After recovering from our Kilimanjaro trek, and spending a Swahili Christmas Day with our tour guide and his family, our next adventure was Ngorongoro crater. I had been on game drives before in southern Africa but this was a first for both Adam and Hussam. Ever since someone had first told me about Ngorongoro, I was dying to go see this huge locus of animals. We had a six hour pass in the crater, and immediately saw herds of zebra, gazelles, and wildebeests. Soon we saw a rare sight- an African wildcat, curled up taking a nap. Later large flocks of birds like ostrich and flamingos were sighted, and then an African buffalo- one of the “Big Five” here in Kenya. We saw a whole group of warthogs, and then –finally for me- some lions! We saw two different groupings of lions, both male and female. I was really excited about them. We spotted some more birds such as sacred ibis, guinea fowl, brave evula, and egrets. Then we ate lunch around a lake which was the playground of several hippos. After lunch, a pack of hyenas and then a pack of jackals passed us by. Some more birds- crowned cranes and yellow billed storks- and then a very, very rare sighting of a black rhino- another of the Big Five. A herd of elund rounded out our day at the crater. Just before we were leaving, we got a flat tire, so we actually extended our stay at the crater, and it was late at night before we got home.
The next day we took a horrible bus ride to Dar Es Salaam. Hot, noisy, dusty, and crowded, it was everything you’d expect from an African bus journey. OF COURSE we got to the ferry 15 minutes too late, so we spent the night in Dar, which isn’t really that great of a city. But we did have an amazing dinner at Chief’s Pride, a sort of locally-famous restaurant. The next morning we took the ferry over to Zanzibar, and we stayed there for three days. Zanzibar is a little island with a fascinating blend of culture and history. Originally home to the sultanate of Oman, the island still retains a curious mix of African, island, and Muslim culture. The main area, Stone Town, is full of tiny alleyways and stone houses, all with these huge brass-studded and intricately carved wooden doors and lintels. While on the island I went on a spice tour, and was able to see cinnamon, vanilla, chocolate, coffee, cardamom, nutmeg, mace, turmeric, and pepper, as well as several kinds of fruit. I had a Swahili lunch one day in a village, I visited the beach, and spent some time in a couple of bars with Adam and Hussam (understatement). The last day I was there I had a fabulous octopus curry with masala sauce over rice- absolutely delicious and only $5 US. You just can’t beat that. I was also able to do a little souvenir shopping and bought a dress, an island-y style purse, and some vanilla coffee, as well as a zebra Tingatinga painting. Plus- a pop culture bonus for me- Freddy Mercury was born in Stone Town (his parents were missionaries).
We wanted to be in Kenya for the New Year, so we decided to fly from Zanzi to Mombasa. Once in Mombasa, we got a cab but they took us to the wrong hostel on the beach. Luckily this one was able to squeeze us in, so we wound up staying there for two days. Very relaxing, just lazing around and reading a lot. There was a movie theater nearby and we saw a movie on New Year’s Day. Finally we headed further north for our original hostel on the beach. We stayed in banda huts (thatched roofs, sand floor, mosquito nets) and enjoyed some tasty grilled seafood and cold beers for two more days. Sharing a hut with Adam is always hilarious. For one of us, at least.
We visited Mombasa’s Old Town district but were not too impressed. I think that one day soon that area will be cleared up and it could be a great tourist area, but for now its too run-down. We got tickets for the sleeper train to Nairobi, grabbed a pizza for dinner, and boarded the overnight train. The train goes right through Tsavo National Park, so we were able to see a few animals such as wildebeest and gazelles. I totally love overnight trains! We arrived in Nairobi around noon the next day, and spent the last two days of our vacation in the city. We were pretty tired of traveling by that point, so we didn’t sightsee much beyond the Kenya National Museum, which was actually pretty good. We did see two more movies, indulge in a bit of shopping, and several cold beers. By the time our flight for Khartoum left on Friday, I think we were happy to be heading ‘home’.