It is with a fair amount of jealousy on my part and total surprise on Deon’s that we have learned: Deon has GROUPIES. Yes, rocking groupies. Those who just about jump up and down with glee, whoop with pleasure and cannot wait to meet my husband, the geologist. It seems rock is a cool thing to want to know about.
So we organised a trip for a few of our new friends who show a great interest in geology, and set out to a place Deon has wanted to visit for its interesting geological presentation. Deon had to do work in the rough area of this spot, so we made this groupie trip part of a bigger work excursion.
There were several interesting things to see along the way: early morning bat spectacle near Shinyanga. These trees are covered in bats, except when they fill the air to hunt.
Deon and I made a little stopover on the way at Maramboi Tented Camp… what a great place to stop. It is on the southern end of Lake Manyara, set between hundreds of palm trees near the sodic lake. A short little relax between long miles of travel in a spot like this really works well for the body!
Then back on the road to Longido, where Deon is doing some work. We spend a good amount of time around this little town near the Kenyan border, and the ‘bush’ part of Deon’s work here is fun. We get to see things like this
right where they are exploring rocks! And the house we have been using has some fun features too:
How many bathroom lights have you seen that flash blue and red as you heed the call of nature? It can make midnight visits that much more cool!
It is very dry and dusty there so after a night this is what my shoes looked like… INSIDE the house! (sand drifts like in a desert)
When our friends arrived we sent out on what we thought would be a fairly easy stretch. I had started the morning with all the symptoms of malaria, which kept me from venturing out too often, but we had covered many km of the road for work and the road seemed good. We knew it was around 100km of dirt road, we had travelled around 40km of it before… no problems.
It took over 8 hours to complete the journey of about 120km.
Through many dry river beds, where at times we had to look for tracks to use. Across rough and very bumpy sections of road, where every bone in a body was jolted. Across bad sections of sand, where we DID get stuck.
and did manage to get out again.
We were all grateful for 4×4 vehicles, waterbottles and senses of humour!
But the places we saw along the way were truly remarkable and there was lots of opportunity to talk rocks.
We eventually saw a clear indication of our destination:
Oldoinyo Lengai, the Maasai mountain of God. This is an active volcano: it last erupted in 2007, and its impact on terrain was all too visible and feel-able! As we drew closer and drove over lawa flows and volcanic ash beds the rough terrain spoke of the power of the mountain. Barren plains where grey lava flowed just a few years ago cannot be ignored.
But we had a few more great savannah plains and valleys to enjoy before we got very close to the volcano.
Our eyes reveled in flat topped acacias, huge herds of zebra, the biggest concentration of kori bustards we have ever seen (that is the big bird beneath the tree there!) and numbers of other game around too.
My photos stop here for the day… this was the point at which malarial parasites won out over scenic appreciation. Night fevers in a tent in a warm valley are not recommended for good recovery, but Deon brought in a few items he wet in the swimming pool for me, and he sat waving his t shirt over his dear wife to help her cool down… aaah, The things we do for love!
By the next morning I was feeling better and we set out to see Lake Natron and its famed flamingos.
Thousands of lesser flamingos gather to eat algae that thrives in the saline lakes of the region: the Great Rift valley formation caused the lakes to form without there being outlet for the salts that accumulate in the waters. The salts are augmented by numerous saline springs. We thus have wonderful pleasure seeing the results of geological forces at work… brilliant.
My energies were not up to seeing all there was to take in in the area: gorgeous waterfalls in the rift, village visits or many long hours in the swimming pool. Unfortunately no matter what road you take to this area will take long: there are no tarred roads in and the journey takes much longer than a person wants. (I would not recommend this stop to all Tanzania visitors: it is time consuming, the Maasai in the area are very eager to make money out of all visitors for all things – tolls to get into the area, before any visitor activities, are about $35 per person) and then there are the Maasai asking/begging for more money on the sides of the roads too. We literally had to run through a parade of ladies selling jewelry and other items to get to our car door after the Lake Natron visit. (Talk about ambush marketing!) The camp we stayed in had no hot water, and we made quite rudimentary arrangements for cooking and eating. But the geology is fascinating, and Deon relished in the adventure of the experience to get there.
Our adventures were not over: we assisted some travelers more adventurous than ourselves (they traveled in by local bus! Eek!) with a trip back to Arusha. We stopped along the way to fill our hungry bellies…
The challenge here was to find a place far from begging Maasai (we were not totally successful on that point, see picture left), and we needed a bit of shade, which was a point scored for us. Yay! Drop down the car hatch, pull out the gas stove and egg, bacon and leftover potjie for breakfast… it did the job well!
So the Canadians, South Africans, Tasmanian, Tanzanian and a few extra insects got into the cars to travel forth into the great African yonder again. I think it was at this point that the adventure was just too much for some.
There are no great pull-over stops to fill up with fuel, buy a plate to eat and ‘go potty’ in this part of Africa. Our Tasmanian hitcher was asked to pay to use a bush at a stop where we were fighting over paying the tolls! But every tree is a lavatory, if you can keep the goats, dogs, and leering Maasai away!
There was still so much to see: baobabs shooting their root-branches to the sky, candelabra (naboom) forests, and innumerable dust devils/ whirl winds.
We are not sure if our adventurous ways will ever see Deon’s groupies want to join us on a trip again, but it definitely makes for some interesting stories!