A first time on safari…

november 27th, 1998 Comments off

MEMORABLOG: 22-24.11.1998

Lets go to safari. The car came for us in time. Driver was only like 10 minutes late and that was excellent in »african« time… Jeep was quite big, made for 4 tourists including the driver, cook and a guide… Well… there were 6 of us, so, we had to squeeze a bit. Other 4 tourists consisted a couple from UK (he did some voluntary work for a few months in a village near Moshi) and two girls from Denmark (quite annoying, but they had an interesting gadget, a digital camera!!!).

Some kilometers from Arusha roads suddenly became gravel, and soon it was time to turn towards the national parks (if we continued on that road we would come to the western part of Tanzania, quite many hours later). On »safari« highway we passed many small villages, Lake Manyara, and some of the most unbelievable »moon« scenery…

Serengeti…
Sometime in early afternoon we finally came to the big plains of Serengeti… On a way towards our camp we saw many zebras, giraffes, and plenty of other animals that i really don’t know name of… We even saw a few lions and a cheetah family resting in a shade… Nice…

»Serengeti highway« was incredible… in bad condition, but still, some really speed through it… And our jeep was flying and madly bouncing, and we were just holding for our life inside… Almost all cars are 4WD vehicles, with empasis on jeeps… so, seeing a Mercedes limousine was a surprise… What was not surprising was the fact that it broke down 

Safari trips include several »game drives«. The point is, that you see big 5.

That means, you sit in the car and try to see as many animals as possible, with a special emphasis. A lot depends on your guide, cause those guys have an incredible vision!!! Usually the best drives, and the game is the most active, early in the morning and late in the afternoon… During the heat of the day, all animals try to hide in the shade, and there is little possibility to see any hunting… Actually, did I mention heat before? It was really hot, though different, more dry, heat from Dar.

We went on a budget safari and that meant camping… setting your own tent, while all food and drinks is included in the package (ok, you have to bring your own water, and there was no possibility to buy either beer, water or anything else – the last possible place to buy water was at the Serengeti National Park entry gate). We were taken to a camp somewhere in the middle of Serengeti, I have completely no idea where we were… far away from civilization for sure, as the night was really full of shiny stars (and there was no light pollution anywhere close). The camp itself didn’t have any fence, so, this was not the most reassuring thing. But, it should have guards awake (and i stress AWAKE) during the night… Tent was funny… well… a bit on a small side, for two tall guys… but ok, we at least won’t be cold during the night… The night? Well… interesting one… actually, excitement started only then… First of all, all the tents were around a small campfire, where cooks were preparing the food (there were in total some 10-12 tents around). And then we went to sleep… a few minutes later our »guards« went asleep as well… Then the fun started… First came baboons, then hyenas… And they were all trying to get remains of our dinner, which were thrown on the fire (!!!??!). So, the animals started fighting, and were making the most impossible sounds… When they were not fighting you could hear bones crushing sounds… And hyenas… they are just like huge dogs… and as there was no fence, they were passing a few centimeters away from our tents… all that meant an unforgettable show that kept us scared and awake whole night… I shouldn’t forget our guards, guides, drivers, cooks… they were all sweetly sleeping, probably that was like a lullaby for them…

Arusha wilderness…

november 27th, 1998 Comments off

MEMORABLOG: 27.11.1998

We came late night back to Arusha… so, we have some for planning our future trip. Let’s climb Kilimanjaro… 🙂 Cool, lets do it… And it hit us… well, guys… basically, you cannot afford it… it costs 500US$+ for just a few days, and you already spent almost half of your budget in the first week… damn… what a disappointment, no Kilimanjaro… Mount Meru is cheaper and lower, but the weather isn’t favorable, and we are a bit not interested to stay in Arusha for a few more days…

What about trip to the west, towards central Tanzania and Lake Victoria… not a bad idea, but we were put of by reports of extremely bad roads and 24 hours trip on a bus… We were even thinking about going to Usumbara mountains, but at the end we reached no decision… So, it was a time for another Kilimanjaro beer and a strange, but tasty pizza in the restaurant just across the road…

At least we had a chance of a tour around Arusha… we weren’t staying in the best part, its kinda doggy, there near the stadium. But we liked it. And the guesthouse was quite lively, lots of foreigners, though encounters with them were brief. Honestly said, Arusha isn’t the place to go sightseeing for a week. Streets are in terrible disrepair and some potholes are bigger than cars… and after rainy day, Arusha transfers from dusty to muddy… At least they had a nice market, where we got loads of fresh fruit and some souvenirs…

Then, we decided to do some trekking around Arusha, towards Mount Meru… We desperately wanted to see Tammy falls (as recommended to us by a friend from airport), but locals weren’t too anxious to take us there… they were mentioning military, ransom, danger, … so, still don’t know what is so special by these falls and why it was dangerous to go there… So, we agreed a day trekking with a local guy, to some native villages, waterfalls…

I was surprised. Just a few minutes from the guesthouse, we were in completely different environment… small houses, african cows and smiling children and fabulous landscape… What a contrast to Arusha, now i could imagine how people can stay in Arusha for more days… We started venturing into the forest, and so close to the town you could already observe columbus monkey in the trees… Great landscape, passing different villages, house and people doing the ordinary business (i guess they weren’t used on seeing mzungu there, as that day trip wasn’t on itinerary of big agencies…). After a few hours we came approached some men, who were, deep in the forest, cooking their own “fire water” – i guess that was a bit on a illegal side. Funny guys, i guess that was for their entertainment and of course profit. Well, drink really tasted like fire… and probably it burned away my liver… they were drinking it pure in large quantities, but i would prefer mixing it with a lot of water or juice… Adi was more daring tasting it, and he almost regretted it 🙂

After a few hours we arrived to a small village… interesting stuff… apparently our young guide will marry a girl from this village… but unfortunately he doesn’t have enough money, yet, to buy a few cows to get her… From there we hitch a ride on a pickup… well, the pickup was so full, that it eventually broke up… sooooo… we had to push it… hehehe… fortunately after a couple hundred meters the road went downhill, so we all jumped on… just… I didn’t even think whether the brakes work???!!! Apparently brakes worked…


Dusty safari continued… crater and a few tse-tse flies

november 26th, 1998 Comments off

MEMORABLOG: 25-26.11.1998

Ngorongoro crater NP
Finally we came to Simba Camp on the crater rim. Ngorongoro is a huge crater, 20km in diameter… From rim you have great views on the crater and mountains beyond. We were quite high, as I believe altitude was around 2700m above sea level. Besides, we had the best hotel, a thousand stars one…  I thought on the rim will be quieter than in Serengeti… how I was wrong… again  Strange voices, sounds, roars, throughout the night… again… Night was very chilly, no wonder as were quite high up. Infrastructure in camp was almost non-existent. Yes, there were some shacks called toilets and something that resembled a shower.

After another tasty breakfast we headed down the crater. Road was narrow, twisty and steep… For fans of adrenaline… As soon as we came to the bottom, first animals emerged… I was astonished… The only animals that are apparently are missing are giraffes (the reason was that they can’t climb down into the crater) and female elephants (???!! We saw plenty of elephants, i just wasn’t particularly looking which sex they are .Incredible, this crater is just unbelievable, and concentration of animals is huge. You can see all different animals, we even saw some rhinos (from a DISTANCE). But we saw them. Only leopard was still hiding, that means no Big 5  Hyenas, lions, cheetahs… nothing was uncommon. We drove around the crater, and one could observe that there is really a lot of food for carnivores… Its like going to supermarket 😉 There is a lake in the middle of crater, so plenty of water is available (and therefore the shores are abundant with birds, also flamingos, and that was a friendly addition to mainly green and brown colors of the plains).

[b]Tarangire NP[/b]
After not so short drive from Ngorongoro we came close to Tarangire NP. This will be our last night out, and we were pleasantly surprised by accommodation. This time no tents, but a proper rooms with a proper showers. And everything clean. Wow, like we came back to the civilization… I had a first cold on my trip, and I was immensely annoying, so it was good to have a room to retreat from others… Here we found out that idea changing a safari company (and losing 100US$) was not so bad… There were some guys with our old company, and they were sleeping outside in tents… And that was not the end… The skies opened during the night, and they woke up half way in water… And they were not so happy with organization… but, but, they saw Lake Manyara NP (i believe with lions climbing on trees), where we just drove past…

Tarangire NP is renowned by two things – elephants and tse-tse flies (yep, those sleeping disease carrying ones). There were really plenty of elephants – in all shapes, sizes and ages… Incredible. At one point one bull even wanted to charge our car, and a few moments were really scary… (we approached too close a small family with some young ones). Lazy lions were all over, and even snakes were not uncommon… so, all in all a pleasant day, with many interesting moments… but frankly said, after a few days, all of us were a bit fed up with all the animals… so, i guess that it was just a right time to start going back to Arusha…


Dar Arusha Video Coach Fast Express

november 21st, 1998 Comments off

MEMORABLOG: 21.11.1998

We woke up early. Yep, mosque effect… Actually, we started taking it out easy… we decided not to catch the first bus, but the one at 8:30 am. Why should we go so early, as everybody says its only 7-8 hours to Arusha… Oki, at least we can have a proper breakfast.

Of course… bus didn’t leave at 9am. It left when full, at 9:30am… We got the best seats, thats infront, either because we overpayed them, either because nobody wanted to seat infort and look at the road 🙂 More probably both. It took us long time to travel out of Dar. Not only that we were constantly picking up the passengers, we had several stops to buy food and supplies. It looked like we were going on a trip for several days. And the bus driver knew where to stop for fresh bananas, pine apples (heh, he bought LOADS of pine apples). And finally we we on the road… speeding, being the kings of the road!!!

Road out of Dar was BAD, full of potholes, but later on, on the plains it was just good. To good, as the driver though he is Ayrton Senna (but thats a common belief everywhere in third world). At first, I was quite uneasy sitting in the bus, as everybody looked at us. Not looked, stared… But when the TV programme started, two mzungus were just not interesting anymore. How to describe the TV programme? Well… it started off with some music videos (funny people dancing even more funny dances, everything filmed on an amateur camera by an amateur) and then with a couple of bloody and violent movies. Don’t recall the movies, but I remember to see a title of Missed in Action, number unknown… 🙂 But it was, good… after 30 minutes nobody cared a bit of us…

After a few hours of driving… tire bust… heh, probably we were just too fast. But it was a good chance for “discovering the bushes” and emptying our bladders. In meantime all the male passengers tried to help changing the wheel… Except us… 🙂 Funny…

When coming nearer and nearer to Moshi, sun slowly went down… Then we figuered out, that either we are terribly late or just they forgot to add a few hours on the “travel time” that they mentioned to us… Anyway, but coming late to Arusha was not the worst thing. What worried me was… well… our headlights were not working… OK, from time to time, they started working, but most of the time we were just driving in the dark… damn, now i know why they let us sit infront…

In Arusha we followed an advice of our friend from the airport, and we hopped off at Golden Rose hotel and not the bus station (just to avoid the hassle of touts). We went to nearby Mashele guesthouse, which was not a bad one… Funnily, the guys from Paradies safaris found us an hour later… they wanted the rest of the money for the safari, and we wanted to meet the lady… Well, the lady didn’t arrive, as she had some other business to do, a safari will be delayed for one day… so… we decided to… let our 100US$ go and get lost and find a new safari company… There were some disagreement by those lads at Paradies safaries, but eventually they resigned with quite a nice bonus… And only a few days later we found out, that this was not a bad idea…

So, it was time to get a new safari company. And that wasn’t difficult, as touts were like ants. The only problem was, that we wanted to go as soon as possible on a 4 or 5 day safari… even tommorow…We got someone that would take us the next day, and the price was right (it was actually lower than the one in Dar) and he got some recommendation from our language. We also agreed to pay ANY money, when the jeep comes to pick us up and when we are happy with the jeep. That was cool, but without knowing we screwed some other people, who were promised to go in “four” and then they got some extra passengers… At least beer was tasty and cheap… :)))

Well, later, much later I was browsing to get some information about our safari company – Stonechat… actually, it was on a black list and has probably disappeared and reappeared under new name… While paradies safaris is still alive… Nevertheless, we enjoyed next few days…

Coming to Africa

november 20th, 1998 Comments off

MEMORABLOG: 20.11.1998

Africa… first stop… Entebbe… where the hell did I hear that name from? Ups… some decades ago an abducted plane landed there, and some people never left Uganda… Again, since the beginning of 80th, this should be a relatively safe country. One thing struck me… the african heat when stepping out of the plane during our one hour stop. Soon, we were in the clouds again, passing Victoria lake and Kilimanjaro…

Final stop… Dar es Salaam.. To be honest, i didn’t know much about Tanzania before. Fortunately i bought myself a Lonely planet just a few days before. And let me say, its my first trip outside Europe. And let me add, we both are completely unprepared and without any previous travel experiences. But, why complicate things, lets enjoy… And we did… when getting visas we were pleasantly surprised, as the citizens of Slovenia we had to pay only 20US$, while all the dutch and those EU citizens had to pay 50US$…

So, whaaaat next… ufff… luggage delivery is chaotic. Everybody can walk in. So, if you are not fast enough, your bag can disappear… even if it is worth nothing. But we were fortunate. Everything was waiting us. So, what next. I guess we have to get a taxi or something. And at least 50 people was trying to catch our look, and they were shouting taxi, taxi, cheap, … Crazy… Frantically i open LP for the first time (yep, that was a first lesson – get basic information about your destination in time) and start searching for transport. Prices are outdated, so it doesn’t help us really much. And the guys are yelling their prices from 10-12.000 Tanzanian schillings…

Jambo, jambo, jambo… Officially, “jambo” means “hello” in Swahili. But to tourist in Tanzania, it means “look at me, I want to sell you something.”. And that doesn’t stop with taxi drivers…

And then we see something familiar. A lone traveller, from our country… We started talking, and actually we waited for his plane to depart. That guy, lets call him David (and there is no chance that i remember his name, sorry) has been in Tanzania several times, and as usual business he buys in region of Arusha souvenirs and etc. and then sells them on stalls around Slovenia. So, he has an unofficial business going, not sure whether everything was completely legal. Who cares. He gave us lots of insights. We got a first impression of the country that was very helpful (and that we couldn’t get from any guidebook), how and where to change the money and so on… Even, for the first time he bargained a taxi for us to take us to our hotel – Jambo Inn… Starting price was at the beginning 12000 TSch, and eventually dropped to 5000, which was very fair price… at least for us…

Jambo Inn was… well… khm… interesting place… one of those low-budget hotels near main Dar bus stop. It was clean, with quite short beds and keylock was in a strange state (like somebody already broke in a few days before). The only downpoint was, that its quite near the mosque and its very loud speakers…

—-

Buying a bus ticket was funny. At the end we didn’t buy it, we just decided to buy it in the morning, or the day we decide to leave Dar. But before, we got shown at least ten different busses, from Kilimanjaro express to Kilimanjaro express video coach… They were pulling us apart, to see even more busses… They let us »hear« the sound of the bus… And the ticket office was… well, just a shack, made of old bus tires…

—-

Later in the evening, after a tasty meal downstairs, somebody knocked on the door, actually a doorman.

He cried »There is a woman outside«.

And?

»She wants you.«

Damn. We haven’t even settled in and prostitutes are coming for us. I was never a magnet for women, so i’m not really accustomed to that. Where the hell are we? But OK. The last thing i want to have in Tanzania is sex, so…

»She wants to speak. She mzungu«

Ok, i dressed (and was already figuring out a blonde swedish in trouble and nowhere to sleep), and went downstairs. She looked like… well, probably a woman, with dreadlocks, at least when hearing a pitch voice I believed she was a female… Came back up to the room a minute later and said to Adi… She wants to speak with us regarding the safari. She is a white german woman, a bit on a ugly side, should we go down or hide?

We were feeling adventourus so we went down to see what she has to offer. And basically, this was the first tourist trap lesson (yep, lets do it the hard way). She explained, that she is organising a safari, that she is a guide, originally from Germany and she now lives here… We were quite happy to speak with someone in german or english, so after a few beers and a presentation of »Paradies safaries« we’ll make a deal. We’ll go with her on safari from Arusha, just we have to catch a bus next morning… We cashed out 100US$, got some kind of contract and someone brought us also a bus tickets for the morning bus… Well… only then i opened the LP. It said there… »beware of touts«, »don’t give money infront«, »check the blacklist«, … Paradies safari wasn’t on the black list, but paradise safari was… so… what the hell… oh, well… tommorow is a new day… lets enjoy our first night in Tanzania and worry tommorow…