Day 1-3 of Safari
8/13/09 - 8/15/09 60 °F
"The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings."
And that is what I intend to do.
August 13, 2009
Hmmm...my eye is a little better since I switched to glasses and I think laying off the mangoes has helped my lips but ooh, that canker sore hurts! Today we are heading to Arusha to start our safari portion. It's amazing to me that these airports do not run with the aid of any computers--everything is by hand. And somehow it all works! As luck would have it, we end up on the 12-seater Zan Air cessna. It is actually not bad as we get some great views but we are packed like sardines. Our carry on luggage is actually stowed in the wings! Who knows where our check-in luggage is. There are two other big planes following us on the same "flight."
We're in the last row, literally the tail of the plane..you can see a little of Matt's face at the right of the photo.
Tanzania's official language is both English (The Queen's English) and Kiswahili. I think Arabic is actually the most widely spoken language on the continent but English is dominant in East and South Africa. It also makes it easy to travel in Tanzania because the preferred currency is US dollars. And I've made it easy on Matt because I've hired drivers for the entire trip. He would have killed me if I made him drive...he hates left-hand driving (what's wrong with those English?) and the people drive fast here. It's slow-going only when the roads are super bumpy. Today, we will be picked up by Hatari Lodge at the airport.
Arusha is slightly cloudy and of course, Kilimanjaro is socked in so we can't see any of it. Passing through the town, we realize just how poor Zanzibar was. There are actually normal middle class stucco homes here with plumbing and electricity, the cows' bones aren't sticking out everywhere and there are a lot of big buildings...even a Shop Rite! And oh yes, McMoodys (a rip off of McDonald's) but no one goes there because you can get an entire steak meal and beer for the same price as a hamburger. As we enter Arusha National Park, we immediately see the wildlife. Our first giraffe, our first zebra, our first cape buffalo, our first baboon! Wow.
It is very different in this park as lions really don't exist and the landscape is a mix of grassland and mountain rain forest similar to Kili.
Hatari Lodge is wonderful. (For movie buffs, this is where they filmed Hatari. One of the actors loved it so much, he bought the land and built this lodge.) The rooms are really funky but they are nice. Check out the bathroom!
They have resident warthogs on the premise. They are funky looking (just like Disney's version) and they have to kneel to feed on the short grass.
The staff is amazing and Unambwe is my favorite. He calls me "ms. sherry." It's really cute.
For cocktail hour we had freshly roasted peanuts and cashews...yum! I never liked cashews until today! Dinner is at one table with all the guests. Matt was infatuated with Manfred. If Alec Baldwin had a German look alike twenty years older, Manfred is it! He also had his personality, right down to the mannerisms. I should have taken video, or at least a picture. We also enjoy talking to the manager and her daughter. Most guests are German so the manager craves anyone who speaks English. Dinner was yummy as well. Cream of carrot soup, chicken stroganoff and ice cream. After being escorted back to our bungalow, we get a special surprise in the room. The fireplace is lit and we have hot water bottles to warm our feet in bed. What a perfect day! We didn't even notice that the power is only on from 5:30pm to 11:00pm. Lala salama (good night)!
August 14, 2009
We thought we heard the vervet monkeys on the roof last night but they just might have been large fruit falling onto the roof. No view of Kili again. It is another cloudy day. We turned down the wake up call service but they bring you hot tea or coffee to your bungalow if you wish. Normally, Hatari is filled with giraffes and zebras but the Masai have brought their cattle to this land due to the drought, and cattle scare away all the wildlife. This morning there are a few giraffes in the field and we watch them awkwardly drinking from the river. Today we will be game driving and hiking to the caldera of Mt. Meru. It is Kili's sibling. A more technical climb but not quite as high. We are in an open vehicle and Rashid is our guide/driver.
Petra and Haika from the lodge are also joining us. Petra just successfully climbed Kili. She wanted to do it because it was a lifelong dream but said that she's glad it's done and would never do it again. It's a bit cold today so I have my jacket and gloves on. The forest is quite beautiful. There is a lot of wildlife and it is pretty cool in an open vehicle because you can easily smell what animals are near. We're getting good at identifying the animals by their poop. We are tracking elephants but they are elusive here. It's amazing how the guides can pick out the animals from afar. We enjoy Rashid's commentary as he shares his knowledge with us. Did you know an ant can take down an entire elephant? We've seen blue monkeys, black and white colobus monkeys (they remind me of skunks), all kinds of antelope, birds, giraffes, buffalo.
We also got to drive through two fig trees that joined together as one.
We did have to take an armed ranger with us as the buffalo are dangerous and we were going to hike.
The hiking to the caldera is up, up, up. It is a beautiful trail and we see some of Mt. Meru but there are clouds in the way of the peak. We get to the ash cone in the middle of the caldera.
We did not run into any significant animals. I guess there were buffalo on the trail the other day.
We stopped for a fancy picnic lunch at a waterfall before game driving back to the lodge.
The monkeys were quite active this late in the afternoon. They are fun to watch!
Another fabulous cocktail hour, dinner and chit chatting at Hatari Lodge. Alert the press: Matt had cream of eggplant soup! But he had two servings of milk tart for dessert. Matt and I love this place and would recommend it to anyone. It's not serious game driving but the lodge is peaceful and the service is outstanding. We also love meeting other people. However, it is a little remote. Can you imagine living without any power at all? No one in these villages can have access to electricity...not even the manager's house. That's right, not only do you not have a blow dryer but no TV, no computer, no stove...yikes!
August 15, 2009
You guessed it, another cloudy day...really socked in today. The buffalo are all over the property this morning. Along with a couple of giraffes. We are sad to be leaving the lodge today and we reluctantly say our goodbyes. We have a game drive to Momella Lakes and Ngurdoto Crater and then we are off to Arusha to start our next adventure. Rashid will be our guide/driver again. It's just us this morning.
Big Momella Lake is home to thousands of flamingos. You can actually see a line of neon pink from afar.
It's a bit stinky here. On our way out, we ran into a bunch of giraffes right next to the road. It's amazing that they are so easy to miss even though they are so tall. They are good at blending.
This one is tired. After all, they only sleep 2 hours a day.
And a little further down we see zebras as well.
Not much going on today except a lot of vehicles on the road. We ran into a handful of cars yesterday but this route is much more popular. When we get to Ngurdoto Crater, we only see buffalo. I have to say, it's a bit disappointing. The only thing I find interesting is the group of school kids on a field trip. They all dress so colorfully here. Again, many stared at me.
Good thing we did the Momella drive or we wouldn't have seen too many animals. On the way out, we see some active monkeys so we sit for a while to watch.
Rashid is now driving us to our next lodge...Kigongoni in Arusha. We pass a bunch of schools and villages and we finally arrive in time for lunch. We say our goodbyes and welcome our next adventure with Africa Dream Safaris.