Tanzania : Day 11

Tanzania : Day 11

Moving from our camp near Moru Kopjes to a more eastern area for a walking safari

A tough night with a protesting belly, more rain (nothing like walking through the long, wet grass in the rain, in the dark with wildlife somewhere out there, to go to the wet open air, long drop loo), more odd sounds outside – this time it sounded very much like grass being pulled and eaten. The kids seemed to sleep ok, though.

A quick shower in the morning cool and drizzle (we call it invigorating!) then breakfast again of fruit, toast and eggs, then on the wet boggy roads heading east. We saw the elusive, viscious, nocturnal honey badger running through the grass – perhaps an adult and a youth.  They darted into a thicket, disturbing a hyena who came out, wondering what the fuss was about, and who decided it must have just been us. If he has realised it was a honey badger, he would have run away very fast. It took us a moment to spot them again, running in the grass further away from the road.

We saw a small herd of retired buffalo – the old man herd who tend to stay where there is grass and water, often near lodges, camps and rangers where grass is watered and lions are not usually too close. They no longer can run with the full herd, but they don’t need to eat as much as the younger beasts. When they do meet up with their original herd, someof them will still have mating rights being older but still strong. Others will just be old, and no longer with much respect.

We saw Banded mongoose eating termites and scorpions (they live in abandoned termite mounds) by the side of the road, looking quite similar to the meerkats (none of those around here).  A small snake slithering across the road, a small leopard tortoise crossing the other way.

We stopped at the Serengeti Visitors Centre to have a look at the interpretive trail, find out a bit more about the animals (a crocodile can eat only once a year. He prefers to eat more often, no doubt). Milla felt very sick suddenly, dry retching on our way to the toilet. She hadn’t eaten breakfast, dinner or lunch, so that was catching up with her. After some lemonade and popcorn from the shop, her color came back, and I think we’ll see her being less fussy about her food. The airport nearby was busy with a couple of light aircraft and a dozen or so safari trucks.

We drove on, heading east and the landscape changed from the grassy plains to woodland.  It was drier here, far less muddy and a much less treacherous drive. Thank goodness. It was slow going earlier.

The flies are prolific around here! Little black flies, so many of them that the kids have caught and squashed a dozen or so for their travel diaries. There are also tsetse flies – smaller than a march fly, but still a stinging bite. I have a small mark today on my left arm from a bite yesterday.

Everyone is very quiet in the car, driving in the sunshine, through the long grass, dozing, reading, watching ‘Jaws’ on his iPod (say). The plains are so vast, alternately teeming with wildlife then quiet. We came across a pride of 8 lions, resting in the shade of an acacia sapling, only a couple of feet from the track.  They looked at us as we drew alongside, a couple wandered away into the thicker shade, but several stayed close. They were likely all brothers and sisters, the boys with only a sparse mane. They all had quite full bellies – not as bloated as the ones we saw the other day, but these were not hungry beasts.
This area is only used by Wayo tours, so the animals here are not used to humans. Often the only humans they have seen have been poachers, so they will tend to keep away.  We came across a few groups of antelope – topi, impala, grants gazelles, and hartebeest, separated into female and bachelor groups. A few zebra joined them as well.

Klipspringer on the Kopjes, adjacent to our new camp – so many bloody tsetse flies!! Our new guide, Mark, took us for a brief walk up the closest Kopjes to survey our surrounds. It was a tricky climb, but Gran managed most of it, and the view was spectacular.

The countryside is very reminiscent of Alice Springs after rain – just as I saw it when we were there for Easter a couple of years ago.  It makes Charlie quite homesick.  We had a quiet afternoon before our walking safari with  Mark and his .458 and the ranger, Daniel with an SMG .338. The flies were terrible, as were the grass seeds in our socks and shoes – I wished I had gaiters!  We walked away from camp, seeing dikdik, klipspringer and hartebeest tracks, then seeing the beasts themselves. Mark talked about the middens we saw – each of the antelope tend to poo in the one place each day to keep their exact whereabouts secret from predators. We saw baboon poo on the rocks, looking very like person poo, and Mark explained about the various plants we saw, bugs, and the ecosystem. There were many broken trees, courtesy of the elephants, playing an important role in providing cover for saplings as well as habitat for small animals. Rock ficus, marked by leopard scratches and elephant tusks, growing on the rocks and splitting them over time.

Mark showed us flowers which locals use to induce abortion and leaves used to cure stomach ulcers and disinfect hands. We saw buffalo that were keeping an eye on a lion on another Kopjes as well as on us. We didn’t venture closer. Our two guides kept an eye on that lion, but were surprised when Milla suddenly asked ‘is that a lion?’. Sure enough, on the rocks right next to our camp, was another lion, quietly watching us. The baboons usually hang out on this rock, so they were displaced to the next one over, although one baboon was hollering and carrying on. We don’t know if he was calling to his buddies, wondering where they were, or yelling at us to keep away from the lion. I wonder if he’ll make it though the night.

Showers for all when we returned, and washing out some socks and jocks again. It is nice showering in the fresh air – something to think about for the dream house one day. Milla is a bit freaked out about the lion so very close, so will sleep with me tonight, the two Charlie’s together and Luca will keep Gran safe and sound, as usual. The flies disappeared with the sun, leaving just the myriad other bugs and the ticks. This is our second to last night camping, so as much as an actual room with an actual bed, and a flushing toilet, will be nice, we aren’t going to hurry the time away. Dinner was chicken curry and rice after pumpkin soup, followed by fruit salad again, whilst lunch was chicken with salad and chips, followed by chocolate brownie. Those brownies were good! Luca thought they were *almost* as good as mine 😉