DAY 46

Week 7

NGORONGORO (Arusha, TZA) to ARUSHA (Arusha, TZA)

Monday December 26th, 2016

TODAYS MILEAGE – 168 miles or 270 kilometres
TRIP MILEAGE – 19495 miles or 31374 kilometres

..... and back to "civilization" we go. Be Happy

Our driver/guide "Papa T" had us up at the crack of dawn, to get a bit of a head start on the other amassed tour groups heading to Ngorongoro Crater. These groups had overwhelmed the facilities at our overnight stop at Simba Campsite A, so I was more than happy with his plans.

One of our first stops, when we dropped down into the crater proper, was the Mandusi Hippo Pools, where we were met with over 50 hippos of all ages and sizes. While taking it all in, I was also watching both a buffalo and a zebra heard to the left of the pools. In the quiet, I could hear one of the girls commenting one "how cool would it be to see a lion kill" and distinctly remember thinking to myself to be careful of what you wish for.

After around twenty minutes of not a lot of anything going one, some movement catches my eye - it’s a zebra and her foal tearing across the flat with two lionesses in pursuit. As the zebras crossed a small ravine, another two lionesses sprang up between them, effectively separating the two zebras. The mother turned hard right and headed back to the safety of the herd, while the foal charged straight in the mud flats, where it was promptly stopped by the knee-deep mud. As quick as a flash, a lion jumped on to the foals back and dragged it over onto its side, where one of the pursuing lionesses finished the foal off by crushing its neck.

I heard a few gasps and OMG's from a couple of the girls, who seemed a little over ought by the experience, but such is life in Africa. Of interest to me was the herd of buffalo that headed over to the lions and were trying to run them off their kill. They tried several charges at the lions until they could see the foal was unable to be saved and then simply went on about their business of grazing or wandering to another waterhole. I thought to myself that the buffaloes seemed more adapt and somewhat smarter at protecting themselves than the zebras. This was proven not 15 minutes later in a different area of Ngorongoro.

We left the hippo pools and were headed to the Ngoitokitok Picnic Area where we came across 4 buffaloes which included a cow and calf which had been separated from the herd by about 5 lions. The lions were working in unison in trying to get the adult buffaloes away from the calf to take it. With a river blocking two sides, the rest of the herd were in an adjacent field across a dirt road, but you guessed it - their path was blocked by numerous tour vehicles. After 10 minutes of this manmade standoff, a few of us called out for the idiots who were blocking the path, to move their vehicles as well as "Papa T" getting on the radio and telling them to move or he report them to the National Park Service. As soon as the vehicles moved, the herd as one simply trotted across the road and enveloped the 4 strays, while a few off the larger bulls charged at the lions to push them away. As one mass, the herd crossed back over the road and headed to greener pastures. I ended up counting 9 lions in total and was impressed how well the buffaloes worked as a group in protecting themselves.

After a couple of more hours criss-crossing the crater, mainly chasing reported sighting of white rhinos without success, we decided head on back to Arusha for the night. When coming out of the crater and hitting the dirt road, I heard what sounded like a crack and as we went along I could also hear metal on metal grinding and the vehicle seemed to be bouncing around the dirt.

I got "Papa T" to pull over to take a look and I found the rear passenger spring pack had broken the front of the main leaf at the centrebolt. Not an ideal situation to say the least, but with a bit of wire I was able to drag the spring pack clamp over the broken area to at least get us back to a town. We checked the temporary fix on numerous occasions and as luck would have it, we travelled the 154 kilometres (96 miles) back to our accommodations without any further trouble.

Surprise ... surprise ... we managed to time our lunchtime stop at the African Galleria tourist "destination". For someone like me who treats trinket shopping as pleasurable as a root canal at the dentist, it was 2 hours of my like I'd never get back.

Yeah, it was only three days, but I sure as shit didn't miss the Ndoro Lodge. The worst stop on the trip took their well-earned reputation to a whole new level - no hot water, no power, hot beer and belligerent staff members. No matter for me as I'll be in a different country tomorrow - thank fuck for that!!!

Be Happy

• NGORONGORO ~ Simba Campsite A (Arusha, TZA)
• NGORONGORO ~ Conservation Area (Arusha, TZA)
• NGORONGORO ~ Lodoare Gate (Arusha, TZA)
• USANGI (Arusha, TZA)
• ARUSHA (Arusha, TZA)
• ARUSHA ~ Ndoro Lodge (Arusha, TZA)

Day 40 - Ngorongoro Crater - Arusha
Today the group meets up again and we have the chance to exchange stories of the various adventures that we participated in over the past few days.