Rioja on the rim

Trip Start Jul 24, 2012
Trip End Aug 19, 2012

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Where I stayed
Ngorongoro Crater Rim Campsite

Flag of Tanzania  ,
Thursday, August 16, 2012

It was another early start this morning as we had to be out of the game reserve by 11am so the alarm went off at 5am – breakfast of scrambled egg on toast was served at 5.30am. There was talk in the camp of the Lioness and cubs that had walked through the camp in the night.  Half the group had heard it and half were fast asleep.  Confirmation came from the cook from another group who was sleeping in the cooking hut and actually saw them.   It sent a shiver up my spine that there was only a thin canvas between us!  Arrrggghhh!  It was Simon's birthday too so we all wished him happy birthday.  What a wonderful place to wake up on your birthday I thought.

By 6am we were on the road and starting our penultimate game drive of the trip out of the Serengeti National Park.  As yesterday had been such an amazing day everything from this point forward was going to be a bonus.  On our journey through the open grassland we saw giraffe, buffalo, elephant, ostrich, Grant’s gazelle, zebra, wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelle, Kori bustard (the largest flying bird in Africa), and then in a rocky outcrop that is apparently what the scenery from Lion King is based upon, Matt shouted "Lions!  Press the buzzer!"  In a small cave there appeared the little head of a lion cub, which was then joined by another – and mum was lying close by shielded by grass.

We watched them play as 4x4’s sailed past us oblivious to what we were watching.  It was fantastic and such a great end to our Serengeti visit.  As the migration had already passed and with it being the dry season we weren’t sure that we would get to see much at first but how that changed and it turned out to be the most fruitful of our game drives – maybe we were just extremely lucky?  I don’t know?  Still the Painted dogs that we had also wanted to see were left un-ticked from our wildlife list – oh and the aardvark – of course.

We continued our journey and were relieved to apparently be out of tsetse fly territory which enabled us to concentrate on the real animals.  The landscape became a lot more barren as we got towards the outskirts of the park and Kanyo told us that this was where, in the wet season millions of wildebeest gather to give birth.  I figured that if I were any other kind of preyed upon animal that is where I would choose to hang out surely?  But obviously it just doesn’t work like that.  Nature is a strange thing.  There were also lots of 'twisters’ travelling across the savannah and whipping up huge dust tunnels that were amazing to witness.  One blew right through our truck at one point and it was weird to be in the eye of a very tiny storm.

We stopped for a lunch break at the Serengeti viewpoint which has facilities and a couple of shops.  We were thrilled to find that the shops sold wine, and as the last couple of campsites that we had stayed at didn’t even have flushing toilets never mind a bar we all decided for Simon’s birthday that it would be red wine night as we were heading to altitude so we guessed it would be perfect conditions for a crafty mug of red.  We got a bottle of Porcupine for 12 Dollars which we didn’t think so bad as there certainly wasn’t any other competition in the area.  We all packed our bottles away well - stuffed in between sleeping bags and pillows to avoid any costly breakages on the rough roads.

On our way towards Ngorongoro crater we stopped at a Masai village so some of the guys who hadn’t had the chance to see the village in the Masai Mara could take a look at how they live.  We got an excited greeting but when they realised that only three of us would be paying the entrance fee some of the men got angry with us taking photographs and came over to tell us to stop.  They asked to read my book – which was uncharacteristically a really girly book – it was funny to watch all these Masai warriors reading a soppy love story – I was thankful though it wasn’t Hannah’s 50 shades that they had asked for.

Whilst the three girls were being showed around some of the Masai guys invited some of the guys on the truck to play football – I only noticed the goals made from branches at this point.  Matt, Callum, Tom, Ben and Simon joined in and came back absolutely thick with dust but happy – Simon’s birthday just kept getting more bizarre – how would he beat this next year?

We arrived at our new camp on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater – the largest volcanic caldera in the world – at 6pm.  The whole camp was covered in buffalo and zebra droppings so we had to dance across the grass dodging it to pitch the tent.  My group were on truck cleaning duty so a few people went for a shower and I had a baby wipe wash and did my duty – mopping out the very, very dusty truck.  The cooking group started to prepare dinner and we all set about the red wine.  News came that there was an elephant behind the shower block – a what!?  Um, I’m sure that a tent wasn’t going to protect us from the mighty hulk of an elephant.  We went to check it out and sure enough there it was happily munching on vegetation – we hit the red wine harder.

It grew dark and we ate fried rice and sat with scarves and hats around the campfire – it felt freezing.  The red wine had certainly helped though and we all had a bit of a game of Chinese whispers which as always was hilarious.  We sang Happy Birthday to Simon and then went to bed hoping that the elephant was long gone.
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