15.06.2009 - 17.06.2009
The Ngorongoro Crater is cold. And unpronounceable. But mostly cold Especially when you are sleeping on the rim of it. But even when we finally descended into the crater it remained less than summery. Clouds covered the top, and occasional spitting rain added to the chilliness. Everybody else took the path of least resistance and remained seated in the car wrapped in as many clothes as they had and then covered in sleeping bags, whilst i mostly stood with my head sticking out of the roof wondering why on earth I didn't think to bring a woolly hat and gloves to Equatorial Africa...
Looking into the crater from the top of the access road (above) and the brilliantly Mohicaned Secretary birds (below)
I enjoyed being in the Crater (pronounced roughly Nuh-goron-goro), but I must admit that I don't think it was quite what I expected. What I was expecting of the worlds largest uncovered Caldera, I am not sure, but not quite what I saw. But it was also a pretty fruitful few hours: There seemed to be lions almost everywhere, and we saw several prides as well as several mothers with their young. There were the inevitable zebras, buffalo's, wildebeest, ostriches and antelope (including an Eland, the largest antelope in the world) plus some flamingos on the lake, hippos in a couple of the pools, birds of varying sizes and colours in the grass and large male elephants on the plains. We also saw a large black Rhino – admittedly in the distance – which was surprisingly hard to spot on the grassy plains, partially due to the proliferation of other large, dark animals such as buffalo which from a distance look very similar. But it mean't (for those people with tick boxes who keep track of such things) that for the second time in 2weeks, i had seen the 'big 5' on tour. Well whop-adee-doo.
Wildebeest on the plain, and a hippo – they really do have fantastic ears – in one of the pools (above), and a couple of shots of a Lioness and her two cubs (below)
In a final small twist, we stopped for lunch in an area known to be frequented for it's serval monkeys. Inevitably, after a few minutes a few inquiring animals started jumping around near the car and heading into the tree. With the roof fully open we were an easy target, and so our guide, Simbo, stood up to try and dissuade them from attempting to enter that way. Sadly though he hadn't fully shut the drivers door, and whilst two sat in the tree ready to pounce, one enterprising monkey shot under the car, opened the door and grabbed a sandwich from Simbos pack before retreating high into the tree to enjoy his bounty. We then watched amused as the monkey unwrapped the cling-film, and happily munched away without sharing with any of his co-conspirators. When he finished, he sauntered down from the tree, nonchalantly dropped the empty cling-film on the cars bonnet and ambled off back into the forest.
And thus the tour was over bar the drive back, during which everybody else pretty much slept solidly. Back in Arusha, I sadly got to confirm that the Arusha Backpackers fully deserves it's poor reputation. The rooftop bar/restaurant is nice, but everything else is pretty bad. I have honestly slept in more salubrious hedges. I was already disliking it intently and cursing the hostel before I had one of my most miserable nights of recent years. Details aren't necessary. And with that it was 7hours or so of bouncing back to Nairobi, on a broken folding seat and surrounded by, almost inevitably, Finnish girls. Tomorrow I return to having things shoved up my arse. Such fun.