Serengeti splendour …….

Day 55 –

L: So that was a surprise……a good night’s sleep and warm showers even with the camp full of the young Brits. What a pleasure. I was so impressed with the cleanliness in the bathrooms and the grounds of Maasai Camp in Arusha, that we stopped off at reception so that I could leave the manager a note to say thank you.

S: We left fairly early as we needed to get to the Exim Bank to get a card to use in the Serengeti area which you load with the amount of dollars that you think you will be using as it is not refundable. You are only permitted a Master Card, which we don’t have and may not use any cash for entrance, park fees or accommodation. It does not sit well with us and we are sure many other people aren’t happy about it, as you are bound to lose money in the deal as it is guess work. It took quite a while, but finally we were sorted. To get into the Ngorongoro Park, we have to make a deposit at this bank and then take the deposit slip and present it at the office near the park in Karatu to get a temporary entrance card. We have now chosen not to go into the Ngorongoro Crater as it is an additional USD200 to get in to the crater. To get to the Serengeti, you still have to transit through the Ngorongoro Park and still pay the entrance fee of USD50 per person plus USD40 for the vehicle. So in total we paid USD360 to drive through the Ngorongoro Park into the Serengeti, camp for one night and then drive out of the Serengeti Park all in 24 hours or you will be charged for another day!!!!! Extortion?

L: Now to find Peace Matunda Orphanage and School. After a few circles and a couple more calls to Jackie for directions, we climbed the steep road and arrived.

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Jackie, the project co-ordinator met us and showed us all over the place and gratefully accepted our whole pile of blankets (thanks again to Dalene, Ruth, Annari, Linda and many more back home for the wools etc).

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The little children in each classroom, stand up when you enter and say a greeting in Swahili, then in English “Good morning, our visitors”. They are such darlings. We saw children from age 4 to about 10 years of age. The school is poor, but neat and clean and the kitchen is spotless with an enormous pot on the fire cooking lunch for all of the children and staff. We also met a volunteer, Claudia from Germany who asked after Matthew.

We took photos of all the children in the classes that we saw. We noticed that each child was wearing a cap or beanie and then realised that most of the windows don’t have glass in them so they get very cold during their lessons. They are in need of funding to complete all their buildings. The children start school at 7.30 am and finish lessons at 4pm – a really long day. They do sports on Fridays too. There is a well-stocked library too.

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We were shown around the dormitories for the orphaned children which are fairly nice though not plush. One strange feature is that the dorms have a shower and toilet and wash basin in the bedrooms, not sure if that is ideal due to possible damp. The children have to do all their clothing washing by hand themselves.

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S: The founder, Kaaya, runs safaris to help fund the school and orphanage and they rely on donations too. Another project that they have started is a campsite which we also went to see which is beautifully grassed and the ablutions are completed. A restaurant is currently being built too.

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L: At the end of our tour, I asked Jackie about a little boy that was sitting just inside the entrance to the grounds. She said that he has a brother in the orphanage and comes to try to see him every day and waits in the garden for the chance to talk to him. I asked his name and she had to ask him. Little Charlee melted our hearts. He lives with relatives so is separated from his brother, but misses him so much. We persuaded him to sit with us for a photo. He was a bit unsure, but soon allowed me to hold him………..

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We left a while later and continued back into town to get a few provisions. What chaos those town roads are, Steve was so stressed (he has been feeling a bit out of sorts today) with all the taxis pushing you out of the way and motorbikes making their way down each side of you to swerve in front. They find a gap that you do not know exists and when you see a red light flash in front of you, you are so surprised as it is a rare thing for a brake light to work on a taxi.

Finally we found a mini supermarket and I found a few of the things that we needed, but put the bacon and “beef” bacon back when I realised that each pack cost over R100, which is about, get this, R400/kg, now those are pricey pigs!! Steve, meanwhile was being persuaded to pay for the parking directly outside the shop while sitting in the car. I quizzed the shop-assistant about it and she said that he was trying his luck, as did a guy outside the bank. After that, a woman came to thank me, she had paid parking each time she came and today was the last time she would be suckered. Everyone wants something from you or is trying to get you to buy a necklace or some other trinket and it can wear on you.

Finally, we were able to get going to drive the 211 kms to Karatu. We started out bundu-bashing (thanks to the GPS), but soon came to a road in really good nick so it was a pleasure to drive at a fair pace except when going through the settlements, as then it is back to 50 or, in some cases, 30.

There is a breathtaking view of lovely lake Manyara that greets you at the top of a very steep hill just before Karatu. We stopped briefly and marveled at all the flamingos in the distance.

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The landscape was beautiful as we approached the town of Karatu and we were greeted by the very strange sight of scores of stork, I think Maribou storks standing straight up on top of so many of the tall trees lining the main road. We were looking for Bougainvillea Lodge to get our entrance card for the park and just could not find it.

S: I decided to proceed to our proposed end destination, Kudu Lodge to see about a campsite and ask there for directions. We were both flabbergasted when we were quoted USD20 per person to camp and asked if they could offer us a discount as most places charge 10 dollars. The assistant made a show of calling his boss and agreed on 15 dollars each. We were told that there were lovely clean toilets and hot showers and grass and that we should go and see. We got some vague directions back into town to find our card and drove down to look at the campsite. L: Gold-plated they are not and when the cleaner asked what I thought of the bathrooms, I took him into the shower to show him how the water was still above the drain and told him he needed to use a plunger.

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S: We set off back into town and after several attempts found that the office was not at the Bougainvillea Lodge (priced at USD200 per person), but in fact, at another little office round the corner where we stopped to ask for directions in the first place!! and they were bolting the doors…….No amount of pleading from Lesley was going to get them open. Oh dear, we were just going to have to come back in the morning.

L: We stopped at Sundowner campsite to see what that was like. I am afraid the sun has not risen on that place in a looooong time. The bathrooms were out-houses, tucked at the back of a goat-field which doubled as the campsite with two mangey dogs in residence, ugh. The price was only 10 dollars each though. So we went back to Kudu and paid the reduced price of 15 dollars each.

S: We had decided on a pasta as we were so late and also I had finished my Moz charcoal so Lesley got cracking on that while I set up camp and zipped and flipped. After we ate, Lesley went to explore and follow the cheerful birds and discovered the lodge swimming pool that each camper has to pay $10 a day to use, really? Oh, and the lodge adds 6 % on to the bill if you use a card to pay, this seems to be the norm up Africa.

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L: We had a small party of over landers camping nearby for the night, but they were really quiet.

Day 56 –

L: Happy Birthday, dear Nicole (our eldest daughter). We had arranged with Heather that she would be at Nicole in the morning and we would call and wish Nicole and tell her that her present was outside. Nicole was very sleepy when we called, but was thrilled when she discovered sissie on the doorstep with cupcakes, presents and cards. We hope that it made up a little for us not being there to celebrate with her.

S: We were up early, but we were both not well-rested as there had been a lot of noise in and around the campsite, though not from the overlanders until they started cooking and packing up. There had been dogs barking incessantly and someone cleaning their car mats at the crack of dawn as well as a wailing man over a loud-speaker which eventually stopped at dawn.

L: I met a young lady in the bathroom who is a South African returning home after 4 years in Belgium. Catherine was very friendly and we had a long chat. She is with the overlanders on a tour throughout Southern Africa.

Once again the showers were cold and the bathrooms had not been serviced so there was not a scrap of toilet paper in any of the bathrooms, male and female.

Brrrrr. We had packed up after breakfast so it was a relief to get into the car and crank up the heat to thaw out. (I did stop again at reception to tell them what I thought of the campsite, but I felt that they really were not interested. Once again, only catering for the lodge guests with money to spend).

S: We stopped off at the offices to get the Parks entry card and headed out to the entrance of the Ngorongoro Park. It had drizzled at bit in the campsite and now was coming down again. We handed in the card and entered the park along with all the busses and safari tours. Ours was the only private car entering the park that we could see.

Well now, I was not expecting that! The road goes uphill at an incredible gradient and it was muddy and so narrow, but the worst thing was that it was thick mist the whole way up, climbing to over 2 300 above sea-level in record time.

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We stopped at the view-point at the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, but only Lesley was crazy enough to get out. It was freezing and she came back so disappointed at not seeing a thing through the thick, wet mist. We drove on for a while, with some of the usual antics on the road with busses and taxis flying around the corners and then stopped when we saw several people getting out of the vehicles. It is the place where people start the descent into the crater. For a few brief seconds, when the mist lifted, we saw the lake in the crater and a lot of animals, looking mainly like cattle. The Maasai warriors still live in the area and have a lot of cows. They were all wrapped up in their brightly coloured blankets against the cold and after Lesley had got out the car a third time to see some birds she remarked that it felt like snow……L: Well, being so high up, anything is possible.

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L: On we went and soon I saw a lone giraffe which seemed to be limping, but was too far away for me to be sure. We were soon treated to all sorts of buck and elephants too. 3 baby elephants, 2 teenagers and an adult leaving the mud pool, pitch black. So sweet. We did not see many Springbok, but loads of zebra, red hartebeest and impala, warthogs and a lot of birds.

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By now the roads had really deteriorated and Steve eventually had to stop to drop the tyre-pressures to make it more comfortable for us, it had been bone-jarring for quite a while. We continued to see animals even some sand-grouse and their little family of chicks. They blend in with the sand so were very lucky to spot them.

S: And then it happened. I had felt anxious all day and now I found that I had a reason……Smoke started coming from the front right-hand side so I stopped to investigate. What a smell. The brand new Gabriel Safari shock-absorber had popped the seal and the oil was everywhere. We were nearly at the gate for the Serengeti Park so we limped in after saying that we were alright to the one and only lot of people that offered help. When we got there I had another look and saw that the inner CV joint boot was now broken on the driver’s side and there was grease everywhere but when I gave the fender a bounce it kept bouncing so it looked like the shock absorber had also quit.

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Trouble!

So began the run-around at the gate. Oh boy, that disorganised chaos which seems to be a trade mark of Tanzania. No-one tells you the same story twice. We discovered that we could have used a Visa card, as we were private visitors, and it seems the locals pay cash to enter the park too. We needed to find a room to stay in the park for the night, as Lesley is reluctant to camp in the tent with so many animals around. It was also easier to work on the car if we were not using the roof top tent. L: Yes, I have still not got over the elephant “chomp, swishing” around our car for hours in Botswana. (By the way, that is on our first blog – http://www.raybyn1.blogspot.com – someone said that they wanted to read about it.)

So finally, Mr Addo, one of the park officials came through for us and we had a room booked. The cost is the same per person as camping and we had the amount already pre-loaded on the card. We checked in and the clock began with the 24 hour count down of time in the park before we have to pay for another night.

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Off we went, “pole, pole” on our defective CV joint.

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Hannah O, these elephants are for you.

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While we were trundling along with the shockingly graded tracks, which is what probably helped to strip the boot, we saw several cars leaving the road all seemingly on a mission. The safari vehicles have radios and let each other know where the game is so we decided to take a chance a follow them. We followed and saw the pride of lions lazily lying under a tree in the hot afternoon weather which was now in the 40’s. They were surrounded by about six safari vehicles all trying to get their clients a good view of the animals. It was really difficult for us to find a gap so we could also see.

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After driving around Seronera we eventually managed to figure out which was the rest house and then we had to find the attendant for the key. In the meantime, I had already started stripping the suspension on the car to replace the CV joint boot and the shock-absorber as both were useless. While I was busy with the disassembly, Lesley discovered that the fridge was not working. Fortunately, I was able to plug the extension lead into the mains to get the fridge going again in the meantime. Then I carried on with the repairs.

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L: We had seen the house and were shocked by the communal bathroom and kitchen. When the attendant arrived he showed us to our own room with en-suite which was so much better. We were now committed so it would have to do. I got him to put on the donkey as I knew Steve would need hot water to get rid of the grease after the repairs.

I decided to cook supper out of the bakkie kitchen as it was so much better than the one in the house. So as it got dark, I watched for lions or anything else that moved while Steve was under the bakkie. I cooked some egg and cheese sandwiches with bacon added for Steve and fed him as his hands were awful. I made him drink lots of fluids as it was still hot. He took hours and even with me passing him tools or holding the bits of the suspension out of the way, he battled.

S: Five hours later that job was complete and the shock absorber had been broken so luckily I had kept the better one that I took off the car previously and could now use it as a spare. Now, onto the electrics. I eventually found that the thick cable from the battery in the engine bay had dropped out of the isolator switch because of the vibrations loosening the screw. I could not get my hands in there to put it back, so I had to bypass the switch, twist the ends of the wires together and then tape it up so that it would not short out on anything.

Then I repacked the bakkie and we were finally finished at 10.30pm. I was filthy dirty and my back ached. After getting most of the grease off, in a not so effective shower, I only had energy to flop into bed…….

L: It had been a loooong and stressful day. I had stayed outside with Steve as I was not happy about leaving him alone with the hyenas and hippos in the distance. I had managed to do a bit of the blog while sitting on the stoep (patio).

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We were thinking of the family celebrating Nicole’s birthday.

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Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

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3 thoughts on “Serengeti splendour …….

  1. Tish

    Loving the blog! Everything seems expensive…..it’s because of our Rand. If you were earning dollars…we’ll that would be great. Reason youre not seeing springboks is that there aren’t any (only live in south and south western regions of Africa. What one does see a lot of are Thompsons and Grants gazelles .look much like springbok from a distance.
    Mom and Dad send their love….keep the news flowing…..God Bless

  2. Nicole Whitehorn

    Thanks so much for the prezzies and effort even though you weren’t here. We had a lovely dinner at Judy but you were both missed. Photo’s of the animals are beautiful. Sending love xx

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