We got up at 6:30, after putting in a rough night. (It seemed that no one in our group slept well, and Jess developed minor tummy badness.) After showering and dressing, we finished packing and headed to breakfast (which was another feast, this time with baked beans in addition to the eggs, bacon, tomato, potato, pancake, fruit, toast, juice, tea and coffee). Jer headed back to do a little kung fu on our porch, while Jess sat around feeling miserable.
At 9 am, we were bundled into the Land Cruisers with our luggage, and we set off for Tarangire National Park. Along the way, we passed through the city of Arusha, which had changed a great deal since Jer last saw it (14 years ago), growing much larger and more modern. We then left the rich greenery of the Arusha area, passing through banana and coffee fields before heading out into the grasslands.
We passed many Masai villages made up of round mud huts with thatched roofs, and we saw many Masai children in traditional red garb herding cattle, goats and the occational donkey. At one point we passed a group of camels, which are used for tours. The area we drove through is used as a migration corridor for animals passing between parks, we saw Grant's gazelles, zebra and cattle egrets, as well as many large termite mounds.
As the rolling hills and diverse foliage gave way to something resembling a lush version of MMBA (miles and miles of bloody Africa, the jaded British name for the Serengeti), we entered Tarangire National Park. Joe offered that USAID had recently dumped a lot of money into the park, the first evidence being a large sign bearing a disclaimer in correct legalise indicating that it was your own damn fault if you got savaged by a dik-dik. There were further displays and info-snippets, all of which bore the unmistakable air of a US installation design firm.
After a bit of postcard, booze & souvenir shopping at the gift shop, we headed into the park. At first, we saw nothing but grass and trees, then suddenly we came upon a herd of elephants, including an adorable baby, and they crossed the road right in front of us. Next was a male impala and his harem, and they crossed in front of us too. Along the route to our lunch spot, we also saw waterbucks, sand grouse, warthogs, baboons and bushbucks. We had lunch at a picnic spot overlooking the river, where we saw elephants wallowing in mud. There were cute vervet monkeys all around the picnic area, and one of them stole a sandwich from our plates! There were also lovely birds, like colorful superb starlings and a tawny eagle.
After lunch we drove on to our tented camp, passing giraffes and dik-diks, as well as more elephants and impala. At camp, we sat in the mess tent and drank tea and sodas, then sat outside to enjoy the breeze. Suddenly, a brief rainstorm washed over us, cooling us off and giving us a huge, beautiful double rainbow. Eventually, we climbed back into the Land Cruisers for an evening game drive. We saw several new animals, in addition to the ubiquitous elephants, impala, dik-diks and vervet monkeys, including a number of birds: francolins, sparfowl, a beautiful lilac-breasted roller, several African fish eagles and a number of stupid guineafowl (which ran in front of us - we clocked one at 10 mph! - rather than flying out into the wet grass). We also saw three mongeese!
At dusk, we headed back to camp for drinks around the campfire. Several of us headed down to the cook tent, where the staff were very pleased to show us how they were preparing our dinner and to chat with us. Dinner was amazing: roast pork, cinnamon rice, roasted carrots and fresh bread, all made using charcoal fires. Dessert was espresso cake with custard, also made in camp. We were mightily impressed! After dinner, Joe and Sherry serenaded us before we headed to an early bedtime in our tent.