Friday, September 23, 2011

Kilimanjaro - Day 4

Not entirely sure when this happened, but I  guess it's a proof of the good time I had
My first night in Tanzania proved to be a lot more eventful than I had expected it.   If I remember correctly I might've left our room to find a bathroom (we had one in our room) and I'm quite sure Nigel has also left at one point to do whoever knows what.  It's all very blurry.  But despite of all the festivities of the previous night I woke up before 7am.  And despite all the different kinds of liquors consumed in the past 12 hours I felt, to my absolutely amazement, completely fine.  I got up, did my usual morning stuff details of which are not all that important, and got ready for breakfast (which our hotel served from 7am-10am).  My trip companion didn't share my good mood in the morning however.

Figuring that Nigel will need a bit more time to recover from the previous night, I left him in the room and set out for breakfast by myself.

Our hotel restaurant was nothing to brag about, but it was a nice and small outdoor eatery.  Breakfast was included in our room rate so we made use of that every day we stayed there.  Food itself was the same every time - some type of eggs, cereal (which I haven't tried because I was worried about drinking milk), various jams and toast and a great, fresh fruit salad (and of course various coffees and teas)

I started my breakfast in a completely empty restaurant (it was shortly after 7am after all), but shortly after Nigel has finally joined me (still not doing all that great).  He did try to pretend he was doing fine, but as some events later in the day would prove he was still not quite himself.

Rest of breakfast was very uneventful and after countless coffees and teas later we were ready for our next day in Arusha.

The previous day we had arranged for a short, one day safari in Arusha National Park.  We were told we should be able to see all the major animals minus elephants and lions, which we figured was not a bad deal. 

While getting ready for the safari I was trying to fit the stereotype of a tourist - note my sunglasses and mandatory DSLR camera.
Our Guide met up with us shortly after breakfast and we drove around Arusha while he was doing some funky money business (I didn't quite follow what was going on, but had something to do with paying for park entrance fees).  We drove to some less-than-nice looking parts of Arusha to meet up with our Guide's brother who had an entrance card waiting for us.

Just a random picture of less-than-nice part of Arusha
After we got the card (or whatever we were getting) we drove back to our hotel where our Guide as arranged a proper safari-ready vehicle to take us on an approximately four hour safari.  At first I thought we were going to do this with our Guide  but instead we had a different driver - he wasn't very friendly so we quickly gave up trying to be chatty with him.

Arusha National Park was about a 30-45 minute drive from our hotel, but because of some bizarre pursuit of boxed lunch (for both us and the driver) we spent an extra 30 minutes driving around random resorts in the area.  After we finally got our lunch we set out for the park.

Some fine driving in Arusha - this is a normal 2-lane road

Nigel was trying to stay positive...
...but he still hasn't fully recovered.
The whole way to the park we were wondering how "wild" it will actually be.  We kind of imagined that this would be like a larger zoo of sorts, with fences and other things preventing the animals from going in and out.  Thankfully just getting to the entrance gate made us realize that this is basically as "wild" as it gets - there was a group of ten or so giraffes just walking around just steps from the parking lot.

We took a quick break while our driver went to pay the entrance fees, but after about ten minutes we began our mini safari.

Nigel couldn't resist taking this beauty shot as I was getting into our vehicle

As we started driving a huge giraffe walked across the road in front of our car and stopped on the side of the road for some more grazing.  It was kind of weird standing just feet away from a huge wild animal I've only seen in zoos before, but based on that first experience I was really excited about the rest of the safari (and it sure didn't disappoint)

We drove for only a couple minutes and stopped at the edge of a large field filled with all different kinds of animals (mostly zebras and water buffalo, but also giraffes, wild boars and some kind of antelopes).  It was really cool seeing all those animals grazing on the grass together.

We spent 15-20 minutes looking around and then moved on to go up into the wooded area of the park.  We drove for a good 15 minutes without any animal sightings, but almost as soon as we entered the woods we spotted our first (of very many) monkey.

Black and white Colobus monkeys are quote common in Arusha National Park (we saw a lot of them during the day).  This particular one was very active and hard to keep track of, so after just a few minutes and several photo attempts later we moved on to find something else to look at.  Took us just a couple minutes to encounter a group of baboons blocking the road.  The moved out of the way quickly, but stopped on the side of the road and stared at us for a good few minutes before going deeper into the woods 

We saw several more of the Colobus monkeys (that seemed more interested in us than we were in them), but after few minutes of admiring their tree climbing skills we moved on to another spot.

Our next spot was Ngurdoto Crater.  For that we had to drive up pretty high into the park and that took at least 20 minutes of driving on very narrow road with very steep cliffs on both sides.  Add other cars going in the other direction and all this made for a very nerve wracking ride.  The end result was worth it.  We arrived at the very top of the Ngurdoto Crater with a magnificent view down onto the crater floor below.  We saw some water buffalo and some antelopes down below (Nigel also swore up and down he saw elephants but neither me nor the driver had any idea what he was talking about).

After about 20 minutes on top of the crater we went back the same we came to drive towards some lakes in the park.  We encountered some cool birds and interesting trees and a large group of baboons just trotting on the road in front of us (there were like 20 of them at least).

Just a little bit up the road (after the baboons graciously let us pass) we encountered a large group of blue monkeys.  They were pretty small, but very close to us and not at all afraid.

I snapped a ton of photos and generally had a good time observing the cute little monkeys when one decided to show us how monkeys take care of their natural needs (spoiler alert - they just go wherever they feel like going).  No photos would be complete with the proof of such "going" so here it is:

The bigger green dot is exactly what you think it is
Little did I know that I would have the opportunity to become acquainted with monkey droppings on a very personal level (thankfully no feces throwing was involved).  Not two minutes after this one monkey took care of its business another one decided to do the same.  This one had a much better spot though - right above our car.  I mean right above our car.  With the roof opened.

This is the aftermath of this unique experience.  Thankfully majority of the extremely smelly monkey pee ended up on the back of our car and very little got inside and even less on me (Nigel escaped without any contact).  Some unfortunately did get on me, but hey, how many of you can say they got peed on by a monkey.  I have to give credit to our driver in this case - the moment he saw what happened he moved the car forward.  Not ten seconds later a big green turd came falling down on the road where our car was just moments ago.  We escaped with just minor injuries.

After all this happened we decided to call it a lunch.  Our driver was very ready for a break because he was driving at very high speeds, on very bumpy roads.  All this didn't sit well with Nigel.  As you recall, he was still hurting from the previous night.  After a bit of the erratic driving Nigel asked the driver to stop.  He nervously tried to open the door and not a second after he left the car he did what every hurting person would do in his situation (you figure out the details).  After that he felt much better, so now we were truly ready for lunch.  We drove another 20 or so minutes to a nice little lake for a quick, half hour lunch.  As I mentioned earlier our driver picked up boxed lunch for us, so that's what we had waiting for us when we got to the lunch spot.  Lunch consisted of a burger (which neither me nor Nigel ate - it looked repulsive) and some fruit, yogurt, juice - just normal stuff.  We quickly ate our portions, chatted with some other safari goers (who were also there to climb Kilimanjaro in the next couple days) and after 15 or so minutes we were ready to get going again (our driver was not pleased, seemed like he wanted more time.)
Some giraffes we saw while driving to lunch - it still felt weird to see wild animals just randomly walk around

Nigel with our awesome boxed lunch
View from our picnic tables at lunch

After lunch we only had one more stop, but both me and Nigel were getting ready to get the safari over with.  Nigel was still not in the best of shapes so he took a quick snoozer on the way to our next destination.

The last place of interest in our mini safari was a big crater lake with a huge number of flamingos (apparently there are even more of them during rainy season).  We spent a good 20 minutes looking at the very pink birds flying between two edges of the lake.  They were super loud, but cool nonetheless.

After we got bored with the birds we drove around the park a bit more, but haven't really seen any more notable things.  We went up to a top of a little mountain with very nice views of the very dry landscape around (managed to spot more giraffes while there).  The lake we were just at was still in sight so we had a different view of the flamingos still flying round down below.

Eventually we got bored of the driving and all the random animals and we started heading back home.  I promptly fell asleep in the car (the previous night combined with getting up early finally caught up to me).

Took us good 45 minutes to get back to our hotel.  We parted ways with our grumpy driver (who got a very small tip from us, mostly because I didn't give him one) and headed back to our room.  Since tomorrow was our first day of the Kilimanjaro trek we didn't make any plans for the rest of the day (it was already well past 4pm at this time anyways).  We decided to grab dinner at our hotel's restaurant and other than that just kind of chill out and not do anything.  Our Guide had let us know he'd come by our hotel later on in the evening to go over what we should expect the next day.  He came while we were eating and we made arrangements for tomorrow morning.  He left after just about 10 minutes.  Me and Nigel slowly finished our dinner and by the time we got back to our room it was getting pretty late (relatively speaking).

The last thing I wanted to accomplish was to get all my clothes and equipment ready for the trek.  As with every trip I go on, I well overpacked so I had a ton of stuff to sift through to make sure I didn't bring anything unnecessary (we were both limited to a single 15kg duffel bag of clothes that our porters would carry).  I let Nigel pack his stuff first (we only had one bed and the room was very small so it was hard to work at the same time) and after about an hour he was finally finished.  Then it was my turn and it took me far longer than that to get everything ready.  By the time I was done I was well above my 15kg allowance and my day pack was much heavier than I was hoping it would be.  But I packed everything I wanted (even stuff I ended up not even looking at) and by 9pm we were both all set and ready to go.

My mess - my red duffel bag didn't feel as big as I hoped it would

Nigel's bag patiently waiting to be joined by mine (it would be a while)

My daypack - much lighter than my usual backpack, but way heavier than I had hoped

But at least Nigel's wasn't any lighter

Our matching duffel bags waiting to be finally used (mine's the red one)
Me posing in a size small shirt that I somehow brought with me.  I still have no idea who this shirt belongs to
After a short debate of whether or not to take a shower at night (final answer: NO) we both took an early night and after 15 minutes of tinkering with our phones (there was no TV to watch!!) we went to sleep to get some good rest for our first hiking day.


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