Photo Safari Diary

Diary - Tanzania - Page 2

Tarangire is the park for game. You cannot miss seeing all you wish for in a very small area. Timing is the thing as the herds move with the light, the water and the danger. We arrived to the spectacle of a lioness teaching her cubs to hunt, the poor (poor!) guinea-pig was a very frighten buffalo, tho' to be fair, that is the beast I am most frightened of having lost a few friends to them. So I am not that sympathetic. It was a rare sight that kept us entranced for thirty minutes. The buffalo must have escaped as there was no vulture-riddled carcass in the early morning. I begin to enjoy bird watching, and get quite good at spotting.

When we left after two wonderful game-filled days we bade goodbye to Godwin who would walk home to Loiborsoit across the Maasai steppes. A day’s journey with his long, loping, lilting stride and a spear for defense. All morning spent moving from Leopard Rock, around Tarangire on the old Maasai road to Makuyuni, then zooming down the wonderful new tarmac to Mto wa Mbo.

There we found our pick-up on a jack by the roadside, it had cracked a leafspring which the welder at Tarangire HQ could not fix. By the time we had wandered through the market and bought our wares they passed us at the petrol pump, waving gaily. We are met on the road by Sailepo, an elder and the younger brother of my dear friend Chief Olepello, detailed to look after us while he himself is attending a Maasai Cheiftains conference in Sweden (?). We visit the old Maa village near the Engaruka ruins, a local market is in progress. Goats, gaudily dressed warriors, women selling wares. Most slightly tipsy. Sue produced a packet of plastic tick-pincers which were eagerly sought after, and paid for with snapshots. Good old fashioned bartering. Not appreciated by some of the beautiful damsels, they did not need tick-pincers.

After being led by the most circuitous and bouncy route by Sailepo, "kulia, ah uh, kushoto, kushoto, hapa. Hapa!" (left, no no, right, right, here. Here!) time and time again, the campfire and tents appeared by magic, tucked into a fold of the Rift Valley wall with marvelous views and total silence, showers and delicious dinner at the ready. That is, until half a dozen chattering Maasai warriors and a Somali or two joined the kitchen camp-fire.

The next day Sue and I decided we would go to Olepello's manyatta, visit the old chief, his dad, whom on my last visit was so ill I had given him all my malaria tablets, see all the children and maybe do some sketching. No sooner on the Engaruka road than we saw a strange vertical yellow cloud in the distance. Our second adventure? A powerful sandstorm brought visibility to a metre, we crept slowly to the manyatta where women and children were battling like ghosts in the wind to return the goats to the boma (stockade). Suddenly a lull was followed by torrential downpour which created muddy slides and cleared the air. I took cover inside the old chief's hut, but my photos of the children are......all misty?

So sad to leave Engaruka the next day.  But Lake Natron and the mighty Ol Donyo Lengai, smoky mountain of the Gods was calling to us. Not without some challenges, an illegal gate trying to charge us and getting stuck fast in a black lava mudbath in a lugga at the foot of Lengai. All hands to build a rock-fill road. We are the elite! The place to camp is Moivaro, a shady lakeside glade with permanent tented platform rooms, regular tents and a campsite. Our own camp and staff, the dinner table looking out across the flamingo-filled soda lake. Next week I'll be here again in the regular tents with my film crew! This is such an extraordinary landscape. Forget the words, just look at the pictures.

A winding escarpment brought us up onto the Loliondo plateau, fitful weather with beautiful skies accompanied us. Some hours, a visit to buy booze in a village pool-room, another welding job and yet again we were becalmed in a mud bath, this time when a downpour caught us and we slid gracefully into the ditch at the side of the road. By cutting masses of brushwood to shove under the wheels and help from Maasia who appear like magic, we were able to reach Hill Camp by dusk. A hot shower, the campfire and G&Ts revived us enough to enjoy a magnificent sunset and a fabulous 'Ali' dinner. The following days were spent essaying from our idyllic camp to view the Serengeti, from hilltops and within. The herds of zebra and wildebeast. The dormant lion king, the hippo pools, one dead and bloated like an up-side-down billiard table! and full array of  antelope. Bird spotting became a favourite sport and we were very lucky. Tourist spotting is more difficult as the routes I prefer are well off the beaten track.

Ngorongoro Crater is our next stop, so we set out across the great grass plains, deciding not to visit the Olduvai Gorge which Louis and Mary Leakey established to become 'The Cradle of mankind', feeling it might be a bit like a school trip. The ride up the Malanga Depression to the crater is impressive in itself, and the first glimpse is a revelation. We are camped in the public campsite, but way off to one side, this is the last night with our wonderful camp staff so there is a fond farewell. This morning started with a bang. Quietly breakfasting I suddenly realise that there is a bull elephant not twenty metres away directly behind David. Do I have a camera? No, my bag is in the tent. Then I see it’s on the table, by this time the bull is wandering away. David was sublimely nonchalant as he thought this must be normal. I did point out that it is not a zoo!

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