Tuesday, 2 September 2014

A quick detour to Ngorongoro Crater..

A two day holiday from visiting projects...

As my bus went right past Ngorongoro Crater I thought it would be foolish not to stop.  The bus was to drop me at Rhino junction, inside the National Park.  Even though it was only a short walk to the lodge I was told this was very dangerous and I must be met there.  So I arranged with the lodge that I would phone them when the bus went past the viewpoint and they would come and meet me at the junction.

As we climbed up to the crater rim it became very foggy.  The bus was incredibly crowded ad the windows so dusty it was very hard to see you, particularly from my seat three in from either side.  However I caught a glimpse of some parked safari vehicles and guessed we were at the viewpoint and had better phone, only to find I had no mobile reception.  I had visions of stumbling across a
lion in the mist, but luckily Steven, the lodge's driver was patiently waiting at the junction.

When the mist cleared I went for a walk along the crater rim with an armed ranger, Maxwell.  I assumed the gun was probably only for show so asked him if he ever used it.  "All the time," he asserted, usually to frighten off belligerent buffalo, but last year he had to kill a pride of six lions after they had eaten three Masai children.  After lions have tasted human flesh they have to be shot before they kill again, he explained.

We walked past Masai children of six years old herding huge herds of goats, including one carrying a baby goat they had helped deliver that day.  We then came across a group of three Masai boys with white paint on their faces.  They seemed almost as interested in me as I was in them.  Maxwell explained their markings signified they had been circumcised last week and they now had to spend eight months living independently away from the village.  When they returned they would be recognised as men.  They were between 8 and 13 years old.  None of them was now in school, two of them had never been as their parents had refused to let them go.  They said they were sad about this, but had had no choice.

They were then joined by four more boys with markings and one without.
He was unable to get circumcised because his father did not have a cow to slaughter.  When the boys are cut they bleed, and have to replace the blood they lose by drinking cattle blood.  Not being circumcised means he will be unable to marry.  I asked about the girls, and Maxwell said although they don't admit FGM goes on any more, they still do it secretly.

The next morning I set off with Steven before dawn down into the crater.  As we descended we left the cloud behind and the huge expanse of the crater appeared with an enormous white salt flat from an evaporated lake at its centre.

We saw lions asleep, right by the road.  They looked very settled, but Steven warned me not to put my head out of the window as they can pounce very suddenly.

We followed a hippo doggedly walking half a mile to a watering hole.
 It's unuusal to see them out of the water during the day.  At the water hole there were 40 more soaking themselves, and occasionally rolling over to expose their pink bellies.  A flock of storks landed in a line and
dived for fish in coordinated, balletic movements.

I had wanted to see elephants, but maybe not
as close as we did.  An enormous belligerent bull elephant didn't like us in his territory and forced us to reverse away quickly.

I wouldn't say the buffalo looked very friendly either.  They kill the most people of any wild animal, followed by hippo and elephants.

Suddenly the grazing zebra seemed spooked.  A pack of 15 hyenas were circling, looking for a sick, injured or young member to take down.  The zebra made desperate whinnying noises to warn each other of the danger.

The following morning the same bus picked me up from the junction and we drove 7 hours across the Serengeti along bone shaker roads, stopping at Masai villages to pick yet more people up to stand in the aisle with their goats.  I was amazed how many animals we saw racing through, including two lions at the side of the road and a hyena right in the middle, refusing to move.

Finally, covered in dust, I arrived in Mugumu, site of the Safe House, to meet Rhobi at last.


  1. I remember my visit there in 1990 - it made an enormous inpression on me, especially the large Hippo at the "lunch break" water hole and the flocks of flamingos. It was the 'cold season' and a lot of animals had gone across to the Serengeti we were told, but it is an amazing place. Glad you safely to meet Mama Rhobi. I know you will have a wonderful week with her !! Enjoy

  2. oooh what an amazing place it is......I hope I will see TZ again soon. I am enjoying your blog!