Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tanzania II.

12-22-15 NGORONGORO CRATER, TANZANIA: We were up before the COD for breakfast and a short van trip to Arusha Airport for a Tanganyika Flying Company hop to the Lake Manyara area where we were picked up by the &Beyond guides for the drive to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge. On the way we stopped at a craft shop where a surprising amount of stuff was bought, then it was back on the road to the crater. The Shilling is the currency of Tanzania, but we used dollars or plastic with no problems.

The road to the entrance of the Ngorongoro preserve is paved until we got to the park. We went through a town, Karatu, the biggest settlement near the park. There were small shops on wheels with tributes to Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. I know Barack was born in neighboring Kenya, but not so for Hilary.

The roads in the park are dirt, red, crushed volcanic basalt, narrow, pot-holed with big puddles. The traffic includes big trucks because this road is the main route from Lake Victoria to Dar-es-Salaam, the local interstate. Since the driving is on the left side of the road, a sure sign of an ex-British colony, it’s scary when a truck comes flying over a hilltop or around a curve on the wrong side of the road.

We stopped at an overlook when we got to the top of the crater rim, about 7000 feet elevation and a long uphill drive from Karatu. It was a foggy morning, but we saw, with binoculars, an elephant and three rhinos and wildebeests in the misty distance. The rim road follows the top of the crater wall.

The Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is beautiful and unique. The collection of individual cabins looks like a Hobbit village in the Shire. The rooms have spectacular views of the crater and are quite luxurious. The staff of a dozen of so greeted us with a Swahili song. Lunch was at a long table in the dining hall. Everything, including booze, is included in the pre-paid tariff. It is the number one rated lodge in Tanzania.

After lunch we set off in 4x4’s for a trip to the crater floor. That road drops a few thousand feet from the crater rim to the floor and is steep, switch-backed, washed out and made the rim road seem like the Garden State Parkway.

Once we got to the bottom of the crater, the guides, all of whom were local, knowledgeable, engaging and enthusiastic, popped the top of the truck so we could stand and use cameras and binocs. We drove around the park on more dirt roads at slow speeds to see the animals. Within a few hours we saw wildebeests, zebras, cape buffaloes, elephants, ostriches, rhinos, hippos, hyenas, jackals, wart hogs, lions and many birds. It was stunning to see all of them with hardly any effort and readily available with no need to search them out.

The floor of the crater is mostly flat with some hilly areas and a few forested regions and a few marshy spots dotting a large grassy plain. The grass is close cropped by the grazers. There are several water holes in the rainy season and a large, salt lake. The salt comes from the volcanic minerals. The lake has a large flock of flamingoes. The crater is a World Heritage site.

Back at the lodge, the staff had drawn hot bubble baths for all of us, before we had a delicious dinner and then sleep after a very long day.

Arusha Coffee Lodge for over-night. Some of us wanted to stay here for the week.

Manyara Airstrip.

Tanzania flag.

Karatu - Obama shop.

Cinnamon chested bee eater.

Ngorongoro Crater Lodge - hobbitville.

Our room, that's a fireplace in the corner.

Crater dining.

In the crater...Spotted Hyena has been lying in a puddle.

Cape Buffalo and friends.

Wart Hog.

Wildebeests occupy the road.

Lion, maturing cub still has spots.

Grey Crowned Crane.

Sharing lunch.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Tanzania I.

12-30-14 SHORT HILLS: We are back home after a thirty or so hour journey from the Serengeti to New Jersey. Back here in the land of WiFi, I will report on our trip to Tanzania and try to do one day of the trip each of the next several days. The pix and notes need some work, but here is a teaser….

Our first view of Ngorongoro Crater from the rim overview. There is a critter down on the floor of the crater, more than a mile away through the mist.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Arusha Coffee Lodge.

12-21-14 ARUSHA, TANZANIA: After a ten-hour flight from Amsterdam, we landed at Kilimanjaro Airport in the dark. We were greeted by &Beyond staff, but the line and the wait to get our visas took another hour. All of our luggage arrived from the U.S., and after another hour in the van, we got to the Arusha Coffee Lodge. Simply said, it’s a beautiful resort, even in the dark, but we check out in about eight hours for a flight to the Ngorongoro crater. I had my first Kilimanjaro beer at a late supper. It will be an extremely short stay at a luxe lodge. We are doing our winter solstice in the tropics - how about you?

Kilimanjaro beer after our late arrival at the Arusha Coffee Lodge, Lucy across the table.

Airports, Security Lines, Jet-Lag.

12-21-14 AMSTERDAM: Here we are in Schiphol Airport in the Netherlands all fourteen of us, jet-lagged, waiting for our KLM flight to Kilimanjaro Airport. We flew in over-night on Delta. Ten of us started at EWR, and four of us started at SFO. We have a twelve-hour flight to Tanzania in a few minutes.

East Coast Ten at EWR.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Tanzania Safari.

19-12-15 SHORT HILLS: We leave for Tanzania tomorrow—all 14 of us, children, children-in-law, grandchildren, for a safari. Judy set it all up and did all the heavy lifting with occasional suggestions, mostly disregarded, from me. The organizational guide is a company named & Beyond.

We fly from Newark to Amsterdam, Amsterdam to Kilimanjaro Airport, and then to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge after an overnight in Arusha. The next stop is at the Lake Manyara Tree Lodge and finally we are on the Serengeti in a tent camp. Then back to Arusha, Amsterdam and Newark. Tanzania is on the east coast of Africa south of the Equator. We will be in and around the Rift Valley. All of us have their Yellow Fever Vaccination certificates and Malaria pills. Bring on the animals.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Dvořák and Dogs.

12-12-14 SHORT HILLS: We’ve been back in NJ for a few days. There’s been another Nor’easter for most of this week with lots of rain and wind and some snow flurries but no accumulation. It has stayed in the thirties for the most part.

Maizie the dog was sick with a gastroenteritis and conjunctivitis after the trip to VT. She had three trips to the vet for exams, X-rays and finally an ultrasound, all of which were normal. Now, on antibiotics, she is well. The other two dogs, Gus and Bally, were also off a little. While in VT, they were all feasting on frozen horse poop, poopsicles, if you will allow me that, and the vet thinks that’s the cause of their problems.

Last night we heard Antonín Dvořák’s Piano Concerto [Opus 33] and the Symphony No. 9 From the New World. Christoph von Dohnányi conducted and looked very elegant with flowing white hair. At the other end of the age spectrum, the pianist, Martin Helmchen, made his NY Phil debut. Before the concert, we had dinner with Ina and Marcel at Cafe Fiorello.

I apologize for these two pix, the usual mediocre iPhone snaps. Perhaps it’s my technique.

Lincoln Center Plaza.

Avery Fisher Hall waiting for Dvořák to start.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Feels Like Winter Is Here.

12-6-14 VERMONT: Intrepid Vermonters, Donna, Jane, Phyllis, Ken Bruce and Arnie, showed up for dinner as the snow began and the hors d’oeuvres appeared and didn’t leave until the cheesecake was gone and three inches were on the ground. It was another great meal, one of many.

This morning Judy the chef and I went to the dump in the continuing snow and then into town on errands. It’s much warmer today, in the thirties, thanks to the southerly wind that also brought the storm. Everywhere is postcard beautiful in its fresh whiteness.

When we got home, we took the dogs for a pasture walk on snowshoes for the first time this year. There are six to eight inches of snow at the moment. None of the dogs needed snowshoes. They were busy sniffing, rolling, tasting and digging holes in the snow.

A snowy green at a small New England college....

More college.

Starting to feel like winter.

Bally in the pasture.

Is there something under the snow?

Snowy pond and woods.

Southerly wind.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

The Dark corner of the Year.

12-4-14 VERMONT: It’s a few minutes after 4 PM, the sun just set so I would guess it was December if I didn’t know. The Winter Solstice is approaching so the days soon will be even a little shorter. We had a short snow squall with a bunch of wind this morning, and the temps have hovered in the upper twenties all day, in spite of sun in the afternoon. Tonight will be in the single digits.

When we came up yesterday, we drove through fog occasionally with enough reduced visibility to make me slow down. There are three or four inches of crusty frozen snow on the ground and an icy driveway. The pond is frozen over, but we’re not sure how thick the ice is. The small pond in the pasture is only partially frozen.

Judy is doing a dinner tomorrow for some of the local geezers so I helped with the shopping today. We also made a run to the town yard to get sand for the icy drive. You don’t get a lot done with nine hours of daylight.

A little snow on the recently mowed pasture plus a dog walker.

Foggy day.

Dog walker heads to home and fireside.