After four weeks on a big yellow truck I was starting to be tired of the waking up at 4 am and driving for 12 hours, only to arrive in pitch darkness where we would set up a tent and go to bed. The truck life was starting to make me depressed - until we reached the Ngorongoro Crater.
Our afternoon in the crater started like this … We arrived at the entrance to the Ngorongoro National Park and begun our drive along the rim of the crater. The fog was thick and rolling over the hills. At the first view point all we could see was mist, that’s when B started to freak out that again we would miss out on seeing one of the coolest places on earth. But of course we had to have a bit of faith and this time we were rewarded - at the entrance gate it was all clear blue skies with this magical mist rolling over the top of the hills in the distance, and at the bottom, a large sulphur lake.
We headed down into the crater after taking a couple of photos; at this point we all knew that this was going to be an amazing experience. Ngorongoro is a magical place and words or photos can hardly do it justice. It is surrounded by steep hills and most of the wildlife stays here all year – you could say they are trapped. Wildebeest were everywhere causally chasing each other; lions were lying on their backs in the sun, flamingos in their thousands standing in the acidic lake and one of the best sightings of the day – a black rhino. Should I repeat that – A BLACK RHINO! A lot of people say they are going to be extinct in the wild in ten years' time.
I just want to describe one of those Wow moments we had there. Our safari truck parked up beside two jackals relaxing in the sun. Then our safari leader started explaining that the jackals like to stay by the lake because the flamingos are easy food for them.
"B I bet ya that jackal is going to go for a flamingo!"
"Nah I don’t think so!"
Ten seconds later and the jackal took off in a slow walk towards the lake. When it was about 5 meters away it picked up speed. And then, in the blink of an eye, a flamingo was in its mouth. They really seem to be an easy snack.
Ngorongoro cater was one of the most amazing experiences of my life and restored my faith in travel in big trucks. It is a must see if you are going to eastern Africa and it is in season all year.
The Maasai are allowed to go into the crater to graze their cattle among the wildlife, which is a strange sighting when cruising around in your safari vehicle. Later in the afternoon we had an opportunity to visit a local Maasai village which had roughly 120 people living in it. As we arrived we were greeted by a traditional Maasai welcome dance. The men jumped up and down and sung songs while the woman joined in, in a separate group. After a while one woman came up to me and placed a necklace around my neck, grabbed my hand and walked me into the circle to dance with her.
Dancing in the scorching heat in MC HAMMER pants was not my idea of fun. B had his own troubles - his face looked strained while he was trying to jump as high as the Maasai warriors. The huts they live in are very small, as they move twice a year to find water. It's the women who make the huts while the men build the fences. Maasai men are allowed as many wives as they like as long as they have the 10 cattle they need to pay for them.
We also got to see the kindergarten where the children aged 3-7ish go to school. I tried to see if they know their ABC’s out of order e.g. V, N, B, but they had no clue. By the end of our time in the village we were shown their markets, which was a bit interesting. The items there (that they claim to do themselves) are exactly the same you will find at any street seller in the city. B says the whole country must have some mass production site going on. They let you pick items, without telling you the price – "We can talk about the price afterwards". My advice is, if you hear a sentence like that in Africa, run. At the end we were taken out the back of the village to the bargaining tree."Niks, this is going to be very expensive". But even B underrated the prices, it was astonishingly expensive. We gave back most of the items straight away and tried to bargain for one necklace and one bracelet. It is hard to bargain though when the initial price is 300% over value… But in the end we got them down quite a bit (but we were still suckers of course). Maybe they were used to rich tourists unlike us, who are on a budget.