Trip Start Apr 24, 2012
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Tanzania  , Arusha,
Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Mighty Ngorogoro

OHMYHAT!! The road from Serengeti to Ngorogoro is bloody awful! And to top it off there are "hundreds" other safari vehicles (operators) on the road.  Flying by at a speed, not giving a hoot about anyone but themselves (The story goes “The faster you take the corrugation the better”. True if you do not pay for the maintenance).  The amount of dust in the air is astonishing making visibility zero at times. Most the tourists wear dust masks in the vehicles.  Then there is also the supply trucks rushing pass in the opposite direction toward the Serengeti.  The poor Masai along the road!

It seems the more you pay to visit a certain place the worse the road.  It makes it very difficult to take in or begin to enjoy the surrounds as a result.  Masai villages are scattered en route and Masai and their cattle can be seen, although be it through a cloud of dust.  It is impossible to take photos as the corrugation is so bad that between clicks you could be filming either the sky or the dirt instead of the object of your desire. Complete madness. 

We climbed from 1600 to 2500 meter before reaching the rim of the crater. It is extremely dry, as can be expected for this time of year, but it somehow shocked us to see just how dry even the crater is.  Having read about the micro climate of the Ngorongoro Crater and only ever seeing pictures of it dressed in lush greens, it was a bit of a letdown at first.

At Simba camp (public campsite) we were happy to find a spot completely away from the “crowd” under a beautiful big tree.  The clouds looked dark and heavy, we could hear thunder but the rain did not come.  We were warned about the temperatures dropping up on the rim of the crater. To be ready for cold nights.  The wind picked up and so we made sure that our tent was well secured.  We spent a “leisurely” afternoon at camp filling up the water tanks, doing laundry and sorting out the car as we would have to make space for a guide.

That evening zebra came charging through camp past our tent.  This was a first.  We have had hippo, hyena, lion, elephant and all sorts, but not zebra.  The sound of their hooves was too wonderful and they cried out as they went on their way.  Apparently buffalo and elephant also come through camp on their way up or down from the crater.

Our arranged guide for early the next morning arrived promptly at 7 am. One of the rules to enter the crater is that you have to take a guide (20$) if you have not been there before. Shortly after, we made our decent into the crater.

Sainguru, or Joseph (his Christian name) came with great enthusiasm. Joseph is a Masai that was sent to school and college and now works as a guide.  He was delightful to have along.  His quick wit and sense of humor amused us.  He was very learned w.r.t the crater and the animals.  He also answered many questions about the Masai and their ways. He is a result of the Tanzanian government forcing the Masai fathers to be responsible for their children's education or be arrested. In the past the Masai could have up to 10 wives and as many children as they pleased.  This has changed as education is very expensive.

Interestingly the Masai don’t suffer from the HIV virus as the rest of the world.  Joseph says it is so as a result of their traditional medicines and the fact that the tribe kept closed ranks for centuries.  The elderly reach 80 -100 on average.  A concern is that the traditional medicine education by families are falling by the way side with kids being sent off to boarding school.

Joseph also solved a riddle for us.  We had been perplexed about what the “special campsite” had to offer and why it was more extensive.  He explained that a “public” campsite (more affordable) had facilities like showers, toilets and water (cold and in isolated cases –hot) Public sites also have a communal kitchen.  “Special” campsites (more expensive) have NO facilities at all.  This, making it closer to nature. One also has to book these in advance allowing one to be the only person at a special campsite (one would need privacy seeing that there are no facilities). When asked about the “Extra special” campsite, he was not sure but soon had a joke to crack about it being more expensive with even less to offer.

Not long after starting our descent we spotted our first prize.  A cheetah, on the slope.   Very far off but a Cheetah none the less.  Joseph made it clear that this was a good spot and not an everyday thing.  Thereafter we continued to see Elephant and the renown Black Rhino.  The Rhino also a bit far off, but good enough as we missed them in North Luanga. We saw 4 rhino during the cause of the day.

Although the Masai also bring their cattle into the crater, they are not allowed to visit the river area. Here the grass is long and the trees are big and the area is much greener. 

We saw many animals in the crater but the thing that stood out was the water evaporation that is visible to the eye. Most of the lake is salty with a couple of rivers and fresh water pools.  There are wetlands that form a big contrast against the otherwise white and yellow backdrop.

At one point two lionesses were lying in wait at the river for the multitudes to come drink.  They were not successful.  Perhaps, as a result of the many vehicles or otherwise, just sharpness of the prey.

Joseph took us to the “mountain”, a hill really, from where we could see a pile up of vehicles at the hippo pools.  We soon made our way there to find two male lions finishing off a kill. A wildebeest.  The hippos at the pools are far better off than the ones in Katavi.

We had our lunch at the waterside where just about everyone comes to do the same.  I was appalled by the state of the bathrooms for the second time this day.  I can simply not get over the fact that they cannot get their act in gear with the ablutions.  Thousands upon thousands of visitors come here seven days a week 365 per year.  All, paying top dollar.  With less than 10% going to the Masai community, what the hell do they do with all the money? They don’t fix the roads and they certainly don’t even clean the toilets.  Strange thing is, no other person, that I saw, complained about the state of them. ????

Anyway, we took the long way out of the crater, as the short way is under construction (for a year). This turned out to be a good thing as one travels along the rim of the crater almost the entire way. The rain forest on the top section on the slopes is beautiful and paints an entire different picture. 

Beautiful!! Once in a lifetime experience, at that price. Hehheeee

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