After a short hike from the village of Marangu (on Kilimanjaro’s southern slopes), during which a fake guide attached himself to me (eventually deterred by me dodging behind him, running down one side of a steep valley, jumping over a river, running up the other side of the valley and diving into a banana field), I headed into Arusha – widely derided as the worst place in Tanzania for touts, flycatchers, scammers and other ne’er-do-wells. Every safari tout attempted to give me a business card, leading to scenes reminiscent of Tim Burton’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory when Mr. Salt tries to give Willy Wonka one of his.
Despite Arusha being significantly smaller than Dar es Salaam, it had a music shop – so I now have a guitar tuner (even if it did cost as much as my guitar) and my guitar is sounding sweet sweet (in Africa, words are often repeated for emphasis – for example, “now now” means “immediately” – which brings us on to a discussion of African relative time):
- Any time today or tomorrow
- Example: The embassy will be open soon
- Sometime today
- Example: You bus is coming now
- Just now
- Sometime within the next few hours
- Example: I will process your visa just now
- Now now
- Example: Pay me now now
I spent most of the rest of my time in Arusha reading the international edition of The Guardian (shipped in a day late from Nairobi, with the sudoku already completed).
After much shopping around and avoiding touts, I selected a no-frills safari including Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Things kicked off almost immediately in Tarangire as the various safari vehicles stopped for lunch and a whole troop of baboons turned up to steal food. We watched several daring raids as the baboons braved hails of rocks to grab sandwiches, but were untouched ourselves until a vervet monkey dropped out of the tree above us, snatched a bread crust and made a run for it. As soon as we turned to throw rocks, a quick-witted baboon raced over, grabbed a banana and darted away again. A similar raid took place at Lake Manyara, when a huge male terrorised a ground of schoolchildren and got at least three of their meals before a teacher chased it away.
The picnic sites at Ngorongoro Crater were baboon-free, but that was principally because their place had been taken by eagles who swooped out of the sky to take food (like very large and dangerous seagulls). We also got a bit of a shock pitching the tents, as a fuming scorpion emerged that had crawled onto the inside of the outer layer, been rolled up and then bounced about on the crater approach road a long way from Lake Manyara (where we must have picked it up). We also saw a lot of wildlife (possibly the main reason for going) – including but not limited to lion (Panthera leo), giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis), spotted hyena (Crocuta crocuta), black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis), cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus) and so many zebra, wildebeest and elephants that they got a little repetitive. Of the “big five”, only the secretive leopard is left.