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One way ticket to Africa

Safari Days

TANZANIA | Thursday, 7 February 2008 | Views [582]

The next planned activity of safari (translates as 'journey') was planned before the mountai climb with who we decied was the most reptuable company in Moshi - we were wrong. Due to meet the company organiser Shanel, who Wiebke tagged as an Afican want-to-be Latin lover, the day before at Springlands, we began to worry when he rocked up obviously drunk and barely comprehending anything we had to ask or say. There were certain aspects of the 3 days that we were determined to confirm as stories go that different groups are put together all being given different deals. Our main concern was camping on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater on the second night rather than a hotel and Shanel lolled his head in confirmation.

The next morning we failed to hear the alarm so missed out on breakfast but luckily Shanel's hangover favoured us in his half and hour late arrival to pick us up. This however, meant the most crazy African driving (and it's pretty crazy reagrdless) all the way to Arusha where the safari began. It became less stessful just to look out the window rather than the windscreen and what was coming ahead on whatever side of the road. We met the other couple to join us who had been waiting for a good 2 hours and then had to deal with the issue of paying. Thanks to our instincts on Shanel's dodginess, we hadn't offered any money hoping to use it as security against what we were promised. When asked for payment by a man (who seemed more reliable than Shanel) for cash, up to the total of about Tsh300 000 each, we mustered the story of our credit cards having daily limits and that we would have to pay half before and the other half at the end. Our barganing chip had come through and was significantly strengthend by the fact that Shanel had failed to mention the need for cash payment and the recongnition of his drunkeness by this fellow. Obviously not the first time. Way to run a business Shanel! We were happy to never see him again. So we set off finally joined by a Fench couple, Sandrine and Vincent and Toby the Swiss. We were careful define Toby from Wiebke's lip balm that she had bought while changing flights in Zurich who we also referred to as 'the Swiss'.

Heading to Lake Manyara National Park, we stopped off at a hotel where we were camping, as specifically defined with Shanel, on the lawn. We kicked back by the pool waiting for lunch but not wanting to swim in the obviously long-stagnant water enjoying the humidity after the cold oxygen-depleted air of the mountain. It was then that Wiebke noticed a leaf that was moving against the wind current on the water. Toby rescued the little bat, who was swimming quite well but still seemed exhausted and imobile on the side. To our amazement thought, when starting to move about again, it headed back into the pool. After a second rescue deciding lengths of the pool wasn't the bat's desired activity, we found a ledge in the pool shed for it to recuperate on. On our return later that afternoon, it was on the ground dead. Maybe bats are like kangaroos who go into the ocean to die?? Lake Manyara NP is part of the rift valley that runs the entire length of the continent, 10 000km long. The vast majority of it is lake but the surrounding bush is quite dense adding to our suprise of spotting elephants standing amoungst the bushes and giraffes feeding on the canopies over the road. I thought the elephants would be my greatest excitment but having never seen a giraffe in real life before, they thrilled me much more. All very docile in front of the ever present tourist, the animals were very close and appeared relaxed. We learned giraffes get darker as they get older, have 3 ways of walking and that females have tufts of hair on their horns where as males don't. To top it off, they have the most apt name in Kiswahili, twiga. Definatley a fav.

Day 2 was down into the Ngorongoro Crater and the best day out of the 3. The site of a sunken volcano, it is 20km in diameter and sustains a large variety of birds and animals who have little reason to ever leave. The flat clear bottom meant that animals could be spotted from a way off as well as the grouping of 4WDs around something of interest. Herds of zebras intermingled with the Masai cows, who are allowed to share the land under government agreement. We were lucky enough to see a couple of cheetahs hunting gazelle and 4 lionesses stalking a zebra. We also saw a rare black rhino from farway meaning the only animal missing from the notorious 'Big 5' for us was the leopard. The others are elephant, buffalo, rhino and lion. The scenery in the crater is superb but while lunching at one of the picturesque lakes, we had to remain inside the car due to the predatory kites that will dive and swipe whatever you've got, obviously causing some talon damage in the process.

We also had quite a time with a opportunistic black faced monkey, commonly called blue balled monkey by tourists, as they are as obvious as their black face. With another opportunity to dis Shanel, our 4WD continued to have problems through out the safari giving our guide the extra duty of bush mechanic including a flat tyre on the way out. Whilst hanging around watching our guide try different methods to make the jack high enough to support the car, an observant monkey leapt up and into the car through the open rooftop and stole left over lunch items, twice and almost 3 times. It was in and out so quickly it was amazing how fast it found the food - just once bouce. On the third go, Toby had decided to refuse it entry from inside the car, first thinking his prescence would be enough. When the monkey held it's ground and began screaming and swiping, Toby had to revert to sitting back and kicking the air to try and dissuade it, the monkey son giving up in the face of his boot. Wiebke got it on video and we watched it in amusement a number of times.

We were soon back out on the crater rim and saying goodbye to the other 3 who were heading back to Arusha, whilst we got our promised camping on the crater rim along with about 100 other tourists including a group of Aussie school girls - Narrogin SHS didn't offer those excursions. While it was all very boring being amoung well-beaten track goers, Wiebke focused on an unwanted brush with wildlife through the warning we'd received not to have any food inside our tent. After hearing this she was completely paranoid and referred to the attack of the wild pig, which later changed to hyena, coming and helping ourselves to our things and us. Through the night we both definately heard non-human movements outside which we never actually confirmed for us whether wildlife or Maasi cows.

After being ready at the appointed time and waiting a substantial time after this for our obviously cool-but-not-collected guides, we headed off to Tanangire NP. Here, we left the cool mountains and forest and explored the dry and dusty plains rife with massive boboab trees baboons, giraffes and elephants. The giraffes were still a defnate highlight for me as was the lucky encounter of a family of elephants complete with little tyke, crossomg the road meters from us. We learned that elephants have great suspension in their feet so you can barely hear them moving. I wondered at our guides inference as I couldn't fathom who or what an elephant would want to creep up on and thought it proably more to do with the load that their four feet are carrying. But who am I to question. Any clues Tes?

By far the most memorable thinga bout the day happened at lunch time and it wasn't the discovery of a red banana in our lunch. We had been warned about the agressive baboons that hung around looking for easy human food. However, barely after sitting down a large male baboon came bounding towards us and over the table. After the event, we decided that the big boy had picked it's victim well in Wiebke who was niether that hungry nor bound to defend her lunch from such a creature even if she were. Our boxes of food had been placed on the table but I managed to swipe mine up quickly whereas Wiebke barely got fingers back to hers before the baboon was off with his prize. We squealed of course and then laughed and then watched as other tourists stalked the baboon with cameras to where he was sitting a little way off getting into the glad wrap. All over the baboons were hanging around on tables, going through rubbish and empty cardboard lunch boxes trying to the fast easy feed. I was not impressed and would like to see the Park management do something to control the situation for the baboons good as well as the tourists. In that I mean getting tourists more aware of the scavaging problem and realise that leaving an empty box on the table in order to get a good photo of a pouncing baboon doesn't display much thought, levelling their intelligence with that tghe baboon obviously has in forcing the opportunity on sweet German friends of mine.

On finishing the safari we returned to Arusha where we were happy to pay the rest of the cost and farewell the organised part of our holiday. We wandered down the street market for dinner trying corn on the cob and roasted cassava (bit like potato in the shape of a sweet potato), which we had seen all over the country since arriving cooking on portable road side fires. We had a great time buying our first market produce and devoured the best tasting carrot and avacado ever.

The next day was up at 5am to catch the bus to Dar es Salam. We were told that if you were heir early enough to claimed a seat, it would be yours for the journey regardless of your ticket. Alas, Arushian buses have more structure than first thought and we were told to revert to our ticketed seats in the middle of the back row. Flying down the aisle on sudden breaking seemed evident. The ride was extremely squashy and bumpy, the bus stifiling until forcing the window when it was then blasting and the short lunch time almost leaving us behind but we made it in time to get ripped off on the final ferry ticket over to Zanzibar. Although Wiebke, the price we paid has been comparative to other muzungu prices I've heard. Welcome to the island beaches and see breezes!

Tags: The Great Outdoors

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