Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Home again, home again jiggity jig

This will most likely be my last post from Tanzania as we fly home tomorrow.  Internet reception has been terrible here even though this country is far better off than Uganda; another of life's ironies.  After I get over jet lag, I intend to post a few more entries to cover everything I haven't been able to post due to technological difficulties--so if you are following this, don't give up on me just yet.

Today we drove 2000 feet down into Ngorongoro Crater where we spent 6 hours racing around to see everything before our permit expired.  The government regulates the number and hours of vehicles in an attempt to preserve the conservation area, and while that is perhaps admirable, it's a bit disconcerting to see 20 jeeps surrounding a pride of 5 lions.  The guides all keep in touch with each other so the word spreads quickly when something worth viewing is discovered.  And yet, those same 5 lions used the shade of our jeeps to find relief from the sun, and as we jockeyed for position to get better photos, the lions used our jeeps as cover to move closer to a mixed herd of buffalo and zebra--hoping to make a kill. 

We took a box breakfast with us--parking in the shade of a yellow bark acacia at the farthest picnic area to unwrap all sorts of little surprises to munch on.  Janet walked over to look at something and turned her back on her breakfast for just a split second.  In no time a vervet monkey grabbed her breakfast box and tried to make off with it.  She snatched it away from him before he could open it and take out any goodies, but he got his revenge.  While we finished our treats and looked around, he took the opportunity to sit in the tree above our open jeep and pooped right into Rosemary's camera backpack.  Although Rosemary failed to see the humor in it, the rest of us quietly snickered out of earshot.

Vast herds of zebra, wildebeast (gnu), gazelle, and buffalo inhabit the crater floor--grazing on the dusty brown grass while waiting for the short rains to come.  Other creatures share the space but not in such large numbers.  We witnessed  the courting dance of two ostriches as they fanned their wings, bobbed their heads, and chased each other around the savannah.  The male's head becomes inflamed, displaying a bright red color as he shows his excitement.  Hot to trot!  We were lucky to view one of the few remaining rhino taking a nap in the middle of an open area.  Apparently, he didn't like the dry hot wind and simply stopped moving, refusing to proceed until the wind died down.  A couple of cheetah,  a school of hippo, some spectacular birds, and gigantic bull elephants rounded out the morning.  Once the rains arrive and the grass greens, the animals won't be so visible.  We count our blessings as we dash back up to the crater rim to leave by our appointed time so our guide won't have to pay a big fine.

Time to sign off as last night the lodge turned off all the lights and left me in the dark without a flashlight.  The night watchman kindly rescued me before I spent the entire night wandering around the corkscrew paths looking for my cabin. 

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