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Thursday, 25 August 2011

Fanny and I on her KTM... the first chick I have meet riding a bike... we were both very chuffed to find a fellow biking chick :)
We left two nights ago from Nairobi to make our way across the Tanzanian border. After surviving the crazy maze that is Nairobi we were on the road again… although a seriously pot-holed one! In fact the whole road was one fat pothole… the type of road where there is no going around potholes… rather you choose which ones will do the least damage to your bike! After about 30kms of this suspension-breaking hazard we turned off to help a Kenyan whose wheel had given way to the power of the pot-holes. True as nuts… despite the fact we have had no significant trouble with our bikes (touch wood!) since Cairo… my bike was completely and utterly caput…AFTER A SERVICE!!! And there were not many hours of light left.

After taking apart the seat and realizing that the fuses were all in working order… the only thing we could think of was the battery! The Dakar’s battery lies hidden under its body and so we needed to basically take the bike apart on the side of the road… unscrewing numerous bolts… arg!!! After attracting every possible resident within 10 square kilometers as an audience, we were happy to discover it was a simple glitch… loose positive terminal! Phew!!! We were back on the road after screwing my bike back together and happy we didn’t have to camp at the side of the road with 40 people as our audience ;)

Having left late as it was and then experiencing an unexpected delay, by the time we hit the main highway to the South it was dark. There was not one road light or anything to light up the road and I was soon to discover that I am entirely night-blind without the bright lights that light up our highways or the fluorescent road markings that ensure you don’t skew off onto the gravel and down an embankment. Driving through the night like that with people overtaking on blind corners and feeling as if you are driving through an endless dark tunnel was definitely the scariest driving en route for me so far… But we finally arrived at Namanga, the border post with Tanzania at around 9 30pm.
Masai in the hills around Arusha, Tanzania

Once we got through we concluded it would be best to sleep at the border and not risk any further night driving… especially with me feeling blind as a bat in the dark! Border towns… are never much to rave about… dirty, dusty places most of the time… not usually on a must-see list! We checked into the first hotel we saw which had a very happening bar and a famed “Nyama Choma” menu… although we had only a few Kenyan Shillings left on us and there was no ATM to be found. We managed to convince the manager to take our remaining shillings and bunked up in a little room with a bathroom we wish was not included! But we were happy to have a place to park the bikes inside and were so exhausted we fell asleep easily to the sound of heavy drinking and music! Early wake up call and we were off to Ngorongoro Crater Lodge… where my father’s awesome friend, Geoff O’Grady had organized a complimentary two nights stay!

 



Overlooking the crater on arrival

Arriving in our filthy biking gear to the beautiful Ngorongoro Crater Lodge
 
It is hard to explain how magical this place is! The company that runs this lodge owns a few other lodges around the world in other exotic locations and it is clear that their intension is to go above and beyond your possible expectations as their name “& Beyond” suggests. After being picked up by the manager from the gate, as our bikes are not allowed in any national parks, we were greeted by the whole lodge team who welcomed us with song and champagne… and from there on we were whisked away into an alternate universe where dirty bikers’ gear, rough and ready camping, cold showers and smelly toilets have no place ;)

The lodge sits right on the edge of the crater with an amazing expansive view all around… we are blessed with the same magical view from our completely indulgent and lavish room. We felt like we had just stepped into a fairytale walking around our room… where every single detail has been given extraordinary thought unlike anything I have ever seen before. There is even a little welcome box of decadent candies and two crystal glasses to enjoy your complimentary sherry on the magnificent balcony. It has been a massive contrast to our regular camping haunt or modest lodging… and we feel very spoilt! The best thing about this lodge is that although it is very luxurious and lavish it somehow has managed to strike a beautiful balance of not being so over the top that it makes you feel uncomfortable… all the staff are incredibly friendly, professional, warm and down to earth and make every effort to make you feel at home away from home J “And Beyond” are also extremely passionate about environmental conservation and community development and all of their lodges are created in such a way that promotes these two fundamental organizing principles.

Speaking to the lady who runs this lodge with her husband was quite an inspiration. She is heavily involved in community development projects in the area with the aim of creating sustainable projects rather than disempowering the community with aid. One such project is her endevour to provide schools with books and teachers manuals. The company also works with the local community as well as their own staff in upliftment projects including health and wellness and skill development… and it is clear that this ‘other’ side to the company has made all the difference as a very genuine positive energy is tangible among the staff. I think it is just a reminder of how it doesn’t matter what industry you are in… it doesn’t have to be specifically human development or conservation oriented… with the right will, there is always the potential for change and the potential to make a difference! Inspiring!

I would really recommend the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge or in fact any of the other “& Beyond” lodges around the world where they have created an authentic and unique magical getaway to compliment the exotic and special destination… and at the same time the are focused on sustainability and giving back to the community… win, win! I can truly say that they have managed to exceed all our expectations!

Do your self a favour and check them out!

http://www.andbeyond.com/

So we have really enjoyed living in this fairy-tale bubble looking over one of the world’s great heritage sights… and feel completely blessed to be here! The food has been outstanding, as has the wine and the company of the wonderful staff and we have managed to make up for all our fasting and lost mass as a result of Sudan and Ramadan…


Our magnificent bedroom... check that roof... exquisite!

The balcony overlooking the crater ... who would want to leave?

Decadence in a box... beats canned beans ;)

Bubble-bath... yes please!



The main dinning and relaxing area... Jordan wine as the house wine :)

Overwhelmed and enjoying every second...

Big smiles :)



Very interesting architecture!
Today we enjoyed a wonderful day descending into the crater for a game drive where we were lucky to experience a beautiful cheetah sighting, lionesses chasing buffalo and vice versa, amazing birds prancing proudly through the crater floor… Secretary birds with their funky hairstyles, striking thick necked Kori Bustards… and of course just being amazed by the phenomenon that the crater is as a sight standing alone. After around three hours of exploring the crater we stopped next to a river to enjoy an amazing spread next to the perfect spot for congregating animals and wallowing hippos!

Sundowners...

Descending into the crater






It has been a magical day and we are savouring every minute of it! Tomorrow it is back on the road and back to our tents. We will never forget this experience and are tremendously grateful to the Ngorongoro Crater Lodge and all their staff who made it such an out of this world experience! 





2 comments:

  1. Reading your blog is like reading a book, except I have to wait for each new chapter!! What an adventure ... I take my hat off to you both for making it happen.
    Happy, healthy and safe travelling further.
    Reneé

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  2. Hey Ri. Remember this quote by Mark Twain; "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be aquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all ones lifetime." It looks like you guys are having lots of fun and gaining some insight on your travels - Shilo

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