So the first question out of everyone’s mouth this morning was “Who had to go to the toilet last night?”. I did, and while I had to psych myself up to do it, it was uneventful. Paul the Russian said that there were buffalo in the campsite when he got up, and I think the Russians had some messy run-in with the bush pigs. (they’re always in some sort of trouble). But all in all it was a quiet evening.
We had toast and eggs for breakfast, which is such a treat! I could get used to this subcontracted safari. We’d gotten used to cereal, instant milk, and bread for breakfast.
We left Ngorongoro and the environment changed as soon as we descended from our campsite. We’re definitely heading toward the Serengeti during the dry season. The roads became dusty and dry, the green trees and leaves disappeared and were replaced by dry plains and an occasional tree. We stopped by a Maasai village to get some culture.
To gain entrance to the village, we had to pay the chief a $10 entry fee, which Isaac assured us would go to books and medicine. This is a working Maasai village – not one that is populated only during the day. The tribe that lives there performed for us by singing and jumping – something the boys do very well. The village had small huts made of mud and branches, and had small areas for the goats and livestock. The warriors were out with the cattle, so we basically saw the women and the young boys. There was a small school in the back of the village where the youngest children were being taught. Around the center area was their “market” where they sold their jewelry and beadwork. And they were relentless in trying to get us to buy from them. It was almost sad that this wonderful village was impacted by tourism, but it’s inevitable and is my fault as much as anyone’s (I paid the $10, right?).
There was a young man in black, which was unusual as everyone else was wearing red. The chief told us that he had just been circumcised and the black was a symbol of that ritual. The Maasai are circumcised between the ages of 14-20, and it’s a coming-of-age tradition that is a big part of their lives. (The women are circumcised too, but I’ll stay off my soapbox for that one and save it for another essay.) We later saw many other young men along the road in black with their faces painted white in ghoulish patterns. They were usually in pairs and stood on the side of the road looking very confident and cocky in their new “manly” status. Isaac said that the white is to make them unattractive to women until they have healed.
Jon and me on a “kopje” (rocky outcrop) – great view of the Serengeti
The drive to the campsite was very, very dusty. Every time we passed another car we would have to roll the windows up to avoid clouds of dust billowing in the truck. Along the way, we saw a cheetah sitting in the the sun on the side of the road, and also saw ostrich, gazelles, and giraffe. The campsite is right in the thick of the Serengeti, and not far from a pack of Zebras. However, it is also one of the most “bush” of the sites we’ve stayed at. There are bathrooms, but no running water. Brandon (the guide) says that this is the most expensive of the campsites we stay at, but is also the least equipped. No kidding. There are two big tanks of water with spigots on the bottom, but they’re not connected to the shower rooms.
So we set up our tents, put up the top of the Land Rover, and left for a game drive. The Serengeti has 3000 elephants, 2000 lion, 700-900 leopards, 1500 cheetahs, and 200,000 impalas. Here’s what we saw:
- Vervet Monkeys
- Marabou Stork
- A HUGE herd of elephant (20+)
- 2 lions
- Butler Eagle
- Another HUGE herd of elephant (25+)
- Lilac-breasted roller
- Cape Buffalo
- A leopard in a tree with a gazelle carcass on a limb above it.
Small elephant family
So we can now say that we’ve seen the “big five” of Africa: elephant, rhino, leopards, lions, and buffalo.
We went back to camp to find that the park rangers had not turned the water on yet. So we filled up empty water bottles and “showered” using the bottles and a few bowls used by the cooks. It took a while and was a bit awkward, but it actually wasn’t that bad. I was just happy to get the layer of dust off of me. Then we had a lovely dinner, and we all tried to go to the toilet as much as possible before going to bed so we don’t have to venture outside the tent at night. As I was brushing my teeth, we heard lions roaring in the distance. Mathilde says that there is no way she’s going to the toilet no matter how badly she has to go, and I don’t blame her. The lions-in-the-campsite thing sounded cool and adventurous, but it’s a whole new ballgame when you’re actually lying there in a tent listening to the sounds of the Serengeti. What I really want are concrete walls and a padlock.