After an early breakfast we say goodbye to Kati Kati and apprehensively head out on to roads we had been warned about. So what is new you might ask? The Landy is still being nursed with a hastily welded shock absorber and a corolla, ably driven by Nigel that Ross has nicknamed the “Silver Assasin” is not really suited to these type of roads. Fear not, we can do this so off we go bouncing, slipping, sliding and rattling so badly that I seriously thought my teeth would loosen by the drive. What makes it bearable is the absolutely stunning vistas of the beautiful Serengeti and the abundance of fat, healthy game everywhere. We see thousands of zebra, wildebeest and plenty of lions, making the trip so worthwhile.
After a few hours we arrive at the exit gate of the Serengeti which is also the entrance gate of the Ngorongoro Conservation area. So again we have to dig deep into our pockets for the privilege of driving through this reserve, going down into the crater is not included and another hefty fee is charged for this. Graham has organized for an eight seater Landcruiser Safari vehicle to meet us at the main office where we will leave our trusty cars and descend into the crater in a much more suitable chariot.
The landscape dramatically changes and we drive through huge plains that stretch, dry, dusty and in muted colors from horizon to horizon. The palette only broken by the crimson flashes of the garments of the tall, extremely skinny Masai warriors that herd their animals to graze out on the dry plains and pack to their homesteads. I get Graham to stop and I hand over my packed lunch to a toothy warrior who gave me a smile that lit up the day. I just wish I had a car loaded with packed lunches!
We start climbing, up and up we wind along, marveling at the changing vegetation as we head towards the rim of this magical and mystical place. Ross pulls off the road to have a look down into the Ngorongoro Crater, Nigel does not see and whizzes past going the clappers. When we catch up with him he is totally flummoxed at how he could have passed Ross without noticing and caused much mirth by the expression on his face. We soon arrive at the rendezvous point and a much needed wee and watering stop is enjoyed.
A discussion is started and the six others declare they are not fussed one way or the other about going down into that dusty bowl and could quite happily go on to the luxury of our Lodge, about 30kms away. I am however adamant that I have not come all this way to just pass by one of the greatest places on earth. Graham wants to go as well so it is 2 for, 5 against and 1 happy to go with whatever is decided. I think that had it gone against us it would have been a very expensive excursion for us as split 2 ways a big difference to being split 8 ways. As we are a team it was decided that it is all for one so in we shall go. I am very grateful that it was decided with very good grace as we all were a bit jaded by this time.
We climb into our vehicle very well driven by a nice Jacob and it takes about twenty minutes to reach the entrance. Some formalities over and done with, we start the steep descent into what looks like a huge dust bowl. The first thing we see is a large herd of cattle traipsing up a steep incline on their way out of the crater. So weird to think that the Masai living in the area have grazing rites that sees them taking their cattle and goats down 600 meters into the Ngorongoro Crater and bringing them out every single night! They must produce the toughest steaks on the face of this earth and the herders must be the fittest people on earth and the bravest….there are lions down there!
It is quiet on our vehicle and we really don’t know if it will get better….it is hot, dry and very dusty with a plume of white dust rising off the salt pan below. We reach the bottom and slowly meander along the roads that criss cross this strange place. It slowly starts to unfold like a chrysalis, she starts to show us her face and I am overwhelmed. If I thought the Serengeti was special I am at a loss for words to describe the Ngorongoro Crater. It is without a shadow of a doubt one of the most special places I have ever been. It is magical, mysterious and so incredibly beautiful that I get goosebumps just thinking about it. To see her during the dry season is incredible as when you come across the water the contrasting colors are breathtaking and vibrant. The game is prolific and we see pretty much everything there is to see except the very elusive black rhino.
When it is time to make our way up and out we are incredibly surprised to find ourselves on a perfectly paved road that winds steeply up to the top. It is without a doubt the cherry on the top…it is magnificent. Not only an engineering marvel but the vistas that we gaze down upon has us enthralled. Oh how glad I am to have had the privilege of coming to this place. Every single bump on every bad road, every mosquito, tetse and even a hippo bite has been worthwhile. This trip has changed me, how can it not and I know the memories made will never, ever be forgotten. I have seen the good, the bad, the ugly and I have been enriched by it all.
We have no time to lose as we have to be out of the gate by 6pm and it is now just after 5pm and we are told it will take about 35 minutes to get there. However, we pull into the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge to have a quick look at it and are quite simply blown away…wow what a place. It should be at R30000.00 per couple per night!!!! After our guided tour we are left with less than a half an hour to get to the main gate and we head off at top speed, very loathe to pay the hefty fine should we not make it. It is a helter skelter of a drive but we make it by the skin of our teeth. We arrive weary but elated at the lovely setting that is to be our home for two nights, the Ngorongoro Farm Lodge, a stunning working farm that grows beautiful vegetables, fruits, herbs and coffee. A haven away from the dusty splendour that was the stupendous, sublime Serengeti and the truly ridiculously, overwhelming gorgeousness of the Ngorongoro Crater.
I will try and posts some more photos…if not here then on Facebook!