Here's my FB entry for that morning: "Off to drive into the Serengeti National Park today....unknown about future Internet connections in next few days....we'll check in when possible. — at Plantation Lodge, Karatu, Tanzania"
As Willie Nelson sang, we were "On the road again!" And what a road it was!! Our brochures and travel itineraries were filled with warnings about "LONG drives", "rough roads", "6-9 hours driving-time". If anybody else is planning a safari-trip to East Africa...when you see those words printed in a slick brochure...YOU HAD BETTER BELIEVE THEM!! As India does, Eastern Africa has a rainy season...and it seems that they had a beaut the month before we arrived. Traveling out of the Ngorongoro are and over to the Olduvai (really the "Oldupai") Gorge - (the name is a misspelling of Oldupai Gorge, which was adopted as the official name in 2005. Oldupai is the Masai word for the wild sisal plant Sansevieria ehrenbergii, which grows in the gorge.) - we crossed some areas where the roads had been completely washed away and large river-rocks were being cleared away by heavy equipment - but much of it was being done by hand by the local villagers. The tourist-trade and the dollars that travelers bring into this part of Tanzania are all-important - and it is essential to keep the roads open. Sometimes the "roads" were so poor that you literally had to turn around or go a different way.
We did have a very educational stopover at the Olduvai Gorge. Made famous by Dr. Richard Leakey and his family - and by the skeletal remains of the 3.2-million-year-old "Lucy", discovered by his wife Mary Leakey in 1959 - Olduvai is one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world and has been instrumental in furthering the understanding of early human evolution. This site was occupied by homo habilis approximately 1.9 million years ago, paranthropus boisei 1.8 million years ago, and homo erectus 1.2 million years ago. Homo sapiens are dated to have occupied the site 17,000 years ago.
Our driver/guide, Christopher, then took us for a little "off-roading" - and - I swear - OFF the road was sometimes smoother than ON the "roads"!! This was in a flat area of grasslands that seemed to go on forever. As a matter of fact, the Masai word Siringet from which the name Serengeti is derived means "endless plains, where the earth meets the sky".
What a perfect name for an awesome place! We finally began to see wildebeests on the horizon, and drove over toward them. At one point, we were in the middle of grazing wildebeests as far as the eye could see in all directions. It was probably the most incredible sight of our entire safari!!
We were pretty whipped from the drive...and could not wait to arrive at our next stop for the night, the "Kensington Serengeti". Now - again - I do advise any future safari-travelers to READ THE BROCHURES you will no-doubt receive very carefully and know that words really do mean something. Our next lodging was to be at a place described as "A tented wilderness camp in the Serengeti, this is and intimate connection to nature in the world-famous park..."
There were no untruths in that description. It was exactly what we got!! Unfortunately, having spent the last four nights at the Plantation Lodge - our arrival at the tented-camp was a bit of a shock to the system...especially because - much to my immediate shock and dismay, Amy Suzanne had never slept in a tent!!
After the initial shock wore off (and the fact that they were having trouble with the piped-in water and there was not to be even a cold shower for us (you see, when the water is functioning properly - the staff fires-up a wood-burning boiler that warms the water ... but only once in the morning - so - you gotta be quick. The water seems to hold its temperature throughout the day, as it's pretty warm in the Serengeti, year-round...but - we were dusty and hot and - well - I wasn't sure if Amy was going to make it through the night.
After a pep-talk from Christopher around the campfire before dinner (and during a glass of fine South African wine - the place wasn't THAT primitive - - and the mess-tent and food were actually quite nice!) - we convinced her that these two nights were going to be an integral part of our "safari experience" and to enjoy every minute of it. With a new-found positive attitude, I think she really did enjoy our Serengeti stay...but - my beautiful wife is really a "Plantation" girl...roughing-it in a canvas tent. She was a trooper, I must say.
We spent the next day on the longest (and perhaps the best!) game-drive of the entire trip. We saw the whole spectrum of African wildlife...still some remaining wildebeests from the migration we had driven through the day before, elephants (with many babies!), hundreds of hippos, giraffes....and even a pair of mating lions who were enjoying an active sex-life (they do it quite often, so we heard and saw!).
Here are some links to our Facebook Photo Albums for these two days, showing the Serengeti, our camp, the incredible wildlife, and - in retrospect - two of the very best days of the whole trip!! Thank you Christopher...you were right!