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The grand finale of our 7619km tour of Africa!

semi-overcast 26 °C

Well, Kilimanjaro was well and truly hidden by clouds and rain, we were not impressed! We hoped we might catch a glimpse of it in the morning, so we got the tents up as usual and headed for a much needed shower. We ended up more soaked once we were fully clothed, as the heavens had well and truly opened on us! This was soon rectified by a stiff G&T for me & Vodka for the hubby.

The following morning unfortunately Kilimanjaro was still hiding :( We headed to Arusha and went shopping which was fun. We were taken on a little mission by one of the locals as we were looking for some Masai blankets as souvenirs to take home. Finally we found some and got ourselves a good deal. We then headed to our next camp ‘Snake Park’, just the name made me shudder! Luckily all of the snakes were caged, though we got to see the infamous black mamba which we all had heard so much about whilst travelling in Africa! There were turtles to see, a rescued baboon who they were unable to release back into the wild, and a vulture which was really impressive! The one that really took us by surprise though, was the cage of three HUGE crocodiles! One even moved and we got to see him walk away, not something you usually see as they are basking in the sun and lazy in the daytime! Lee was able to hold a couple of non-venomous snakes, though I stood about ten metres away and just would not go any closer to them. We then headed to the bar, eagerly awaiting our next few days of game drives, we were so excited!!

The following morning we were picked up by our safari vehicle and headed to the Ngorongoro Crater where we were having lunch. The views were incredible, the crater looked like animal paradise and was much bigger than we expected it to be. We had lunch on the crater rim and drove through the conservation area to the Serengeti. We saw many Masai men along the way, walking with their herds of cows. We saw lots of zebra, baboons, giraffe, camels, gazelle, wildebeest & buffalo, and then once we crossed into the Serengeti we saw more and more. We saw a large herd of Elephants with their babies who happily crossed the road around our vehicle, and then came across a Lioness with her cubs, we were over the moon! The cubs were happily feeding and then decided to have a play around and one ventured really close to our jeep. We also saw bat eared fox, serval, hippo, stalks, ostrich, impala, thompson gazelle, hartebeest, vultures, snake eagle and lots of mongoose running around.
Our campsite for the night was in an open area, unfenced. The food was cooked in a cage, and we had to eat in a cage, it was like we were animals in a zoo! There were signs up in the campsite saying not to leave the designated camping area as animals will attack humans! I wasn’t sure what difference stepping out of the camp would have made as there were no fences separating the two! On our way back from the bathroom to our tent, I noticed two pairs of eyes watching us which certainly unnerved me and I wanted back in our tent ASAP! The following morning we heard our guides saying that they had heard lions very close by overnight.

We headed out on a morning game drive and had pretty good luck with our animal spotting. We were lucky to spot two Leopards resting in the trees, yellow spotted rock hyrax, nile crocodile, warthog, topi, antelope, kirks dik dik and a leopard tortoise. We spotted a hyena crossing the road, and then as we carried on we found one having a cool off in a puddle! We were able to get so close to it, it was incredible! Our driver spotted about 12 vultures sitting in a tree and wanted to take us closer for a better view. We then got our safari jeep stuck in the mud, in croc infested waters! Needless to say I wasn’t the happiest I’ve ever been at that point!! After lunch back in the cages at the campsite, we headed back to the crater. On the way we came across a pride of four lions taking a nap by the side of the road. We were brought to a halt when loads of Wildebeest decided to run from one side of the road to the other, and then another group decided to do the opposite, it was great to watch :) We then saw a mass of vultures devouring something. Once we were able to get a closer look, we could see that they were eating a zebra! They were going crazy and really pulling at the carcass, quite a sight! We arrived at our campsite back at the crater rim, again an open campsite. It was the same drill, cooking and eating in cages. About 20 buffalo appeared after dinner and decided to graze amongst our tents. We were warned that they can be very aggressive and to be careful. Before we went to bed we could hear lions growling and groaning nearby. Once we were safely in our tents, we could then hear buffalo chomping right in our ears, to the point where we could hear them chewing and the grass ripping! Lee even got nudged by a buffalo at one point, it was an eventful night. One of our group heard lions roaring and she said it sounded really close. Luckily I had my ear plugs in, or I would probably have been seriously panicking!

The next morning we were off on a game drive down into the crater. The views on the steep road down were beautiful, and the weather was nice and cool so our chances of spotting animals were looking good. The crater was full of wildebeest, zebra, gazelle, impala & buffalo. We could see flamingo in the lake, and we went through the forest area and saw elephants. We finally completed our ‘Big Five’ as we came across black rhino! Then our game drive really picked up when we spotted some Hyena devouring a carcass. They were running around with zebra legs in their mouths! We then noticed that there were 3 lions strolling away, so we think that the lions had made the kill and we’d just missed it! We followed the lions and they came right to the road and were literally right next to our jeep. We could see some other lions up on the road in front, and the 3 we were heading up to meet them. They were a pride of 13 in total and to see them greet eachother was amazing, they were snarling and growling, and running into eachother, and one went to smack another with its paw! They then just lay around in the road and right by our jeep, I was literally 3ft from them, it well and truly made our day! Just when we thought we must have had all of our luck for the day, there was a huge male alone laying by the road. I was absolutely chuffed to see an older male with a huge fluffy mane! He must have had a good feed as he seemed too full to be able to move! We then found another pride of 6 lions, which included two male lions with even bigger manes, one of which was cuddled up with his lioness, we were in our element! After an incredible game drive we said goodbye to the crater and headed back to Arusha.

The following morning we went off on a Masai village walk. We learnt about their way of life which is fascinating and met young Masai children who sang a little song for us which was really cute :) We were shown the local clinic which is run by the camp site. They deal with snake bite victims there, and offer free treatment, through the profit made by the camp. There were two patients at the time, one of which had been bitten by a Black spitting cobra, outside her house, in the same district we were standing in. It was at that point that I was kind of looking forward to leaving Africa!! We headed into Arusha town to do some more shopping and to look at some beautiful Tanzanite which is only found at the base of Kilimanjaro, and is running out fast. Lee insisted I was having a ring as an early birthday present (4 months early to be exact!), so I left the shopping centre a very happy bunny! We decided to have a Masai blanket party for our last night as we had all bought some along the way. The party was cut short a little though as we had to be up at 4:50am to get ready to leave camp and drive to Nairobi, not cool.

Off went the dreaded alarm and up we got, mopping tents and packing them away for the last time. Our drive to the Kenyan border had a huge highlight as we got to see the mighty Kilimanjaro finally!! There it was in all its glory, with Lee hanging out of the truck window snapping away  We didn’t have much time in Nairobi unfortunately as we had to head to the airport that evening for our flight. By the time we boarded flight no.1, we had been up for almost 24hrs and were certainly feeling the strain. Egypt Air that we had never heard of got us to Cairo in one piece, and then on to Heathrow. The first thing I noticed was the white cliffs and green fields as we crossed the channel and it immediately felt like home :) We were looking forward to seeing some familiar faces as we headed through the airport...!

So… what did we think of our little adventure??

The words Incredible and Amazing wouldn’t quite sum up our overall experience. I’d like to think that I’m a little more laid back now as travelling has proved to be tricky at times and with all of the planning in the world things can change in a flash, and are out of your control. Expect the unexpected was the motto. We found the whole experience very humbling and it has made us appreciate that we’re very fortunate to live where we do and lead the life that we do. It has made me realise that material things really are of no real importance, and what matters is the people you share your life with and your health. At times, to just be able to have clean clothes, a shower, and a bed felt like pure luxury. I can probably count on my hands the amount of times I used my ipod and phone etc, where as at home those kind of things are stuck to me, and I wouldn’t leave home without them. At home you can really get stuck in your own little bubble. As cliché as it sounds, long term travel really does change something in you, the way you think and your general outlook. It makes you realise the world really does have so much to offer, and maybe life isn’t just about the daily grind.

Travelling has definitely changed our plans for the next few years, and hopefully we will end up where we want to be. Little did we know that 6 months of travel would be just the start of things to come :)

Posted by Cass - Lee 23:59 Archived in Tanzania

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