Today is the long drive between Amboseli and the next major stop, the Ngorongoro caldera where wildlife has been able to grow and survive without outside interference for thousands of years. It is 20 km across, and while not round, is close. We are staying in the Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, which sits just inside the rim of this extinct volcano.
Our ride today was indeed long, 11 hours total. The first part was a “race” through the Amboseli Park, taking us quickly by many of the wildlife we had seen before, including lots of wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, a few elephants, more than a few gazelles, and even some rather interesting looking cape buffalo.
Out of the park, we ran on corduroy roads at top speed until we got to the border with Tanzania. Here we bade farewell to Charles and climbed on board a more modern version of the same vehicle type. This meant the springs and suspension had not been so badly treated, but of course from here on we were on paved roads so we were much relieved. The trip in Tanzania differed from that before in that the towns we went through seemed to have a better economy. This evidenced itself in the substantial number of brick buildings as a proportion of the tin-roofed wooden shacks. The town centers seemed to have more store-fronts built from cinder block rather than wood and cloth. The trip differed also in the number of potential police (or para-police) stops we passed through. Except for two, we passed through without stopping. Phillip says that we should pass freely as tourists get that privilege. At the two stops, Everest (our new driver) was able to talk his way through, thus all turned out well. At about 1:00, we got to a coffee plantation. This is a privately owned farm which does meals for travelers in a very nice purpose-built building. They then provide you with their pitch on the 40 steps coffee goes through from bean harvesting to drink enjoyment. Because we could be there only a short time, the daughter of the owners gave us her 15-minute version of the coffee roasting process. It was a very well done presentation, and very informative, going from first “crack” at 13 minutes to second “crack” at 15 minutes, and talking about what all this meant. We were impressed enough to purchase a couple of pounds to take home with us. (Now having tasted it, I can attest that they grow and roast some of the best coffee I’ve tasted.)
On our way through, we saw Baobab trees, something that we saw more of on our trip in 2009. As it turned out, this was the only time we saw them on this trip. We also passed a very interesting “car-boot” sale — notice the amount of blue covering the booths. Finally we got to the Ngorongoro entrance.
When we got to the Ngorongoro volcano caldera, we found a lookout point and were able to view the expanse of it. It really is quite spectacular, and we are all looking forward to our exploration tomorrow. The banner at the top of this post shows cape buffalo as they were beginning to bed down for the night at a great distance down in the crater.
On our way to dinner at the new safari camp, we found the lounge was a place of entertainment, including a dancer on some stilts which put him into the overhanging lights (he was careful not to hurt himself), and a band of gymnasts who performed lots of tumbling on the hard floor without mat protection of any kind. Their towers got high enough to require them to avoid the lights as well, but they were very well practiced, and made it look like part of the act.