Now what….?

Just to ram home the lunatic driving on Serengeti tracks by some tour drivers, before we left Seronera Tumbili Camp we met a Kenyan chap. He’d just completed a 3-day Safari in Serengeti with a Saudi Prince and his entourage that had cost $40,000. He was having the tow-bar welded back onto his Toyota Land Cruiser after taking a corner too fast and the trailer cartwheeling into the bush (with some of the back of his car) as he rushed the Prince back to the airstrip.

Once the tow-bar was welded on, he set off back to the bush, to try and find his trailer! Fortunately there was no one else on the road as it had spun like a bowling ball off the road.

Having seen little game in most of the park, the Western Corridor was heaving with it. We had just caught the tail-end of the Wildebeest migration up to the Maasai Mara in Kenya in search of water.

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There were tens of thousands of them in every direction we looked, heading north.

In areas the Plains had been scorched for many miles by huge fires that spread (like wildfire!) due to the extremely dry conditions.

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If anything, there were probably even more Zebra in the migration than Wildebeest. I would estimate hundreds of thousands.

Much of the time they just stand and graze. At other times, either something spooks them or they get involved in violent territorial head-butting contests.

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Although this was probably just the tail-end of the migration, the number of animals on the move was staggering.

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We weren’t fortunate enough to see any lion / cheetah kills on this occasion. Just the after-effects.

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There’s very little water around in the Serengeti at the moment. Even the Grumeti River (famous for the crocodile ambushes seen on Nat. Geographic) is sluggish and green.

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The crocs look well fed, but are probably going to be out of luck from here on.

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We were out of luck too, and out of time in beautiful Serengeti.

We left the park by the western gate and drove north to Tembo Beach Camp in Musoma (the main administrative town for the Maasai people) on the shore of Lake Victoria. Fortunately the road was good tar (after the ruts & corrugations of Serengeti) and quiet (since our brakes were still as firm as a bucket of frogspawn).

View from The Penthouse just after we arrived.

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A couple of days doing nothing there was just what we needed.

The camping area was a bit of a car-park but the lakeside setting was lovely. Good enough that in the short time we were there, 2 wedding parties turned up for sunset-group photos.

Both were very different affairs. One involved BMWs and Range Rovers as wedding cars. The other party arrived in 2 nine-seater people-carriers. I don’t know how many people got out of the first people-carrier, but in the second we counted 31.

THIRTY ONE!

As usual, by the time we left Helene was best buddies with a number of the staff. She gave Mama Ruth English lessons…

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…and got Swahili lessons from Mama Penda. Did you know Lala Salama means sleep well – and the Swahili word ‘Lala’ is the origin of the word ‘lullaby‘.

Mama Penda cried when we gave her the camping chair that she found so comfortable).

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We took the lovely, scenic road north from Musoma peninsular on Lake Victoria (1,000m altitude) up the escarpment (2,300m altitude) to the Kenyan border crossing at Sirari / Isibania.

A piece of cake. Only 15 minutes on the Tanzanian side (Carnet & visa stamps) and 30 minutes on the Kenya side. All easy, friendly and well organised (maybe because it was a public holiday – Self Rule day, celebrating independence from the British in 1952).

Costs: Visas $50 each (in US$) plus car entry tax $40 – which bizarrely had to be paid in Kenyan Shillings (although the border official ‘happened‘ to know someone who would give us a good exchange rate!).

There’s very little camping close to the border so we headed for Ilariak Lodge & Camp at Ilariak on the edge of the Maasai Mara.

To cut a long story short, by the time we arrived the car was a mess. The roads are fairly good but the speed-bumps are a joke. Many of them are unmarked (even camouflaged!), with vertical faces, only about a 300mm wide and with 200-300mm high peaks (almost a foot!).

I guess the Serengeti had taken it’s toll on the chassis and after taking one too many speed bumps a little too fast (if 10mph / 16kph is too fast) we heard a loud crack and the car wasn’t handling right.

We limped the last 30km at 10-15kph through the remote Plains into camp as the sun set.

Total 350km: driving time 9.30am-6.30pm. Good roads all the way but averaged around 35kph due to those damn speed bumps.

That night the view from The Penthouse was beautiful.

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The view under the rear of the car was not so pleasant…

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The rear chassis had snapped on both sides and the car body had collapsed onto it. Between that and our jelly brakes, all in all it had been a pretty stressful drive.

Fortunately, Gladys (the camp cook) said she’d be “overjoyed” to cook for us and made us wonderful chicken, rice and salad in front of the lodge fire.

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Even more fortunately Moses, the camp security guard, said he would get a bike-taxi 20km into Narok village the next morning and speak to a Land Rover mechanic.