After Tarangire, Darrell went on his own to Zanzibar, while the rest of us head toward the Serengeti plains. At Darrell’s drop-off point we pick up a professional guide, Daniel, who will accompany us to both Serengeti and later Ngorongoro. The road to Serengeti is long. Fortunately, the first little bit, from Tarangire to Mto-wa-Mbu (“river of mosquitos”) has recently been paved, and is comparatively comfortable. The only strange part about this section of the road was the soot particles that appeared out of nowhere and slowly began accumulating on our faces. Shortly after Mto-wa-Mbu – where we stop briefly to pick up provisions – the road begins to climb up the eastern wall of the Great Rift Valley (the wall stands roughly a kilometer tall here, and it stretches the length of Africa, from Turkey to Mozambique). Close to the rift wall, the nicely paved road turns into a very dusty and very bumpy dirt road. The dust is actually not a big problem – we quickly roll up the windows whenever we meet a passing vehicle – but with every jolt of our Range Rover, we find another layer of soot on our faces, hands, clothes, and hair. The mystery got its answer when we stop for lunch. At the place where we had taken Daniel aboard, David and Sam had loaded a huge bag of charcoal up on the roof. The bag is obviously leaking, and with the Rover’s roof fitted with multiple hatches (a very nice thing for safaris), there are enough cracks that thousands of little soot particles can rain in freely. Fortunately, this is easily fixed with a tarp. After lunch – where Catherine befriends some extremely black domestic cats – we continue our journey West, through a lush forest. In a little while, we reach the edge of the Ngorongoro crater and are treated to a spectacular view, despite the crater floor being hidden by mist (a common occurrence this time of day, Daniel tells us). Not stopping long at the crater edge (we will stop here and even go down to the crater floor on our way back), we soon leave the forest behind us, and enter an area with rolling, grass-covered hills. Here we spot several Maasai villages, with huts looking very much like something from thousands of years ago. The stone age look comes not only from the building material used – dung and straw – but also from the way the huts are tightly clustered together, often surrounded by a barricade made out of dead tree branches, to protect humans and livestock against predatory animals. We are entering lion country!
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