13 July 2013 – Day 20
I had my first night on my new “mattress”, a kind parting gift from Stebbs. If you recall the earlier “roll mat” incident (where my roll mat got lost somewhere during the journey from Birmingham to Nairobi via Amsterdam), I had to buy a new roll mat from the local supermarket, Nakumatt. Stebbs had found herself without a roll mat too but instead of buying a mat made of thin foam and the cries of many uncomfortable campers she bought a thick foam child’s mattress. Since this was going to be a difficult thing to transport back to the UK, I was lucky enough to inherit it. I no longer had to worry about waking up with a numb arm or with my shoulder digging into the “cold hard ground”, as Becky’s idol Taylor Swift would say.
We got a later start that morning while we waited for the new passengers to have their induction to the truck and truck life. Once that was done, we piled onto the truck for the drive into Tanzania and onto Arusha.
Due to a weight limit issue at the border (in that with all our new passengers we were over the weight limit allowed at the weigh station), the “oldies” were given the task of walking across the border and pretending we didn’t know anyone else from the trip. Joe kindly gave the directions to a chapatti restaurant a few hundred yards across the border where we could wait to be picked up (and get breakfast at the same time). Personally I was really looking forward to this reward for yet another successful border crossing, but sadly we never got that far. It turned out that the chapatti place wasn’t there anymore, a fact which became apparent when we reached the end of the row of shops and hit a dusty track leading off into the distance.
There was little shade and we had left all our water on the truck so we hurried inside a roadside bar to get out of the heat and find water and toilets (though from what I heard, “toilets” wasn’t the right word for the facilities the others found, but we were used to that by now). We stationed a psychedelic tie-dye t-shirt-adorned Luis on the side of the road to act as a sign-post to the truck so they could find us and the rest of us amused ourselves with trying to through stones into a column of old tyres, much to the chagrin of a Masaai man who walked past us and gave us a glare. Oops.
Eventually we were picked up and we set off on the road again. What was only supposed to be a 7-8 hour drive ended up being our longest drive day to date, taking almost 12 hours. When we arrived into our first camp of Tanzania (famous overland haven Snake Park), it was late and we were hungry. Tents were set up in the dark and food was quickly thrown together.
The sky that night was truly one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Being so far away from light and other forms of pollution, the nights in Africa are dark indeed. With the milky way stretched above me like a roof of diamonds, I was sorely tempted to just stand there craning my neck up and watch for shooting stars all night. Sadly we had an early start the next morning so that was very much short-lived.
14 July 2013 – Day 21
It was an early start the next morning to pack for our 3 day safari into the Serengeti and surrounding parks and we piled into three safari jeeps. It was a couple of hours drive until we reached our first park, Lake Manyara. During the drive, there was plenty of singing to songs from the Lion King, as was to be expected. The Serengeti is famous for its perfect savannah landscapes as became well-known in the Lion King.
As always, the first glimpse of wildlife we saw came in the forms of baboons, though luckily this time none of them decided to climb in the jeep with us! They did, however, manage to steal some marshmallows from one of the empty jeeps while we had a toilet stop. Cheeky monkeys…
We were lucky enough to see lots of elephants, thus already completing our Big Five collection (lion, leopard, rhino, water buffalo, elephant). We stopped for lunch at a viewpoint and took in the beautiful weather and scenery.