Friday, March 5, 2010

Africa Distilled

Font sizeI love a road trip! There is nothing like cruising along a seemingly endless road with good mates, specifically 80’s music and a beer or two – if you are not Designated Dirk of course! So when Hibiscus suggested we go on just such a trip to the north of Tanzania I jumped at the opportunity. Scraping together the cash included selling my couches and making more debt than I care to admit, but I have not been sorry for one minute! Our northern adventure was absolutely unforgettable!

The drive from Dar es Salaam to Arusha took us 9 hours on the dot, but all 600km’s of it was beautiful, lush and green. This is also true of the town of Arusha and more so of River Trees Lodge where we stayed for the first two nights of our trip. The lovely oasis next to the Usa River is described in more detail by Hibiscus on her post "The Green Hills of Africa" – check out.

Since I have never been up north, we took a day to potter around Arusha. I am just a LITTLE bit obsessed with Karen Blixen and Out of Africa so seeing a coffee plantation was an absolute must. Unfortunately there aren’t many working plantations close by, so I had to settle for lunch at the Plantation Lodge where a sudden thunderstorm cooled the humid air. Very Ngong farm like and I was in my element!

Bottles of red wine and a lovely dinner later, we where on our way again, this time via the sky. The flight was short and smooth – just the way I like it and suddenly the Endless Plains stretched out beneath me. I wish I could describe the feeling off looking out over the grasslands of the Serengeti but words fail me and I would just bore you with my bumbling. Having sundowners in the middle of the fields, beautiful and green from the summer rains, surrounded by thousands and thousands of grunting and coughing wildebeest and zebra is quite simply one of the most amazing moments of my life. To me this was Africa distilled to perfection.

Everywhere there are animals and no matter how many times you see a majestic lion or a giraffe with its long lashes or even the nimble gazelle, you cannot drive away untouched by its beauty and perfection. I do not know how you can visit a destination like the Serengeti and listen to a guide explain how a mother wildebeest can find her baby amongst thousand others, how the cheetah interact with her pray, or how the dung beetle find its nest on those endless stretches of land and still wonder – is there a God? The wonder of it all entrances you completely and you cannot see all of this and hear all of this and remain untouched by a sense of something Bigger than us mere mortals.

We where hosted by &Beyond, a company that in my opinion has perfected the art of safari. Look, I am used to camping 4x4 style with a bucket to wash in and a fire to cook over. &Beyond Serengeti Under Canvas blew me away! The luxury tents, the shower under the starts, the attention to detail, the food, the wine…pure bliss! On the &Beyond website they say that “you will be taken care of by extraordinary people whose only desire is to ensure that each moment you spend with us is a perfect moment”. It is not often that you find marketing jargon truthfully replayed in real life, but &Beyond was one such a gem and the staff really treated us like royalty! Special mention has to go to Mohammed our brilliant guide, a wildlife fact file on legs and Joseph, our adorable butler. Joseph attended to our every need with the biggest smile and even offered to do our 5:30 wake up call with G&T’s instead of coffee, just because we like it so much! So it was with a heavy heart that we left the Serengeti and the staff behind on our way to the NgoroNgoro Crater 2 nights later. The slight depression was short lived as Irene and her team at the &Beyond Crater Lodge settled us in before the fireplace with a glass of port and warm welcomes...TBC


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