Feeling: END OF THE GAME (DRIVES)
Day Five: out of the Serengeti and into the Ngorongoro crater.
Pack up of tents and gear, 8.10am departure, to Naabi Hill for lunch and a chill.
During the night there were a fair few instances of lions roaring pretty close by. Carla told us of one morning on a tour she woke up and unzipped her tent to see the driver a fair distance away motioning to stay put in her tent; she looked around and saw a lion asleep next to it. The driver had to sneak round to the truck door and rev the engine to make him awake and pad away.
Part of me wishes that had happened to us; another part makes me thank like fuck it didn’t.
On the way out of the Serengeti we came across a cluster of trucks hanging out – some lions had made a kill, and hyenas were lurking about trying to hustle a feed. Suddenly one hyena sprinted off; he had the ribcage area of the zebra in his mouth and was gapping it away to smash it down himself.
Onto lunch at Naabi Hill and a stop at the viewpoint to have a pic in front of the endless plains of the Serengeti.
Ten minutes into the journey on, one of the American guys realised he had left his Go-Pro at the lunch spot, so the unanimous decision was made to turn around and go see if we could retrieve it.
Ever seen a U-turn in the Serengeti? Neither. The roads are barely wide enough for two vehicles across, let alone a big truck u-turning. A whole load of other trucks and jeeps pulled up to watch us in action – provided some serious entertainment, as there were at least four instances where we were on the verge of tipping. I think all the safari trucks around stopped looking for animals and started filming us instead. But somehow, Zac the driver set us back along the road we’d come, and we went back to find the Go-Pro had been handed into the main ranger office and all the footage was not lost. Back on the road.
The option came to go to a Maasai village for a little walk through; 15 out of 16 of us were in.
So the Maasai people: nomadic. They only eat meat, milk and blood (taken from the neck of a cow). Polygamist, each wife is bought for a dowry of at least five cows, ten goats or ten sheep. The wives build the homes out of a mixture that involves cow shit. And they can jump like pogo sticks (the Maasai people, not the cow shit).
It was really insightful viewing the village; we saw the kids at the kinder school, went into a lad’s house (two-bedroom is not in the same way a western sort would describe it) and the males on our group had a jumping comp. Then we viewed their handicrafts, where I bought a hand carved lion (for a beautiful little boy my friend had a week ago).
Plus: the men wore shoes MADE FROM TYRES! Many a video and photo taken on my part – I think they were wondering why I kept aiming my phone at the ground. (I saw a pair at a shop a couple of days later and was seriously tempted to get myself and The Pedaller a matching pair. Somehow, I refrained).
That night we stayed at Simba Camp on the edge of the Ngorongoro Crater. So well logically thought out, there is a massive hall where all the cooks have space to make meals and another hall almost adjacent where all the safari-ers hang and eat and what not. 9pm sung bedtime (we were all pretty fried) and just as we we about to drift off to zzz’s there was a scuffle outside our tent – what we thought were hyenas we found out in the morning were a whole load of zebras crossing around us.
The morning dawned with a 6.30am departure for a game drive in the crater (5.30 saw us putting our tent down – Emer and I are getting pretty swift with the erect and collapse) (also helps when the driver was on hand to help us) (now I feel awkward having put “erect”). The animals were a lot more ok with us and even the zebra and wildebeest hung out by the road when we were right there (in the Serengeti they gapped off as soon as they heard us coming).
An hour in. There was a huge elephant up ahead: Carla called, “It’s got five legs!” As we got closer we saw what she meant – not a fifth leg, but another appendage that was swinging about as he strode. A very, very big boy.
Another lot of lions (apparently we’ve been super lucky on the cat front this week), flamingoes, wildebeest, vultures and zebras, then it was upwards and onwards to our next place of camp.
Mto Wa Mbu – “river of mosquitoes” – was our place of stay for the night. Being in a little resort thing, there was the option of an upgrade to a room for $50USD instead of camping on the grass; Emer and I unanimously decided a hot shower, space to stretch out and sort our bags was a goer.
After a two-hour break (including a swim in the pool) we went on a walking tour of the nearby village people’s complex. It was great; we went into the banana fields and were explained how they grew (pretty phenomenal), had how banana beer is made explained to us, saw wood carvings being, um, carved, and then had the most DELICIOUS dinner made by the people. I was in my element – spinach, cabbage, banana, tomato salad; mate, I haven’t eaten so much at once in a very long time.
We passed through the local artist stall and I saw an amazing painting of a lion; he reminded me of The Pedaller with his mane, so I hustled it (and then a bigger version too) for home. (That night I had wifi and was messaging him – The Pedaller, not the lion – and sent him a photo of the painting. “I like it!” He said. “Good, because I got two,” I sez). Emer got a matching one as well so we can have twin pics in NZ and in Ireland.
Tomorrow the tour ends: border crossing back to Kenya, haul to Nairobi, then a goodbye of the group. I have two days at the hotel and to explore the city, then it’s onto Kili.
Last little tit bits from this part of my trip:
⁃ Zac the driver saw me and called, “Hey hey, muffin top!” I was about to get a bit affronted, when I realised that’s what they call beanies (I had on a pink pom pom one).
⁃ Seeing how absolutely fucked up and hammered the trucks get, I asked Zac if they get checked out after each tour; he said as soon as the groups get back the Nairobi, the trucks head to the workshop for two days of TLC.
⁃ Ngorongoro Crater – when the Maasi tribe first explored the region, all the cow bells made the noise – “no-ron-gor-o”; thus, named as so.
⁃ Zebras patterns are like human fingerprints: all unique. Babies need to stay very close their mothers for the first week so they can learn each other’s print.
– Even though Kenya and Tanzania have lot of US influence in using their dollar alongside their local currencies, they use the metric system and set the date with the day first. (Was horrendous applying for my Egypt visa – I kept putting the date around the wrong way with my birthday as the 9th of July, as I was on autopilot doing day-month-year instead of the required month-day-year).
– In Nairobi, traffic gets horrendous; at such times, the police come down and manually, um, man all the cars. The lights turn to a flashing orange and it’s literally a copper waving his hands to indicate who can go. Not sure how it’s more efficient, but it seems to somehow work.
⁃ Gosh I love cultural differences (though this is a bit vulgar, so skip ahead if you’re not keen): the other day, one of the Irish lads said to me, “Did you hear the cock spurting off at 4am?” I choked on my apple and had to get him to repeat himself, to which he said exactly what I thought he had. “I’ve never heard it put that way before,” I sez. “What room was said cock spurting off in?” “Outside,” he replied, a little puzzled. It took a bit, but we got there – he meant a crow cuckoo-ing at dawn, not what I’d thought he’d meant (thank above).
What I find pretty astonishing is how much people want to talk about themselves. I understand it – sometimes I do too – but in conversations with others from the tour, often you’ll ask a question about what they do or where they live or if they have a partner, and they talk about themselves and don’t reciprocate. Or if you’re talking, they’ll take the conversation away from you and turn it on themselves. I know a few years ago I was TERRIBLE for the latter, but I guess becoming aware of myself doing so has made me much more aware of other people doing it too. I talk to Mummy Deb about “swallowing your story”; so when in a situation you could intercut with something related of your own, you accept it’s not your turn for your story to be told and you swallow it. I have to say, very few people swallow their stories here.
A couple of the people aren’t that way at all and to them I’ve shared stuff about myself and my life, but with the others if they don’t ask I am not forthcoming. Why fill them in on you when they aren’t actually interested, they haven’t asked and they probably aren’t listening? I actually think a couple of them think I’m a lot younger than I am and have written me off as a Uni student in a semester break or something. And that’s fine; to them, that’s just what I can be. It’s funny; in the past I’ve always felt this intense pressure to prove myself and be in the spotlight, but it’s massively dulled down or even dissipated. It’s kind of… refreshing.
(By the way, was right about Marion from Country Cork; she downed two whiskeys last night and her value was grand. Plus, she’s actually from Limerick).