Steve and I woke up early to knock out what Matty O refers to as a “prison style work out”. The reference is to calisthenics that can be done in a small space. This is not to be confused with prison style showers.
Kili Day 2
Ngorongoro is, along with the Serengeti and Mount Kilimanjaro, three of the 8 wonders of Africa. These three being located within ,or partly within, Tanzania. It got it’s name from the sound made by cowbells, which, according to our trusted driver, Isaac, was the first thing heard by the folks who named it. Apparently, the local who lived here before that made cowbells. That’s what I’m told.
Millions of years ago, Ngorongoro was a sizable mountain, even taller than Kilimanjaro. A violent eruption blew off the top, and left the massive crater we see today. Measuring 12 x 11 miles, it’s kind of a big deal. The view from the top of the rim was breathtaking. Not a bad way to wake up in the morning. Isaac took us down the inner slope of the crater for the morning safari, and it didn’t take long before we were right up next to wildebeests and zebras. Isaac says they often travel together since the Wildebeests see well, and the zebras smell well.
So they combine these superpowers to keep track of lions and leopards. The zebras also graze off the tops of the grasses, with the wildebeests coming in behind them to munch on the shorter vegetation. It’s possible I got that I mixed up, but you get the point.
Warthogs, gazelle, impala, jackals, hyenas, ground birds, flamingos, and more were all around. Cool as those things were, we were hungry to find some of the “Big Five”, Lions, Rhinos, Elephants, Cape Buffalo, and Leopards. We hit pay dirt with an up close view of a male and female lion mating.
Natalie captured this priceless photo of the amorous couple, prompting a multitude of compliments from fellow travelers.
We stopped for breakfast in the crater by Hippo paradise. Though we were strictly forbidden to exit the vehicle on the safari, for some reason, we were cut loose to frolic in the grass and picnic along the water’s edge, while a quarter mile away, lions were doing it. But whatever, I was eager to stretch my legs and . . . frolic.
The hippos didn’t seem to mind us ogling 20 yard away from the shore. Though, it is my understanding that they are the most dangerous animal in Africa, killing more people than all other animals, including the big cats, crocodiles, and poisonous snakes. I edged as close to the water as I could without falling in. It wasn’t every day that I could be this close to a hippo in the wild. Anyway, I sized up my fellow gawkers, and figured I could outrun at least a few of them, so I wasn’t too worried.
After breakfast we made our way out of the crater for lunch at the hotel, and then on to the Serengeti for more Safari. The incredible size of the Serengeti plains and the 2.5 million wildebeest occupying it was awe-inspiring. We had already seen 4 of the 5 “Big Five”, but the elusive leopard was still nowhere to be seen. We got up close and personal with a giraffe when word on the CB was that a Leopard couple was spotted in a tree, getting affectionate. We made a desperate dash for the spot, but alas, no leopards were found.
We arrived at our hotel in the Serengeti wind blown and sun-soaked. We were handed moist, white towels to wipe down. When I handed mine back, it was brown. The hotel is amazing. The rooms are individual huts spread around the property. They are built to look like the Masaai clay huts, but they are spacious and beautiful inside and out. We gathered in the reception area for an orientation by the hotel manager. The primary purpose of the meeting was to discuss the most important rule, do NOT walk around by yourself between sunset and sunrise. If you want to leave your room, dial 2 on the phone, and a nice man with an AK-47 will come escort you to your destination. While this made for endless jokes about calling for an “escort” to keep you company at night, the danger is no joke. Leopards are all around looking for a snack, and Cape buffalo are just angry and mean.
4:45am departure this morning. We need to be at the hot air balloons early, before the winds pick up. Even with the rough roads, all the driving keeps putting me to sleep during the day, and I can’t seem to acclimate to the time difference, which is 10 hours ahead of Boulder. It’s like being on a string of night shifts, which generally makes me psychotic, homicidal, or both by the third night. I got about two hours of sleep tonight. I feel fine, but I’m a little worried that it will catch up to me on the mountain. I brought 7 different antibiotics, and a whole pharmacy of other meds, but I forgot to pack the melatonin. I need to find a way to get some real sleep tonight. We start climbing tomorrow.
More to come.