The next morning we woke up, had breakfast and loaded our stuff into the Land Cruiser. We braced ourselves for the long drive ahead. The consoling factor was that we were going to head southeast back through Serengeti and into the Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area (but not down into the crater). The hope was that we’d be offered views that weather prevented us from having two days prior.
We didn't make it far before we had some engine trouble. There are bad neighborhoods for breaking down and this could have been one of them. You don't want a hungry lion lion snacking on you have your head under the hood. Fortunately this was no such neighborhood. All we could see were buffalos off in the distance.
Niemen and Brett fiddled with a fuel line and we explored ways to hold it in place. Curtis remembered he had athletic tape in his pack and the world's second most useful tape did the trick. We had a laugh remembering our father destroy one of my sneakers to repair a radiator hose once upon a time.
We continued on and had some nice animal sightings while driving through the park but the nice cap on the experience was a lioness and her two cubs lying in the shade of trees right next to the road. It was a beautiful scene and quite rare. Naimen said that it’s not common for a lion to expose her young like that. Once again, it's an example of how comfortable the animals are with the presence of safari vehicles. The experience was enhanced by the fact that there was only one other vehicle with whom we had to share it.
For some reason the drive back through the nasty road linking the Serengeti and Ngorongoro wasn’t as long as I remembered. Before long we’d arrived at our boma stop – one of the infamous contrived villages for tourists. The idea was probably good to begin with. They don’t like people taking pictures of them so you pay them fifty bucks per vehicle, you shoot all the photos you want, they make a bit of money and you can learn about their traditional way of life. Should be a win-win.
But it’s not really. The people do welcome you with song and dance. You enter their thatch village and the men do their jumping thing. The ornate ladies sing and chant for a bit. After we visited one of the small, dark houses and the “chief” described a bit about their way of life. As we left the house, however, all bets were off. Traditional Maasai behavior goes out the window and it’s all about getting you to cough up some cash. If you buy some of their jewelry, fine. If not, they just flat out ask you for money. Or, in my case, my watch.
We escaped with the chief out the back of the village and I thought we’d paid our dues, literally. We were headed for the schoolhouse were youngsters were already sitting in their seats, posing for pictures, repeating some English that they were told to say and then we were asked for money yet again.
I did get some decent photos but the experience left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth. This once proud people has resorted to shamelessly selling themselves. I think the whole thing could have been done leaving people with more of their dignity – both theirs and ours. Unfortunately, it was not to be.
From there we worked our way up to the crater rim. This time we were afforded sweeping views of the crater floor below us. Dots of animals could be seen off in the distance and we could see the roads where we’d traveled a couple of days before. Our stop was brief and we loaded up again and headed down toward the long-awaited paved road.
We finished off the drive heading through Arusha and back to the Ngurdoto Mountain Lodge. We were tired but energized by our experiences. After cleaning up we met up for a drink in the bar we’d gotten to know well – especially Curtis and me – and we chatted until dinner. After a good night’s rest we’d be off to Zanzibar…