Misery in Migunga
Trip Start Apr 09, 2013
11Trip End Apr 28, 2013
Map your own trip!
Show trip route
The day started promisingly enough, though early, as we left the lodge outside Amboseli National Park, headed for Tanzania. Kilimanjaro cooperated, looming 15,000 feet above us, the tallest free-standing mountain on the planet. The border crossing at Namanga went smoothly enough, in spite of learning that Americans warrant the special consideration of a $100 visa fee rather than the $50 charged other nationalities.
Livin, our Tanzanian driver, was a friendly sort, much easier to understand than our Kenyan driver, and George, our Kenyan handler continued the journey over the border with us. Details of the next few days were discussed as we drove south. Info we'd received from our Kenyan partner about the next few days was turning out to be incomplete, and in some cases just flat wrong. Fulfilling what we’d promised in our program appeared, in some cases, logistically impossible.
One issue, in particular, was a fascinating-sounding "hunt with the Hadzabe tribe". Timing looked really awkward for this excursion, and Livin kept stressing that the Hadzabe are not the kind of people you can make a plan with. If you show up after they’ve left for their hunt, you won’t see them. Hmmm… how was this going to play out when our lodging turns out to be a two-hour drive from where they supposedly live?
First order of business, after lunch in Arusha, largest town in the area, was inspecting a tented camp and planning a walk on the shores of Lake Manyara. The lodge was pleasant, the room large and airy, with lovely views over the lake. We are in the rainy season, so the walk took us through grasslands lining the lake that were lush and often sitting in a couple inches of mud and water. Zebras accompanied us, flamingos lent color to an already gorgeous blend of sky and water, and we left contented that this will be a good adjustment in the program.
Our lodgings for the night were at Migunga Forest Camp, accommodations we were to inspect and compare to our earlier stop by Lake Manyara, and that’s where things really started to come unhinged. Migunga is on the edge of a community known as Mto wa Mbu, translated from Swahili as “mosquito river”. It is set amongst a lovely grove of huge, yellow acacia trees, but arriving late in the day as the light was fading, it felt dark and damp and rough!
Some of these tented camps are really quite luxurious. This one was not! Arriving at our tent, the porters unzipped the entry flap and showed us into the tent. He made a point that there were “many mosquitoes”, urged us to spray the room with the aerosol can provided and burn the bug coil, then pulled down the mosquito netting (standard bedroom equipment on the journey so far) around the bed before leaving.
Scott and I washed up in preparation for dinner back at the dining room. As we used the bathroom, we noticed a sign posted in the bathroom warning guests that mosquitoes are a part of the experience at Migunga, and to take appropriate precautions. Before leaving, I therefore sprayed the main room and adjoining bathroom with the large can of insecticide and lit the insect coil. With socks pulled up around the hem of my pants, and shirt buttoned to the top, I joined Scott on the trek through the now-fully-dark forest to the restaurant.
The restaurant was open on one side, with mosquito netting draping all but the doorway-sized opening into the area were the tables were set. On the other side of the dining room, a hallway of sorts led back to the kitchen. We were the only guests eating on this night. Our meal was served by a lovely young gal with a sweet, soft voice, and the food was actually quite good. The room was very much on the dark side, however, and halfway through the meal, our meager company of two was enhanced by a group of bats that began flying back and forth between the main opening and the hallway, which must have opened to the outside.
The intense, solve-the-problems-of-the-world discussion Scott and I were engaged in would probably have been even more focused but for the disconcerting Adams Family-like aura added by the bats, amplified by the chorus of mosquitoes that starting “singing” to us about the time dessert arrived. We decided to suspend the conversation and take cover back in our tent/room.
Unfortunately, the morning’s 5 am start was to be upstaged by a 4 am start the following morning. One of the logistical problems we’d been discussing with George and Livin was the drive to meet the afore-mentioned Hadzabe tribe. This excursion had been represented to us as an afternoon experience. As any hunter will tell you, however, game moves around more in the early morning, and the place we were supposed to meet the tribe was about a 2 hour drive away over bumpy country roads. The solution, at least on this planning trip, was to depart at 4:30 am!
As a result, we both opted to shower before bed, shortening morning prep time. When it was my turn, I noticed a sizable beetle navigating the bottom edge of the mirror frame, and was later joined in the shower by one of his tropical-sized mates. The coil was doing its job, so a strong, pungent odor permeated the main room, but didn’t seem to be having any impact in the bathroom. The beetle duo was only part of the insect retinue – several flying species added their welcome to my evening bathroom experience.
After spraying the bathroom again with the aerosol can, which by the way was about the size of a fire extinguisher, I coughed my way through the mosquito netting and rolled into bed. Before leaving home, we’d been advised by the travel medicine nurse to treat outer layers of clothes with a mosquito shielding spray before the trip, so I wore one of those to bed on this insect-themed night as an additional precaution to the aerosol spray, mosquito netting, and burning insect coil, not to mention the Malarone pills we’re both taking that are guaranteed to stop malaria dead in its disgusting little tracks.
Lights were out about 9 pm. We heard no sounds of humanity or civilization. But the sounds of the tropical acacia forest were deafening, especially the frogs. I’ve never heard night sounds at this level. I kid you not; a rock concert would have sounded like a whisper in comparison. I lay there in bed in the dark listening; some other critter was also out there added his grunting to the cacophony. I dozed fitfully for the next few hours, my profuse sweating adding to the general discomfort. About midnight, I decided to make a couple of adjustments and got up to fetch my earplugs. Shedding the mosquito armor of my shirt, I crawled back in bed successfully having blocked the sounds of the night with the ear plugs.
I slept most of the next four hours and when my alarm went off, Scott was already up getting ready, apparently not having slept. We dutifully went through the motions of dressing and packing on this shower-less morning. We’d told the girl at reception that we didn’t need porters, especially at that hour of morning, but there they were, already outside our tent door 20 minutes before our agreed upon 4:30 am departure.
to be continued...