Tanzania
part 1 - page 1
 
                     
   
   
 
  More information below videos.

MOSHI to KARATU  - "Heading Out on Safari".
Our initial response was disappointment when our guide experienced car problems but it turned out to be a most memorable day when Karatu's local guide, Joseph, walked us to a Maasai market.
   
 
NGORONGORO CRATER
A remarkable day ~ visiting a Maasai village and experiencing close encounters with wildlife in Ngorongoro Crater, including the
elusive  black rhino.
 
 
MANYARA NATIONAL PARK + MOSHI
From close ... really close ... encounters with elephants to the delicate beauty of the dik-dik; plus so much more ... it was a most memorable day in Manyara National Park.  Includes a quick tour of Moshi before heading off to climb Mt Kilimanjaro.
 

May 28 continued ...

A few metres into Tanzania (or perhaps the edge of "no-man’s-land") the hawkers turned their attention back to Kenya and a new group of US-dollar toting tourists.

There were several windows open at the Tanzania customs office. We picked the shortest one ... a line of five people with a grey haired nun at the front. Time passed and the grey-haired nun was still there, joined by a second and then a third nun. The window beside us kept sending people to the front of our line. More time passed. When we finally reached the front, the process only took a couple of minutes but by then all those who had not got their visas in advance were waiting on the hot crowded Riverside Shuttle bus and we had to navigate ourselves over luggage and limbs to our seats at the very back where Terry again adjusted the seat-belt holder.

The ride continued to be bumpy and dusty but the landscape was changing ... the hills had more height and mountains popped up like chocolate candy kisses on the landscape. We search the horizon for Mount Kilimanjaro but clouds shrouded the top of each peak making it a guessing game as to which one it might be.

After so many hours (days?) of travel, we looked forward to checking into the Springlands Hotel in Moshi, having hot showers and shedding the layer of caramel coloured dust.

After getting clean and refreshed, we ventured to the bar area where we were to meet a fellow, regarding our next few day’s safari, and ordered Kilimanjaro beer ... they were tall, cold and washed the dust from our throats.

At sunset, Loma, from Zara Adventure Tours introduced himself and told us what the next four days would be like ... it even excited our overtired bodies. He was not sure, but thought our driver/guide would be Henry.

Our rooms were next door to each other ... 63 and 64. To our surprise 63, a "double" for Sherrie & Terry, had four beds while Michael’s "single" had three. We started to get settled in. Sherrie had the first shower ... cold ... really, really cold. Terry found the hot water tank switch but it wouldn’t turn on. Michael’s hot water tank would not work either. With no phones in the rooms, Terry walked over to the office and told them. The man who came to "look" at the problem, never even entered the room but stood at the door and told us we would have to change rooms to have hot water. Michael went with him to check them out and after a few tries we got settled into Rooms 40 and 41. Sherrie and Terry’s room still had four beds, while Michael’s had two.

After our meeting, we put on bug spray, went to the buffet dinner in the open air restaurant and then to bed under mosquito netting. Horizontal at last.

May 29

We woke, well rested, and had breakfast in the outdoor restaurant at Springlands surrounded by tropical plants and twittering birds. We sorted out our backpacks (still no word on the missing boxes) putting some items in storage and valuables in a rented safety deposit box. We were off on a three night safari and would return to Springlands the night before Terry and Michael’s assent of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Henry picked us up with a Zara 4x4. He looked to be in his late twenties/early thirties and we hit it off right away.  He’s been a driver/guide with Zara for four years and today he would be taking us to Manyara National Park for an afternoon game drive. That was the plan ... plans should be flexible. In fact they have a saying here, made famous worldwide in the movie Blood Diamond when it was uttered by Leonardo DiCaprio, "This is Africa" ... meaning "things are different here ... go with the flow".

 

Our first stop was at a small grocery store for bottles of water and two cans of Pringles (yes, Pringles potato chips can be found worldwide ... last time we had them was in China). One of the store’s two floor freezers held nothing but fish ... whole frozen fish without wrappers, while the second was piled with frozen whole chickens. Henry bought a Red Bull (he says he has one about once a week).

Driving the highway between Moshi and Arusha, Henry was kept busy answering our questions: What’s that? What’s this? Why? When? Where? How?

We pointed at some tarps being spread over flat ground and some kind of product spread on top ... not rice as we had seen in Asia. "Millet", Henry said. "it is used to make uji, a sweet porridge-like dish, and is also used in making local beer."

"And that?" we asked pointing to some low bushes planted neatly in rows whose branches were lined with round berries; some green, some red. "Coffee", Henry said, "the beans turn red as they ripen."

A couple of modern buildings with lots of glass seemed out of place on a highway dotted with very modest establishments. "When this one is finished," Henry explained pointing to a building which looked like a bowl with a shield, "they will move the Cultural Heritage Centre here." By the time he finished his sentence we were passing the current Cultural Heritage Centre site. He pointed over the light brown landscape, "Arusha is there. We can drive through the city centre if you want but it is very busy and will take about one and a half hours." We declined.

A few kilometres away from the city we drove through the sparse landscape past a small area outlined with only a few low bushes and a small corn field. Within these markers were six small round huts having only doors interrupting their circular mud walls and pointed grass roofs. "These are Maasai homes," said Henry. "They are a migratory people but more recently many Maasai are staying in one place and raising crops along with their traditional cattle herding."

We had been driving all morning. For a lunch break Henry pulled into a handicraft gallery which caters to tourists looking for wood carvings, oil paintings and jewellery.  Craft outlet such as this entice guides to stop by providing toilet facilities and picnic tables ... we used both ... and usually a cut of any sales.

We had been back on the road for about an hour when Henry pointed out a Maasai market in progress, "they have a market here once a week". Then Henry pointed to the red light on his dash board. "If you do not mind, I will stop in Karatu and have someone look at this. It is probably wires touching each other." He pulled into a shaded private campground and explained, "I am going to take the car across the street. If you will wait here I will come back shortly." Across the street, Henry lifted the hood of the Toyota LandCruiser and instantly six fellows peered into the tangle of wires, belts and engine parts.

When Henry came back, the news was not good ... something was causing the engine to overheat. We would have to wait for awhile. "I have called a local guide and he can take you on a local walking safari."

"Safari" to a westerner’s ears brings up visions of "rich great white hunters in search of wild beasts to mount on walls", while in Africa it simply means any kind of outing.

Henry introduced us to Joseph. Joseph is the coordinator of an organization representing five neighbouring villages making efforts to increase tourist activities and awareness in the area.

He suggested we walk back 3 kilometres to the Maasai market. A great idea. We are aware many Maasai do not like having pictures taken, but Sherrie grabbed the still camera ... just in case. Michael and Terry donned their hats.

A row of modest reed and wood tourist shops occupied a half block between the campgrounds and a gas station. As if propelled by motion sensors each one popped forth a salesman who encouraged us to see what he had for sale in his little shadowed alcove. At one, a twenty-something fellow came forth and introduced himself, "Hello, I am Thomas." When we declined to enter his little 10x10 shop, he brought out things for us to see as we continued to walk. Included in the items was a hat. Terry looked at Sherrie and said, "You need a hat." Feeling somewhat obligated, Sherrie tried one on. "No, that’s not the one for me. Asante [Swahili for "thank you"]."

I will find some others for you," he said.

"No, that’s okay. I don’t need one today, asante," we continued walking.

Across the street cattle were being herded in the opposite direction. "They have been purchased at the market," said Joseph. "The Maasai are famous for their good cattle."

We cut across a field to the market place. "May I take a photo?" Sherrie asked of Joseph.

"Yes"

Many of the Maasai men were easy to spot. They wear traditional robes (not a tourist gimmick ... this is the way they dress each day), carry a long sheathed knife and a long stick. Many, not all, have large holes in their ears; some even carry things in the hole ... one man carried a plastic pill bottle in his right ear. "Why?", we asked Joseph. He smiled, "Some carry their tobacco like that."

With each desire to take a photo, Sherrie asked Joseph if it was okay and we were pleased with how many times he said yes.

He had just shown us some of the mud huts where people were barbecuing goat and the slaughter hut (business was finished for the day), when Thomas appeared with a pile of hats in his hand. Again Sherrie felt obligated to give some consideration to the stack but again turned them down; her sales resistance hardened for the man who had been following us around the market trying to get her to buy material and a boy who spoke some English wanting us to part with anything we might have ... money, pins, pencils (see photo of vegetable market, he is wearing beige shorts and stripped shirt.)

Joseph told us it was not wise to give things to the children at the market. "They see how easy it is and how they can sometimes get more begging at the market than an older person can make working; makes them not want to go to school. It is important that they go to school." Many Maasai do not encourage their children to go to school because they want them to carry on the traditions of herding. When Maasai do go to school, Joseph told us, they tend to do exceptionally well ... but after their education, many do not want to return to tribal traditions.

The market place gathered together not only Maasai but other ethnic peoples as well, and within those peoples different tribes. Under the trees, which served as an impromptu beer garden, people sat around in circles. Many circles were centred around one or two large plastic buckets. The contents? Home made beer which had a thick skim of millet on the surface. (The same grain we had seen spread out on the burlap cloths earlier). Joseph greeted one circle of seated people and ladled out a large plastic cupful of beer from a red bucket.

He offered some to us and Terry explained that because our Western systems were not used to the local water, we were unable to drink, but thanked him graciously. "You know these people?" Terry asked.

"They are from my tribe," Joseph said.

"So they are your neighbours and friends."

"No," said Joseph.

"How do you know they are from your tribe?"

"I can tell by the colours they wear and by the marks on their faces. I wear green," he said pointing to his green pants, "and I have the same marks under my eyes. Each child is given the tribe’s mark." We looked closely at the slightly angled marks in his dark skin near the cheekbone just under his eyes.

Thomas appeared again with two more hats. Sherrie said she did not like them and encouraged Thomas not to bring any more. Michael told him we would come to his shop when we returned to town.

We made our way through the food section; a maze of cloths upon the ground held red onions, cabbage, corn, tomatoes and avocados, green bananas, ripe bananas and some things we did not recognize. Trucks held bags of rice. Such bags are not affordable for the average person (approx $40 USD) and so a business minded person buys a bag and breaks it down to more affordable proportions.

Before leaving the market, Terry bought a T-shirt, from one of the salespersons who were stalking us, on the condition that he share the profits with the material man who had been following us from the beginning. Joseph was pleased he had made such an arrangement.

The 3 kilometre walk back to town gave us lots of opportunity to get to know Joseph better. He is married to a lady from another tribe. He met her while working on an agriculture development farm. "I liked how hard she worked and how smart she was and I convinced her to marry me," he smiled. She is now considered part of his tribe. They have a seven year old daughter, but would like to have another child. Joseph’s father did not believe in education. It wasn’t until his adult years that Joseph continued his education beyond the mandatory primary grades. His father is proud of Joseph’s accomplishments - his job and Joseph’s home which boasts a metal corrugated roof. Joseph is not only assuring that his daughter is well educated, but he is also providing the funds to educated two of his sisters. He also told us that two of his brothers have pursued educations.

"Without an education you work. Having an education when you are young allows you to make plans for the future," Joseph explained. We thought about those words and how potent they are.

Thomas was waiting for us. We looked around his shop and as a result of his gentle persistence, Michael became a paying customer.

Along with a token of our appreciation for a wonderful afternoon, Terry gave Joseph the T-shirt he had purchased. We took some photos together and exchanged email addresses. If you are going near the town of Karatu, we recommend spending time with Joseph ... the Maasai market may not be in progress but we are sure he will introduce you to a slice of African life you will long appreciate. You can contact Joseph through josephmassay@yahoo.com .

Henry, with the 4x4 now fixed, drove us to Highview Hotel. It sits high above a valley 140 km north-west of Arusha. Owned by Zara (the company with whom we are taking this safari and with whom Terry and Michael will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro) it is well situated for daytrips to Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara National Park.

We were ushered through the main door into the large lobby where a lady stood with a tray of very hot moist face cloths. "Oh, that feels so good" Sherrie said as she pulled away the cloth to see the streaks of dust-mud against the soft brilliant white cotton.

 

While they invited us to sit on some sofas around a table set with coffee, tea and a bowl of popcorn, two Maasai gentlemen carried in our luggage. We were handed a menu of the night’s dinner selections. Terry checked us in and Michael made inquiries continuing our quest to track down the three missing boxes which still had not reached Springlands Hotel and no one seemed to know where they were.

Henry headed down into town where he would sleep tonight. The hotel is constructing new quarters so workers and guides will be able to stay closer to the hotel. Our rooms were a little higher up the hill and although it was good to stretch our legs we could feel the thinner air in our lungs. On Kili, Terry and Michael will be so much, much higher.

 

May 30

 

During the 22 km drive to Ngorongoro Crater’s entrance gate, Henry explained that the Maasai have grazing rights in the crater and may live in the conservation area, which surrounds the crater, so long as their lifestyle does not negatively impact the natural ecology of the area.

About 200 years ago the Maasai people displaced the Datoga people who had been in the crater (along with other tribes) for centuries. The Maasai are cattle-herders and do not eat wild game. Their existence here today is an excellent study of man’s ability to live compatibly with nature and wildlife. The first European visitors came to the area around 1880 and are credited with setting up protective legislation for the Ngorongoro habitat.

The history of the European explorers and colonists is very brief in comparison to that of other inhabitants ... and a long history it is ... perhaps to the dawn of humankind. One day, about 3,600,000 years ago (give or take a few years) a volcanic eruption covered the area with a fresh layer of ash. Rain wet the ash. Many different creatures - elephants, giraffes, three-toed horses, guinea fowl - walked through this mud, leaving clear tracks. Then a new fall of ash buried the tracks, preserving them for thousands of centuries until they were discovered in 1976. Amazingly among the recognized animal tracks were three human-like creatures or hominids.

The hominids walked upright. From the size of their feet, scientists have been able to determine that they were about 1.2 to 1.5 metres tall. The tracks on the left were those of the smallest of the three. On the right walked the largest, followed by a middle-sized one who stepped precisely in the other’s tracks.

 

Jumping forward to today, we made our way through the gate where a sign reminded visitors that they must vacate the area by 18:00 if they were not staying at one of the accommodations within the park. Our entrance was being watched by a family of baboons a few of which were sitting atop a sign showing the uphill grade we were facing. Larger trucks were being held back from venturing any further until the rain soaked dirt road had dried enough to support their loads. Henry’s four-wheel drive Toyota zipped past. "In the rainy season, even 4-wheel drives have difficulty getting up the steep grade," he explained.

We got to the top without difficulty and turned left along the crater’s rim. The clouds closed in on both sides making it appear as though it were a road suspended in the sky. We bunched up against some traffic in front of us. The line slowed and then stopped. Henry got out and made his way along the reddish muddy ruts and out of our sight. It was a while before he returned. "It was a bus," he said, "but we can go now." "Was it engine problems?"

"No, stuck. We got together and pushed."

We followed the vehicle in front of us down the road and around the bus which was allowing the kind pushers to move on ahead. "We help each other," Henry told us. With help so far away it was necessary for each driver to be able to fix problems on the road or be able to count on others to help.

"There are three things to remember when you are on safari," Henry said. "The first is expect delays ..." at those words Henry’s voice fell as silent as the Toyota’s engine and with what little momentum the vehicle had, Henry steered it to the left side of the road. The bus passed us.

He tried to restart the engine. The starter was working but the juice didn’t seem to be getting to the engine. Again and again he tried. He grabbed a plastic bag wrapped around a set of tools and again stepped out onto the gushy red road. He tinkered a bit and came back to try again. No luck. More tinkering and more trying. No one else had come along the road behind us and the close fog made us seem all the more alone. Henry admitted defeat and radioed in for another vehicle to come and rescue us.

We tried to distract his attention from the situation with chatter, but he was not responsive and was frustrated that he could not handle the situation himself. "Before yesterday I have never had any problems."

Through the fog another 4x4 materialized with a driver and guide (not from Zara) and their passengers. Through rolled down windows a back and forth conversation in Swahili took place, then the other vehicle pulled ahead and parked in front of us. The driver and guide both got out and Henry once more grabbed his plastic wrapped toolbox.

 

A few retries in starting the engine failed but the three were persistent. Terry watch their activities through the crack between hood and car body. "A spark!" he said to Michael and Sherrie as one of the three suddenly jumped back from the engine.

A few more adjustments and a few more tries were made before the engine turned over and hummed. "Asante sana" [thank you very much] we called out to the men and another "asante sana" to their passengers who were also smiling with the victory of man over machine.

Once we pulled out onto the road (another vehicle had not come along since the one which stopped) we asked Henry if he needed to call in and cancel the ordered 4x4. "I have told them to meet us at the Maasai boma (village enclosure)," he said. "They will take this one to get fixed. Now it is running but if I turn off the engine, I will not be able to start it again."

The warm sun started to break up the fog and we caught glimpses of Maasai villages on the hillside. Henry pointed to the village we would be visiting.

It had around twenty dung and mud huts placed in a circle within a stockade of logs and long pointed sticks. Looking down on the village we could see a rectangular structure outside the stockade ... we would later find out it is their school house.

 
 

This tribe of Maasai have decided to embrace the benefits of tourism by allowing visitors (for a fee) an inside look at a working Maasai village. The Chief’s son (next in line to be chief) met us outside the gate. He introduced himself in English and explained that his father was away and that he had the honour of greeting us. We expressed, most sincerely, that the honour was ours. He told us that before we entered, the tribe would come outside and give us their traditional welcome with dance and song. He also told us that we were welcome to take as many photographs as we liked. Sherrie was thrilled. The ladies came out through a doorway in the fence and stood in a slightly arced line. With beautiful voices they began to sing. The men joined in with a chant to which they began to dance, coming towards us and then receding back to the women and back to us, each in colourful robes and holding a stick or spear.

   

The music ended and the men entered the compound, the ladies followed and then we entered. Inside the ladies were lined up as they had been outside and the men had formed a semi circle of their own. Again the women’s voices filled the air and the men, one by one, stepped into the centre of their circle and with both feet together jumped into the air. A few times two men would take to the circle and jump in unison.

 

The women too were now jumping, not high like the men, but just off the ground. One little child wrapped in a piece of blue material was trying to follow the women’s lead. One of the men approached Sherrie and asked her to join the women. The way he asked suggested it would be rude not to accept such an honoured invitation.

 

Sherrie walked towards the women and one stepped forward and placed a traditional beaded ring collar over her head. Another took her hand and together they jumped while the women sang. When the music stopped the blue-clad child came up and took Sherrie’s hand. She crouched down and jumped with the little girl. The ladies seem pleased. Thanking the ladies, Sherrie, returned to where Terry and Michael were standing.

A man, who seemed to have taken on the role of our village guide, invited us into his home. We bent down to get in the narrow low doorway which formed a half circle into a small dark room.

It took our eyes sometime to adjust to the darkness. The only things we could see at first were the embers from a small fire on the floor and a spot of light coming from a vent hole in the grass roof near the top of the wall. The shape of the doorway and the small hole provided a flow of fresh air for the fire and to take away most of the smoke.

 
 

When our eyes adjusted a little, we could see a beautiful woman sitting with a child of around two years old. The man introduced her as his wife.

Knowing that a Maasai man may have up to ten wives so long as he has sufficient cattle to support them, Sherrie asked, "How many wives do you have?"

"Two."

"How many children do you have?"

"Five," answered the gentleman and continued. "I have two homes. My other wife and children live in my other home."

 

He explained we were sitting in the "living room" where they gather, cook and eat. "There," he said pointing to the darkness behind Terry and Michael, "are two sleeping rooms." We strained to see and became aware that there was a second woman standing at one of the support poles.

Making our way back to the bright outside light, Sherrie asked about the tall gourd by the entrance. "That holds milk and blood," his beautiful wife answered. Milk and cow’s blood (not killing the cow to get it) are staples of the Maasai’s protein rich diet.

We walked around the village. The man showed us some items they have for sale. When Sherrie expressed interest in two items and asked the price. "We will talk about that later," he replied and carried them with him.

While Sherrie stopped to take more photographs and hand out balloons to the pre-school aged children, the men showed Michael and Terry spears. They could be taken apart for fitting into suitcases (not the kind of thing they would allow as aircraft carry-on).

There were a number of little children playing and watching these white skinned visitors. It was impossible to match any one child with any one women and feel comfortable in saying that must be the mother. Not only did the children go comfortably from one woman to the next but the similarities in features is due to Maasai only wedding Maasai.

We left the compound and walked through a corral, empty of animals which were out grazing, and out to the school. Its roof would most likely provide shelter from rain, but the walls were sticks lashed together. Protection from predators, but little else. As we approached we could hear the children singing ... "A - B - C - D .... U - V - W - X - Y - Zed".

At the door we were welcomed in. We recognized the teacher ... the same lady whose home we had visited. Twenty-five children sat on six wooden benches. The teacher asked one of the boys to go to the small (metre x metre and a half) chalk board suspended on the front stick wall.

With a stick he pointed to the letters of the alphabet ... "A - B - C" .... then just the vowels ... "a - e - i - o - u". Then sounds "ba - be - bi - bo - bu" with the sounds of "ch, d, w, s and f".

The display of their knowledge did not end there; they recited their numbers from 1 to 100. Did they know them or was it like a tongue twister they memorized? When the little boy sat down, Terry went to the blackboard and pointed to a number. They answered correctly. He pointed to another number and another ... each time the group answered correctly. They did the same with the random letters he chose. We smiled and clapped for the children.

 
 

Since this Maasai tribe has chosen to work with tourists, learning to speak English is a necessity for their continued financial security ... however, not for their survival ... they figured that out centuries ago. We hope in their efforts to make more money than that generated from entrance fees, they do not turn their village into one large souvenir shop. From a tourist perspective, it would be better for them to set up a separate gift shop and keep their village as authentic as possible ... which is the reason tourists are attracted in the first place.

After leaving some money in the school’s donation box, we shook some of the children’s hands. Not wanting to leave anyone out we walked to the back third of the class and shook their hands too. It may be that we were the first white people a few of them had touched because they watched our two hands meet as though they half expected the white of our skin to come off on their dark hands like dust from the hillside.

Outside the school we did a little bargaining for the items Sherrie had chosen. It was not hard bargaining and we quite knowingly paid more than we needed to, but then they need the small difference a lot more than we do.

A little child with an old man resting on the ground near the school, was disappointed when his balloon popped and then so pleased when Sherrie was able to dig deep in her pockets and find one more.

Walking back through the compound we expressed our thanks as best we could and left via the same gateway through which we entered. The replacement vehicle was waiting and we were off to the Ngorongoro Crater to see how many of the "big five" (elephant, African buffalo, rhinoceros, leopard and lion) we might see.

 
 

Before driving down to the crater’s floor we stopped at a viewpoint and looked out to Lake Makat puddled in the centre of the crater. This soda lake receives water from both the Munge river and rainfall. When the lake is full, large numbers of flamingos and many other resident and migratory birds come to feed. Predators hide in the marsh to ambush large animals that come to drink from the pools and river. In the dry season the lake often dries up completely, becoming a white expanse of glistening soda.

Ngorongoro Crater, one of the world’s largest calderas (about 20 kilometres wide), is a fascinating combination of landscapes, archaeological sites, people and wildlife. The highland forest, part of the 8300 kilometre Ngorongoro Conservation Area, rimming the crater acts like a sponge for rainfall, providing a year-round supply of water for wildlife within the crater as well as for some outside communities. The forest also provides habitat for many animals and a reserve pasture for livestock.

Open grassland is the major feature of the Crater floor. There are many animals which depend on grass for food. The Crater grasses feed some 20,000 large grazing animals; mainly wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and gazelles and many smaller ones such as mice and grasshoppers. All these animals are in turn food for large predators which include lions, hyenas and jackals and birds such as eagles.

Animals are free to enter or leave the Crater but many prefer to stay because of the plentiful water and food supply. These residents of the Crater have become used to seeing cars and can be approached quite close ... but they are still wild animals and a healthy respect and alertness is always present both by animals and humans.

The first sight was Maasai with their cattle and donkeys; the latter each carrying side packs of water. In these surroundings, we better understood why the Maasai carry a stick and long knife.

Our first wild animals sightings were of warthogs, gazelles and zebra. We were in awe and kept having to remind ourselves that we were not at a game farm or zoo ... we were in their territory seeing them do what they naturally do. Our cameras clicked ... more than necessary, but at the time we had no concept of what we would encounter later.

 
 
 
 

Thousands of pastel pink flamingos lined the shoreline of Lake Makat and a Marabou stork stretched it’s legs and wings one at a time This bird, Henry told us, is a high flying bird; a scavenger which eats meat. Another bird, the Kori bustard, the heaviest flying bird, picked its way through the long grasses.

Then we saw it ... the first of the big five ... a rhinoceros. A rare black rhinoceros ... there are only 18 of the endangered black rhinos in Ngorongoro Crater. Henry stopped and turned off the engine.

"In four years of guiding I have never seen one this close," he said. We watched and snapped photos. The two horned powerhouse began to move. Sideways at first and then towards us ... closer and closer ... closer still ... it was going to cross behind us ... it did ... metres away.

Just then a vehicle coming in the opposite direction zoomed up and came to a halt, the rhino was startled, put it’s head down and made a stance as though it might charge. Everyone was silent.

The rhino waited.  We waited wondering what he might do. He had control of the situation ... he relaxed then turned and walked away. Even Henry was impressed.

Henry told us of a time when his vehicle (carrying himself and clients) was chased by an elephant for 2 km.

More warthogs and then the second of the "big 5" ... African buffalo. Although the most unpredictable and therefore dangerous animal in Africa ... these two seemed content to ignore us.

Next of the "big 5" ... the African elephant. Two of them ... after our wonderful close-up encounter with the rhino, these elephants were not as close as we would like ... chomping through some lush green grass.

For lunch we stopped at a little lake with marshlands surrounding it. There are several important marshes on the crater floor. Most of the large animals in the crater depend on these for fresh water and reserve food supplies. Elephants chew the tough sedges, hippopotamuses take refuge in the pools while smaller creatures such as frogs, many birds, snakes and several cats are totally dependent on these wetlands for their survival.

We ate lunch and watched the hippos playing in the water. Two were breaking the water’s surface with wide open mouths almost interlocked ... and with a heavy splash the two would fall back under the water. Michael tried to catch the action on video while mother, baby and another adult moved away from the playful ruffians. Henry told us hippos kill more humans than any other wild animal in Africa.

 

We left the small florescent Starling birds at the picnic site and drove back up onto the grasslands to see an ostrich. "Get up close, Henry, and I’ll ride him," Michael boasted.

Wildebeest, known for their mass migrations through the Serengeti, are plentiful in Ngorongoro Crater and often seen grazing side by side with zebra ... each preferring a different length of grass. One old fellow with grey coat, grey muzzle and broken horn, lay with his trusty companion in a depression where the dirt looked a little softer and perhaps a little cooler.

Henry manoeuvred the 4x4 through a small creek and up the deep ruts on the other side. Lion! ... lazy lion ... lyin’ in the hot African sun. The male was stretched out in the soft grass. Even the slamming of the car door caused only his tail to flicker slightly. The female raised her head, saw the car and realizing there was no threat, disappeared in the grass again. We still got to check off the 4th of the "big 5".

Shadows were getting long and Henry kept checking his watch. We had to cross through a moving mass of zebra and wildebeest - Ngorongoro’s answer to rush hour traffic. A young zebra still had brown and white "baby-fuzz".

Since our lodging was not in the park, we had to be out through the park gates by 18:00. We had to be on our way ... quickly. A jackal made us hesitate for a minute or two. Then Michael spotted a hyena sleeping in a sand bowl.

 
 

Now time was even tighter and we sped across the plain toward the upward climb to the rim, leaving the beautiful colours of dusk in our trail of dust. Into the forest. "Elephant!" cried Sherrie - our stop was less than 20 seconds.

"Sorry, we cannot stop again," said Henry anxiously, "they close the gates exactly at 18:00 and we cannot be caught on this side."

"How long is the drive from here?" Terry asked.

"30 minutes."

"What time is it now?"

"25 minutes to 6."

We hung on and Henry drove ... fast ... up the wall of the crater. The only time he slowed down was when we had to navigate through 50 or more baboons blocking the road.

 
 

We reached the top and drove wildly along the narrow rim. This is where the car gave us trouble this morning. Now that the fog was gone, we could appreciate how the narrow rim falls away to the crater on one side and the steep grade of the mountain on the other. Zipping down the switchbacks on the other side with other vehicles in hot pursuit, Michael, in the front passenger seat, hung on and laughed, "this ride is worth the admission!"

We again passed baboons sitting on the sign and rounded the corner to the gate. They were open and two vehicles were being checked through. We stopped for Henry to do the paperwork in the office. He came out laughing. "My watch was fast," he said, "we still have 3 minutes to go."

Again the hot damp face clothes offered upon our arrival at Highview were a welcome touch of hospitality.

Before dinner, Michael made more inquiries in an attempt to track down our missing boxes. Still no news as to where they might be.

The sun set on a very full and most wonderful day. We would be on safari again tomorrow.

May 31

For hundreds of years people have gathered in the area now known as Lake Manyara National Park for shade, fresh water and rest. Cultures and languages have met and mixed here for longer than recorded history. Only in the last one hundred years has Manyara been settled ... and become a famous area for trophy hunting, wild animal capture, cinematography (most notably the John Wayne film "Hatari"), wildlife research, malaria, banana and rice farming; and now conservation. The park is registered by the United Nations as a "biosphere reserve".

The rich diversity of Manyara’s wildlife is the result of its location in the Rift Valley and it’s abundance of water. As continental plates separated volcanoes erupted, forming features like Ngorongoro Crater and Mount Kilimanjaro. In this park the land collapsed below the high rift wall as the plates continued to separate ... a process which is still occurring. The Great Rift Valley stretches 10,000 km (6,500 miles) from Jordan in the Middle East to Mozambique in Southern Africa; one of the few visible fissures in the earth’s surface.

A blue monkey looked down at us from his tree perch as we approached the Manyara Park gate. "We will keep the roof closed while I stop to pay and register," said Henry. "If I don’t, baboons will come and take everything - cameras, hats, bags ... our lunches." Henry looked at the left side of the car (we had his old vehicle back again) where a rearview mirror once was. "One big baboon wanted in," he continued, "and when he couldn’t get in, he took my mirror!"

When Henry got back we popped up the roof (which allowed us to stand up but still be shaded) and proceeded down the steep rift wall which is covered in dense forest. This forest is one of the few remaining ground water forests found along the entire length of the Great Rift Valley. Forests of this type are usually found in the highlands, or in tropical areas with much higher rainfall. Fresh water springs emerging from the foot of the valley wall keep these forests alive and green, even in the driest months.

The park got its name from the Maasai word for the tough, evergreen vegetation which is used locally for animal stockades and fences. The most common tree is the flat topped Acacia, but there are other notable ones as well ... like the Sausage Tree. Looking somewhat like a jungle deli, heavy sausage shaped fruit hang from it’s branches. Henry told us the fruit is not edible but it’s maroon flowers are pollinated by fruit bats and eaten by giraffes.

The large Baobab ... or "Upside Down Tree" ... looks like it has it’s roots in the air. No one knows how to date these trees as they have the ability to repair damaged bark.

Among the trees and high bushes we could see the head of an elephant but having so much vegetation within easy trunk reach, it was content to stay where it was.

 

The name "Blue" seems, to us, to have been placed on the wrong monkey when we saw the robin’s egg blue scrotum of the Vervet monkey.

The forest gives way to wooded grasslands and grassy flood plain and then to the lake.

 
 

Graceful in motion and delicate in appearance, the Impala is an antelope which grazes in the rainy season and browses on leaves during dry months. Males, who do not have a group of females to protect and service, stick together in bachelor groups.

At a distance we saw giraffes. It would be nice if later we might get a little closer.

We lunched at a picnic spot looking out over the flood plain to the lake. Sherrie and Michael walked down a path to use the facilities. While Michael was inside, facing the window, a large brown elephant filled his view. Excited, he came out the door and told others. By the time we went around the building we only caught a glimpse of the elephant’s tail disappearing into the bush. Hurrying back we explained to Henry, "they went that way."

We caught up to them. Henry turned off the engine and we just enjoyed watching them browse the grasses and limbs of trees. "Three older bulls," Henry estimated.

 

Crossing over a dry riverbed we watched a little DikDik move daintily by a family of mongoose.

Giraffe ... lots of them ... some of them crossing right in front of us. Again, Henry turned off the engine and we watch. These awkward, yet amazingly graceful animals moved from the lake’s shoreline to the trees of the forest. Their backs slope dramatically from hind quarters to shoulders, which in turn seem to be doing a balancing act with their long necks.

"If we could get a little closer," Michael said in his running joke, "I could jump on a back and ride one."

Amongst the trees the adults reached high, stretching their long tongues in a twisting motion to grab tender new shoots while young ones, whose backs seemed straighter, copied the motion on lower branches. On the shore they spaced themselves at greater distances. While two little ones waded in the water the adults kept watch for predators which might be lurking in the long grasses.

 
 

Elephant. Closer this time. So close we could see the individual wrinkles of the trunk, the veining in the ears and the eye lashes. There were still some small trees between the elephant and the short open space to our open topped car. Henry turned off the engine. We watched ... almost holding our breath, experiencing the adrenalin of being in the presence of such a magnificent beast ... not on human terms with training and shackles ... but on their terms ... wild ... on their territory.

"If it would come a little closer," Michael said in a quiet voice, "I could jump on his back and ride him."

As though to dare him, the elephant we were watching came through the trees, slowly, purposefully. On the cautious side, Henry started the engine.

The elephant turned and casually wrapped his trunk around some bush branches and with hardly a tug ripped them off and put them deftly into his mouth. We not only could see him chew, we could hear him chew.

 

The elephant turned again. Henry, put the car in gear but kept his foot on the clutch.

There was nothing between this elephant and us that couldn’t be reached by a step and the length of his trunk. No need for a zoom lens here.

Henry earlier, had made us very aware, if an elephant perceived us as a threat, it would be a whole lot easier to upend the car with us in it than to knock over a rooted tree, which was a common activity. Now the only things we could hear were the clicks of the camera, the whispered whirr of Michael’s video camera and our heartbeats pounding in our ears.

The elephant turned sideways again ... this time facing the same direction as us. His ears flared outward. Time to go. Henry wasn’t going to tempt fate, released the brake and dropped the clutch. As we looked back the elephant calmly returned to the bush to continue his munching.

 

Just around the next turn a young elephant stood in front of us. We must have startled it because the head went down and the ears flared as Henry came to a stop. Though not as big as the one we just left he could do damage. He didn’t look as intimidating as the other, but perhaps more concerning was the feeling of unpredictability. The fact that these animals see so many cars of camera touting tourists the chances were in our favour that once he got over being startled, he would move on. That’s exactly what happened; in fact he felt so comfortable, he came alongside the vehicle and then turned to eat some brush with his back end to us.

Large animals need to roam over an area greater than the park. The high stone rift wall on the west of the park forms a natural boundary (few animals other than monkeys and baboons live on the wall). A number of traditional wildlife routes are now virtually cut off by human settlements and some wildlife species have disappeared from Manyara Park altogether. Rhinoceros have been eliminated by poaching. Part of the Park`s entrance fees goes to efforts being made to re-establish wildlife links between this park and areas to the east and south - including Tarangire National Park. Tanzania National Parks are working with Manyara residents to preserve a wildlife corridor to the north linking it with Ngorongora while organizations such as USAID and African Wildlife Foundation are helping to preserve wildlife in general in Tanzania.

Lake Manyara abounds with many species of birds; more then 390 have been recorded. Migratory birds, travelling from all over Europe, Asia and the Middle East come here to winter. At least thirty-five different species of shore birds can be seen here at the same time. Today, pink flamingos were here by the tens of thousands - the lake was pink with them.

The junction where the river enters the lake is a favourite spot for pelicans, eagles and long legged shore birds as well as hippos. Between a large log (or rock) and the birds the water appeared to be quite shallow. It was a little surprising to see some smaller rocks moving. They weren’t rocks, but the foreheads and eyes of hippos where the river basin must drop off into a muddy pool.

 

The day seemed to have passed so quickly. Shadows were lengthening and we didn’t want to put any time pressure on Henry as we had yesterday. Besides there was a soccer game between Tanzania and Mozambique being televised tonight. Important stuff in the social life of Africans.

 

 

On our way back across the grasslands we stopped again to allow giraffes to cross in front of us. A lone giraffe in the trees, just before we climbed back up the Great Rift wall, stood at attention and it seemed as though we should be handing him our exit pass.

 
 
 

   

June 1

A trip to Tarangire National Park was still on the drawing board when we woke for our last morning at Highview Hotel. Michael still wasn’t getting very far with his inquiries about our lost luggage. Since Terry and Sherrie would be going on a number of safaris during their travels in Africa the decision was left up to Michael as to what to do with the day. After talking with Henry, Michael decided to head back to Moshi, stopping on the way at the Kilimanjaro International Airport to check with Kenya Airways and then to use whatever time was left in the day to rest and get organized for the climb up Kilimanjaro.

Sherrie took one of her hard boiled eggs and a wiener (they call them sausages) from breakfast and put it in her pocket and once in the car, she added the hard boiled eggs from her and Terry’s lunch boxes. Henry drove down the hill from the hotel. For the past two mornings, at a sharp right turn in the road, we had driven by two little boys who stood and waved at us; we would smile and wave back. This morning, Sherrie asked Henry to stop. To the surprise of the little boys we got out and walked up to them. "Jambo," we greeted them in Swahili and passed one egg to the youngest and two eggs and the wiener to the older. Before we could get back in the car and drive off, the younger was already peeling the shell off his egg.

It was Sunday and the highway and dusty side streets were lined with people moving to and from church. About 45% of Tanzanian’s call themselves Christians while about 45% are Muslim. The largest Muslim population is on Zanzibar.

Back in the little town where the Toyota 4x4 was serviced on our first day with Henry, we pulled into the gas station just down from the campgrounds and the tourist souvenir shops where Michael had purchased his statue of a Maasai warrior.

Thomas approached the car to drum up business. "Jambo, Thomas" we all greeted. He recognized Michael, smiled (no new business here) and greeted us warmly. He seemed a very nice person.

For lunch, we used the facilities at the Cultural Heritage Centre. While we took a quick look around the shops filled with art work and souvenirs, Henry joined in a game of pass the soccer ball with a young boy and a rifle toting security guard.

We made a stop at KIA and came away without our missing boxes but with a little hope.

We exchanged email addresses and said our goodbyes to Henry.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at Springlands Hotel getting gear sorted out for Terry and Michael’s climb. They were glad this morning’s decision was to return to Moshi.

 

Before sunset we met and talked with Felix ... the gentleman who would be their guide and protector for the next six days. Felix, is fifty-three years old and has plenty of mountain experience ... that gave us comfort. Felix asked if they had this-and-that kind of equipment and seemed to be pleased Terry and Michael were well equipped. They would meet again in the morning.

Michael and Terry toasted the mountain with their last beer (until their return) ... suitably the beer’s name was "Kilimanjaro".

     

    

 
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