Such a shame that this blog isn't full of wonderful and amazing stories of a dream come true Safari but the Crater visit was beautiful and only disappointing that we were not the photographer extraudinaire that we wish we were. With one broken screen camera (Conor's) and Ciara's (6 megapixel) we saw many beautiful sights but as yet unsure how the photo's will reflect it. For that alone the safari holds some disappointment ....
I really don't want to come off negative (again) as I tried not to with the 'Moshi Falls' NOT 'Moshi Falls' excursion. But this was excursion at the end of the day turned out to be one of the most disappointing for this whole holiday. I cannot believe it happened as it did and that we could do nothing about our situation but 'suck it up'.
We were dropped off at the Impala Hotel just before 7am on Thursday morning. Bright and early so as not to miss our Safari. We were so excited and leaving our baggage at the Hotel in anticipation of our return was all organised and our shuttle for our trip to Airport on Saturday morning also confirmed. We showed the voucher for Intrepid's Safari to the Reception and they knew nothing of it but told us that Classic Safari's would be looking after us and they should be here at 8am.
I was very worried about this glitch and Intrepid being NON EXISTENT, plus as we didn't want to be getting on the WRONG safari I felt some clarification had to be made on the point of our trip guide notes and their explanation of someone turning up at 8am did not sit well with me when our notes reflected that we had to be there by 7.30am or (more or less) they would leave without us! But then they said that someone would be here around 7.30am - 8am and not to be concerned.
Around 7.45am a gentleman named Albert introduced himself to Ciara and Conor as I was making my way back from the Ladies. The conversation was confusing (according to them) and they were not sure if we had the right Guide or not but in the end he was sure we were to be together. He had something to do for five minutes and then we would be on our way. So five minutes later (Tanzanian time) and we were on our way around 8.30am or so.
We were the only passengers in the Landrover and it was a very nice Landrover too. So propped up in our seats and ready for our adventure we headed off into the city traffic and the drizzle of rain. Every night since Sunday it has stormed through the night and in the mornings it hs been overcast and then sunny by the afternoons. Yesterday it was overcast the whole time with the chance of rain. I took along my trusty bag (when I say 'my' I meant that it belongs to Ciara - hmmmmmm - so why does she have a bag if she doesn't carry a bag, you ask? Don't ask ....) was filled with everything we would need including umbrella, snacks, waters, medicines, wet weather jacket etc etc and it was the size of a beach ball!
Along the way whilst Albert was driving he was looking down at the passenger seat next to him and he was reading some Trip Notes. Albert gave us a Tour Guide Note sheet of our safari trip that I read carefully and then chose to ignore the blatant misprints on it such as ..... Trip Code: YAH instead of YGAH and Accommodation at: Rhino Lodge instead of Ngorogoro Lodge. No biggy I thought, as he must have obviously grabbed a sheet with similar information and our's is slightly different and everything would be fine.
So I was unaware before we left that there would be approximately 2-3 hours of walking on a visit through a village on our way to the Crater. I had read somewhere about visiting a village and my assumption (to assume is to make an ASS out of U and ME) was of a tribe and possibly a Massai tribe-type village - WRONG! Conor was dressed most inappropriately with thongs (on his feet for those who use the term 'flip flops') and shorts with a football shirt on. Did I mention it had been raining? Did I mention when it rains here that the dirt is then mud????
So we arrive at a town that looks like any other town we have seen previously between our many regular trips between Usa River and Arusha, only this town was 2 hours out of Arusha. Albert pulls up and tells us we will be taken by a Guide and we will walk for a while, have lunch and then meet up around 2pm. It is now 10.30am ish and I am flustered that we are now walking where???? With who??? For what??? With my trusted bag full of everything bar the kitchen sink and worried about if or when it rains, the mud and ..................... I was stressing but acting as casual as possible and acting as interested as possible without coming across as a miserable ....person.
So we leave Albert and we are now with a young man who is quite friendly and is a part of a Cultural Tourism programme that helps to raise money for the community for showing us around and being very helpful/insightful for visitors who would like to know about the Tribe's folk - how they live, eat and work. Our journey commences and there is another young fellow in training who spent the whole time not talking and walking behind us for the whole trip/walk/visit.
We head out on foot and I need to go to the loo ............... yes we have 2-3 hours of walking ahead of us and all I can think about is ........... where's the loo?? .... but I can't ask where the Ladies would be? .... so I just try to imagine that I do not need the loo and walk on our merry way.
Our new Guide chats and talks in a very happy and informative way but he is actually talking quite slowly and is coming across like he is talking to idiots but even though I knew it was more to be precise and hope that we understood his english (which we did understand but for him to speak more freely and quickly would have suited me much better as I felt like I wanted to hurry him up ..... so we could get to the Ladies quicker!) and for the first hour or so of the walking, talking, question time, information offerings - he was slowly but surely driving me insane. But I kept this feeling quietly simmering inside so as not to be negative or seem ungrateful. So we walked, and slipped, and slid and teetered and toddled along behind him through paddy fields, banana plantations, school yard, open fields, homes and made it to our last stop before lunch.
Along the way I think Ciara was feeling the hunger pains that were slowly driving her mad and with the great lengths to which our new Guide wanted to fill us with story after story .... she too may have felt a similar pain to my own. We made it to the Banana Beer Brewery which was quite a few wooden stalls (one would have been a loo) running along one side and the opposite side of a walk way and where plastic chairs were haphazardly placed for patrons to sit and drink. There were obviously various rooms for distilling the banana beer, preparing it and bottling the banana beer. To our delight (NOT) we were asked to sit and try/enjoy a cup (plastic and the size of an english pint glass) of this special banana beer that isn't very high in alcohol but apparently they drink it in large quantities to eventually become drunk (after about 3 litres of this stuff) and they sit around this place and visit the loo regularly to be able to continue to drink until they get that feeling they need from the beer. Quite funny really to be told this quite openly.
The banana beer has the look and colour of cold milky tea with the added topping (that you don't drink, that you wouldn't drink, that you can't drink) and it looks like very fine wood chippings or a grainy cereal of sorts that floats on the top. What is it???? I was told but all I could think is, "Is that a wasp in that topping I can see? - Yes it was - Do I say anything or ignore it whilst I try to blow this muck away from the edge of the cup and then taste this stuff???"
Conor said I should go first so I bravely did. Had a bit of a laugh whilst I tried to blow this muck away so I could taste this cold looking tea and when I finally did it mange to take a sip it tasted like ............ ewwwwwwwwww yuck, slightly bitter, yeast, light beer and somewhwere in the depths of my taste buds I think there was a flavour similar to rotten bananas! Oh wait that's right the bananas are cooked until they turn red and then are left to ferment in large plastic barrel containers in a shed full of fruit nats and the top of this mix turns a black mouldy lumpy topping with white bubbles around the edges that proves it is now ready for bottling. Unfortunately, we did end up seeing these bananas cooking in a huge black pot on an open fire and the little 'once upon a time' yellow bananas ended up looking like pink 'you know what' .....not a pretty sight or mouth watering either! But I will always be able to laugh about the beer taste test if nothing else. Conor did taste it but two sips were enough for him. Ciara couldn't blow the muck away and I don't think she had any intention to really try the beer as the smell itself without looking at the cup would put anyone else off. Sorry to those who love this beer but it is not 'my cup of tea'!!!
We headed to lunch through more dirt paths and in the middle of a banana plantation was a little hidden haven with loos!!! Yeah. So we washed up and relieved our little selves and sat under trees at lovely little tables and had a buffet of African food. Rice, beef stew and vegetable delicacy's and it was a lovely time to sit, chat, laugh, eat and drink. We left around 2pm and walked to find Albert, headed back to the little office to fill in a feedback sheet and then we were on our way to our Luxury Five Star Accommodation at the rim of the crater - Ngorogoro Lodge.
Prior to entering the National Park Albert has to pay the entry fees so we have another loo break and sit back in the vehicle to wait for him and all of a sudden Ciara says loudly - "Look Mum! It's a monkey!" Well we all squealed with excitement to see a baboon. Camera time and then there is another, another, another ..... until there are 20 or 30 of these funny animals all over the road. Sitting in the middle of the roadway for vehicles to manouvre around them. So cute with baby one on a mother's back. Three sitting picking nits or something out of each other's fur. Some were quite big and aggressive but the Guides who were near them made noises at them and they returned growls but wandered off. I think we have some video of this. So the excitement had begun and we couldn't be disappointed .... or so we thought.
The drive to the rim of the crater took a while but we saw Elephant dung on the way so we were told it was likely we might see an elephant if we are lucky. Travelling happily along and enjoying the sights with complete awe at where we actually were. Then Albert sees the sign to the "Rhino Lodge" and he turns down the road away from the main road and nowhere near the rim of the crater to the Lodge we anticipated we were going to.
Long story short - I insisted we were at the wrong place, Albert gives in and takes us to the Ngorogoro Crater Lodge (as per our accommodation voucher - minus the word 'Crater') and the hotel staff at the Crater Lodge after some time and effort to check with another company in Nairobi who looks after Intrepid bookings was unsuccessful in finding out if we were to stay there or not. They insisted they had no booking and we should go back to the Rhino Lodge but I insisted that our Accommodation does not say "Rhino" it says "Ngorogoro" and they said but their lodge is Crater Lodge and the paperwork did not reflect this and they did not have a booking. I rang our travel agent and it was 1.30am in the morning for her and she did all she could from her end but she did not have all information as she was on home computer and not work computer. So we had to leave this luxurious lodge and head back to what looked like from our first glance - a two star, miserable, boarding house style lodge. Not happy at all. I had a couple of tearful moments as this was the very thing I dreaded happening before we left for this whole trip where something I booked did not come about. And here we were living this frustrating moment.
Bitterly angry but having no choice we return to the Rhino Lodge. We are greeted by three or four men and one or two were in Massai clothes but they were so friendly and helpful I felt consoled and had to let all that anger just go. Unsure if Conor and Ciara did at that point but the staff were just too nice be moody with as this wasn't any fault of theirs.
Albert was very apologetic and I told him it wasn't his fault and my upset was with whoever needed to fix this mistake and it was out of his hands. Our room was quaint, small and with bare necessities but it had a cute fire and very clean bathroom with one of our favourite toilets in it - a sit on toilet! Yeah! A small wooden balcony overlooking grass and then bushland. Advised to not go walking at night as animals do visit and it is dangerous. Buffalo and elephants have been known to visit. Both would trample and kill us without worrying. So that was exciting at the thought of seeing something at night time close to where we slept but knowing we were safe inside (not like a tent).
Then dinner was served in the restaurant which was a little walk away and up some stairs where a wooden balcony spanned the corners of the room inside that had floor to ceiling windows all around to look outside into the bush and valley. A huge open fireplace with comfy lounges around it. A small bar where drinks could be purchased and a buffet dinner.
We had a beautiful dinner in a lovely restaurant and shared with Albert. We went to bed and slept like babies with our little fireplace going through the night. I loved it. It wasn't what we paid for (we don't believe) but it was very nice indeed.
A great brekky included also in the morning and we headed off for our safari ............... I have run out of time on the internet but the crater is amazing. We have photo's galore to sort through. We saw Rhino, Elephant, Cheater, Hyena, Flamingo, Crested Crane, Jackels, Monkeys, Lions, Hippo's and some were close enough to see by binocular but not close enough to photograph. But it was amazing to say the least. Beautiful and a little excitement with the biggest of all elephants on the road with us walking towards us and reversing out of it's way. We have photo's of how close it was but it won't show the real majestic aura of such a beast!
So I hope I wasn't too negative but a tip for any Australians booking before you go - please make sure that any voucher you have is explicit in everyway! It's so unfair if we should have stayed at the very nice lodge or another similar and we missed out due to our language barrier and lack of proof. Maddening! So do not take anyone's word for it - it will be okay. Have it in writing for everything. Our's stated a Lodge so that leaves it open for anyone to get more money and stay at a cheaper lodge than we anticipated but I hope that is not what happened - just human error of booking us on YAH and not YGAH safari!!!!
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