Wednesday, 23 June

Serengeti National Park

Today we started our safari! David and I got up in time to run a few errands. We went to the main Arusha market and bought more than enough fruit for breakfast for four people. The total cost was under $1. David haggled with a guy over 5 cents and ended up walking away because he wouldn't budge on the price. I also got a "refugee bag." As we were walking along the streets of Arusha that morning, the only other white people we saw, David knew. They were a married couple, second year Peace Corps Volunteers named Mike and Ashley.

In Tanzania, there's a "bus" service called "Dolla-Dolla." Bus is a misnomer; refit minivan is more accurate. They all have names painted on them. I noticed one that morning that had "SHALOM" painted in large, block letters. Juxtaposed on either side of the Hebrew word for peace was painted a crucifix. It made me laugh aloud.

Anyway, we got picked up by our guide, Adam, and our cook, Damien. We had signed up for budget camping with Roy Safaris. I noticed that the entire interior of our Land Rover Defender was washable. The interior was coated in something like truck bed lining. The plastic seats had cotton slipcovers on them. I got the feeling that after a safari they would just pull those seat covers off and hose out the inside.

At one point on our drive, we pulled into a little village to buy charcoal so that we could have hot meals. Here we were, four white people, as white as we can be with blonde hair all around. An army of kids surrounded our truck and looked at us. One very young kid started crying. I wonder if we were the first white people he had ever seen. An older kid picked him up and forced him to look at us. They all stared at us in our glass cage and asked us for pens while making a writing motion with their hands. (Our guide later said they like pens because they're easy to ask for.) What poetic justice! Here we were about to go and stare and gawk at animals on our safari. And here we were being stared and gawked at like we were animals in a cage! Kate started pressing her lips to the glass and making faces. Some of the kids started doing it back. It was quite an interesting situation.

Tanzanian Scenery A Market Maasai Huts David Sleeping

We passed some beautiful sites along the way up, as well as a market and some Maasai grass huts. A Maasai man has one grass hut for each of his wives. Some of us managed to sleep along the way.

Ngorongoro Crater Ngorongoro Crater David and Travis at Ngorongoro Crater

We had to drive up and along the rim of Ngorongoro Crater to get to Serengeti. The higher parts of Ngorongoro, which reach about 2,400 meters above sea level, are rainforests. Ngorongoro crater is home to a key archeological find related to the origins of man.

Lauren at Ngorongoro

While we were in the crater, we stopped for a box lunch. (Photo of Lauren by David.) We were served cucumber, carrot, butter and mayo sandwiches. We also had a hard cooked egg and (what I'll call) a meat turnover that was filled with chicken, green peppers and onions. From the campsite we ate at we could see some resorts that cost $1,400 a night to stay at! Yikes! It's a place for people who want to take a trip to Africa without all that pesky "African lifestyle" stuff getting in the way.

Vulture Giraffe Giraffe

Once we got into Serengeti National Park, the first wildlife encounter we had was with a vulture, followed shortly thereafter by a close encounter with some giraffes.

Lion Lion Lion

Later down the road we came across a pride of lions sitting up on the top of a hill.

Elephant Elephant Elephant Elephant

And a few minutes later, a herd of elephants.


And then a hartebeest.

Lion Lion

And then another pride of lions, lounging lazily in the afternoon heat.


And then a warthog, who gave us a look.

Zebra Zebra Zebra

Followed by our first zebra encounter. Get out of the road, buddy! The Swahili word for zebra literally translates to "striped donkey."

Serengeti campsite Lauren and Kate set up their tent Serengeti sunset

We finally made it to our campsite. We set up our tents and watched the sun set. (Pictured: Lauren, left, and Kate; photo by David.)

For dinner, Damien started us with popcorn and crackers (sort of like graham crackers). We had some hot chocolate. It gets chilly there pretty quick when the sun goes down. We finished the popcorn off and waited. And waited. I asked my fellow safari-goers, "Is this all?"

"Well, we did sign up for budget camping," came the reply. We waited some more and finally Damien brought out a big bowl of mushroom soup with a side of bread. At that point, I was pretty certain that budget camping meant popcorn and soup. But no, it was followed by spaghetti and meat sauce. We were also served a side of vegetables topped with cheese. For desert we had fried bananas. Delicious! And let's not forget that this was all cooked over charcoal.

After dinner, I had my first experience squatting to poop. It was a little unusual to me and it stretched my quadriceps a little uncomfortably. But I think that the posture actually helps move things along a little faster. One good push was all it took.

We agreed to be up before the sun for breakfast at 6:00am and turned in for bed.

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All content and photos Copyright 2004 Travis Pettijohn.