Day Two: Drive through Ngorongoro area to Serengeti National Park. Pass by a Masai village and interact with them.
Breakfast was crepes, omelette and bread.
We started at 6am today, driving through the lovely meadows surrounding the Ngorongoro crater. The greenery and mist was not what I had in mind. Africa conjures red, dusty, flat landscape and this morning mist, wind and greenery was surprising. We passed cattles grazing and tiny hamlets emitting smoke, imagining a Masai woman huddled over a stove.
We did get a chance to meet a Masai tribe. The Masais now understand that they are famous and everyone wants to know about them. So, they charge us a fee of 20000 Ths as entry. They did a welcome song, a jumping competition and we were taken to a school. A donation box kept in the middle and the village chieftain expected us to pay a donation. But all of us seem to be reeling from the entrance fee and none moved towards the donation box. And of course, all of us calculated the daily tourists and their entrance fee and did the math. It was a topic of discussion that night at dinner.
The village chieftain’s son, Molel, showed us around. He was likeable, had an extremely good command over English. He took us to one of the Masai houses and inside one of their tiny rooms, he explained the fascinating way they lived. We asked questions and he patiently answered. He then showed some artifacts but no one urged us to buy. Tipping while parting seemed like the right thing to do, though voluntary. Molel asked for a tip, and even a tiny one would have been totally okay, but we liked the guy and tipped 10000Ths (which is average, we feel).
After this tiny deviation, we headed to Serengeti. It was a 3hrs drive. Mid-way we stopped for lunch near the Nabi Gate. Routine lunch with dry chicken, juice box, a muffin, etc etc.
Entry time must have been around 2pm. We didn’t go to the campsite and instead, headed for the safari right away. By now, the Swedes were irritating us with their antics. Each giraffe, buffalo, baboon and zebra had to be captured.
Finally, I asked the driver if we could see anything carnivorous.
The thing with the safari driver is that your word is almost equal to God’s word because his tip depends on his behavior.
The very next second, he flipped on the UHF radio and took us straight to a tree where two lionesses were sitting pretty. After that, it was bye-bye herbivores, hello carnivores. We saw a lazy leopard, a tiger devouring a zebra and an entire pride of lions lazing after a meal (the blood on their face being the indicator). We saw vultures and hyenas and hippos.
At around 5:30pm, we were taken to the public campsite.
If you are in a super budget tour, you can help in putting your own tent (yes, that reduces the trip costs) or you can bring your own tent. Ours was a non-participatory tent wherein we needn’t help in putting up the tents. But everyone kind of got around to helping pitch the tents.
The tents were basic ones of good military grade material. We were given sleeping bags but it was too hot to sleep in them. In fact, we rolled up the window flaps to let in the cool breeze.
By the way, the sunsets in Africa are fiery and the sky has this nice orangish-pink hue that almost looks unreal.
In the public campsite, it must have been around a dozen cars parked that night. There were clean bathrooms, but no toilet rolls. In another tangent, people flick toilet rolls. (Yes, don’t accuse the Indians of stealing free government stuff; everyone does it. The Swedes did it. How I know? Well, the girl asked for my roll the first night, but they had their own roll from the next night. Deep down, all human nature boils to nature calls!)
That night, the popcorn with tea, and the usual leek soup with stacks of bread followed. Then, there was some chicken pieces, fries, bland noodles and a chicken curry. Thankfully, we were a bit high on Bombay Sapphire so we didn’t mind the dinner as much as the others did. The Swiss guy opened his bottle of McDowells and he, too, was happy and talked about full moon and animals. The Swedes, by the way, had started complaining about the low protein meals. I couldn’t care less. We were drinking gin in the middle of the forest and I was happy high. So high, I talked to everyone on the table. And maybe the Swedes were in their senses, they also saw a pair of predator eyes on their way to the toilet. I just heard howling in the distance; it felt like I was back in our ancestral village in Assam.
Camps are safe, by the way. And there are forest rangers on duty.