The last few days went by in a blur. We met downstairs around 7 to have breakfast and get everything in order. We were supposed to have our bags down and ready to be packed by 8 on the safari trucks. After breakfast we went back up to the room and finished up our packing, hauled everything downstairs, and met the safari drivers. We handing off our clothing and food that we were donating to the orphanage. We started saying our goodbyes while the drivers packed up the safari trucks (Toyota LandCruisers). The goodbyes took a long time, Sara and Anna came out from the school to say goodbye to the group. We took a few group pictures and loaded up into the safari trucks. There were 6 in two of the vehicles and 7 in the third. They were surprisingly comfortable for being heavy duty trucks.
Holly had told us the night before to multiply anything our safari driver said by at least 1.25, she is was definitely right. The driver said it would take about 3 to 3.5 hours to reach the Serengeti park. Around four hours later we were still driving with no end in site.
Now I had been quite dehydrated the last few days from working so hard out in the heat and sun all day. I was drinking at least 3-4 liters of water per day, but could not keep up with the sweating. I wanted to make sure I was completely re-hydrated for the safari so I drank a lot of water the night before. I held off in the morning, knowing we would have a long drive to the national park.
The roads had become progressively worse as we got further and further away from Tarime (which is quite surprising since the roads in the area are not very good). My bladder was about to explode, even though I forced out as much pee as I could before we left. I had an empty water bottle in the truck that was looking better and better by the minute. I was sitting in the very back of the vehicle, so we played the telephone game and asked the folks in front of me to find out how long till we stopped. When word reached Tara (Tar-a), said she also really had to go. The driver said it would be another 1.5 hours till we stopped. We asked him to pull over somewhere for us to go, he just kind of gave us a nod, no real answer. This was pretty typical of an African person who doesn’t speak much English and didn’t really understand what you were saying. I became concerned because the driver really hadn’t spoken much since we started out. We passed several places that appeared to be good pee spots to me, as I thought about pissing my pants. We played telephone again as I asked to confirm he would be pulling over. I got a more affirmative response this time.
Several more minutes passed before the driver finally pulled over. I’m not sure what he was looking for, because the spot he picked didn’t seem that different from the hundreds of others we passed. After stopped, I jumped out of the vehicle and took the longest, most satisfying pee of my life. Everyone else had to very bad too, I’m surprised I was the first to say something.
We pile back in the truck and clamored down the road. The drive was very rough, the roads were nothing more than packed dirt, a single lane wide. There were lots of ruts, and many parts of the road were filled with long stretches of ridges, I’m not sure what these were from, but they were kind of like rumble strips in the US only raised instead of recessed. They made the truck vibrate front to end like you can’t believe and vibrated straight down to your bones. Our truck was built for these kinds of roads, but we passed many motorcycles and Toyota wagon sedans. I don’t even want to think about what they felt like on those rides. The roads never really improved once we got off the initial paved road until we got many miles from Ngorongoro and close to Arusha where they were paved again.
As we neared Serengeti Park, we started seeing lots of animals. The driver would slow down and point out what we were seeing, stopping occasionally for us to get long looks and photos. We saw the infamous blue-balled monkey (Cerocopithecus lomamiensis). He truly does have brilliant blue balls. According to Discovery.com, this monkey was not discovered and classified until 2007. I find it hard to believe since they were just hanging out by the side of the road. We also saw giraffes, elephants, and had a short glimpse of baboons before we got to the park.
We finally arrived at the park, we stopped by the ranger station to have our box lunches. Most of us were worried about what we would find in our boxes. It ended up being the best meal we had in Africa up to that point. It was a butter and jelly sandwich, delicious samosas, banana, mango juice, flat bread, and a sweet potato. A small group of us walked down to the main gate to take pictures. A few minutes later, one of the trucks came flying down the road at us. Apparently the rangers had yelled at our drivers because you aren’t allowed to walk in the park at all. We had to ride back in the truck, but only after our driver let us finish taking pictures.
After lunch we officially began our safari. We started driving through the park and saw animals right away. There were zebras and elephants in the distance, more quick views of baboons, and a few others. After about 10 minutes Tara asked the driver how long until the next stop. She had to go to the bathroom already, the group collectively groaned. We turned back as the drivers snickered among themselves, the other two trucks went on a head. Back at the gate, we all squeezed out a few more drops then piled back into the truck to catch up with the others.
The next few days were filled with beautiful views, lots of amazing animals, and good times. We stayed the first night at Seronera Wildlife Lodge. This lodge is in the middle of the Serengeti park, and is absolutely beautiful. If you ever go on safari, you must stay here. There is an amazing pool, eating area, and deck that over looked the whole Serengeti. Absolutely stunning. The dinner and breakfast were both very good, the best food we had in Africa. They had real bacon.