Today is the first day of our safari! We met our guide/driver, Elvis, in the morning and then headed over to Tarangire National Park. We had a cook with us as well, but Elvis dropped him off at a market (where we got hounded by locals trying to sell us beads), and then we continued on. The drive gave us many views of Kilimanjaro, and I still can't comprehend how massive it is!
The road to Tarangire was in rough shape. There were many spots where there were “diversions,” where we had to detour onto an even worse road. It was at this time that I realized how lucky we were to have a guide with us since there aren’t many road signs, and we would have surely gotten lost. Before even getting to these roads, we had to stop at an ATM in Arusha. The first one was broken (empty), and Elvis called it a big empty box. We stopped at another one but were only able to get 200,000 shillings (about $120). That should do for now.
After many hours of driving, we made it to Tarangire National Park. We were surprised that it costs $45 per person per day to visit the park. Luckily this was included in the price of our tour. While in the parking lot, we saw our first monkey and Baobab tree.
We spent some time driving around the park. Elvis popped open the roof of our Land Cruiser so we could stand and enjoy the view. I actually found standing to be more comfortable than sitting, and I was impressed with the shock absorption of the Land Cruiser. Charlie said we don’t have these in the U.S. because they would never pass our safety standards.
On a side note, Charlie was surprised there aren’t a lot of Hondas here. Apparently it’s because they are very expensive. Charlie also said there are a lot of diesel cars out here compared to the U.S.
My favorite part of Tarangire was watching the elephants take baths in the mud. They do this to stay cool and to protect them from the sun. The baby elephants were adorable too! I would definitely say that the elephants were the most frequent animals we saw today.
We saw the following animals today: elephant, zebra, giraffe, water buck, buffalo, wart hog, olive baboon, impala, ostrich, and even two cheetah at the end. Tomorrow we want to see lion and hippo!
You could tell Elvis was an experienced guide when he stopped on the side of the road with a big smile on his face. We were looking at what we thought was an empty watering hole until Elvis pointed out two cheetah! Even with him pointing at them, it took me a while to see them. I can't believe he could pick them out while driving! The two photos below are zoomed-in and zoomed-out versions of the cheetahs.
After Tarangire, we drove towards our campsite. We drove through a Massai market and learned you can sell a medium-sized cow here for $400. Luckily we didn’t have to get out of the car and get hassled by anyone.
As we continued to drive, it started to get cooler and wetter. We turned onto a side road to get to our campsite for the night (Karatu Forest Tented Camp). We were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was.
When we got out of the car, a man greeted us with a hot washcloth to wash our hands (which has happened frequently throughout this trip, even on the plane) and some pineapple juice. Then they walked us to our “tent” which was huge and had a front area with a BED, and then an outdoor area in the back with a toilet and shower. The walkways were cute and well maintained, and there was also a campfire area. Charlie and I were the only guests here, and they set up a nice display of beer, wine, and liquor just for us. There was also a sheltered dining area. This was some luxurious camping!
After getting settled, it was time for tea / hot chocolate, popcorn, and peanuts by the fire. It was drizzling, so we went into the dining area. Soon after, it was time for our candle-lit dinner. We had rice, a beef sauce, veggies, and a banana/honey dessert. It was delicious.
We talked a little bit with our server, Fable. He is from Moshi and is training to become a waiter. Charlie asked about his family and learned that both his parents are dead, and he has one brother and one sister who are still in school. He would like to make enough money to be able to take a bus to Moshi and give some money to his family.
Fable told us that this site only has about 10-20 visitors a month. We couldn’t believe how empty it was. Although they don’t have any electricity, they do use solar power for lighting and hot water. I think they thought we were crazy that we weren’t planning on taking showers.
After dinner we sat by the fire, and Charlie bought a bottle of Kilimanjaro beer for 4,000 shillings ($3). We were still exhausted from our climb, so we went to bed soon after that.
Although the bed and sheets felt a little damp from the humidity, it was a comfy night of sleeping. I woke up a few times with a huge indent in the mattress from by butt, but that’s okay!