” Today we go pole pole, because of bad roads ”
These were the words with which Rashid, our guide for the next five days, while travelling through the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Conservation Area, greeted us. Pole pole means slowly in Swahili and were words we would often hear during our stay in Tanzania. Little did we however understand the real meaning of his words, nor the reason why all safari vehicles are equipped with not one but two spare wheels.
First we had to buy water, as no water could be drank except bottled water. Then we set off on the long slow journey to Lake Manyara where we were to stay overnight. We soon realised why going slowly was neccessary as we bumped along on a mercilessly rocky road stretching endlessly ahead with nothing to see but grassy plains and the occasional herd of cattle.
After about three hours of enduring dust and a vigorous bumping massage, the scenery started changing as we entered the Ngorongoro Conservation Area.The terrain is hilly and due to the fact that we visited at the end of the rainy season the hills were covered in green grass and small yellow flowers.
This area is not a national park and the Masaai people still live here with their cattle alongside wild animals, giving rise to the unfamiliar sight of cattle herded by young Masaai boys dressed in traditional red blankets, carrying a sharpened stick to ward off predators, grazing peacefully in the midst of giraffe and other antilope. The only conflict we saw was a mangy Masaai dog chasing a jackall, who tried its luck to catch something for dinner, across the road.
With tired bodies and feeling very dusty we reached Lake Manyara National Park. This park consists of an alkaline lake surrounded by dense forests and grassy plains.It is home to many baboons, monkeys, elephant, giraffe, hippos, birds in abundance of which the pink flamingo is the most spectacular and even the small dikdik antelope. Lunch was a packed picnic on a hill overlooking the lake.
We reached our hotel late in the afternoon where we were greeted with a friendly “karibo “ ( welcome), a warm wet facecloth to wipe away the day’s dust and juice to quench our thirst.
Our first pole pole day was filled with new sights and sounds, leaving us slightly overstimulated and in awe of our majestic surroundings.
We went to bed looking forward to the next few days of our safari, of which I will report in follow up posts.