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MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 28, 2009

Lake Manyara Lodge & Ngorongora Crater - Monday, 28 September

 

This was certainly another Wow day!!
After delicious breakfast a the Lake Manyara Serena Safari Lodge, we got aboard the Land Cruisers and headed for the Ngorongoro Crater. We traveled through several small communities and one or two larger ones. There were people on little motor bikes, bicycles, minibuses and mostly on foot traveling along the highway. Maasai were leading their flocks and kids were gathered at schools.
Many of the Maasai have come down from northern Tanzania where the drought is even worse than here and so are looking for grazing land. 
We also saw workers digging volcanic rock to mend the roads.
As we approached the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, we saw new apartment buildings under construction - most unusual structures for this area. The Conservation Area has been recently expanded and people will be moved off conservation land and into these new homes.
The road into Ngorongoro is amazingly bad. It has deep ruts and potholes, bumps and rocks. It is steep and clings to the sides of the mountain. It took nearly 3 hours to get to the floor of the crater and when we stopped for lunch one of the vehicles had a flat tire ( 2nd so far on trip, obviously the roads are bad bad ).
Along the way we had amazing views over both the crater and the Rift Valley. In some limited areas there are green forest and vegetation, but the crater itself is very dry.
We were unable to see flamingos or rhinos, both usually common, because of the dry conditions. We did see lots of wildebeests, gazelles and ostriches, as well as vervet monkeys ( who worked hard trying to steal our lunches ) and 2 kinds of baboons.
We watched a black kite soaring overhead and saw many buzzards.
After lunch, we were fortunate to find and a cheetah (rare). It was at quite a distance, well-camouflaged under a tree, but the guides picked it out and managed to get us to see it and photograph it with the new camera. 
Soon after, we saw a lion and three lionesses, also at a bit of a distance.
I'm very glad for my new camera for these shots( none other would do it!).
The last big spotting was a Corey Bustard, heaviest of the flying birds.
Then another very rough ride out and back to the lodge. We all rushed to the swimming pool to cool off, and enjoyed floating and looking out over the Rift Valley from the "infinity edge" pool for a while before dinner.
I missed the entertainment when I went for a shower, but I could hear the singing and it sounded good. We all enjoyed dinner together, and turned in fairly early.
It will be an early morning and long day tomorrow.
Click small show for larger view

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 2009

Manyara NP, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya - Tuesday, 29 September

 

It was a travel day, so we had an early breakfast and boarded the Land Cruisers.
We stopped for a spot of shopping at the big curio place, then on to a terrific place for a delicious lunch at the Arusha Serina Hotel.
The airport experience that followed was a bit of a nightmare - it was crowed and we were shunted around several times, then most of us got into a wrong line for immigration. 
Finally, though, we got onto the airplane and found it was unannounced "open seating" and as well there was little luggage space ( Larry found a nun in his seat and moved on ), and as well there was little luggage space in the Canadian Bombardier aircraft.
Several people in the group sat and chatted with returning Kilimanjaro climbers and heard some good stories. The mountain itself was shrouded in clouds, so we couldn't really see it. When we arrived in Nairobi, we had to complete health and immigration forms and line up, but the formalities were simple.
Marilyn's bag was very late appearing on the conveyor belt, so we all had our fingers crossed that it wasn't another lost bag.
We were duly met and loaded into 4 safari vehicles.
We crawled through rush-hour traffic to The Carnivore restaurant. That was a fun experience with various 5 foot skewers of meat delivered with great regularity, but we were tired by the time it was done.
We received the news that we'd been bumped from the Nairobi Serina Hotel to a "5 Star" Holiday Inn with disappointment. However were all very glad to find our way to beds.
Click slide show to see larger view

 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2009

Nairobi, Kenya - Wednesday, 30 September

 

The Holiday Inn, Nairobi certainly redeemed itself today! We had a lovely relaxing day by the pool, with food and drinks delivered on request.
Some of the group did a bus tour of the city, some took a taxi to the museum, others had a shopping excursion, and the rest stayed put poolside. Larry went to the closest shopping area with Janet, Barry and Donna. He spotted warthog carving that was exactly what he wanted for the carved menagerie he's been acquiring, but didn't have cash in his pocket to pay for it. So he brought the vendor, Douglas, back to the hotel with him and he paid $5 + some pens and some airplane earphones for it. The guy was interested to see how we were living but we assured him it's not like this at home.
Larry brought the Magicjack/Netbook/Hotel phone setup out to the pool and everyone called home or kids or friends ( certainly the max showoff event of the trip! )
It was fun for most, but we were dismayed to learn that Sarah was in the hospital.
M-E and Dave were glad they'd decided to go straight home on Thursday.
Eventually, we reluctantly packed up and boarded the bus for the airport.
We hated to bid farewell to Africa but the Nairobi traffic jams and drivers were less difficult to see the last of.
This was also the moment that we said a sad goodbye to Bob and Carol who were taking a different flight and route home.
Click on show for larger images:


SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2009

Amsterdam, Netherlands - Thursday, 1 October

 

After a very tiring over-night flight we arrived early in Amsterdam.
We found a place to sit and a bar that was to open at 5:45am where we bought outrageously expensive coffee and juice.
We said goodbye to the half of us that was going to Toronto today and they went off to a more comfortable lounge to spend the morning until the flight.
Our guide, Ben, arrived around 6:30 as promised and herded the straggly bunch of us to a lovely big bus - pure luxury after the safari vehicles of Kenya, Tanzania, etc.
Sadly for Ben we were a rather inattentive bunch - read: we kept falling asleep as he guided us through the countryside around Amsterdam to the island town of Marken.
Very interesting place - old fishing village in the Zuider Zee which seems to have gone somewhat yuppie after being the poorest town in the country some years ago.
We walked though it to the harbour in a chilly drizzle, and were back to the bus in record time. It did wake us up a bit.
Ben kept up a very interesting stream of history, culture, geography, etc. We all wished for more capacity to absorb it, but what we heard certainly improved our understanding of the Netherlands.
By 9am we were at the windmill village, where we really enjoyed hot chocolate and delicious pastries, and a walk by the canal and views of the windmills. The sun even shone a little bit.
We toured one working windmill that is used to produce oils from peanuts, grape seeds etc. We sampled and bought some cheeses, then carried on back to the city for a short bus tour.
That was followed by a canal boat tour - reminiscent of the ones in Suzhou and St. Petersburg.
Amsterdam is a pretty canal city, just showing the first signs of autumn.
Lunch followed at a terrific restaurant whose name entirely escapes me, but was recommended by our agent and friend Marijke( thank you! ).
After lunch we were bussed to our quaint hotel where most of us chose to nap.
Some hardy souls visited the Anne Frank house and the Rijksmuseum. They said both were wonderful. I would have loved to go to both, but completely lacked the stamina.
In the evening Brock and Elsie got a recommendation for a good pub-style restaurant and 8 of us enjoyed a delicious Dutch meal ( & quite a bit of beer ) there.
Then we walked through the thronging streets back to the hotel and our welcoming beds.
Click on show for larger images

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2009

Amsterdam to Toronto - Friday, 2 October

 

We were up in good time to go for a stroll after breakfast. We chose a street beside one of the nearby canals and soon mastered the sidewalk protocol - the red pavement is reserved for bicyclists and pedestrians must stay off it!!
They really travel quickly on those bides and there are hundreds or even thousands of them. People of all ages whizzed by.
We enjoyed the fresh air, the views of canal boats, ducks, floating houses and the architecture.
Back at the hotel it was time to wrestle the luggage to the lobby on the tiny elevator and check out.
Because of street construction, the bus couldn't come to the hotel, so we formed quite a caravan, schlepping our luggage the 2 or 3 blocks to the main street.
Because Elsie and Brock were stuck in the elevator the bus had to do a loop before we all arrived to board, then the 4 of us dodged rush hour traffic to get to where he'd been able to stop.
The trip from there on was unsurprising, the usual airport stresses and then a crowed flight. KLM does a great job of food and service, but a terrible job of seat assignment. Larry and I were 6 rows apart on opposite sides of the plane and Heather and Dennis were 40 rows apart and both in middle seats. Marilyn didn't get her requested window seat, etc.
So there was some negotiation with other people and a few swaps. Not everyone's needs could be met though.

 

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3, 2009

The Intrepids African Safari Trip - Reflection

 
So that's the end of a wonderful adventure. We're so glad to have gone with the Intrepids on this trip. What a great gang of folks! Everyone helped each other along the way with encouragement, support, supplies of medication, shared laughter, tears and photos, toting, fetching, advising, comforting. We're grateful to all of you. Especially we than M-E, Dave, Sally-Jo and Lorrie for so closely sharing the adventure and of course, as always - Cathy and Dave for being the consummate group leaders! To Gabriella, Claudia and Marijke at Exotic Destinations - bravo for the arrangements!
Everyone - thanks for the memories.
We look forward to sharing all those great photos online. We must adventure together again!
Click to link to Video of Chobe National Park Safaris by Intrepids
Africa Photos

All Africa Photos
59 Selected Double Starred Africa Photos

338 Selected Starred Africa Photos
Video of Chobe National Park Safaris - September 2009
Janice's Original Africa travel blog

Africa By Location

Week1: Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope, Lanzerac, StellenBosch
Week2: Zambia, Victoria Falls, Chobe Game Park, Tanzania, Lake Manyara
Week3: Lake Manyara, Ngorongora Crater, Kenya, Amsterdam