I've got the sun in my eyes

Kilimanjaro, Travel

Day 1: The Long and Bumpy Road

Saturday, 10 Dec 2011

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Duncan was there, sharp at 7am. We? After some ritual rush and a very quick breakfast where Mr Fudge advised against anything containing local water as our tummies were not used to it (so no juices nor freshly cut fruits), we were ready to go at 8:30am. Late again!

Detoured to meet Achmed, the nice gentleman and owner of Basecamp who arranged the 3 day safari for us at a very last last minute, even with no down payments as it was too late to make any transfers (Yes, one day before our departure. I know, my bad!). A shout out to thank Achmed!

We settled all payments rather quickly and headed off as we had a long journey ahead of us. We did a pee stop at a souvenir shop where I couldn’t resist bargaining for wooden statues of a Masai couple. And a pair of Gazelles before we left. Hard bargaining though. Apparently they were spoilt by American tourists who were known to pay generous prices. Anyway, I still thought I overpaid but at least I paid an amount that I thought was fair.

Along the way, Duncan bought us some red bananas (just red on the skin). They were delicious. [singlepic id=172 w=640 h=480 float=]

After 4 long and sleepy hours, we arrived at Ngorongoro Conservation Area gate. While Duncan was doing the necessary registrations, we waited outside, watching baboons.

A funny incident occurred. A cheeky baboon sneaked up into an open window of a truck and snatched a bag of bananas from the sleeping driver. The poor guy woke up in shocked in jumped straight out from his truck. Next moment, the entire gang of baboons was heading towards him or more likely the bag of bananas. The poor guy still wanted to save his bananas so there was a little tug-a-war. Many people tried to help him but to no avail. In the end, there were many happy baboons eating bananas around us and an unhappy truck driver. [singlepic id=170 w=640 h=480 float=]

After getting clearance to enter the park, Duncan took us to our first sight of Ngorongoro Crater which we managed after a silent moment to word out, “WOW!”. There is no words nor pictures that can described the wonder we saw. It is indeed a mother nature’s wonder. [singlepic id=167 w=640 h=480 float=] [singlepic id=177 w=640 h=480 float=]

After that, we went to a picnic area for lunch. Here, we saw Marabu storks at a close range and they were ugly up close. They are huge birds. At first sight, I had mistaken them for blown up statues of an eagle-like bird. [singlepic id=169 w=640 h=480 float=]

I also had my first bush toilet experience. It was just a dark hole. Maybe for the better as I can’t see what’s in there…

Duncan handed us our lunch boxes. Although simple (Cheese sandwich, chicken drumstick, egg, banana, peanuts, chips), it was delicious. I guess the ambiance counts -view of the crater, bush toilet behind me and buffalo shit scattered around me. Priceless! [singlepic id=168 w=640 h=480 float=]

While I was eating, I felt being watched. Next moment, I saw a Kite bird diving towards me from the sky, heading for my chicken drumstick. No way I am sharing, so I leaped into the jeep just in time before the attack. Phew, what an adventurous lunch!

We continued our journey to Ndutu area to watch the great migration of the wildebeests and zebras. There were many breathtaking sceneries along the way. [singlepic id=176 w=640 h=480 float=]

There are about 1.5mio wildebeests and 300k zebras who make this annual migration together from Kenya. They go together in search of food and water. We saw so many wildebeests and zebras, as far as our eyes can see. They were mostly just grazing the grass or resting. It felt like being in a big big animal farm. Very calm and peaceful. We also saw a pack of wildebeest running in a line. Apparently this is how they migrate. Pretty amazing sight. (The horizon was dotted by them) [singlepic id=183 w=640 h=480 float=]

Some interesting insights about these travelling friends:
– Wildebeests and zebras eat different part of the grass so when entering a new area, the zebras will mow the lawn for the wildebeest to enjoy the juicy shoots.
– Wildebeests can “smell” water so it’s obviously useful to have friends who know how to sniff out places for a drink.
– Zebras have better eyesight and hearing so they can sense danger from predators quicker. They are also more careful travellers. It is also said that it helps for zebras to mingle with easier prey like the wildebeest.

Hah, that’s what friends are for!

There were also many graceful but shy Thomson gazelles. Lovely things! Couldn’t get any good pictures though as they kept running away. There were also many type of birds which I cannot recall the names anymore. Ah, we also saw some vultures devouring a deceased wildebeest.

Before heading off, we saw a family of giraffes grazing away. [singlepic id=179 w=640 h=480 float=]

Oh, one of the funniest creature we saw was the Dung beetle. The Dung beetles feed on the shit of the wildebeests. They roll new warm shit about until they find a safe place to bury and feast on it till it dries up. Out of curiosity, I read up later that the dung beetles improve nutrient recycling and soil structure, beside protecting other animals by improving standards of hygiene in nature. So indeed, every living creature has its own mission in life!

After another two hours of bumpy ride (@ African massage), we arrived at Sopa Lodge, our home for the next two nights. I was glad we chose this Lodge. To know why, read my review here.

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