Under The Stars Of Africa – Part 2
So, where did I leave off in this tale of (mis)adventure? Ah yes. In part one I finished by cluing you in a little about what it takes to get across a border smoothly in Sub-Saharan Africa, in case you ever go.
After we crossed the border into Tanzania, the blocked fuel lines on our (
trusty) old Landrover continued to hamper us, but we thought so long as it didn’t get any worse we could continue our trip, albeit rather slowly.
Unfortunately, we were wrong. It was going to get a whole lot worse.
A New Camp and a New Friend
It’s about 50km of dirt track from the gate we entered to our campground in the heart of the Serengeti. Fifty kilometers of rough, corrugated gravel road.
On the way down, we hit a snag. Actually, we hit a rut. A really big one. Doing so broke the Land Rover’s suspension and the car careened off the road and up the embankment. My door flew open as we became airborne and I simultaneously grabbed hold of the driver’s seat head rest and the cameras in my lap to stop us both from flying out the open door while my husband struggled to regain control of the car.
Thankfully a large tree slowed our momentum and brought us to a sudden stop.
A little shaken, we took a few minutes (and more than a few deep breaths) before continuing. To add to our existing car troubles, we now had a broken bull bar, a large scrape on the passengers side the full length of the car and broken suspension on both the front and rear axles. We literally hobbled into camp.
Sometimes spotting wildlife in a 15,000km2 National Park is like trying to find a lion shaped needle in a haystack so having a guide who knows the area is a huge advantage.
We made enquiries at the information centre and one of the tourism students working there offered to be our guide. This is great in so many ways. It gives the volunteer students a little cash and guiding experience and it gives us the chance to make new friends and interact with locals that we possibly wouldn’t have on our own, or with a professional guide
To add to our car woes, the cigarette lighter hadn’t worked properly since the electrics caught fire on the first night. Combined with the heat and no ice, our car fridge was ineffective and our fresh food was not staying fresh for very long.
Instead of letting us live on a diet of pasta and rice while we were there, Abu (our student guide) would take us to the workers camp for lunch and dinner. At the end of the day we would have impromptu Swahili lessons over a few beers in the staff bar. Very few tourists can say they enjoyed those kinds of experiences.
Onto The Cradle of Life – Via a Brush with Death
(OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic)
Our last morning in the Serengeti was bittersweet – we had met some great people and the wildlife was incredible – I would have loved to stay longer. However, Ngorongoro Crater was our next stop and we were keen to see what this legendary ‘cradle of life’ was about.
We were just about to set off. I was in the passenger seat studying the maps and our planned route, and my husband started the car, always an adventure in itself as there was about a 50% chance it would start first go.
Happy that the car had started and unbeknownst to me (when I’m focused, I’m really focused) he decided to leave the car running while he left for a quick toilet break before our departure.
I looked up to find the car slowly rolling backwards down a slope through camp and no-one in the driver’s seat. Have I mentioned that the handbrake doesn’t work?
There was a backpack blocking my access to the drivers seat, making it too hard to clamber across so I jumped out of the car, ran around the front and launched myself into the driver’s seat, stamping both feet onto the brake. Just in time for my husband to nonchalantly wander back to camp completely bewildered as to why I was in the driver’s seat and why I had decided to move the car!
His toilet breaks will be the death of me!