Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania: (Day 20) Dec-30-2013

It was very cold this morning--some people had trouble sleeping.  I guess I slept through the entire night becuase it wasn't until the morning that I had realized my hands were so cold.  Breakfast was at 6:00--afterwards we loading the 4x4s and went down to the Ngorongoro Crater.  We spent 5 hours or so driving around, at least an hour or so just to get to the base.  I snapped a few photos curbside before our descent, some of a nearby Maasai Village.

Driving to the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Zebras playing in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

The crater was very open, just like I had imagined.  The amount of wildlife was unreal.  Buffalo, Wildebeest, Antelopes, Zebras, and the like flooded the horizon in every direction.  Birds, Hyenas, and Jackels were also very plentiful.  We saw some hyenas feasting on a dead buffalo, some zebras playing/fighting with eachother, and a swarm of hundred+ (maybe a thousand+) flamingos.  We saw some Black Rhinos (3 or 4) but they were so far in the distance that I wouldn't 'really' say that we saw them.  It's a bit of a shame, but I guess seeing 4 of the big 5 is not too shabby.


Hyenas Sunbathe in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
We did see a half dozen Lions throughout the day.  I was lucky enough to witness a male and female sleeping side by side--the male got up and mounted the female. After no more than 10 seconds the female slapped the male lion across the head and roared very loudly at him.  That was the end of that--they both went back to sleep in their original spots.  When lions mate they do this sort of thing every 15 minute or so and continue at it for 3 days.  <kitty porn joke omitted here>.


Male and female lion in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
We drove around a bit more and finally took a lunch down by a lake filled with dozens of hippos.  The birds smelled our food and after a while of stretching my legs I finished my lunch in the 4x4.  Lunch was horrible, just like yesterday's.  A very old, stale, and dry muffin, package of biscuits, a hardboiled egg, one small piece of old dry chicken wrapped in foil, a browning banana, and 1.5 pieces of of bread that had one thinly sliced piece of cheese in between.  Actually the cheese didn't even cover the entire piece of bread.  We also had some sort of juice,  but I didn't drink it.


Birds trying to eat our lunch in the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
During our game drive Debby had lost her contact.  She had lost it in her eye, which before today I would have thought was just impossible.  Our driver, Mushaka, didn't understand what a contact was.  After much explanation by Debby our driver just replied, "why you have bad eyes?  You need to eat more carrots".  We just chuckled and went on with our drive.


Divia, Vincent, Debby, and I all tried to sleep on the ride up the Crater but the gravel roads proved too much for us.  There were at least two times when I was just about sleeping when my head nearly smacked our car's roof.  Fuck these roads...and I'm sure our driver isn't trying to make things any better.


We stopped several times for restrooms, for our driver to de-register our car from the park, a craft market on the side of the road, and one time for a diesel refueling.  It's 4:15pm and Marshuka said we still have ~55kms remaining.  The roads outside the Ngorongoro Conservation Area are paved so the drive is much more comfortable.  We should arrive at camp around 5:15pm.  I'm glad tomorrow is my last day--I'm done with the long drives.


It's wierd becuase when I'm given a chance to relax in my room I get bored and have nothing to do.  I'm gotten so accustomed to 'doing nothing' all day on the truck that I don't know what to do with myself when I have free time outside it.  Partaking in any type of 'active' activity is just too taxing after such long days.


The market we stopped at was such rubbish.  The moment I walked in a man took a shallow wicker basket/dish and walked up beside me.  He tried to talk to me and tell me that everything I wanted I should place inside the tray.  After I was done I will bring it up to the front and he will "give me the best rate".  I told him Jambo, which means hello in Swahili, but that I just wanted to look.  He continued to follow me so I began to walk in circles and retraced my route several times until he realized I was just fucking with him.  He finally left me alone.  I went to talk with Marcia and later to Debbie, and Vince about their products.  Debbie inquired about a bowl--the lady priced it at $65 dollars.  It was easily worth $5, $10 if she really had to have it.  By the time I reached the other side of the shop another guy came up to me with a wicker basket.  I told him Jambo and that I am just looking and am not interested.  A few times I would pick up an item to examine it closer.  The guy would just start rambling about it, trying to grab it and place it into the basket and tell me, "you like, very good price for you".  I picked up a Maasai Sword, just like the one I purchased yesturday and asked, "how much for this".  He went on for 5 sentences explaining me how great it was and how valuable it is.  Then he said $70.  I said thanks and put it back and walked away.  He tried to negotiate with me, but the day had already been too long and I wasn't in the mood for this.  I told him I am not interested, but he continued to follow me around.  I did grab a pair of napkin rings and he tried to take them from me to put in that damn basket he had been carying while following me around.  I said I'll just take it to the front and ignored the guy.  I put it on the counter and asked, "how much?"  The man said $15 dollars.  I countered and said $5.  They both looked at eachother and lauched.  They said no, $15 is best price.  I said no thanks, left the item on the counter, and walked back to my car.  As I walked out the door one man said, "ok $10 for you".  I said nope without even looking at him and kept my pace.  While we were collecting by the car the wicker-basked guy came back and said, "ok $10".  I said no and to leave me alone.  Then he said, "ok, we can sell at your price".  I looked at him and said, "You were greedy, you tried to rip me off and then you laughed at me when I made a fair offer.  You are getting no sale from me today."


Some may think I am being hostile and that I am wasting my time.  My take on it is that "I am providing free education on the subject of business ethics one person at a time".


I think I am developing a cold.  My throat was 'scratchy' for the last 2-3 days, today my my nose is starting to run, and I've just begun to sneeze.  Fortunately I don't stay sick long and should be fine by my flight in two days.

Sunrise near the Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Serengeti, Tanzania: (Day 19) Dec-29-2013

Sometime during the night there were loud-mouthed Africans yelling about something.  It was between 1 and 2 in the morning.  I kept silent for a while but was getting pretty sick of it so I finally screamed, "SHUT UP".  Shockingly the level of the discussion did quiet a bit.  It sounded like some people were either just getting to bed, or just arriving at camp and they were getting situated/setting up.  I got out of bed around 5--we were set to eat breakfast at 6:30.  I later learned the entire story behind the commotion--appearantly a girl had started screaming frantically and people thought she had been attacked by an animal, possibly a lion.  It was later discovered that she just had a bad dream.  I'm sure the Doxy had something to do with that?


Hot air balloons in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Just finished lunch at the Serengeti entrance/gate and are back on the road into the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.  It's 2:45pm.  A few quick notes I took while on today's safari:


We learned that the park speed limit is 20kmph.  Our guide went to school for 'birds' and knows over 1,000 types.  Taking a
one hour ride on a hot air balloon costs $500, thought it does include a free glass of champagne.  We saw mongooses and learned that they are often picked up by vultures.  A Vulture will swoop down and pick up a mongoose, fly to a high elevation and then drop the mongoose to kill it.  When the mongooses see vultures they all huddle together and hold onto each other.  Adorable, right?  We saw elephants on the side of the road, again, and the smallest one was 6 months old  It looked so goofy next to its much larger parents.  Also along the road were a dozen ostriches.


Ostriches in the Serengeti, Tanzania
We stopped at the visitor's center and we looked around at their exibits.  The restrooms were amazingly clean.  However, Debby and Vincent were taking much longer than the rest of us and we were growing impatient--we wanted to get back on the road before it became too hot and the animals started to take cover.


One of the cars in our group spotted a leopard so we went looking in the area.  We did find it, eventually, but it was far off and I was not impressed.  We saw three lions--two in a tree and one eating a buffalo.  Whenever there is a large cat spotting 'all' the cars swarm to the scene.  Can you imagine if these lions and leopards thought like we did?  "These animals are very parculiar--they glide along on 4 perfectly round feet, make loud thumping noises that increase in intensity and pitch as the move faser, and they travel alone.  However as soon as one of these species spots me or a family member more quickly encircle me and watch me sleep.  Once they come to a stop they turn silent.  Then they grow from the top of their large heads and smaller creates peek out.  These creatures are closer to my size.  After I go hide somewhere and don't come out for a while these creatures tuck back into the larger creature and then the larger creature shrinks its head.  Then all the large creatures start making noise and leave me alone.


Lions in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Around half past noon, while we were traveling along a grassy meadow we almost flipped our Toyota Land Cruiser.  We spun out of control going 40-60kph, fishtailed, and felt the 4x4's center of gravity shift very quickly from the center of the car over to the right set of wheels.  Luckily our driver regained control before the car completely flipped.  We were all a bit shaken up.  The driver went outside and took inventory of the vehicle.  Our car was undamaged but there was broken glass on the ground, which was probably from a car that had recently fallen.  Our driver had said that had we been in a Range Rover we would have flipped for sure.


The drive through the grassy meddow was trecherous--almost completely without life, dusty, and infested with flies.  We had to keep our roof and windows closed as to not be completely devoured by the little black devils.  We finally arrived at the Serengeti check-in point where we used the restrooms and ate our lunch as we waited for our 3 drivers to fill out the paperwork.  This took 1.5-2 hours and I was getting increasingly bored.  Over these last few days in the Serengeti I have been thinking alot about traveling the world.  Such issues like, when, how will I get my meds, will I be uninsured once I return home, how quickly can I sell my car, furniture...how will I get all my visas...etc.  Planning will probably take a bit of time as I want to do my research on all the areas I plan to visit so I will enjoy my experience more.


After lunch a couple joined our group (the 5 or so of us still sitting on the benches).  We talked a bit and I found out they live in Chicago--he is an econ professor as University of Illinios and she's a 4th year PhD student.  Her thesis is on the effect of our aging population on healthcare.  She said that over the next couple decades 50% of our nurses will retire.  NOTE TO SELF:  Any way to invest in companies contracting out nursing care?  He worked for an econ Professor in Ann Arbor, Michigan before his current role--he told me "Go Blue".  They were the 3rd and 4th American I've met so far over the last 3+ weeks.  The other 2 where a couple of recent college grads from the east coast that I ran into during my stay in South Luangwa National Park.  It's possible I have met more Americans and just cannot recall them now, but at most I have met no more than 10.

Maasai villagers greet us in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Currently we are driving into a Maasai village.  We each paid $20USD to have a tour of their village.  I am excited.


Maasai men jumping in the Serengeti, Tanzania
It's 4:30 and we just got back on the raod from our Maasai village adventure.  It was the highlight of the day, for sure.  We were welcomed by the the chief's son--he was 20 years old.  He introduced himself and asked for all of our names and where we came from.  All the men in the village then conducted a welcome dance for us which involved chanting and hopping--so tribal!  The women were in the background singing something but were never introduced to us.


We were then welcomed into their village, which was a small ~60m diameter circle, enclosed all around except for 4 gateways.  Their village fence was comprised of acacia branches, which are extremely thorny, and act as protection against certain animals.  The village had a large 'social' central section which had a large leafless tree growing in the direct center.  Some of the men sat on and around the tree.  As we walked into the village the men and women continued their welcoming dance/song and invited 2 or 3 of us to join them in their jumping.  Men jump as a way of flirting with the Maasai women.  They are a polygimyst culture--everyone in the same village is part of the same family so they must take wives in nearby villages.  However the wives of a given man are always from the same village.  The women live with their children in small houses.  We split into groups of 2 and were each shown the houses.  They were very small, maybe 100 square feet, tops.  They are sort of dome-shaped and have no door.  They take 1 week to construct as the entire village helps out.  The Maasai are a nomadic people and have multiple permanent locations.  This particular village along with another village act as their permanent locations.  They travel between village 2-4 times a year.


Maasai children in the Serengeti, Tanzania
Everyone had such poor teeth it was uncomfortable to look at.  Even worse than typical African teeth, which is pretty damn bad.  The men had gowns--either red, blue, or some combination of the two--and walked with spears and wooden canes used for herding their cattle.  They were wearing black rubber thongs made from recycled car tires and sported numerous necklaces and bracelets.  The women were dressed similarly, though not in such elegant robes.  Many of the women had children slung over their shoulders.  The men never spoke to the women.  It was obvious that even 'us tourist' men were treated with higher honor than the women in our group.


A Maasai woman in the Serengeti, Tanzania
I was hoping to try the typical Maasai meal of bovine blood and milk but they had told Godfrey (who asked on my behalf) that their cattle were too far at pasture now.  I was a bit bummed.  They tried selling us their 'trinkets' after they showed us their, rather meager, dwellings but I didn't bite.  However I did, along the side of the road while en route to our campsite tonight, buy a Maasai blade.  We had stopped to watch a bunch of the Maasai play football (soccer) in an open field.  They had built simple goals out of 3 tree trunks tied together with some sort of twine--no net, of course.  There must have been 50 people on the field.  While we were stopped a dozen Maasai men came over to our vehicle and tried to sell us stuff.  This was common, for men and women, to sell their goods.  I wasn't interested but inquired on the price of one of their swords.  They had started at $70.  I was mostly just negotiating for fun and practice and got them down to $30, $25, and $20 within a few minutes.  I said $15 and they said no.  I said thanks and started to close the window.  When the window was halfway closed the man said, "ok, ok, $15"  I handed him a $20 and he gave me a $5 along with the handmade Maasai blade with a handmade cowhide sheath.  They saw a wad of cash I had taken out of my pocket and tried to sell me on more 'products'.  I told them that I needed this money to eat for the next week and they smiled and understood.

Giraffes in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Our drive to our campsite along the ridge of the Ngorongoro Crater was a long but beautiful one.  We stopped a few times--we even got out of our car and walked up closer to a cluster of Giraffes in a field alongside a dozen zebras.  We also stopped to witness the wildebeast migration.  It was just stunning--spanning as far back as the eye could see.  Watching them dash across the road was a sight in itself.  We saw other delightfully beautiful things along our journey as we finally made it into camp around 6:15.  Although we had stopped several times during the day we had been in transit for well over 11 hours.  Quite tiring given the condition of the roads we were traveling on.

Zebra running with a Wildebeest in the Serengeti, Tanzania

Dinner was at 7:00pm--the same soup and bread we've had the last two nights, cinnimon-spiced rice, and some type of curry beef.  The beef was tough, as it typically is in Africa, but the food was otherwise quite tasty.  For dessert we had orange and pineapple slices.


It's just after 9:00 now and I'm getting ready for bed.  We have another early morning--6:00 breakfast before our game drive down in the Ngorongoro Crater.  I'm sure with the 36 vehicles going down tomorrow and reletively small size (20km) of the crater we are sure to bump into some animals.


I'm in my tent now--I'll pass on brushing my teeth, washing up, and/or showering tonight.  I've grown accustomed to showering every 2 or 3 days and brushing my teeth only in the mornings.  I've worn my North Face pants for all except 3 or so days on my trip.  I really like them, but they sure do need to be cleaned--I have cleaned them 2 or 3 times, but only using cold(ish) water, ringing them tightly, and then letting them air dry.

Elephants in the Serengeti, Tanzania