One of the best things about living in Africa is being able to visit the game parks, but it’s Africa so sometimes things don’t go exactly as planned, sometimes the reality doesn’t always fit the brochure, and you learn to laugh at yourself and make the best of rough situations. God is in those times too.
I had promised my wife a four-star vacation. I love camping and don’t mind roughing it, but she likes having a bed and running water. With another couple, we decided to visit the Ngorongoro Crater, a conservation area in Tanzania. Somehow we talked my wife into staying in a tent.
You know this is headed for disaster, right?
We flew from Johannesburg to Nairobi, and drove from Kenya to the park on the Tanzanian side of the border. This part of Africa has some of the best game parks on the continent. When I travelled in Africa, I would often stop and ask strangers if they had heard of TWR, and many of them had. That always surprised me.
On our way there, we were invited to supper in Arusha, Tanzania by our friends. We walked down this narrow street and stood outside a storefront that was a diesel repair shop by day and a restaurant by night. Had the best food once you got past the smell.
In Tanzania, we stopped at this roadside market and a group of Maasai people walk in. The Maasai stand out, but were quite courteous and answered our questions, and yes – they had listened to TWR. They spoke in English, which usually means they had been to school, but they would also be fluent in their own language and Swahili which is the generally spoken trade language in that part of Africa. The Maasai markets in Nairobi and other places are quite lucrative. These are very intelligent people.
What impressed me about them was how authentic they were. The photos you see on National Geographic aren’t staged, the Maasai really live this way all the time. They’re traditionally nomadic people, they’ve changed in recent years due to restrictions on grazing their animals on game preserves and such, but left on their own they are herders and warriors not farmers. Every string of beads they wear has significance, it all means something and points to their stature in the community.
We arrive at the campground which was supposed to have full amenities and…my poor wife. There was a spigot for water and what we called a squatty potty. We double-checked that we were in the right place. Sure enough, this was full amenities in Tanzania at the time. All we had brought with us was a single burner camp stove – for all of us. But, we made the best of it.
The crater has some of the best wildlife viewing in Africa, and we drove into the crater during the day and saw some really fantastic sights.
Night time was a little different. There’s no fences to keep the animals in the crater, or keep the animals out of the camp ground. Camping in Africa is a little different than here in Canada. We could hear lions and other animals prowling all night. We went to the desk to ask about the lack of fencing.
What if a lion comes in our camp?
Stay in your tent.
What if an elephant comes in our camp?
Stay in your tent.
My wife didn’t have much faith in that tent, but it was a really great trip. It rained the last day and we were absolutely soaked, but I was able to indulge my love of photography and we saw some pretty amazing sights.
My wife may tell this story a little differently than I do. *smile*
After getting soaked, a flat tire, and less than promised camping accommodations, my wife was very happy to be home again – but it was a trip we’ll never forget.
Sometimes it’s when things don’t work out like you planned that you have the most memorable trips. Have you ever had a vacation fail? Were you able to make the best of it?