Day Two – Elephant Day
Our night at the Ameru River Lodge was really good. Of course it being the first horizontal sleep I got in 24 hours probably helped. Both twin beds were covered with mosquito net, which is a must here. There was a ceiling fan, but no A/C. It was warm but not unbearable, but after an Ambien I was out cold from 11 to 8:30 so nothing much mattered.
Breakfast here was good. I had scrambled eggs and thick toast with marmalade and a yogurt. The coffee here is to die for, a nice Arabica which is so very far from my beloved Starbucks I may never go back.
We headed out for our drive to the Tarangire National Park around 10:30. The drive would take about 3 hours, but it was just spectacular scenery. Yes, the same vast open, CVS-free, Starbucks-free nothing. But the clouds are spectacular and watching rain storms pass off to the side is like nothing I’ve seen any where else.
Every where we went today seemed to me to be like getting dropped into an episode of the Amazing Race, and one that usually has me saying “I’ll never go THERE”. All along the road, women were carrying large hands of bananas or buckets of food or supplies balanced on their heads. One one side street of white washed shops with handpainted signs over the doors, men sat at table covered with raw Tanzanite stones, dealing, cutting and selling them (not a safe market for we white girls!) Also along the way, we’d pass kids and they were just beautiful and hilarious. They clearly know we don’t belong, and would wave and shout at us with big smiles. This was both from school kids in matching uniforms and Masaai kids in robes like their parents. I started feeling like Princess Diana after a while, waving to all these kids, but it made them happy and it made me smile.
All along the route we found Masaai tribes people. They tend to live in round huts made of earth and straw. Both men and women wear vibant robes of either bright red or purple. Occasionally we’d see a teenage male wearing all black with face painted white. Finally we asked Said and he said that that male had just been circumcised and he could neither shower nor wear anything but black for three months. However now that he’d reached manhood, he could shake hands with elder men in the tribe.
We stopped at one cultural center where I actually managed to shop. I didn’t think we’d have the chance, but we lucked out. There was a tanzanite shop but I didn’t see anything I liked more than the tanzanite I already have at home and I felt that even bargaining the prices were not spectacular. I did buy some wooden products and tshirts. That should be the extent of the shopping, I think.
There were long periods of silence in the Land Rover so I decided to listen to some tunes. I started with Where the Streets Have No Name by U2, if only because it was what Bono wrote after his first trip to Africa. And I’ve loved that song for so long and liked it for so many reasons, but today with the windows down and the song blaring, it made a completely different sense to me. The landscape is beautiful, the people are as well. To me, the song just made sense. Again.
Arriving at the park, we were greeted quite literally by a family of vervet monkeys. Said had to move the Land Rover away from them or they’d climb in and have their way with our stuff. They seemed fearless and certainly not threatened by us. Once we got into the park and started driving around, we came upon zebra pretty quickly. They were doing their zebra thing just munching away. Then came our first herd of elephants, for which Tarangire is known. We’d come upon several more groups before the day was over, mostly family units, but once we found two teenage males fighting for dominance, and we sat and watched for a while. Said is good, he popped the top before we went in and he’d stop and turn off the car for photos, waiting until we were done to move on.
At one point Said spotted two trees full of vultures, and it nagged at him that there must be a reason, a dead reason, why they were nearby. He maneuvered the car until he could look down off the cliff, and there was a somewhat fresh carcass of an elephant down below, which the vultures were freely tearing into. Cycle of life, cycle of life.
It seemed that just about wherever Said looked, he made animals appear. Mostly impala, who are friendly, happy go lucky deer, but also waterbuck, larger deer like creatures, and warthogs, the mean tusked furry pigs. He even pointed a monitor lizard out that all of us missed at the top of a termite mound.
For the most part, the animals are fairly close. If they seem far off, Said would almost always manage to find a way to get closer. The baboons and impala were almost uncomfortably close. It is definitely a vast improvement on seeing the same animals in a zoo. Here they are on protected land but they have free reign.
No big cats today, although they are out there. But no snakes either, so big score.
I managed to spot two giraffe off in some high brush. Not close enough to be really excited about, but still cool that I saw them.
So far I’m doing well with this roughing it. I didn’t bring make up and when I couldn’t find a hair dryer this morning I gave up on my hair. But sitting with all the windows down in the jeep all day would make whatever I did to it fruitless. And covered with sunblock and insect repellant, Im a big sweaty greasy mess all day anyway.
Lunch today was a box lunch from our hotel, mostly things leftover from dinner, I think. A crepe, a dumpling, some cookies, a donut and pineapple juice.
Our new lodgings for the next two nights is at Marmaboi Tented lodge, which look like the elevated cottages in Dirty Dancing only with screened walls. A nice big bathroom and a living room that we share with the other two women on the trip. It’ll be interesting to see if I can sleep with all these damn crickets. It may be another Ambien night. The silence is deafening.
Dinner tonight was a buffet. I had ratatouille, barbecue chicken of some sort, rice, zucchini and a carrot salad (They assured us all vegetables were washed with mineral water). Dessert was chocolate bread pudding and linzer tort. Yum! White wine to wash it down.
Sitting now on the patio with Kim nursing a glass of wine. Way off on the horizon is either thunderstorm or heat lightning. Its cooled off some so should be a good night to sleep. We’re up at 5:30 tomorrow for a predawn game ride.