Today, it’s the cradle of mankind! Oh, what a day. Another long and hard one, based around riding in the van all day. We started out in the morning early (as usual) and got the benefit of seeing the sun through the clouds again. We drove by the entrance road to the Ngorongoro valley and onto the next one.
This one afforded us views of clouds still clinging to the surrounding hills, as well as views of the tribal huts that housed people in that area.
We were able to get out of Ngorongoro fairly easily, making our way to the Olduvai Gorge at the connection of the Ngorongoro and Serengeti Plain. The museum is right on the edge of the gorge, and does a good job describing the finds, and helping me remember the dates and sequence. It tells of Louis Leakey’s first experience at Oldupai Gorge in 1924, when he and a group of others were looking for dinosaur bones. He came back at the head of his own expedition in 1931. “Olduvai” was apparently a misspelling that stuck for Leakey’s publication, but locally it is known with a p instead of a v.
In 1934, he was joined by Mary, his eventual wife, as a student, along with others. Each year they came back and dug for bones, using the latest in archeological techniques. Finally in 1959, they discovered Zinjantropus, the first of several historic finds. Zinj, later renamed with a more scientific name was in the bottom most of four beds, and was determined to be 1.9 million years old. The lava base of the gorge is 2 million years old. Later came Homo Habilus (Handy Man) at 1.8 million years old, and Homo Erectus (stand-up man) at 1.6 million years old. Mary and another colleague later (in the 1960’s?) found the footprints which had been frozen in time thought to be the prints of Austropithicus Ferensis (Lucy, found in Ethiopia, and thought to be 3.5 million years old. These footprints were found frozen in time several kilometers from the main gorge site.
After a brief lecture, one of the guides took us down into the gorge and showed us the site from its floor, and the marker which shows where Zinj was found.
We dropped him off, and made tracks for the Serengeti park.
At the gate to the park, we stopped and ate our lunch, provided by the last hotel, the Serena. In this park, we were visited by a number of animals, most notably four elephants, who kindly allowed us to take their pictures. We also saw quite a few birds, including many of the starlings that are more common in the Serengeti. Oh, and a gecko that was pink and blue!The lunch was (as might be expected) too much food, but Philip took all the extra and made up packages for giving away to those who didn’t have any.
We continued on, but the road was the usual washboard, and it was noisy and bouncy. We passed another native village, as we drove. Finally a couple of hours later, we turned off into the game reserve (off the main road), and made our way to a number of spots where Philip and Everest thought we would see something.
We saw the usual suspects, zebra, giraffes, grant’s gazelles as well as a new kind of antelope, the Reedbuck. It is larger than the gazelles we have been seeing, and has two stubbier horns on its head.
Before we got to the pod, we saw an individual who walked along from one pond to another, and then dropped itself into the new pond to rest from its exertions.
The trip into the camp was long after that (another half an hour), and the most difficult part was it started raining! We have made it here, however, so we now are happily ensconced in our tent-mansions. This is the largest room we’ve been in on this trip, and it is all out of canvas. Hopefully the rain will subside so we can go out tomorrow and enjoy the sights of the Serengeti!