More pictures later, let me tell you about the safari.
Okay, so Arusha is where all the safaris are booked from. Before we left for Lushoto, we got some good recommendations (and some forced recommendations of course. If I go on a recommended safari, the recommender gets a kick-back. Everyone seems to know a brother or cousin or best friend - "very good, very nice man" - in the safari business, some reputable, some expensive, some swindlers.) In the end we took Mohammed's link. He's the coordinator here, and even though everyone think he's siphoning all the money to live a luxurious life while all the workers live on nothing, we figured if the safari guide he told us was a scoundrel, he'd get fired or something. Anyway, we called the guy from a payphone in Lushoto so he could pick us up from the bus station. The Arusha bus station is notoriously scary. Lots of people trying to get you into scams. We saw the chaos outside the bus and got terrified. As I was stepping down the steps (the steps on the busses are for some reason really really steep) I saw this man looking at me with my name on a sign. When I smiled at him with a "it's me, I'm so glad you're here to save me" smile, he grinned like a 10-year-old. Juseph, what a nice man.
We had a bit of a scare after we booked the safari and had to pay for it. You see my debit card was cancelled because I thought I lost the card. Wells Fargo (I HATE THEM) still hasn't sent the replacement to my home, and therefore I have no access to money. I brought some cash and some travellers checks, but not enough for the safari. After running around town trying different ways to pay, in the end I had my mom deposit all my money into Jenny's account.
After booking, we went to the hotel where they booked us. It was a little pricey for us ($20 a night!) but we had to stay there. It was a pretty sweet hotel. It had a little TV so I was glued to CNN for a good hour. Did you know there was a huge earthquake in Pakistan? Go figure. Also, we counted and the hot shower at this hotel was the 4th we had in 6 weeks. One the day we got to Tanzania in the capital, Two one weekend in Peponi (they were salt water though, if that counts) and the 4th that night. It was amazing! Except for that the water didn't drain very well so every few minutes you had to turn the shower off and wait. The 5th and 6th hot showers I've had ended up being at the campsite we stayed at during the safari one night and a bucket shower at the (much less pricey at $7 a night) hotel we stayed at upon our return. Oooh how I love hot showers!
Oh, I forgot to mention that while we were in Lushoto, my camera fell and landed on the lens. Yes, the camera I bought two days before I left specifically for my safari broke two days before the safari. Luckily, Arusha is such a tourist town that they expect things like this. So I dropped the camera off with a nice looking Indian fellow at a repair shop. He said it didn't look good, come back tomorrow. I'm leaving on safari tomorrow!! I cried. Well, come in early before you leave. If it's fixed you can take it, if not you can pick it up when you get back. Well crap. Luckily, my photo card fit into Jenny's digital camera so all wasn't lost. Good thing we're together about 24 hours a day!
So we woke up Tuesday morning, checked the camera shop (not ready, he said solemnly, but I think I can fix it). And headed out in our monster Land Cruiser. First stop, Lake Manyara.
I'm convinced that the Lion King was based from the area between Lake Manyara and Tarangire. I saw all the landmarks... except for Pride Rock. But of course that wouldn't be on the main road. Mufasa would want to keep it private!
Lake Manyara was very green and foresty. The guide books say that this is cool because even though you don't see masses of animals, it is much more striking because when you do see them, it is very personal as they jump out of trees and across the road. This is very true. We almost hit the giraffe. We had an upclose look at an elephant bathing party, we watched two lionesses amble around so close I could see them breath. The entire day was a string of "Holy crap!" and "gimme the camera.... quick... oh my gosh. oh my gosh." shreik! Maybe it was just because it was the first day and I was still trying to cope with the fact that I was actually there.
The campsite we stayed at was on this cliff. We had tents with cots in them almost right on the edge. Phenomenal view. Overlooking the pride land. I expected the food to be, well, camping food, but it was actually quite delicious. Our cook, Hamadi, made zuccini soup, rice and this yummy beef curry stuff. They even had hot chocolate mix on the table so I could drink while we were waiting!
Wednesday morning was FREEZING. I forgot what it felt like to be this cold. Tanga is so freaking hot that we didn't pack any warm clothes. I ended up wearing 3 shirts, my pants, my hat and a kanga (wrap/sarong thing) wrapped around me. We headed for the Ngorongoro crater and were completely fogged out. Our windshield wipers didn't work so we were driving about 3 miles an hour and every 10 minutes or so the driver (Absa. Nicest man ever) would water down the windshield so we could see. We slowly slowly made our way down the rim of the crater, and once we go there, it was completely blue skies. No idea how that worked out.
Ngorongoro was very cool, but for totally different reasons as Lake Manyara. Everything here was plains, so you could see animals all over the place. According to the guide books, the animals can't get out of the crater (too steep) and have their very own ecosystem within in. No migration, which is odd for these animals. There were SO many zebras and wildebeest. It was unreal. This is also where we saw the male lions, suspiciously eyeing a group of zebra looking to invade their water pond. You could sense here that, even though there were tons of safari cars pounding through the park, animal life went on as normal. I saw lots of little animals like hyena and flocks of flamingo. No rhino though, unfortunately.
That night at the camp, some traditional dancers came in and did some traditional Maasai dancing for all the campers. Lots of drums and bouncing. It was very cool. One guy looked like a black Quentin Bell, it was weird. Great music, very fun.
Our last day was Tarangire park. This was very different than the first two parks. This park, you could tell, was best seen right after the rainy season. It had lots of fields for grazing. It is now right before the rainy season, so most everything was dead. This meant we didn't see much grazing. It might have been cooler though, because there were lots of animals crowded near the water holes. The coolest by far was a stampede of wildebeest akin to that caused by the three hyenas in the Lion King. We were watching some elephants again (my favorites), giggling as they flopped in the water, when literally probably 300 wildebeest thundered down this hill and flooded the river. We got it on video!