[10] African safari – The valley of the Shadow of Death

JOE’S JOURNAL African safari, Tanganyika March 21st, 1962

A flash of lightning at night on this African safari.
A flash of lightning at night on this African safari. By Peter Reason licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Evening just departing, big game photography; Ngorongoro Crater, Serengeti and Lake Manyara. (You’ve seen it on the African safaris on the Telly !)

Now on to the “main road” – dirt and mud, 250 miles to go, most of it overnight, 45 m.p.h. absolute maximum.

A youth and rucksack begged a lift.
German, perfect English and manners;- gap year methinks.
The sky threatens.
“It could be a rough trip but jump in; and be prepared to help”
He realised a battered old Land Rover trumps a smart saloon on these African safari ‘roads’.

Onwards and upwards, no top gear work; -darkness.
Bearded moss on overhanging branches, so altitude now above 5000 feet.
The first few drops were ominous; rattled the canvas roof and bounced off the bonnet like marbles.
Engage four wheel drive BEFORE it became sheets, with just four foot visibility.
Lightning now frequent and close – hardly need the headlights!

Down into THE valley on this African safari; a lightning trap.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil…”

Psalm 23:4

Just once, my passenger reached towards the crash bar.
The vertical rock face is a reassuring milestone, but then a direct hit floodlights the scene.
Under the bonnet of a popular problem car, he is clearly trouble shooting, but we cannot stop. – you learn the hard way – keep moving; once stopped you are well and truly stuck.
This picture was ‘shadowed’ on to the rock ‘screen’, meanwhile press on!

Less lightning, rain steady, going easier, but now a smell of burnt insulation and battery not charging.
Off headlights, two wheel drive, ‘proceed economically’, 50 miles more, no use, pull over and stop.
Share my snack and flask of coffee, sit back and relax.
Rain dripping on our heads is deflected by bodging.
We settle down for the night in very hard backed seats.

Sun well up when we ‘awoke’, road fairly dry.
Cross fingers and press to start; – Away! and the battery lasted for the remaining 100 odd miles. (‘Export’ models have bigger batteries).
I don’t remember the students name, but he performed well for a ‘Greenhorn’.

Conscience to settle, I queried the fate of the stranded driver, (why didn’t he wave?)
“He was struck dead two hours before we passed!”

I then thought about us in the Land Rover and the rest of the verse in Psalm 23:

…For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.”

Psalm 23:4

Joe Lucas July 2006

African safari information:

The Ngorongoro Crater is a huge 610 metre deep crater with a densely populated forest rim and covers 100 square miles. [i]
It has it’s own unique micro-climate and over the year the temperature ranges between 25 to 30+ degrees C.
If you go out on an African safari you are likely to see black rhino, large elephants (known as Tuskers), lion, leopard, hyena, wildebeest, buffalo, zebra, serval cat, cheetah, jackal, Grant’s gazelle, Thompson’s gazelle, flamingo, bat-eared foxes and about 400 species of bird. [ii]
Getting out of your vehicle is strictly limited to just a few picnic spots.
The Munge Stream drains into a small seasonal, salty lake and has two names: Makat and Magadi.

Nearby is large Lake Manyara which hasn’t got as much wildlife as the crater.
But at the lake there are the famous tree climbing lions!
Also its got elephants, baboons, wildebeest, buffalo, hippo, flamingo, zebra, warthog, waterbuck (large antelope), giraffe, dik-dik (small antelope), impala (medium-sized antelope), raptors and many different birds.

Because the crater is one of a kind destination which teams with wild animals, it does get very busy with people on African safaris, but in Joe’s day that certainly wasn’t the case!

Ngorongoro Conservation Area has live video streaming. Enjoy your African safari in the comfort of your own home!
[i] ‘Ngorongoro Conservation Area’ Wikipedia
[ii] Tanzanzania Odyssey

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