Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Tarangire NP camping

AD was determined that my entire week in Tanzania was not to be spent relaxing around the house - & when someone is willing to take me camping and on a big game drive in an Africa national park I am hardly going to offer a dissenting voice.  Tarangire National Park was one I had never heard of & AD had not been too - so that was chosen as our destination.  A relatively easy (especially for me in the passenger seat) two-hour drive south-east later we were at the park gates around noon on Friday.  Camp was quickly set up in the public campground and we set off for a game drive for the afternoon.  The previously much-derided Range Rover came in to its own off road - very capable & very comfortable.  As AD was driving, I became chief photographer - it sure was nice to have a proper big camera, even if my photography skills are rudimentary at best.

We couldn't believe how many elephants there were - hundreds!  All the other usual suspects were present: giraffe (much darker than those I saw on my last trip), zebra, ostriches, big vultures, buffalo, water buck, various antelope, mongoose, monkeys, baboons.  We finally saw a couple of lions nearing the end of the afternoon.  It was more than fun to be two guys from NZ just driving abound a huge national park in an ageing 4WD in amongst so many animals & tourists on proper expensive safari trips. Enough talking, the photos are better (more and better versions are here).

Apparently a large herd of elephants came to pay our tent a lot of attention after we drove off.

AD tried to take promotional photos, I minded the barbecue - sort of.

Thankfully more large steaks didn't attract the lion(s) we heard a little distance from camp.

So many large baobab trees.

Up & decamped early, there was enough time to marvel at plenty more elephants before returning to Arusha. I hastily packed, said my goodbyes and started what turned out to be a thirty hour trip home (that's almost as bad as returning from NZ). It turns out carrying a Thermarest Neoair in your hand luggage is great for napping on boring airport (Nairobi) floors. Arriving home Sunday afternoon to the order of England, not too tired considering, it was hard to believe just the morning before I was out camping in a fantastic African park and seeing so much extraordinary wildlife.  Thanks AD & Carm for an excellent African break.

A restful week in Arusha

I'd previously vetoed the idea of returning to the Mara or even climbing Kilimanjaro (not enough time & $2000 seems a bit much for a big walk) after the rather tiring RVO.  The proposed Mara trip was originally to have been if Adele had joined me on this Africa trip, but as I have such great memories I didn't really feel the need to go back this time without her - especially as AD & Carm had only just moved to Tanzania the week before returning to Kenya for the RVO it seemed a little unfair to drag them all the way to the Mara when they should be settling into their new adventure.

So the thirty year old Range Rover (it sort of came with the business that AD & Carm have taken over) was loaded and we left for what was a six hour trip over the border to Arusha.  Everyone was pretty sick of the Range Rover & all it's various quirks (the polite term) by the time we even set off, but it got us there OK.  Unfortunately, being Mum to an almost two year old (Ethan/Bug - who it turns out really likes to dance to Lady Gaga) and a two month old (the very well behaved Chloe/Plum - who is already sleeping through until six am each night!), Carm got stuck in the back seat all the way - I tried, albeit not that hard, to get her to swap: to no avail.

African land border crossings are always so much more chaotic & fun (sort of) than just strolling right through as one does in most of Europe.  The one at Namanga was no different.  AD went through the drama of getting a private vehicle across the border (this seemed more difficult than getting a person across), while Carm & I tried to stop Bug running out into the melee of oversized trucks.  I think I somehow got cast in the role of father to the kids as AD was off sorting out the vehicle - with the bonus that the border agent seemed to think I was a returning resident & therefore didn't charge me the $50 fee for a tourist visa.

It wasn't long down the road before discovering that while most of the Tanzanian highway was very good - although with that strange propensity for speed bumps in the middle of an otherwise fast open road (I think it must be the only way they have of slowing traffic down). If any work was needed on the road, a diversion would be put in place.  I'm used to a diversion being routed down existing roads, but out in the country in Tanzania there are so few roads and so much land - they simply close stretches of highway miles long and build a temporary road (gravelled, potholed & bumpy to the extreme) parallel to the real road.  It does tend to slow progress a fair bit.

Eventually we made it to the new home.  AD & Carm have taken over a small business that runs safaris (there's a small fleet of safari vehicles, of various ages & conditions) and does bike tours in the wilderness (also a sizeable fleet of mountain-bikes).  With two young kids in the craziness that is Africa it all looks very adventurous to me, but I'm sure they'll settle in and make a good go of it.  I'm already starting to think about what escapade I can persuade AD to organise for us for a future visit.

After those four days of strenuous riding & the slow trip down, much of the week was relatively inactive and relaxing.  But when you're somewhere like Arusha, just driving into town is an adventure in itself.  The week quickly passed with AD working but still around (the office being a minute's walk away), Carm juggling being a Mum & learning some of the administration of the business while I was/we were reading, entertaining children (the trampoline is a favourite already for Bug),  holding screaming baby, playing games, quoting too much of The Castle & classic Big Bang, baking, eating (National Braai [South African for barbecue] Day was duly commemorated), making a slow start on the varied liquor collection that was left with the house, sleeping and just generally spending time in the company of good friends.

All I have to show for it is some rather average phone snaps:

Keeping Bug occupied in the behemoth of a Land Rover (below) while Mum & Dad work.

This behemoth - used as a safari support vehicle.

It's much easier to be a millionaire in Tanzania

Celebrating National Braai Day - an occasion I was previously unfamiliar with, but considering the massive piece of steak consumed, one I'm in favour of.