Tuesday 18 July
Ngorongoro Crater to Panorama Lodge
Only a 25km ride today. The night had been cool and refreshing for sleeping. A small group of us were not riding and sat in the posh hotel having coffee and taking turns in the shower before squeezing into a taxi for the short trip. Panorama lodge is well named. Perched on the edge of the escarpment, it has a view of the whole crater. I took six photos from left to right.
The igloos are delightful, thick adobe, cool and comfortable. The roof inside looks like an upturned clay coil pot with a window and vent in the top.
Our afternoon game drive was in safari jeeps. We drove through tangled jungle to the lake, passing baboons, ancient trees with buttressed roots, fat-trunked baobabs, giraffes and zebra appearing at intervals through the bushes.
The absolute highlight of the entire trip was our encounter with elephants. We stopped beside a huge elephant munching on vegetation a couple of metres into the bush. The tusks were a metre long, a perfect curve. Its ears were fanning like palm leaves to keep cool. Then out of the bush behind our jeep stepped another elephant. It walked purposefully towards us on the track, closer and closer. There was no noise of giant footsteps. I had stopped yelping by this time and was holding my breath, eyes popping, every muscle tensed. About 3m from the jeep it swerved off to follow the first one. I was shaking all over. Tears welled as emotion overflowed. Less than a minute later they had vanished into the undergrowth.
There was another later, with a calf, crossing a sandy riverbed near a lioness relaxing in the warm sand. Mounds of dung all along the sand suggested this was a favourite elephant spot.
I said, ‘If it’s getting late, don’t worry about seeing the pelicans, we have them at home.’ Not like this. There were thousands of pelicans, noisily washing at the edge of the water, stinking of fish. I felt small. Our drive lasted for four hours. It passed so quickly. Late returning once more, I said to Justaz who was in our jeep, ‘You see now why we were late before? This is African time.’ One of his own favourite phrases.
There were a few other tourists in the dining room but our group was the largest and liveliest. After dinner, there was a show. Two musicians with a wooden xylophone and a tall tomtom drum struck up Hakuna Matata, and a group of acrobats bounced in singing and tumbling. They entertained us with limbo, juggling, building human pyramids and fire stick dancing while the music played on. We were clapping, cheering and thoroughly enjoying it all. We could not understand how one family kept their backs to the show and ate dinner. The irresistible rhythm was reminiscent of Mexican music, they use the same instruments. I think it likely that the African slaves who were brought to the Americas took their music with them.