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Destination: Tanzania (part 5)

March 11, 2010

A juvenile lion relaxes in Ngorongoro

We approached Ngorongoro with a Serengeti hangover. It had been too good, too vast on the plain and we were wondering what the caldera could possibly offer that we had not already enjoyed. Plus, we had first passed the Ngorongoro look out spot on a sunny, brilliant afternoon 4 days previous, but now the weather had shifted and the same look out presented a lake of dreary, forbidding clouds. The steeply crowned safari route snaking around the caldera and along its rim was dotted with over-turned trucks, their speed and precarious loads too much for the now muddy roads. But soon a cautious decent took us to the edge of Ngorongoro’s Larai Forest and neither my deep fear of tumbling off cliff edges nor the soupy cloud mist could obscure the mystery and richness that literally lay before us.

The Larai is said to be where old elephants go to die and surely, we saw only very old bulls in the caldera, identifiable by their large tusks and preference for marsh greens (no teeth required). The Larai and the folded earth that supports it eventually give way to a flat green floor some 20km in diameter. The walls of Ngorongoro are the armature of a collapsed ancient mountain and they serve as a natural enclosure keeping some in and others out. For example, Ngorongoro is giraffe-free because the gangly creatures cannot descend such steep slopes, but black rhinos find a sanctuary of sorts within its patrollable defined rim.  Inside the caldera lions sleep in the tall grasses, obscured but so close to the roads that one can’t help but see them, stretched and sprawled confidently like house cats. On this day with few trees or streams to separate them, zebra stood guard while a baby not 30 minutes old learned to stand, warthogs basked in mud, flamingos painted the landscape pink and a rhino simply tried to cross the road.

Cloudy Ngorongoro

Sunny Ngorongoro

Ngorongoro was a quiet day day where we perhaps relaxed a little more and clicked a little less. It provided ample time to *really* talk to Philipo and while he was so very engaging and smart, I was struck by how few cultural points of reference we shared. Tanzania might be one of the few places where folks really have never seen a Simpsons/Friends/fill-in-the-sitcom-blank episode and Hollywood movies have zero market penetration. As the cultural gap between us threatened to loom embarrasingly wide we saw another herd of buffalo. I started to hum and then sing buffalo soldier… and Philipo sang back dreadlock rasta then all together we sang there was buffalo soldier in the heart of america, stolen from africa…

I have been known to explain my personal, abstract photography work as ‘the way I would paint if I could do it very well.’ The last image reminds me of that intention as grass, dry lake bed, water, flamingos and sunlight stripe across the frame.

Next time: Bushmen. For real.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. rapidblue permalink
    March 11, 2010 6:01 am

    Stunning as usual!!! 🙂

  2. March 14, 2010 2:26 am

    wow. that last image is even more stunning than all the rest. The pink is just so unexpected!

  3. April 20, 2010 8:19 pm


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