We left the lodge at the crater before breakfast, which means they pack it as well as lunch. That suggests another long day in the car. We did more of the crater, which is interesting because of the location and all the animals to be seen there, but the roads are particularly bumpy, which does little for my insides and back.
We spent two nights at the Plantation Lodge after leaving Ngorongoro. As I write, we’re 3 days later, so much is a blur of game drives and animal sightings. We have seen the Big 5, the last being the black rhino, of which we saw 2 in the crater, but always in the distance. We have high-powered binocs in the car, so seeing them is easy. We spent quite a lot of time just waiting for him to move, so when he put his head up, we got excited. One actually stood up and walked…they’re so huge.
The intestinal problems continue and now Matthew has them too. I’ve decided it’s the Malarone, which we have to take for Malaria. We’re supposed to take it with milk or heavy fats, so I’ve now tried everything from drinking milk and tea to just adding mostly cream to a little bit of tea. Pretty gross and delicious all at the same time. We opted for dinnertime because we knew breakfast wasn’t at the same time everyday. Plus, it’s easier to drink cream then. Just kidding..only did that once.
We arrived at the Plantation when it was still light, thankfully. To get there, you wind through a village and red dirt roads with farms on either side. The terrain is so different—once leaving Ngorongoro National Park, everything changed. Many farms with corn and sunflowers planted as well as vegetables. There are no fences because they don’t want to disallow the animals from moving/migrating, but because it’s become so grown up with homes, the animals have been diverted nevertheless.
Our suite was near the back of the property along paths of beautiful flowers and many cats that live there. We had a living room with a fireplace, a lovely covered patio, a mini bar with little cookies and a coffee maker, a huge bed with separate duvets, which I love, and a bathroom with a walk-in shower and separate huge black-tiled tub. The staff is exceptional as well. Traditionally, in every place we’ve stayed, the staff greets you with a cold hand towel (or warm if the temp is cool) and a special drink. There’s was pomegranate tea. Then they bring you inside and tell you about the property, when and where meals are served, and anything else we should know. We’re generally shown to our rooms by the person who’s responsible for taking care of the room…and that person comes in when we’re at dinner, turns down the bed, sets up the mosquito net, and if requested, adds the hot water bottles. Yeah, I’m liking this… The other thing many of the staff does, particularly at the Plantation and some other properties, is they say “You’re welcome” when they bring you anything or show you to your room. It’s not a response to thank you…it’s their entreaty to enjoy. Adam tells us every night at dinner what to expect the next day and how early we have to get up and out.
The following morning we set out with breakfasts in hand for a 45-60 min drive towards the Bushmen area. We picked up a young man, Gorjo, who grew up in the area and could translate for us. He walked in to make sure they knew we would be coming soon, and meanwhile, Adam set up a table and chairs and the breakfast, then when Gorjo returned, we had our meal before walking into the Bushmen’s camp.
They’re nomadic, so their ‘homes’ are not waterproof and somewhat open, though private. When it rains, they stay in the hollowed out boa-bob tree nearby. The tribe was very friendly and happy to have visitors. We weren’t the only ones; two other trucks were there as well. The bushmen wear skins of antelopes or other animals they can track and kill. The men showed us their tools and danced for us. I asked Gorjo is they dance as a rule or were just performing for visitors, and he said they don’t dance everyday but do after a successful kill for food. They use bow and arrows, and Matthew shot arrows at a target with them. The women and children were sitting in another part of the camp, so we walked over to see them. And the women were beading! They had some kind of long skinny part of a plant with a pointed end they were stringing. Gorjo told them I also make jewelry, so they invited me to join them. I got down on my knees in the dirt and did a little beading~ ! If I could have stayed in that position longer, I would have, but my knees might never have been the same. Meanwhile, the men were back at the fire smoking tobacco and some other kind of plant. Their eyes showed the affect it was having…just a bunch of guys getting stoned everyday.
The government want to ‘improve their lives’ so they’ve tried to get them to send the kids to school and move them to permanent locations. Once they almost succeeded by bribing them with zebras and other animals and money. They moved them into housing with tin roofs and it rained that night. The next day, they were gone. The noise of the rain on the tin roof scared the crap out of them, and they ran. Plus, they didn’t get what was promised. Also, the government refused to get them marijuana, which would have been an incentive.
After leaving them, we visited one family from Gorjo’s clan. They're a polygamist clan, and this man had 4 wives. Three young women were there with 2 toddlers; the first wife was off somewhere. Wife 1 showed us how she grinds corn—back-breaking job using two large flat stones. They asked me to try, but I declined saying my back and shoulders were already in pain, so I didn’t think it was a good idea. Matthew said he’d try, but they said it was only for women to do. The men build the houses, which are permanent and have good roofs, and the women add the cow dung to keep out the cold and wet. They maintain everything in the house, including getting water and doing the cooking and tending children. The men take care of the livestock.
An old man walked in and shook our hands. He came and sat next to me and we learned he was their husband. We were stunned…I figured he was an elder who came to greet us. He turned out to be around 64, though he looked much older. Men have to provide the women’s family with 2 cows in order to acquire them as wives, so younger men can’t afford to buy many wives. Gorjo is 36 and has one wife, but says he plans on another in about 10-12 years.
I bought a beaded gourd from the women as a souvenir of our time there. I really liked the women. They were warm and curious about us. The main wife asked many questions…like how many wives Matthew has. He said he’s had 3 but not at the same time. She asked about children and where we come from. I told her Matthew does the cooking and that surprised them.
The man asked if I’d stay there and be wife #5 and he would trade Matthew 1-2 of his younger wives for me. I said I’m too old to have children and won’t grind corn, so he really wouldn’t want me, but he said he would. He apparently liked my skin tone. I thanked him and said no, but it was the best offer I’d had in many years.
From there, we visited a blacksmith, possibly from the same clan. They have a home nearby, but do their fire work in a clearing nearby. They melt down metal parts, like plumbing supplies, then anneal it and create bracelets. I had immediately noticed Gorjo’s when we met, so knew I’d buy some. We negotiated for what we wanted, and they were very pleased as were we. They gave me one free, which I think might fit a certain grand niece of mine.
We tipped Gorjo for a job well done all day with us, then headed back to the Plantation for lunch. They had set us up outside between the main building and the pool, down many steps. They had several people serving us (we were the only ones having lunch there that day), starting with focaccia with guacamole, then rice, fish, 2 salads, and greens. Then they finished with guava sorbet. Quite a lunch. My insides were still gurgling, but nevertheless, I had arranged a massage for that afternoon and kept the appointment. I wasn’t sorry…it was wonderful. She started by having me put my feet into warm water, washed them and gave me flip flops to wear. The facilities were lovely and clean, and the massage was fabulous. She used hot oil and really helped my sore neck. The cost was $60 for 60 minutes. What a treat. It didn’t magically fix everything, but I did feel better.
Adam suggested we see a doctor in Karatu the following day, and made arrangements to stop there on our way out of town. Neither of us felt like we were sick with flu or a virus, but even if it was the Malarone, we needed to figure out how to fix this. That’s the night I drank a little tea with a lot of cream.
We felt better the next day, so decided to skip the doctor and hope for the best. I made it through the day without any unnecessary stops. Matthew was gurgling, but did okay. It’s taken most of the trip, but we’re on the mend or getting used to the meds.
We spent another very long day in the car. Adam said we would head into Tarangire Park and game drive around to find elephants, which they’re known for because it’s a safe environment for them and for baobab trees, then we’d get to Camp Swala by around 3 and before 4. But he also told me to let him know if I was getting tired and he’d head up there. So at 3, I said enough…we’d seen many elephants up close, which was cool, and some lions, but I was very ready to get to this extremely expensive-$1150 a night-camp and relax. Well, when I said that, he said it would be another hour and a half to get there. I so thought he was kidding until the first half hour passed and we were no one near anything. We didn’t get to the camp until almost 5. I was drained and pissed. And it’s out in the middle of nowhere. Roads that have been washed out and high grasses with so many tsetse flies that you either are stifled from heat if you keep the windows closed or you fight off the biting flies the whole way in. I’d been told not to wear black or dark colors because they attract them, but I had no idea they’d still sting and bite regardless. I can’t imagine what would happen if I’d been in black. I even brought every pair of ugly old white socks I own as a precaution. Didn’t matter…they were everywhere and sting/bite as soon as they land on you. So gross. Adam gets it worse.
So what’s so cool about Sanctuary Camp Swala? Yep, in the middle of nowhere, except for all the impala, vervet monkeys, dwarf mongoose, and the cutest genets that visit during dinner. Each little accommodation is separate with open netted walls. They’ll close the outer walls, but we left two open so we could just use the curtain and hear the animals at night. We did, but also slept very soundly too. We were told upon arrival that we only had to watch out for the elephants. If they walk through camp and we run into them, we should just back up and return to where we came from.
The only glitch in all this was a big one for us. We felt Adam was uncomfortable or very tired when we arrived. He didn’t say anything other than what time we’d meet for dinner. We decided to go a little early because they have a bar set up near the outside dining. The manager and his fiancé run the place—they’re white South Africans…the first white people we’ve seen at any of the places we’ve stayed. Ben said our guide had requested to eat with us, and was that all right? I said, “Of course. We’ve been eating together the whole time.” That put me off right away. Then later when Adam joined us at the bar, he told Matthew he just wanted a glass of sparkling water, which I was having. They started talking and Matthew was explaining about something, but I was sitting there noticing Briana and Ben were serving everyone who came over except for Adam. They never asked him if he wanted anything. I finally suggested we go sit down for dinner, which is when Matthew noticed he hadn’t gotten Adam his water.
During dinner, Adam told us he’s been there several times before and when they made the reservation, they’d told them he’s the owner of the company and eats with his clients. They usually aren’t happy about this, but don't make a fuss. These are new managers, they oversaw the whole place being renovated and redone, which opened only 3 weeks ago, so the new managers, who are maybe in their 30’s, haven’t dealt with this until now. And it turns out, this property is one of many owned by Abercrombie and Kent, a very expensive and maybe exclusive travel company. Most of the people here are on their tours.
I had noticed earlier when we arrived a woman sitting outside, who came into where we were being greeted and oriented without a hello or acknowledgement. In every place we’d been, most people say hello and some ask each other where they’re from. Then before Adam came to the bar, we’d walked over to where a cooking demo had been going on, and no one except the staff talked to us. We didn’t stay long there because it was almost over and I told Matthew the place felt “cliquey” and I didn’t want to stay there…. and I was right-on. By the time we’d finished at the bar, before Adam explained the South African connection and the attitude he’s experienced in this camp, I knew. I could feel the privileged asshole attitude from these people. I know them and I don’t like them. We both grew up around people like this and are not impressed. Money does not buy you manners or kindness.
We did have a good laugh during dinner because Adam copped to the fact that he realized at 3 that day that we were at least 1.5-2 hours from the camp and he’d promised to get us there before 4. He promised that today we’d come back for lunch, and I said I’d make sure it was early this time and when he told me to let him know if I was tired, he didn’t say to tell him 2 hours before I got tired! At least we’re able to laugh about it now.
The best part of the evening was when I spotted something below us off the deck during dinner. Matthew said genet, and Adam agreed. I’d never heard of one—they’re so freaking cute! It’s body looks like a cat with spots and the long bushy tail, more than it’s body length is striped! It’s a member of the mongoose family and not a cat at all. She apparently lives there along with another—mother and child. They’re nocturnal so hoping to spot it again.
Today we drove through the park, and it was small animal day. We saw many dik-diks, which are the second smallest antelopes. They’re adorable and fast, mostly in pairs. We’d seen our first at the gorge, but none since. We also saw many species of birds and dwarf mongoose which were hiding in termite mounds. They made holes in the mounds and stick their heads out. Reminded me of gophers at home. Except cute. It was an odd day for large animals. Only saw one elephant and other drivers said they hadn’t seen much, so we opted to return to the camp for a lunch early and relax in the afternoon. We could see giraffes in the distance and many close up impalas, dwarf mongoose, and monkeys right off the dining room deck. I told Adam we were game sitting instead of driving, and I was fine with that.
For $1150 per night, you’d think the wifi would be good enough for me to send this and add pictures, etc. but it’s not. They only provided wifi for one device, so I told Ben last night that I needed more. They gave me another password for one more device, but honestly, I had trouble sending a text with a photo, so I’m not even bothering to finish this until tomorrow. We’re heading back to the first lodge in Arusha for the night, then a long day before heading to the airport.
Good news…I’ve set aside half my wardrobe to leave behind! Makes for easy packing.