Shaken on the endless plains

Lunch stop at he only tree.

The name ‘Serengeti’ is derived from Maasai words meaning ‘endless plains’; and driving into the Serengeti this afternoon left no room for misinterpretation. Callum asked me what I was taking photographs of and my answer of ‘nothing’ was terribly accurate. Endless nothing.

To get to the plains, though, first involved hours of driving at speed over the most poorly maintained dirt tracks I have ever had the misfortune to deal with. We were rattled, shaken, thumped, crashed – it was like being inside a washing machine, only with dust replacing water. The expected rains have not eventuated this year and everything is covered with a fine, dry dust that kicks up in the air with the slightest movement. Out truck created it’s own rooster-tail of dust, but we drove along surrounded by dust devils, some reaching up to the clouds, on all sides.

When we finally reached the plains and left the road it was with a sigh of relief. The hard-baked plains are much smoother driving than the roads. We set out off-road with Harry, our guide, seemingly driving on instinct because there were no real landmarks to be had. From somewhere Harry conjured the single tree for miles around and aimed at its shade for a lunch stop. Much to our chagrin the Maasai family who were sheltering under the tree with their goats got up and moved as we arrived. Luckily, like every meal we’ve had, lunch was massively beyond our capacity to eat, so we gave a pile of food to the family and they were clearly overjoyed. It was also nice to see a couple of teenagers watching Declan playing on his iPad (yes he really was). The nice thing was to have us observed, instead of the usual situation with us observing the Maasai.

We moved on just ahead of a dust-storm covering 180-degrees behind us and a rain storm covering another 90-degrees to our left. Sadly, the rain never came anywhere near us or where we were going.

After a stop at the rangers station to get a permit we made our way to our final camp. Olakira Camp is a proper migrating camp, it moves with the seasons and so it has fewer permanent amenities that the other two camps we’ve stayed at. The immediately obvious difference is that having a shower involves someone coming and filling a bucket outside the tent. The bucket is then ratcheted up a pole to gravity-feed the shower. On the other had the tents back right onto the bush and, as I sit writing this, there are gazelle meandering through the trees right in front of me.

And the other good thing? The chair I’m sitting on isn’t bouncing about like a mad thing. Bliss.

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