Arusha, Northern Tanzania.

I am going to jump to present day, so family and friends can see what I am up to. Still missing a blog on 3 weeks in Harare back in August with my cousins – nope you won’t escape: we’ll cover your lives with the cat that can’t see, a three legged cat, a dog that has all four legs but can only use her front two and the other dog who loves going for a run.

For now though, before I lose contact as I head for the Ngorongoro and the Serengeti I will tell you about Arusha National Park.  Nestled between Mt Meru and Mt Kilimanjaro, and only a short drive from Arusha itself, it is a tiny reserve covering only 137 square Km. Three areas: the peaks of Mt Meru, the Momella lakes and the forest around the Ngurdoto crater. As ever some humour first. On-route, and without the Garmin on, I cruise down the main road from Arusha towards Moshi looking for the turning to the Park, which should be on the left. If you’ve heard anything about driving in TZ, you’ll know it is quite something: 2 lanes suddenly become 4 and motobikes weave in between! On the right, whilst trying to avoid a taxi joining straight in from the left I see a huge sign for Arusha Nat Park – it tells me there are 7 km to go. I note the Trip 2 tachometer reading as 433 km and programme my brain to look for the turning at 439. At 445km I begin to suspect all isn’t well – but this is africa and I haven’t seen a turning to the left, so I continue. At 450 km I pull over at a Police check point, much to their surprise: this mzungu hasn’t even waited to be pulled over?! ‘It is the other way – big sign – you can’t miss it’ I am informed. Two guys jump out of the bush and query what I am doing there – they are tour operators / guides. These guys don’t miss an opportunity!! I head back and funny enough – I see the big sign. And just under the 7km to go, is a tiny arrow pointing to the right. Too small to see without looking really hard. My trip meter now reads 467 km and I still have 7 km to go.

I love the Tanzania Parks: they take VISA, even if it is for large amounts of US$. I tried paying in cash, but the attendant didn’t have change in US$ and I didn’t fancy TZs,especially at the exchange rate she wanted give me. Cheekily, I asked if I could pay the fees in TZs: she didn’t even answer – what a daft question. Anyway, the gate guards eye up the Range Rover and remark among  themselves: I’m never sure whether they genuinely love it or they wonder what the hell I’m doing in this monster. Giraffe 20 metres in – lovely. Further up zebra. I hope for leapoard – just one. And an sms / text from my fiancée arrives on my phone – ‘hope you see a leopard today’ – who says people aren’t connected in thought?  I choose the crater route first and  climb. The track is surrounded by foiliage, trees and vines that Tarzan would swing on. 1st up I spot a black-and-white colobus monkey, although he is a little shy and moves away. These guys normally live up in the highest parts of the forest canopy.   The crater itself has no roads in it, so the buffalo and other game are well protected. You can drive around most of the rim though, and I use my Garmin to give me elevation figures – the higest on the western edge at 5256 feet.  There are various spots where you can get out and eat a picnic while taking in the scenes.  Date palms, orchids and lichens dot the grasslands. I spot buffalo crossing from one treeline to another. I count 34 in total through my binoculars, and without them, they look like black ants.

The views are breathtaking. Silent it is not – monkeys bark and the horn bill call. Quite an experience to sit for a while and listen, and I get the feeling I am being watched – perhaps they are waiting for me to leave so they can see if I have left them any tasty morsels?

I engage low gear on the drive down and let the V8 work. At the bottom I turn north-east, heading for the Momella Lakes. They have been created  by lava flow and thus, they have heavy mineral deposits that give a distinct light green colour. No animals come to drink, as they would ordinarily do, but the lakes attract a variety of birds, particularly those pink flamingos that feed off the algae.  They were on the edge of the lake that I couldn’t get to so the photo is somewhat limited – but you can see there are plenty………………………………
There are lots of observation posts that look over the lakes and, of course, the safari tour operators bring their clients to these at 1300 hours so they can picnic on packed lunches: the usual – clingfilm wrapped sandwiches, a yoghurt tub, carton of juice and a piece of fruit. I don’t have any of that, so I rummage around in the food draw. Tin of beans and some corned beef – haven’t done that in a while.   And out of the fridge, I fish out two beers. All sorted then.  After the lakes I head west towards Mt Meru and on the way I pass duiker and dik diks – all escaping too quickly to capture on film. I encounter some waterbuck though, and they patiently watch as I photograph them. Others think I haven’t spotted them ..
….On route, I also find great little families –
 The view east from the base of Mt Meru should reveal Mt Kili, but unfortunately this time of year is the ‘short rains’ and she is shrouded by cloud. I find a little place owned by the Park. I can imagine waking up and having breakfast and staring out to Mt Kili – on a clear day of course!
The park charges US$ 30 for a night. Got to be worth staying over one day.
Later on the way out of the park on my way back to the town of Arusha, I pass ‘little Serengeti’ where there are bushbuck, zebra frolicking, warthog, buffalo and giraffe. I wait patiently on the flank, engine turned off, and hope for a cheetah to give chase to one of the reedbuck, or perhaps catch sight of a lonely leopard thinking about snatching one of the many baboon chattering nearby. Alas – maybe in the Serengeti?
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