Not all those who wander are lost - but I'll be disappointed if I don't get lost frequently!

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Snake Park

Today is the first day of the new leg of the trip, and four new people have joined us: Calum (Brit), Clare (Kiwi), Charity (Saffa) and Daniel (American). Calum seems to be off to a good start already - they had their pre-departure talk at 8am this morning, and I got Calum out of bed at 7.57am, and he was supposed to be fully packed and ready to go. I wonder how he'll cope with all our real early starts? We discovered that an important key had been lost, so a padlock needed to be cut off! Tom seems to be getting the blame for losing it, but he's adamant he gave it to someone else. Sure thing, Tom! Anyway, it was an interesting first morning for the new four joining us.

Then it was finally time to wave goodbye to Vicki, Amy and James as we pulled out of Karen Camp to continue our adventures. We shall meet again (Amy and James, we'll see you in a few days in Arusha!)

Similar to when we left for the gorilla loop, we headed straight for Karen shops. We have new cook groups, and Will, Dave and I will be the first cook group up. That suits us fine, as we've been asked to cook spag bol, a very easy meal to prepare for twenty+ people. Tomorrow we go on our three day safari into Lake Manyara NP, Ngorongoro Crater and the Serengeti, so we also bought lunch stuff. It was the first time that Dave and I had to do cook group shop, as every other time Malcolm had already bought ingredients for us. Will couldn't believe how easy we've had it so far. We've never had to make breakfast or lunch before, either. Here's to new experiences!

The heavy rain had made a lot of the roads resemble rivers, causing very heavy traffic and lots of idling about, with the truck going nowhere. In the end, it took over two hours to get out of Nairobi. I was up on the beach for a change, and while up there, Tom got a message from Amy saying that she and James were a few cars ahead of us in the jam. It obviously hadn't sunk into my head that they'd left the trip, as at first I wondered why they'd gotten off the truck and were walking ahead.... Then it hie me: 'Ooohhhh, they're in a taxi, they're not with us any more!'

We drove south across the border into Tanzania, where we drove through he Maasai plains heading towards Arusha. Julia, while taking photos of the people and scenery as we passed, got the local police a bit angry when she took a picture of them and their police hut (she didn't realise what it was until the angry policeman came out, stopped the truck and then yelled at her about taking pictures). Oops. But no harm done, as she apologised and said she had deleted the photo. Luckily, she didn't get the camera confiscated!

We saw lots of Maasai people on the drive to Arusha, dressed in their red, checked cloth. Their traditional dress makes them quite distinctive from any other people that we've come across so far - most people we've seen have been wearing some form of western clothing (often mismatched, patched and worn, as they can't afford to worry about making sure they are up with the latest fashions). Still semi-nomadic pastoralists, the Maasai follow their herds of cattle through the plains. A very interesting people, although it seems that most of the ones we met along the road today are used to tourists driving past, as they were gesturing to be paid for any pictures taken of them.

As the afternoon wore on, everyone started looking for Mount Kilimanjaro. Every mountain rising out of the plains became the famous peak. I'd had a quiet word with Grace and Malcolm at the border post, and found out that Kili would be out the left hand window, so I found a good pozzie and waited. After a few calls of 'Is that it?', Canadian Dave pointed out to me a faint mountain shape in the distance, shrouded in cloud. Turns out, that was Kili! Not so impressive, but then again, we were about 100 kilometres away. Next time I come to Africa, I'd like to see it up close on a cloudless day. Maybe even climb it?!

Several hours behind schedule thanks to the Nairobi traffic (Malcolm revealed that we almost had to turn around and stay in Nairobi another night, that's how far behind schedule we were getting) for the first time on the trip we were still driving come nightfall. We drove through Arusha in the dark, with the beach packed with about 8 of us playing Presidents and Arseholes, our headlamps lighting the cards as we struggled to hold power or work our way up the P&A ladder. Headlamps are invaluable on a trip like this, not just for practical stuff like seeing your way from the tent to the loos in the dark, but for social activities such as card games at night. The guys always got a kick out of the girls leaving the torches on while they dangled around our necks, conveniently lighting up any cleavage showing.

Unlike Vicki, who had deserted me to go back to the real world and her job, Bolinger and I stuck together for the new leg of the trip. We did, however, inherit a new tent buddy - Mel. She had also been abandoned by her gorilla loop tent buddy. Mel and I set up the tent in the dark on the only flat bit of ground we could find near the truck, then I headed off to make dinner with my cook group. We were speed demons and managed to have it all ready, including garlic bread, within an hour. That's record time, and I think everyone appreciated the food getting out quickly, seeing as how late it was getting.

Jozi's base while the rest of us head off on safari to the Serengeti, and our camp site tonight is called Snake Park. It's called Snake Park for very obvious and slightly scary reasons - there are a whole lot of snakes here (plus some crocodiles)! The owners of the Park keep a wide variety of very poisonous, deadly, and in one case, human-consuming snakes. Most other people had checked out these slithery specimens while we were cooking dinner, but our trip zookeeper took our cook group around for a tour. There is definitely something creepy and unlovable about snakes, and I've never really understood those people who keep them as pets. However much I don't like them, at least I can handle walking past and looking at them in their glass enclosures, unlike one of our Oasis group, who was led around past the snakes with tears streaming down her face, hands covering her eyes in absolute terror. This person shall remain nameless.

After the excitement of the snakes, we had a beer at the camp bar and had a chance to meet out newest member, who joined us in Arusha that evening after climbing Kili. A 1am bedtime means I won't be getting much beauty sleep before a very early start on tomorrow's safari. But, BRING IT ON!!

What a beautiful welcome to Tanzania.

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