Meeting our Tanzanian 'family'.
02.02.2020 - 02.02.2020
We took breakfast in the hotel this morning, but for lunch we have the first of many picnic boxes we will enjoy on this trip. We climb to the top of a small hill where picnic tables have been arranged overlooking Big Momella Lake.
We are joined for lunch by this damselfly.
And a Speckled Mousebird, trying its best to hide behind a thin branch.
They may be 'just a chicken', but their babies are cute – a family of guineafowl attempt to cross a muddy path.
Some of you will already know the story behind the 'just a chicken' comment: many years ago in a vehicle in Sikkim, India, David exclaims: “Oh look, a colourful bird!” With more than a hint of disdain in his voice, the driver replies: “It's a chicken!” Malisa has cottoned on to the joke (as did Lyn and Chris when they travelled with us a couple of times on safari) and every time we see a guineafowl, at least one of us makes this 'joke'.
As I mentioned in yesterday's post, one of the main reasons for visiting Arusha National Park on this trip, is to see the flamingos that spend part of the year on Big Momella Lake.
Normally at this time of year they will mostly have flown to Lake Natron (where we are going tomorrow), but because of the recent heavy rains, the vast majority of them are still here.
I love how each of these bovine animals have a completely different look and personality!
A band of mongooses frolic in the grass. The collective noun for these animals is band; and the plural of mongoose is mongooses, not mongeese.
You looking at me?
Look at those claws! Her nails are longer than mine. Just right for digging out termites.
Who knew mongooses liked dust baths?
More and more join them.
As we make our way towards the park gate, we see our injured waterbuck again; apparently lying down to die. It is always sad when nature takes its course like that, but there is nothing we, as visitors to their domain, can, or should, do.
We consider Malisa almost as an adopted son, and he calls us Mama and Papa. Today we get the opportunity to meet his family for the first time while visiting his house.
We are made to feel very welcome, offered refreshments and given gifts and lots of hugs.
The track leading to and from Malisa's house is more like a river than a road.
At Mto Wa Mbu we once again leave our comfortable ride behind and head off down another dirt track towards our accommodation for the night.
On arrival at the lodge, we are greeted by an army of helpers who take every piece of luggage we remove from the car; we are not allowed to carry anything! A few staff sing and dance for us, and adorn us with a traditional Maasai necklace.
The lodge is fairly large, with 49 rooms spread around sprawling grounds, perched on a cliff overlooking The Great Rift Valley.
Sculptures in the grounds
The pool with the Rift Valley beyond
The palatial lobby sports high ceilings and grandiose furniture; much like Palace of the Lost City in Sun City (South Africa) – the only six star hotel we have ever stayed in.
The reception has a life size sculpture of an elephant; another similarity to The Lost City.
After a welcome drink and paperwork formalities where we are introduced to Lilian, 'who will be looking after us during our stay' (a bit like having our very own butler-esse), we are shown to our very impressive room.
I do like my mosquito nets to be away from the bed at night, for two reasons: I have been known to wake up in the morning with my knuckles covered in insect bites where my hand has been resting against the net overnight; and I so hate to have to fight with the net before I can even put my feet on the floor when I get up to use the bathroom in the night. This room has got it right, with a good foot on all sides of the bed (the net pulls around the canopy above the bed), and even the bedside tables are inside it - another pet hate of mine is having to find the opening of the net if I want to have a drink in the night.
There is a comfortable armchair and foot rest in the room too, which we have filled up with some of all our stuff, as well as a chaise longue . A fireplace offers warmth on a chilly evening and beyond that you can see the double (!) shower unit! That is a first for us!
Double hand basins, naturally.
Every comfort has been thought of – there is also an outdoor shower should you prefer to shower in the fresh air - which is something I love, especially in the rain – there is nothing quite like standing under the African sky, with the hot shower mixing with the cool rain. But on this occasion we take a shower side by side in the bathroom. It certainly speeds things up, leaving more time for a pre-dinner drink on the balcony.
The spacious balcony wraps around two sides of the room, with great views over the valley beyond. It is furnished with a circular day bed, two wicker chair plus a table, and a hanging egg chair.
The entire wall of the bedroom is made up of sliding doors, giving the impression when open that the balcony is very much part of the room. I love it!
We reluctantly tear ourselves away from the luxurious room to wander up to the restaurant for something to eat.
Lilian, our 'personal assistant' is there with the menu. There are four other tables occupied, and a plethora of staff milling around. The service is professional, yet very personal, with Lilian and the waiting staff using our first names at every opportunity.
'Design your own salad' for starter, with a choice from tomato, bell peppers, carrots, onion, black olives and cheese. All drizzled with a tasty 'chef's dressing'.
The menu shows a choice of main courses, or so we think. It turns out that we get all of it: beef fillet stir fry, pan roasted king fish in a Swahili sauce, and chicken rubbed with mild mustard and herbs. Three waitresses walk around the table at the same time serving us both simultaneously from platters. The meats are accompanied by a potato and chick pea curry, roasted herb potatoes and Swahili chapatis.
Dessert is a choice of fruit custard or chocolate fondant, and the latter is to die for. It comes out as a bit of a dull-looking pudding, but once I cut into it and the melted chocolate starts oozing out... O.M.G.
The chef later takes a walk around the tables, and we see him chuckling to himself as he meanders back to the kitchen after I tell him the dessert was “better than sex”.
Back in the room we enjoy a glass of Amarula and Captain and Coke on the balcony before going to bed.
While we were at dinner, staff have been in to perform turn-back service, leaving us a couple of little chocolates on a dish, with the message: "La la salama", which means "sleep well" in Swahili. While turn-back service is fairly common in higher class establishment, providing chocolate as part of it is not so prevalent these days. Last time we experienced that was when we were in Tanzania with Lyn and Chris in 2018, staying at the Ole Serai in Serengeti. We later learn that this hotel is part of the same chain.
Thank you Tillya of Calabash Adventures for booking us in to this amazing lodge, as well as arranging our seventh safari in Tanzania.