We were woken up at 5:30 in the morning to go watch the sunrise. Part of me wanted to just stay in my tent because I felt like death was taking over my body. My better part forced me to get up, get dressed, and try and not let this illness control this whole experience. It was still dark and a bit nippy outside but the stage was set perfectly for one of the most ravishing sunrises I ever witnessed. The sky was a terrifying orange with a glaze of pink stretched across the African landscape. The sun rose slowly, a giant ball of fire, as it gradually lit up the sky. This backdrop was the setting for our morning safari through the Serengeti.
We saw more of the same animals we saw yesterday: lions, hippos, giraffes, zebras, and plenty of others. By this point we have seen four of the big five. We have yet to spot the elusive black rhino. According to multiple guide books, there are only about 20 to 30 black rhinos left in the world. All of them live in Ngorongoro Crater, which we will visit tomorrow. Needless to say, they are a critically endangered species and local authorities are doing their best to protect them. Raphael told us that we won’t see a rhino here in the Serengeti. With that revelation, I decided to take a small nap in the safari jeep since I’ve seen all the animals yesterday already. That nap was very much needed.
When I woke up, my flu-like symptoms were faint and I felt fine again, except for this stupid dry cough that just won’t go away. I was now able to fully enjoy this safari. And I couldn’t have gotten better at a more convenient time because my favorite part of the day was about to happen! We became stranded in the Serengeti!
I’m not being sarcastic. It really was the highlight of my day. Lemme explain. On our way out of the park to our next destination, one of the jeeps in our fleet broke down. The rear of the jeep collapsed and wasn’t drivable. There aren’t any auto repair shops anywhere near here, in the middle of virtually nowhere, to fix it. Some of the jeeps, my jeep included, stopped and the guides all banned together to come up with a solution. That left the rest of us volunteers isolated in the great plains for who knows how long? Instead of just sitting around, a few of us decided that it was playtime!
I ran out into the middle of nothingness and plopped on the ground, back flat. My idea was to attract a honey badger by playing dead. It didn’t work. I also wanted to find a snake, particularly a black mamba. Found nothing. Usually we have to stay in our secure vehicles because it’s a dangerous world out there, but the guides were too busy to pay much attention to us. Katie somehow ended up off roading her jeep. Anne wanted to take great jumping pictures. And I thought kicking up dust off the road created a cool effect.
The best part were the Massai nomads who lived here, huts inside small villages barricaded by thorny bushes. We saw two of them walking toward us towing machetes.
They came to our jeep and spoke in their fast paced Massai language. Nicole (Australia) and I decided to introduce ourselves. One of them looked very formidable; almost scary looking. He was tall, dark as the night, and slender like a stick figure. He was drapped with a patterned sheet over his torso and was decked out in Tanzanian jewelry. He wore shoes made of tire treads and held a wooden walking pole in one hand and a curved machete in the other. His name is Sonjulo. His buddy was older, shorter and not as scary looking. I don’t remember his name. The most surprising thing about them was that they could speak in English! At least enough for us to understand. They were super friendly as well.
After talking to Sonjulo for a bit, he took off one of his many bracelets and latched it around my wrist. He gave one to Nicole as well. It was the coolest thing ever! You can buy these bracelets at the markets in Arusha, but to be given one by an actual Massai is priceless. I really didn’t have anything on me that I was able to give. He pointed to my watch, but I can’t get rid of that just yet; I need it for the rest of my trip. I felt bad, so I handed him 10,000 Tish, which he gladly excepted. I would of given him a shirt or something but they were all extremely dirty from the safari. Yes, I was a dirty boy. I haven’t took a shower in a few days now. It’s hard to out here. Just baby wipe baths and teeth brushing. I’ll tell you, these baby wipes have been essential since I stepped foot in Africa.
Soon, other nomads from Sonjulo’s village came to see what all the fuss was about. Unlike Sonjulo, they could not speak English as well. Some of them came to help the guides fix the jeep using rocks and slabs of wood. I wanted to have a little fun with them. I took out my ipad and opened the photobooth app. It’s an app that takes your photo and alters them in silly ways. I had some of the nomads look into the camera so they could see themselves and see how funny they look with the distortions. They laughed like children! It was funny to watch and they were highly amused. What was more amusing was when I all of a sudden heard a Justin Bieber song playing from Sonjulo’s cellphone. So two important observations: these guys aren’t completely shut off from the outside world and Bieber Fever has spread to even the most remote parts of Africa. I couldn’t believe it. Also, where do they charge their phones?
After a couple hours, Raphael and the other guides managed to “fix” the broken jeep. I put fix in quotations because they used rocks and wood pieces to hold the jeep together. They must of done this before because it worked. Some of the Massai hitched a ride on the side of our jeeps, closer to their villages they wandered off from. Being stranded could have not been more enjoyable.
We made way to the site of our new camping grounds, on the top of Ngorongoro Crater. It was mighty chilly and there was poop everywhere! Just goes to show how wild we are roughing it. As we were eating dinner outside, the biggest elephant I have ever seen invaded our campsite! I’ve seen many elephants, but this one was gargantuan. It had long thick tusks and a superior build, like he was the king of all the elephants in the world. The elephant came and drank water out of the camps water supply gorge. This elephant must of done this before because it knew exactly where to go and what to do. It didn’t seemed phased, even in the slightest, by the presence of us humans. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of this awesome event. I beat myself up; I usually carry my camera everywhere I go with me, to capture unexpected moments like these. None of us had our cameras handy. It was so cold, I just wanted to eat dinner and go to sleep in my cozy tent. I didn’t think to bring it. Absolutely surreal.