Double Cross Cross

Linda Lou Burton posting from Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania– It was 4:15 when we left Tloma school, all smiles and warm-glowy feelings. Such a good visit, such a happy buzz of conversation in the 4×4 as we headed down the road, stirring up a trail of red dust. I was calculating in my head: 25 miles to the rim of the Crater, we’d be checked into our Lodge and sitting on our balconies in time to see the sun set, oh yeah! (Sunset 6:30, keep in mind.) “But lo”, my scrappy angel said, “your 4×4 seems to be pulling into the drive of a small building just minutes from the school. And lo! Stopping.” Elephants and zebras and acacia trees captured on canvas, hanging on a line. Sailboats even! “We’re stopping here,” Ben said, “so you can browse around and find some nice paintings to buy. Some memories of Tanzania.” I looked at the scrappy angel sitting on my shoulder and vowed not to complain. Everyone else hustled out of the 4×4 and began browsing. Ben stayed with me. “Let’s talk about tomorrow,” he said. “We have decisions to make.” “Okay,” I responded, aiming for pleasant, “let’s talk.” Our schedule for tomorrow was ”All Day Game Drive in the Crater with Picnic Lunch.” Since the Crater was one of my main reasons for coming to Africa, I’d resolved since making my February trip deposit to go on THAT Game Drive if no other. Karen Blixen’s House and the Ngorongoro Crater, my two objectives.

I told Ben of my enthusiasm for the day ahead, a full day in the Crater, with picnic lunch. “We could do that,” he said. “Or, we could leave at 4:30 and be in the Crater before daylight. We could have BREAKFAST in the Crater and be back at the Lodge for lunch.” My scrappy angel shook a finger at me; warned me to stay cool. “We’ve had a really busy day today,” I said to Ben, in my most diplomatic tone. “A 4:30 departure in the morning would be a tight timeline. People would be more rested if we stuck to the original plan and departed at 6:30.” Ben nodded pleasantly and agreed. “You’re right, 4:30 is pushing it. We’ll stick to the plan.” We chatted more; he told about his studies; a Masters Program in Tourism (that school in Arusha I mentioned earlier); he told about his areas of interest; his goals after that.

The browsers returned (no purchases); our journey continued, dusty road to tarred road; at 5:30 we reached the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Visitor Center. “We’re going in,” Ben motioned to the other 4×4,  “so I can explain the Crater to you.” Inside we gathered around the giant relief map; Ben talked about the geology of the Crater; the Conservation Area today; the Great Migration; the wildebeests. “The wildebeests live in Kenya part of the year,” he said, “but they belong to Tanzania.” (Wildebeests have citizenship?) We fidgeted. My scrappy angel nodded off.

“Oh, about tomorrow,” Ben said, concluding his wildebeest claim, “if we leave the hotel at 4:30 in the morning we’ll be down in the Crater before daylight, in position to see the animals as they become active. We can have the hotel pack a box breakfast, and be back at the Lodge in time for lunch. You’ll have a free afternoon. Sound OK?” Like lemmings led to the sea, the gang nodded, “Yeah, sounds great.” I stood up. “Wait! The original plan was LUNCH in the Crater, leaving at 6:30 in the morning, not 4:30. And that’s what you agreed we’d do.”

All eyes back to Ben. “Who wants to see the most animals?” he questioned. Eight hands rose. “Who wants to sleep in and see fewer animals?” he asked then, looking at me. Ah, well, my scrappy angel was dialing up KARMA at that very moment.

Next Post: Notes From The Balcony of Ngorongoro Serena Safari Lodge