Tanzania, Africa travel journal – day 5

I am not as adjusted to this time-zone as I thought. I woke up at 3:30am and did not sleep much after that point. It could be because that is when Jack, my roommate, woke up and took his shower. I listened to music for a while, watched a movie (Office Space).
We ate breakfast at the hotel and left for Ngorogoro Crater. Ngorogoro is a caldera of an ancient volcano that they think was as tall as Kilimanjaro. As we drove up to the crater we drove through a rain forest in the midst of clouds. It was quite chilly. We drove around the rim of the crater to the Northwest on the road to the Serengti plain. Serengeti is a Masai word meaning endless plain. Ngorogoro is another Masai word meaning cowbell (because that is the sound a cowbell makes) because of the shape of the carter. We stopped at a Masai bomo which is a wooden palisade with at least 24 people (in this case) living in round huts made of wooden frames and a cement made from cow dung.

The center of the boma had a second palisade where the animals (cows, goats, donkeys) are kept. The huts had one small window to let in light and let out the smoke from the cooking fire. The hut was very cozy on this cold day but too smoky for some of the members of our group to stay long. 5-6 people were about as many as can fit in a hut at a time around the embers of the fire. We talked to a Masai man who sat with one of his two wives (she spoke no English or Swahili).

The Masai sang and danced for us as we entered (we had paid something to the group, but this was not as commercial as I expected). It was a real village and this is where the people live. There were more people there because of the tourists, people from other nearby bomas. They were also selling some of their crafts but with good natured bartering, better prices and less determination than the street vendors in Arusha. Do watch your step around a boma as cows have been everywhere. The boma was only 17 km from the start of the Serengeti but we did not drive over to see that but saved that for the “next trip”.
We drove down into the crater which is about 20km across. We could see a line of wildebeests spreading out for miles. It was one of the first times that my brain was willing to admit that perhaps this was Africa
as it was too large to be a game park.

The Masai are allowed to drive their cattle into the crater for water but must leave by 6pm. So where we drove in, the cattle, zebras and wildebeests all roamed. We saw wildebeests, zebra, cape buffalo, hyenas, jackals, black rhinos (kifaru), hippos (kiboca), flamingos and other birds, Thompsons gazelles, Grants gazelles, all by lunch time.

Just before lunch we also saw two small cheetahs and then later a pregnant mother cheetah. While we watched, the mother cheetah scared up a rabbit and then chased it down in a real Discovery Channel moment (or Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom if you are older).
We picnicked on box lunches with a couple of dozen other groups in land-rovers and buses by a watering hole with still more hippos. After lunch we setup out to see if we could find lions, but could hardly miss them as a pride of 10 were blocking the road.

It is not rainy season and the crater is mostly dry so the land-rovers kick up huge clouds of dust as drive around the crater. One time Edward stopped so we could take a picture or an elephant and when the dust cleared a car was revealed maybe a foot in front of our vehicle.
The roads into and around the park are all unpaved and we saw why land-rovers are used to traverse them as we occasionally went off road to get around a traffic jam caused by a lion or rhino. We were told by Barbara at JM Tours that each land-rover gets a complete maintenance overhaul after every trip. My back might also need one of those.

Author: chris2x

One man's view of life in Silicon Valley from Chris Christensen - a podcaster, blogger, programmer, entrepreneur

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