Saturday, 24 September 2011

Ngorongoro, "cow bells singing"

Ngorongoro from the rim, 7,800 feeet (click to enlarge)
I'm on the rim of the Ngoronogo crater, gazing down at the caldera 3,000 feet below.  This is the home of Olduvai gorge, the "cradle of mankind", where the Leakey's in the 1930s found the first traces of mankind, 1.8 million year old homo habilis, who eventually came "Out of Africa".
"Ngorongoro" is a Masai word, onomatopoeic, the sound of cow bells ringing. [*]
It's a magnificent view, impossible for we bears of little brain to capture on film, or pixels, though Gordon's done a pretty good job above.

We're at the Lodge, at 7,800 feet, so though we're nearly on the equator (1 deg S.), it's chilly, and they've put water bottles in the beds.  It gets down to nearly freezing here.
We've just been down to the plains of the caldera in two pop-top four-wheel drives, for drive through the game.  We've seen: zebra, elephant, gazelles, wilderbeest, buffalo, hyena, buzzard, jackal, and.... lionesses, cheetah and rhino.
This is really one of the top highlights of the trip so far. I could even see myself returning, in a different season, in a different way.  For Gordon and me it involved an unintentional side trip of 25 km towards the Serengeti (we got lost...).   As is is, it's 25 km of very bad dirt road, travelled very rarely by classic cars.  Most come hear via flights to Arusha in Tanzania. [BTW: in response to a comment: we did look up at Mt Kilimanjaro, just that it was covered in cloud, as it is often this time of the year]

Grey crested cranes on the Ngorongoro caldera; salt flats in distance
Paula, Michael and David from the pop-top 4-drive

The caldera: 10 miles across

Looking out over the Ngorongoro crater, from the Lodge at 7,800 feet

The mandatory daily car fix: Gordon and Chris fit new fuel pump to
Sandi and Chris' Volvo, heading to Nairobi after Ngorongoro
Yesterday: Gordon offers technical advice, on a short-cut to
Nairobi from Ngorongoro.  Coffee plants in background

[written two days ago]

[*] Postscript: this meaning of "Ngorongoro" -- 'the tinkle of cowbells' -- was what we were told by our driver, Lazarus (our third driver called "Lazarus"...).  But this website says it's the sound of Masai war bells, which sounds a whole lot more likely and robust, reminding us of All Black's Haka, just before their demolition of France in the World Cup Rugby this morning...