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Thursday 26 Feb 2009
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Ngorongoro crater

The crater lays out...
The crater lays out...

Up early for our tour of the crater. The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is essentially a huge area of flatland (8,288 km²) completely encircled by the steep sides of the caldera which are packed solid with lush rainforest. This creates an impassable wall that few animals can penetrate, thus "trapping" most of the species within the flatlands.

This results in a natural "zoo" as the park shelters a dense number of wildlife of all varieties, from elephants through zebra to lions and even flamingoes!

Maasai traffic jam
Maasai traffic jam

The road up through the jungle leading to the entrance to the crater is bumpy, muddy and sometimes extremely steep (which in our beaten-up jeep made for some worrying moments as we almost rolled back while struggling uphill!). We had a rather tense stand-off with a bunch of Maasai warriors/farmers as we climbed up one particular section. They were herding cattle up the middle of a small road, and due to the steepness of the section this caused a problem for our jeep which had to take a run at the hill at a fairly rapid speed to overcome it. Meanwhile, I and the Estonian couple had taken one or two photos of the situation as it unfolded. This is when I learned that Maasai really don't like photos taken of them (for free anyway), and one of them started knocking on my window asking for money. Simon, sensing the atmosphere, tells me to immediately lock my door and put up my window!

Maasai demanding money...
Maasai demanding money...

I found it rather amusing that they even spotted my tiny camera. I was sure they wouldn't notice me taking one or two more, but sure enough one of them pops up on the drivers side pointing at me and arguing loudly in Swahili to Simon. Meanwhile the guy on my left is still shouting at me in Swahili and I get the first glimpse of the huge rusty knife he has on his belt. I swear, if I had gone and tried to take another photo of that guy, I would have gotten a blade in the face. I even thought for a second that Simon was going to get knifed such was the feeling in the heated exchange. It was pretty intense.

The Maasai farmers had herded the cows into the center of the road to make them block our path further. Another jeep coming in the opposite direction was similarly surrounded by warriors incensed at having photos taken by the Muzongos inside. Simon decided to take action, and put the pedal to the metal, no doubt bumping into some of the cattle in front of us. The farmers had no choice but to let us pass. There was no way we were going to pay up for some crappy photos of their cows. It was ridiculous and I've never before been anywhere on the planet where people would demand money for photos. If anything I would normally OFFER money (e.g. photographing somebody making pottery), but never has it been demanded. Lesson learned anyway.

(apparently there is a Maasai village that you can visit on a safari where you are permitted to take as many photos as you like, but of course you need to pay up for the priveledge beforehand)

Like a natural zoo
Like a natural zoo

Zebra with baby
Zebra with baby

After that somewhat scary fiasco, we entered the crater itself and got a glimpse of the plethora of zebra and wildebeest in the very lush green landscape. It was like being in Ireland after a mass exodus of animals escaping from Dublin zoo! A world away from the Serengeti landscape.

It was a lovely day and we sat atop our jeep while wandering around the tracks. We saw a wildebeest that had just given birth, saw a huge flock of flamingoes in the distance. And also spotted two more cheetah that were in the process of hunting down a herd of zebra (unfortunately again we didn't see any hunting action though)

More cheetah!
More cheetah!

Sitting on roof of...
Sitting on roof of...

Great day and a lovely national park.

This was to be my final day on safari, the Estonian couple were continuing on for another 2 days, so we hooked up with another safari company and I jumped in their jeep as they were heading back to Arusha where I was going to meet up with Paul Shayo again.

Shared the jeep with a Canadian bloke who is working in Saudi Arabia so we had an interesting conversation about how things are different now to when I was there (apparently it's a LOT stricter than when I lived there in the 80s).

Got to Arusha, met up with Paul, then got a lift back in his jeep with quite possibly the most dangerous driver I've been with for a long time (Tanzanians are crazy drivers when the sun goes down!) overtaking on hills and corners, braking suddenly, almost killing several cyclists.. the list goes on. Finally getting back to Moshi we sat down for a few beers before I headed back to Kindaroko hotel for a REAL bed (at this stage I was SO sick of tents and camping and wet wipes after 10 days of it... I was going for luxury from now on baby!)

Incidentally, while having the beers in Moshi, I got my first mozzie bites in Tanzania! I assumed at this stage I would have been covered in them, being Africa and all, but I was extremely surprised at how few flies and mosquitos there were in Tanzania (and later Ethiopia) when compared to a country like Australia which seems to have an epidemic!

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I bless the rains down in Africa

Travel blog by peterforan

Day 3  ... Lookin forward to Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro

Day 3 ... Lookin forward to Uhuru peak, Kilimanjaro


With Toto's defining tune ringing in my head, I don khaki pants and venture full-throttle into Africa! Elephants, lions, huge mountains, men with spears intent on stabbing me (probably) and the "Cradle of Humanity" (tm)... 4 weeks ain't gonna be enough!

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    Maasai demanding money for photos
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    Maasai traffic jam
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    Maasai traffic jam
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    Maasai traffic jam

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