|Spectacular Serengeti sunset views|
After crossing the border, where we had to show our innoculation cards for the first time, we stopped at the southern Tanzanian town of Tukuyu, ringed by the Poroto Mountains and at the base of Mount Rungwe, the second highest point in the southern highlands. Werner had to stop to change the spare tube at a local garage. This gave us time to wander around and take some photographs and chat to the locals, who were very friendly and displayed interest in our presence. The area was green and lush in banana and rubber plantations. Shortly after leaving Tukuyu, the repaired tube "blew", so the tyre had to be changed on the roadside. The countryside changed dramatically during the day's journey. Rich tropical plantations gave way to savannah-type vegetation reminiscent of the northern suburbs between Johannesburg and Pretoria. Thereafter we passed throughout a region of forests before arriving in Iringa in the late afternoon. Iringa lies at the junction of the road to Ruaha National Park and boasts several period buildings in the old German quarter near the market. Werner had indicated to me earlier that the overnight bushcamp stop in the mountainous region we were about to enter provided a spectacular setting for photographs, as the region abounded in baobab trees. Unfortunately, the problems we had encountered earlier delayed us to the extent that we would only arrive after nightfall. It was then that a number of folk in the bus, by no means the majority, who weren't keen on the idea of another bushcamp ("Ag, shame!"), proposed that we should press on to Dar-es-Salaam, as this would ultimately afford us an extra day on Zanzibar. Hey, party time rules! The upshot of this absurd suggestion was the fact that we would be cooped up in the truck and on the road for a period of 18 hours! It only required one objection to the proposal, in order for it to have been shelved, meaning that we would have bushcamped. Whoever had been prepared to accept that responsibility, would have made themselves unpopular in the process! The fact was, that we were missing out on venturing through an extremely beautiful region rich in game! But to certain people this wouldn't have mattered anyway, as they had been dozing throughout the entire journey from Tukuyu to Iringa! Predictably, boredom began to set in as the tedious journey continued in pitch darkness and the only way to relieve that boredom was, yes, you've guessed it, to have a party! It's amazing how some people can really get up one's nose when they've had a bit too much to drink! Ron, the eldest in the group and several others, including myself, were seething! We arrived at the Silversands campsite in Dar after midnight, dog-tired after travelling all of 1200 km. We pitched tents, downed a cold beer and hit the sack!
The owner of Silversands was an Austrian ex-patriat with a good sense of humour. The campsite boasted a relatively new ablution block with washing facilities and showers. The only problem was that when we did attempt a shower, the flow was reduced to a mere trickle. Fat load of good! All belongings save what we needed for a day pack plus all tents and other baggage were packed into the back of the truck, before leaving for Zanzibar.
|Day 35 of the tour. We had returned from Zanzibar the day before. Up at crack of dawn, it began to rain , as it had throughout the night and we packed up quickly and headed for Arusha. I indicated in Part One how I felt about the mad rush in getting to Zanzibar. In retrospect, we did gain an extra day, which proved enjoyable, but I still stand by earlier statements I made. The weather warmed up considerably and turned out to be humid and sticky. The route takes one past the spectacular Usambara Mountains, through lush countryside, although the vegetation was considerably more brown and dry towards Moshi. The road, in good condition, deteriorated somewhat between Moshi and Arusha.|
|The majesty of the Usambara Mountain Range en route from Dar-es-Salaam to Moshi|
|The peaks of Kilimanjaro were immersed in the
customary blanket of cloud. We had stopped for lunch on the roadside but reached
the Meserani Snake Park in Arusha in the late afternoon. As the name indicates.
the park boasts a comprehensive assortment of snakes as well as crocodile and
seemed to be popular with the Overland trucking fraternity, but the ablution
facilities were simply atrocious! The sociable atmosphere in the pub, though
extremely pleasant, did not seem to make up for the management's total disregard
in providing the basics first. The atmosphere in the bar was charged and events
began to hum as the evening wore on. Drinks were being ordered on the tab
system. I felt her presence next to me. Was it the African dust and heat or
merely her cool, tanned thighs and skimpy floral dress? After a spell of
sustained flirtation, she announced that she had been aroused to what might
roughly be described as one of uncontrollable desire. "I'm horny!" she declared.
She could just as well have been speaking for both of us. With the bar-room
stool seat partially soaked, there was no holding back, as the situation
culminated in a bizarre yet extremely erotic liaison when the lights
failed, suddenly and incredulously, owing to a power failure. This lasted
several minutes. After the power had been restored, we made a hasty exit to
illustrate the versatility of the Whichway tents. I retired to my own tent
timeously, before the anticipated arrival of the Nosey Parker brigade. The day
had turned out to be long and eventful and it was not long before I was in a
deep, peaceful, satisfied sleep. It was only the following morning that it
struck me that I hadn't seen Claus in the pub at all the night before.
I wondered where he had got to?
Up at 7h30, we drove to Arusha after breakfast, where I was able to post cards and phone Seamus Brice-Bennett, proprietor of the Marangu Hotel and organiser of my Kilimanjaro climb, to confirm that events were still on track. We returned just before lunch and prepared a day pack, which would see us through the next three days. Our normal rucksacks and Whichway tents were piled in the truck, which was to remain at the snake park. After showering, we were collected by and alighted four Land Rovers of the Roy Safaris Company, heading off due west. We stopped briefly at a Masai curio shop, then left the tarred road and onto diabolical gravel roads thereafter - these weren't pot-holes but rather of a size akin to the Sea of Tranquility! The damage to vehicles would generally be considerable, I guess. If the roads in Namibia can be graded then why not those in the Serengeti, one of Africa's top tourist destinations?
Serengeti wildlife SCENES OF TANZANIA
|We eventually reached the Jambo campsite, our stop for the evening. The tents provided by Roy Safaris were pitched on the lawn adjacent to the main complex. Who would have to share a tent with Elsie Geselsie, seemed to be uppermost in everyone's mind? Fortunately, I claimed my own and was spared the embarrassment! After supper, we were entertained by a rather forgettable African dance ensemble. In addition to a driver for each vehicle, ours going by the rather original name of "Everest", the Roy Safaris complement included two cooks, Steve and Edrick. It began to rain that evening and Jo had fallen and sprained her hand badly.|
|Jambo campsite entrance SCENES OF TANZANIA|
|We left Jambo and continued past Lake Manyara, negotiating an ascent through a rain forest region which afforded us a stunning view of the surrounding terrain, passing through a maize farming region before finally reaching a roadside lookout at the rim of the renowned Ngorongoro Crater, near the bush camp of Seronera. From here we began the descent into the Serengeti, stopping en route at a Maasai village. If the sight of single figure of this largely nomadic and pastoral race at regular intervals on the roadside, dressed in traditional tartan garb, waiting to be photographed for a fee, appeared somewhat bizarre, events which were to follow, turned out to be even more so. The Maasai judge wealth in terms of the size of their herd. They are, however, involved in an ongoing battle to secure land for their cattle. They therefore have to resort to other means to acquire a regular form of income, provided directly as a result of Western fascination with these people, their unique appearance and rituals. The drivers negotiated an entrance fee, the sum of 3000 shilling, allowing us carte blanche in terms of photographing the extraordinary inhabitants of this village. Who was exploiting whom, one wondered? Those who had not "coughed up" but dared to point a camera in the general direction of the compound, were set upon aggressively by the chief. As for the rest, we were enthusiastically and politely shown the interior of their humble abode. We were also witnessed a rendition of the Maasai tribal dance. The monotonous drone produced by their voices throughout the hypnotic dance ritual, punctuated by their random, stilted leaps into the air, fascinated me. The sound was such that, coupled the distinctive red tartan pattern of their garments, the absurd thought came to mind that made me wonder whether they could possibly be cousins to the Scots. To my horror, an incorrect setting on my camera resulted in my not being able to capture a single, solitary photograph of this visit! These may possibly have been amongst some of my best shots taken during the entire overland tour! I felt sick! As we drove away, images which should have been on film were instead imprinted in my memory. Across the plains the sight of dark thunderstorm clouds loomed ominously on the horizon. Within a short period, torrential rain began to soak the dusty earth. The largely dry savannah landscape consisting of grassland interspersed with the distinctive umbrella-shaped acacia trees was beginning to show signs of green. We drove around, searching for game. A pride of lion occupied a huge outcrop of boulders, surveying the surrounding landscape, possibly contemplating their next meal. We halted on the roadside next to a hyena, so close, seemingly harmless and unperturbed, that I almost entertained the thought of reaching out and stroking it. We bush-camped in the wild that evening. A wild animal of some description stirred at the rubbish bins as Mark and Billy went off to the loo, scaring them both "out of their wits" in the process. It seemed appropriate that it had to be a hyena. As for the rest of us, the proverbial call of nature suddenly no longer seemed that much of a necessity.|
|Commencing the day at 6 o'clock, we headed off in the crisp morning air for more game viewing, while Johan went off on his balloon ride. A tagged lioness carried a cub in her mouth as she strode towards the large outcrop of rock we had visited the previous afternoon. Wildebeest, zebra and Thomson's gazelle were abundant. Two lithe cheetah, the fastest land creature known to man, replenished their thirst from a puddle of rainwater which had collected on the gravel road, the agitated tail movement an indication of their restlessness. We returned to the campsite, packed up the tents and headed for Simba camp on the edge of the crater. It began to get extremely chilly as the sun set. We went off to a convenience store in the vicinity in a Land Rover or two, where I purchased a couple of cokes while Jo, I think it was, went delirious at being able to get her hands on a chocolate bar. In an entirely different vein, Elsie Geselsie had at this stage struck up more than a passing interest in the driver of the Land Rover she was driving in, which became the talk of the town, so to speak. Indeed, this meant that she could retire to more comfortable living quarters for the night. Well, at least the rest of us were in no danger of having to share a tent with her! After some light banter while a photograph of her was being taken, she attempted to surprise me in the showers shortly thereafter. But owing to my highly suspicious nature, I suspected something was awry and the tit for tat was foiled at the crucial moment.|
Ngorongoro Crater views from the rim
|Up at 6h20, with a thick mist hanging over the Crater and rim and the temperature less than agreeable, visibility was somewhat restricted. Elephant, the world's largest land mammal and one of the so-called Big Five, roamed the hillside around the camp, their huge frames barely distinguishable in the nearby fields. We drove back towards the Serengeti, turning off to head down into the 260km2 600m deep Ngorongoro Crater, situated at the base of an extinct volcano. The grass here was a pale brown, markedly different to the lush green I had seen in the Serengeti movie at the I-Max cinema in Cape Town. This, coupled with the dried-out stark white alkaline beds and mist, which gradually began to clear, transformed the landscape into one of remote, cold, desolate stillness.|
Approaching thunderstorm across the Serengeti plains
|The variety and quantity of game somewhat disappointing, my mood was somewhat tempered by the incredible selfishness of some the people in the bus, not least Leonie from New Zealand!! After a picnic lunch at a water's edge situated in the Crater, while maintaining our distance from a herd of large, slumbering and submerged hippo, we packed up and headed back towards Arusha. In retrospect, the attitude and service of the employees of Roy Safaris left little to be desired, which subsequently led to a complaint being lodged, I believe, by Whichway Adventures. Back at the Snake Park, we prepared to celebrate three birthdays, those of Elsa, Troy and Johan.|
|By virtue of the fact that everyone was required to don their recently-acquired outfits the festivity was transformed into a virtual Zanzibar party. The spit roast meal was amazing! Marcelle prepared her special brew of fruit punch, which had the desired effect. We literally danced the night away as CD after CD was played. The music of Johnny Clegg would never sound better than in the heart of Africa. It was the final evening that Jo and Mark were to spend with us, as they had elected to leave the tour in order to climb Kilimanjaro.|
Kilimanjaroi view near Arusha
|I got up at 6 o'clock to see Jo and Mark
off. Werner would be dropping them off in Arusha. Their departure undoubtedly
put a damper on events a tad. Jo's charismatic personality would be sorely
missed. We went in to Arusha later that morning, affording me the opportunity of
posting a few cards. I bought some slide film as I had begun to run short. I was
already approaching something in the order of 800 photos taken. After lunch we
played a bit of soccer, the rules favouring Claus's side (there were only four
of us in total anyway), who won by a solitary goal. I had organised some washing
to be done. The atmosphere in the bar that evening being somewhat more subdued,
I settled my tab of 10000 Tanzanian shillings. The showers were out of order,
leaving Werner to complain bitterly, not for the first time. Requiring
additional cash and not being that partial to "rugger" anyway, I sold a
"Ruck-it" T-shirt to one of the South African ex-patriats who worked at Meserani
Snake Park for the princely sum of $10. Turned in just after 22h00 in the
knowledge that tomorrow would see an early start, which would see us on the
final leg of the overland tour into Kenya.
It was here at Arusha that Aviette, an Israeli, developed fever symptoms, a sure signal that she had fallen victim to malaria, the dreaded disease of the Anopheles mosquito. Thankfully, I had been taking my daily dosage of Prophylactic drugs Chloroquine and Proguanil religiously, while applying insect repellents such as Tabard liberally on exposed parts of the body for an adequate dusk to dawn covering.
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