10 February 2017, Day 23, Lake Manyara, Tanzania
Today is a long travel day, moving from Tangarire to the foothills of the Ngorongoro Highlands. After breakfast we are delighted to observe a large herd of zebras who come to visit our waterhole. I enjoy the spectacle thoroughly. Pictures? Oops.
We leave at 8 a.m., riding again with Simon. The herds of cattle and goats are moving out, driven by their herders. We cross the main road and head west toward the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley. As we get closer to the mountains, the land grows greener, gifted with runoff from above. We see okra growing, a cash crop here, Simon says.
There are fields of sugar cane. The are rice fields! This rice, Witress tells us, is very aromatic and is prized above all other. We stop by a small,, muddy stream to talk to a fisherman. He has built a wall of reeds across the stream, with a two small openings. His fish traps, of flexible withes and nylon cord, fit into the stream bed with openings aligned with the openings in the reed wall.
He leaves his traps overnight. This morning he harvested 110 fish – catfish and tilapia – and has already sold them to regular customers who drive by to buy his catch. We drive on, watching men plowing with a yoke of oxen.
Near the base of the mountains, we turn north, heading for the gate of the Lake Manyara protected area. We cross a river several times, noting (illegal) gold miners working in the stream, and into a dense forest. There are fig trees and banana trees, and in cleared spaces there are dwellings and corn fields.
At the park gate we pause for tea, then enter. There are elephants, a rare blue monkey. As we near the lake there are white storks, pelicans, zebras, warthogs, yellow-billed storks, flamingos and hippos. The flamingos are standing near the middle of the warm, shallow lake. We see them only from a distance.
We walk a warped boardwalk to a birdwatching platform, have lunch at a picnic area across from the boardwalk, and stroll down a set of stairs to the hot spring. Hot it is, indeed. Bob collects some in a bottle. (Why? Because he can.)
We continue on our way, spotting more buffalos, zebras, elephants, baboons, warthogs. We come nearer to the lake shore where we can appreciate the numbers of pelicans and storks and flamingos, and even get a few decent pictures.
On our way again, we see a large herd of elephants, 50 or more. There are huge males, big females, and a handful of babies. All of the elephants are digging in mudholes and slinging mud and water onto their sides and back to protect their skin.
A group of babies lies down together in the biggest wallow. They come out black and shiny with mud. There is one clear pool, deeper than the rest, from which the elephants drink. We watch for a long time.
We see another blue monkey, and this time get good pictures. There are alos baboons, impala, and monkeys. Near the north end of the park we enter an area where the runoff from the mountains is plentiful. There are fig trees here, and tamarind trees, and several running streams.
Exiting the park, our vehicles climb a steep road up and over the escarpment. We drive on through the small town of Karatu to our lodge for the next two nights, Karatu Simba, at 1700+ meters altitude. Perched on a hillside above the valley, overlooking a patchwork of large, plowed fields, it is a windy place.
Our tent is very nice and the solar-heated water is really hot. Good showers.
More pictures below!
(I don't know what's happening with the formatting on this post. Ideas?)