Photo Safari Diary

Diary - Tanzania - Page 3

We venture on with William, who having been through thick (mud) and thin (air) is fast becoming a good friend. But not without first descending into the crater. This is almost a zoo, drivers behave badly when a pride of lions is spotted. The Japanese wear masks for the non existent dust, it has just rained! No stopping unless for toilets in picnic sites, which are infested with tourist-taught monkeys to steal food. However, the proximity to the wildlife against the fabulous backdrop of the crater walls is awe-inspiring.

From the crater we drove the red, red road with deep green fronds of acacia tortilis overhead and stop-the-car views over Eyasi, to Endulen. I want to visit my friend Ned, who has been teaching the Maasai children in Tanzania for more than 40 years. He is quite a character and a bit of a computer geek, so we get on fine. His network receiver is a Heath-Robinson affair attached to his little wooden house and his office is beside his camp-bed. Nevertheless we are welcome and offer to share our supper as it is Sunday and the school cook-house is shut. We have an array of pans of curry thoughtfully prepared by Ali. Whilst Ned and I are making CDs of my photos (space, I need more digi space) Sue is warming up the supper, William is finding extra chairs and setting the table. Suddenly there's an almighty (no pun intended) explosion. Boom, whoosh, yelp.  Double skin thermos pans! New to me. Curry is splattered all over Father Ned's little cloakroom-cum-kitchenette. Even in his wellies! After a clean up, a good laugh with relief as Sue was unhurt, we swilled the rest of the curry down with a beer and toddled off to bed in the local hospital's 'visiting doctors accommodation'. It is simple and clean, and a very civilised breakfast of tea, coffee, toast and jam with fruit. Which I am eating as I write. Out here in nether-Maasai-land we are fortunate to have a bed, mozzy net and shower, I always stay at this hospital if there is room, and the view from the veranda over Eyasi is magnificent.

It is already the 17th day of our safari, feels like months. So much has happened. It is always enriching to see Ned, he is one of the old fashioned truly good priests. I should mention that he provides food and a home during  term time for girls and boys that are disabled or whose families cannot get them to his school. Father Ned says the road down the escarpment is recently graded, it goes to Lake Eyasi where I want to meet the Wahadzabe tribe, the last hunter gatherers as my son is directing a commercial for Aspirin that features a hunter gatherer in two weeks time. Ned lends me a book he has about them. I am thrilled and will post it back from Arusha. The luxury tented camp on the lake is closed at the moment, but we will try to see it and then push on to Karatu.

The Olpiro escarpment is lovely. Dense primeaval forest, untouched, overlooking a lake Eyasi which is about four times the size of lake Manyara. A a joy to walk, and we do. We see only a few people of the Mangati tribe who are hostile to both the Maasai and Wahadzabe. Slight and handsome featured. They refuse, threateningly, to be photographed. Pax vobiscum and cheerio.

At the foot of the hills we search for the Wahadzabe and do find a small encampment. Only women and children are at home. They are welcoming. The boys all have arrows and bows taller than themselves decorated with monkey fur. I buy a set for the film. Sue buys some beads and everyone looks pleased. The road to the waterside camp at lake Eyasi proves hard to find, when we do it is shaded and lush with palms and papyrus. The permanent tents look very comfortable and there's a swimming pool. Some people from a nearby campsite come to swim. We no longer have our entourage to set up a home for us. So banana and biscuit sandwiches at the disco. Disco? Yup. No shops. No houses. Just a Saloon bar Disco.

The road to Karatu is not lovely. It skirts Oldeani, the towering mountain south of Ngorongoro, and by curving round the lower perimeter goes over many, too many, lava ridges and gullies. It would be best to travel earlier in the day with a few stops along the way. The little lodge in Karatu is perfect. Spacious first-floor rooms with big beds. Hot, hot, plentiful water. Ceiling fans. A good bar. So-so but acceptable food, and smiling helpful staff. Best is the name and demeanor of the manager. We decide to stay for the last three nights and explore, shop here in the town rather than in Arusha, which is a teeming metropolis andb  heart of the Northern Circuit safari route. This is a really good decision as we wander around the market and buy all our presents. Plus a second-hand pair of rubber tire shoes and pants for the Aspirin commercial. A short ride brings us to Lake Manyara National Park. It is in such a beautiful setting, tucked into the Rift Valley wall and teeming with game. We watch the hippos wallow and the minibus drivers gossip, are chased by an elephant; he fooled us by hiding behind a bush, have our picnic interrupted when about three hundred buffalo stroll right by us... but never glimpse a tree lion, though one may have well seen us! Safari over, we set off happily for Arusha, homeward bound.

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