The next few days were taken up with periods of essay writing, even larger periods of procrastination, pizza eating and hot shower taking. Our guesthouse was staffed by exceedingly kind and dedicated workers who couldn’t do enough for us. One young waiter had just moved to Moshi from the countryside and was so proud of his job and executed it with the intensity of your average bomb disposal expert. Soon enough the essay was completed and handed in and we could once again go back to being free wheeling, responsibility free, RTW motorbikers. Before leaving the guesthouse I had promised to take the receptionist for a spin on the bike. She couldn’t understand why we would want to travel so far on our bikes. I told her she’d have to get on the bike to understand and she was extremely keen. So off we went down the main drag of Moshi and she was soon yahooing on the back and asking to go faster and proclaiming loudly ‘I feel so….freeeeeeeeeee!’ Another biker is born. I was further encouraged when she requested we ride back on the poor quality dirt road instead of the tar.
Our receptionist and new motorbike enthusiast
On our off-road excursion we came across ‘Banana Town’ a village where bananas were big business.
Sweet milky tea is one of the best things about riding in Tanzania
Before starting this trip we had a handful ‘must do’ things on our list for Africa. We wanted to lock in these expensive experiences ahead of time to avoid the guilt one gets on spending extravagantly while on a budget. Doing a safari in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro was firmly on that list. We’d been recommended a tour company called BobbyTours who were supposed to offer the cheapest 4 days camping safaris in town. That said, the best way to get a cheap tour is often to rock up and go from office to office and use the ample competition to your advantage. A few things were working in our favour; there are said to be 400 tour companies operating in the National Parks around Arusha (seems quite possible), we could leave the following day, it was the low season, and tourists to Africa were down on the whole due to Ebola fears (never mind the fact there were no cases in southern and east Africa). So off to Arusha we went.
We stopped and got chapattis and a bowl of bbq beef
The cow had a hard life and it was a mission to get through it. In Africa it seems in many places cows are collected and only sold when they need to be and usually they are old and tired at that point.
Rather than take the highway from Moshi to Arusha we opted to do some exploring. We’d been told there were some great tracks around the base of Mount Kilimanjaro and that you could do ride around most to the mountain on dirt trails and come around the back of Arusha between Mt Meru and Kilimanjaro. That sounded far more appealing than dodging trucks and harried tour vehicles on the tar.
The trails were beyond slippery. I was happy that I didn’t bin it, not so happy that I was now stuck in a ditch
The K60s are a particularly ineffective mud tyre
Only having a bit of an idea where to go we managed to find track that snaked its way up the foothills of Kilimanjaro. Having just come out of Tanzania’s little wet season it was hardly the best time to be riding these muddy tracks but we had nothing better to do so went for it. We quickly found ourselves on slippery, red mud tracks. While our 50/50 tyres weren’t exactly inspiring confidence, they were managing. Mick and I are both pretty experienced riders, however our desert riding background in Australia gives us little opportunity to experience mud. We are bloody clueless in the stuff. Give us a desert full of sand dunes and we’ll monster it. Put us in front of a bit of mud and we look awkward as a newbie riding attempting a hill start. Yet we managed quite fine. It was indeed good practice for our upcoming ride through the Democratic Republic of Congo. If the wet season arrives in the DRC before we do we are bound to become proper mud riders….either that or have to get a residents permit for the place.
The huge Eucalypts reminded us of home
This mud was easier to deal with than the ‘grease on a mirror mud’
As we progressed higher up the slopes we encountered stuff you would hardly call mud. It was a lot more like grease. Or ice. Or grease on ice. It was difficult to even walk on and when picking up the bike it was hard to find sufficient purchase with your feet to do so. It made for an interesting outing and a fantastic exercise in throttle control. Unlike sand where you can pretty much just accelerate yourself out of any type of trouble, this stuff required such a steady throttle hand. Anything but the most gentle and controlled acceleration or deceleration would instantly result in wheel spin/skid and a near instantly horizontal bike.
It was seriously slippery
Yet looks completely innocent
We continued until we hit a quality tar road which wrapped around the back of Kilimanjaro and lasted for long enough for us to wonder why our intrepid mate Michnus (insert ride report) recommended it so highly as a great off road route. Patience paid off and we eventually hit some lovely dirt tracks though sparsely populated farmland. We found ourselves riding through some tiny villages and past a bunch of Masaai men and children herding their animals and looking at us with friendliness and mild surprise. The road was manageable though somewhat eroded in parts. The lack of significant challenges meant we could really drink in the scenery.
The sun going down far from our destination
Once again sundown was coming too soon and we were far off making it to Arusha. This is why we are taking so long getting through Africa. Instead of taking the straight forward way (in this case, the 77km of highway) we couldn’t help but ‘make it more interesting’ (~270km of dirt, mud and winding tar). So there we were looking like we wouldn’t make it to Arusha. Finally we came across a village with a slightly larger collection of dwellings and asked if there was a guesthouse. We found one that looked like the worst guesthouse we had encountered on the trip (and that is saying something) and they wanted a pretty penny for it too. Our decision to move on was sealed when we noticed the many hundred of gin in plastic sachets littered all over the ground in front of the place and some half-cut (Aussie slang: very drunk) guys loitering around the place. It gave us the creeps so we pressed on despite the setting sun.
Negotiating the gardens of the West Kili Lodge
We never plan to ride at night but every few months or so it happens. And when it does we are glad for our ridiculously bright bi-zenon headlights. We weren’t riding in the dark for long but it was tense and we were looking to find a guesthouse asap. The first couple we came across didn’t seem all that safe for the bike and had some serious drinkers in house so we carried on. Eventually we happened upon a place that we found out was worlds outside our budget but the guy who owned the West Kili Lodge was a legend and didn’t want us to go out riding again and took the price down to whatever we could pay. And included a brilliant 3 course dinner so we rather unexpectedly found ourselves in some pretty impressive lodging for the night.
The following day we organised our 4 day tour of Manyara, Segergeti and Ngororgoro National parks. We were the only ones on the tour and managed to get the tour for US650 with Bobby Safaris. And while that is massive coin by all accounts that is ridiculous cheap even for the low season. When we learned the cost of the park fees the expense all of a sudden became quite reasonable. They really can’t have made much margin off our 2 person tours.
The next few days was spent doing little but eating and checking out African wildlife. They says pictures are worth a thousand words which means I don’t have to write any more in this blog – Hooray!
Behold our first ever lion in the wild
We found him near this gruesome find – a baby buffalo head. Looks like this poor fella was taken right when it was born. Lions often choose the moment of birth to take the young while the mother is suitably distracted.
This was an amusing display. The larger giraffe with the dark markings is a Masaai Giraffe and was trying like mad to mate with this other giraffe.
We watched him for ages willing him on as we were keen to see the no doubt hilarious sight of two giraffe getting jiggy. But he got epically rebuffed despite trying all the moves. He kept trying to the point we were embarrassed for him. Better luck next time big fella.
Some of the fantastic views on the drive to Serengeti NP
This is one of the Masaai cultural villages along the route to the park. It costs a whopping $US50 per car load to visit the boma. Naturally we didn’t do it. It was actually really depressing to see young kids lining the route sitting by the road all day. When a car pasts they will jump up and down willing the cars to stop for photos. Our guide seemed embarrassed by it and was adamant that it was the Aid organisations that work in the area that have forced them to do it. He says they don’t give medical treatment for free instead insist the locals go out and make money to contribute to the cost of their care. So this is what they do….Doesn’t sound true when they could simply sell a goat to pay for treatment. But it seemed to make him feel better about the activity
Mick at the Serengeti park gates. We were out of place in our non-safari attire. All the other foreigners were dressed like they’d just raided David Attenborough’s wardrobe. The animals didn’t seem to mind our clothes
We found this guy right after entering the park. May have been a remote control puppet.
Mother and child
Some zebra telling me what they think of all this photos taking
Some elephant showing affection
Seriously, get a room guys!
We were lucky to see the nocturnal serval cat out in the day and hunting no less.
The views were amazing. And would you check out how freakishly large my hands look
This photo is for anyone thinking you could evade a lion by climbing a tree
A young cub missing half of his tail
And a lioness missing part of her nose
Sure they can climb…but they aren’t actually all that good at it
However some were really comfortable up there
There were minor tussles over the best spots on the tree
Which were fun to watch
She could totally put this in her modeling portfolio
With all the attention on the tree it took us a long time to notice the dozen or so lying in the grass right by us
There were a lot of babies about
And large herds of elephants
This guy was a stunner. We got close
Too close for his liking (bear in mind this camera has no zoom)
Lion on the Job – We were up wind from this and were gagging at the smell. Seriously it is like the devil ate the worst smelling shit on the planet then shat it out himself. Lions create the most awful smelling poo as they exist on a full meat diet. Something to keep in mind when someone tells you how awesome their Paleo diet is going.
The animals are so used to the tour cars you can get pretty close
The big boy
This pride was less than 600m from our unfenced campsite
Classic African scenes
We saw a leopard in a tree
With two of her cubs
And she had a kill in the tree with them
The plains of the Serengeti were full of zebra and wildebeest. The Zebra stick with the wildebeest as they are the experts in following the rains. The wildebeest benefit from the zebra as they eat the longer grass, which allows them to follow and eat the shorter grass. We were told that during the great migration 7.8 million animals are on the move. So many that you can barely see the grass. Just a sea of wildebeest and zebra…all heading in the one direction. We think we might just have to return one day to witness that.
Setting up camp among herds of zebra on the rim of Ngorogoro crater. Soon after the photo above we had a heard of buffalo invade the camp ground. I had to hide in the toillets until they were cleared away. That night however we woke up to the sounds of buffalo eating grass around all the tents. We could hear them chewing and breathing. It was not a good feeling as buffalo are extremely dangerous when they become alarmed. We managed to get back to sleep but woke to a commotion, lights and shouts at about midnight. We assumed it was the guards chasing off the buffalo for getting too close to the tents. Not so….they were chasing off the lions that came and started hunting them RIGHT AROUND OUR TENTS!!!!!! I was glad it was our last night camping in the parks and that I didn’t find this out until the morning.
Here is one of a herd of old buffalo. When a buffalo gets old or injured they are kicked out of the herd as they attract predators and make the whole herd unsafe. So they try to protect themselves by making a herd of geriatric buffalos. I imagine they spend most of their days being nervous and complaining about ‘kids these days’ and their rheumatism acting up.
The crater is the world’s largest unbroken, unflooded caldera in the world. It’s 20km across, 600m deep and 300km2. This natural protection of a steep crater with just 2 roads in and out makes it one of the few places on earth where rhino are sort of safe. We got to see this big boy (a black rhino) in the wild. How many people will be able to say that in 10, 20 years time I wonder?
We came across this big group of lion cubs who were left alone with instructions to stay together and stay put by the lionesses that went to hunt an nearby lone buffalo.
While the hunt was underway we noticed this guy in the distance trying to pass himself off as a delicate flower.
Nice try buddy
This is how close the lionesses got to the buffalo. At the beginning we were excited and rooting for them to get him. Bu then we watched the moment he smelt their presence and ran in alarm. Then we were wanting him to get away. Which he did. Once he was aware of their presence the lionesses gave up. Buffalo are the most dangerous prey to hunt.
Meanwhile the cubs did what they must have been told and stayed put
They were gorgeous
Lovely scenes from in the crater. There is such a concentration of wildlife in here. Only thing that is missing is the giraffe. The descent into the crater is too treacherous for them
Mick checking out the hippo
Zebra on the run
Strangely this was the only hyena we saw in 4 days of safari
It was prime mating time for the wildebeest so we say a lot of these fighting displays underway all to impress the ladies.
A lioness teaching her cub how to hunt
This was the biggest elephant we had ever seen. Looked the size of a wooly mammoth. With tusks like that lets hope this big boy stays in the crater
All up our safari experience was excellent and we were extremely glad we did it. It made for a pretty relaxing 4 days where we didn’t have to organise or thing. We got waited on had and foot and fed possibly too well. For us the Serengeti was a clear stand out from any other park we had visited in Africa. Really it made Etosha look like a petting zoo. The size and scale of the animal life there was immense. Seeing plains full as far as the eye could see of hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebra was a positively humbling experience. As a person in a 4wd you couldn’t help but feel rather insignificant in the grand scheme of things. And knowing that the herds of animals had been migrating to and fro from the Serengeti to the Masaai Mara for millennia upon millennia, predicting the rain more accurately than anything yet created by man it made you feel like perhaps mother nature knew what it was doing far more than we did. I think everyone should try to visit the place once in your life. And for people travelling through Africa I would recommend you resist the urge to visit any other park on the continent. Save you cash and put it toward a horrendously expensive though undeniably worth-while trip to the Serengeti (or Masaai Mara – the two are connected and essentially the main park just on the other side of the Kenyan border.)