Tanzania Day 16 - Serengeti Adventures and Broken Cars

We woke up early this morning since we needed to leave at 6am. It was cooler last night than I expected, but I was still sweating in my -5 degree sleeping bag.

The plan was to leave at 6, do some driving, and then have breakfast. We had a good morning. We started off by watching a ton of hippos in their pool sitting, walking, and fighting. We continued to drive as it became lighter out, and we saw a male lion. He was walking parallel to the road, and we followed him for quite some time. The lion didn’t even seem phased by us.

Next, we went searching for a leopard. We didn’t have much luck at first, but then we ran into a group of about 5 cars that had spotted one. It was hidden very well in the tree, and the only way you could see it was with the change of shadows when it moved. Eventually it made its way down to one of the exposed branches where we could see it, and it laid down. By this time, 19 safari vehicles had accumulated. After a little longer, the leopard crawled down the tree to the ground where we could no longer see it. I am still amazed at how these safari guides can spot these animals so well.

The rest of the morning was pretty uneventful in terms of animals, but the roads were pretty crazy at times. We went through one huge mud puddle where Elvis actually decided to go backwards instead of passing through it. He had to lock up the differentials to do this. There were a few other sketchy moments, one being where I was certain the car was going to tip over.

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We survived the crazy roads of the Serengeti and had lunch at our campsite before heading over to Ngorongoro Crater. For cats, we ended up seeing 1 lion, 1 leopards, and 2 cheetahs today.

Before going to Simba Campsite near Ngorongoro Crater, we made a pit stop at Olduvai Gorge. We were nervous this was going to be a cultural tour with lots of hecklling, but it ended up being a museum with a lecture from a staff member about the archaeological and geological history of the area. Olduvai Gorge is one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world and has provided the most continuous known record of human evolution during the past 2 million years. It also has the longest known archaeological record of the development of stone-tool industries.

 Olduvai Gorge

I also forgot to mention our breakfast tour. After having breakfast, a guide took us along a self-interpretive trail around a big rock. The most amusing part of this was these rodent-like groundhog things that were hanging out on the rocks. They were everywhere, and they were so silly.

Around 5pm, we arrived at the Simba Campsite. It was a nice spot on the crater rim, but there were a ton of tents and there were more Massai people there trying to heckle us into buying more of their overpriced stuff. It took several hapanas (no's) to get them to go away.

 Simba Campsite
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When we got out of our car, Charlie noticed there was smoke coming from one of the front wheels. It turns out Elvis busted one of the wheel bearings. At least we made it to camp! We’re guessing this happened a few hours prior, when Elvis went onto a back road and started racing another safari vehicle (that had two of our Canadian friends which Elvis apparently referred to as hippos the day before). He was going REALLY fast on a REALLY bumpy “road”. There were a few times he went past some groups of cattle that were right in the way, and he didn’t even slow down, even when the other car was pushing the animals over in front of us.

We “won” the race.

A few hours later at camp, Elvis asked us if he could borrow 80,000 shillings (about $50) and a headlamp since he didn’t have enough money for a new wheel bearing (or a flashlight). Luckily we had 80,000 shillings, but we don’t have much left now (only 10,000 shillings left). Elvis said he would pay us back tomorrow.

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While waiting for tea time, Charlie started talking with a guide from another group. The guide was saying how he has traveled to the U.S. before, and they have always given him a hard time coming in. He said he has been to Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington D.C., Iowa, and Nebraska. He said he has friends in the U.S. who give him rides in their helicopter and let him drive their Ferrari. Lucky guy!

Our chef eventually called us over for tea time and popcorn. We ate that really quick because we were starving. Unfortunately, it took forever for our appetizer to arrive. We waited about one hour for our soup, and by the time we got it most groups were finished with their dinner. We eventually got our dinner as well, which was spaghetti and a meat sauce. It was very fulfilling, but I still don’t understand why it took over an hour to make!

 Dining area at Simba Camp

After dinner, we talked with Elvis who said the car was good to go for tomorrow. When we walked over to our tent we noticed it was still jacked up. Hmmm...

 Fixing our broken safari vehicle