New Blog!

If you've enjoyed reading about my experiences in Tanzania here, check out the new blog I've started on Wordpress as of November, 2017. It's called "Back to Tanzania" and you can read it here. All new adventures in Tanzania from an older, wiser, more experienced expat.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Driving and Walking and Seeing the Sights: Great Rift Valley and Lake Duluti

Another day trip out of Arusha with K2 at the wheel. Two days off in three weeks--woo hoo!

We headed back out toward Monduli. We've visited twice before (which you can read about here  and here). This time we drove through Monduli, and Monduli Juu and dropped over the top of the ridge and down into the Great Rift Valley.

The wind was so strong, it was pushing the car sideways. We stopped at a petrol station to check the tires, just to be sure the pressure was good all the way around.

Finally, I can take a picture of someone wearing Maasai shuka and they won't mind...even if they are just statues decorating the petrol station.

We'd left home, as usual, with no planning ahead and thus no food in the car. When we reached the little town of Monduli, it was about an hour before lunch time, but we couldn't expect to buy food past this point. We weren't too sure we could buy food at this point. But after driving through the streets, we found a small pub where the owner cooked barbecued goat for us. One more meal in a small, very local-style place that didn't look too clean. And once more the food was very good and I didn't get sick. 

Then on up into the hills and on to Monduli Juu. The flat-topped acacias were blooming.

They're the white ones scattered through the forest.

I think they're flat-topped acacias. But I'm not sure, because the site seems wrong; they're usually in dry savanna sites. I keep wishing I'd bought the East African trees field guide I saw awhile back, but it was about $60 U.S., so I passed.

Heading down into the Great Rift Valley, we had a hazy view of Mt. Meru. The air was full of dust.

On the valley floor.

Swarms of dust devils were blowing around.

We saw a few scattered Maasai villages away from the road.

And a few bands of goats with young Maasai herd boys watching them from a distance.

Dry dry dry! But with a water system. We saw this big tank and a few small metal boxes here and there that we speculated were access points for water.

And the goats are off in a cloud of dust!

I love acacias.

The hanging balls of grass are weaver bird nests.

Five of these gerenuk were bounding through the brush. This was my first time to see this long-necked, skinny antelope. The western end of the Great Rift Valley is at the end of its range (according to the Audubon Society field guide).

We made the drive home with the wind still buffeting the car, but of course, pushing us in the other direction, so we finally realized it wasn't the tire pressure. Duh!

A couple of weeks later, Shanette (travel companion for a weekend at the beach and surgeon extraordinaire in an ugly parasitic sandflea incident) and I took a short hike around Lake Duluti, a small lake about 30 minutes drive from Arusha. K2 and I visited Lake Duluti awhile back, but we were feeling too lazy to make the shoreline hike at the time. This time, it was only a couple of hours after Shanette cut out the jigger egg case from the side of my big toe, and I tied my hiking boots on and walked six kilometers (easy ones, I have to admit).

Lake Duluti and the ubiquitous Mt. Meru

The nearby small town of Tengeru (I think Antonio said it's Tengeru) draws its water supply from the lake. So there's no swimming allowed. Although you can rent canoes. Maybe we'll try that next time.

Who's Antonio? He's the Park Ranger who guided us on the trail around the lake, pictured here with Shanette. He really knows his birds, and where the monitor lizards bask, and he made the hike more fun.

Egret and cormorants.

The bundle of grass hanging from the reeds on the right is a weaver bird nest.

 These huge spider webs hung in several trees. Antonio called them "community spiders," because each web is built by a whole colony of spiders.

We continued our stroll along the shore. I was telling Antonio the animal I most hoped to see was...

...the Nile Monitor Lizard! This one was basking on a log right off the shoreline.

We walked a bit farther...

...and found a second Nile Monitor. Antonio knew right where to look.

On around the shoreline a bit further...

...where we saw these two African fish eagles perched above the lake.

Antonio pointed out this owl tucked away deep inside a tree's canopy for the day. He didn't say what species. I tried to find K2's bird field guide, but the book has disappeared. When I asked K2, he said he'd taken it on a trek and forgot to bring it back. It took me about 5 months to get him to remember to bring it to me from his place, then I used it for about 3 months, and now it's gone again! At least I still have the field guide with the antelope in it so I could identify the gerenuk.
Exciting update added March 5: Hey, I bought my own field guide to birds and it's a good one. I am now identifying this bird as a Pearl-Spotted Owlet.

African drumming accompanied us on about the last kilometer of the walk. When we reached Lake Duluti Forest Club, we saw this crew filming a movie. Looks like some sort of historic epic. Or more likely, a cheesy soap opera with a historic setting.

It was a lovely hike, with a high concentration of interesting birds and animals. I'll have to keep a watch for the upcoming movie filmed on the shores of Lake Duluti.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Back to Arusha National Park

I promised this post would be about a walk around Lake Duluti where we saw Nile Monitor Lizards and African Fish Eagles. I changed my mind! I made this trip to Arusha National Park first, and once I uploaded all the pictures, it turns out to be too long to pair it with the walk around Lake Duluti. So, here's Arusha National Park, and Lake Duluti and the monitor lizards will be next!

K2, on a rare day off, offered to be my guide in Arusha National Park, about a one-hour drive from town. We used the Suzuki as our safari vehicle. With the sun roof open, and our shoes off, one of us at a time could stand on the seat and pop our head out through the roof, just like with a real safari truck. And it was a lot cheaper.

We got a late start because we didn't plan ahead, but woke up and said, "Hey, let's go to Arusha National Park today. And what about a picnic lunch?"

We missed the morning active hours for the animals. By the time we arrived, they were all hiding in the shade somewhere. But we did see this colobus monkey at the park entrance.

K2 suggested we drive to Kitoto Point, a scenic overlook close to the trailhead for climbers going up Mt. Meru. We passed a ranger post near the bottom of the road and K2 checked that it was permitted for us to drive up. The ranger said yes, but gave the Suzuki a doubtful look and asked if our car could make it. K2 said, "Hamna shida" ( "No problem"). And then we drove up to this...

I begged him not to cross, but to back up and turn around. He scoffed, saying, "This is a very good car. Why did you buy it if you're afraid to use it?" 

Then he refused to use four-wheel-drive because we didn't need it and it would waste petrol, and we plunged in and drove across with no problem. Hamna shida.

And I'm so happy that we did, because the road to Kitoto Point passes through lovely rain forest. He actually did shift into four-wheel-drive for a few steep sections of the road, but only after the wheels slipped a bit first to prove the need.

See that small tree on the right whose branches are cinnamon colored?

It's hosting a colony of ferns.

We saw this bushbuck...

...and this tiny dik-dik.

Approaching the famous Big Fig (famous at least amongst the Park Rangers, who all asked if that's where we were going). Any other middle-aged Americans out there remember that old TV commercial with the song and dance, "Doin' the Big Fig Newton"?

It really is big!

Here's the view from Kitoto Point. Beautiful!

Just one more of the dozen places where K2 has told me, "You can see Kilimanjaro from here on a clear day. But it's cloudy today. Sorry."

He also told me that one night he was in the Park after dark, usually not allowed, because he was picking up a group of climbers who came back down to the trail head in late evening. As they drove out in the dark they saw a big leopard running through the night. At that point he'd been considering asking the driver to stop the car so he could get out and pee by the road, but quickly decided he'd hold it for awhile longer. Anyway, I demanded to see a leopard, because he was my guide and should know where to find this leopard again. And I demanded to see lions, although there aren't any in this park. And I said if we didn't see some colobus monkeys, I was not going to tip the guide. He said I was a very difficult tourist.

Nope...still nothing! I've always wondered if tour guides lie to their clients.

The summit of Mt. Meru from Kitoto Point.

After a leisurely picnic lunch, punctuated by cold wind, a bit of rain, and K2 warning of lurking buffalo every time a twig snapped, we headed back downhill.

We saw another bushbuck...

...and some baboons.

By the time we made it down the hill and back across the stream, it was late afternoon and a few animals were stirring again. We drove loops on various roads, then headed for the area known as Little Serengeti, where animals usually gather.

We found a few giraffes.

So elegant! But if you look too closely...


Oops! Sorry! I didn't think you could hear that.

One more bushbuck.

A warthog.

African Wagtail sitting on top of the tree and Cape Buffalo standing under the tree.

Yellow-billed Oxpecker sitting on top of Cape Buffalo.

By then, we had only 15 minutes to reach the park gate and be out by 6:00 pm, a rule aimed at reducing poaching. K2 drove fast through the place we saw colobus monkeys on our last visit. So I didn't tip the guide, because we saw no colobus. Funny thing, although we had a really fun day in the park, I came away thinking we'd barely seen any animals at all. Now, sorting through the pictures, I'm wondering how I can be so jaded about African wildlife sightings! I mean, giraffes and buffalo! Anyway, if you'd like to see more pictures of the wildlife in Arusha National Park, go to the right side bar and click on the picture of the colobus monkey labeled, "Arusha National Park." It will take you to my Snapfish album from a previous visit. Or revisit my earlier post about that previous visit to the park.

One day I have to visit this souvenir shop right outside the park gate. Love the paint job, but haven't seen what's inside.