Adventures in Africa

Chapter 9 - Tanzania: Volcano-Land II - Ol Doinyo Lengai

On the right hour we wait outside our hotel door for the Land Rover to arrive. We have to remember that we are in Africa. In Swahili the people say "Akuna Halaka Africa" which means "No hurry in Africa". The guide and the driver arrive after an hour. We immediately go en route. We have lunch in the small Masai village "Mto Wa Mbu" which means "The place of the mosquitoes". Next stop is the world famous Ngorongoro Crater which measures some 20km across (making it one of the largest calderas in the world) with the rim at about 2,200m' high. Inside the crater there are examples of various vegetation and wildlife habitat, including forest, grassland, swamp, salt pans and a freshwater lake, with a wide range of animals to match. Because of the high rim and difficulty of access to and from the crater, a micro evolution has developed through the years. We have a full afternoon game drive in the crater, which after being in Masai Mara reserve, we find a bit disappointing.

Next morning we start our long way to Lake Natron. I take pictures of Tali standing next to a Baobab tree. It's the first time we see a Baobab. I first heard about it in the "little prince" of St. Exupery. The little prince had to uproot the small Baobabs on his little planet. The big Baobabs can suffocate the planet and eventually explode the planet by the pressure of their roots around it. Then I see a termite nest, and ask Tali to model on it. Later on I hear that it is dangerous since snakes like to live in deserted termites nests...

Tali standing next to a Baobab tree.

I see a termite nest and ask Tali to model on it.

In the afternoon we arrive to Lake Natron, an enchanted place in a very deserted and remote area. We see some flamingos walking in the shallow water of the lake, and meet some unspoiled Masai children to whom we give some balloons. It's really interesting to see their reaction. It's obvious they have never seen a balloon in their life.

We give some balloons to the Masai children.

We then go to see the 2 waterfalls in Ngare Sero river, few kilometers away from Lake Natron. There we meet another group of Masai children. They take our hands (i.e. in each one of our hands there is a small hand of a Masai child) and show us the way while telling us their names repeatedly. The waterfalls and its setting remind us a bit the Yehudia and Zavitan rivers in the Golan Heights, Israel. We have a swim and start our way back to the car. The childrenĘs grasping of our hands becomes more obvious as well as the repeating of their names. Suddenly, 100 meters before we reach the car, the children around us disappear. Soon the mystery is solved: in the moment we reach the car, the children are back with handmade bracelets and other handicrafts. Now they tell us "Remember me?" and try to sell us these crafts for very high prices. I don't like it. It's a kind of a very intelligent emotional blackmailing.

The waterfalls and its setting remind us a bit the Yehudia and Zavitan rivers in the Golan Heights, Israel.

We eat supper and want to start our way to Ol Doinyo Lengai. The plan is to drive as close as possible to the volcano (about 20km), climb it during the night, sleep in the crater, and go down during the day. Unfortunately we have a problem. Both the driver and the guide don't want to continue. We discover that our guide told the driver that he needs to drive us only to Ngorongoro crater and Lake Natron. The driver wants more money. We show him that this strategy will not help him: we have a written contract with the company where it's written that a climb to Lengai is included in the deal. The driver tries another strategy - the area is very dangerous, and he is afraid of a robbery while waiting for us. We tell him that after bringing us to the starting point he can drive back to the village. We agree that at around 9 o'clock in the morning he will wait for us in the starting point.

At 10 o'clock at night we are at the foot of Lengai. A long and steep walk is waiting for us, but we don't worry, we have all the night for it...
We start to climb. The mountain is steep, and becomes even steeper as we proceed. On the way up we see a porcupine. Every 20-30 minutes we take a break in order to settle our breath. The mountain is very steep, but at least the soil is convenient to walk on. It's already midnight and we are not even in the middle of the way. We see giant fires in the dry grass fields around us. These fires are set by the Masai in order to give space for new grass to grow. The sight is almost magic-like. We continue to climb. The intervals between the breaks become shorter as we get higher. No, it isn't because of the altitude, the summit is only 2,878m' high. It's simply since we get tired - because of the physical effort and because of the hour - it's 2 o'clock now. The mountain is becoming very steep now. Much more than 45 degrees. Maybe 60. There are sections where we walk on 4 (legs + hands). At last we start to smell rotten eggs. The soil becomes lighter and we see with our torchlight all kinds of sulfur colors - white, green and yellow. We encourage ourselves to continue the climb by imagining what is waiting for us in the crater. Will it be lava-made flying rocks? Will it be pools of bubbling red lava? or maybe slow moving rivers of red hot lava?

It's almost 3 o'clock and after 5 hours of climb we reach at last the crater rim, where we are surprised to discover that...

[ Next ] [ Previous ] [ Index ] [ Homepage ]

Last modified: Sat Jun 12th 21:05:00 IST 1999