nightfall. But, by this point, I had pushed myself too far.
Even with hiking poles and no bag, I was taking a lot of breaks. At some points, my partner was literally pushing my back, helping me up the hill. (He's the best.)
Eventually, we made it to Machame Camp, ~3km altitude.
We actually had a great camp site, a bit isolated from the larger groups, but we had to walk past it in order to get to the ranger station to check in.
At the check in point, I could barely hold the pen to write my name. I was sweating and freezing at the same time. By the time we got to the food tent, my temperature regulation was way off. Even though food was ready and I was encouraged to eat, I absolutely had to get out of my wet clothes and into something dry and warm immediately. Food could wait.
Once dry and warm, we settled in for dinner. I could barely eat anything beyond zucchini soup and hot cocoa. I was so exhausted and starting to seriously doubt my capabilities here, but also hoping that a lighter bag would make the hike easier. I didn't need most of my daypack items in my daypack every day, and I could pack differently- like only taking snacks for the one day and not all of them. Still, I questioned my sanity and was pretty confident that I wasn't going to make it another day on the mountain.
We had already seen some people turn back, and I wasn't so sure they were wrong.
I settled in for sleep in thermal shirt and pants, sweatpants, a fleece, a hat, the mummy bag and a liner. Quickly, I realized I needed 2 pairs of socks and gloves in order to sleep comfortably. Other than getting up to pee, I slept very well.
The toilet tent has a chemical toilet that "flushes" by pulling a lever to release the waste into the bottom portion. It smells like chemicals, which is a lot better than waste. It zips shut and has a little wall pouch for toilet paper. Still, depending on how cold the night is, the paper can get cold and damp. Maybe it's an odd thing to notice, but both at the hotels and camp, the paper has been 2 or 3 ply. As everything these days seems to be "quilted" or fluffy, it sort of feels like a 90s throwback to have toilet paper with a ply count.

Posted by spsadventures 03:56 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

From Safari to Climb

Arusha, Tanzania

This morning, we slept in a bit and awoke without an alarm. I got organized a bit and then went out on the front porch to just enjoy the view. I didn't expect any wildlife, but what looked like a black mongoose crossed the yard. Too bad Eli wasn't here to see it, or he would have easily been able to identify it for me. It's cool and breezy, so the trees rustling provides a nice white noise. I can still hear the cars passing on the main road, but they sound further away than they actually are. Also, the occasional rooster crows, and I think I hear a cow mooing.
hotel view

hotel view


One thing that surprised me is that we forgot to put the mosquito net around the bed last night, but didn't get bit at all. Actually, I haven't seen any mosquitoes at all. And I haven't seen any "indoor wildlife" here. Given my experiences in St. Kitts, I'm pretty amazed at that.
Actually, this whole trip has been amazing- the scenery, the animals, Elyon tours, the glampsite. I just can't recommend this experience enough. We are already thinking about what else we want to see and do next time, when we come back. And for those who know me or have followed my long blog, there are very few places I have been that I ever feel the need to go back to, so that should tell you how special Tanzania is.
The drive back to Arusha was pretty uneventful, although I really enjoyed watching the people go about their business in the small towns. The shops are all painted in bright colors and partly open so that you can see some of their wares.
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We arrived at Summit Safari Lodge, the hotel for Climb Kili, and said goodbye to Eli. Now begins the impetus for this whole adventure- climbing Kilimanjaro.
The hotel has very nice grounds, but it's set in a bit of a ramshackle neighborhood. It's high walls and guard at the gate make you forget that though. However, there is a paper in the room warning guests not to eat food from nearby shops and telling them it's actually forbidden to bring in outside food as the hygiene level is unknown. That didn't stop us from eating our box lunch though.
In case I hadn't mentioned it, each day that we've been on safari the hotels where we spent the night before has packed a box lunch for us. It literally comes in a cardboard box. They fill it with a drink, some sort of dessert, and whatever meal items strike their fancy and give it to the guide on the way out. All of the food was tasty, but none was spectacular. My favorite of all the items were the samosas, but other examples of lunchbox items are: pancakes, bananas, sandwiches, hard boiled eggs, fried chicken, spaghetti, and mango juice box.
Our ClimbKili briefing began in the afternoon and they explained to us what we needed to do (and not do) as well as bring (and not bring). I also got a chance to chat with a couple of guys who had just come down the mountain to pick up some tips and perspective.
We ate dinner at the hotel and got organized for the trip.
Wish us luck!

Posted by spsadventures 14:24 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Ngorongoro

Ngorongoro, Tanzania

In the middle of the night, we were startled awake by a deep roaring sound followed by some sort of barking and another deep grumble. Clearly, some predator had found their prey, right near our tent. In the morning, the people who knew animal sounds informed us that was a lion attacking a buffalo.
Despite the interruption, we awoke before sunrise without an alarm, even though ours was set for 5:30 so we could make it to 6am breakfast and get an early start on the day. Breakfast was tasty, although simple- eggs, crepe pancakes, buns and some meats. Afterwards, we were incredibly lucky to be able to watch the sun come up over the horizon. The colors are amazing, and the tree silhouettes created by the angle of the light just add to the beauty.
sunrise over the serengeti

sunrise over the serengeti


Less than a minute after we left the glamp site, we started to see wildlife. The plains abounded with Thompsons gazelle munching grass, zebras barking away, and topi running around in play. Behind a bunch of these, two secretary birds sat atop a tree, preening. These birds have amazing crests. I want to know who does their hair and get mine done like that!
secretary birds

secretary birds


We saw a hyena hiding in some grass, watching some gazelle. And then we spotted a spotted a hyena walking down the road. His belly was huge, so he must have eaten his fill pretty recently.
hyena

hyena


We caught a glimpse of some dikdik running away from us as a goose sat and watched.
All this was within about 20 minutes of when we left the camp. As the dirt roads are very bumpy and uneven, this is not a very large distance.
Every few minutes, we stop and see something else amazing. This place is incredible!
Hippos stay in the water during the day, but at night and early in the morning, they come out to eat grass. We saw a couple of them out for a snack. One of them had ox pecker birds sitting on his back as if he was just a big rock.
lion

lion


A couple of minutes later, we caught sight of two lions. One was sittting under a copse of trees while the other walked towards her.
A herd of impala blocked the road as we passed near a ranger post, marked by a huge antenna or pole sticking up out of the bush. Nearby, there's a tiny little airport, right in the middle of the savannah. The planes are small there, but they fly to nearby cities. Overhead, two hot air balloons floated past. I'm sure they had an amazing view. Maybe we'll splurge for that next time.
One thing that amazes me is how our guide gets us anywhere. There are tons of dirt roads that all look the same to me, and no signs at 90% of the junctions. The ones that do have signs usually have signs that say things like "danger" or a bridge weight limit and not street names or directions to a lodge. I would get so lost if I tried to navigate myself. Meanwhile, Eli is capable of quickly driving over the bumpy, uneven road, while keeping a keen eye out for interesting wildlife, and turning at just the right places. And the guides can't just memorize one route. We came upon one area of mud that was impassable. So Eli backed up, turned around, and found us another way to wherever we were going.
He found us a cluster of safari vehicles watching a mama cheetah out with her four cubs. For a while she was calmly walking on the road as they followed. As more and more vehicles joined he audience, she moved off the road and into the grass. But as the grass was taller than the cubs, they had to hop in order to follow her. So here she is, calmly strolling through the golden savannah, in a most dignified manner, with a bunch of kittens hippity hopping around following her.
cheetah

cheetah


In general, the dirt roads were wide enough for vehicles to pass. But at one point, we came to a road that only had ruts wide enough for one vehicle. Bushes lined either side of the road. Of course, there are no directives or one way signs out here, so when we came upon another vehicle from the opposite direction, he had to back up a bit until our driver could find a low enough bank to climb and wait as the other vehicle passed by. Then, we could continue on.
We saw a pair of trees containing a vulture and another lilac breasted roller, then two in the same tree.
bird on plant

bird on plant


We keep having good luck with big cats. We saw another lioness on top of one of the big piles of rock like they have in the Lion King. And then she went to hide in the bushes.
I saw a red and yellow barbet perched on a branch. Some superb sterlings fluttered about as we passed them. And then there he was- adult simba. A big lion with a large mane walked along the horizon line before plopping himself down in the grass to survey his territory.
We had the opportunity to see a bustard, the biggest flying bird in Africa. Some blackwing stilts dug for bugs in a marsh nearby.
The grassland road we took towards the exit was less busy than the greener area we had spent the early morning. There were no marshes for water, and eventually no trees for shade. Still, we saw quite a few birds as we bumped our way along the road. We also saw another hyena strolling through grass up to its belly and Thompsons gazelles munching on the short grass.
I'm starting to get good at identifying the different animals. The Thomspons gazelles are smaller than the Grants, but bigger than the impala, and have stripes on their sides. We saw more of them hanging out by a bunch of hot beasts, which I still can't tell apart from topis though.
We made a quick stop at the Serengeti park "entrance" where we ate lunch yesterday. The spot still teemed with superb starlings. Then, we continued back across the plains with endless short yellow grass where no trees or scrub broke the infinite pale golden ground. The only difference between one minute and the next were the herds we occasionally passed.
At the park border, the scenery is still the same. As soon as you leave the park though, you are in the Ngorongoro conservation area, as they abut each other. The road is just as bumpy and rumbly as the grassland plains area inside the park. Really, you pretty much vibrate the whole way. I am super impressed with the guys who designed the Toyota Landcruisers as I don't know how the vehicle doesn't just shake apart. A suggestion for the ladies who might plan on taking a trip like this: wear a good bra, even a sports bra if you have a comfortable one. The various dirt roads alternate between an unevenness that causes large sideways rocking, bumpy that causes just general jostling, and an odd pattern that causes constant vibration.
Slowly, Masai and their herds and villages start creeping into the monotonous landscape. The occasional tree appears. Then, the mountains off in the distance grow and grow, until you're right next to them.
As we neared them, I saw a vertical discoloration off in the distance. I thought it might be smoke from a Masai village, but it was too straight. I thought it might just be the way the light was pouring through a hole in the clouds, but the clouds were normal and not shaped for that. Then they were identified as sand devils- sort of a mini tornado that had picked up a bunch of dust.
We passed them and the vehicle began the climb up the mountain. The scenery now alternated between areas that consisted of lots of close together scrubby trees and bushes and areas of short grass with virtually nothing else. The animal life was limited to giraffe, Masai herds, and some birds until we passed a large lake, where we also saw ostrich and impala.
We got a great view on Ngorongoro crater from the entrance point, and then proceeded down. The guide explained that since this is really a collapsed volcano top and not from a meteor, it's technically a caldera and not a crater.
crater

crater


On the way down, we saw a patch of yellow flowers, which were some of the first flowers we have seen this whole trip. I guess it's just not flower season now. A few of the cactus trees also had some yellow at the tips, which may have been flowers. As we descended we saw maybe 10 different kinds of tiny flowers, although they were still few and far between.
The entrance road is pretty narrow, twisty, uneven, and generally treacherous. The vehicle swayed side to side as we bumped slowly along at a speed I probably could have walked. I noticed that some of the rock walls were an interesting turquiose blue color, but I'm not sure what mineral made them that way. Also, about halfway down we started seeing the herds. They were there all along, but too far away to see them from the top.
Once we got even closer, could identify the animals as more than black dots. The first animals we saw were some buffalo catching shade under a tree that was filled with weavers' nests. On a much closer tree, we saw the weavers flitting about their nests.
buffalo

buffalo


A red winged lark whistled from a nearby tree.
And then, we got to the bottom and the flood of wildlife. We saw anteater chats, a warted starling sitting on a zebra's back, eating bugs. We saw a bunch of crowned cranes, the national bird of Uganda that is on their flag. We saw a seemingly endless amount of zebras, warthogs, buffalo, Grants gazelle, and wildebeest all mixed in with each other, and all munching on grass or just standing there, dumb.
warthog DSCF2153

warthog DSCF2153


We saw both female and male ostriches, and even got to hear the male calling to the female ostrich. We saw several lone bull elephants.
birds on zebras

birds on zebras


We ate lunch amongst the animals. It was surreal to look up from a bite and see Wildebeest fighting.
As we moved to more wetland and lake areas of the park, we spotted flamingos in the alkaline lake. Nearby, wildebeest honked. Turning around to look at a smaller pond, we spotted some Egyptian geese with babies, stork, eversets, and ducks. Then, some flamingos from the big lake flew overhead and joined the small pond party.
flamingo

flamingo


Here, both hyenas and jackalls roamed the fields freely. They were out in the open, not hiding, and it didn't bother any of the herd animals.
hyena

hyena


We saw several groups of lions, although they were all just sleeping or sunbathing. At one site, I actually thought one was dead at first.
sleeping lion

sleeping lion


We also caught a few different groups of hippos. Most weren't doing much. They sat submerged in the water, maybe spashing water on themselves rarely. But the group by the restrooms was super active. They made noise and snorted. One got up a few times. Periodically they all popped their heads up to look around, before resubmerging themselves.
Near one of these water holes, we also saw some egrets and pelicans.
bird in a tree

bird in a tree


And we did get to see one of the rarer animals- a rhino. He was a bit far away, but at least he was moving. He took a nice walk through the brush and then out into the open, just for us.
We passed some eland and bustards before happening upon a group of olive baboons. The group contained some babies, but some of the large adults were more amusing. One of them kept charging around like he was angry or something.
On the way out of the park, we caught sight of some Guinea fowl and two different types of jackal, right in a row- the black backed jackal and the golden jackal. And of course we passed through many of the same herd animals we had been constantly seeing the whole time.
animals DSCF2281

animals DSCF2281


We climbed back up through the jungled walls of the caldera/crater and drove to the exit point, where our guide had to check out. Right by the exit point, we saw a family of baboons, but they scattered as we tried to slowly approach.
We returned to the same Green Hills Lodge as two nights ago. Like last time, it seems like we are the only ones here, although this time we did see another couple and their guide at dinner. Our guide explained that the high season is over as European vacations are over and that they try to put their guests in locations that aren't too crowded.
As last time, the service here is impeccable. The food is good. Most importantly, it is clean, quiet, and beautiful.
Since we're near the end of the safari portion of the trip, I'd like to give mad props to our guide, Eli from Elyon tours. He was perfect for us. He is very knowledgeable and was able to answer all but one our hundreds of questions. For the single question that he didn't know, he was honest and said so instead of feeding us b.s. I really appreciate that. He is AMAZING at animal and plant and bird identification. Seriously, I think he memorized an encyclopedia or something. And he wasn't too chatty, which was perfect for us. We like looking at the animals and scenery in relative serenity. Ok, maybe sometimes quiet plus the sound of the engine rumbling or the car chugging down the road, but still, not lots of mindless chatter. He would give us the explanation we needed, answer our questions, and let us enjoy what we were looking at and the feeling of being semi-alone in the middle of nowhere. He didn't feel the need to fill every second with noise, like some guides I've had in other places. He was one of the reasons that we really enjoyed the tour and we strongly recommend him for anybody who wants to go on safari in Tanzania.

Today's animal summary: Thompsons gazelle, zebra, topi, secretary bird, hyena, dikdik, goose, hippopotamus, ox pecker, lion, impala, cheetah, vulture, lilac breasted roller, red and yellow barbet, superb starling, bustard, blackwing stilt, buffalo, weaver, red winged lark, anteater chat, warted starling, zebra, crowned cranes, warthogs, Grants gazelle, wildebeest, ostrich, elephant, flamingo, Egyptian geese, stork, eversets, flamingos, ducks, egret, pelican, rhino, eland, guinea fowl, black backed jackal, golden jackal, olive baboon, cattle.
Spelling and grammar will be fixed and good pictures added when I have my laptop.

20180910_161626.jpg

Posted by spsadventures 03:16 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Serengeti

Serengeti, Tanzania

We began the day with a nice but simple breakfast at the hotel. We packed and hopped into the vehicle to get an early start on the day.
Perhaps due to the altitude, it was actually a bit chilly this morning. We were good in pants and a t-shirt or light long sleeve, but a lot of the locals wore hats and coats.
Yesterday, we were in Tarangire, which is a national park. This means that it is only for the animals and no people can live there. Today, we're starting by cutting through Ngorongoro Conservation area. This area allows Masai to live along slide the animals because they don't hunt them. Other tribes are forbidden because many of them like wild game meat and would hunt the animals.
masai with herds

masai with herds


The entrance has a little introduction area, with a 3-D map of the territory as well as signs and pictures explaining the geology, animals, and people of the area. It also has a gift shop and free wifi, which is where I posted yesterday's blog from.
The scenery at the entrance to the park is drastically different than the scenery yesterday. We are in more of a jungle than savannah. Dense green brush and trees line the red mud road. The color scheme here is not golden and light green, it is deep rust and bright forest green.
As we got higher up the mountain, we entered the fog. All we could see past the nearby brush was a big field of white.
Once we were back in the sun, we could see over the edge and into the crater a bit. We got a glimpse of the lake and a bunch of the in-park lodging.
Upon exiting the forested area, we entered into a hilly grassland area. Zebras and cows grazed by the road side. Eventually, we entered another yellow grassland area where we could see a large lake below and several Masai villages nearby. Just like yesterday, the people wore their traditional cloths and drove cattle. I had thought to describe them as a sort of Tanzanian Amish because they don't mix and modernize. Except, today I saw a herder texting on her cell phone.

As we traveled, we saw some steamrollers maintaining the dirt road. They weren't laying anything down, just compacting what was there. Haha. Steamrolls.
We continued driving through the Ngorongoro area, and saw gazelle, wildebeest, and a giraffe close to a lake as well as a buzzard in a tree. We also passed more Masai with their herds and one of the more commercialized Masai tourist villages.
road to lake

road to lake


The trees in this area are rather scrubby. I can't tell what color they naturally are, as all are covered in dust, so they are the same brown as the road.
As we passed from area to area, the landscape slowly changed. We'd be in a section with golf-course-short yellow grass where you could see for mes that there was pretty much nothing else, and then intermittent scrub appeared. Slowly the scrub turned to umbrella trees or got denser and we'd be in an entirely different landscape. Which might fade to desert scrub again.
Somewhere in the midst of this, we stopped at a Masai village. They speak Ma, and some of the younger ones speak Swahili as the government requires it in school now. One guy spoke English as well, so he was our guide.
We were welcomed by a song performed by a group of adults wearing traditional clothes. We learned that the women in blue were married and the red ones were still not.
After the song, we entered the village and shook hands with the chief. This man was very old and I'm not sure how coherent he was. He may have been a model chief.
The same individuals who sang to us, then performed a dance. The men jumped. In their culture, the higher you can jump, the better you are considered as a mate. For women, the better you dance, the more you're considered a good mate. But you're not really dancing for your peers, you're dancing for their parents as marriages are arranged.
Next, we got to watch how they make fire from cypress and camphor sticks, then dump it into dried grass to catch. We even got to try it ourselves.
masai fire

masai fire


They invited us into a model house to show off typical household items, and then into a real person's house to see how they live.
The walls are made of sticks cemented together with mud. The roof is straw and sticks. It is not tall enough for us to stand straight up, so we had to stoop. We sat on a cot made of sticks and cow hide as we listened to our guide tell us about their family life.
We exited to look at the handicraft goods for sale. The women are famous for turning little glass beads the beads into large pieces of jewelry.
Actually, the women do a lot. They build the homes (although the men bring back the sticks). They take care of the village. They haul water. The kids take care of the cattle. So I asked what the men (who are all considered warriors if they're 15-35) do. The guide said that the men do the dangerous outside work because it's too dangerous for the women. (Except the women still have to go out to get water and it's safe enough for their kids to herd their cattle there.) Masai don't hunt. Men gather sticks and protect the village. I'm not quite sure what that entails as there are not really proper wars going on now.
As my partner purveyed the wood carvings, the guide asked if I'd like to join the Masai, now that I've seen their lifestyle. I jokingly asked how good the wifi in the village was. But the joke fell flat as his response was "what is wifi?"
Despite being open to tourists, the village children are not that familiar with them. One toddler was looking at me, and so I went over to offer to take a picture with her. She started crying because I was so scary, apparently I'm too light. Another group of toddlers waved to me, but when I waved back, they ran in the house. I think that last one is a universal game anywhere though.
We saw a few other demonstrations, like the schoolhouse. It was tiny and only one room, with two rows of kids who must have been kindergarten age. I guess all of the older kids are out with the herds.
Another demo was spear throwing, although they gave us a blunted spear to try. I was actually not bad and at least I hit something.
One part of the village I got to see that a lot of people skip is the toilet. The hut containing the toilet is outside of the main village by a short walk. The hut is made of sticks, like the houses in the village, except it is much bigger. There are rocks surrounding a hole in the ground. And that's it.
Masai village

Masai village


We moved on from the Masai village and into short grassland plains before entering savannah areas. The word Serengeti means endless plain, and that's what we saw. Plains as far as the eye could see. No mountains, no trees, just grass and more grass. The only sense of perspective came from tiny dots in the distance that were animals.
infinite serengeti

infinite serengeti


This section contained lots of Thompson's gazelles and Grant's gazelles as well as lark flocks that scattered as we passed.
gazelle

gazelle


We entered a different section of the park that was more savannah. The savannah at least has scattered trees to provide a visual contrast.
Here, we stopped for lunch at one of the picnic areas. We didn't get to eat lunch with zebras like yesterday, but we were surrounded by plenty superb starlings. Superb is part of their name, not just how I want to describe their irridescent blue color.
superb starling

superb starling


At this picnic area, we climbed a short hill to get an amazing view of the serengeti. It was still flat plains as far as we could see.
At the top, we saw these amazing red-headed agama lizards. They are such a bright pink and purple that they seem more like a kid's toy than a real animal.
colorful agama lizard

colorful agama lizard


When we climbed down, the real game drive began.
We quickly found a group of several lions, one of whom was sleeping belly up in the middle of the grass.
lions

lions


We watched ostriches, an eagle, and saw a new type of antelope called a hot beast, as well as plenty more gazelle. Up until this point, we were still driving with the top down because the roads were extremely dusty.
As we got into a bit muddier area, we put the roof up so that we could stand and see everything. Shortly after, we saw another new antelope- the topi.
The guides have some sort of cb system and I assume what they're using it for is to tell each other where the good animals are. So when one person finds something cool, like a cheetah, everyone nearby knows where to go. Or maybe the guides just see a group stopped and so they pop on by. Either way, we joined a bunch of other groups that were watching said cheetah. Really, the cheetah didn't do much. He just popped his head up a bit, but that was still really neat to see.
Now, we were in a savannah area with tall golden dried grasses and periodic large boulders or outcroppings. Here, we saw a jackal and on top of a tree saw a lapet faced vulture.
We then joined a big group of other safari vehicles that were parked near an acacia tree. Underneath, 6 lions lolled in satisfaction. One had assumed the belly-up sleeping position that we had seen already and see Sushi do at home all the time. Another was licking itself to clean itself, just like a housecat. And we also saw why they were so satisfied- they had just killed an warthog. One cat was playing with a tusk while occasionally nibbling from what was left of the meat. We observed the lions for quite some time, fascinated, before moving on.
We noticed these really cool-looking trees with some fruits that look like big sausages hanging from them. They are aptly called sausage trees.
Most of the day, we had been in golden grass. Towards the evening, we started to see more marsh area, where the grass is green and there was some small amount of water flow and mud. While the water is a bit too salty for the herd animals to flock to it the way they flocked to the watering holes yesterday, it still contains plenty of wildlife.
bird with dinner

bird with dinner


We spotted a black headed heron, some guinea fowl, and some fowlspar fowl. We spotted a pile of hippos sleeping in the mud. One was occasionally splashing water with its tail. I didn't know hippos had hairy snouts until seeing these. Also, hippos are very dirty. They poop in the water where they sleep and just keep sitting in the same water. Eventually, the water gets very poopy and smelly. Later in the day, we passed a section where hippos clearly had been, but were no longer, which we could tell by the smell.
hippo pile

hippo pile


This area also had some sort of volcanic geological formations that stuck up from the plains. These piles of big black rocks were created by volcanoes millions of years ago, and then eroded and rounded by the weather until they achieved today's shape.
Nearby, we saw a lone elephant. Then we followed our eyes to two more. And then the whole herd. Again, we saw a baby rolling around and playing today. These elephants were eating bushes. One was struggling to pick the bush it was trying to eat. We watched as it pulled this way and that for a while, sensing its frustration. Eventually, he got the bush and started chewing. These elephants were not afraid of us at all. They completely ignored us as they crossed the road only about 2 car lengths away from us.
elephant

elephant


Near another stream, we saw an Egyptian goose. As we stopped to take its picture, we noticed something moving across the stream on a rock. It was a family of monkeys! But these were no monkeys I had ever seen before. These are called blue ball monkeys for a very good reason. The males have huge blue balls. Not blueish- bright robins egg blue. I guess the whole point is that you can see these balls from very far away. They certainly do stand out.
adult blueball monkey

adult blueball monkey


The group contained one large male with his big blue balls, but also several females carrying around lots of babies. I'm guessing that his big blue balls are more than just for show. The babies hung from the underside of the moms as the moms made their way around. Other moms fed their babies. Some of the babies were playing with each other. This group of monkeys was fascinating to watch, and not just because of the blue balls.
youg blueball monkeys

youg blueball monkeys


I think that at this point, the guide was headed to our lodge. But still, we saw plenty of wildlife on the way, including a huge herd of giraffe, some crocodiles, zebra, more topi, and impala. The herd animals actually prefer this area as it has lots of new grass. Last year, this area had been selected for a controlled burn, so the tall grass no longer blocked the light from getting to new grass and was fertilizing the ground.
giraffe

giraffe


Elyon tours chose for us to spend tonight inside the park at Mbugani tented camp. Our "camp" is amazing. Really, I'm not sure I like any place I've ever stayed more, and that includes the 5-star hotels my company puts me up in for business trips.
This cannot be called camping. Sorry. It's glamping once the tents fit 2 queen beds, have electricity, and have indoor plumbing, including a proper flush toilet.
Upon arrival, we were greeted with a wet towel and a drink and asked to sit by the campfire for a description of the facilities. These included laundry service for those staying more than one night. One important item of note was that nobody is allowed to walk to/from their tent by themselves at night. If you need an escort to the main dining tent, they tell you to flash your flashlight and somebody will come get you.
We got settled in our spacious and luxurious room that just happened to have walls made of thick cloth instead of drywall or brick. We then came back to the dining tent for happy hour, where we chatted with lots of other well-travelled people. Then came dinner. First came a delicious soup course, followed by a high-quality buffet, served on plates with animal print rims. The placemats were Masai bead style. Everything was so incredibly amazing.
After dessert, I got an escort back to the tent.
"Do you see those eyes?" he asked.
No.
Finally, he pointed the flashlight at two sparkles in the dark. Eyes!!!
"That's a hyena," he informed me.
I have no clue how he knew, but that was one of the last animals we hadn't seen and expected we might see.
I actually wasn't quite sure which tent was mine. They all look the same and I didn't see any identifiers. So we just sort of walked towards the end of the row I knew we were in. I thought maybe the third one was ours and stood outiside discussing it with the escort. The guys inside helpfully let us know that it was not ours. So we tried the second one, which was also not ours, as the residents informed us. I checked the first, although I was pretty sure we weren't at the end of the row. Aha! We were the fourth cabin in and my fourth guess. Fourth try is the charm, right?
Before going to bed, we took another good look at the stars. Again, we could easily see the Milky Way with our bare eyes. I admit that I don't usually find stars too impressive, but looking up at that sky, I understand why pre-industrial societies were intrigued and enthralled.
As we closed our eyes, we were lulled into slumber by the soft chirps and croaks and other animal noises surrounding the tent.
So, today's summary is: zebra, cattle, wildebeest, giraffe, Thompsons gazelle, Grants gazelle, buzzard, lark, superb starling, red headed agama lizard, lion, ostrich, eagle, hot beast, topi, cheetah, jackal, black headed heron, guinea fowl, fowlspar fowl, lapet faced vulture, hippopotamus, elephant, Egyptian goose, blue ball monkey, crocodile, impala, and hyena eyes.
And of course, there were lots of birds that went unidentified. Really, there's far too much to take in here. More to find than can ever be found...

Posted by spsadventures 08:24 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

Tarangire

Tarangire, Tanzania

In the morning, we tried to pick up some more water at a supermarket or convenience store, but nothing near the hotel was open.
We checked out and met our guide and representative from our safari tour company- Elyon Tours.
After a brief introduction, we hopped into our safari vehicle and were on our way.
The vehicle is well-outfitted. It has charging ports, a mini fridge, wifi and convenience pockets. The seats are relatively comfortable and the vehicle is spacious, at least for just the 2 of us.
First, we passed through the outskirts of town, where we saw busy markets teeming with people. I got excited again to see many carrying things on their heads. These markets had tons of good-looking produce. I hope our next hotel has a kitchen and that we can take advantage of that.
The first stop we made was at the Aim mall supermarket for more water. While they provide a liter per person per day, I know I drink way more than that. This supermarket was very clean, had wide aisles, and looked like a fancy supermarket from abroad. In contrast to the markets in town, they had a cheese section, a deli, and even fresh scooped ice cream, none of which we got.
With our additional water in hand, we were once more on our way.
We took a quick look at a coffee plantation while our guide, Eli, explained the coffee process to us.
The next segment of the drive passed lots of agriculture with an occasional industrial zone. We saw a bunch of guys making cement blocks, amongst other things.
The whole way, plenty of people walked the road shoulders, or biked, or ran. Some kids drove cattle.
half modern masai

half modern masai

The scenery was interesting. We passed over many places that were clearly dried riverbeds. I guess that in the rainy season they are full, but not now. We also saw some crazy trees that looked like they had cacti for branches. The guide said these are cacti, but they look very different than cacti I've seen before.
cactus tree

cactus tree


We stopped by some Masai lands to take a non-touristy peek from afar into their lifestyle. Per the guide, they don't mix with other tribes because they don't want to lose their culture. That's also why they generally don't send their kids to school.
The guide said they mostly eat from their cattle and don't grow anything, but that the government has been encouraging them to diversify their diet. The village was saw had some corn planted nearby, but did appear to be in more of a grazing area. It was a bit difficult to see details of the houses from afar, but they appeared to be grey-brown, round huts made from dried grass.
masai village

masai village


We passed several more Masai villages, each with mostly round mud and plant-based huts, although some also had rectangular barn-looking buildings made from brick or cement and corrugated roofs. And we passed several more herders with their herds of mini-goats with tinkling bells.
For the most part, the Masai wore their sari/toga-like wraps. But a few had modern clothes, like a kid with the adidas sweatshirt over his wrap, or guys with jeans sticking out from the bottom of their wrap.
The scenery was very yellow and dry, although spotted with lots of green trees and these plants that stuck up high into the air. the guide said those were sisal, from agave cacti, like the kind they make tequila from.
6494ff80-c19e-11e8-8014-dd13e42c8f5a.jpg
Nanja is a Masai village that is a bit different from the others. It is a market town where Masai come to trade. So, non-Masai also live there. The buildings are all sturdy and look like they are made from painted concrete.
We saw a group of Masai boys that were wearing all black and had white painted faces. The guide explained that this group of boys is going through their circumcision ritual, which involves spending months separated from their families.
As we neared Tarangire park, we began to see wild animals. I wouldn't have known that they weren't Masai herds, but the guide has good eyes. We pulled over an in one spot saw a small group of wildebeest to the left and zebra to the right.
The main road we had been on was impressively well-paved. But once we turned off for Tarangire, it turned to gravel and it was good we were in a powerful vehicle. At points, the dust was so bad we had to pause due to the whiteout conditions.
Despite the dust kicked up by all of the vehicles, kids lined the side of the road, waving to us. We waved back. After several dozen, I asked the guide if there was a reason so many kids did this. It's because lots of people throw candy out to the kids. It's sort of like non-costumed , every day trick or treating. And it wasn't tourists that were throwing things. A school bus full of kids threw packages of cookies. And another bus of locals threw out some more treats.
We arrived at Tarangire National Park and took a quick bathroom break. It was free, but you were supposed to tip the attendant. The lady that was cleaning them was doing a very good job of making sure they were nice and had paper.
We looked around the entrance area. One clearing contained some skulls and bones from elephants, wildebeests, and other animals. I guess some park guides use the area for explaining something.
We climbed a large viewing tower to get an overview of the scenery nearby. The tower was full of students in their school uniforms also taking a look. Kids here are just like kids anywhere else. One was pranking his friends by walking around, holding his phone up and saying "selfie" and having people pose, then moving on to others to do the same. His phone was one of the old Nokia 12-button phones with no camera. But the modern instinct to pose for the camera when somebody says "selfie" is so strong that we noticed the phone only after we had smiled for the camera.
While we looked around, Eli put the top up on the vehicle. It pops up so that it still provides shade to the interior, but we can stand up and poke our heads out in order to see better. Really, they thought of everything with this vehicle.
One we had DEETed up, we were ready to go into the park.
About ten seconds into the park, we already saw our first animals- a herd of impala. We saw both a bachelor group eating in the shade, as well as a female group with their one male.
Next, we saw some bandit mongoose. They have stripes that make them look sort of like lithe armadillo from afar. Fortunately, we had both the binoculars that we brought and the really great ones from the tour company and so we got a really great look at them.
Next, we visited a watering hole and got super lucky. This spot had a wide variety of different animals, all happily drinking together. No species bothered the other and they each just kind of did their thing and ignored the other animals. Here, we saw our first elephants, as well as geese, wildebeests, impala, zebra, and giraffe.
zebras at waterhole

zebras at waterhole


The elephant herds must be very fertile as there were tons of babies and medium-small elephants. Our guide says that a whole bunch will get pregnant at the same time. They have their babies and nurse around 3 years (until the babies have tusks that hurt the moms while feeding.) Nobody has babies during this time. Then, they'll all get pregnant again and repeat the cycle.
elephants on parade

elephants on parade


One elephant was left behind as the herd moved on. We got to hear him trumpet "wait up" to the rest of the herd, and watch him run to catch up. This is so cool. These elephants are nothing like the ones in a zoo.
At another watering hole, a group of elephants drank, played in the mud, and scraped themselves on trees. When they left the hole, another group came by for the same thing. I was enthralled by the babies splashing and playing around as the adults calmly splashed water onto themselves with their trunks.
elephant mud bathing

elephant mud bathing


This drinking hole also had a lot of dragonflies that looked like little helicopters and some lapwing plovers. (I didn't know what a lapwing plover looked like before today, but our guide is really good and knows all of the animals.) We spotted our first warthogs here.
Our guide was really good at getting us to animals that didn't have too much of a crowd around them. We got near some giraffes and were the only ones around to see them twitch. I'm guessing they have these muscle spasms to keep flies away. We were near enough that Eli could teach us how to tell females and males apart by the "horns" on the top of their heads.
giraffes

giraffes


We saw a family of baboons head for some shade. Several of the moms carried their children on their backs. As they walk on all fours, it looked like the baby baboons were play-riding a horse.
baboons

baboons


While lots of elephants travel in herds, we also saw quite a few lone elephants. Generally, these are bulls.
The spot we picked for lunch had a great view of a zebra herd. We chewed as we watched them chew. Zebra is also one of new favorite animals because they cuddle. We saw several zebra that stood up against another zebra, tip-to-tail and rested their heads on each other. They apparently cuddle for safety and to minimize flies.
cuddling zebras

cuddling zebras


Amongst the zebras we ate with was a lost wildebeest baby. It wailed for its mommy for quite some time as it was lost.
We saw waterbuck, some Lilac breasted rollers, starlings, vultures, heron, monitor lizards, ostrich, bee eaters, and white butterflies.
vulture

vulture


The termites here build very large mounds. Many of these are taller than a person. While they are intended as a termite home, some other animals have other ideas for the projects. We saw red and yellow barbets waiting on a mound to scoop up their dinner.
red and yellow barbet

red and yellow barbet


Some dwarf mongoose had turned one mound into their home as well, and were popping in and out of the mound.
mongoose in termite mound

mongoose in termite mound


Tanzania is in the dry season right now, and a lot of the riverbeds are empty. While this means that we get to see all of the animals easily just by visiting a few water holes, it also means that some animals get creative in their hunt for water. The elephants sometimes dig in the dried riverbed until they reach a layer of water below.
elephant and zebra

elephant and zebra


Several groups of tiny grassland pipers scattered in large groups as something disturbed them.
In addition to lots of safari vehicles carrying foreign tourists, we saw lots of buses full of school children in their uniforms. What an amazing school field trip!
As mentioned, our guide was able to keep us in quieter areas for the most part. But sometimes traffic was just unavoidable. Somebody saw a lioness and must have alerted others. We were some of the first ones nearby so we saw her in relative quiet for a minute. And then, the vehicles started pouring in. There was traffic jam caused by a lioness.
She was sort of watching a nearby river (that did have water) as some zebra came to drink. We were some of the first ones to go see the zebra, and then a half-dozen other vehicles joined. The zebra here jockeyed for good drinking positions. At some point, they must have seen or felt the lioness, as they all started barking. The sound they made was like a small dog's yap.
zebras

zebras


We went back to check on the lioness from another angle and saw that she was still just sitting in the shade, twitching her ears. Then, she stood up and we got excited! Were we going to see her hunt!?!? No. She sat back down and resumed her position.
animals in the road

animals in the road


As we moved around the park, the scenery was generally the same- tan dirt, savannah grass, and trees periodically providing shade for animals. And then, we were in an area where the dirt was a rust color instead of tan. Later, we saw ground that was blackened from a controlled burn. Even later, we were in an area with gray dirt. The guide explained that it's just different minerals, not some interesting geological reason.
One of our last stops for the day was a huge baobob called "Poacher's Hide." Baobobs are hollow trees. Back when there were more poachers, they would make a hole in a tree and then climb in to watch for animals. Today, it's one of the few places in the park where you can get out of the vehicle. We climbed into the tree for pictures. It was full of butterflies, but otherwise unoccupied. Two people who put their arms out side by side would still not touch the two sides of the tree.
For most of the day, there were a minimal amount of flies that found their way into our vehicle. I've eaten at restaurants with more. But whether it was the time of day or the section of park, after the big baobob, there were lots of flies in our vehicle. (It wasn't nearly half as bad as Uluru, but these flies are more dangerous.) The vehicle was equipped with fly swatters, so we had a go at them.
Now, some people may think it's not nice to kill animals when they are in their own territory. 1- the car is not theirs. We didn't leave the vehicle to find flies, they came to us. 2- these could be tsetse flies or other biting ones that carry disease. I'm not taking my chances.
In fact, one fly we swatted had clearly had a nice meal before entering the car. When we swatted it, it left a trail of red blood from some poor animal on the window. We cleaned that up.
Having already seen dozens of species, from blood-sucking flies to mighty elephants, we didn't expect to see much new on the way out of the park. We were wrong.
zebra face

zebra face


We spotted what we thought was a baby impala as it only came up to our knees. Eli identified it as a fully-grown adult dikdik. And then, he pointed out an Eland, which also looks similar to an impala. Our last new animal of the day was guinea fowl.
Today's animal summary: impala, wildebeest, elephant, geese, zebra, giraffe, bandit mongoose, dragonflies, lapwing plover, warthog, baboons, waterbuck, Lilac breasted rollers, starlings, vultures, heron, monitor lizards, ostrich, bee eaters, and white butterflies, red and yellow barbet, dwarf mongoose, grassland pipers, lions, flies, vultures, dikdik, eland, guinea fowl. Not bad.
ostriches

ostriches


On the way out of the park, we passed the same road lined with children as we did on the way in. The lunches provided to us had been very big and we hadn't been able to finish them. One item left over were packets of sweet crackers. Our guide pulled over at a few spots on the road and handed them out to the kids. The kids scrambled to get them. But, the older ones were nice enough to lift up the younger ones so that they could reach the window, or to pass them back so that everybody got some.
kids looking for handouts

kids looking for handouts


We also passed another group of the boys in black with painted white faces. This time, our guide pulled over to negotiate an acceptable photo price. We ended up paying 10000 Tanzanian Shillings (under $5) for the whole group to take a few pictures with us. They let us hold their sticks for the photos. The sticks are extremely smooth- they almost feel like glass. Eli explained that these sticks are used to control and direct the cattle.
On the way to our lodge, we passed a Masai church. They have their own religion and beliefs and very few have been converted to Christianity, so that was quite a rare sight. We also passed lots of women and donkeys carrying water from the various water holes to the dozens of Masai villages on the way.
We passed the Masai market again, but this time, it teemed with people, both Masai and non. The market is a hot trading spot for clothes, shoes, goats, cows, vegetables, blankets, barbeque, rice, and corn. Pop-ish music blared from some loudspeakers in one area and a man was speaking to a crowd through speakers in another. Everybody was wearing such bright colors and patterns. It looked like a very festive place to be.
One of our last views of the Masai areas for today was when we passed a bunch of Masai kids playing soccer.
Then, we were in a town called Mosquito River with more modern houses. Some Masai still roamed the streets, but most people wore more modern dress. From here to the lodge, we saw modern-looking people in modern buildings.
As this is the Lake Manyara area and near Ngorongoro, many of the businesses are lodges, guest houses, or hostels. While I wouldn't have been able to pick one out on my own, our tour company clearly has experience and had selected one for us- The Green Hills Lodge.
When we asked for the cheapest accommodations in order to save money, I did not think we would have ended up in such a nice place.
This lodge is beautiful. The gardens are well-tended and each little bungalow sits back on a cute little plant-lined pathway. Each is named after an animal, ours being Simba (lion).
The manager himself explained the different areas to us. I think they were going through some sort of power outage at the time we arrived and hadn't turned the generator on yet. When we got to our room, they told us to wait a minute and we'd have power. Sure enough, the power kicked in shortly. For this area, it's not unexpected. I think the manager was a bit embarrassed by it, but I work with enough communities in rural Africa to understand that power is not something you can count on.
In the meantime, they pulled the mosquito net around the bed. It looked like a fairytale princess bed with all of that gauze. I actually didn't see any mosquitoes all night, but it still felt fancy to sleep in the princess bed.
The room is huge and has two seating areas as well as a luggage stand and fridge. The ceiling is high, with air holes about halfway up for flow. (They are netted against bugs.) The windows are taller than a person and look out on the grounds and the other bungalows. The bathroom is quite spacious and their bath towels were a good size, not those tiny ones some places give when trying to be cheap. It's certainly not 5-star luxury, but it's nicer than a lot of places I've stayed.
After washing off the dust from the day, we ate dinner in their dining room. Here, the lights flickered romantically, like candles, although I'm betting that was less by design and more due to generator issues that were out of their control. The dinner was quite good- I particularly enjoyed a red okra stew and my partner really liked their pickled red onions. We did eat raw vegetables again here. I know that's generally against the health rules in a country with undrinkable tap water, but I trust that Elyon tours would only pick a lodge that knows how to cook for tourists and that if previous tourists had gotten sick, we wouldn't be here. (Update from later: we had no problems with the food here.)
The funny thing was that I think the kitchen was having issues getting our food ready due to the power problems. We were hungry and had asked for dinner at 7:15, having only arrived at 6:45, which didn't give them much time to prepare. The manager kept coming out to talk to us and stall for time, which was sort of cute since we really didn't care if the main meal took a while after we had gotten the appetizer. It was very relaxing to just sit and drink and talk after an exciting day. We were plenty comfortable and understood that making meals on short notice with intermittent power could be a challenge. I felt a bit bad for the manager as he was clearly trying to impress. We kept trying to assure him that we really were fine. Even though slow, the food was good and worth it.
After dinner, we stargazed for a while. We could see the milky way with our bare eyes. There were so many more visible stars than we usually get to see. Plus, the stars were bright dots on a dark contrasting background as there is no light pollution here. The sky is going to seem so empty and bland when we get home.

Posted by spsadventures 22:38 Archived in Tanzania Comments (0)

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