Friday, 23 September 2016

Serengeti NP Day 6: A last gift on the long road back

Young male lion in morning light
This was our final morning in the Serengeti, and knowing how long the drive back would be, we were up again early with a plan to have a morning game drive before heading out to Naabi Hill gate.

A check on the lions with cubs that we’d seen drinking the day before, found them out and about first thing in the morning.  Even the adult male and 2 young males were around, which was a highlight for us.  

Looking for someone to play with
The cubs were also playing around which is always entertaining, but the grass was a bit high, so often we could only see tails flicking amongst the grasses.  We did catch the adult male drinking, but unfortunately he drank in a bad position for us to get good shots.
A little bit tired
Eventually, after having our coffee with them, it was time to say goodbye and head out.  We planned to go past where we’d seen the cheetahs the previous day as this was our route out, but besides seeing a cheetah ear quite a distance from the road, we couldn’t catch a good sight of them.

More big yawns in the morning
Soon we saw a couple of cars ahead of us, including an overland truck.  We headed that way as we could see a cat lying in the road and sure enough – a lion with a stomach so full that she couldn’t move.  She’d definitely eaten her body weight!  After taking a couple of photos, we spotted a couple of young adult males fighting over a carcass in the distance.  We decided to wait for them for a while in case they wanted to join the lioness on the road. 

Stomach full, needs a lie down next to our car...
And after about 10 minutes one of the males started heading towards the road.  We quickly positioned ourselves in front of the overland truck to get some head on shots.  And as if directed, he walked straight towards us, closer and closer and closer and… wait… he decided that the shade of our car was a good place to park and promptly lay down at our back right tyre ;)

A final sighting - first time catching an Spotted Eagle Owl
We couldn’t wait for him all day, so we had to start the car for him to get up and move off towards the lioness.  After giving on of the other cars our card so that they could send us a photo of the lion next to Kili.  (Unfortunately they never did), we headed off the back way towards Naabi Hill gate, ecstatic that Serengeti had delivered as promised yet again!

Just as it was coming in, the road was excruciating heading out and it was a slow torturous 4 hours before we made it to the NCA gate.  We actually made slightly better time coming out than we did going in, as they’d graded parts of the road while we were camping, and it was enough time for us to have a stop at the NCA campsite to do some birding.

Luckily we had no problems at the gates and were at Kudu Lodge in Karatu in time to do some birding there as well before sorting out our tents and having a hot shower for the first time in 6 days ;)

Day 7 – car repairs again…

Up early the next morning, we planned to spend the evening in Mkomazi and catch up on the birding there.  It was quite a drive to Mkomazi, so we preferred getting there as early as possible, so after a cooked breakfast we were on the road. 

No problems on the road and we were near Arusha by about 11am.  We decided to stop at a supermarket just before Arusha to see if we could get the provisions we needed for camping, this would save us time driving through the busiest part of Arusha to get to Nakumatt.

This is when Dru spotted that the shock that he’d been assured was not leaking, was indeed leaking.  This was a problem.  A quick phone call to one of mechanics in Dar and we were advised not to try to drive the car the 700km to Dar es Salaam but rather get it fixed in Arusha. 

Since it was almost midday, we were worried that the Toyota dealer may close soon, so headed straight there to see if we could get spares.  But they were actually closed the whole of Saturday, and we had no idea where to get the spares.

Once again, Ngomi from Makasa Safaris came to our rescue (thanks Ngomi!) and immediately said to take the car to his friend and mechanic Kashmiri, who would sort us out in no time.

We arrived in Moshi and headed to Kashmiri’s workshop running into him just arriving there at the same time.  He’d come to tell his mechanic to expect our car and what was needed, but then went beyond the call of duty and took it upon himself to help us out personally, driving Dru around Moshi to find the shocks.  We owe Kashmiri a debt of gratitude again – this isn’t the first time he’s helped us out of a bind. Thank you Kashmiri.

As luck would have it, they couldn’t find the exact part.  It’s ironic that we bought an old Toyota Landcruiser specifically so that we wouldn’t have problems with spares, but this has become a recurring theme with our car that they can never find the exact spares.

Eventually, thanks to a visit to Toyota Moshi, and a phone call to get the store manager back into the workshop, we were able to get a set of standard shocks (as opposed to the heavy duty ones we use) and these were able to be fitted to the car.

Of course, this took quite a long time, and it soon became apparent that we wouldn’t make Mkomazi.  So we fell back onto our go-to accommodation – the Marangu Hotel.  This has a camping ground, and is nice and peaceful, and if lucky we’d catch a glimpse of Kilimanjaro in the morning. 

We did have an overland truck of schoolkids from New Zealand parked right next to us, but they had all taken rooms, and probably the most well behaved and quite kids even when making dinner – we hardly heard them the whole evening.

Day 8 – safely back to Dar…

Up early in the morning and it was raining.  Well, not exactly raining, but the mist was so thick that it was causing dew and waterdrops on our tent.  Of course that meant no view of Kili.  We had opted not to have breakfast because they started serving too late, so after a quick breakfast bar and a cup of coffee we finished packing up and headed out of Marangu for the long trip back.

A stop at the White Parrot in Korogwe, and a stop just past Msata for soft drinks, and we were back in Dar by early evening – all in one piece!  While the car had had its problems, it was to be expected considering the rough roads we had travelled the last few days.  But once again, we’d managed to head into the Serengeti, have an awesome time and get out unscathed with plenty of memories!

Bird list:

African grey hornbill Ostrich
African hoopoe Pied wagtail
Bare-faced go-away bird Red-billed buffalo-weaver
Bateleur Red-billed oxpecker
Black crake Rufous-crowned roller
Black-bellied bustard Ruppell’s long-tailed starling
Black-faced sandgrouse Sacred ibis
Black-headed heron Taita shrike *
Black-lored babbler Saddle-billed stork
Black-shouldered kite Secretary bird
Blacksmith lapwing Silverbird
Black-winged stilt Southern ground hornbill
Cape rook Spur-winged lapwing
Capped wheatear Superb starling
Chestnut-bellied sandgrouse Three-banded plover
Common bulbul Wattled starling
Common moorhen White-backed vulture
Coqui francolin White-bellied bustard
Crowned lapwing White-bellied canary
Double-banded courser White-browed coucal
Drongo White-crowned shrike
Egyptian goose White-headed buffalo-weaver
Fisher’s sparrow-lark White-headed vulture
Fisher's lovebird Yellow-billed oxpecker
Goliath heron Yellow-billed stork
Green woodhoopoe Yellow-throated sandgrouse
Green-winged pytilia Senegal lapwing
Grey-backed camoroptera Water thickknee
Grey-backed shrike Magpie shrike
Grey-breasted spurfowl European bee-eater
Grey-capped social weaver Rufous-tailed weaver
Hamerkop Red-cheeked cordon bleu
Helmeted guineafowl Chinspot batis
Hilderbrandt’s starling Hottentot teal
Hooded vulture Red-billed teal
Kori bustard White-browed robin-chat
Lappet-faced vulture Red-billed hornbill
Lesser flamingo Yellow-throated longclaw
Lilac-breasted roller Straited heron
Little bee-eater Speckled mousebird
Long-crested eagle Little grebe
Marabou stork Spotted eagle owl *
Martial eagle

* First time sighting

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