Our last week on safari!

Trip Start Feb 26, 2006
Trip End Nov 28, 2006

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Friday, April 21, 2006

Making our way north from Zanzibar brought us to the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. As Africa's highest point and the world's highest freestanding mountain (meaning it's not part of a mountain range), Mt. Kili is often covered by clouds so there wasn't much to see, but you can just barely make out the shape of the mountain in the photo below:

To make the most of our stay at the base of the mountain, we visited the hillside town of Marangu where we saw the village's three main institutions - the school, hospital, and of course the pub. At the pub, we enjoyed the locally brewed specialty of Banana Beer. It's a mix of banana and millet which is then fermented. Unlike western beer, the result is left unfiltered, and the drink ends up eating like a meal! I managed to chew down half of it, but with only a 2% alcohol content, I decided in the end it was too much work for too little reward.

On our walk back to camp we passed by a waterfall where our group took a nice photo.

Legend has it that an unwed mother-to-be came here to throw herself over the falls rather than face the traditional punishment (back in the day, it involved the adulterers lying on one another with a stake being driven through them into the ground, where they would be left to die). At the last second, the young lady changed her mind and figured life was worth living after all. Unfortunately, a leopard had other ideas and surprised the woman at the falls edge. Losing her balance, the young lady fell to her death. Here is a depiction of the lady by the waterfall and me playing the part of the leopard:

The last few days of our overland safari trip was spent taking in one last game drive in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area near the Tanzania-Kenya border. This area is also home to the infamous Maasai tribe of cattle herders whose staple diet includes mixing cow blood and milk. The Maasai are easily identified by the bright red cloths they wear. Here I am trying to look like a Maasai:

The day of our game drive started out miserably. On the way to the Ngorongoro crater (the remnants of a collapsed volcano), we visited a nearby Maasai village.

When we got there, the village had turned into a giant mud pit. At least we think it was mud - since the Massai are cattle herders, we couldn't be sure what we were stepping in. Despite the weather, as soon as we entered their village they enthusiastically greeted us with a traditional song that included chanting and dancing.

The ladies even pulled Amy and another girl into their group and adorned them with their traditional Maasai beaded jewellery.

Following the songs we were invited into one of the homes.

The huts are constructed by women from mud and cow dung, and in addition to the family, goats and baby cows also live within the hut. In case you're wondering, the goats and calves are NOT litter trained, so the putrid smell mixed with the smoke from the indoor cooking fire was quite unbearable. While we were in the hut a little girl kept coming in and out saying hi to us. Here she is:

After leaving the Maasai village, we descended into the Ngorongoro crater, and at that point the sky opened up and the sun came out!

The crater is listed as one of the natural wonders of the world and we quickly found out why. Being only 16x19km wide and mostly grass plains, you can spot animals miles away and there are LOTS of them. Descending in our jeep from the ridge, we could see the crater floor littered with herds of animals. Since the sun had come out, we popped open the sun-roof and drove around with our heads sticking out.

Spotting animals didn't turn out to be as tough as jockeying for position with the countless other jeeps in the crater. Many times, we knew where to find the animals just by looking for jeeps clustered together.

The animals always seemed oblivious to all the jeeps, even when it seemed that they might be run over by an overly enthusiastic driver. We saw a male lion that didn't even flinch when a jeep came within one meter of him! In the crater we saw gazelles, zebras, wildebeest, ostrich, warthogs, hyena, buffalo, black rhino, elephants, lions, as well as a pair of cheetahs relaxing by the crater lake which was filled with thousands of pink flamingos. Besides giraffes, the crater was pretty much a summary of the first six weeks of our game drives condensed into 8 hours!

The Ngorongoro Crater was definitely one of the highlights of our trip and it ended the game driving on a high note. We give our 7-week safari an African "thumbs up"!!!
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