Something a little different today
04.02.2020 - 04.02.2020
Lake Natron Camp
I slept reasonably well last night, despite someone's alarm going all through the night. The 'alarm', we are told, was a distressed nightjar!
Breakfast is good, with a Continental selection including peanut butter, followed by a cooked breakfast.
Before we leave the camp, I use the facilities near the mess tent – a compostable toilet with buckets of sand to cover up any excrement, yet there is modern 'luxuries' such as running water in the basin and individual terry towels neatly rolled up in a basket.
Ol Doinyo Lengai Volcano looks pretty this morning with her pink hat on.
Wishing our friends Lyn and Chris could have come with us on this safari, we took with us large photos of them and pretended they were here too, creating this photo for them.
It is time to head back to 'civilisation' again this morning. The roads have not improved any, that's for sure.
Our path is blocked by a giraffe again today.
Strange earth mounds appear on the side of the road.
You can quite clearly see the reason it got its name here
A large bird, this male is displaying the courtship ritual by inflating his throat, spreading the white frontal neck feathers outwards and raising his tail. All the while emitting a loud and powerful drum sound that can carry for several kilometres.
While we are watching the bustard, an inquisitive Lesser Masked Weaver comes to investigate what we are doing.
It is obviously the time of year when birds have making babies on their minds, as this pair of wheatear are at it too!
Chestnut Bellied Sandgrouse - today's first lifer
Eastern Chanting Goshawk, lifting one leg for thermoregulation.
Although not quite as loud as the Kori Bustard, the Goshawk seems to still have plenty to say.
White Throated Bee Eaters
This Kori Bustard seems to be more intent on looking for food rather than sex – could it be the female our previous mate was trying to impress?
Ostrich harem - one male five females. Good luck to him!
The hillside is ablaze with colour
We spook a zebra mummy and her young foal.
They soon settle down, though, joining a few others.
A couple of Maasai Warriors in their full regalia walk past in the field.
I find it interesting that the men are dressed in what appears to me to be their finest regalia, with brightly coloured shúkà (cloth), rungu (club) and spear, while just casually walking in a field.
Also, look at the length of the hair on the guy on the right. His long braids indicate that he is a moran, or warrior; a title achieved after an initiation rite when puberty is reached, involving circumcision (traditionally without anaesthetic), and spending time living in isolation in the bush, learning tribal customs and developing strength, courage, and endurance—traits for which Maasai warriors are noted throughout the world. During this time the young men will wear black and often have their faces painted with bold patterns. Historically a Maasai man should also have killed a lion single-handedly using only a spear to prove that he is worthy to be a moran; although that practice has been outlawed today.
Some 900,000 Maasai people are spread throughout Kenya and Tanzania, and although some of the younger generation have steered away from the nomadic life to positions in business commerce and government roles. During recent years, projects have been implemented to help Maasai tribal leaders find a way to preserve their traditions and way of life while also trying to balance the education needs of the Maasai children for the modern world.
The local bus service
It looks like we have another river to get across.
Dark Chanting Goshawk
White Breasted Bee Eater
We pass through the small town of Ngaruka again.
The roads are still pretty awful
Donkey Cart, AKA Maasai Landrover
The roads are affectionately referred to as “Free African Massage”.
Where did the road go?
Here it is. Or rather, was.
This looks like fun
It looks like they are finally trying to do something about some of the washed away areas of this road.
We stop and give them some bottles of water.
Goodness knows the could do with some improvement in many places along this route.
We pass a complete forest of cacti. I don't think I have ever seen that before.
Mto Wa Mbu
We are back in civilisation for the time being, having stopped in Mto Wa Mbu, a large-ish town on the main road from Arusha to Serengeti. The local name means Mosquito River, as a reference to the numerous insects that frequent this area. The only time we've ever stopped here previously, is to buy some little red bananas. This time we are partaking in a 'Cultural Walking Tour' of the plantations in the area. By now it is 12:00 and blistering hot; making me think of the old saying: “Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”. As I am not English, I must be the mad dog.
Water from the river is re-directed into canals to provide irrigation for plantations.
Mango tree. Unfortunately right now is not the season for harvesting – I love mango!
Crops are rotated three times a year, between, rice, corn and cassawa. Here they are clearing the fields ready for replanting rice.
It's a muddy job!
Rice plantations are started off in a dedicated seed bed, then transferred to their final growing area by hand. It's a labour intensive job.
It's back-breaking work. The ladies invite me to join them after we share a joke; much as I would love to for the fun of it, I have to decline – my back would not thank me for it.
Farmers often rent very small plots to grow just enough rice for their family and to maybe make a small amount of money.
Dried out corn husks will be used as animal fodder.
Taking it home for the cattle
Okra or Lady Fingers
Three days ago during the heavy rains, this complete area was flooded. We did notice that when we drove through, the sides of the road were under several inches of water.
Three main types of bananas are grown here: the green bananas used for cooking, which take 6 months to mature; the yellow bananas that we all eat take 9 months, while the sweeter red variety take the longest to be ready, at a year.
We are taken to a small local restaurant set in amongst the plantations, with a bamboo hut housing the kitchen and an open-sided covered area with chair and tables for the diners.
It's good to be out of the fierce sun
The food is served buffet style, with a number of dishes available.
From left to right, back row: fried green bananas, boiled potatoes, aubergine (eggplant). Front row: mixed beans and corn (maize), a green vegetable similar to spinach, ugali - a staple in Tanzanian homes, it is made from flour (millet, maize, sorghum or cassawa) boiled with water to make a stodgy mass. It is bland but filling and I like it with a sauce.
Back row, left to right: bean casserole, salad, beef stew. Bottom row, left to right: pilau rice, white rice and potatoes in a tomato sauce with green beans.
As we climb up into the Ngorongoro Highlands, we look down on Lake Manyara. Not only can we see that the lake has swollen way past its normal size; but also that it has turned red from soil washed down from the hills.
Arriving back at this lovely lodge is like coming home after a long trip. The staff are out in force to greet us, calling out: “Hello Grete, hello David, welcome back”.
This time we are in the room furthest away from the reception, and they provide us with a golf caddy to take us there.
On the front porch, a very nice message is spelled out in green beans!
With a couple of hours to spare, we debate whether to go for a swim, or sit on the balcony for a bit followed by a nap. The relaxation wins.
Towel art on the bed
We have an unobscured view of the valley below
Although the pool does look inviting, the balcony provides a very welcome breeze after the heat of the day, and we are delighted when we spot a pair of Verreaux's Eagles soaring over the Rift Valley – another lifer for us!
Always prepared for a great photo opportunity
We are the only guests in the restaurant this evening, and spend ages chatting to the chef, who appears to have worked all over southern Africa in some very high class establishments, including Palace of the Lost City (which this place reminds me of).
I have never before been served a samosa in a cocktail glass
A delightfully presented and beautifully tender rare fillet steak with a slightly spicy sauce.
While not actually on the menu this evening, the chef makes me another one of his better-than-sex-chocolate-fondants.
As before, there are chocolates on our pillow from the turnback service when we return to the room. Such a nice touch.
Thank you so much to Calabash Adventures for arranging this safari for us.