When last we spoke of Safari, I was still staying at the Safari Park Hotel in Nairobi. Well, we couldn't very well stay there all week, so off we went one morning on one of the numerous taxicabs, deep into darkest downtown Nairobi. There is a large intercity bus station there, but we ended up on some cross street swarmed with jitneys, jalopies, and other things that start with J, not to mention hordes, throngs, and milling thousands of people. Of course, on our way there we had a flat tire and had to watch the milling thousands pass by us in their diesel-belching jitneys and jalopies, but once we arrived safely in the midst of the horde we left our cabbie behind and hopped on board the Riverside Shuttle, a 26-seat bus complete with rooftop luggage rack. Remember that it had been raining off and on since we arrived in Nairobi, so I was none to happy about leaving my luggage on the roof, but there was no room inside; by the time we left, 29 of the 26 seats were occupied. You read me.
On our way south to the city of Arusha, in Tanzania, I took this beautiful picture of a mountain that is not Mt. Kilimanjaro. It was on the other side of the bus, as it turns out. Not that anybody saw it. The road to Arusha--shown in dark blue on our maps of the area, the equivalent of I-40 or the M4--was a 1.5 lane jostle-o-matic massage with purely theoretical paving but only occaisonal intrusions by poultry and livestock (not to mention the people). We were never so happy to see a hotel as we were when we finally pulled up, some six hours later at around eight in the evening, at the Impala Hotel in beautiful Arusha.
The Impala bills itself as "the only four star hotel in Arusha." They are exaggerating, or else the Arusha Chamber of Commerce has created a new grading system. Nonetheless, if you go to Arusha, you should stay at the Impala. It is not the nicest hotel in town--we stayed at the New Arusha Tourist Hotel on our return from safari, and the rooms there were much more luxurious--but it has four terrific restaurants on premises and a pool and you would do well to stay here lest you suffer the cooking at the New Arusha Tourist Hotel (and suffer you shall).
In the morning I took the elevator to the top of the hotel and snapped this shot of the city of Arusha, such as it is. Arusha has about 150,000 people, by the Tanzanian government's definition (which may and probably does include vast swaths of the surrounding countryside), but it is the point of embarkation for at least three quarters of safaris to the Serengeti, Tarangire, and elsewhere in northern Tanzania. It is fairly smoggy, but all in all we agreed Arusha was much the nicer city than Nairobi, on the whole. The city is dominated by Mt. Meru, which you can also see from the top floor of the hotel.
In the morning we headed into town to visit Sunny Safaris, who had planned our safari. I highly, highly recommend Sunny Safaris if you are considering a safari. If you want the full luxury safari with stays at Serena Lodges every night and so forth, you'll want to go with someone else, but if like us you have a budget to work with Sunny is the place to be. We met our driver, Bryson (who appears in only one of my pictures and I am quite annoyed about that and need to get a picture from one of my traveling companions), and took a seat in our chariot for the week, a massive nine-passenger Toyota Land Cruiser. Sweet ride.
We stopped at a convenience store of sorts, to stock up on goodies. You get the feeling that Sunny and this place have an agreement and everybody stops here on their way out of town on safari. The place was stocked with every conceivable kind of liquor, plus chips, candy, and sodas, and a variety of other things. We bought some beers and cider, and several bags of Chili-Lemon chips, which turned out to be absolutely great and I'm kinda craving some right now.
On our way out of town we passed the various sites. For example, there was this coffee plantation. Believe it or not, the air smelled vaguely of coffee. (There were no tea plantations that I saw, but all week I drank plenty of good Kenyan tea.) Later, we passed the Arusha International Airport. No, really. You can catch a commercial flight into this from Dar es Salaam or Nairobi, or several other cities in Tanzania. What fun that would be.
Much later--it's a four hour drive to Mto wa Mbu and the first national park you visit--we passed by this traditional Maasai village.
Finally you come through Mto wa Mbu, and head to Lake Manyara National Park. That's where we'll pick up next time; here's a photo of the national park to tide you over. There are actual animals in the park! And I'm through building suspense; next time we'll see elephants, giraffes, and all sorts of cool things!
Safari Post I (Introduction)
Safari Post II (Nairobi)
Safari Post III (Arusha – The Safari Begins)
Safari Post IV - Lake Manyara A
Safari Post V - Lake Manyara B
Safari Post VI - Lake Manyara Lodge
Safari Post VII - Off to Serengeti!