Although we had ordered a 6 am wake-up by knocking, it wasn’t necessary. We awoke to the sound of barking. Yelp – yelp – yelp. I thought they were wild dogs. I sat up in bed, beaming, as was Betsy. Of course, when I mentioned to Steven that we had this experience, he corrected us. That noise, in fact, was a hyena. Now this was awesome! On our way to breakfast, and of course around the lodge, we saw the rock hyrax, which I took to be a cute rodent. It turns out that it is a member of the elephant family. What's neat when you leave is that all you have to do is bring your bags outside, and one of the porters will be waiting to take them away.
The breakfast included awesome pancakes, that were more like crepes. I didn't see any avocado juice this morning, though, unlike last night.
We took a picture with Steven in front of the car and began our trek into Tarangire. Little did we know we would be encountering a rather vocal pachaderm. About thirty minutes into the drive, we came across a young male bull, perhaps 15 years old, most likely recently removed from his herd. (As an aside we found out later tha elephants live to about 60 years old, losing their teeth every 10 years until at last no more come in. They then move to an area where papyrus is found, which they can chew on until they starve. Rather brutal, yet beautiful at the same time.) Anyway, this male was not happy to see us! He flared his ears, raised his trunk, made his loud noises, and 'charged.' OK, as far as Steven was concerned, it wasn't a charge. He can tell the difference. But to us it was fascinating, and a bit intense! He sort of would run to us a little bit, stop, run sideways, make more noises, then do it all over again. This continued for about 15 minutes. Eventually he settled down and took off.
The birds, antelopes, and other mammals were beyond amazing. I see now why birders love Tarangire, and why they all show up during the long rains, when it is cold north of the equator. After stopping for a drink and a snack, and a group photo, we finished our drive along the river. We came upon about nine lions fresh off a kill. Now, most of them were hidden in the bush, so it was hard to make them all out. Probably all females, most of them sleeping it off. We spent enough time there until everyone in the car spotted them all (Steven was great on this - he insisted that all five of us see them all before we continued on). Finally we all saw them, so we continued back to Sopa Lodge, for lunch by the pool, enjoying the moussaka and passion custars, and taking photos of all the Agama lizards.
Finally, we were off to the Crater, about a three hour drive, with an occasional stop to 'check the tire pressure.' We passed many towns and villages along the paved highway, built by the Japanese (?) and now maintained to promote tourism to and from the NCA (Nogorongoro Conservation Area). Betsy did some bargaining for a zebra mask, this time getting a great deal when she originally planned to walk away.
The Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge is on the rim of the crater. We stopped at the visitor's center to get a brief lesson on this large ecosystem (NCA) from Renny. Here I noticed that the other tour group was not with us (pretty much OK by us). We arrived at the lodge to welcome juices and yet another bottle of South African white wine (and a free mini-bar).
We had drinks upstairs in a private room, then proceeded to a fantastic dinner and desert. Finally, off to bed, prepping for huge day tomorrow in the rim....