On Friday I went up to Grumeti (the high end lodge and management area of Tutor Jones, a multi-millionaire).
The folks who work for their conservation and wildlife management company are fabulous and I had a good talk with them both for my work and in general.
They housed me in one of their research “dorms” and paid for my meals.
There was hot water (without having to boil it) and 24 hour electricity.
Here is a picture from my porch.
A picture of my porch.
Here is the “dorm”.
Here is a picture from my bed when I woke up the next morning.
After a leisure morning of breakfast and e-mail (they have wireless) I headed back to Seronera, with a plan to stop at the photo safari camps in Robanda (3 of them). I picked up some folks about 30 minutes from Robanda. It is common practice here to give a lift to people, and while I would never do it in town, out in the rural villages, it is safe, almost safer than not because if I get stuck or get a flat I then have people to help me. SF actually has a policy to pick people up to maintain and improve good community relations. Anyway, I filled my car with people and we headed to Robanda. At Robanda I let everyone out and told those wanting to go to Seronera that I’d be back, in an hour or so. I popped in at one photo safari place and they were very nice and gracious, especially considering I just randomly stopped in wanting to interview them. The interview went so well I decided I really wanted to find the two other photo safari places so I went back through Robanda, asked where the other places were and headed to one. Along the way I said hi to this guy that had asked me for work when I dropped off everyone the first time and well he kind of invited himself to take me to the next camp. I let him get in the back seat and we continued onward. I quickly started to think that this wasn’t the best idea, esp because I could smell the beer on his breath, but we continued to chat away in Swahili (he is 19, is from Robanda, brother at the University in Dar es Salaam, etc), with me keeping an eye on him in the rearview mirror. After turning off the main road to head towards the camp the path quickly deteriorated and got very muddy. After about 5 minutes I was thoroughly stuck in the mud. The guy jumped out and started digging me out of the mud. We tried and tried, I got out, got all muddy, he then got into the drivers seat and tried to get the car unstuck. I then realize that I’m in the middle of the bush, a drunk (or at least tipsy) teenager is at the wheel and I’m standing outside my car in mud. I mentally prepare myself to run after the car if he breaks free of the mud and doesn’t stop (I know, over active, negative imagination, but what can I say). Well after a few more minutes he was able to free the car from the mud and stopped safely out of the mud. He wanted to continue driving, but I insisted no, and I got back behind the wheel and continued onward off the road in the 4 foot high grass. By this time I’m hot, sweating, muddy, and realize we are in a tse tse fly infested area and the tse tse files are continually swarming around me, trying to bite (somehow I escaped with only 5 bites, though again one got in my shirt, under my bra and bit me, why they seem to like to do that is beyond me!). After another 5-10 minutes we arrived at the campsite only to find it abandoned except for this one old man who tells us that due to the road (the one we couldn’t even drive on), the camp was closed until after the rains. Ugh, all that way for nothing. He tells us the name of a manager/driver who works for the company, speaks English and lives in Robanda so we head back. I decide that it was getting late and I just wanted to get back to Seronera before any afternoon rains came (about a 1-1.5 hour drive). But my drunk friend, who I paid for his help, but insisted he couldn’t buy beer with my money (yea right, but I tried) ran off and found the driver so I talked with him. However, the driver wasn’t knowledgeable enough about the company or English for it to be a worthwhile interview so I packed up everyone who wanted to go to Seronera and we headed off. On the way back we saw this lovely elephant which terrified one passenger and thrilled another. They couldn’t decide if they wanted to sit and watch or get the h#%$ out of there.