The next day was more safari, and driving to Ngorongoro Crater. There were more amazing animals, views, and more rough roads. Ngorongoro is a conservation area, not a national park. This is because the Tanzanian government allows the Massai to live in the area and raise cattle in their cultural tradition.
On the way to Ngorongoro, one of our trucks broke down. We were miles from anything and anyone when the driver mysteriously started slowing down and pulled of the side of the road. He jumped out and started talking to the other drivers. We found out his brake pedal had sunk to the floor and stayed there when he tried to brake for an animal in the road. The rear brake line was heavily leaking. The driver simply cut the line, and crimped it off with some pliers. He pulled out some “86 lubricant” and refilled the brake fluid reservoir. Our truck only had three brakes for the rest of the trip, and I was worried that he didn’t use real brake fluid.
On the way into the crater we stopped at a Maasai village. For a small fee (23,000 Tanzanian shillings, about 15 dollars), the village men and women performed a traditional “Welcome” song and dance, and the jumping dance. You also get a short tour of one of their homes, get to see the kindergarten class, and get to shop. The whole thing was clearly put on for tourists, the village clearly supported by tourism at this point. A lot of the items for sale were hand made in the village, but they had many items that we also saw elsewhere for sale, so it wasn’t clear how much and what items were actually hand made by the villagers.
The welcome song and jumping dances were very cool. They do a harmonized throat singing that is very interesting. Jamal was filming them with his GoPro. When they saw this, they pulled him into the group to get a cool shot. During the jumping dance, we were invited to participate. When given the jumping stick you enter the middle of the group and jump your highest. I think I was able to get close to their vertical jump. I’m hoping someone got pictures of it. The tour of the hut was very quick because they are very small. It is three “rooms.” One area for the mom and dad to sleep, one for the children, and one common area. When entering the hut our Maasai host started pointing out the different areas, but we could not see anything. It was completely dark except for the glowing embers of the fire. Alana pulled out her iPhone and turned on the LED so we could get a bit of a look. There wasn’t much, just a few blankets in the bed areas, the fire, and small sitting area around the fire.
After our hut tour, we did some shopping. The village was built around a small circle that was set up with souvenirs. Our Maasai guide acted as our personal shopper. As we looked through the items, he would pick up anything we showed any small amount of interest in. After we had finished looking over the items, he pulled us back behind some of the huts and started pricing items. He was a little pushy, Alana had done most of the shopping, but she didn’t negotiate with him. I think they pulled us behind the huts to separate the groups of people so we couldn’t hear the prices other people we were getting. Since we didn’t negotiate we certainly paid more than most. We ended up spending 395,000 Tzh (about 245 USD). We bought a lot of jewelry and a few wood carvings, basically anything that looked truly hand made. After shopping we given a tour of the kindergarten. It was a small building made of sticks out behind the main village. The Maasai laughed when we sat down next to some of the children on the small benches in the room. There was a small heavily used chalk board and that was it. In the center of the room was a small locked metal box with a slot in the top. They asked for donations for the children when they go to primary school to pay for supplies. We put in 10,000 Tzh. One of the children kept poking me in the side when he thought I wasn’t looking. I got the impression he was checking to see if I was real. Maybe he didn’t get to touch white people very often.
After the village we continued our drive to Ngorongoro. It was a mountainous climb on some very rough roads. We ended up with another truck break down. The alternator froze up and the belt was melting. We moved all the people and as much luggage into the other two trucks. Several people had to stand for the last 1.5 hours of the drive to the hotel. The truck was left behind. When we were in the process of changing trucks, several Maasai that were walking by came up and tried to sell us the bracelets and knifes they were wearing. Dr. Clarence ended up trading one of them a paracord bracelet for one of theirs, we also gave them many rubberband bracelets that Dr. Clarence had brought to pass out. We gave them some of our extra food, and they asked us for any pens we had. Pens and pencils are very rare in area, we gave them the few we had on us, and they were very grateful.
After arriving at our hotel for the night, we were stunned by the view. The lobby had a deck/eating area that was built out of the edge of the crater with a gorgeous view of the entire thing. We checked in and went down to our room, only to be stunned again. It was definitely the nicest accommodations we had while in Africa. The view was outstanding, best I’ve ever had and probably ever will. The shower was excellent, almost as good as my home shower. If you go on Safari here you must stay at Ngorongoro Wildlife Lodge.