In the morning after a breakfast that was mostly really tasty fruit, we went for a walk around Lake Diluti. Since the lake is part of Arusha National Park, we were required to be in the company of a ranger/guide for the trip. We actually got one from the hotel and a park ranger. Both were very nice and filled us with way more information about the flora and fauna than we could possibly digest.
Just before we entered the park, he went inside and came out wearing a quilted jacket, which seemed odd because it was steaming hot outside and I was sweating heavily wearing much less. Maryanne asked him about it and was given a hasty answer about him needing to wear it so that he would stand out as a ranger. It wasn’t until much later when I was walking close behind him that I noticed that the jacket was covering a military rifle. Later on, he was candid with us when we asked about it and said that having an armed escort to protect visitors and the park from poachers was the main reason for requiring guides in parks.
Afterwards, we joined our safari guide and five others and piled into the Land Cruiser for the drive to Lake Manyara Lodge. This took us through the bustling center of Arusha, with its crowds of people all hanging around in the shade or at stalls made of whatever was at hand at the time they were built. Traffic became complete anarchy, although a civilized one where nobody seemed too bothered if we pulled in front of them or stopped in the middle of the road to look at something. Also, Maryanne notes, there were relatively few cars anyway, at least relative to the population. Most people were getting to where they were going with a long walk.
We drove out of town toward the mountains and came upon Masai country. Young boys who were mostly taller than I am followed small herds of cattle. All of the Masai boys, whether they were tending cattle or not, carried the longest stick they could find. These were usually about twice their height. All were wrapped in the most colourful blankets. I couldn’t imagine how they kept their garments so brilliantly bright and clean after spending all day tending animals in the dirt and sitting on the ground. The women were also impressive. They wore the most brightly colored gowns, scarves, and beaded jewellery. Most were carrying impossibly heavy loads of water, firewood or sacks of grain balanced on their heads. They all looked positively regal.
Unfortunately, I was not able to get a photo of any of this. People in Tanzania are very skittish about being photographed. We have been told by several different people that on rare occasions it may be possible to take someone’s photo for a fee if arranged in advance, but that most will become enraged. Our guide said that if we were seen by a crowd, the vehicle may even be attacked with stones. This is too bad. Part of the great beauty and intrigue of Africa is its throngs of people and the lives that they lead. Most of the people we have met so far have been very warm and friendly. The few people we have asked have agreed and smiled brilliant smiles with us, but who wants to offend a whole crowd?
Further on, we came upon the Great Rift Valley and climbed the switchbacks to our lodge. One thing I found hilarious was that the dirt entry road, which is so rough no one would dare drive more than ten kilometres per hour it, had speed bumps about every hundred meters that were so high we almost high centered on each one. The staff seemed a bit overeager to get us checked in and off to our rooms, but otherwise, the place was wonderful. Our hut is perched right on the edge of the escarpment and has views all the way across the Great Rift Valley far below and to the mountains beyond.
Views from the lodge
We topped off the day with a delicious dinner which included Ugali, a traditional Tanzanian dish that comes in many forms. The basic recipe centers around a very fine, savory polenta-type paste with other ingredients thrown in for taste, primarily cooked spinach-like vegetable and saucy meats. We also got to try a green banana soup. Since the bananas are green, they are more stodgy than sweet. They are fried and mashed with garlic and a few other spices. The result tastes like a hearty potato-leek soup.
And, of course, there was the massive, gooey chocolate cake at the end. That was some good cake.