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Our Tanzanian Journey part 1

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Well thank you everyone for your help in organising my unexpected African holiday this summer. After our Christmas jaunt to Zambia, SA and Mozambique I thought I might just contemplate a short African summer holiday. Things escalated and next thing I knew I was planning an African activity holiday rather outside my comfort zone with riding with game, camping and finally diving in Zanzibar. Just to give some perspective I have never ever camped and rather like my luxuries so this was brave stuff indeed.

Well we travelled coach class London to Nairobi – the flight was empty in the aftermath of the London terrorist scare and we were able to lie down and snooze the night away. Arriving in Nairobi things were less serene, transit was a bit of a nightmare, only an insistence on the ground staff retrieving our luggage and returning it to us prevented the fate of other travellers we met - who had lost their luggage through the system, to have it returned days later at a liquor store.

We finally arrived at Arusha airport, which is sweet and dinky – soo much nicer than arriving at Nairobi. We sped through it and were efficiently picked up to be transported to Mt Meru Game Lodge to overnight. I thought we would be tired and need some recovery time but actually we felt quite rested and so went for a guided walk of a local village – not the kind that is arranged for tourist viewing but a genuine messy, poor but fascinating assortment of half built mud huts, chickens and dirt. At one stage we heard the kids reciting the days of the week in English, which Carmen happily joined in to help.

MT Meru Game Lodge itself was sweet and nice for just a night. It has an enclosed area where “orphaned” animals are kept – just some Zebra, ostriches and lots of birds that choose to drop in. Much to our amusement the ostriches decided to get amorous – we have a hilarious video of them mating, their necks swinging wildly from side to side. I ‘ll see if I can work out a way to post it. The room itself was modest but nice and the place seemed strangely quiet . I should say they also have some cadged porcupines and a rather lonely looking monkey – less nice but legacies on when they had a collection of all sorts of animals.

Next day we were ready to leave and promptly picked up for transfers to Makoa farm. Predictably the driver got lost, it’s quite out of the way. We arrived before lunch – and unloaded ourselves into the front garden to be met by 2 rather angry Maribou Stock chicks – who flapped around but seemed unable to walk far. In fact the animals seemed to be our reception committee ; and I liked it already. Elizabeth quickly turned up and introduced us to our future travelling companion Anna, a delightful Swedish diplomat, and then to our room. I think I had some idea of tents and roughing it so I wasn’t really prepared for the beauty of our accommodation – it’s truly spectacular, a kind of cross between a cabana and a tent with a billowing tented ceiling and a view of Kili that is absolutely perfect. Stunningly framed by the lush jungle setting - quite priceless. I honestly think it’s more beautiful than the poshest and most expensive camp you could stay in. I think the farm is animal heaven and a must for anyone with children. Its just full of animals of all sorts from donkeys to geese, mongooses, guinea pigs, owls, herons, ---just everything. Oh and have I mentioned the cats, coffee is delivered in the morning to your room along with an extra bowl to feed the cats your left over warm milk. We loved it. The horses are definitely on paradise, they live as a herd and can range across many pastures coming into a central shed to eat when they want. Oh and there was the tiniest piglet Elizabeth was nursing in the house along with the dogs … quite put me off bacon for breakfast.

So we settled in and that afternoon went to catch up with our mounts. A little swapping around was required before we all were comfortable so I definitely recommend riders set aside time for this in their schedule.

Over the next few days we were to become close friends with Anna, she was a marvellous travelling companion and really made the trip. The next morning Lazlo gave us a briefing on how to ride with game. We soon began to understand his dry humour, for example, his advice, should you be so foolish as to fall from your mount when an ellie charges, was to grab hold of the tusks with both hands and wrap your legs around his head so he can’t gore you to death…hmmm I think about that one.

The horses were trailered half way to Ndarakwai in West Kili and we rode the rest. Again I loved the camp, its permanent tents, but really comfortable, no electricity but all the more romantic for it. The staff were lovely, especially the eponymous Happy, but some advice, make sure in advance they have your favourite alcoholic tipple, they have limited stocks. So the next day we rode into the bush for our encounters with game, I must say I think its spoilt us a little for normal safari’s –it’s just magical to see game on horseback. We got really close to the giraffes, less so to the ellies probably cause I was a little nervous with Lazlo’s advice ringing in my ears. And we saw no one … no vehicles at all. If you don’t ride West Kili may be too out of the way to visit as there are no lions around and no real sightings of Leopard .; But it is a wilderness area with solitude and huge landscapes and loads of the usual prey game.

In summary it was just brilliant, Lazlo in particular was a very funny man, ask him about his incident treating a field mouse if you ever make it there, we laughed and laughed.

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