We flew in a small plane two hours to Dodoma and stopped to refuel. Dodoma was declared the capital city of Tanzania and parliament moved from the huge, cosmopolitan coastal city of Dar es Salaam to the much smaller, quieter, rural town of Dodoma. Why? Beause it's the geographic center of the country. The airport's very low key, the kind of place where you can wander around to the back door of the plane to grab a bottle of water while the crew pumps fuel. Two guys rolled out a pump and tank, then turned a two-handled crank to pump the fuel. Our pilot, an American woman improbably working for Coastal Air, pointed out that refueling would go fast because they had two guys on the crank. K2 told us most parliament members fly in for meetings and votes, then head back the same day to Dar.
We flew another 90 minutes to the park. Our pilot announced she'd fly below the clouds at 4,000' to the park, then drop to 1,500' (the minimum allowed) inside the park. She flew us between and around silver columns of rain dropping out of the clouds, some straight to the ground, some sharply bending a few hundred feet above the ground. The air around us shimmered. That's why there was a resident's discount: trying to fill the planes and tents during rainy season!
The animals travel the river beds, drink, rest in the shade.
...then down and up.
Here's an elephant pooping, which brings us to...
I had a blue shirt and black pants to wear for the next two days of game drives. Instead, I wore the green shirt and tan pants I'd traveled in for the next three days. I figured the naturally sweet-scented wild air would cover up any problems. Either that, or I could light the poop can as a diversion.
Abunwasi is a character in school books used in Tanzania from the 1960's through 1980's. He did all kinds of funny, stupid things: carrying water in his pockets, blowing out the match before lighting the lantern, or running down the road ahead of a car instead of stepping to the side. K2 introduced me to Abunwasi a couple of nights before this trip when I lit three candles on a saucer and the short one burned through the tall one and made it tip over.
I took those last two pictures our second night in camp. The first night, we arrived after dark and a Maasai with a flashlight escorted us to our tent. Maasai escorted all guests in camp after dark, because of the danger of surprising wildlife in the dark. We heard hyenas two nights and lions the third.
We had a kerosene lantern on the porch and one in the bathroom, a small battery-powered flashlight/lantern combo, and candles in glass chimney lamps. It was so dark in that tent, I couldn't find anything! If I could have just put everything in place during daylight, I at least would have known where to grope for things in the dark. Later, I had some trouble blowing out the candles inside their glass chimneys, so K2 called me Abunwasi again. The second night we were there, the kerosene lantern in the bathroom malfunctioned. The wick sputtered out and flames were licking up the outside of the glass. Lucky we were still in the tent and caught it.
They had these in the zoo in my hometown and my little brother used to call them fancy chickens. They act like chickens-- scattering in every direction from under the truck tires with much flapping of wings and only a little flying and zigzagging up the road with their necks stretched out.
Afterwards, I told the driver that even if we hadn't seen the cheetahs, it still would have been worth it for the fast ride through the park. He grinned again. I think he definitely likes a little excitement with his work when he can find it.