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National Parks and Zanzibar
Tanzania
from 11-08-2003 until 06-09-2003



It has been less than a year since we went on our biggest adventure yet in Africa. Now, in August of the next year, weíre ready to leave for Tanzania. We compiled an itinerary together with Jozef Verbruggen of Untamed Wildlife Safaris, whom we instantly liked when we first met him at the Holiday Fair in Utrecht. Half of the places we will visit are not new to us; we visited the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater and the island of Zanzibar before. We even went to the first two parks twice and have fond memories of the Serengeti in particular. Ruaha National Park, Mikumi National Park and Selous Game Reserve are on our itinerary for the first time.
I could enumerate all the reasons why we fell in love with this magnificent continent, but I canít really find any other or more beautiful words to do so than those which I used in previous years. I am probably hindered by my limitations in committing my experience to paper. Every evening before I doze off, I think of the most well-turned phrases imaginable which, in my eyes, are unequalled by any of the great authors, but I know now that dreams can be lies sometimes. However, I am not restrained in any way in experiencing the feeling I get when I think of our adventures of the past and in the future. This feeling sometimes grows so strong that I think of settling down somewhere on this marvellous continent but then doubt starts gnawing in the back of my head. Once we have found a place for ourselves, can we still do what we like to do now when we visit Africa? The point is to find something which will allow you to still enjoy this continent, but so far I havenít succeeded in doing just that. Now, I look forward to our next adventure with much joy and anticipation. This past year has been a hard one indeed and we feel we deserve to enjoy the wonderful glory of Africa once again. What sort of experience will we have in Tanzania this time? Of course, we donít know but we are aware of the pitfall of comparing it to last yearís trip because a comparison of any kind would be unfair and could taint whatever adventure we are now undoubtedly facing. Our local travel agent in Tanzania is Msafiri Travel which will provide us with a driver/guide and a cook who will travel with us throughout our safari. Four of last yearís fellow travellers, namely Patricia, Wilfred, Hendri and Anja, will join us again. Mind you, Tanzania wasnít our first choice for a place to spend our holidays. We considered going to Cameroon or another West African country. I am convinced that in this case all is not lost that is delayed.

10/8 To Brussels
It is already the sixth time that we leave for Africa. Every step we take brings us closer to the tranquillity, the natural splendour, the sense of perspective and the uncontrollable urge to experience our adventure in a tent. We take our first steps to the station in the afternoon where we meet Wilfred and Patricia, who have also taken their first steps, at the platform where the train to Brussels will depart. In Den Bosch, Anja and Hendri join us and complete the group. Our backpacks are blocking the entrance to one of the carriages of the double deck train which is taking us further and further south. Bags of liquorice and other sorts of candy are opened and it feels as if we are on our way to make a new instalment of a travel programme after a long commercial break.
Once we are in Brussels, we change trains to go to the airport where we reserve seats on next dayís flight. We sleep at the Ibis hotel near the airport, where we first pack away our things in the small but well-maintained rooms before going outside to eat. The first beers we drink are a tradition which instantly reminds us of last year. Itís warm, very warm. This day, like most days this summer, has been a good preparation for the heat we are going to have to face in Africa.

11/8 Brussels Ė Nairobi
The night does not refresh us because the heat of the day is caught in our room. The sweat on my body keeps me from falling asleep. It is undoable to lay quietly with the windows closed. Every few minutes I wipe the sweat of my heated body with a towel while I sit on the edge of the bed. A huge fan, which whirrs loudly, is positioned on the roof of the building across the street. So I have to choose the lesser of two evils. When you are struggling to get to sleep this choice becomes a dilemma; in short, this is an exhaustive night which Iíd prefer to forget. At 7 a.m. I take a well-earned shower and rinse the sweat which I lost during the night off my body.
Weíre glad that the night is over and meet each other at the breakfast buffet. Itís still early morning, but we plan to leave for the airport at 8 a.m. We are well ahead of schedule and itís a good thing that we are. There is a long queue at the check-in desk. The monitors indicate that we will fly by way of Entebbe in Uganda. We canít escape stricter security checks and I even have to go into a separate room. Of course, I know that the customs officer is performing the check needlessly in my case. This is the first time we have had such a meticulous security check.
The way the customs officer performed his job was just as meticulous as the way in which I monitored the migration of the wildebeest from the Serengeti to the Masai Mara on the Internet. Up until now, the group consisting of millions of animals balances on the edge of both parks near Kleinís Camp. We may still hope to see the rear of the migration, which obviously moves more slowly than in previous years, in the northern part of the Serengeti. In the middle of July, the migrating animals were just at Grumeti River Camp in the Serengeti after which they moved north more slowly than usual. They passed the Sand River, in the north east of the Serengeti, at the end of July. It seemed as if they were waiting there for the rest of the groups to catch up so they could move north together. At the end of the first week of August the migration moved somewhat again. Even though some animals have started to cross over into Kenya, a large group lingers and waits near Kleinís Camp. In this period of time the migration is split up when the zebras and wildebeest separate to move on with their own kind, but the main part of the migration is still in the Sand River area. The animals are expected to wait a while before they make the big crossing which increases our chance to catch a glimpse of this miracle of the natural world. Now, a week later we are our own undertaking a migration to Tanzania. We will be in the Serengeti in two days.
We fly over the Alps where the glaciers are small because of the heat which has taken a hold over the whole of Europe. Emerald green lakes lay between the mountains like beads. We glide through the air and reach the Mediterranean Sea while music which creates a magical atmosphere comes from the headsets. Sloops, which are probably gigantic tankers in reality, leave small wakes in the sea. A coastline with a vast country with shades of brown indicates that we are entering Africa. I am lost in thought as I think of some of our famous predecessors who made their way into Africa. One of those predecessors was Kuki Gallman. I saw a movie about her last week and we travelled around the area where she lived at the Laikipia Plateau. The Sahara seems endless; there are only a few tracks in the sand which indicate that there are in fact roads which occasionally meet at a junction. It would be a disaster to have to find your way through there after a sandstorm without a navigation system.
We arrive safely at Nairobi Airport at 10 p.m. We have no trouble getting through customs and soon we are out in the arrivals hall with our backpacks in search for the contact person we are supposed to meet and who was sent by Irene Haneveld, who works for Savannah Travel and the NGO project for street children and orphans in Nairobi. We met Irene through our website and her project appealed to us immediately so we promote it on our website. In return, she offered to arrange transportation from and to Nairobi Airport and to Arusha. She also booked hotel rooms for our night in Nairobi. Of course, one always worries on arrival whether or not everything has indeed been arranged. It is not long before we see a sign with my name on it. We quickly put our stuff into the cars and split up into two groups to go to the hotel. Catherine is Ireneís contact person. What we donít know is that the girl in the car with us is Glaciana, who works for another organisation. We wonít meet Catherine until next morning.
We strike up a conversation about the differences in temperature in the Netherlands and Kenya, from which we conclude that the Netherlands wins on account of the heat there. Glaciana tells us that the migration just arrived in the Masai Mara. We tell her that we had hoped to be able to see the migration in the most north eastern tip of the Serengeti but that these hopes are now shattered. She asks us if we will be back in Nairobi with a few days to spare after our journey through Tanzania. We tell her that we will be back and plan to spend our last days in Nairobi to visit Ireneís street children and orphans to give them the material we brought with us. We also have other ideas about visiting sites in the Nairobi area. Then Glaciana makes us an offer. Why would we want to go to those street children and orphans? She can make arrangements for us so we can go to the Masai Mara and still see the migration. With that remark she plucked at our heartstrings. We are easily persuaded because we assume that Glaciana is a contact person for Ireneís organisation who more or less advises against paying a visit to these children. We find out later that this assumption was somewhat naÔve, but we are glad to have an extra chance to see the migration.
We arrive at Hotel 680 and check in after which Hendri and I go to the office at which Glaciana works. She warns us about the level of crime in Nairobi, which is especially high in the evening and at night. Itís almost midnight and primetime for crime. The streets are very quiet and there is a mystical air about them. The office is at the top of one of the characteristic buildings in downtown Nairobi. A porter, who is not recognisable as such, lets us in. We make arrangements for our visit to the Masai Mara and return to our hotel with a feeling of contentment. When we get there Allen, Patricia, Wilfred and Anja are having a drink in the hall. Itís a pity that Patricia and Wilfred canít join us in the Masai Mara. They both have to leave Zanzibar early. We have been travelling for two days now and canít hide the signs of fatigue any longer. Itís time to go to bed.

12/8 Nairobi Ė Arusha
Fortunately Ellen and I get a good nightís sleep. We expect that the shuttle which will take us to Arusha will pick us up at 7.30 a.m. We meet Catherina, who is an absolutely charming girl, before we leave. We pay the money we owe after which we have to hurry to get into the shuttle which is ready to leave exactly on time. We will see Catherina again when we return to Nairobi.
Itís business as usual in Nairobi when we stop at a few other hotels to pick people up. Itís a small miracle that everybody can find their way in the mass of people and cars that is Nairobiís rush hour. Our bus driver also pulls it off and eventually we are on the road out of Nairobi. The shuttle is packed now as we drive south on a road that becomes increasingly quiet. The only obstructions which we come across now are the large number of speed bumps. The Kenyans probably learned through experience that this is necessary.
At the Tanzanian border one cannot avoid being bothered by the pushy Masai women who try to sell you their curio. One of the women tries to palm a bracelet off on me by telling me ďYou get it from me for free,Ē while at the same time she tries to already put the bracelet in my hands. I know from my experience on previous holidays that this is a sales gimmick which often works: Once youíve touched the bracelet youíre stuck with it and the women will unavoidably hold up their hand for you to pay them all the same or try to sell you some other piece of curio. I put my hands into the air so the women, who are generally somewhat smaller than I am, canít reach them. The women donít give up and try to put a bracelet around my finger, hoping that one of them will catch on it.
We donít run into any problems when crossing the border on the Kenyan side, but at the Tanzanian side itís a whole different kettle of fish. The passport and visa checks go smoothly but when we get back to the shuttle we hear that all our baggage, which is a rather large amount of bags, has to be taken out of the bus. We have to go into a customs office one by one, taking our luggage with us. We put our bags down fearing that we have to take everything out of it. We expect this to take quite some time, but we couldnít be more mistaken. Wilfred and Patricia are already in the office when Ellen and I, followed by Anja and Hendri, come into the room. The customs officer also comes in and puts a chalk cross on our luggage with great panache, but without saying anything. We wait for him to do something else but he doesnít, so we ask him if this was all. He indicates that he is finished and we can put everything back into the bus without having had to open a single backpack. The other passengers also have to go through this procedure for formís sake and we are back on the road to Arusha faster than we expected.
An hour and a half after weíve crossed the border we arrive in Arusha, where we meet our driver/guide, Mfume and our cook, Petty. We put our baggage into the Land Rover. Mfume looks somewhat troubled when he sees how much luggage we have taken with us but we donít think the amount of luggage we carry is excessive. We take less and less with us every year and on average we stay well under the fifteen kilo. After moving the bags around we succeed in getting everything on the roof of the car and we leave for Klub Afriko, where we will sleep.
When we turn into a side road everybody in the group looks at each other as if to say ďWhere on earth are we being taken?Ē The gullies in the road are broadening and the road becomes bumpier as we go along. Mfume has trouble finding his way around and we get the impression that he doesnít exactly know where Klub Afriko is. Our suspicion is confirmed when Mfume has to drive to the beginning of this road in reverse gear. He already hit a child on a bike so we wonder if he will manage to get us out of here in one piece, which he does. We arrive at Klub Afriko, which is a green oasis of tranquillity and luxury, while we thought we were in one of Arushaís slums. The accommodation contains seven private bungalows, which are well-decorated and all have a bath and a patio. There is a restaurant with good cooking, so this is a wonderful start of our adventure in Tanzania. We get three bungalows and Ellen and I get what is called the honeymoon suite. We are in fact the only married couple in the group soÖ.. Every bungalow has its own path which winds its way through the typically African coarse grass. Banana trees and other plants with magnificently blooming flowers complete the garden and make it a stunning sight to see. At the back of the garden, there is a library where I can peacefully catch up on my journal writing. The only sound I hear on this quiet spot is that of playing monkeys. The others join me and we discuss whether the monkeys are vervet monkeys or squirrel monkeys. When we see the animalsí blue balls we know that theyíre vervet monkeys: squirrel monkeys are smaller and a brighter shade of yellow and donít even live in Africa. Donít be embarrassed if you didnít know this, because neither did I at first. I just never saw them in this part of Africa, which isnít surprising seeing as how they donít live in Africa at all.
The afternoon draws toward an end and itís time to enjoy a nice bath while we still can. Unfortunately, the (warm) water supply is typically African, which means that thereís no warm water, if there is any water at all. I washed myself as best I could and had a short nap before going to the restaurant to eat. We agreed with Mfume that we will leave for the Serengeti tomorrow at 8.00 a.m. In the evening I rearrange my luggage for the coming days.

 

Serengeti NP

13/8 Arusha Ė Serengeti NP
We have breakfast in the restaurant after a wonderful nightís sleep. We asked Mfume to pick us up at 8.00, but we forgot that the African concept of time is different from the Western one, so Mfume and Petty arrive an hour late in the drizzle. It takes a while for us to put all of our luggage into or onto the Land Rover. We are convinced that we didnít take too much with us and it seems that the Land Rover will manage to tow all our things. We finally leave at 9.40 a.m. The weather is still gloomy when we leave Arusha to spend five days in the bush.
I realise that we didnít pack any water bottles when we were loading up the car, so I ask Mfume if we really donít have any water with us and should get some bottles before we leave Arusha. His face lights up with recognition and he parks the car near a large supermarket not much later. I wonder how Mfume could have forgotten to bring something as important as water. When you spend five days in the bush, you need a large amount of liquid, and not all of it is water, of course. After we got some light snacks, we are done shopping. We get back to the car with a cart full of groceries. Mfumeís face says it all. He probably thinks: ďHow on earth am I going to take all this with me?Ē A general purpose trailer would have come in handy at moments like this. The passengersí space is now packed as well. We keep an eye on a boy who is loitering near the car while we are stocking it up and who obviously is waiting for a chance to snatch something from the boxes or out of the car. We tell him in no uncertain terms that we donít want him around and after we repeatedly asked him to leave he goes away at our third request. After we got everything into the car everybody is having trouble finding a comfortable spot in the car.
We finally get out of Arusha. The weather improved and as soon as we leave Arusha, thereís less traffic on and at the side of the road. After driving for an hour we turn right to go to the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. This road was rather rocky when we last visited this place, but now I look in wonder at the tarmac road which stretches out in front of us. We find out that the road to the Ngorongoro Crater has been asphalted until it reaches the village of Mto wa Mbu. This village is near Lake Manyara National Park and the roads to that park are also in the process of being asphalted. It remains to be seen if these developments are an improvement. I canít help but to fear that the Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti will now be absolutely flooded with tourists.
Even though we seem to be driving on at a steady pace, other cars keep overtaking us. While we were driving, Hendri noticed that sparks were flying up from under the bonnet. Mfume pulls the car over to the side of the road and puts the bonnet up. The battery has come loose entirely. Mfume admits that he knew about this problem and that this was the reason he was delayed this morning. The cables are put into the battery again and we begin the second leg of our journey to the Serengeti. The scenery starts to change and weíre now driving through an undulating landscape. The car has trouble negotiating even the smallest of slopes and we are being overtaken by other cars. The journey is taking longer than I expected it would. Houses and bushes by the side of the road are covered in the red dust which was raised by the passing cars. Itís a typically African sight.
We get to the gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. We get out of the car to stretch our legs and enjoy the Sikeís Blue Mokeys while Mfume is going to pay the entrance fee to the park. At least we thought heís go and pay the fee, but after we get back into the car and want to drive away, we are detained at the gate. Apparently, Mfume didnít pay anything even though he was gone for a quarter of an hour. So, we have to get out of the car to pay the fees. We bear this delay with a frown.
The road to the lip of the crater is fantastic. The dark red road meanders upwards through the rainforest on the slopes of the crater. Just below the edge of the crater mosses hang from the trees like drapes. The Land Rover barely makes it to the top. This gives us the opportunity to enjoy this miracle of nature. We move at a snailís pace, but when we finally reach the top we are rewarded by a spectacular view of the crater. Despite the chilly wind that blows on the lip of the crater, we admire this wonder of the natural world. I canít truly relax, though and that is definitely not because Iíve beheld this sight twice before. I worry about whether or not weíll make it to the campsite in the Serengeti on time if we keep on moving at this pace. On previous visits it took us considerably less time to get to the Serengeti: we were already there in the amount of time it had taken us this time to get to the lip of the crater even though the condition of the road is much better now.
I start getting the feeling that all isnít going as it should, but fortunately Mfume signals for us to go on. Even though we are speeding up now, we canít drive like a madman on the road on craterís the edge but we reach the plain between the crater and the Serengeti without any further adversity. The road is becoming more like a washboard as we go along and Mfume has to slow down from time to time in order not to loose control over the wheel. Meanwhile, other cars are overtaking us effortlessly. Iím getting increasingly concerned about the time we have left to get to the gate, because I know how long it will take us to get all the way to Naabi Hill Gate and then to the campsite near Seronera lodge. It wonít be an easy matter to get to the gate before six oíclock. The yellow plains glide, or rather jolt, by slowly, which doesnít give us much time to take a good look at the Grant and Thomsonís gazelle or the kori bustards.
We finally reach Naabi Hill Gate at a few minutes past six. We make a turn to the left to drive to the parking spots. We have to turn right now, so Mfume can park in one of the spaces. Everything seems to be going well when Mfume puts the gas pedal down a little more and we come to a halt by crashing into a low wall with a big bang. The engine stalls and we look at each other dumbfounded. Mfume looks at us with the most self-conscious and clumsy smile you ever saw. We got out of the car, as we would have done if everything were going according to plan. We immediately draw the attention of witnesses to our accident, which include giraffe at the edge of the acacia bushes, and German and Italian tourists. In order to get the car away form the wall, Mfume tries to get the engine running again. He doesnít manage to do so and we try to help him by trying to tip the Land Rover backwards, but the car doesnít budge an inch because the brakes are hopelessly jammed.
We seem to have no other choice but to put the bonnet up. Employees who work at the gate, including those who already finished their shift, come to meet us. We think that one of them is the boss of the gate, but we canít be sure because everybody wants to look their best and is bossy in these sorts of situations. One thing is clear: Mfume is under quite some pressure. People threaten to take his tourist licence away from him. If that were to happen it would be a disaster. In any case, we have to make arrangements in order to pay for the damage. While we are discussing how we can best solve this problem, Mfume makes sure weíre allowed to go into the Serengeti. He has to come back to the car three times in order to do so. The first time he forgot a form, which he now takes from his form folder, then he return to the office. After a while he comes back dragging his feet and says ďforgot another formĒ with the same clumsy smile he gave us before. He takes another form out of his folder and walks back. We think it may be wiser if Mfume were to take the entire folder with him because it would save him a few walks to and from the car. Eventually, everything works out fine, with the forms at least.
How we are going to fix the car up is an entirely different matter. The bonnet is up now and the battery cables, which werenít fixed too firmly to the battery in the first place, have now come nearly loose. I have to hand it to the gate employees; theyíre all very helpful, even the one we think is the boss. He bends over, looks under the bonnet and grabs hold of one of the cables. Almost immediately, he quickly moves out from under the bonnet just in time to dodge a jet of flames which erupts from the bonnet. Untechnical as I am, I fear that this is the end of the Land Rover, but fortunately this turns out not to be the case. Not yet at least. Dusk is setting in and an armed guard comes to our car to ensure our safety. The tourists who did manage to get into the park on time are now at their campsite or luxurious lodge. We follow the guard to the barrier at the gate of the park. He tells us that lions and hyenas come to this place after nightfall to drink of the puddle of water which formed beneath the tap during the day. The tap is situated among a few acacia bushes behind the gate office and the barrier.
Mfume can start the engine of the car again but the brakes are still jammed. We try to get the car in motion with all our might. Itís 9.00 p.m. already and a hyena circles the car. The guard loads his carbine for formís sake, but we know a solitary hyena wonít attack us unless it feels threatened. The hyena is a good way to take our mind of the mess weíre in now. People in the group are in varying moods, but at 9.30 p.m. we hear a sound that is music to our ears. When the Land Rover has to drive a short distance in reverse gear, the sound it makes sounds less like music because the slow warming up of the car is accompanied by squeaking and grating noises. However, Mfume pulls the brakes to pieces and drives up to where we stand, brimming with pride.
Mfume tells us that he has permission to go into the park, which is actually against the rules. I lean through the window which is rolled down and I hear Ellen saying that she is not all that keen on going into the park. She is right in objecting and I tell Mfume that we think the condition the car is in is too bad to drive another forty kilometres to the campsite. What if it breaks down again; nobody is driving through the Serengeti at this time of the day which would mean we would have to stay in the car all night. We think itís much too dangerous. I demand that Mfume makes sure we can camp near the gate to which Mfume reacts with a submissive nod and by saying ďhmm, I think youíre right.Ē The gate employees cooperate fully and escort us to a special campsite. We drive clockwise around Naabi Hill with the car in which the boss of the gate sits in front of us. Mfume follows the car slowly over the narrow path. Mfume has his mind on other things, which becomes clear when he manages to lose the trail of the car in front of us when it makes a gentle turn to the right. We followed the car at a distance of less than ten metres and we still lost it. We can see the funny side of the situation but at the same time we think itís pathetic.
We stop at a clump of trees and bushes at the foot of Naabi Hill and set up our hard-earned camp. We barely ate all day and I didnít even think about it often. We pitch our tents at a few minutes after 10.00 p.m. We start a charcoal fire on which Petty tries to make us something to eat. Our sense of adventure is aroused and we start explore our surroundings by shining our flashlight. We discover now that Mfume canít even pitch his own tent, so we decide to help him. Then we think we see eyes flashing in the bushes. Our suspicion is confirmed when we shine our light in the direction of the eyes and see a reflection. Could it be a lion? We think not, because they have a different eye colour. Mfume joins us, so we ask him what kind of animal he thinks it is. He says itís a lion, probably to compensate us for the problems we had today. The boss of the gate also joins us and immediately recognises the animal as a reedbuck. I didnít notice that Mfume walked away from us and all of a sudden we find ourselves shining into the eyes of the reedbuck by ourselves. We donít know what to do with Mfume.
Petty does the utmost to put something tasty on the table. She is clearly uncomfortable with the dayís events. When you think about it, the special campsite has a unique atmosphere, but weíd rather that everything would have gone according to plan. The aspect of this safari from which I shrink most is spending three weeks with Mfume. We quickly go to sleep after diner in order to put the dayís events to rest.

14/8 Serengeti NP
We agreed to get up at 6 a.m and be ready to go into the Serengeti at 8 a.m. This should be easy because weíve got enough time. We had a perfect nightís sleep and werenít bothered by yesterdayís experiences. A pale sun rises above the horizon and Petty has to struggle to keep the campfire going. The hornbills and starlings near us are drawn to the camp by the toast that is being made.
We are supposed to go to the campsite near Seronera, which we should have already reached yesterday, after which Mfume will drive on to the service station near the lodge. We hope this wonít take too much time, so we can still go on a game drive in the afternoon. We may even be lucky and see something interesting from time to time on our way to the campsite.
Mfume is standing around idly: he doesnít know what to do with himself and doesnít show any initiative. So eventually, we have to urge him to help us so we can leave at 8 a.m. Weíre all fired up and want to enjoy the Serengeti for as long as we can. Itís somewhat discouraging to be confronted with negative influences over and over again but the packing of the Land Rover is not done practically. In this case Mfumeís sense of initiative leaves much to be desired. Instead of applying himself, he makes a rather disheartened impression. We finally leave at 8.30 a.m. It is hard not to become a cynic in this situation, but itís a small miracle that Mfume can find his way back to the gate. At this time of day there are no other visitors of the Serengeti who want to leave or enter the park so we are kindly greeted by the staff at the gate.
We ride into the Serengeti on a slightly undulating slope and get to the plains by driving through a path flanked by acacia bushes. We see a bird in an acacia tree on the edge of the plains where Naabi Hill rises up from it. Mfume utters his first words of the morning and tells us itís an eagle. We look at each other and know better, this is clearly a vulture. A topi stands quite near the vulture and now Mfume wants to put his best foot forward and tells us this is a Kudu. The situation is starting to get laughable and Hendri asks Mfume what kind of Kudu it is. Mfume doesnít know, but we do: a Kudu doesnít even live in the Serengeti. A long road with a small number of faint curves on both sides of the golden plains lies ahead of us. The road still looks like a washboard and we crawl toward the Seronera area with a speed of just 20 miles an hour. We can see the first kopjes ahead of us. Kopjes are rock formations that rise out of the plains and are typical of the Serengeti.
This is not our lucky day because the Land Rover stops and its engine canít be started up again. The bonnetís up again. I could go over and have a look but since I donít know anything about cars itís best to leave this to others. One moment Mfume is under the bonnet, the other he is under the car. His shirt and arms are covered in oil and petrol in no time at all. Eventually Mfume discovers that the fuel pump or supply is broken. The Land Rover canít be repaired here. While Mfume was checking the car all of us got out. So here we are in the middle of the Serengeti with no AA service in sight. We are just glad this didnít happen last night. Iím glad I put my foot down last night and didnít allow Mfume to take us into the Serengeti.
We see an overland truck coming our way. When it comes up to us the people in it tell us theyíve seen lions rather close to where we are, so we decide itís wise not to go too far from the car. Mfume suggests that he hails a car and drives back to the gate to get us out of here, but if thereís one thing a guide isnít allowed to do under any circumstances itís leaving his clients alone in a park. So I tell him I donít think itís a good idea to leave us. Then Petty suggests that she could go back to Arusha in order to contact Leina there. I donít think that is such a good idea either because it would take two days for help to get here so if we were to keep to the itinerary weíd already have to leave the Serengeti when help arrived.
I tell Mfume and Petty that Seronera Lodge, where we can telephone or send a telex for help, is approximately ten miles from here. So, Petty and I decide to go there for help, taking with us as many others in the group as we can. Petty can phone Leina at the lodge and I can call Jozef in the Netherlands so he can put some extra pressure on Leina. Luckily, we donít have to wait long for a car to come along. The car we hailed only has a driver in it so we can all go to the lodge, except for Mfume, who has to stay behind to guard the Land Rover and the luggage. The car doesnít have a backseat, but we get into it as best we can and signal to the driver that we are ready to drive on.
We instantly notice that this car has more power than our own car. We hardly notice the washboard like state of the road; it really is such a big difference. Soon after we left the spot where the car broke down our attention is drawn away from the comforts of the car when we see four lions heading in the direction of the car. We are dumbfounded and realise we could have been in serious trouble had this car not stopped by when it did. The lions walk past the car in the half-length golden grass, stopping every now and then to find their bearings. We wonder how this is all going to end and realise things canít go on as they have. We are going to demand that Jozef arranges for us to get another car and driver/guide.
We speed toward Seronera Lodge where a number of rock hyraxes are waiting for us at the entrance, but I donít pay much attention to them. Petty and I ask if we can use the phone while the others go to the bar to get something to drink. We can use the phone, so Petty phones Leina in Dar Es Salaam to explain what happened to us. She gets more emotional and raises her voice as the phone conversation goes on. When she finished calling Leina she puts down the horn and starts to cry. I really feel sorry for her because she is trying her best to make us feel as comfortable as possible in these circumstances. Leina promised to call her back soon.
I canít reach Jozef but one of his employees promises that they will make sure he calls back and takes action to ensure we can go on with our safari. We have to wait for a while but eventually Leina calls back. She asks to speak to me and indicates that she is not happy at all with the situation. She even wants to try to make arrangements for us to stay at the lodge this night, which is of course impossible seeing as how weíre in peak season, so everything will be fully booked. We donít mind, though, because we prefer sleeping in our tents. We still donít know if Jozef has done his part of the job but Leina says that she is going to book a ticket to Arusha immediately so she can be at Seronera with a new car and driver/guide this evening or tomorrow morning at the latest. Of course, weíre happy to get this news but as matters are now, this delay is taking half of the time we could be spending on game drives in the Serengeti away from us. Of course, Petty called a service centre to pick Mfume up.
We go to the bar, to tell the others what we know. The news of our delay has its effect on all of them and everybody has their own opinion about the solution to the problem, but we canít change the situation so we just have to sit tight until we hear from Mfume.
Mfume expects the Land Rover may be repaired in the afternoon, so we hope to be able to make a game drive. I pass the time filming hyraxes and the redheaded agamas at the lodge, but Iím not planning to spend an entire day doing this. Leina offered to pay our lunch at the lodge. When lunch arrives big dishes with several titbits cover the table in front of us. Now we realise why lodges arenít cheap: the lunches here are substantial. I always gain weight when I go on holiday to Africa, but if I were to stay here for a few days I would become obscenely fat.
When we get back to the bar we meet Wander, a Dutchman who comes to the Serengeti every year by himself to take photographs of the natural splendour of the park. We tell him our story and he shows us some of his magnified photos, which are magnificent. Then he invites us to join him on his evening game drive. He tells us he is always alone with his guide and heíd like to have some company. We canít hide our excitement and gladly except his invitation. We agree to meet at the entrance of the lodge at 4 p.m. When we are about to leave on our game drive, Mfume comes walking into the lodge. He says the car is still broken but he found another car so we can go to the campsite. We tell him we are going on a game drive first and that Wanderís guide will drop us off at the campsite. We leave Mfume in a somewhat bewildered state and go on our game drive.
We are ecstatic and feel like a fish in water when we stand in the car and feel the wind blowing through our hair. We start to scan the surroundings for wildlife. We donít have to wait long to see animals because we are going to a hippo pool where we see impalas, topis, Thomsonís gazelle, vervet monkeys, elephants, warthogs, hippos, a hyena and some reedbuck. We stop at an acacia bush on top of which is a lilac breasted roller. This is one of my favourite birds. When they take flight, their wings have a wonderful light blue sheen on them. The bird leaves us while itís dancing through the air. We drive on and see two overland trucks standing still on the road in front of us. We drive to where theyíre standing and see a group of eleven lions lying in the half length grass. The group is noisy and even though we travelled by overland truck the first few years we came to Africa, we would like them to move along. They do so not much later and leave us to enjoy the group of lions together with people in another car. The lions donít look too well. Some of them are very skinny or walk with a limp. The end of the dry season is clearly a rough time for the lions.
The drivers talk to each other and agree that they can take us off the road for a short while, so they drive into the grass to quietly stand at just a few feet from where the lions lay. The setting sun gives the lions and the grass a fabulous colour. Nobody is thinking about yesterdayís or this morningís events anymore. However, we canít stay here for too long because it is prohibited to go off the road.
The sun is sinking closer and closer to the horizon and Wander asks us if we are ready to go back. We consent to leave for the lodge and campsite, grateful for the opportunity he has given us. On our way back we still see a fair amount of wildlife such as two secretary birds which are making a nest at the top of an acacia bush. They do so with the utmost care and sense of ceremony. They in turn slowly bend their jaunty legs, which can be deadly weapons because the secretary bird is a bird of prey which kills snakes by kicking them to death. We pass by some impalas, elephants and a waterbuck before we finally arrive at the campsite.
Petty pitched our tents with some help of her colleagues and is already cooking diner. She tries to make us feel comfortable in a pleasant way. She is such a kind woman. Mfume still hasnít returned with the Land Rover and itís starting to get dark. We wonder what tomorrow will bring. Mfume is brought to the campsite with another car and he looks a right mess. There is hardly a thread of his clothes which isnít covered in oil. We ask him what condition the car is in. Mfume tells us that the Land Rover still isnít fixed, so we canít go on a game drive early next morning. We wash the bad news down with several drinks. The Sambuca was especially popular because it reminded us of last yearís fantastic journey through Botswana where arrangements were made properly.

15/8 Serengeti NP
One car after another leaves to go on a game drive while we have to stay at the campsite, feeling sad. We canít understand why the few people who stay behind donít go on a game drive while they have the chance. We kill time by cleaning the photo and film equipment. We watch every car with eagleís eyes hoping to spot Leina and our new guide in one of them. After being disappointed a few times I go to the tent to catch up on sleep for a while. Mfume has left for a garage this morning.
I have barely lain down on my self inflatable mattress when I hear a car approaching again. I deduce from what the others are saying that Leina is in this car and that she brought our new guide and, another thing which is just as important, a new Land Rover.
We meet Leina and our new guide, and Leina indicates that it may be a good idea to go on a game drive first and discuss our setbacks over lunch. We agree with her and get into the Land Rover as quickly as we can.
Our new guide is called Makuru. He was born in the Serengeti which means he knows it like the back of his hand. It is instantly clear that Makuru is a guide of a different calibre than Mfume was. We have driven for less than half an hour and he has said more meaningful things than Mfume did in the previous days. He shows that he has an extensive knowledge of the flora and fauna in the Serengeti by the sort of information he gives us. The first animals we come across are zebras, topis and ostriches. The ostrich is eating with great gusto and gobbles up seeds with every clump of grass it eats. It stores the seeds in its long neck. When the seeds have cluttered together in a crop, the ostrich slowly lowers the crop down his neck as if it were a lift.
We drive across the plains and reach the kopjes, for which the Serengeti is famous. A lion and a lioness lie on one of the kopjes. They have a marvellous view of the plains from this place. We see an owl sitting on a rock in a hollow at the next kopje. The owlís feathers are nearly the same colour as that of the kopje so the owl blends beautifully into its surroundings.
We get off the road and are now driving across plains which are practically deserted. Makuru explains why weíre allowed to go off the road in this area. Driving across the plains off road and without seeing other cars has a special feel to it. Often you see no animals on the plains ahead but then all of a sudden you drive through a large herd of Thomsonís gazelle and topis. You occasionally come across a forlorn acacia tree. Two lions jauntily lie under one of those trees. At this time of day, all animals try to get into the shade if they can. The hyena also makes use of the shade.
We drive toward a group of elephants. We see an oasis with bright green grass and reed amid the golden yellow plains. The beautiful pattern of colours indicates that there is a waterhole nearby. The group of elephants seize the chance to take a mud bath in order to protect themselves against the sun and parasites. The mud which reflects the sun turns their light grey skins into a darker shade of grey and makes them shiny. The elephants walk through the water in our direction. They stop for a moment. It is as if a silent voice tells them what to do. This same voice seems to tell them to walk on. They move on and come closer to us. Makuru starts the engine to let the elephants pass. The elephants silently come out of the water at the spot where we stood less than ten seconds ago. We turn the Land Rover around in order to follow the elephants a while longer. They continue to groom their skin. They deftly sprinkle sand over their bodies by using their trunk. One of the elephants even sucks up sand with its trunk to go on and spray it into its ear. A cloud of sand envelops its ear and the rest of the sand pours out of the elephantís ear in a small waterfall.
This is a good moment to return to the campsite. When we get back a lovely lunch is waiting. We discuss the events of the past days with Leina over lunch. Leina is a Masai and after talking to her we feel that everything is going to work out well from now on. She talked to Jozef. At the end of our talk Leina tells us that she is going to arrange for us to stay in a better hotel on Zanzibar, as a recompense for our inconvenience. We also make a bet with her that we wonít see more than six cars in Selous. If we do see more than six cars, Leina will treat us to diner on Zanzibar.
We spend the rest of the afternoon in the shade of a tree and talk about different topics which are linked to Africa. Before we know it, it is time to go on our next game drive. We start off with marvellous views. The combination of colours, which is produced by the dark blue clouds that are gathering at the horizon combined with the setting sun at our back, is stunning. The deep dark blue sky and the vast, brightly coloured golden yellow plains look truly amazing. A well-formed, bare tree stands forlornly on the plain and lights up fantastically.
We are as fortunate in spotting wildlife as we are in the views that we see. Of course, we see the usual animals, but we also get to see special animals. For starters, we see a large group of elephants which is divided over both sides of the road. To the left of the road, two young males test their strength in order to establish their place in the group. They fence with their trunks and push each other back for minutes. To the right of the road, a very small elephant is walking toward the Land Rover. An adult female stands between the car and the baby elephant and indicates that we stand too close by using her ears. This is a sign that we have to move the car back. The biggest elephant of the group crosses the road in front of us and quietly starts to eat acacia leaves. We wait until we can drive on, because we have to drive through both sub groups if we start moving. Makuru waits for the right moment accelerate. It would be fatal to stop now. We have to keep on driving even if a small elephant tries to cross the road right in front of our car. The baby elephant changes its mind and makes a curve around an acacia bush in order to get to the safety of the grass. However, the grass covers a ditch or a hole in the ground which causes the small elephant to fall to the ground with one of its front legs and topple over. Luckily, the elephant gets up unharmed and continues to make its way into the grass. Despite the fact that this incident is sad, it is at the same time comical to watch. After this adventure, we see three lions, which are enjoying themselves while resting. This lasts until one of them sits up and starts scanning the surroundings for prey. The lion fits perfectly into the beautiful image of the yellow plain, the dark horizon and the beautifully formed acacia trees in the background.
We come to a strip of acacia trees and bushes. A few cars have stopped and Makuru has already seen why. We have to search for a few minutes until we see the leopard, but our effort is rewarded. After less than ten minutes and only a few kilometres from where we saw our first leopard, we see a second one. This leopard is perched on the canopy of an acacia tree and is munching on a young vulture, which lay in its nest there. We drive on and canít believe our luck when we see another leopard within ten minutes. This one is also up in a tree. Makuru tells us that he has never witnessed or heard of anything like this, even though he was born and raised here. Of course, it is a unique experience to see three leopards in less than a quarter of an hour.
The sun sinks lower to the horizon, which brings out the wonderful colours in the landscape even better. It is time to return to the campsite, but we donít get a chance to do so yet. A group of lions walks ahead of us. On first sight we see three lionesses with approximately eight cubs. While we focus our attention on the family, Makuru points out that the family is even larger than we thought. The big heads of two male lions poke out of the grass. They lie in the half-length grass and keep an eye on their family. The group moves forward slowly. The young lions walk along effortlessly, while their mothers alternate walking with short stops to rest. When one of the lionesses lies down, a few cubs go to her for attention. If the lioness ignores them, they move along and keep each other company. Then, we notice that one of the lionesses has lost the biggest part of her tail. The bright red colour of the tail shows that she was recently wounded. Her injury doesnít seem to bother her and she deals with the mischievous behaviour of the playful cubs with ease.
The sky looks like it can produce a downpour any moment so now it is really time to go back to the campsite. A wonderful game drive is nearing its end. The sky is still lit up by the sun, which has already set behind the horizon. A gigantic cumulus cloud reflects the remaining sunlight and stands out against the darkening sky in bright white.
During diner, a group of singing Italians set the mood. At our table, the mood is somewhat less boisterous. Mfume has joined us and sits at the table looking like a small disheartened boy. I make an effort to have a meaningful conversation with him, but he is not up for it and draws his horns in. We discuss our plans with Leina before we go to our tents. Lions have been spotted near the campsite. We are advised to be careful when going out of our tents at night.

16/8 Serengeti NP
We slept well last night despite the fact that we could hear hyenas. Some of us even heard lions. We say goodbye to Leina, whom we will see again in Mikumi NP, and Mfume at six oíclock sharp and leave on our game drive.
Itís still dark and rather chilly. Leafless bushes by the side of the road have a ghost like appearance when the headlights of the car shine their light on them in passing. The horizon slowly lights up as a hippo returns to the water after its nocturnal binge. In the distance a hot air balloon rises while the sun tries to separate itself from the horizon. A few cars are standing still and we join the queue to find out whatís doing.
We all look to the right and see why so many cars have stopped: four lions, two females followed by two males, are coming straight toward us from the plains. Itís impressive to see through the view finder of my camera how the male lions confidently follow the females. They are heading straight toward us. The hot air balloon also comes our way and the lions and the balloon cross paths even though the hot air balloon is at a height of twenty five metres. One of the male lions looks up to the gigantic colossus. Its body shows signs of fright when the balloonís burner is operated in order to gain altitude again. The lions find their way among the car and come out on the other side of the huddle of cars to go on and quench their thirst. The other cars try to follows the lions while we drive of in a different direction. We try to dodge the other cars. If you are 60 kilometres or more from a lodge in the Serengeti youíre allowed to go off the road and drives across the plains. We didnít know this before. You get a great sense of freedom when youíre driving across the plains in this way. We canít make out any road in this area. We see many Thomsonís gazelle, topis and hartebeest. A hyena and her cub run to hide behind a termite mound when we approach and a group of bat-eared foxes scurry toward the entrance of their den. We drive across the plains for the main part of the morning until we come to a road again. The morning is drawing to a close when people in an approaching car tell us that six cheetahs have been spotted further up the road. Even though the guides communicate mainly in Swahili, we already deduce that they are talking about cheetahs. We drive toward the area where the cheetahs were spotted. Other cars are already at the scene. When we get to where the cars are parked, we see six magnificent cheetahs lying at the foot of a termite mound. The group consists of a mother and five, nearly fully grown cheetahs. This female cheetah must be a terrific mother in order to raise five cubs at once.
We take ample time to enjoy this beautiful scene. Even though the cheetahs donít do anything spectacular, the young cheetahs are especially lively. In the background a few Thomsonís gazelle pass at a safe distance. Finally, we are the only ones left who are watching the cheetahs. However, our stomachs indicate that itís time to return to the campsite. Even though I think it would be a superb sight to see six cheetahs walk across the plains, we decide not to wait until they get up. We drive back to the campsite via an alternative route. Before we arrive at the campsite to have our belated breakfast, we still see elephants and giraffe.
Things have quieted down considerably at the campsite. The sun is at its highest point now, so we go and sit in the shade of one of the buildings nearby to have breakfast. The buildings consist of four walls which are fifty centimetres high and a thatched roof. Apart from this, pieces of wire netting make sure we can safely store our luggage in the buildings at night so the hyenas canít get to it.
Itís nice and cool in the shade. The table is already set for the others to have lunch when they return. This immediately draws birds to the campsite. The birds use the wire netting to rest so they can feast on the food that is on the table. Our belated breakfast is very tasty and my rumbling stomach is definitely a thing of the past after we are served lunch an hour later. I pass my time by catching up on the writing in my journal and at 4 p.m. we leave on the next game drive.
We plan to drive toward the Lobo area in the north of the Serengeti. Makuru tells us that the tsetse fly is more common here. Ellen had nasty experiences with this fly on our previous journeys. For some reason Ellen gets an allergic reaction when she is stung by this panic inducing bug. In Uganda half her face was swollen because she was stung. Makuru warns us and tells us to be careful.
We also see many animals common to the Serengeti in the Lobo area. Two lions are resting on the banks of a small river. This area is very different from the plains we saw this morning. The many acacia bushes and trees form an area where you might find a special animal behind every bush. We discover that the rivers in this area are the cause of the larger amount of tsetse flies in this area. We see a family of baboons walking on the road in front of us and beside it. The youngest members of the family provide some comical moments. One of the young baboons falls off its motherís back while another one prances around somewhat too merrily which causes him to slide down the ledge, that marks off the road. While we stand still to enjoy this spectacle, an adult baboon jumps on the bumper at the front of the car. It sits against the car grill and looks inside, but since there is nothing of interest to be found in the car, it returns to its family with a jaunty jump. Stopping a car in an area where tsetse flies are common is not a particularly good idea, as we now find out. Hitting movements with or without a lethal weapon in hand indicate that we are starting to panic. However, these bugs cannot be beaten or killed with one blow. The best option is to drive on and try to get these small vampires to fly out of the window by swatting them. After this fencing match Anja, Ellen, Patricia and Wilfred are stung. There are no casualties that we know of on the opposing side. Ellen has an extraordinarily large bump on her leg in no time. We give up and leave the Lobo area in order to enjoy the wonderfully coloured plains.
On the right side of the road, we see a family of elephants. One of the younger elephants has strayed from the group and tries to get to its family before we overtake it. Even though the elephants are some distance away from the road the startled young elephant makes the rest of its family uneasy. We passed the elephants and enjoy the sight of the group in the back of the car when all of a sudden the entire group charges at us as if a signal were given to do so. Fortunately we kept enough distance between us and the elephants. It is hard to describe what goes through your head when a group of more than ten elephants comes charging at you. The front line of attack is formed by four elephants. Is this situation threatening, exciting or are we just plain stupid to still be here? Patricia decides that the last option applies. She doesnít hesitate to let ďGo, go, go, go, goĒ come out of her mouth. Makuru doesnít hesitate to act either. He canít see the charging elephants well from the driverís seat. By stepping firmly on the gas pedal, Makuru makes sure the distance between us and the elephants doesnít get too small. The distance between us and the elephants wasnít so close that we were in any danger yet, but how fast can elephants run exactly? The events took place so quickly that we didnít have a chance to record this on a camera. Still, the four elephants at the front of the group in particular will be etched in my memory for ever.
We drive back to the campsite. The sun already spread a red glow on the horizon. After diner, we take a moment to enjoy the starry night sky. Some of the other guests at the camp site feel they have to go and take a short midnight stroll on the only entrance road to the campsite. They have no idea how dangerous and stupid their behaviour is. They remind me of people who walked toward a giraffe which came to the campsite. They felt it was necessary to stand as close as they possibly could to the wild giraffe, which can kick you to death, in order to make a unique photograph. I already had my video camera at the ready to make other unique recordings.

 

Ngorongoro Crater

17/8 Serengeti NP - Ngorongoro Crater
We heard hyenas again last night. Ellen congratulates me with my birthday in her sleeping bag. We can lie in today. We will be leaving for the Crater this morning. Putting our luggage on the Land Rover takes longer than we expected but it is no wonder that it takes us longer to pack up be cause Makuru has to take stock of our luggage for the first time. Weíve got time enough to wait. Fortunately, we were able to enjoy our stay in the Serengeti after a false start. Weíve seen many beautiful and special sights, as we did on our previous visits to this wonderful park. Iím sure this wonít be the last time we visit the Serengeti.
We leave and are curious to know what our adventure in the Ngorongoro Crater will bring us. We are treated to a sighting of two lions on our way out of the Serengeti. They lie near a pool. Then, all of a sudden, I see that one of the lionesses has a short tail. This is the same lioness we saw in the evening of the day before yesterday. The wound on her tail is no longer fresh: the light red colour has been replaced by a dark, scabby wound, which looks dry and clean. The lioness doesnít seem to be bothered by the loss of half of her tail, despite the fact that the skin has disappeared from her bottom to her feet. The lions are not very active.
The road that we dubbed ďthe washboardĒ on our way to the Serengeti now slides by underneath us. This experience is completely different from the one we had in the first Land Rover. Now we know for sure that our uncomfortable journey to the Serengeti was due to the bad state the car was in and not to the amount of luggage we took with us. Just before we get to the gate we yet again see two lions. They are skinny and one of them is chewing on a piece of wood. Maybe the Dutch proverb to describe a situation in which one doesnít have much to eat comes from sightings such as these. Despite their posture the lions look magnificent. They are two young males which are probably having a difficult time in the dry season. Itís possible that they recently had to leave the group and have had to fend for themselves for a short time now.
There is little extra space in the Land Rover, so Ellen canít take photographs. Fortunately, I can catch the lions on tape. Petty is in the back on the Land Rover on a cooler with a small pillow on top. The room between the top of her head and the roof of the car is less than a centimetre. Given the condition of the roads here, she canít afford to doze off: she would almost certainly end up with a bump on her head.
At the gate we meet one of the persons who helped us so well on our way into the park. He shows that he recognises us by waving both of his hands at the same time, a gesture many Africans make. He tells us what he thinks of Mfume while smiling compassionately. We are glad to hear that we are not the only people who thought negatively about him.
We drive on in the direction of the crater. The plains between the Serengeti and the crater seem to fly by us. Now we are inside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area again. Just before we reach the first hills we visit a Masai village, which is called a manyatta in Kimasai.. The manyatta is situated at the left of the road and obviously caters to tourists. Despite this last fact, I always like to visit these villages. This is not the first visit Ellen and I visit a Masai village. The others, however, are visiting a manyatta for the first time. When we come in the corral men and women prepare to sing and dance for us.
The Masai people are probably the best-known tribe of Africa. The word Masai means: he who speaks the language of Maa. The Masai became well-known because they lived in areas which were often visited by tourists. They have a conspicuous appearance and are often good looking. Except for the people in the village we visit now.
Women still do most of the exerting work in the village. The tasks of the women are to build huts, make sure there is food, firewood and water. Sometimes they have to walk long distances to get these things. The young boys, who are not old enough to be a warrior, or moran in Kimasai, herd the cattle. In the past boys became moran by killing a lion. This tradition has now disappeared like many other Masai traditions have. The warriors donít do much because they donít have to go out of the village to take back cattle that was Ďtheirs.íAfter all, cattle used to be the pivotal element of life in a manyatta. The Masai thought all the cattle in the world was their property so they fought to take all the cattle they found on their way with them. Matters have changed now and many say that the warriors now lead an easy life.
We walk further into the village. In the middle of the village there is a circle on which souvenirs are hung. Around this circle we see several sober houses made out of a frame of tree trunks and branches which are covered with cow manure. The houses have thatched roofs. We are invited into one of these houses, where a woman lies on a bed and makes a gesture to indicate that we can sit on the beds. She shortly explains what life is like for the Masai. Petty is our interpreter when we need one.
We walk to the back of the village. Hardly anyone is to be seen here. One of the moran walks toward me and tries to sell me something. I would like to buy a blanket, so he walks off and returns with two used pieces of cloth. The scent of Masai life comes wafting through the air toward me. This scent adds a pureness to the cloth but it is too pervasive to suit my taste. I saw a bell of sorts. It is made out of metal and is shaped like a hollowed out banana. Over the length of the bell you can see a groove which holds three metal beads. A leather strap is tied to both ends of the bell. The moran explains that the Masai use this tool when they walk across the savannah. The sound of the metal beads warns the lions that someone is approaching, which avoids unexpected confrontations. Another explanation is that the bell is hung round the neck of the goats when they walk across the plains, but it serves the same purpose as in the first explanation. Whatever the use of the bell may be, I never saw it before and I think itís a special tool. After haggling for a time, I buy the bell for a reasonable price. Our visit to the manyatta nears its end. We say goodbye to the Masai and leave and travel the last few kilometres to the crater.
When we arrive at the campsite a few young Masai boys are getting into mischief. The traditional clothes they wear shows that they have recently been circumcised. This clothing consists of black cloth and a white mask painted on their faces. At the moment, it is quiet at the campsite. That will probably change soon.
We unload the Land Rover and immediately pitch our tents. On this campsite, like on that in the Serengeti, two simple buildings were erected. One building is a kitchen and the other is a restaurant. This only shows that much can change in a few years. Still, I can imagine why someone would want to put buildings on the lip of the crater. In this way people can take shelter from the wind and the rain, both of which are typical for this campsite which often disappears into the clouds. We leave for our first game drive into the crater after we pitched our tents, stored our luggage and after Makuru changed the punctured tire.
This is the third time we visit the crater, which many call a wonder of the natural world, the Garden of Eden or even Noahís Ark. However, our first two visits didnít convince us that these titles were applicable. To be sure, the crater has a varied and beautiful landscape, but we never had much luck when spotting animals. Even though it must be said that our luck did improve after our first visit, so we hope our luck will hold.
We descend the crater wall via a narrow road. It is rather windy. The white salt of the dried up crater lake rises as a dust cloud and forms a veil of dust which indicates the direction of the wind. We drive counter clockwise around Lake Magadi toward the Mandusi Swamp. The roads are very dry and the dust is damaging our film and photo equipment greatly. Hendriís video camera plays up, just as it did last year. Hopefully this is a temporary problem.
The first animals we see are zebras and a buffalo. The second half of the game drive starts when we drive through the veil of dust. You could imagine that by passing through this veil we get to another part of the crater. All of a sudden we see more animals. We see hyenas and large groups of wildebeest and zebras. I never saw so many wildebeest and zebras together and now weíre driving through the middle of the group. The wildebeest make a distinct sound which is actually rather funny. The sun sinks toward the lips of the crater wall. This causes a beautiful incidence of light to shine on the backs of the thousands of wildebeest and zebras. Itís already later than 5 p.m. and we have to be out of the crater at 6 p.m., so itís time to drive toward the gate via Gorigor Swamp.
We see a few waterbuck, elephants and even a few lions which are hiding at the edge of the swamp. We ascend the road to the gate at 5.45 p.m. The road winds up the crater wall and we have a stunning view off the crater at different points of our way up.
Before we reach the campsite, Makuru picks up the repaired tyre. The campsite is now filled with more tents which belong to others who are on safari. We put our things into our tents and go to the building which we will call the restaurant for now. Our table has been decorated by balloons because it is my birthday. Apparently, Petty has spent two days preparing something special for this day. The interior of the restaurant is lighted by a few oil lamps. When everyone is inside, we sit with fifty people spread over twelve simply constructed tables. We have chicken, samosas, chapatti and fritters for diner. The chicken smells somewhat odd and for the first time in all our visits to Africa, we are not sure if this food is still edible. The other dished were delicious by the way. Petty made a cake and a basket carved out of melon for desert. Both deserts have a birthday wish on them. It is very nicely done.
I get my presents and when Petty says: ďBut you are not singing,Ē this is the signal to start singing me birthday songs. To my surprise, the Dutch birthday songs cause the other campers to congratulate me as well, in their own language. I am sung to in Spanish, Basque, German, Finnish, Swedish and Spanish again. It is a special experience to be sung to by people of different nationalities on the lip of the Ngorongoro Crater. We conclude the festivities by me making a short speech, by request, after which we eat some cake and drink wine.
We have a few more drinks before we go to our tents. While we walk to our tents we shine the light of our torch around us. All of a sudden, we see three pair of eyes lighting up. Are they hyena eyes? We think they are. When we get to the tent, we see that a few balloons have been tied to it. I shine my flashlight around the tent again. We see no eyes lighting up. The hyenas must have disappeared.

18/8 Ngorongoro Crater Ė Wild Palm Camp
Ellen awakes early in the night by a dull thud against the tent. After a while a second thud follows which I can feel too. We are both sitting straight up in our beds. We hear an animal sniffing around the tent. Could these animals be hyenas? It may well be the case. Now, I remember the balloons which are tied to our tent. Could it be that these balloons attracted the attention of the hyenas. Again, we hear the sniffing around the tent. Of course, the hyenas are curious to see how the balloons move in the wind with no will of their own. Their curiosity can only be satisfied in one way which is to try to grab hold of the balloons. The only explanation we can come up with is that the hyenasí efforts to do so created the dull sound. I grab my Mc-lite. When I hear the sniffing again I lash out. I beat against the tent cloth with a bang several times. After that, we donít wear any more sounds. The two of us listen carefully for a sound. Normally we would have rolled up the flap of our tent which would allow us to see what was going on outside through the mosquito gauze, but the flaps are rolled down now because the weather on top of the crater is often too rainy and windy to sleep like that. I call to the others in their tents and ask them if they would come out of the tent together with me. On my signal, the three of us get out of the tent. There I am in the dressed in the Masai cloth which I got for my birthday just a few hours ago and that I hurriedly wrapped around myself. I see nothing. Before I get back into the tent I take the balloons off it. Ellen and I talk shortly about this event. The rest of the night passes in a blur.
We get up at six oíclock in order to descend into the crater somewhat later to go on our second game drive there. We sit in the car wearing warm clothes because it is quite chilly. We can see a dim blue light appearing behind the crater wall. This is the first signal that the sun is trying hard to rise above the crater wall once again. We wait for the rangers at the gate. We are the first people to descend into the crater together with people in another car. In front of us, a hyena descends into the crater over the same roads in the direction of the crater lake, where ten more hyenas lie at the shore. The hyenas are about to spread out across the crater. It looks as if they are having a work meeting before they are going to go about their daily business.
We take a right turn and drive off in the direction of the forest. When we get there, we see an elephant eating parts of an acacia tree by the road. We can cearly see how the elephant uses its trunk and tusks to clutch the branches and removes them from the tree by a downward movement of its head. Only when we pass it by, it shows that itís noticed us by widely flapping its ears. Apart from the elephant the forest looks wonderfully desolate. When we drive out of the forest, Makuru thinks he has spotted a rhino. We canít drive over there because a branch across the road indicates that we arenít allowed to drive on the road it is barring.
We drive further into the crater counter-clockwise. The amount of widlebeest, zebras and hyenas we see is overwhelming. We can also easily spot warthogs, bat-eared foxes, jackals, Thomsonís gazelle, bufallo and hippos. We manage to make close-up photographs of two hyenas which are laying half outside of their den. Thier half-closed eyes give us the impression that we are disturbing them during their nap. They lift thier heads out of curiosity for a short while but quickly lower it into the loose sand. As we drive further into the back of the crater, we see less and less animals. A few hyenas and some warthogs are all we see.
This is the reason why we decide to return to the part of the crater which we visited earlier after a short tour of this part of the crater. When we get to the familiar part of the crater we get caught in the middle of a group of wildebeest and zebras. A large group of mwildebeest walking in single file crosses the road in front of our Land Rover in order to go and drink at Gorigor Swamp. As the wildebeest are crossing the road in front of us, the wildebeest, which have drank their fill, cross the road in the other direction behind our car. There are at least a few thousand of them. The whole process goes on at a slow pace and is accompanied by the familiar and catching sounds which wildebeest make.
We re-enter the forest when we see a cheetah at the left side of the road. I thought they didnít live here. After all there is a cut-throat competition within the confines of the crater between the predators in it, which include hyenas of which there are many present. A cheetah will hardly have time to enjoy its freshly killed prey. The cheetah will loose every battle it does for its prey agianst lions, hyenas and even leopards. But apparently theyíve been reintroduced into the crater. Hopefully for the cheetah this reintroduction will be a succes. We stop the car to enjoy this scene, which apparently is unique. The cheetah lies by the side of the road in the half length grass. A jackal unsuspectingly walks into the cheetahís direction. At a distance of less than ten metres it stops. One of his senses probably indicates that all is not well here. The jackal lifts its head somewhat higher and when the eyes of the jackal and the cheetah meet, the cheetah pounces toward the jackal at half speed. This is enough to chase off the jackal, which may have disturbed it during its preparations to hunt. The cheetah walks toward a group of far off Thomsonís gazelle at a hurried pace, which clearly shows its frustration, to disappear into the high grass afterwards.
Itís nearly 10 a.m. when we leave the crater. We plan to leave for Ruaha National Park today. It will take us two days to get there, so we want to sleep at a hotel which is near the Arusha-Dodoma road. We pack our bags after brunch. To our right, a waterfall of clouds which spills over the crater wall makes for a spectacular view.
On our way to the junction with the Arusha-Dodoma road we spend time looking for knick-knacks, against better judgement, because we know that the prices are so high here, due to the many Americans who visit this area and arenít used to negotiating the price, that you can hardly find a bargain. I have set my sights on a leather pouch tied in straps. The Masai used to get their medicine from the medicineman in these sorts of pouches. At least, thatís what the shop assistant tells me. He also tells me that this is the lowest price for which heíll sell the pouch. He obviously doesnít know me. I have earned my spurs when it comes to bargaining in Africa. I have already become very fond of this knick-knack. I havenít seen something like it before, so itís unique for me. This way of bargaining has been the cause of long stops more than once already during our holidays in Africa, but the results are worth the wait. After the shop assistant consulted with his boss, he sells me the knick-knack. He makes use of the situation and asks me if I would care to give him something extra for his trouble. Even though I give in to his request I donít feel unhappy about doing so. After all, the negotiations had the typical African elements of humour, respect and patience in it.
We fill the tank up at the junction. Immediately tens of Masai women flock around the Land Rover. They are out of luck because they wonít be able to sell their goods to Ellen or to me. However, the sales techniques in this area are more aggressive and it takes considerable effort to convince the women that they are wasting their time.
Fortunately, we can quickly go on to Dodoma. It is already late in the afternoon, so we wonít drive very far. We turn into a wide sand road at the Wild Palm Camp sign. The area is quite arid. A few palm trees stick out of the dried out bushes like an oasis to indicate where the campsite is. Whether they are wild palms or not, we arrived at our sleeping place for the night. Wild Palm Camp is a basic campsite with several coveniences such as showers, toilets, a roofed over kitchen and eating facilities. The best thing about this camp site may well be the cold beer thatís available here. No thatís not fair. This is a fine place. Petty immediately goes to work in the kitchen. We pitch our tent after which we sit beside a wild palm to catch up on writing in our journals or attend to other urgent matter while enjoying a beer.

 

Ruaha NP

19/8 Wild palm camp Ė Dodoma
Weíve got a long and exhaustive day ahead of us. Makuru told us yesterday that adversity lurks at every bend in this road. If we have a breakdown today, itíll take a while for help to get on the way. This road is the shortest way to Dodoma and takes us through the Rift Valley. If all goes well today, the rest of our journey to Ruaha NP will be no problem.
But weíre already out of luck before we leave. The breaking up of camp and putting our luggage onto the Land Rover takes much more time than necessary. After moving our bags around several times, the Land Rover is packed to Makuruís satisfaction. We leave at 8.15 a.m., which is an hour later than we planned.
We drive on a dusty road of coarse gravel. The road bulges, which makes the sides of the road slope toward the verge of the road. This causes us lean over toward the verge of the road relatively far. Our confidence has somewhat lessened after last yearís episode in which our car keeled over in Savuti Channel. More often than we would want, we clutch the person sitting next to us and hold our breath while our eyes are wide with awe. Some of us even canít suppress a scream.
The grey landscape changes into a beautiful green one through which road, which resembles a red-brown vein, winds to its end. This change of scenery is caused by the Rift Valley, which weíll have to cross several times. Our journey is never monotonous due to the difference in height and the differences in temperature which are linked to it.
The scenery consists alternately of plantations and arid areas. We drive at a fast pace. Cyclists and pedestrians are warned of our approach by Makuruís agitated tooting. We can easily see whether or not our fellow road-users noticed us. They get off their bicycle, sometimes in a rather comical manner, and try to get across the ditch to safety. Some even skip jumping across the ditch, because they think they do not have enough time. Sometimes the poor people are in such a panic that they end up stumbling into the ditch and look back frightened afterwards. Some people even manage to wave. This is the road to Dodoma, the Tanzanian capital. However, itís barely used. We barely see other cars, let alone other, white people, or mzungus in Swahili. Just outside a village, we stop by the side of the road for lunch. Immediately children come to stand round us. Initially, they keep an acceptable and respectable distance but eventually their curiosity compels them to get closer.
One of the boys has a football made out of plastic bags. I encourage him to kick the ball to me, which he does and we continue to engage in a game of juggling the ball. Petty spends her time doing other things altogether. She teases a boy with a naughty air by pretending to chat him up, to the hilarity of the other children. We are an hourís drive from Dodoma. During that hour, I often dose off because of the shaking of the car, so before I realise whatís happening, we drive into Dodoma. Makuru searches for the Nam Hotel, which doesnít seem a bad place to spend the night at first sight. The rooms are suitable and we take the opportunity to scrub the filth of our first week on safari off our bodies, to rearrange our luggage and reload our batteries.
When we took care of those matters, we spend the time we have to wait for diner drinking a nice cool beer in the garden. During this time, I have another look at the route in the itinerary, which I got at the beginning of the safari. I didnít notice until now, that one day at the Sau Inn on Zanzibar has been omitted. Makuru had to phone Leina anyway, so I join him to make sure everything is arranged according to plan. When I return, itís dinnertime. When we order, we find out that the hotel didnít prepare for our visit. Normally, guests, let alone Mzungus, donít eat at the hotel. Many stores have to be visited to comply with our requests. The grocery shopping is done in a typically African manner. First, one item is bought at one store, then someone else goes to another store to buy a different item while, finally, a third person goes to yet another store to buy yet another item. In this way, we can see all the food that we are going to eat. Diner is ready surprisingly fast and it tastes delicious. When we want to pay, this presents yet another problem. A great deal of arithmetic is involved, but we shouldíve never asked them to split the bill.
We go to bed at about 9.00 p.m. Our day travelling and all the impressions we have taken in have worn us out. I catch up on writing in my journal in bed. Tomorrow weíll spend another long day travelling to Ruaha NP.

20/8 Dodoma Ė Ruaha NP
At the beginning of our second travelling day, weíre awoken by a rooster crowing at one side of the hotel and the sound of Muslims being called to prayer at the other. After having a quick breakfast, we leave for Iringa driving over small roads. Dodoma is a capital city with a small- town provincial atmosphere. There are no flats and buildings are grouped together in a disorderly manner, but this last remark actually applies to all towns and villages which we pass by. It takes us a while to find the main road to Iringa. As soon as weíre some kilometres away from Dodoma, traffic gets lighter. We donít see any cars for a long time. We pass by small villages where we see the same recurring scene: people who go into the shade in order to avoid the rising temperature and small shops which range from bicycle repair sites to butcherís shop and small eating places.
Midway between Dodoma and Iringa, a dam was built, behind which a large lake has formed. It is prohibited to take photographs or stop in the near vicinity of the dam and strict security is in place, so weíll have to wait a little while longer to take our bathroom break. Even though the landscape is arid, weíre surprised by the marvellous scenery. We enter an area with many baobab trees and mountains as we leave the Rift Valley behind us once again. During our bathroom break, we happen to take a good look at the top of the car, which is covered with dust and on which one of the backpacks has come completely loose and is on the verge of falling into the desolate African landscape if we come across one more bump in the road. I see that the backpack in question is my own. Itís a good thing we find out now so we can strap everything back to the car again just in time.
Itíll be another hour and a half before we get to Iringa. When we have almost travelled the entire distance, and the hour and a half is over, we get a puncture at a slight incline in the road. Weíve still got one hundred twenty five kilometres to go to Ruaha NP. I canít help dosing off, as I did yesterday, during a part of this last distance.
When we come to a junction, Makuru chooses to take the right hand road, which he says is a shortcut. After we drove for a kilometre, an oncoming driver tells us that the bridge further down the road has collapsed, which means weíll have to turn around and drive on over the left road at the junction. A sign at the junction indicates that itís sixty kilometres to the gate. Elephant, impala and giraffe tracks are the first indications that we are nearing the park.
We get to the gate at 4.30 p.m., where a bridge over the Ruaha river gives entry to the National Park. Makuru and Petty take care of the formalities, while we explore the surroundings up to the middle of the bridge. We are able to spot a number of hippos, a crocodile, two giraffes and we have a marvellous view of the low water in the river. The formalities have been taken care of quickly. The camp is approximately eight kilometres down the river from here. On our way over there we see kudus, impala, giraffes, zebras and buffalo.
The camp consists of bandas made out of green corrugated iron. Thatch has been put on the top sheets to keep out the worst of the heat, which is a nearly impossible endeavour. Soon after we arrived, an overland truck comes to the camp. Everybody is exhausted after two long days of travelling. We take our luggage from the Land Rover and put everything into the bandas. While moving our luggage, we pass a sign that says: ďElephants are dangerous, keep away from them.Ē The sign must be here for a reason.
At the river, a space is allocated for making campfires and enjoying the approaching darkness. So we will make use of the opportunity to do so. Wilfred and Hendri in particular can tend to the campfire to their heartís content the coming days. The setting in of the evening is heralded by the sounds of African fish eagles and hippos. A family of baboons, comes into the camp and at the bank of the river, a crocodile is waiting for diner to come by. While we are relaxing, Petty is busy in the kitchen, yet again. A good meal is a perfect end to this day.

21/8 Ruaha NP
We agreed to get up at 6.00 a.m. to go on our first game drive in Ruaha. We have a quick cup of coffee and take some sandwiches with us into the Land Rover. We are ready to go once weíve woken Makuru up as well. We leave in the dark.
Ruaha NP is situated in the south of Tanzania and, with approximately 10,300 square kilometres, itís the countryís second largest park. The park started out as a part of the Saba Game Reserve in 1910, after which it was proclaimed a national park in 1964. Ruaha is an interesting park because the flora and fauna of Eastern and Southern Africa meet here. Ruaha is the most Southerly park were you can find the Grantís gazelle, the lesser kudu and the striped hyena. Approximately twenty percent of the park is situated at the banks of the Great Ruaha river. Most tourists visit this part of the park, as we do.
We see a giraffe during the first few kilometres of our game drive. It is still dark, but we can see how the giraffe peacefully ruminates on the ground because the lights of the Land Rover are pointed toward it. All else is quiet. When we get to the river, we follow it over a winding path. We approach a forest with Winterthorn and tamarind trees in it. By now, the effect of the sun can clearly be felt, even though it is still hiding behind the mountains. We take another turn toward the half dried up river. All of a sudden, we spot a dark-maned lion. We see several lionesses and young lions near to him. We slowly approach the pride. We try to disturb the lions as little as possible because this may cause them to move. We see more and more lions. The young lions can be divided into three groups. There are also very young cubs in the pride. We didnít see anything spectacular on our game drive up until now and now, we are suddenly in front of this large pride of lions. The adult lions lie down quietly to recover from their nightly activities, while the young lions are actively playing with each other at the bank of the river or try to suckle with their mother. However, the mother indicates with a painful grimace that she wonít stand for it, which means that the young lions have to fend for themselves once more. More and more lions descend to the river. We try to regain sight of them by driving around a clump of trees. The male lion stays where he is, without a care in the world.
We are now at the edge of the river bank and look two metres down to the riverbed. The scene we see is nearly indescribable. We feel as if weíve walked into the prideís playground. The youngest cubs play with each other and are at times brutally disturbed by the older cubs. Many tactics are applied such as pouncing, tripping each other up, chasing and stalking. When things get really rough a hardly audible meowing of the young cubs can be heard. The performance has been going on for an hour and half when, one by one, the lions start moving up from the riverbed to the bank again.
The largest part of the adults are still on the bank when the youngsters join them again. The lions look as if they didnít have much to eat for quite a while, but they donít look skinny by any means. We might even see a kill one of these days. A pride of this size will have to hunt regularly.In any case, the young lions are already practising their hunting skills on dried up palm leaves. Itís a beautiful sight to see how the young lions drag the leaf to and fro and pretend they want to strangle the last breath out of it.
The male lion slowly starts to move and begins making his morning toilet by licking its entire body. We stand at a distance of barely three metres from the male lion which allows us to see how it bares its teeth in order to suppress an irritating itch in its groin. He shakes his head in order to arrange his manes and roars impressively while doing so. A young lion approaches to greet him. I immediately keep my video camera at the ready, because generally something spectacular happens in these situations. Itís no different now. The boss of the pride is not amused at all. While the young lion brings its head, which is many sizes smaller than its fatherís, closer to its father, the male snarls at the young lion and nearly has the young lionís head in its mouth. The cub walks by as if nothing happened. Dad also gets up and walks toward a female to smell if sheís ready to mate. By grimacing, he tries to find out whether the time has come to procreate. Apparently the time is not right yet. He has shown off enough for now and lies down again.
At the other side of the Land Rover, a group of impalas passes at a respectable distance. They probably want to drink from the river. Both the lions and the impalas are aware of the presence of the other. The impalas indicate that theyíve noticed the lions by making a piercing whistling sound. While the youngest lions suckle with their mothers, peace and quiet returns to the pride. We count ourselves lucky that weíve been able to witness what a regular day looks like for a pride of lions for three hours.
We further explore Ruaha. We pass by a group of impalas and donít see any animals for a while. We occasionally see giraffes, a few elephants, impala and zebras. Up until now we didnít see any other cars. It feels as if weíre on an exclusive holiday. We turn into a narrow path which takes us along several rock formations. The scenery is beautiful an varied. Acacia, baobab and sausage trees are characteristic elements of the hilly landscape and the plains on which yellow dried up grass grows. We pass by a few zebras and are driving toward a large group of impalas which stand halfway up a hill. The group of impalas splits into two parts and we hear the piercing whistling sound again. We wonder why, but we soon find out.
We see a leopard bolt skittishly between two baobab trees. The leopard had already approached the impalas closely and it may have been preparing to make the decisive leap. We clearly disturbed its hunt, even if we didnít mean to do so. However, one of the impalas can count itself lucky. We try to find the leopard, but donít succeed in doing so. The leopard is hiding in a ditch between two hills. This is the reason that a group of Elands goes to a higher point on the hill. We drive over to see if we can still catch a glimpse of the leopard from the other side of the hill. This is also not a success and we drive back to the camp.
We get back to camp at about 11.00 a.m. and we have had a lovely morning when Petty brings us brunch. She really pampers us. Itís not until now that we notice that the temperature has risen considerably. So we decide that itís time to sit back and relax while reading a book or catching up on writing in our journals.
Itís still rather warm when we leave on our next game drive at 3.30 p.m.. Of course, weíre curious about the lions we saw in the morning. Will they still be there? And if they are, will we be treated to many lovely scenes as we were this morning? Makuru indeed drives in the direction of the lions again. Animals donít show themselves because of the heat. We, the opportunistic fortune seekers, are the only ones who are on the move. When we come to the place where we saw the pride of lions this morning, theyíre gone, but Makuru spots them two hundred metres down the road. The lions lie on the river bank in the shade and look down at the Ruaha river. Hiding in the bushes, they are lying in wait for thirsty animals which will undoubtedly come to the river to drink. The male lies on its back with all four paw in the air. We canít relax in the car, as he can. The sun relentlessly shines on our backs and heads. In order to get to the shade we either have to loose sight of the lion or disturb the lions to a too great degree. So we quickly agree that itís best to drive on.
We follow the river. A herd of elephants is waiting for us while relaxing. We stop the car and notice itís very quiet. When the matriarch gives a signal, the entire herd follows her. We drive along with the elephants in the rear of the herd. The only sound we hear is that of the Land Rover. The elephants walk to the river without making a sound. Itís as if youíre part of the herd for a short while. When they turn right onto a path they descend to the river. From here, we can see that several herds of elephants are quenching their thirst. Other animals which we commonly see are giraffes and impala. For the rest, all is quiet and we donít see many spectacular sights, even though the scenery is fantastic.
Dusk is setting in when we get back to the camp. The wind rises and causes the fire to flare up. We see a group of approximately two hundred African spoonbills and yellow-billed stork which comes flying toward us across the river. We run to the river bank to witness this beautiful spectacle. The sound of their wings and their landing in the river is impressive. They land directly in front of us and leave with the entire group after a short while. When we return to the camp fire with a nice cool beer we make plans for tomorrow. Makuru suggests we leave at 7.30 a.m. We think thatís rather late. We convince him to leave at 6.00 a.m. again by using the argument that the animals are most active before 7.30 a.m.

22/8 Ruaha NP
An elephant leaned against Wilfred and Patriciaís banda last night. Wilfred was awoken by strange noises and decided to look out of the window to see what was happening. His view was completely blocked by the big behind of the elephant. When you look out of your window half asleep, you must think about many options to explain what youíre seeing before you think of an elephantís behind. We leave in the dark and take some sandwiches with us to serve as a pre-brunch. We see kudus, which are hiding in the bushes and look ghostly, looking at us. We still call kudus topis by way of a joke, because Mfume confused the two.
After weíve seen a few giraffes we donít see any more animals. For the first time, we see people in other cars trying to spot animals as well. We try to track down the African wild dogs, which are often sighted in the park. We frequently see dried out droppings, which bear witness to their presence in the park. When just looking at the colour, you could also think that these are hyena droppings, but when you take the number of droppings and the way they are grouped together into account you know these are wild dog droppings. We occasionally pass by zebras, giraffes, impala, warthogs, dikdiks and klipspringers. The animals in Ruaha are more skittish than in the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater. Generally you canít get close to the animals. We see three lionesses lying to the left side of the road. The lions in the park seem to be the only animals which arenít bothered by our presence. This also makes them the only animals which you can come close to.
All of a sudden we hear the piercing whistling sound of the impala. We know what that means by now. Danger. Everybody is immediately on the alert. We spot some impala standing in the bushes. The direction in which their heads are turned indicate in which direction we have to look. What will we see? A leopard? We scan the area and finally see a silhouette. The head pokes out of the grass. Itís hard to make out what sort of animal it is. One of us thinks itís a leopard, others, including Ellen are convinced itís a hyena. Itís indeed hard to tell. Then, the animal moves somewhat which allows us to see more of its features. Itís a hyena.
The temperature has already risen considerably. After a visit to a viewpoint with a fantastic view of this part of Ruaha, we drive back to camp. A few buffalo mark the end of this game drive. We realise that we were extremely lucky to have witnessed the playing lions. On the riverbank there are two open wooden bandas which allow you to enjoy the marvellous view of the river and the other riverbank in the shade. A few elephants, impala and giraffes populate the opposite riverbank. A giraffe slowly crosses the dried up river with its sandbanks. It walks right in our direction. We barely move or make a sound while we wait to see whatíll happen. The giraffe comes closer with every step it takes. Every now and then the giraffe stops and scans its surroundings and continues to cross the river afterwards. Finally, the giraffe takes a turn when it is twenty metres from us and follows the riverbank in search of fresh acacia branches which can be found further down the riverbank.
Itís very warm and after I took a nap and caught up on writing in my journal I take a nice refreshing shower. Itís a glorious feeling to be able to rinse off the dust and dirt of the past few days with warm water.
Itís 4.00 p.m. and we are going for another game drive. We decide not to go for a long game drive. We drive to a natural dam in the river. Thereís more water in this part of the river than we saw in the rest of the park. The water flows between rock formations toward the dam in order to form a small lake, which is fringed by a sandy beach of sorts. The crocodiles on the beach raise their body temperature by lying in the sun on the warm sand. Itís a beautiful spot and it seems an alluring thought to go and lie on the beach. A few palm trees complete the exotic image.
Three giraffes walk side by side across a hilltop, deeper into the park. Things are quiet as far as the animals go. Very quiet. The fantastic park has settled down. We see a few elephants and a few buffalo just before we drive into our camp. Far away, across the river, we see an enormous herd of buffalo. We light the campfire. The large group yellow-billed stork and African spoonbills which we saw yesterday, land on the river again to have a quick bite to eat and fly on again. Itís dark when Petty comes to tell us that dinner is ready. We pack our bags and conclude our second full day in Ruaha NP in this way.

 

Mikumi NP

23/8 Ruaha NP Ė Mikumi
We leave Ruaha NP with mixed feelings. From a scenery point of view itís a must see. In addition, the low number of visitors makes the long drive to the park worthwhile. However, you need more luck here to spot wildlife close by or see spectacular scenes than you do in, say, Tanzaniaís northerly parks. This is why we can count ourselves extra lucky to have witnessed the fantastic moments with the pride of lions. For the rest, the park has sufficient main and byroads over which to drive through the park. Itís a disadvantage that there are many bushes in large areas of the park, which allows the already skittish animals to quickly disappear from sight. Another downside may well be that the variety of animals is less in this park. But if someone were to ask me whether Iíd like to visit this park again, I would certainly answer in the affirmative. We leave the park by driving across the bridge which gives entry to the park. The first part of the road to Iringa is passable with ease, but the second part is filled with potholes, which we continually try to dodge.
Poverty is clearly visible on the outskirts of Iringa. We quickly change the oil filter at a garage. Itís rather windy. We read in the newspaper, which Petty bought, that Idi Amin died and that Ruud van Nistelrooy broke some record or other. These are the only news items that we notice. We stock up in Iringa and Makuru fills the tank up completely, just the way we did when we were on our way to Ruaha NP. Weíll need food to last us another five days, which means that the Land Rover is completely packed again. A bus stops at the petrol station and I look at it in amazement. I canít believe that this banger can still move. I think this may well be the oldest bus in the world and with all its age and defects, the monumental wreck is a wonder to behold. I didnít realise that I could admire a bus to the degree I do.
We leave Iringa through the mountains. Due to road construction only one lane is available, which plays right into the hands of the local sellers of corn and other foods prepared by the road side because they can use the traffic jam this creates to sell their goods. The road to Mikumi is monotonous. Dried out trees cover the mountains and I dose off. I wake up just before we get to Mikumi. I can see that everybody has had it. Mikumi looks like a park where not much is doing. Still, this is one of the few communications between the south and the large seaport town of Dar es Salaam.
We park the Land Rover at the site of the Vocational Education and Training Authority and take out our luggage. Weíll be staying here for two nights and we can sleep in normal beds. We still need to get some groceries and we try, together with Makuru, to succeed in getting them. If all goes well, Leina will come to visit us here. Makuru needs more money for the rest of the safari and Leina will come from Dar es Salaam to bring it. When sheís here she can also fill us in about the day we wanted to stay at the Sau Inn at Zanzibar, which she didnít include in our itinerary.
The evening is getting well on its way and everybody needs to sleep. Leina still hasnít come to see us, but we donít wait for her because weíll have an early morning start tomorrow.

24/8 Mikumi
Petty has been up for a while to make breakfast. Itís 7.00 a.m. when we get out of bed after a long nightís sleep. Even though we wouldnít want to go on a different type of safari than a tented safari, which means we mostly sleep on self inflatable mattresses and in a sleeping bag, sleeping in a bed for once is a welcome change.
Apparently, Leina has come to visit us last night. We didnít hear anything at all. We leave at 8.30 a.m., which is late for a game drive, but weíll stay a full day in Mikumi NP. Weíll take lunchboxes with us. The entrance to the National Park is situated a few kilometres outside of the village of Mikumi.
A tarmac road divides Mikumi NP up into northerly and southerly part. Before we reach the gate we already see giraffes, elephants, zebras and impala by the side of the road. We take a left turn to go to the gate, where thereís a small museum which shows the consequences that the road from the south to Dar es Salaam too often has for the animals. Photographs of a dead hippo, a run over leopard and run over impala bear silent witness to the effect of the road through the park. Despite the many speed bumps the car and lorries are still able to drive with considerable speed.
We drive into Mikumi NP, which is a very popular park due to its good accessibility. The park was proclaimed a National Park in 1964, but it wasnít until 1975 that the park got its current form. Three sides of Mikumi NP have mountain ranges as their natural borders. From the South via the West up to the North the border is formed by the Lumango Mountains and in the East by the Ulguru Mountains. With its 3220 square kilometres, Mikumi is one of the smaller National Parks.
Immediately after we enter the park we drive onto a plain, an empty plain no less. We donít see any animals at first. We take a right turn. To our right, there are mainly bushes which barely have leaves. To our left we see the plain. We occasionally see a reedbuck, a giraffe or an elephant. Most of the animals are far away, or run away as soon as we carefully try to come closer. The road system in the park makes it increasingly difficult to get close to the animals. We pass by a number of wildebeest and zebras before we get to the hippo pool. At the other side of the pool, a bigger group of wildebeest approaches. They carefully walk into the water in order to drink standing side by side. We spot some lion tracks close to the hippo pool, but that is the last thing we see thatís worth mentioning. The park seems to be deserted and the road system does not leave much room for adventure either.
The morning is drawing to a close when we decide that Mikumi doesnít have much to offer today. After many days our luck has run out for once. It could well be the case that many animals migrated to Selous GR, a reserve that we will visit the coming days.
We drive back to our guesthouse where weíll have lunch. We adjust our plans for the day, which will mean that weíll go into the village of Mikumi to have something to drink. We saw a few billiards when going to and coming from Mikumi NP. We play a few games of billiard while enjoying a beer. The local children watch wide eyed as we make shots with a cue tip on which we can barely put any chalk. We spend the main part of our afternoon in this way.
Once we return to the Vocational Education and Training Authority we hear that Makuru and Leina have argued about the amount of nights weíll spend in Selous GR. These matters seem to be the thread running through our holiday. Itís very annoying and certainly has its impact on the atmosphere in the group. First we had the ordeal with Mfume, then we found out too few days had been booked at the Sau Inn and now thereís the discussion about the amount of days weíll be staying in Selous GR. We wonder how this discussion got going. Leina didnít tell us how the situation at the Sau Inn could be resolved either. In addition, no promise for compensation has been kept. Weíd rather that we wouldnít get compensation but a good arrangement of things which can be easily taken care of. Now, the problem in Selous is added to the list. Makuru tries to phone Leina, which he doesnít succeed in doing. It turns out that Leina gave Makuru money for the rest of the safari, but she didnít give him Tanzanian shillings but US Dollars, which are hardly accepted around Mikumi or at a very high exchange rate. This is why Makuru phoned Leina to tell her that he canít make it to the end of the safari with this amount of money. Leinaís proposal to not sleep in Selous the first night, didnít go down well with Makuru or with us for that matter. Leina almost pushes Makuru to the extreme. Makuru tells us that we will follow the itinerary and that he will make sure the money will be taken care of. Weíll still have time to make arrangements in Morogoro tomorrow.

 

Selous GR

25/8 Mikumi Ė Selous Game Reserve (Mbega campsite)
The first part of the road to Selous, by way of Mikumi and Morogoro, takes us over a tarmac road. At Mikumi we see as many animals by the side of the road as we did yesterday in the park. Of course, Iím exaggerating somewhat. Zebras, elephants, giraffes, impala and baboons walk by the side of the road or cross the road. It is unbelievable how many packed busses almost seem to fly over the road with great speed.
We try to reach Leina in an internet cafť in Morogoro. Morogoro, is a rather large and dusty town. The main market is held at a central point in town. Itís very busy today and it seems as if all 130,000 of Morogoroís inhabitants are out in the main street or at the market. We park at a petrol station.
The area around Morogoro, which is the last large town weíll see before going into the Uluguru mountains, is very fertile. But weíll have to try to reach Leina first. While the others wait for us at the petrol station, Makuru and I try our luck at the internet cafť. Makuru will try to phone her, and Iíll try to e-mail her. After several efforts, Makuru gets Leina on the phone. The entire internet cafť is witness to the way in which Makuru comes down on his boss. I donít type anymore and listen at a distance so Makuru can continue to talk freely to Leina. He slams the horns down out of frustration.
He wants to try to confront the group with problems as little as possible because, he reasons, this is our holiday after all. When I listen closely to the way he talks, I notice that he didnít get his way, which would mean one day less in Selous GR. Even though Makuru canít hide his bad mood, he tells us that weíll follow the itinerary and that the appropriate arrangements have to be made, afterwards if need be. Our only problem is that our camp site is at the other side of Selous GR, so weíll have to drive through Selous GR to get there. In addition, he doesnít have enough money left for our boat safari on the Rufiji river due to the high exchange rate for dollars. On the other hand, I realise that Leina wonít make a profit on this safari, she may even have to add money. I hope sheíll learn from this experience. Maybe she still can write it off as an investment of sorts.
We leave and the dejected atmosphere in the group is immediately compensated by one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful road, which we saw in Africa. We drive through the Uluguru mountains. A red road takes us through a green landscape through which we drive to the border of Selous GR by way of Msumbisi and Kisaki. On our way to Selous, we see people in multicoloured clothing which complement the colours in the landscape. Children come running from the houses, which are as red as the road to greet us with phrases such as ďHow are you, how are you?Ē or ďMzungu, mzungu.Ē The happy children have ample time to greet us because the road is hard to negotiate in places. The scenery often resembles that of a rainforest. In this area, too, pedestrians and cyclists go to the safety of the verge when they see us coming, often with jaunty leaps. Makuru often swerves at the last moment in order to dodge holes in the road. The locals have probably learned by experience that itís best to get out of the way when a car approaches. Most visitors to Selous GR donít come by car, but fly into the park. They donít get a chance to see all the wonderful places we see because weíre travelling by car. I can imagine that this road is passable with difficulty or even impassable during the rainy season. The deep gullies in the road bear silent witness to the large streams of water which try to find a way downhill during the rainy season.
We reach Kisaki, the last village before we go into Selous. We stop here to buy some sugarcane. We regularly see the locals walking around eating sugarcane, so we want to try it for ourselves. The road in the forest is so narrow that weíre completely blocking up the road. Small houses, which are fitted out as shops, stand on both sides of the road. We have to try to see in what way the sugarcane can best be eaten, but it tastes good once we figure out how to eat it.
Just outside the village, we drive through a small river in which children are playing. When we reach the other bank, we take a left turn and reach the gate of Selous GR after crossing the Uhuru railway several times. We are about to enter the Game Reserve with a size of 55,000 square kilometres. But how big exactly is 55,000 square kilometres? If you combine the complete size of the Netherlands and half the size of Belgium youíre going to be rather close to it. Itís hard to imagine.
The reserve has many rivers and lakes, which together form the largest fresh water basin in Eastern Africa. During the First World War the Germans and the English fought here. Itís hardly thinkable now. I, for one, canít imagine it happening. Up until now large areas in the reserve have been inaccessible. There are also less animals here than there are in, say, the Serengeti and the animals are not used to cars due to the small number of visitors to the park. Leina had good reason to make a bet with me that I wouldnít see more than six cars in the park. In a part of the park hunting with a guide is allowed, which makes the animals exceedingly skittish.
We have to drive 85 kilometres to the campsite. We drive on a broad road with dense growth of acacia thorn bushes and whispering thorns. The acacia bushes have a light grey glow about them because of the gigantic thorns which are part of the plant. The animals we see, such as a group of buffalo, giraffes and impala, donít hesitate to run to hide in the bushes. It would undoubtedly take me five minutes to get past those bushes in one piece. But this is a clear indication that the animals are skittish indeed. We get to the Mbega campsite at 5.00 p.m. on a narrow path. We set up camp at the bank of the Rufiji river, hidden among the trees. Just after weíve settled down, a car comes to the campsite. Inside are Veerle and David, two Belgians with whom we have a nice chat. David works for Via Via and Joker on Zanzibar and he and his girlfriend are now on a holiday. This means the counting of the cars has started for me. We hardly started exploring Selous GR and weíve already spotted a car. If things go on as they do now, I think Iíll win the bet with Leina.
After diner, we chat on with the extremely friendly couple and exchange experiences. While we are talking at the table, we hear the leaves over our heads rustling. When we shine our flashlight up, we see our first ever bushbaby in the tree. After a while, a genet comes into the camp and lets us come close to it. Itís a wonderful experience to see these nocturnal animals in your immediate surroundings.

26/8 Selous Game Reserve (Mbega campsite)
Our morning game drive starts at 6.30 a.m., just after sunrise. We have a quick breakfast to ensure we wonít scare the animals away by the sound of our rumbling stomachs. Iím very curious to see what we will see in Selous. We follow the sandy main road for a while and turn left into a more narrow road after driving for a quarter of an hour. The road winds through the forest and the thorn bushes
All of a sudden we stand at a large open space in the forest. The large lake with palm trees which spreads out in front of us, looks like an oasis. Several groups of hippos live in the lake and have crocodiles as their neighbours. For the rest, the lake is populated by birds, such as spoonbills, yellow-billed stork, egrets and herons. It is striking that there are no antelopes which come to drink here. The only animal which dares to bend down to drink on this early morning is a giraffe, which bends down three times and pulls its head up with an elegant swoop every time. Water spatters up every time it does so. Itís as if all this happens in slow motion. This area is extremely beautiful and we go on to explore the banks and the immediate surroundings of the lake. Behind every bush, tree or bend in the road, a predator may be waiting until it can pounce on an animal which is drinking without too much effort. But in order for this to happen, there needs to be animals on which to prey, which there arenít at the moment. We drive back to the forest, while giraffes, elands, hartebeest and hippos run into the bush in front of us. There are many possibilities to turn from the road and go in search of something interesting. You are continuously on the alert because you may drive by an interesting sight before you know it. The road brings us to a second lake, which looks similar to the first lake we saw. Then, all of a sudden, we see the first lions in Selous: two adult males and four females. The males are definitely not the best looking lions we ever saw. The heads of the males look a sorry sight and the mucus in their mouths gives the males, which are getting on in years, a shabby appearance. We get the impression that the lions ate not too long ago. We drive around in the bush. Every now and then, we smell rotting meat. However, a search for the carcass comes to nothing, so we watch the lions to see if anything is going to happen. The bushland changes into the landscape near the lake in the area where the lions lie. Itís beautiful here.
We visit several lakes, which lie in a row behind each other but are partly linked, in this manner. There is more water in one lake then in the other. Small shoots of grass form a green sheet around the lake where the water has retreated. Again, we see a giraffe drinking. It takes considerable effort to get to the water with such a long neck. The backs of the hippos look like rocks coming out of the water. When we get to the shore of the lake, the hippos run deeper into the water. They run from us, as most animals do in this park. The behaviour of the animals in this park, which is rather different from that of animals in more busy parks, gives you an entirely different perspective on the animals. Giraffes gallop in front of us in at what seems to be a slowed pace, until they find a place in the bushes through which they can disappear. The wildebeest, zebras and buffalo we see donít behave any differently.
The rumbling noises our stomachs make indicate that the morning progresses. Weíre on our way back to the campsite, when we see a second group of lions consisting of two lionesses with their cubs. Three cars are already enjoying the sight of the lions. We also find a place to put the car, and as soon as we do, our full attention is on the lions. Iíd almost forget that weíve seen four in all in the park. So things are not looking good for Leina. The cubs look wonderful. Their mothers are asleep and seem unaware of the fact that they are the centre of attention. When one of the cubs walks toward its mother and greets her, the mother puts a paw around her young which causes the cub to lie between her front paws. The way the lioness licks her cub makes the whole scene even more moving.
The headache I had when I got up this morning is getting worse. Itís getting so bad that the headache turns into nausea, which makes me gag occasionally. Could I have drank too few fluids? In these situations you donít feel like drinking anything but I drink anyway because the others advise me to do so.
When we return to the campsite, I immediately go to the toilet and afterwards to my tent to try to rest and hopefully get some sleep. I manage to do the latter for an hour and I awake somewhat fitter. Petty saved me some lunch. Despite the fact that I donít feel like eating, I eat something in the hope that it will get up my strength. There is a tented camp near to the campsite. The owner of this camp has come by to tell us that his camp has a bar with nice cool drinks and invites us to come to the camp to take a shower whenever we want. I use the peace and quiet to catch up on writing in my journal at the riverbank. Luckily, I feel much better than I did the past few hours. When the others return, they tell me that there are delicious roasted cashews over at the tented camp. Itís time to go on our evening game drive. Again, we follow the main road for a quarter of an hour, but instead of taking a right turn we take a left turn.
We drive into an area which looks entirely different than the one we visited this morning. We donít see any lakes or palm trees here. We occasionally see thorn bushes, but the area mostly consists of deciduous forest alternated with open spaces. We can also see giraffes here. In addition, we also see warthogs and impala. A special sight is formed by an African civet which runs to the shelter in the bushes, when we approach. Makuru thought it was a honey badger at first. I tell him that I think this animal is rather large for a honey badger. I secretly hope itís a young leopard, but Makuru tells me that the posture of a leopard would be different in this situation. A leopard would bend its legs more if it were standing still and knows itís being looked at. Itís a rather large African civet, as one of the guides we consult confirms.
We have a quiet spell animal wise when, all of a sudden, Makuru yells ďleopard.Ē Luckily, I immediately look in the right direction to see the leopard disappear into the bushes. In the middle of the bushes thereís a tree. Makuru points to a dead impala which hangs over a thick branch just under the treetop. A hyena lies in wait under the tree to see if any pieces may fall down. The impala is already half eaten. It doesnít look as if the leopard will return before dark.
We donít have the hyenaís patience and drive on toward the main road, which is closer by than we think. We have to take a left turn if we want to return to the campsite, but we take a right turn, which turns out to be a good decision. Makuru stops the car after four hundred metres. He drives back slowly and then drives forward in order to be able to have a good look between the acacia bushes. Makuru says he thinks he saw a group of lions at some distance from the road. Before we drive off to see if heís right, Makuru apologises in case heís wrong. Makuru deftly manoeuvres the car toward the lions, at least thatís what we hope. We canít see anything yet. It isnít until we come closer, that we see the lions too. Itís a group of nine lions in all. Makuru has done a great job spotting them. Four lionesses and five cubs are in front of us. We take in the group for a long while. Some of the cubs are clearly bothered by stinging insects. They regularly make nervy movements, when theyíve been stung. Before we know it, more than half an hour has passed. The sun has already set and itís time for us to return to the campsite so we wonít have to find our way back in the dark.
During diner we talk to our southern neighbours about the past days and we exchange experiences. Veerle enthusiastically tells us about her first experiences in Africa. She canít hide the fact that her enthusiasm is somewhat lessened when we talk about diseases such as malaria and bilharzia, but this doesnít last for long.

27/8 Selous Game Reserve (Mbega campsite)
After a bad night, during which I barely slept due to a headache and diarrhoea I get out of the tent. I get into the car, fearing that this morning may be a repetition of the end of yesterday morning. We discussed the possibility to go to the tree with the dead impala to try to see the leopard in the early morning. Before we get to the tree, we see the nine lions we saw yesterday in almost exactly the same place. Now they lie by the side of the road. The cubs are more playful than they were yesterday evening. Of course, we canít simply drive by now. We take many photographs and the number of minutes on the counter of the video camera also increases considerably. A young lion with two different coloured eyes particularly draws our attention.
We decide to have a look at the tree with the dead impala. When we get there, Hendri thinks he sees a leopard leap out of the tree. The impala is still there and if Iím not mistaken, there is less meat on it than yesterday. The hyena we saw yesterday, is still there too, but this time the hyena is less patient than we are. We, too, donít see the use in waiting any longer and leave.
Even though we donít see anything spectacular we do see animals such as, elephants, elands, impala, giraffes, crocodiles, hippos, kudus and a reedbuck. We return to the campsite at approximately 11.00 a.m. After lunch we go to the tented camp to have a drink at the bar.
I still donít feel all that well and try to feel better by taking a shower and catching up on my sleep. We planned a boat safari on the Rufiji river this afternoon, but Iíd rather not think about that now. I was able to suppress my nausea and queasiness yesterday but I have a feeling that I wonít be able to do so in the burning sun while Iím bobbing on the water. Everybody leaves for the boat safari at 2.00 p.m. I take time to recuperate in an easy chair in the shade while looking out over the Rufiji river.
At the end of the afternoon, I walk back to the campsite, where I hear that Leina took care of the money, which caused so much trouble in Morogoro. So Makuru got his way after all. All may not go smoothly, but eventually all arrangements are made properly. The only problem that remains to be solved now is the booking of our extra day on Zanzibar. During this holiday the proverb, ďpatience is a virtueĒ seems an apt one. Just now, when I had to pay for my drink at the bar and was the only customer left, this proverb came to mind. I had to pay 1500 Tanzanian shillings and paid with a 5000 shilling note. I had to wait at least a quarter of an hour for my change. The African lifestyle is different than ours, but youíve got to love it.
I go into my tent to catch up on some sleep and be fit and cheerful when everybody gets back. When I wake up, itís already dark. They havenít returned yet, which is odd because I donít expect them to sail in the dark so they should have been back by now. Even though Iím not greatly worried, I expect that something delayed the group, which caused them to come back later. My patience is tried for a while, before I hear the first sounds of a car. After several minutes, I can see the first sign of the headlights, soon followed by the Land Rover.
When the others get out of the car I can tell by the look on their faces that Iíve missed something. My first thought is that theyíve seen the African wild dogs, which we hoped to see since weíve been in Ruaha NP. I donít get a chance to have a second thought because Hendri enthusiastically tells me what happened while the others stand by. On their way to the boat, they already saw a group lions at the dead body of an eland, which they killed less than two hours before. Its entrails were still hanging out. Ellen confirms Hendriís story with a face which simultaneously shows signs of happiness and sadness. Sheís sad for me. On their way back, they stopped again to see how the lions gorged on the dead eland. Images on the video camera and the digital camera confirm all Iíve been told. I canít deny that it hurts to see the images. Of course, Iíd like to have been there, but the fact is that I wasnít there. In this way, Selous tried its best to give us a good safari at the last moment and at least I get to see the spectacle on film.
Nobody talks about the boat trip anymore. There was too little shade and not much spectacle during the boat trip. Itís not until now the group realises that they could have watched the lions longer and that they could have skipped the boat trip. Of course, they donít talk about anything else for the entire evening. I canít blame them. Iíd be full of such a sight as well.

 

Zanzibar

28/8 Selous Game Reserve (Mbega campsite) Ė Zanzibar
Today weíll have a long drive to Dar es Salaam ahead of us. Once we get there, weíll have to take the boat to Zanzibar. Itís almost 8.00 a.m. when we fully packed the Land Rover. We leave the Mbega campsite and drive north on a bumpy dirt road which takes us along several stretched out villages. Generally, the villages are rather quiet. In one of the villages, we see many children in school uniforms. When we drive by, they cheer loudly and wave at us. Sometimes holes in the road take us by surprise which means weíre quite shaken up. We have lunch by the side of the road just after the dirt road changed into a tarmac road. From here, itís only an hourís drive to Dar es Salaam.
We agreed to meet Leina on a curio market in Dar es Salaam. We plan to look for bargains there, but itís also the place where we have to say goodbye to Petty and Makuru. When Leina arrives, weíre still busy bargaining. The market consists of a long row of shops. I think Iíve been to every shop three times. But the moment that we have to definitively say goodbye to Petty and Makuru is irrevocably coming closer.
Leina takes us to the harbour while giving us a mini tour of the town. By way of the wealthier areas and the new American embassy, we get to the harbour half an hour before the boat leaves. Itís clear that Dar es Salaam is being beautified. Grimy houses are painted over and big buildings are either restored or rebuilt. During our drive Leina tells us that she made arrangements for us to stay an extra day at the Sau Inn.
Itís a rather big transition from being in the bush where itís quiet to being in the hustle and bustle of Dar es Salaam. Fortunately, Leina already gave us our boat tickets. We can go on board through a strict security check. We can just manage taking all our luggage and curio with us. The boat is packed and things are rather chaotic on board. It takes a while before we can leave. The expected time of crossing is two hours, so I decide to sit back and get this crossing over with as quickly and quietly as possible. The sea is quite choppy, but in the first leg of the journey I can manage. During the second leg of the journey, I have to close my eyes and relax in order to suppress the nausea which is starting to set in. The end of the crossing is near and the coast of Zanzibar looms in the distance. The moment the boat moors at the harbour, matters get chaotic once again. People who try to get off the boat are obstructed by those who are trying to get on the boat. But the boat has to be emptied before other passengers can get on. Everybody creates their own route by clearing a path with their luggage where there actually is none. The harbour on Zanzibar is possibly even more chaotic than the harbour in Dar es Salaam.
I stand on the embankment together with Wilfred and Patricia to wait for the others, who clearly chose a worse route. While the others arrive, a man with a beard and a hat, which mark him as a Muslim, speaks to us and says he is our guide. Of course, everybody can say theyíre our guide, but he proves he is indeed our guide by telling us his last name. His first name is Hamin and heíll be our contact during our stay on Zanibar. He gestures for us to follow him. First we have to go to the immigration office and then we can go to the gate which almost immediately gives entry to Zanzibarís Stone Town. We drive the last part of our trip to the hotel. Within three minutes we are dropped off near our hotel, which is called Safaris Lodge. Itís a two-minute walk from the drop off point to the hotel.
The sun has already set when weíve checked in and walk to our rooms. Weíll be sleeping here for the coming two nights. The somewhat grumpy and gruff man leaves as quickly as he came, after informing us that weíll be going on a city and spice tour in the morning.
Actually, weíre rather hungry. We donít have to think long about the place weíre going for diner. I remember from my last visit to Zanzibar that thereís a market at Forodhani gardens every evening where the locals sell food from stalls. We liked eating there in 1999 and we feel the same this year. The stalls with meat and fish create a friendly and exotic atmosphere. There are many different sorts of food to choose from and after I passed by the stalls several times, Iím full. Itís hard to imagine that we were in Selous GR twenty four hours ago. We go back to the hotel with full stomachs.
Our room has a view of a big house, in which a large group of boys dressed in long white robes, gather in a room. When they donít hurry up enough, they get caned on their behind. It looks somewhat like the way in which the Masai urge their cattle to quickly go to the side of the road when a car approaches. By the way, it doesnít look like the boys are mistreated in any way. But I do think that the gathering probably has a religious character. When everybody is inside they start singing and praying. I donít know what exactly is going on, but judging by the volume we think itís wise to wait before trying to go to sleep.

29/8 Zanzibar (Stone Town)
After having breakfast in the simple restaurant on the roof terrace of the hotel, weíre standing in the lobby ready to go on the tour. Hamin arrives exactly on time and took a guide with him whoíll show us around Zanzibar today. In the morning, weíll be walking through Stone Town and in the afternoon weíll go on a spice tour.
When we leave the hotel, we take a right turn and walk through narrow streets to Nyumba Ya Moto Street and go to the House of Wonders or Beit-el-Ajaib, as they call it here. I film several buildings when weíre walking through the narrow streets. There are Muslim women at the top of some of these buildings. A local passerby sees that Iím filming and I immediately get scolded for filming. Obviously, filming locals is a touchy matter here.
The actual tour of the town starts at the House of Wonders. We are told about the relationship between Zanzibar and Tanzania, the different religions and the history of the Arabs, Indians and the slave trade on Zanzibar. We enter the House of Wonders, which was commissioned by sultan Barghash in 1883. The building consists of four stories and a porch, which makes it stand out from the rest of the buildings in Stone Town. The building was fired at by the British navy in 1896 in an attempt to force the sultan to abdicate. The House of Wonders was the first house on Zanzibar to have electricity.
From here, we go to the Arabian fort (Ngome Kongwe) which was first used as a fort in 1710. Prisoners of war were also held captive here. Nowadays itís a theatre and cultural centre.
We walk into the centre of Stone Town again and we pass by many beautifully crafted doors and equally beautiful buildings which are characteristic for Stone Town. The last site in Stone Town we visit is the slave market. Itís impressive to see, in what sorts of small rooms people were locked away and chained among the ill and the dead. The work of art made by sculptor Clara Sornas evokes the appropriate atmosphere which you can also sense when youíre at the slave market. The work of art consists of chained slaves standing in a hole in the ground, with their heads sticking just above the ground. The atmosphere on the other markets we visit is entirely different. We visit vegetable and fish markets. In certain places in Stone Town the scent of spices comes wafting down the street, but the smell of fish dispels the nice smell of the spices.
We leave Stone Town by minibus and drive to the Maruhubi ruins. The road out of town looks horrible. Itís so busy and itís such a mess. This is clearly Zanzibar at its worst. When we arrive at Maruhubi we see something completely different. The former grandeur of the Maruhubi ruins has been long lost. Like the House of Wonders, the palace, of which now only the ruins remain, was commissioned by sultan Barghash in 1880 and was completed in 1882. His wife and ninety nine mistresses lived in this palace. The mistresses mostly were the most beautiful slave girls available. The number ninety nine was probably considered to be a sacred number by the sultan. The drive way to the castle was lined by ninety nine palm trees. By the way, the sultanís lifestyle was not respected by everyone and the palace was burned out of protest in 1899.
We drive on to the North and start the spice tour. We are welcomed at a plantation. During a tour of the plantation we get to smell and taste different sorts of spices. From vanilla to ginger, from cinnamon to turmeric, all different sorts of spices go by our noses. We also taste different sorts of fruit. From coconuts, which are picked from the trees by small boys, to custard apples and from pineapples and litchis to passion fruits. In this manner, we are told about what may well be Zanzibarís biggest export products for about an hour. Of course, we stock up on spices to use at home before we leave the plantation.
We have lunch at Haminís home, where his wife made a delicious and spicy dish. She asks us if weíre interested in getting a henna tattoo after lunch. Everybody wants one. Everybody gets the pattern of their choice, painted on them in a small room which has a television and DVD player. The day isnít even half over when we get back to Stone Town, so weíve got enough time to go out by ourselves. Ellen wants to buy a nice long robe. There are enough shops to choose from but itís difficult to make a choice. Finally we find a robe, which looks nice and is well-priced as well.
We walk to the hotel by way of Mizingani Road. We want to e-mail home first. We succeed in doing so, and dusk is already setting in when I reach the hotel. Ellen already took a shower and I, too, get ready for the evening. We expect Leina to drop by so we can all go out for diner. I wonder how sheíll take it when I tell her that I saw more than six cars in Selous GR. Leina arrives at seven oíclock. Wedecide to have dinner at Mercuryís bar, which is named after Freddy Mercury, who was born here. We had a drink there this afternoon and we liked the atmosphere. We arrive at Mercuryís bar, taking a shorter road than we usually do. During diner, we exchange all our experiences of the day. Itís no use getting all worked up about all that happened. Besides, I donít think youíd get to hear what really happened.
More general experiences one has when travelling through Africa are discussed and, of course, the bet also comes up. Leina doesnít live up to her part of the bet, just as she didnít live up to her other promises. Itís rather peculiar, but Iím not going to make an issue out of it. Letís just assume that she already lost too much money already arranging this safari. We say goodbye to Leina in the street. Sheíll still take us to the Sau Inn at the east side of Zanzibar in the morning.

30/8 Zanzibar (Sau Inn)
We asked if we could leave as soon as possible this morning, because today is the only day that Wilfred and Patricia have to enjoy the beaches on the eastern coast of Zanzibar. This is the last full day of their holiday. Tomorrow morning, theyíll fly to Nairobi to fly back to Brussels the same day. All the more reason to try to get to the beach as early as possible and to spend as much time there as we can. Hendri, Anja, Ellen and I still have two full days to relax after today.
Before we go and relax at the beach, weíd like to see the red colobus monkeys in JozaniForest. The road to Sau Inn leads through Jozani Forest, which means that it doesnít take much effort to see the red colobus monkeys, which are used to people, so you can get close to them even though they can move freely through the forest. This is the case again today. We donít have to walk far before the red colobus monkeys show themselves. We know one thing when we see them: this is going to cost us another roll of film. The colobus monkeys nimbly jump from branch to branch, followed by a few white people. Even though there is enough food for all the monkeys, they gobble up the leaves on the bushes at high speed. Sometimes they even smack their lips. At some point, the distance between one of the monkeys and myself is less than one metre. They pretend as if weíre not even here. The only things we shouldnít do is make sudden movements or drive the monkeys into a corner.
We barely saw Jozani Forest itself. We have spent little less than an hour looking at the monkeys when we decide to drive on to Sau Inn, near to the village of Jambiani. We reach Zanzibarís eastern shore after thirteen minutes. From there, we have to drive fifteen kilometres southwards along the coast on a road with many holes in it.
We didnít see a single quiet remote beach when we get to Sau Inn. The space between the road and the sea has already been filled by locals or by the growing number of hotels and/or resorts. We are pleasantly surprised by Sau Inn. We are received well, theyíve got a swimming pool and the rooms are simple but clean and they have large beds. In addition, Sau Inn gives you a marvellous view of the beautifully coloured ocean, which now has retreated to the reef.
We immediately make arrangements to go snorkelling at the reef this afternoon. We sail to the reef in a small dhow. I jealously watch how the two sailors nimbly move across the boat. I look around me as if I go sailing every day, with both hands on the edge of the boat. If only the others knew how unnatural this feels. All of a sudden, a tortoise races by at full speed from under the boat. I never realised that they were such fast swimmers. We reach the reef and the sail is taken down. Wilfred, Hendri and I put on our flippers and our goggles with a snorkel attached, which is quite a feat in a rocking boat of this size.
Wilfred and Hendri donít seem to have all that much trouble getting their gear on; theyíre already in the water while Iím still trying to put my second flipper on. Of course, I still have my poker face on so the others think I know what Iím doing. Finally, I, too, am in the water. This is the second time I go snorkelling, so it takes some adjusting. Still, every time I try to enjoy myself I end up swallowing a mouthful of seawater, which causes me to surface in a panic, thrashing around in the water and lifting my head up in order to be able to breathe. I canít swim properly with flippers either. It seems as if the flippers donít give me enough extra power. I feel the flipper break every time I move my feet. When I check my flippers it turns out that thereís a crack in both flippers just in front of my toes. Just my luck.
Wilfred and Hendri are swimming around as if theyíre professional snorkelers. I may as well have looked down at the water from a high bridge: then I wouldíve seen more fish then I do now. Slowly but surely I get the hang of snorkelling and I get a chance to keep my head in the water for longer periods of time. I see several beautifully coloured fish, such as anemone fish, swim around the coral. I also manage to spot a snake, which lies in the sand near to the coral. I want to alert Hendri and Wilfred, who are swimming further away and, of course, mostly have their heads under water. So I can yell all I like, but they wonít hear me. So I decide to enjoy the sight of the snake by myself. I put my head under water again, but I wonder where the snake is, or the piece of coral where it laid for that matter. The current took me along. I try to find the place where I saw the snake, but unfortunately, I fail. The result of this search is that I am exhausted and have to rest for a short while. I still canít swim properly with these flippers. I have to move my feet with extra force in order to swim against the current, because of the cracks in my flippers. I make a final effort to enjoy the beauty of the coral, but I donít manage to do so. Iím exhausted from making all this extra kicking movements and decide to go back to the dhow before the distance between me and the dhow becomes too big.
Luckily Wilfred and Hendri are having more fun. They regularly come to the surface to tell each other what they saw. Iíd rather watch them from the edge of the dhow. The sun burns on my skin. Wilfredís still in the water and I see that his shoulders are the same shade of red as that of the beautiful starfish I managed to spot earlier. It seems as if Wilfred wants to enjoy every minute he spends here doubly. And I canít blame him for wanting to do so. After little under an hour, Wilfred and Hendri have had their fill of snorkelling and return to the dhow. As opposed to myself, they can swim along with the current due to which they get to the dhow sooner than they expected. Wilfred bumps his head against the dhow as a consequence. He is not badly hurt, but itís a funny sight. Weíre back at the beach, at about 3.00 p.m. The sea has risen to the terrace wall by now. We spend the rest of the afternoon basking in the sun and enjoying the swimming pool.
This evening we have diner in the restaurant at Sau Inn. Itís not busy at all, but still all doesnít go as it should. We get other dishes than we ordered, parts of dishes are forgotten and the waiter is hardly intelligible due to his inadequate knowledge of English, but his personality makes it impossible to get angry at him, if youíd want to do so in the first place. He wraps us around his finger when he once again forgets something we ordered. After approximately ten minutes we ask him to bring us the dishes he forgot again. He apologises and says that he hadnít forgotten the dish, it simply slipped his mind. Now how can you get angry at someone like that?

31/8 Zanzibar (Sau Inn)
Itís still early when we get out of bed to give Patricia and Wilfred a send off. Itís still dark. We asked Leina and Hamin to pick Patricia and Wilfred up at 5.45 a.m. The plane to Nairobi leaves at 10.00 a.m.
The sun slowly rises. The horizon is rather cloudy. We stand at the seaside and enjoy the sunrise. Patricia and Wilfred canít do so. Itís already well over 6.00 a.m. and nobodyís come to pick them up yet. Of course, waiting is never pleasant, but if youíve a plane to catch thereís an added tension. As the minutes patiently tick away on the clock, Patricia and Wilfred get increasingly impatient. Itís 6.45 a.m. now and still thereís no sign that transportation to the airport is on its on its way. We canít wait any longer, so we have to have to arrange transportation by ourselves. Fortunately, we manage to do so quickly at Sau Inn. It costs 40 USD but the plane wonít wait. Our annoyance with the way in which Leina made arrangements increase by the minute. This is the umpteenth incident and it occurs at a crucial moment. When the car arrives, we put Patricia and Wilfredís luggage in the car at high speed and Wilfred and Patricia leave quickly after a short goodbye. Their holiday has come to an end. Itís hard to imagine that theyíll be at home tomorrow.
Weíve still got two days on Zanzibar and a short visit to the Masai Mara ahead of us. Weíll spend this day relaxing, sunbathing, swimming, reading and playing Bao, a game which is often played on Zanzibar. When weíre on the beach women regularly walk by and ask us if we want a massage. We answer in the negative every time. Boys, who try to sell fruit, apply the same tactic. Theyíre more successful. Our favourite fruits are custard apples and litchis.
In the afternoon, we play a few games of bottle football with the local boys. The aim of bottle football is to tip your opponentís bottle, which is filled with water, over with a ball and spill as much water as possible. The bottle can only be put upright after the person whose bottle was tipped over has collected the ball. You canít keep this game up for long in the sun on the beach, especially not when playing against such nimble young boys.
In the afternoon we walk along the beach and look for a place to eat this evening. We donít have to search for long. The place we choose has good food and better service than the restaurant at Sau Inn. This is how we end our first day at the beach. We walk back to Sau Inn, with more of a tan than we had yesterday, to have a good nightís sleep.

1/9 Zanzibar (Sau Inn)
After a long night, we have a chance to lie in as well. Itís been a while since we were able to do so. Today weíll spend another day at the beach. Weíll enjoy the sun and live the good life, as we did yesterday. We alternate playing a game of Bao with catching up on writing in our journals and swimming.
The day goes by rather quickly. Before you know it youíre having lunch. We donít do much for the rest of the day. The only difference with yesterday is that we exchanged playing football for drinking cocktails. I canít believe how quickly you get a tan here. Iím getting more and more tanned every day. We enjoyed our dinner at the neighbourís restaurant yesterday, so we book another table for this evening.
Today has been the laziest day of our entireholiday, but we planned to have a few days to relax on Zanzibar. Tomorrow weíll go to Stone Town again, where weíll spend our last full day on Zanzibar. On this day, we can buy some souvenirs. Iíd like to buy a Bao game to remember my stay on Zanzibar by.

2/9 Zanzibar (Stone Town)
Today we go back to Stone Town. Weíve got more luck than Wilfred and Patricia, because our transportation is properly arranged. This is not surprising because Patricia immediately phoned Leina when she came home to talk to her about the course of events. Leina promised that Patricia and Wilfred will be reimbursed for the additional 40 USD. Hamin, who was responsible for the transportation, will provide the reimbursement. When we get back to Safaris Lodge in Stone Town, Hamin immediately comes to meet us. He brings the incident up in a rather embarrassing way and gives us the 40 USD. Itís clear that bystanders arenít allowed know whatís going on. Hamin wants to avoid loosing face at all costs.
Weíll spend the main part of today shopping for souvenirs. We quickly put our luggage in our rooms and head into town. Our most prized acquisitions are a beautiful bracelet for Ellen and a beautiful Bao game. We had to search for a while in order to find a Bao game of considerable size and good quality. Iím happily surprised when I hear that this game only cost 19 USD and I have it wrapped. We browsed many shops and in all the shops we saw smaller games for the same price. In addition, we buy more herbs and Anja and Ellen have another henna tattoo done.
The day flies by and at the end of the day we walk to the African House. Many tourists often come here to look at the sunset on the balcony while sipping on a cocktail. Itís a pity that we donít have a good sunset today, but itís still a special experience. We enjoyed our diner at Mercuryís bar last time we went there, so weíve got good reason to go there for diner again this evening.
This is how we end our last full day on Zanzibar, an island which I wonít revisit soon. Stone Town and its surroundings are often rather grimy. I didnít experience the magical and exotic atmosphere for which Zanzibar is known. But at least Iím well-rested.

 

Nairobi

3/9 Zanzibar Ė Nairobi
We have enough time this morning to start our day. We take our time packing our luggage after breakfast. We have to fit our souvenirs and other luggage carefully because thereís so much to pack. Especially when we have to leave room for possible souvenirs weíll buy in the Masai Mara. After we deposited our luggage safely behind the counter of the hotel, we go into Stone Town one last time. We have the typical feeling of wanting to leave already, but not being able to do so. When we walk by the small shops, we canít resist looking for herbs we havenít got yet. I canít imagine that we didnít already buy all herbs that can be found on the island.
Slowly, the moment that we have to leave for the airport comes nearer. Haminís van is on time. The airport is situated slightly to the south of Stone Town, on Zanzibarís west coast. Itís a twenty-minute drive. The airport is equally chaotic as the harbour. Of course, the airport isnít large, but the queue with passengers who want to check in stretches out into the street. We stand waiting in the sun, packed together for little under an hour. Finally, the queue starts to move. I donít know what the limit is to the amount of luggage you can take with you, but it seems as if the amount of luggage some people want to take along is never ending. Finally, however, the queue gets smaller.
We barely took off when the plane makes a right turn in order to fly along Zanzibarís coast to Nairobi. The colours of the ocean are a feast for the eye. Watching the ocean restores the feeling of being in an exotic paradise, which I didnít have when I was on Zanzibar.
We near the Tanzanian coast and pass by Mount Kilimanjaro after a short while. The summit is visible and many passengers want to catch a glimpse, which causes the plane to bank to the left. The sun is sinking toward the horizon when we land in Nairobi. We go through customs quickly. We hope that our contact will be there to pick us up. We agreed to meet at a small travel agent in the hall of the airport.
A man addresses us and shows that he knows we were to be picked up and brought to the hotel. Weíll leave for the Masai Mara from this hotel the next day. He says that Hotel 680 is fully booked and that we have to go to another hotel. I ask him how this is possible when we booked so long in advance. He tells us that the Kenyan vice-president has died and that heíll be buried tomorrow. Itís busier than normal because of this and all hotels are nearly fully booked. But he says he managed to book rooms for us in another hotel. We buy into his story and are brought to the hotel some time later.
The streets of Nairobi are extremely busy. Disabled people, some of whom can only crawl, ask for money at nearly every traffic light. We are advised to close our windows and keep our doors locked. Deft thieves can quickly grab something from the car and disappear into the crowd.
We tell the driver that weíd like to eat at the Carnivore. After some discussion, we agree on a price and he promises to pick us up and bring us back to the hotel. We check into the hotel and take a nice shower. The hotel looks much better than Hotel 680, but half of the price of a stay at Hotel 680 is added to the price for a stay here. Once we freshened up, we wait for the driver in the lobby of the hotel.
We are about to leave when Catherine comes in. She asks us why we didnít come to Hotel 680 with a surprised look on her face. We answer that we thought the hotel was fully booked. She tells us that the hotel isnít fully booked at all, she waited there for us for a long time. We tell her the story we were told at the airport. She doesnít need to hear the entire story to realise that we, and indirectly she, have been conned, probably by the business partner of Irene Haneveld and herself. She is clearly disgruntled at this situation but she says that she doesnít blame us. However, this is not the end of the whole affair. The driver in service of the business partner looks dumbfounded but wisely doesnít say anything.
So, I decide to tell Catherine about what happened three weeks ago, when we arrived in Nairobi. I explain that we assumed that everything was arranged by one company, namely Irene Haneveldís company. This is why we agreed to go to the Masai Mara tomorrow instead of visiting the street children. We thought we did so on the advice of some we thought was a colleague of Irene and Catherine. She asks how much we paid, and Iím glad to see the price doesnít startle her. We decide that we canít do much more than stick with the choices we made. We do agree that this isnít the end of this matter. I promise Catherine to phone Irene when we return to the Netherlands. I actually feel sorry for Catherine because she tried her best to arrange everything well and now the project falls through, on what may be considered a typical East African manner.
Rush hour in still isnít over when we leave for the Carnivore to forget about all this for a while. This has been quite a holiday. We never had so much setbacks during a holiday in Africa, but we learned much from this experience. Fortunately, diner doesnít taste less good because of our problems. We are served many different sorts of meat among which are ostrich, zebra and crocodile. I decided I wasnít going to overeat myself. Iím able to stop exactly on time. Itís a rather special experience to eat at this famous African restaurant. The driver picks us up at the agreed time. Weíll have a long day of travelling ahead of us tomorrow, so weíll quickly go to bed.

4/9 Nairobi Ė Masai Mara
Nairobi has woken up already when weíre having breakfast in the restaurant at the hotel. Weíve got another half hour before weíre going to be picked up, so we donít have to hurry. We already made all preparations for the coming two days. Most of our luggage will stay in Nairobi. We are somewhat sceptical due to our experiences this holiday and the way the organisations with which we travelled treated us. It doesnít feel right to have to travel with an organisation which tried to outwit you several times. But we still hope to be able to see the Migration. Under these circumstances itís not difficult to choose between spending two days in the Masai Mara or in Nairobi. We wouldnít want to spend two days in Nairobi before going back to Amsterdam, despite Ireneís shelter for street children.
The minivan picks us up and takes us to the office where we booked the safari to the Masai Mara. We leave our redundant luggage at this office. We leave for the Masai Mara from this place with other people. When the vans are packed, we notice that more people are coming with us, which wasnít what we agreed on. Somewhat overly annoyed by our previous experiences this holiday we indicate that we booked a safari for four people in a Land Rover. We all think ďthis canít be happening.Ē Something to do with Murphyís Law also comes to mind. The driver answers that the groups will only be divided this way for the duration of the journey to the Masai Mara. He says that a minivan may even be better suited for a safari in the Masai Mara than a Land Rover. We frown but hope heís right.
We leave Nairobi and drive to the Rift Valley. The top of a mountain gives a marvellous view of the Rift Valley. Of course, there are some curio shops at this magnificent place and, of course we have to go inside them to see if we can find something special. I see some beautiful and extraordinary items but I have met my match when it comes to bargaining.
We take a left turn at the bottom of the mountain. Soon after that, we park the car again, in order to change the division of groups and to change cars. From now on itís just the four of us in a car. Weíre moving at a slow pace and it may take a while before we get to the Masai Mara. The condition of the road is getting worse as we go along. There are more enormous holes in the road as we drive further away from Nairobi. Sometimes there arenít even potholes but entire pieces of road are missing. We drive in the direction of Narok and sometimes itís better o drive by the side of the road than on it. In Narok, we eat in a service area of sorts for people who are going on a safari. The pace at which the guests arrive and in which the food is served is high. Of course, everybody wants to get to the Masai Mara as fast as possible. Weíve still got a few more hours to go until we get to the gate of the Masai Mara. The cars regularly swap positions during the long drive. But finally we reach the Masai Mara, as the signs along the red and dusty road indicate.Masai women are waiting at the Sekani gate to make a few shillings.
We go on a game drive on our way to the campsite. The top is taken off the car, we stop dosing and we soon see our first wild animals: Zebras, antelope, wildebeest and, when weíre further into the park, a small herd of buffalo. A few cars are parked at the herd. The buffalo move on to the plains when we approach and the other cars move on as well. I see a shadow disappearing into the grass. I think it was a lion, but Iím not sure and the animal canít be found anymore in the grass. The Masai Mara looks beautiful. We try to spot animals on different small roads. We pass by giraffes, elephants and a large herd of buffalo. The sun canít resist the pull of gravity on the horizon and sinks lower into the sky. We see an oasis of green amid the yellow plains. A few cars are busy searching, so there must be something there.We drive over. This behaviour is typical of going on a safari in the Masai Mara. When thereís a special sight to see, many cars crowd around the scene. We are also guilty of this behaviour. We see a lioness at the point where the bushes blend into the grass. After a while, we also see a few small heads of three very young cubs. The cubs play with each other, suckle with their mother and nuzzle up against each other. Each of these beautiful moments is accompanied by a loud oooohhhh or hmmmmmmm from the car beside us. If only that were all that came from that car: the piercing sounds of Spanish resound over the plains as if we were at a market. Unbelievable. The lioness regularly lifts her head to see where the noise comes from. Fortunately, our boisterous neighbours leave and we can enjoy the sight of this beautiful family in relative quiet before the sun goes down.
We drive to the campsite in dusk. We sleep at a tented camp near Sopa lodge. The tents are put in a circle around a boma and thereís a small cafeteria where weíll have diner this evening. Inside the boma, a few Masai men sit around a campfire on which a large pot with meat is stewing in what could be soup. A dog walks around to see if it can find something edible. I greet the men and sit beside them. We strike up a chat and I introduce myself. One of the men sees the necklace which I bought on Zanzibar hanging around my neck. He takes it into his hand and pulls it toward him. I follow him with my head and hand in order to prevent injury to my Adamís apple. He says he likes the necklace and ask me if he can wear it for a while. I donít mind and I give him the necklace. We continue talking in this way. He asks if we want to watch their performance this evening, when theyíll sing and dance in the boma. Of course, we want to watch, despite the fact that we already saw the Masai dance on previous holidays. It gives them the chance to earn extra money.
A gong is sounded as a signal that itís diner time. In the restaurant, tables stand in two long rows. I sit beside a Mexican couple. We talk about Africa and exchange experiences. I tell the woman that Iíve made a website and giver her the URL. She tells me she visited the website. Itís good to hear that someone from Mexico visits my website. The performance by the Masai men starts after diner. First, I get my necklace back. Every time I met Masai it was a good experience. It looks as if the man who borrowed my necklace is the leader of the Masai who work here. The combination of his dark skin, the red Masai robe, his slightly crooked teeth and Stetson is rather nice. Maybe nice isnít the right word to describe him and comical would be more apt. After a few songs and dances the ladies are invited to join in. Hand in hand, the Masai and the women walk around the boma a few times. The long travelling day has exhausted us. We go to our beds and soon fall asleep on the simple beds.

5/9 Masai Mara Ė Nairobi
Our alarm clock indicates that itís time to get up. The black figures in the light blue screen show that itís 5.30 a.m. This is the beginning of the last day of our adventurous journey. It was quite an adventure. When we get out of the tent, we can just make out the contours of the campsite. The day slowly begins. We see more signs of life coming from the other tent. Some drivers already let their engines tick over. We have a small breakfast and as far as weíre concerned we can go on a game drive. Weíre eager to see what the last hours in the Masai Mara will bring us. My Masai friend is also awake and greets us with a wave of his hand and a broad smile, which shows all his teeth. When we leave an orange glow is already visible at the horizon. The Masai Mara wakes up and weíre here to experience it.
A hyena crosses the road in front of our car and looks back every once in a while to make sure we wonít follow him. When he made sure weíll stay where we are he stands still for a while. Hartebeest and Thomsonís gazelle stand in the golden yellow grass.
At little less than two hundred metres we see a car standing still near an acacia bush. An animal walks toward us. Itís a big maned lion, which approaches in a regal manner. The road is rather narrow and we stand at the right side of the road. The lion passes us by without batting an eyelid and his body language exudes a great deal of self-confidence. I follow the lion, which is now les than two metres from the car and I temporarily loose sight of it due to the low sun. The lion emerges out of the sun as a silhouette. It looks as if it knows exactly where itís going. He stops for a short while and looks toward the hills with an air of interest. I see a few hardly discernable dots move along the hillside, where another car is parked. Our driver wants to drive on, but I ask him to drive toward the hills. We could find something interesting there. The car which was parked in front of us also follows the lion. Follow being the operative word here, because there is hardly any room left between the front bumper of the car and the lionís heels. Itís horrible. We try to get in front of the lion by taking small byroads. The silhouettes on the hillside become increasingly clearer as we come closer. The lion has to have a keen eye to be able to see and distinguish the group at such a great distance.
We have to leave the lion here. We canít follow him with the car. Again, we try to get close to him by taking a byroad. However, this road leads us directly to the large pride of lions. Elephants stand at a distance and eat acacia leaves. This pride of lions, which consists of two adult males, several females and many cubs, is beautiful. There are approximately fifteen lions in all. Shortly after we discovered the group, the lion we saw earlier approaches the group. Do these lions know each other or are they strangers? If theyíre indeed strangers, will it come to a fight? In short weíre keen to see whatíll happen. However, the lion which we initially followed stays at a respectable distance in order to prevent trouble. The cubs play in the knee high, golden yellow grass. Itís a beautiful sight, as opposed to the seven cars which surround the pride. The lions donít seem to mind, though. They slowly move in a westerly direction. They occasionally stop to lie down, sit or play. The two males follow and the third male walks along at a distance.
The two males lie down. They lie back to back in a brotherly way. They completely disappear into the grass, only their manes are still visible. I can imagine that youíd drive or walk by without noticing them. A cub walks over to the males. This is cause for me to be extra watchful. Most greetings provide some form of spectacle. The view finder of my video camera is focussed on the trio. Then, all of sudden, itís as if everything within my viewfinder moves. Itís hard for me to stand still. I was startled by the enormously loud roar the two males produced, but I managed to keep them in my viewfinder all the same. A short chase shows whoís boss. The other lion falls to the ground in a submissive position. While heís on his back and has his paws in the air and his teeth bared, the lion has to take several swipes across his head dealt by his opponentís enormous paws. The lions temporarily find themselves at an impasse. A lioness makes herself heard by giving a loud roar in the distance. She gathers all the strength for this roar from her chest. When sheís done I focus on the male lions again. The impasse hasnít been solved yet. The attention of the winner of the first round wanes for a moment. The lion on the ground uses this lapse of attention to his advantage. He quickly gets up and runs to the road. The second lion shortly chases the strange lion while roaring loudly. The winner stops the chase when heís two metres from me. The power of these animals have is unbelievable and this spectacle is impressive to watch. The lion makes a turn and walks past the car to return to his pride. The lions slowly move in a westerly direction, followed by seven cars. A few topis walk by in the distance. Of course, the lions already spotted them before we did and decide to stay out of the topisí sight by going to the shelter of the bushes in a lower-lying ditch. Now the lions are out of the topisí sight as well as out of ours.
We drive on in order to leave the other cars behind and try to spot animals by ourselves. We see a topi mother with a young, a few ostriches, among which one with a fiery red neck, and a herd of buffalo. We have a short sanitary stop at a lodge after which we relish our last moments in the Masai Mara. A troop of baboons escorts us on our way back. In a bed of bushes we notice two cars which stand still. People in a few oncoming cars tell us they saw a leopard near the bushes but that it went into the bushes. We decide to have a look nonetheless. Itís hardly doable to catch a glimpse of the leopard. We continually change our position. Then we shortly see the leopard. The tangle of bushes releases the leopard for no more than ten seconds. We decide to return to the campsite, the moment the leopard goes into the shelter of the bushes. We arrive at the campsite late in the morning. We didnít see the migration we hoped for after all.
We end our visit to the Masai Mara with a substantial lunch. When we are about to get into the car, my Masai friend approaches. He will drive with us for a while because he has to go to the village he lives in. He was told this morning that his wife gave birth to a son. I give him my necklace and tell him itís a gift for his son when heís big enough to wear it. Again, he smiles broadly. His entire facial expression shows he loves this, which makes me happy.
We leave the Masai Mara by taking a road which is hardly travelled on. This road, which is hardly ever used by tourists, takes us along several Masai villages. The new father gets out of the car in the middle of nowhere and points to a village in the bush in the distance. We stand on a hill, which allows us to just make out the village. We say goodbye by firmly shaking hands.
We drive toward the main road to Narok through an area with many acacia bushes, on a road which is hardly passable at times. We donít see anyone else. Itís a special and adventurous route, for us at least. Just before we come to a rough patch in the road, a car approaches. We stop when they pass and the drivers exchange information. The oncoming car has an ad on it with a Dutch phone number. The dialling code, which is 0571, gives us even more information. Itís a dialling code from villages near us, either Twello or Teuge. The blonde woman in the passengerís seat makes eye contact with us and asks us how weíre doing in English. I ask her in Dutch if sheís from Twello or Teuge. Sheís surprised at meeting Dutch people here and tells us sheís from Twello. I tell her we live near her. We quickly exchange some information. The woman is called Ans Voskamp and works for AV tours. The driver, David, is from Nairobi. He also works for AV tours and tells us heís visited before. We take the card of AV tours with us and say goodbye to Ans and David. Thereís not much of a chance at meeting someone on this road. Thereís even less chance of meeting someone who lives less than ten kilometres away from you here and still we managed to do so. I think youíve got a better chance to win a few million euros in a lottery than you have at having the meeting weíve just had.
We have to drive on a while before we get to the road to Narok. Before we reach Narok we have to stop at a checkpoint. Our forms are checked here. Apparently something is wrong with our forms. I donít even want to know whatís wrong now. We stop for a short while at a curio shop by the side of the road. My instinct is to go and look for a special souvenir, but my mind tells me to just leave it. This may make me more particular than I normally am in what I want to take with me.
The afternoon goes by slowly, as slowly as weíre getting closer to Nairobi. Weíll be flying to Brussels this evening. We probably wonít have much time to freshen up. Dusk has already set in when we arrive at the office from which we left yesterday. Itís odd, but it seems as if itís been much longer. The driver wants to leave us here, but I tell him that we were promised that heíd also take us to the airport. He is not convinced by my story. I complain to an employee of the office and they immediately call the driver. The transportation to the airport is arranged now. There is a short moment of panic when we discover that part of our luggage with the souvenirs disappeared. We check our luggage to see if we lost anything, which we didnít. We later discover that we panicked for nothing because the luggage has been moved to another place. There is a shower at the office, which fits the surroundings of the office, so we can go to the airport relatively clean. We check our luggage for the last time before we leave for the airport. Then events follow each other relatively fast and weíre in Brussels before we know it. We have no trouble on the flight to Brussels or on the train from Brussels to Deventer. Itís good to know that some things do go according to plan, which weíre hardly used to after this holiday. The setbacks, in itís many forms, were particularly new to us. We have trouble enumerating all the setbacks we faced this holiday. But then again, the setbacks have made this holiday into the experience it was. Would I have want to miss out on this? Absolutely not, Iíve learned a great deal because of these setbacks.
On the other hand, weíve also experienced many special moments in the bush where we saw beautiful animals and stunning views. Those moments will be etched in my memory. When you compare the special moments to the setbacks, the joy at the special moments outweighs the annoyance at the setbacks by far. So, weíve got good reason to go back again.

 


Mijke thanks

 This travelogue is translated by Mijke van de Wiel
 Mijke van de Wiel  Mijke has a bachelor digree
 interests  American literature
 e-mail  mijkewheel@hotmail.com
                                                      copyright: Paul Janssen