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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 25 Apr 2009

Location: Arusha, Tanzania

MapApril 24th

Iíve been to Africa twice previously and had yet to see an undomesticated animal besides the two glimpses of the baboons on the highway between Rwanda and Kahama. When we were planning this trip, we calculated that the difference between a flight from Mwanza to Kili Airport with food and motels in Arusha for a three day period, would be only $150 different than a three day Safari in the off season. That convinced me that I should join the others and travel overland through the Serengeti and into Ngorangora Crater. It was an unbelievable experience that Iím so glad I didnít miss.
We travelled from Mwanza to about half way through the Serengeti plains where we stayed at an amazing lodge built into the giant boulders that surround the area. On that first day and including the second, we saw everything from giraffes, to zebras, warthogs, hippos, alligators, lions, various types of gazelle and other hoofed animals, ostriches, monkeys, and even a cheetah (he was right on the road on front of us just walking along.). We also caught a glimpse of a leopard also but didnít get any good shots.
We drove to the Ngorangora Lodge situated on the cliffs above the crater for the second night. We were awestruck by our first glimpse of the crater. Itís 110 metres from the crest to the crater floor, 14km across, covers 340 sq km and has 25,000 animals living in it. We spent the day in there today and Iíd have to say the highlight for us all was having a huge, bull elephant almost rubbing up against the side of our vehicle. We almost couldíve reached up and touched it. (I have it all on film for you any of you who think I might be exaggerating). We saw black rhinos, more hippos, hyenas, lions, all of the hoofed animals, flamingos, ostriches, etc, etc, Because itís the end of the rainy season, the flat grasslands at the bottom were lush and full of colour from the millions of wild flowers that covered the valley floor. The sides of the crater are jungle-like and at one end thereís large shallow lake thatís the home to huge flocks of pink flamingos. It was simply spectacular to see it this time of the year. Pola was so impressed with the scenery that she had a blond moment and asked us on the way back if thatís where they filmed the animated film, ďThe Lion King.Ē
We left the crater in the afternoon and drove the three hours to Arusha. I have some great shots of the road we drove on which winds its way up along the steep sides of the crater. What you donít see in the pictures is the clutch slipping on our vehicle and us coasting backwards a few times with our hearts pounding.
Arushaís changed a lot since I was here plus I think I just forgot how just big it was. Someone told me that itís the fastest growing place in Tanzania. This town is the jumping-off point for safaris to the Serengeti and Ngorangora Crater as well as for climbs up Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru so itís quite touristy. Definitely not Ďtouristyí in the North American sense of the word though. The drive to the LíOasis Lodge is up a road that reminds us of the streets of Kahama with ruts so deep and rocks so high that you almost need a four-wheel drive to navigate it. The area we drove through is typical of what we saw in the back roads of Kigali and all over in Kahama, so the girls were very surprised and happy to see the little lodge I had booked us in to. Itís very rustic, with little thatched huts and an open lodge with a banana leafed roof. The food is good; on this trip thatís become one of the most important things in our day. We celebrated Polaís birthday with a plate of nachos and pizza, along with a few beer. It was so great to eat something that tastes like home!
We loose two of our team tomorrow when Val buses up to Nairobi for her trip back to Canada and Heather sets of to Mombasa for a week on her own, (brave girl!) Weíve had an amazing experience and as homesick as some of us are, itís still sad to see things come to an end. Four of us will be here until Tuesday morning and then will also bus up to Nairobi and stay there for the night before flying home. (We have a few more things weíre planning on doing here so stay tuned.)
I rushed in to use the Internet, that the staff said was wireless, and of course it doesnít work. I will have to go in to town tomorrow and try to find somewhere to email from. I had tried five times (between Kahama and Mwanza) to post some pictures for PR but was unable. I guess Iíll try that again tomorrow also. Take care everyoneÖI miss you all!!!!!!