The Long Road North

P6200218Today, in honor of the summer (here, winter) solstice, we decided to drive across all of Africa. No, not really – it just felt like it. We didn’t even drive across all of Tanzania, but we did drive down from the crater rim, out of the Ngorongoro Conservation Area and (I kid you not) across the entire Serengeti Plain to the Wogakurya Hills above the Mara River at the northern border of the country. To be fair, “we” mostly sat in back, while Gary, Henry and Arnold drove us through some of the most stunningly diverse – and bone-jarring – landscapes I’ve ever seen. Ten hours on the road, for whatever definition of “road” includes muddy river fordings, untracked grassland and miles and miles of dusty, corrugated washboard.

P6200003We began the morning in cloud forest, coming down from the crater rim into high grassy hills that could easily have been the Scottish Highlands. When we dropped down into the windswept arid plains surrounding the Oldupai Gorge, you’d be hard-pressed to tell it from anywhere in northern Nevada (Stopped in at the visitor center to learn the history of the gorge’s contributions to archaeology,which included the fact, painful to the docents, that the commonly used “Olduvai” spelling was just the unfortunate mid-century transcription error of a German entomologist).

P6200015P6200020Then north and west into the Serengeti Park, which could have been Nebraska, or Kansas in the spring, where we ran smack dab into the southern contingent of the Great Migration. For those of you not up on your Nature Channel, the Great Migration is a sea of wildebeest, zebra, impala, buffalo and more – millions of them – moving together at the end of the rainy season (followed, predictably, by everyone’s favorite predators). It’s the sort of stuff that, I’m told, boggles the imagination and defies description. What we found today were mere thousands of animals, and I’m already somewhat boggled (Gary: “I think we could get away with calling this the ‘Pretty Good Migration’”)

P6210042Our drive north was to spend a couple of days at a mobile camp near the Mara River looking for the (really, truly) Great Migration and once again, making all those precious snapshots we’d taken before simply irrelevant.

But that’s for tomorrow: this evening, as we sit with our drinks around the campfire, listening to the rumble of a distant zebra herd stampeding by somewhere in the night, it’s enough to simply have our butts planted comfortably on something stationary. More later!

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