Journey to Myanmara
Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
158Trip End Mar 11, 2011
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Where I stayed
The Plantation Lodge & Safaris Ngorongoro Conservation Area
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Read my review - 4/5 stars
It is still dark when the driver from the airline picks us up from our hotel. This is probably one of the best serviced airlines in the world, sorry mr Branson. Hotel pick up, personal guidance through checkin and even planes that leave early when everyone is on board, wonderful. We are driven back to through the ghettos of Dar to the airport. As the first light hits the streets it still looks as dangerous and uninviting as the day before.
At the airport we are checked in to the flight to Arusia and wait. What a wonderful chaos it is.
People are arranged between various flights on an ad hoc basis. Most people are confused and dont know where to go. But the man behind the service desk seems to have it all under controll, no worries. We buy a coke from the lady in the corner settle down on a bench awaiting
our turn observing the organized chaos. The sign above the door says 'lounge', but this is not Heathrow or Chap in Hong Kong, this is Africa and things are different here. Another sign says, no photographs, haha. So law obeying Linda picks up a camera and captures some shots.
It all takes not too long before we walk down the tarmac to one of the little propellor driven Cesna air-planes that are lined up. You feel like Indiana Jones on an adventure to find some hidden temple in some far away jungle. And with our Safari hats that we picked up in Hong Kong we do have the appearance as well.
A lot of shaking and rumbling and off we go up to about ten thousand feet. A wonderful height for flying as you are not too far from the ground, so you have a better view of what's out there. The flight is about forty five minutes and will take us in to the inlands of Tanzania, Arushia to be exact.
The landscape below us is breathtaking. Vast open fields, desserts, canyons formed be the rivers that flow from the highlands. And occasional evidence of a brutally volcanic past. Huge boulders and sole mountains made out of solid granite dot the landscape. Then, in the distance we see the snow capped top of mount Meru. At first we thought we had a sighting of Kilimanjaro. But apparently Kili is a bit more north of Arusia and is sporadicly spotted as it hides in the clouds for most of the time.
On the ground we transfer into an even smaller plane, a eight seater Cesna. It is just us and the pilot now, a guy from Canada that came out to Africa to get away from the regulated and
boring sky ways of North America. Flying here must be a pilots dream. The freedom, the amazinge landscapes, and the runways that are no more than clay courts and from the sky they have the size of a small stamp. The runways are often filled with grazing antelope or zebras.
We fly up to the lake Manyara and make an amazing approach on to the runway. This runway is on a clif, so it is like landing on an airplane carrier. Here we say goodbye to our pilot as we greet our guide for the coming days. Dressed in appropriate camouflage colors and with a friendly smile, he escorts us to our vehicle, a Toyota Landcruiser, modified to be a Safari vehicle. The roof is filled with hatches that can open up so you can stand in the car and look around to observe the wildlife around you. These are real off road cars, not the americanised SUV type of cars you find rolling around the highways of the western world. The landcruiser has
proven to be one of the most, if not the most, sturdy vehicles in the world. At least according to the scientific testing methods of Top Gear. Every Top Gear enthusiast must know what I am talking about here so I leave it at that.
We are not even five minutes out of the airport gate and the show is on. Our first sighting of the wild, a kill!. An eagle had struck and was taking out a Guinna pig about ten meters away from our vehicle. You could see the eagle breaking the neck of the Guinna pig and trying to rip it apart with his hooked beak, cruel but awesome at the same time. We brought out our guns, or rather our canons (cameras of course, we would never go out and shoot animals) and we started shooting the first of what is to become a collection of over 2000 photographs.
We managed to have the good old 350D fixed in Hong Kong and hooked it to the zoom lens, We also gave our faithful L lens that had a serious beating back in Amsterdam a second life and fitted that to the 550D. In my pocket I hold the Ixus 75, like a side arm, always armed to shoot the unexpected. But still we are noobs in the world of Safari and photography. Later we will see people with lenses the size of bazookas, camouflaged and leaning on sand bags. But I have been told it is not the size that matters, it is the eye behind the camera that makes the difference. And for that I can confidently say that Linda has one of the best eyes that I have ever met.
We continue our way towards the Lake Manyara national park. Even though our Land Cruiser is prepared for serious off road work, in this part of Tanzania we have to stick to the tracks. So in the park we can not approach any animals that we see, we have to keep our distance. But before we arrive at the park it is time for some lunch. Our driver stops at a small cafe, equipped with plastic chairs and reasonably clean glasses for drinks. Still we are advised not to use the glasses and stick to drinking from a straw or directly out of the bottle. The acceptable level of hygiene in Tanzania is a lot lower than in the western world, and our delicate intestines could most likely not cope with the cocktail of foreign bacteria's to which it would be exposed. So better stick to the advise and not ruin a day or two of remarkable travelling with some diarrhoea or worse.
We unpack a goody box and enjoy a packed lunch by the side of the road. The food was not brilliant, but it served the purpose, refuel and move on. It was not far from the park and here we were exposed to sort of a mini Safari experience. The moment we crossed the gate we were greeted by hordes of baviaans lying on the middle of the road. Climbing in the trees, fighting, loving and playing. A bit further down the road we see some precious bush birds, antilopes and other little animals hiding between the bushes. The park is like a zoo without fences. Every meter we drive there is something to see. It is not long before we spot a few giraffes in the distance. And shortly after that we drive past a group of African elephants. We drive along the lake which is remarkable. In the far far distance the coast is dotted with a large group of flamingos.
Our guide tells us that this lake is getting smaller and smaller every year, and that it would not take long before it would dissapear for ever. Global warming in full motion, sad. At the end of the track there is the main attraction of the park, a giant Hippo pool. We are of course not alone in this mini wilderness. There are about ten or twelve other vehicles parked around the Hippo pool fence, and everyone is trying to shoot the famous gaping mounth shot.
Not much chance of that happening at this time of the day, as the Hippos only show this
behavior when the exit the water at the end of the hot day. I've been told that they do the gape to show any predators their weapons and basically say, dont F with me. We stare at the pool of lumpy giants for a while and stretch the zoom lens to the limits to capture a frame or two. The temperatures outside are hot but bearable, it is now about the end of the day and the sun is three quarters on its way down. Time for us to find our hotel for the night. On our way back through the park we see another ton of animals but till now no predators yet. No Lions, Cheetah or Leopards. Of course all these elephants, hippos, monkeys and antelope make a fabulous sight, but honestly I am looking forward to see cats in the wild.
As soon as we leave the park we are back in the back-lands of Tanzania. A long road stretching from the coast all the way in to neighboring Kenya is the pride of the nation. This road cuts through the highlands where we are now. The road is dotted with clay huts and concrete structures, most of them half finished. This is what the Tanzanians call home, the stuff you normally see on TV as backdrop for a charity raising advertisements. But here it doesn't look as bad or sad. The people are happy, life seems to have different standards here. In a way it feels like it is supposed to be this way, and maybe it just is. Who are we to judge and set the standards for an acceptable environment? Along the way there is the occasional souvenir shack. The guide offers to stop at one if we feel like having a look, no pressure, no obligation and so we stop at one of the souvenir shops along the way.
Of course the salesperson makes the hairs in my neck stand up. The words 'rip off' seem to be carved in his big white smile. The goods that are for sale are your average tourist items, but all locally hand made. No made in China boxes in the back. We see a very nice little bowl made out of some limestone and ask for the price on this item. Wow, that was a mistake. The little bowl, five centimeters in diameter, had a price tag of around fourty! US dollars. At first I though he meant the whole stack, but no, one little bowl. Yes of course you would expect to bargain a bit and end up half price or so. But sorry, that would mean 20 bucks, no way on earth. When I proposed a fair five dollar price, the man had the nerve to go down to around thirtyseven. I did not feel like going the distance with him, so we left the establishment without our dish. Unbelievable, lets leave it at that.
Effin, we exit the main road and turn in to a dirt track. The off road qualities of the Land-cruiser come to life now. But only for a short bit as we soon park at our hotel for the coming nights, the coffee plantation lodge. It looks absolutely amazing, an old colonial plantation complex in the green highlands of Tanzania. Yes green, this country is not all dirt and dessert. We are welcomed by the staff whom carry our backpacks to the furthers cottage on the grounds as we enjoy a welcome drink during a short and informal check in. Our cottage is wonderfull, about the
size of a good Hong Kong apartment, with living room, grand bedroom, balcony overlooking the slopes of the Ngorongoro crater, very well appointed bathroom and a little hallway. No TV, no Radio, just us, nature and love.
Of course our first point of action is shower, a long day on the road, sweating in the car, biting the dust of other safari cruisers, yes a shower is needed. Then, dinner. We make our way back to the main building. It all looks wonderfully well maintained and landscaped. Along our walkway there are coffee bushes and beautiful flowers. Dinner is of course all inclusive in this resort as it is with most Safari Lodges. We are seated in a nicely decorated and spacious dining hall and are presented with almost culinary dishes. Almost, as the combinations and preparation of some dishes fail a bit. But still the whole is a good meal, certainly considering the surrounding
After dinner we are beat, we have scheduled our next morning drive, into the Ngorongoro crater to start early. So we sink in our very comfortable bed listening to the serenade of nocturnal life surrounding us. We feel save under our loverly mosquito net and dream the night away.