Sometimes it helps to have a good sense of humour……
This morning we met our driver and he informed us that the camp that we were supposed to go to, on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater, had moved overnight to about a mile from where we had just spent the last 3 nights. It had moved there to be closer to the migration… but having already seen that we just wanted to be in Ngorongoro and the drive there would take over 3.5 hours each way... which would only leave about an hour in the crater for game drives.
Harry suggested that we get his office to find us another lodge at the crater…
So we drove off in the direction of Ngorongoro … not exactly knowing where we would be spending the night or even knowing if there would be rooms available for us… but things have a way of working themselves out so I decided not to stress out about it.
We were crossing over the wide open desolate plains of Ndutu and we passed over this little ridge when we heard a loud thump…. Then the jeep made a funny dragging sort of sound and Harry announced, “Flat tire” and stopped the jeep. He got out and looked and came back to the jeep with a serious look on his face and told us that it was not very good. A rock had sheered off the U-bolt on the back axle. We looked around to check for hyenas, lions, cheetahs etc.. none were to be seen so we all went out to examine the carnage! The back of the jeep was sagging down and the leaf spring, the spring and all sorts of other stuff was hanging down where it shouldn’t have been. This day had quickly gone from bad to worse.
You could tell that Harry was upset… we’ve all got the sense that he doesn’t want to let us down. He grabbed his cellphone and walked about a half a mile down the dirt track… he was probably swearing the entire way. We hoped that he was coming back!!
When he finally got back to us he said that the closest company jeep was in Arusha (4 hours away) and that they would be sending the parts to fix our jeep and a mechanic … once the new jeep got to us (in 4 hours) we would transfer our stuff into that and go to the crater in the mean time we would just have to be patient and wait.
We waited on the hot wide open desolate plains… wondering if we’d succumb to hunger, thirst or lions…. We were probably being a little bit melodramatic since we had huge boxed lunches and a cooler full of cold water… death by lion was probably not very likely either. Thankfully there were no tse-tse flies here like there were every other place we stopped. At noon we dove into our boxed lunches and Sandi kept us entertained with a lot of funny stories. I can’t think of anyone I’d rather be stranded with other than Sandi and Tom.
After about two hours of not seeing anything except for the wildlife moving in closer and closer... we saw the dust cloud of an approaching jeep.. it slowed down to see what was wrong and Harry convinced the occupants to take us back to Ndutu Safari Lodge so that we could wait in comfort. We piled into a jeep being driven by Tito with some nice people from Holland… we had a nice conversation with them and finally got back to the lodge we had just left. The people at Ndutu Safari Lodge welcomed us back with open arms. They offered us lunch, they let me use the phone over and over again… they even sent their mechanic out to see if he could help. We relaxed in the covered verandah drinking cold drinks until Harry came back with another jeep and a new driver.
The driver was going to take us to the crater while Harry and the lodge mechanic got the parts they needed out of the lodge garage and went back to fix our broken car.
On the way to the crater we passed our saggy jeep and right about then the clouds opened up and it started to rain harder than I’ve ever seen it rain… even harder than the other night at Mbalageti. When it decides to rain in Africa it really rains. The windows of our jeep fogged up so bad that you couldn’t see outside, even if there was no fog inside it was raining so hard that I doubt we could have seen through the water on the outside… but our driver sped on. I was sure that we’d hit a zebra or gazelle since they were all running around joyfully in the rain and Mario Andreti couldn’t really see where he was going.
The rain eventually stopped but we knew that Harry would have a hard time fixing the jeep in what would now be a giant mud bog… Tom said that it wouldn’t be an easy fix in a garage let alone on muddy ground. Harry later told us that they had to build a dam around the jeep so that the water was diverted around it.
After about 4 hours of driving we got to the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge… on the road very close to the lodge we saw a large female lion… she went into the grass next to us and lay down, we could have reached out and touched her. She roared a few times and I decided that considering the day we’ve had, it would probably be wise to close the window. We took a bunch of photos of her and continued on.
A mile from our lodge we had another incredible sighting… a leopard ran out in front of our car and then dove into the trees. We watched him watch us in the dense brush and then finally continued on.
We are at a very nice warm cozy lodge now… it overlooks the crater, the view is mind bending. Dinner was great. While we were poking around in the gift shop Harry came around the corner... I was so glad to see his smiling face, we were all relieved that he made it here and he was safe! Now I’m going to bed, safe and sound after our days adventure… we’re leaving on our game drive at 6:30am.