We met the gang of fellow travelers in the courtyard in the morning. They had all arrived a day or two early, so they seemed refreshed and ready to go, while we, it felt, were still trying to figure out where we were and how we got here?! Henry, of course; Gene, a very sweet, vital young guy from Boston; Lyle and Sue, a really nice couple from Southern California, who also spend some time in Island Park (which is close to our backyard); Margaret, a British-Arizonian with a great sense of humor; and Debra, a soft-spoken, kind-hearted, charming Louisianan.
And, after a nice breakfast, which for me included a couple of cups of coffee, we were off! In two safari vehicles, with Martin and Godfrey, our guides for the safari, loaded down with lots of luggage and even more camera gear - we headed out towards the Ngorongoro Crater.
We stopped at a couple of Maasai galleries to look at trinkets and such, and we tried our hand at negotiating a bit for a zebra mask that we hope to find again towards the end of the trip as it would've been pretty cumbersome to carry. As the day and the kilometers passed it got hotter and the roads became bumpier! The landscape was pretty sparse, for the most part, as we passed through a few small villages and then lots of open spaces with small herds of cattle or goats and young Maasai boys tending the herds in arid fields.
We were riding with Lyle & Sue and quickly found our shared interests, among them - photography, yes...animals, Yellowstone...and grandchildren! They, too, were expecting their first granddaughter (which was their 1st grandchild too) and they had discovered, through the wonderful world wide web, that their daughter had begun her labor, a couple of weeks earlier than expected! So, Sue and I talked about daughters and babies, making Lyle and Mike, I am sure, want to jump ship because neither of them came to Africa to talk about babies (though clearly they were both enamored at the thought of having granddaughters)! That shared place in life helped us "bond" with them and the conversations were easy and fun.
We arrived at the lodge near dusk, weary but excited. This lodge was brand new and really amazing. The "rooms" were actually large individual cabins laid out along one hillside, overlooking a tree filled valley and an adjacent treed slope. The cabins themselves were enormous and really lovely; meticulously decorated, with large living areas, a pass-through fireplace into the enormous bedroom and bathroom, with a fabulous deck overlooking a hillside covered in those sweeping trees you imagine when you dream of Africa (Acacia). It was a pretty incredible place!
We met on the lobby deck for a yummy dinner, a limited, but delicious, chef-specialty kind of offering. After dinner, we headed to our rooms to sort out our camera gear and ready ourselves for the descent into the crater early the next morning. It was hard to sleep, we were so excited!
|Some of the trinkets...made of Acacia wood.|
|A herd of Maasai cows.|
|A Maasai village.|
|Amazing what and how much they can carry on a bike...?!|
|I would surely tip over with this load! This takes talent!|
|The Exploreans Lodge entrance gate.|
|Our amazing room.|
|Our amazing balcony!|
|One of the rows of cabins...all with incredible views.|
|The entrance to our little "room"!|
|The view from the deck. You could occassionally hear monkeys and something munching on trees, presumably elephants!|
I know, I know...where are the animal pictures you are dying to see...?!!! They are coming, I promise! And you won't be disappointed!