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Tanzania - Ngorongoro to Lake Natron

Everyone needed some to recover after climbing so many mountains, so we went on safari. We visited the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Natron, and ended up on the coast near Pangani.

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Moshi to Karatu

We woke up early thanks to Sam's vomiting concert in the bathroom. Shu described it as an opera: blhhhaaaaa vomit-singing followed by ssshhhh flushing-applause. We managed to stay in bed until 8am, believing it was past 10am (Shu's time conversion was a bit off). Thinking we missed breakfast we went outside for internets and groceries to find everything was still shut and realised our mistake.

Packing took a while with Sam too sick and no one motivated but we managed to check out at 10am, which seems to be a pointless international standard, especially since they don't clean the rooms before 2pm. Not clear why we had to.

Taking a break on the side of the road, stomachs uneasy

After some shopping Grég drove us our of town, stopping occasionally for Sam vomiting, etc. At one point we were approached by a friendly old dude, enquiring in fluent English what we were doing on his property. Seems that everyone speaks English but our tour guide...

After a little accidental detour from Arusha that almost took us to Kenya, we finally arrived in Mto Wa Mbo (Mosquito River) and started driving up hilly path towards Ngorongoro. We passed the campsite we wanted to sleep at, misreading the guidebook covering its location, and went all the way up to the gate of the national park.

Grég in the bar

With the help of a few friendly people we finally managed to find the luxurious resort swamped by French people. Sam and Meike were exhausted and cold and dinner was just short that night.

Karatu to Ngorongoro

We woke up exhausted after so many movements yesterday, and slowly made our way to the Exim bank (the second bank we tried) to pay 560 US$ for a piece of paper. We drove back to the national park gate to exchange this piece of paper for a park pass. It was rather obvious that no one does their own driving safaris in this country - whites hide in the safari jeeps, black do the paperwork. We swapped cards for papers in different offices, waited, and eventually drove up into the clouds.

A long dusty, bumpy road

We saw nothing but bad roads for hours and Grég's driving was a shocker (although no one could have done better). The tourist info building was useless: they had no maps. We drove on and came to a tail which seemed like a decent trail. We stopped at the gate, Shu got out and learnt you may not drive without a guide. Fail!

Our impromptu guide for the day - how're you not hot?

A nice bloke dressed in a black leather jacket, scarf and a beanie jumped into the car (how are you not hot?) and down we drove along a very questionable track into the Ngorongoro Crater. At the bottom the dude explained a few things while some Massai kids solicited for photos. They wanted 1000 TSH each. Shu took a sneaky shot when they weren't looking.

Crowned Cranes flying behing Gnu, an antelope, inside the car crammed full, and a Kite

The crater was an immense natural bowl with a flat earthy base, and during the day we basically saw everything. We saw a cheeter early on, then a female lion who slinked into the shade of the other vehicles. The rest area had a pond of hippos, where we sat watching hoping the German bloke near the water would be eaten.

Vultures waiting, a lioness in the shade, a hippo rolling, and a big lens

Shu kept asking our guide what he'd do for a thousand shillings. "Would you punch a rhino in the head for A THOUSAND shillings?" "Would you wrestle a hippo for A THOUSAND shillings?" "Would you hug a wildebeest for A THOUSAND shillings?" A thousand shillings equates to about 50 cents.

Zebras on the road, and a buffalo with a bird on his head

At 4:45pm we began ascending from the crater. The roads were lined with begging Massai. It's weird how they try to preserve their traditional way of life, while at the same time asking for money. The hour long drive to Simba Camp was the worst Tanzanian road so far.

Ngorongoro Crater

At a lookout point we watched the sun set across the crater. We dropped our guide mate back home with 20 US$ fee plus 10 tip, and went to the mostly empty Simba Camp.

Hiding in the tent, and the guys cooking

It became quickly dark. After a meal of sweet potato and veggie mix we had a chat to some South Africans. They hadn't driven the whole way, and explained their guides said drinking + no sport = no Kilimanjaro. It was a cool windy night with lots of stars.

Ngorongoro to Lake Natron

During the night I woke up to what sounded like horse noises. Despite Sam's "that is the wind" I found the entire camping ground fell of zebras. Some of them were very close to the car. They stayed until the morning when Sam started taking pictures and chased them off.

Zebras in the camp, and a Marabou Stork: the ugliest bird

We made our way back to the gate, checking out in time, but wondering if it had made a difference if we had not. We stopped briefly for petrol and money and then found the turn off to Lake Natron. The shopping possibilities were limited if you wanted anything else than bananas or sweet potato, so we drove on without many supplies.

The road quickly became rough and Sam took over the driving. The 100km the GPS predicted to our destination only slowly decreased. After a while we came across the first checkpoint (district boarder) and we were charged 40 US$ to pass, while a lot of Massai wanted to sell us their ugly jewellery. We were expecting at least 2 checkpoints along the way, but were shocked by the steep price.

A Massai under a tree, and a Massai cattle herd

The land seemed to be only populated by Massai, their cattle and a few occasional giraffes, ostriches and gazelles. The road was getting worse with a few dry river crossings. After a while we reached the second checkpoint where we were charged 60 US$ for passing while kids begged for water. Strange in combination.

Empty dry desert, and a checkpoint: $80

With about 30km left we could see the Ol Doinyo Volkano, quite impressive, to our left. Sam got tired of driving but the last 10km went quickly. Unfortunately just before reaching the campsite we reached a third checkpoint and had to pay 80 US$ for passing. What a rip off!

At Waterfall Camp, and Ol Doinyo Lengai

We found the waterfall campsite and learnt that we would be charged for every movement towards the source-thing - interesting - so waterfalls, lake and volcano did not come for free. When we decided that we were willing to pay 100 US$ for Grég, Sam and me to climb the volcano, we were told we had to pay at least another 50 for the transport to the start of the trail. This is where we got pissed off, decided not to do anything but our washing, and just lazed out at the nice campsite.

Setting up the tents, sorting equipment, a Massai woman and child, and the desert near Lake Natron

That evening the campsite owner came over and chatted to us about building a school for Masai kids. They were resistant, and it was hard doing good, as he put it.

Grég preparing dinner, and the camp by moonlight

At night the wind picked up. Ever slept through a sand storm on a rooftop tent? We have - or at least that was what it felt like. With the first daylight it came apparent that there was not much flying sand at all. But the wind rocked the car and flapped the tents so that no one but Greg got a decent sleep. I felt sick and cannot tell if it was motion sickness, nerves (car might fall over) or still the bug we picked up.

Lake Natron to Panama View Lodge

The morning after the storm started very slowly because of such a restless night. By the time everything was packed it was too late to visit the waterfall, and Shu was too annoyed by the cost anyway.

Inside the sleepless tent, restful slow morning, a Massai walking through camp, and a flowering plant

We drove to the lake towards the Natron Lake Tented Camp but got lost, only discovering an unnerving abandoned collection of tents. We had all had enough and the air smelt bad, so it was time to go.

Visiting Lake Natron, and eery hazy lake

The 100km drive took five hours and was uneventful. Meike was requested to step out of the vehicle to take dust driving photos, during which Shu lost camera parts (was on his seat). We drove back past some interesting cacti forests, then back to the main town.

We couldn't find the first or second accommodation from the travel guide, which was proving unreliable, so stopped at the Panorama View Lodge. We negotiated from 100k TSH down to 75k for dinner + breakfast, then enjoyed a cool (not cold) beer at the magnificent viewpoint lookout. Dinner was a very filling but tough chicken, rice and banana. We even got a live show from Bu Baboon, an amateur acrobat.

Mto Wa Mbo to Moshi

The broken water pump in the morning prevented the much needed shower, and caused us to decide not to spend a second night at the lodge but continue to drive towards Dar es Salaam. The plan was to stay overnight at a snake farm close to Moshi. With that plan in mind we waited for Shu's washing to dry and drove off.

Roadside Massai, and a nice view over Manyara National Park

We were almost in Moshi when Sam realised that the snake farm was actually in Arusha... Now that we were already in Moshi we did some shopping and had Indoitaliano while researching 2 possible camping options in the Internet cafe.

A tired lady, tired lad, a tired bloke, and Ndovu beer

Afromaxx camping looked really nice on the internet, but did not have any address. It took us the help of a few locals and about 3000TSH, including a second internet check, and a misleading call to the number given in the travel guide to figure out they are actually called Rose Home and find it. And they did not allow camping anymore.

Checking the travel guide, and visiting the internet cafe

Running out of patience and getting tired of searching for signs in the dark (e.g.: The Golden Shower Restaurant), we gave up and spent another night in the buffalo hotel.

The Golden Shower Restaurant, and checking for somewhere to stay

Moshi to Pangani (Beach Crab)

We had our ONE banana and toast for breakfast while watching midgets on tv, then departed early for the long driving day to Emau Hills Lodge.

Driving south, and a sleepy lady

We saw some monkeys aside the road and little else happened until the eastern turnoff, where we stopped for watermelon + corned beef on bread, and Dr. Kika passed on his bike. He was drunk bloke on his way home by bike and extremely chatty. He told us he was a vet of animal husbandry, and that he lived in the village near the tower. "Think of me kindly" he told us several times, during an endless monologue of almost correct drunken (but not especially offensive) sentences.

Dr. Kika: vet of animal husbandry, and checking the GPS

We drove to Muheza on the best road so far, then took a detour road to Amad. We ended up in the middle of a market street and were attracting a lot of attention, so we decided to give up (were kinda lost) and drive back. After a short stop and no luck calling the place, we changed plans and drove back to the roundabout past the police (again) only to change our minds again and try for Pangani and the ferry. We passed the police a third time but they still seemed uninterested.

Driving onto the ferry, and a busy warf

From Muheza we turned towards Pangani along the "romantic drive" as the travel guide so called it. 42 bouncy kilometers of jungle road later, we arrived in Pangani and found the ferry. The Nelson Mandella Bank's ATM wouldn't give Meike any money, but the ferry was just in time to take us over. Passengers got out and I drove aboard.

Carrying a mirror on a motorbike, and the Beach Crab Resort check-in

The last short drive was easy - amusing actually, passing two dudes carry a big mirror on a motorbike - and we soon found the Beach Crab Resort.

Parking on the beach, and the Indian Ocean

We were the only campers so we parked on the beach out of harm's reach of coconut trees, had a dip in the ocean and slept.