Tanzania Southern Circuit 2

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Apr 6th, 2004, 08:07 AM
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Tanzania Southern Circuit 2

Monday 30th June
Today required an early start as we left camp at 8:15 for the airstrip. There was an amusing interlude as Tim (with Ruth in the passenger seat) drove the jeep up and down the airstrip to scare off the wandering impalas. The exercise had to be repeated twice more, as the animals simply trotted back to their original positions as soon as the jeep had passed. We finally cleared the way for the incoming plane and were introduced to Peter Fox. His plane, a six-seater, had only just been bought, so it was his toy and we were his first guest passengers. The first twenty minutes or so of the flight were great fun, following the Tanzam Highway and then the Great Ruaha River. Once we reached the Udzungwa Mountains however things became a bit scary. We were carrying a lot of weight (particularly Geoff's cases) so Peter had to negotiate the range at 8,500 feet, rather than the 10,000 feet he would have preferred. We were thrown about somewhat but everything turned out OK and we made an excellent landing at the Brooke Bond Estate strip in Mufindi. This and subsequent flights were bonuses for us, since we expected to make the transfer journeys by car. There is no doubt that much traveling time was saved by this change of plan, but I do wonder if I actually prefer being transported the old-fashioned way. You probably see more sights of interest overland and spend less time worrying about weather conditions, weight limits and wind speeds.

Following the flight we had an hour's car journey to Foxes Farm, a magnificent place set in the midst of the Southern Highlands, about 60 miles south-west of Iringa. Our chalet has a magnificent view of the escarpment, with forests in the distance and two man made lakes, one of which is allegedly stocked with salmon. All this land belongs to Geoff and he has already marked out the spot that he wishes to be his final resting place - lucky man. Geoff gave us a guided tour of the farm, showing us with particular pride the gardens, which have been created by two of his female farm workers. Work is still progressing on tennis and badminton courts and small bowling green with stupendous views of the hills and forests. It was at the farm that we were introduced to Jennifer Coxall, a young South African who had beenmanaging the place whilst Geoff had been back in England. Her job title is unclear, but she appears to do everything, from organising the building of a new family guest house to managing the stables and teaching some of the local workers basic English phrases. Sitting here now, in front of a roaring log fire, with large G&Ts and an enormous bowl of mixed nibbles -heaven. We ate a nice roast lamb dinner, engaged in good conversation and finally turned in at 9:45 pm. Not quite the end of the day - we had to go though Ruth's cabaret spot. Tonight her hot water bottle had burst, so at about midnight we had to strip the bed, turn the mattress and then remake the bed.

Tuesday 1st July
Breakfast was arranged for a civilised 8:30 am. Ruth went horse riding with Jennifer, whilst a proud Geoff gave me a guided tour of the working farm. We chatted with many of Geoff's workers and he showed genuine interest in the suggestions they were making to improve the work. I could only understand some of the conversations, since the poorer people do not generally speak English and my Kiswahili is non-existent. We all returned to the main lodge for a very welcome beer and an excellent cold salad lunch. Late afternoon we all met up at the dam for a few hours of fly-fishing. We didn't catch any fish, but had a great time anyway. It was fully dark by the time we arrived back at the bar, so after a few drinks and some amusing conversation we had a late dinner. Tonight's entertainment was rounded off nicely when I lost our chalet key and we had to call out the night watchman to let us in.

Wednesday 2nd July
This morning we had a fairly late breakfast before being picked up for a tour of the tea plantations. The drive was pleasant enough, with Geoff giving us a potted history of the two tea companies (Brooke Bondand Mufindi). We continued on to the edge of the escarpment, and then walked for a while. The views were beautiful, but low cloud prevented us seeing as much as we would have liked. We returned to the farm for lunch and had the afternoon to ourselves. Having decided to go down to the dam where we had fished we set off briskly to walk around its perimeter. There were so many different birdcalls that our walk slowed considerably, as we strained our ears to distinguish one call from another. The highlight was seeing Livingstone's Turaco, which is endemic to this part of Tanzania. A black crake and several little grebes were also on the water, whilst all along the banks were giant cobwebs with enormous spiders, which, if you weren't careful, would entangle themselves in your hair. For some reason, Ruth decided we should pick up our pace before it became too dark to find our way. Dinner was for four, including Jennifer and Geoff and we chatted happily over a simple meal before going back to our chalet around 9:00 pm.

Thursday 3rd July
We left the farm at 9:30 am, about two minutes before Peter's plane arrived at the airstrip. We made our warm farewells to Geoff and took off, accompanied by Jennifer this time as she is normally based at Ruaha and she was therefore excited at the prospect of returning "home?. It was a short and uneventful 30-minute flight (I am very glad to say), following which Peter drove us for another half an hour to the Ruaha River Lodge. This is a simply fantastic location, deep in the heart of the Ruaha National Park. There are three separate camps, all self-contained so that the feeling of exclusivity is maintained whilst allowing sufficient numbers for the operation to be profitable. Our banda (hut) is next to the dining banda and bar, some thirty feet from the river bank and with breathtaking views for miles around. What could be better? We had a couple of hours to relax before our first game drive, so we settled down on the verandah to watch a playful family of mongoose on the opposite side of the river bank. We also saw a Goliath heron and marvelled at how still it could stand whilst waiting for the moment to plunge into the shallow waters to scoop up a tiny fish or other morsel of food. At the appointed time we were introduced to Esau, our guide for the next few days and Abraham, our driver for today. The drive was enjoyable, although there were few large animals to see. We did however see lots of birds, including an impressive tawny eagle. We returned to camp late in the afternoon, had a couple of drinks then dinner with Jennifer, who gave us a lot of useful information about the camp and what we would probably see during our time there.

RuthieC is offline  
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Apr 6th, 2004, 08:52 AM
  #2
LizFrazier
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I moved this thread to the end of the first episode in an attempt to keep them together. Sorry if I inserted my own name in the transfer. I tried to make it easier.
 
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