Sunday, May 29, 2005
I have an addendum to last night. Just after 11:00, I was getting ready for bed and heard a tromping, chomping noise outside the window. I listened harder trying to decide what kind of being would make this noise. Was it an animal? A guard? A Masaai? Certainly no person would be out there! I got the flashlight and, rather apprehensively, shone it out of the window. There, just outside the window, up against the building, was a HUGE cape buffalo eating grass!! He looked over at me, then continued eating. What an experience!
(The Crater Lodge also had umbrellas (as most places did) and sticks to carry while walking and mud boots available in the room.)
Okay. On to today! We got up at what has become our normal time (6:15-6:30). Festo brought us coffee in a silver coffee pot covered with a cozy, a silver creamer with warm milk, china cups/saucers, small silver coffee spoons, white and brown sugar, and three coconut macaroons (homemade). And that was just the wake up call.
We packed and had breakfast in the dining room, then left with Simon. The weather in the morning was cold, damp and rainy at times. The visibility was much better than yesterday. We did see where a large truck traveling up the mountain had lost control and turned over on the side of the road. The brush is so thick there that it kept the truck from falling on down the mountain. Further down the road, trucks and larger vehicles were lined up and down the roads, because they had been prevented from going up the mountain on the wet, mud roads. I have no idea how long they had to wait.
We traveled out of Ngorongoro through the city of Karatu. We stopped for diesel ($0.99/liter) and Simon briefly saw one of his sisters who lives/works there.
We traveled on to Lake Manyera National Park, arriving there around 9:30 or 10:00. The animals of the day:
baboons blue monkeys elephants giraffes impala
brown snake eagle zebra palm nut vulture banded mongoose
cliff springer antelope hippo warthogs wildebeests
Cape buffalo ibis dikdik jackal flamingo monitor (lizard)
We were able to see some animals amazingly close to the car. In particular, the giraffe, hippos and elephants. We got much better photos of the hippo out of the water.
The baboons were all out in numbers we haven't seen before with the tiniest of babies. We saw a large hippo pool where most of the hippos were out of the water. One had wandered off from the others and was fairly close to us, eating a late breakfast.
Simon pointed out a "baubau" (?) tree, which has a long life span. The trunk appeared smooth and was very large. Because of how the branches are twisted and resemble roots, it is also referred to as an "upside down" tree.
We also went to an area where hot springs were coming out of the rocks and walked down to see them.
We stayed in the park until after 3:00. The Crater Lodge had packed us a nice lunch: chicken salad sandwiches with sliced cucumber on it, shelled peanuts, an orange, and a square for dessert that had nuts, dried fruit and I don't know what else; and a box juice. Everything was packed to be environmentally friendly.
The Lake Manyera Park area starts out very dense, lush and "jungle-ly". It changes into marshes and plains. It was a beautiful area. Basically, the only predator we saw was the jackal, which was a tiny bit disappointing; but we've been so fortunate and blessed to experience everything we have. There truly have been no disappointments.
Traveling through Karatu this morning, everyone was out and about, many going to church. In fact, we observed a procession walking down the street. Someone was carrying a cross and others had branches in their hands. It reminded me somewhat of Palm Sunday.
The area appears quite poor, poverty-stricken even, when you look at the homes, businesses, standard of living. But the colors are vibrant--from the clothes they wear, to the colors of some of the buildings, to the crops of corn and sunflowers.
The town is truly busy with almost everyone going somewhere it seems, on bicycles, walking and even a few on ox-driven carts.
There are some who appear to blend in with the immediate landscape: grays, browns, dusty. Others wear bright colors, head wraps and are bright spots in this area.
People are often seen carrying items on their heads, especially the women. We've seen them carrying large, five gallon buckets to collect water in. We've seen people carry baskets with all kinds of items, greens, bananas, and what appeared to be kindling (not in a basket).
Just outside of Karatu was our last lodge of the trip, The Plantation Lodge. It is down a dirt road, through corn fields, past small shacks where people live.
We were greeted by about five employees, some of whom took our luggage. We were given juice upon arrival.
This lodge is similar in concept, although not in luxuriousness, as the Crater Lodge. There seems to be one main building for reception,a bar and restaurant. Guest rooms are in other buildings. It seems that there are 2-3 rooms to a building with a common courtyard, lounge area and dining room.
Our room has a queen bed, with mosquito netting, which looks like it's a necessity rather than just the decor. There is a small room off to the side with a daybed.
The furniture is made of hardwood and feels a bit sparse, but nice. The shower is large, but we've not managed to get enough hot water out of it for a whole shower! I think we showered too early, not leaving enough time for the generator to heat it. The water from the plumbing is brown, which is a bit disconcerting.
The grounds are beautiful, quite lush and green with flowering plants and so many birds. There is a large pool; sitting areas throughout, a hammock, and a couple of dogs. We were encouraged to walk the grounds and explore. We were assured, without asking, that it was safe.
We repacked the suitcases, cleaned up and came into the lounge area to read and write. **Oh. when we arrived, they had hot tea and coffee with warm milk, sugar and slices of pound cake waiting for us in the courtyard. A really nice treat.
The lounge area has an open fireplace, a wood coffee table (square), surrounded on 3 sides by 3 pairs of chairs. The table and book shelves have numerous books on Africa. There is a writing desk. The decor is tasteful and interesting. Everywhere I look I see different things. All of the pictures hanging on the walls are either maps (antique), black and white photos from years ago or pen/pencil drawings with an African theme.
In one area outside of our room is a sculpture of three giraffes beside a settee with a huge potted plant beside it. On the wall behind it are 3 pairs of old African children's sandals. (The sandals being old, rather than the children). You just never know what you'll see at any turn.
The dining room has a table for 4 and one for 6. The tables are plain, dark wood with bright red placemats and table runners. The chandeliers over each are wrought iron and have candles.
We drank Tanzanian beer while Larry looked at the lodge's books and I was writing. About 7:30, they put on some nice African jazz on the CD player. Dinner was then served: The table had been set beautifully with candles and fresh flower petals from the gardens strewn down the center of the table.
appetizer: tomato/cheese with balsamic vinegar; soup: cream of pumpkin; tossed salad; roast beef with gravy, potatoes, carrots, green beans, fennel (that was different!) and "fried corn flour". We had had ugali last week which was corn flour mixed with boiling water. So I thought they took that kind of a mixture and fried it. Turned out to be "fried cauliflower". BIG difference! I figured it out before Larry ate it, which was good since it's one of the few things he doesn't care to eat.
There was a basket of fresh baked bread with butter. Dessert was baked apple slices in a goblet with a vanilla cream sauce, garnished with a couple of raspberries.
Everything was delicious. We are the only guests in the lodge, so we truly have felt a bit like royalty.
The Lake Manyera area has approximately 390 different species of birds.
Monday, May 30, 2005
We slept pretty well last night once we figured out the mosquito netting around the bed and the covers. The bed was actually the equivalent of two twin beds pushed together. Each had a fitted sheet, and each had a duvet on it folded in half, with the opening towards the middle.
It was too short-not coming up higher than mid-chest and our feet stuck out of the bottom. We finally figured out to unfold the duvets, place them lengthwise and they worked just fine.
We had breakfast this morning: cereal, yogurt, plate of thin sliced cheese and beef; fruit plate (sliced apples, watermelon, papaya, mango, and tiny bananas); and eggs. The coffee was excellent: strong and rich, made in a French press.
We left with Simon around 8:30 for what was to be about a 3 hour drive to Arusha. Simon was able to visit with his sister last night and had dinner with her.
The trip to Arusha was through towns and villages, farmland, and countryside. The poverty of Tanzania was so very apparent: mud houses, kids in dirt yards, people herding cattle, goats and donkeys along the roadsides. Most of the businesses in the villages were merely shacks. Roofs are either thatch or metal, often secured with large rocks.
People walk everywhere! Many ride bikes, and traffic can be rather nerve racking with no apparent traffic signals. People who are not on the go are in their yards or gardens working, washing clothes (by hand), sweeping, etc. Many areas had people sitting with their produce for sale. Many of the children waved to us as we passed, a few ran behind us a few steps.
Once in Arusha (Simon made the trip in 2-2 1/2 hours), he dropped us off at the Cultural Heritage Center. We were there 2-2 1/2 hours shopping for souvenirs. We spent a good bit of money, but got some really nice things, and the price was more reasonable, the selection greater, than what few shops we'd seen at some of the lodges. Shipping costs were another matter, however, adding up to more than 50% of the total sale.
The other heart stopper was the Tanzanite. They had beautiful loose stones and some mounted into rings. The first stone we looked at was $12,680!! US dollars!! Needless to say, they were beautiful---and we left them there!
We ate our box lunch with Simon there at the center, then he drove us about an hour back to the Kilamanjaro Int'l Airport (KIA) lodge. He took us through the central part of Arusha. There are about 1 million people in Arusha. It is quite a busy city with people everywhere. But even downtown seems fairly primitive by our standards. Just on the other side of town the houses looked a bit better. But throughout, where there was a creek, people would be washing clothes, themselves, or children. I saw one small boy washing in the front yard with his mother pouring water over him. And even just on the outskirts of town, people were herding their livestock on the roadside.
Simon said that he and his wife found a private school for their boys to attend that is close to their home. That way they can walk in about 15-20 minutes (about half a kilometer). Transportation costs for the school run about 1/2 of the tuition costs.
*An aside... buses in Arusha are more like large vans. Apparently there is no maximum capacity rules as people were absolutely packed in every one we saw. Simon said that it costs about 200-250 shillings (20-25 cents) to ride the bus across town, so it is a very cheap and easy way to get to work.
It felt a bit odd coming back to the KIA lodge where this whole adventure started. We said our goodbyes to Simon after getting his contact information. It seems strange to know that he won't be around in the morning to take us on adventures.
We had a dayroom at the KIA where we rested a bit, then cleaned up and walked around. The birds are noisy here and the flowers are beautiful. We even saw some large poinsettia bushes.
We had a drink at the bar--my last Safari beer (lager) and our dinner was ready at 6:00. They served it early per our request due to needing to be at the airport by 7:00.
The meal was very good and I had my last cup of Tanzanian coffee in Tanzania.
Check in and customs were easy and Larry and I waited in the Business class lounge for the flight. When we walked in, the volume on the television was up loud on a Christian gospel show. That was a shock! The attendant turned it on to CNN and we watched that and read a Tanzanian newspaper to start catching up on what's been going on in the world without us.
We began the end of our journey, taking a 9 hour flight to Amsterdam. We spent the day and a night there before coming back home--another 9 hour flight to Atlanta.
Larry and Donna Baird firstname.lastname@example.org
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Sunday, May 29, 2005