- Flat tires: 1 (v. bad)
- many many many cows
- several surly Maasai
- a somewhat surly guard
- an indescribably gorgeous view
Postcards bought: 21
Postcards sent: 0 (but ok as no postbox until Manyara)
Cold showers: 1
When we arrived in Arusha, we discovered that one bottle of sunscreen had helpfully coated the inside of its protective Ziploc bag, along with Steve's hat and our Audubon Guide to African Wildlife. While grateful that the guide wouldn't now be threatened with skin cancer, it was a bit aromatic and slimy. Fortunately, I'm a big believer in protective Ziploc bags, and therefore had spares. We double bagged the sunscreen and bug spray for the remainder of our journey.
On our way out of town, we visit the Arusha Cultural Heritage Center, a monument to growing capitalism in this formerly socialist state. "Genuine" Maasai in blue knit socks dance only when vans of tourists approach, preferring to watch the show betweentimes. An enormous crowd of Japanese students emerge clown-style from 3 minibuses with innumerable photographic devices (including professional videotape). There's one cultural stereotype sadly confirmed. Inside, helpful salesmen note (in multiple languages) the negotiability of all prices. How reassuring to know that you can bargain down the price of souvenirs you don't want and can't pack. We do, however, find a collection of postcards featuring large cats eating prey. Perfect for sending those touching messages back home.
Upon leaving Arusha, we have a looooooong drive to Ngorongoro, on potholes interrupted by bits of road. Our duffels are put on spin cycle in the back of the Land Cruisers, and yet we miraculously are not subject to Coppertone explosion. We are, however, subject to flat tires. There is a brief rest stop that turns into a somewhat longer one as we find that at least some of the bumps in the last hour have derived from the half-flat right rear tire. Steve complains loudly, as he was sitting over the offending tire. Personally, I am more concerned with the fact that we didn't notice the problem until we stopped and walked around the car.
Finally, we reach the entrance to the crater, where we are greeted by:
We roll into camp close to sunset, which at first glance is not impressive. (Actually, it's quite impressive, but not in the best of ways.) For a camp, it's really very nice, but I tend to prefer walls and plumbing. After hours of dusty driving, I admit to a bit of canvas allergy. We collect our duffels and frantically try to light the propane lamp in the growing darkness. We require a cat with night vision to assist in illuminating prey.
Matches used to light lamp: 7 (bad, but learning experience)
A word on showering in camp: There is an odd contraption behind our tent, similar to a gallows, that holds a yellow plastic bucket of roughly 20-liter capacity. This is filled by the helpful camp staff from a metal bucket of water which has been heated over charcoal. Sometimes the water acquires a smoky smell from the heating process, which adds something authentic to the whole process. The bucket is connected by garden hose to a showerhead at the top of an open-air canvas tent. There is a raised platform on the ground within the tent, and a small canvas pocket in which to place soap. One stands (in flip-flops or Tevas) on the platform, and pulls the chain to release a stream of reasonably warm water. This can be turned off with a similar chain, allowing one to stop the flow of warm water and stand in the freezing air while applying soap and shampoo. Over time, I managed to get rather good at this, and found that by placing a washstand in the shower and using that water to do an initial rinse of my hair I could even manage a full shampoo and conditioning each night. This is, however, an acquired skill. The other small tent behind our main tent is rather more self-explanatory, containing a pit covered by a black plastic pseudo-toilet. Presumably this was to make one feel more at home in the bush.
After a minor hysterical breakdown re: camp, water, the state of my hair, the state of our duffels, etc., we go to dinner. The campfire is really rather nice, particularly as the temperature is rapidly dropping (it drops below 40 at night at this campsite). Unfortunately the wood appears to consist of sulfuric acid, which can make conversation difficult -- every time the wind shifts, someone is racked with coughing. Eyes watering a bit, we prepare to meet our meal. This is lovely, particularly given the cold and the necessity of cooking over charcoal. Discovered ability to make instant coffee. Promptly unlearned it.
I dress in half the contents of my duffel, crawl into the cot, and nest. Strange noises fill the night. Note to self: do not watch the Blair Witch Project immediately prior to camping in a place with hungry predators.