Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas

It was a white Christmas outside this morning, not with snow, but fog. Trying to find the crater floor was impossible, with the fog shrouding all views. We had dismal thoughts for our safari drive. Ron tried waiting it out hoping the sun would shine through and clear it up for some morning pictures; it did not happen. Breakfast was nothing special for Christmas. They must have felt the two desserts last night was their contribution.

When we met with Anwar, he said that the floor of the crater would most likely be clear as the fog rises. What he explained to us was that everyone, except hotel staff can only stay in the park for 24 hours, this includes all guests at any hotel on the rim. The rim is part of the park. Driving on the crater floor is only allowed from 7am to 4pm. Hence, if you checked into your hotel at noon on one day, you only have until noon, the next to get your drive in and get out of the park entirely. This makes an interesting concept for a hotel to be a one night stand exclusively.

As elusive as they are, we were witness to two cheetahs walking the plains in our direction. Stopping the van to watch, they came right toward us crossed the street and then looked like they had a gazelle in their sights. Along with the gazelle, there were three wildebeests in the area, but Anwar explained they were too large for a cheetah to attack, so they were safe. However, one of them did strange twisting and turning like he was trying to warn others of danger. Slowly, the gazelle walked in the direction of the cheetahs, although we whispered our encouragement for it to stay away. It was then that Anwar spotted a herd of gazelles, which would have given the cheetahs a better chance of scoring. It was almost as if the gazelle was fretful for the others and kept pacing.

Now, a whole herd of tour trucks were in the area, but the cheetahs were unfazed. One plopped right in front of a truck's tire and watched the happenings around. It was a lengthy time before they both moved on across the street and continued walk, stopping to observe, and then moving on again. We moved on after the potential excitement was over.

Once again, there were thousands of wildebeests and zebras, but neither were skiddish with the jeep going by, so we were able to stop and view them fairly closely without them running off. During the drive, we saw 8 black rhinos, but all in long distance sightings. Not even our zoom camera lens could make them out clearly enough. Anwar told us the difference between black and white rhinos is the upper lip. Black rhinos have a protruding upper lip like a trunk to assist them in reaching leaves from a tree.

From the beginning of the drive, it was sprinkling, but we had the top popped up to view. Then it started to come down heavily, so we had to close it as I was getting soaked in the back. The two guys, Anwar and Ron, were fine in front.Then we had cheetah sightings, so up the top went again rain or not. Two were traveling together and came right by our truck.

Anwar explained that the soda lake was akaline. It is only populated by flamingos. We could see thousands of them from a distance, but the roads do not go close enough to see them like advertisements would have you believe. None of the other animals will use this lake, preferring the fresh water lake instead.

By noon, we were ready for lunch. The lunch area was without any tables or chairs, so we ate in the truck. The ground was muddy swamps, but the view of a lake and the crater rim were brilliantly green make the scenery delightful. We decided to call it quits by 2pm and went to our hotel to check in. We are staying on Lake Manyar; as it turns out it is still one of the same chain that we stayed in the last two nights, with the same room deficits as the others. When we arrived, we were able to get clear views of the lake, which were lovely. The outside bar sets on the edge of the viewing area, so we had a beer to breathe in the views. There are baboons galore, so you have to watch your things while sitting at the bar and we were warned to keep our balcony door locked or the baboons will come in and steal things.

Beer with 5% alcohol prompts a nap. It was delicious sleeping for 2 hours. There is a special program tonight for Christmas. Some choir is coming to sing, then Mrs. Somebody will play a piano concert. 

Well the children sang their hearts out for over 2 hours. They must have been exhausted, but clearly eating up the applause.

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