11.04.2009 - 13.04.2009
Easter came up way too quickly, and I had no idea what I'd do for the four days we had off. A couple of friends were going on safari for four days to Lake Manyara, Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater. Anyway, they had to go into town to book it on Saturday, so I went in with them, and had coffee at the Arusha Hotel (very flashy place) while I waited to meet some friends for lunch. A little while later I got a call from them, saying they could get Manuela and I on the first day of their safari for $80 (I'd been quoted something ridiculous like $300 before), so I said yay! I'd love to go!
Anyway, that night I went out in town for drinks with Karen, so I stayed at the backpackers that night, got up early after about 4 hours sleep, met up with my friends in the morning and we headed out to Lake Manyara in the safari car. It didn't take that long to get there from Arusha really, a bit over an hour I think. It turned out to be an amazing day, driving through the national park and, whenever we turned a corner seeing elephants, hippos, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, monkeys etc everywhere. It was hard to believe I was seeing them in their natural environment, animals were everywhere so it felt kind of like being in a zoo. The Rift Valley was amazingly beautiful, and the whole day was so peaceful.
After the safari the four of us went to the lodge that was included with the four day safari, with the idea that maybe Manuela and I could stay there the night. At $380 US it was out of the question, but the view was amazing from the top of the escarpment so we just stayed for a (very expensive) drink instead. I got to practise my swahili on the phone calling a taxi driver we'd met in town, so soon Manuela and I were on our way to a little town called Mto Wa Mbu, which I think means mosquito river in Swahili. I know why.. I'm still itchy from all the bites three days later. We stayed in a massively over priced place called Twiga Campsite and Lodge. For a basic room they were going to charge us $80 US, but again I practised my Swahili and bargained them down to 35,000 shillings (about $30). Still, in the bar, we tried to order food but we were told by the waitress the menu prices were not actually right, and we had to pay more. Lucky I had some mendazi in my bag. I felt like a tourist in this town, we must've had dollar signs on our heads.. the markets had just about the same stuff as in Arusha, but the vendors would not bargain, I think the locals are used to rich people going there and paying what they ask.
Waiting for the bus to get home the next morning, we had an offer from a guy in a Landrover to drive us to Arusha for 5,000 shillings (cheaper than 7,000 for a crowded bus). After a couple of hours, seeing giraffes on the side of the road, and two police stops, we got back to Arusha for some coffee, shopping (and getting slightly hassled but in a friendly way) in the busy back streets, and then a daladala ride home. It was a bit of a shugalabugala weekend, but a fun way to spend the Easter break.