The overnight was quiet as we settled in for our first long sleep in a few days. Long meaning past 6 a.m. I was out cold by about 9:30 pm and didn't hear much in the way of animal noises overnight, so either there weren't so many or I slept through it. We packed up and paid up for our bar tab and we were off with Said. He managed to squeeze in one more game ride before we got on our flight back to Arusha.
It seemed as though Said was visiting some spots of recent famous sightings as we drove along. He pointed out where he'd seen the pride we saw take down a buffalo a while back. No such luck today. The ride was pretty quiet for about an hour and a half as he quizzed us on types of birds and the difference between impala, Grant's gazelle and Thompson's gazelle. I'll get it someday. I think I have impala figured out. It was a gorgeous morning, warm and sunny with that blue sky with puffy clouds. Finally with only about a half hour left before we had to be at the airstrip, Said spotted a leopard in a tree. All left and right paws dangling on either side of a thick branch, this guy was down for the count. And out cold he was. His head was pointed the other way, so I was hoping he'd at least pop up for a stretch while I had my camera ready and before we had to go. No time for being patient and waiting him out today! This leopard was larger than the one we have seen the last two days so that leads Said to think it is a male. Finally he lifted his head and I got the shot I wanted. Handsome cat!
We got to the airstrip, which is literally a long mowed patch of grass. There were a bunch of 8-seater prop planes lying around and we were led to one. I've never been on a plane that wasn't a jet so this would be an experience. There was no security, no checking of tickets, no one even asked my name, they just took my luggage, shoved it into the nose of the plane and let us all stand next to the plane in the grass until everyone showed up. Finally we hugged Said good-bye and climbed aboard. Our pilot was a surly old man who barked a lot and smoked one last cig before climbing in. I sat right over his left shoulder and could watch his view and the instruments. I wasn't sure if that should make me feel better or not. Finally we were airborne, and cruising over the Ngorongoro Crater, which was massive. It made me feel so small when I realize we were one of those tiny dots cruising the roads around there just last week.
The pilot turned once and handed me a box of Cadbury eclair candies. That's the in-flight service, I suppose. He also would make motions like swerving or bumpy when we'd hit turbulence. I didn't enjoy making it through those fun white clouds that looked so pretty from the ground, but finally we made it and were on the ground in Arusha.
David from our tour operator picked us up and we're spending the afternoon at the Arumeru Lodge again, killing time until our late day flight. There are worse ways to spend the day...officially heading home now.