Welcome To The Dust Bowl

September 18

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I won't even mention the nightly howls and growls since we all got used to them by now. I will however mention the sunrise, our first, since all our other mornings were either drizzly or heavily overcast. Of course today we would not get to enjoy the good light, we would instead drive to our next destination. The drive was long but quite pleasant, as we got to see more giraffes and elephants, plus the road was really nice - paid for by a Japanese businessman who wanted to promote tourism in the area. Let me say that the dudes from CalTrans should visit here in East Africa and take some notes on how they build roads in this third world country; our freshly paved 101 is bumpier than this tarmac, and I am sure that one yard of ours cost as much as a mile here in Tanzania. I hate sloppy workmanship.

On the way to the lodge at Ngorongoro we stopped at a huge souvenir shop, where various people proceeded to buy various things. Particularly popular was Diet Coke, or Coca Cola Light as it's called here, given that the previous lodge ran their supplies dry after one day of our group's arrival. Valerie and Jim were in particular overjoyed, and threatened to buy out the entire supply.

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We had a very rushed lunch at the lodge at Ngorongoro and headed down into the crater. The road was just the opposite of the fine Japanese road from this morning - we may as well be on the moon, driving a lunar rover into a deep crater. Not only the road quality and incline, but also the dustiness made us feel just like on the moon: it was as if a bag of cement exploded in your face - constantly. Harrison showed off his driving skills by getting us down in record time without flipping the rover, for which we were quite thankful.

Once down in the crater we were presented by a very dense population of animals, including a sizable pride of lions, happily rolling around in the sun. Apparently they do this 20 hours every day. Also apparently because of their lack of exercise they enjoy a relatively short life of 15 years or so. Who knew! Still, they seem to enjoy every minute of it, while I can think of quite some school days that were less than enjoyable - not to mention work not so long ago, which has in turn probably shortened my life. Oh enough bitterness.

We had to get out of the crater at 6pm, which is when the guards close the gate and then demand a fine from any vehicle still stuck there. Not wanting to expose Harrison to the potential of losing some money or even his license, we rocketed back up to the crater's rim and arrived with a few minutes to spare. Rumor has it some of us were counting our bones; I was not because I don't actually know how many I should end up with, so what good would it do?

Before dinner we used the last proper shower that we would see in days. The shower came however at the price of a horrible smell in the room, as if someone had just applied wood varnish to all of it and then spilled some as added bonus. With that we opened the windows and balcony door, gasping for fresh air, which we got at the expense of heat: it gets pretty cold at this elevation at night, nearby equator or not.

We escaped the smell of the room to dinner, which was not too bad if it wasn't for the pathetic "service" by the wait staff. Others may disagree, but I missed the quality of food and service from the past days - not to mention that the tent didn't smell nearly as bad as our room, since air circulation is a built-in feature. Smelly or not, the room had power and water, meaning we could recharge and also clean our equipment from the moon dust. The yellow micro fiber cloths that I brought with me were showing their great value, and were slowly turning brown. We were just getting started...

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