Serengeti to Lake Manyara

Jul 23

Our journey as a big group has just ended. We are in the parking lot waiving our final goodbyes to our new friends. They will be boarding one of the small planes soon to fly back to Kilimanjaro airport. I wonder if the runway is smoother than these Serengeti roads. We really don’t have much idea of what our adventure today will be. We have a new driven Solomon – they call him King Solomon. He was actually the guide who found the black rhino the day before. We realize as we pull out of the parking lot that our game drive will be in the Serengeti. For some reason I was thinking we were going back to the Crater. Solomon drives us directly to this amazing little watering hole where there a lot of zebras getting a drink and cooling off. He points to some lions just off in the bushes. One of them is stalking the zebras. We watch with great anticipation as she makes her way down through the reads. The zebras sense her presence and start running. She strikes to soon and they all get away. Solomon tells us she is young. He can tell because she still has some faint spots on her fur. The inexperience cost her a nice breakfast. We watch for a few more minutes and then drive on. He takes us looking for a leopard. We wind around on the way to the leopard and find another pair of lions resting near a tree by the road. We watch them for a bit and then make our way down the road. Shortly he stops again and points to a tree in the distance. There is a leopard in the tree with her gazelle “breakfast” dangling from a branch. She had a good morning. We watch for a few minutes before driving on. Further down the road we see a hyena walking along with a gazelle hanging from her mouth. Solomon explains that the hyena has probably gotten the gazelle from a cheetah. Cheetahs are afraid of hyenas. Lots of buzzards are hanging out waiting for their turn in the food chain. We watch while the hyena eats a little and then abruptly gets up and starts heading off in to the grasses with the food. We are trying to figure out why. Then we suddenly see why. Up ahead in the distance we see a lion walking toward us. She is coming to take the gazelle from the hyena. She makes her way over to the grasses where we saw the hyena disappear. We can’t see the action but the grass is moving around busily. Suddenly the hyena comes sulking away – no more gazelle. Lion is king of the Serengeti. The Cheetah makes the kill, loses to the hyena who loses to the lion and eventually the buzzards will get some too. Well that’s part of the circle of life here.

We continue driving around looking for lions but the afternoon is bearing down on us. It is very dusty and we are getting tired. We eat our box lunches and start to fade. We find another lion of in the distance near the Kopje’s but she isn’t moving. We watch for a while but then start to make our way back to the back entrance/exit. We stop for our check out procedure and grab a few beers and some chips. After knocking back and beer John, Sierra and Monique seem to dose off and on while we make our way back through the Olduvai Gorge. I nod off a few times myself. I am tired. Its a long drive back and the road is even dustier than I remember. I have my buff pulled over my face for a good portion of the day. As we make our way back up the Crater road we see a Land Cruiser that has been in an accident. It looks like it rolled over the edge. There are lots of people standing around but it looks like it has already been taken care of and the occupants have already been taken away. The front glass was broken so I hope they were not injured badly. No way to know though. After another couple of hours we are out of the Crater area and back on the road to Lake Manyara. This was the area of the Iraqw people (see earlier blog entry). Finally we make a left off onto a dirt road. There are a number of shacks along the road side and I joke to Monique and Sierra that they can have the one with the roof. I guess its not really nice to make a joke like that when so many in Africa have such poor living conditions. We round a corner and arrive in front of our lodge surrounded by lush trees. It is a very peaceful looking setting.

Again the porters take our bags. We are escorted to a two story building with a thatch roof where are rooms are next to each other. We each have a balcony. Ours looks out on to the Lake down below in the distance. It is a salt water lake and still pretty even though much of it is dry right now. We decide to meet for drinks at 7. A shower is definitely in order to wash off all the dust from today. I think this was the winner in terms of dust but then that’s probably not true. Summit day was probably the winner in terms of dust, well, who knows, there is so much dust here every day could be the winner!

All cleaned up John and make our way down to the bar a little early. It really is a beautiful setting here. Would have been nice to stay here for a day or two. They have a bicycle excursion in to town or an option to tour with a local farmer. Too bad we don’t have more time. I feel like I am watching the last sands go through the hour glass. It is almost over. We enjoy the gentle night breeze with a glass of wine. The bar and restaurant are open air with a full view of the Lake Manyara Park below. It is so relaxing sitting here talking about our trip and how much fun we’ve had. Sierra and Monique arrive and we toast each other and the day. This was our best day on safari with the ballon ride to start and the action of the lion hunting and seeing the leopard and hyena. We’ve seen it all and didn’t feel so rushed today. It was more relaxing. We talk a little about plans when we go back home. Monique has a dream for a neuro-wellness center which I love! We talk about it and how great it would be to have them in Colorado. I am keeping my fingers crossed but either way I want to help them make it happen no matter where it is.

Its getting late and we decide we better get to our table. There is a huge buffet with lots of choices. I try lots of the different salad options and some fish for dinner. John goes for the pasta! Much of the food has an Indian flare to it here as well. There are also lots of fruits and various desert choices. We eat way to much and drink more wine, lingering because we just don’t want the night and the trip to end. We had decide on a 9 o’clock departure to get ourselves back to the Arusha Hotel in time to get bags and get to the airport. Walking back to the room we hear singing in the bar area so we stop and grab a seat. What looks to be some sort of gospel choir is singing and dancing. Their voices are beautiful. As we are sitting there I lean over to Sierra and say how cool it would be if they would sing the song from the mountain – Jambo, Jambo. Just then they start singing the song. I can’t believe it! Its miraculous. Just like the entire trip. What a way to end the night. I am trying to upload the video to youtube. Will add a link if I get it figured out. We decide it is time to turn in. We make our way slowly to our rooms. We don’t want to say good night. Its gone by all too fast but I am so glad we had this extra day with Monique and Sierra. It has helped us unwind.

Sweat dreams of Africa. One last time.

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