June 2, 2007

Ngorongoro Crater

The trip to Ngorongoro went much smoother than the quest to leave for that trip. We left early Sunday morning, after I got the chance to watch the sun rise over the Uruguru Mountains just in front of Wes’s house. The light in a sunrise is somehow different then the light in a sunset, just as pretty, but softer somehow. It’s a day beginning instead of ending.

The radio in Suyenne’s car didn’t work, so we spent some time running around Morogoro trying to find a store that was open that might be able to fix it or sell us portable speakers that we’d actually be able to hear…since it was still early though, and on a Sunday, no luck. We did manage to borrow a portable radio from Albert (one of the other peace corps volunteers), so finally we gave up our quest for something we could play an ipod on and left.

We drove basically all day…we were stopped by the police at one point in time for speeding, at which point the policeman said “You were speeding, you must pay a fine of 10,000 shillings (a bit under $10), and the other policeman kind of coughed, “20,000,” and the first said, “Yes, yes, you must pay a fine of 20,000 shillings.” We tried to argue the fact that the fine changed mid-sentence, but, not wanting to give them reason to hold us or cause trouble, didn’t argue too much. We paid and were on our way again.

Towards the end of the ride we stopped in Arusha, a large town a few hours away from Ngorongoro…Arusha was crazy. It had everything. Including a giant Shoprite, and a place called Steers that’s sort of like a McDonald’s…it was weird entering those places and realizing that we were still in Tanzania. Meanwhile, though, it still had the regular more Tanzanian type stores…Arusha was a funny blending of Africa and the western world.

We made it to Peter (another peace corps volunteer)’s site without much trouble. Drove up a fairly rocky road to the school that he works at and parked where we were told the car wouldn’t be disturbed and that someone would keep an eye on it, then went to Peter’s house to sleep. He was a nice guy – he had dinner made for us already, and the next morning he made coffee. We didn’t stay up late, since we were all pretty exhausted, so went to bed early. (Sleeping on couch cushions on the floor is somewhat awkward, especially when some of the cushions are different sizes. I was tired, though, so slept well anyway).

The next morning we woke up early to go to Ngorongoro…drank some coffee, and were on our way. As we walked towards the car, though, we realized something – the area where we had parked was the area that the students all assembled in the morning, and it was a school day. So we walked to the car amidst the stares of basically the entire secondary school, and then had to wait for students to move out of the way (while still staring) as we backed out of the place.

As we drove there, Wes mentioned that he had figured out that he could take out the back window of Suyenne’s car to enjoy the safari better, since it didn’t roll down…Suyenne expressed her uncomfortableness with the idea that baboons could jump into the car, was reassured that there are no baboons in Ngorongoro Crater and, even if there were, they wouldn’t be very likely to jump into the car, and just as we drove down the road into the park, what’s the first thing we’re greeted with? About ten baboons! Just chilling in the road, doing their own thing…they didn’t seem concerned by us in the slightest. Very cool. To be fair, Wes was right, there are no baboons actually in the crater, but it was pretty funny to see them just before we entered the conservation area.

We got a permit to enter the park and drove a little further into a winding mountain road…were greeted by an absolutely gorgeous view of the crater from above. Took a few pictures and continued until finally we were at the gate…you’re technically supposed to take a guide with you, but we really didn’t want to, since we had a map of the crater and we’d have to pay a guide to make the car more crowded…Wes went to talk to some of the guards, and, twenty minutes later, we were in the park, no guide. It’s amazing what some charm and Swahili will do, apparently. We were the only private car in the entire crater.

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