Lakeside in Tanzania

Trip Start May 25, 2003
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Trip End Jun 07, 2003


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Thursday, May 29, 2003

5/29 Thursday
Early morning and last chance for a short game drive as we leave Amboseli which almost turns into a major setback. While driving through the grounds of the old Amboseli lodge/Ol Tokai lodge, we hit a speed bump rather hard. The car choked to a stop with a little puff of smoke. Albert wasn't able to restart the engine.

So, we all bailed out while many volunteers from the local community offered advice and muscle- push start okay, but engine wouldn't keep running, back to tinkering. In the meantime, we safari guests began to realize that we were in the middle of a very large baboon clan. They ebbed and flowed around us, sometimes coming very close and frightening both themselves and us. Eventually, the team got the car going on its own and off we went.

We finally passed out of the park entry gate and into public lands. The road most of the way was pretty bad. Lindsey and Howard in the back seats were bounced around the worse. We did get a very close encounter with a Masai Giraffe who posed nicely for us. At the park entrance, Albert had closed the top and the game viewing was officially made second place to recovering lost time.

We saw many Masai, villages and people and cattle. We came to a major engineering effort to build a better road. The raw, red earth exposed in a large swath for new sewers and drainage ditches. Albert frequently inventing pathways through the equipment on "diversion" routes.

We arrived in the midst of hillsides covered with flowers that we later found out were white morning glories. We stopped for a WC break then on to the nearby border. Completing exit forms for Kenya, crossing the gateway into no man's land, another gateway to enter Tanzania,  completing an entry form, all stamped and certified. The whole process maybe 15 minutes.

We're met in Tanzania by Augustin and James. All gear is transported to their van. We say goodbye to Lewela and Albert. Lewela will meet us when we cross back into Kenya after the Serengeti.

Now we're on a very good asphalt road and James put the pedal to the metal. The scenery slowly changes as it has since leaving the park. First more brush ground cover and trees, then, in Tanzania, into farm land with plots of corn, bananas, coffee, beans, etc. The style of living quarters changes from the communal village to single homesteads; built of reed with daub and seemingly perfectly round then into wood plank dwellings.

As we move past Mt. Meru and toward Arusha, the land becomes apparently more fertile, the people more prosperous, modern, and numerous. We stop at a Novotel hotel for lunch in the outskirts of Arusha and a short distance to the airport. In the hotel shops, I noticed some black on off-white batik drawings of African people and scenes- almost a modern/antique style by Heidi Long. After lunch we pause for a "quick" shopping break at a large souvenir store that turns into a longer excursion as Chip and Lisa find the Tanzanite they've been hoping for. I also discovered they carried the work of Heidi Long and purchased one for myself. Everyone came back to the van with a purchase- or two- or more.

We were running late, so James rushed us to the airport where we waited for a few minutes before boarding our standard 12-seater for the very short 20 minute flight to Lake Manyara. We said goodbye to James at the airport.

We arrived at the Manyara Serena Lodge, which is located at the top of the rift cliff at the very edge. The rooms are located in unique almost tepee looking structures that each house 4 units- 2 up and 2 down. Their crowning peaks are made of reed bundles, the same materials used in the traditional home building. The central buildings also include beautiful and ingenious "chandeliers" constructed of (per Augustin) traditional fishing baskets. Gourds hang from the walls and act as light sconces. All the rooms face the lake, which is below us in the rift valley. A swimming pool perches at the very edge of the cliff. We sat at the poolside bar and marveled at the bird life surrounding us. The lake shore -seemingly dried salty soil seen from this distance- turns out to be covered with pelicans. Next to them are large swaths of flamingos- just a pink patch to us. We also sight elephants way below us in the open green grass banded around the edge of the lake before the forest begins.

A beautiful gold bird visits us in the nearby bushes. Augustin later identifies it as a Weaver- responsible for the nests that hang like Xmas decorations from the surrounding trees. Large black birds (storks) circle in large groups up and down through drafts at the cliffs edge. They float without flapping a wing.

Augustin then takes us on a short nature walk on a path through the grounds to the cliff's edge. He identifies many trees and bushes for us- with an interesting story for each. At the cliff's edge, we look down on the forest below and note that some trees are covered with white flowers, which August identifies as being birds!

A rain shower cuts the walk short. I'd love to be able to stay several nights in this lodge. I return to my room to find a mosquito netting has been hung from the hook above my bed, which is turned down and neatly tucked in. Tomorrow we will have an early game drive and then, after lunch, begin our trip to Ngorongoro.



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