13 December 2006

The Aftermath

Sunday: Took 12 hours to get from Arusha to Seronera. The car started overheating as we headed up the Ngorongoro crater so we used all our drinking water to try and cool down the engine. That worked for about 10 minutes, then it over heated again, but luckily there were puddles of rain along the road we could use to fill our water bottles and cool down the engine.

Due to our preventative measures of cooling down the engine (and frequent breaks up the hill) the car made it without completely dying to the highest point, though things just went downhill from there (he he he). But seriously, we encountered 3 rainstorms after getting down from the crater. One random car needed a tow across a river due to the high water level (what anyone was doing in a car on those roads I have no idea) and later on another car needed a tow to get jump started. While I was trying to drive and not get stuck in the mud, we found ourselves headed straight for a lori (a TZ semi). There was a foot of mud and one set of tracks that both directions of traffic were using. Dennis was driving the problem car and I was following in one of SF cars (a land cruiser that is a nice car, but not good for the wet season b/c it weighs more so gets stuck easier and it doesn’t have a very powerful engine for getting itself unstuck). Anyway, Dennis is going first, headed strait for the Lori. He gets over just in time and though I wanted to pull of in a dry area and just wait for 2 minutes, David (our driver) told me to just drive so I did and when I had to pull over as I got closer to the Lori (the right-away in TZ goes to the larger entity). I ended up getting the car stuck, though not too bad, David was able to take over and get it out. Well, turns out that Dennis didn’t get over, rather he ran himself into the side of the road b/c the breaks on the overheating slow car gave out. So now we were still struggling in the mud with a car w/o breaks (luckily no more hills were around). We thought we might actually make it when, with about 5 minutes to arrival, we find ourselves stopped with 5 other vehicles looking at what normally is nothing more that a crick, if water is even flowing.
Obviously there was much more water in it and we were unable to pass. We decided to wait a few hours to see if the water would go down and so drove to the little village where the workers in Seronera live. While waiting there we got a fundi (worker) to sort of fix the breaks on the one car. Meanwhile in the center of the village a huge tree just fell over. Luckily no one was hurt. We returned to the river after a few hours and the water level had risen! We had picked up some people at the village and they knew the long way around (about a 15-20 minute back-way) that we dared only because we didn’t really want to sleep in our cars. Well, the back-way was completely muddy and flooded, but not so much that we couldn’t pass (though there were at least half a dozen close calls of getting stuck and rolling over). But alas we made it and arrived at an empty house because the two lion research cars were stuck in the mud and Meggan and Ingela were being rescued by a third party.

Monday-Tuesday: With all the rain we got lots of mixed reports, mostly saying “don’t even try” to go either to Bariadi through the western corridor or to Loliondo. Well, we had arranged to get a functioning land rover and decided to try out luck with Loliondo. We made it there in once piece (about a 5 hour drive), no problems and spent one night there to do district level introductions.

Wednesday-Thursday: We decided that with two days of no rain the western corridor should be okay and so we (minus Dennis who didn’t need to come b/c we knew there was no way we were going to be able to get to Maswa and thus we completely scrapped that part of the trip) headed to Bariadi. Now, Bariadi is the whole reason I am back in TZ. It was that district councilman (DC) who made an issue of things that then required we get a letter from TAWIRI who then required I get back in the country. I think it was safe to say that Emmanuel and I were both nervous going into this meeting. We had a letter from TAWIRI and we had the district natural resources officer with us, yet from all the stories we expected to still get chewed up and spit out. The first few minutes of the meeting were tense and the DC was rude to Emmanuel and threw him some curve balls, but he recovered well and after explaining my project, and then me saying that I had nothing to add, the DC switched to English (something he refused to do in previous meetings) and spent the next 15 minutes telling me all about his 21 day trip to the US in 2004. It was more like a monologue rather than a conversation, but when it was over he said welcome to the district and that others are to help me (others down the chain of command like the natural resources officer with us). Frankly we were shocked, but glad to be heading back to Seronera so soon. Along the way home we stopped by Lake Victoria since I had never been there and bought some tilapia. I entertained myself by talking to the many children who were shocked that I knew Swahili.
The road to the Lake was iffy, and we definitely did some sliding, wheel spinning, and got really muddy, but didn’t get stuck. There was also more water on the road in the park, but nothing that posed a major threat.

Friday-Sunday: I was glad to be back on Thursday because that meant I could go on the camping/hiking trip to Lake Natron (E of Serengeti) and Lengai. Around 9 on Friday morning and in a caravan of 5 cars (a total of 11 people, with 3 more meeting us at the campsite) we all headed East. I was riding with Anne, a cheetah researcher and we saw a cheetah on the way out so got to go in for a closer look J.
The trip took us until about 6 that evening. The drive was long and hot, but beautiful with all the greenness from the rain we’ve had. Near Lake Natron it looks a lot like the southwestern US.

Martin and Felix stopped by the nearby village to find guides for our climb up Lengai (I believe it is about 12,000 feet though everyone says it is harder than Kilimanjaro because it is so steep and you just go strait up). The group decided they wanted to take a different route than usual, along the back side of the mountain so rather than leaving at midnight to drive to the mountain, we had to leave at 10 b/c we had a long drive to the backside of the mountain for our alternative path. We made some dinner, but I couldn’t eat it, I felt nauseous. We then went to bed (at about 8:15) and it was so hot I was just laying in my tent sweating. I didn’t get sleep and wasn’t particularly thrilled about the climb, but got in the car nonetheless. I ate a quick PB and J sandwich (since I didn’t eat dinner) and was trying to decide if I really wanted to climb as we headed towards the mountain. I decided I didn’t and was still not felling tip top, but then we went off road to get there, going through car high grass on a mountain side with deep crevices (from lava flows). We could only see like 3 feet in front of the car so my adrenaline shot up and once we stopped (when our cars couldn’t climb the mountainside anymore) I was feeling much better (gota love adrenaline). So I decided I really should give the climb a try. Well, there is no path, it is really steep, you basically head strait up and I was breathing hard right away. Anyway, within a half hour I threw up, I just felt awful. Afterwards I headed up a little more, then needed to rest and told the others to go ahead while one of the two guides stayed with me. I rested, and then threw up again and that is when I decided not to keep going up (I had no strength left and couldn’t eat or even drink water to gain it back). We headed back down (remember this is all in the middle of the night) and when we finally got to the cars I curled up on the back seat and went to sleep. I awoke at about 5:30am when Meggan and Felix, who had turned around after about halfway, returned. We took one car back to the campsite (which was nice b/c I still felt sick and needed to sleep, and it had cooled off enough I could actually bare laying in my tent). I slept until it was too hot to remain in my tent (about 9:30) and then just sat outside reading in a chair, drinking lots of water and eating a little. Everyone else (well three people didn’t go on the climb) got back at like noon or one. Turns out no one made it to the top, the guide who stayed with them was drunk and didn’t really know the way and they were encased in clouds at the top. They couldn’t tell how much more they had to go, everyone was exhausted and tired, they knew the guide didn’t really know how much further, so they turned back (a smart thing to do I think). They got back, went to bed and then at 3pm I, the three people who didn’t climb, and a few others we for a walk/hike along a river (about 45 minutes) until we came to a beautiful waterfall and we went swimming. I was feeling better, though still tired b/c I hadn’t eaten a lot, but the walk was good. We returned to camp relaxed and after dinner everyone was pretty pooped so we went to bed pretty early. On Sunday we left by 8 or 8:30am and took a slightly different way back. It was really beautiful, still really green and we went right through the migration, saw quite a few lions, and essentially had a grand old time (we didn’t get back until about 7).

Overall, all our bad luck seemed to happen on the first day of our week and afterwards things worked out better. I was pretty exhausted after running all around the ecosystem (other than Saturday I spent at least 5 hours everyday in a car), but overall it was fun and a success.


Anonymous Michelle said...

Wow... what thrilling adventures! I'm exhausted just reading about all of this!
I hope you are feeling better...

5:18 PM  

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