I didn’t sleep that well last night. I got all settled, and then I found one mosquito inside my netting, buzzing past my ear. But it was a nocturnal mosquito—when I turned on the light, it disappeared and became silent. That’s when I saw a really big ¾” long ant crawling up the *inside* of my netting. I squashed it. I lay there in the light for rather a while waiting for the mosquito to reappear, but all I found was a second huge ant.
One of the other guys had complained earlier about finding lots of tiny biting ants in his bed before Kili, so it was some time before I managed to fall asleep, and even then, the comforter was so warm that I was sweating. But at least the shower worked fine this morning.
Time to do the final packing for the safari and head out.
It is now dark, and we are staying at a really neat place (Kikoti Lodge) just outside of the Tarangire National Park. Each bungalow is a large raised platform, screened in on three sides (a wall on the fourth), with a thatched roof. Power is by photocells, and water is trucked in. The bathroom and shower are found in the back two corners of each structure. The doorways to each are framed with bent and twisted branches. The walls connecting them to the outside walls are wavy/curved to match the wood. On the whole, it makes it look very organic. In the center are one or two beds, surrounded by mosquito netting. In the front two corners are a table and chair, and a couch-like thing. We are out in the wild, so we were warned not to walk outside after dark without an escort.
This morning, in Arusha we drove to a bank, where we hit the ATM. It only gave Tanzanian shillings, which are roughly 1000 to the dollar. It was very odd making a withdrawal of 100,000. I felt like I was buying a house, although this only represented $100.
Then we went to the cultural center. This was a tourist place that has a bazillion crafts, statues, sculptures, etc. some quite large. A lot of people bought Tanzanite (a gem stone), but I balked at the $400-$800 (or more) price tag. I bought some cheaper stuff.
Then we drove to the Tarangire National Park. It was sort of
like Disney’s Animal Kingdom safari, except that it was real. We drove around
bumpy roads with the top of the Land Cruiser open.
We would stick our heads and shoulders out and take pictures.
We saw wildebeest, impala, elephants, lions, monkeys, giraffes, and others.
At first, we were impressed by the herds of zebra. But then they ended up being so common and numerous that they sort of got boring. At one point, we found a mommy elephant and few young ones. I guess we got too close, because the mommy told us off in a loud voice, and we decided to leave that area.
John and I had brought tripods to steady the camera when using large lenses, but these did not work out too well, and we soon scrapped them. Not only where they a pain to put up and take down, but we were afraid that they would transmit the vibration of the vehicle from the engine into the camera. We used the tripods on a few occasions (and John took his up on Kili), but all in all they were rather a waste.
It was quite sunny and warm. It is hard to believe that two days ago I was in a snow storm not that far from here. This is more of the climate that I was expecting. Up on the mountain, I wondered if I would ever be warm again. Now I’m wondering what it feels like to be cool. Based on the previous night, I imagine that the temperature will drop sharply now that the sun has gone down.
When we were driving around, the place was really heating up. We could see a cloud cover develop. It was very similar to watching thunderstorms develop on a hot summer day back home. Eventually, we could see showers here and there in the distance, and then finally one hit us and we had to put the top back on. It was fairly short-lived, though.
At various times, we were invaded inside the Land Cruiser by a number of tse-tse flies. What concerned me the most was the fact that our guide/driver seemed to be concerned about them. He commented that they can carry the sleeping sickness, and whenever one was in the front, he would try to smush it, regardless of whether he was driving at the time or not. Unfortunately, they proved somewhat difficult to kill. They were relatively hard, and so it took a lot of pressure to get them. The inside of the Land Cruiser was rather padded, so often I would smash it, and then watch the bug just fly away.
The Kikoti Lodge is neat. It is sort of like posh camping. It has all of the nice qualities—with the screening, it feels like you are outside, but it also has all of the amenities such as private flush toilets, sinks, beds, a desk, etc.
This is a pretty swanky place. When we drove up after our half-day safari, we were greeted by a guy serving us with glasses of juice (pineapple?) in glasses that had been frosted with sugar on the rim.
The wind just came up and it feels really neat. It almost feels like a storm is coming. This is some of my favorite weather. It really got dark once the sun went down. The only problem is that we have no water. They are looking into it, but we at present can’t use the toilet or sink.
It turns out that the wind did portend a storm, so once again I had to don my Gor-Tex to head over to the main building for dinner. I thought that I was through with that stuff. My escort waited for a lull, then we set off. I guess I didn’t need my rain shell at that point, but I was also concerned about the return trip. At first, I thought that my escort was carrying an umbrella, but then I realized that it was a rifle. I’m not sure how much of this is for show versus real safety. Some of the other escorts (Maasai?) were carrying only a bow and a few arrows.
The doors to the bungalows are strange. There is one bolt on the inside and a separate one on the outside, but there is no connection between them. This means that if one person leaves and bolts the door, the other person is locked inside. Similarly, if I am on the inside and wanted to go to bed before my room-mate arrived, I could not latch the door, without requiring that he awaken me on his return. Very strange…