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Pole to Pole

Day 100: Seronera to Lake Manyara

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleA Kenyan expatriate, working for the hotel, berates me for not going down into the crater.

'The Eighth Wonder of the World,' he announces, spreading his hand out to the view, before fixing me with a withering glance. 'You have seen it, but you have not experienced it.'

The truth is that I know what he means, but I am a traveller, not a tourist. I'm more concerned with the sailing date of the ships from South Africa than the departure of the next safari bus to the bottom of the crater. I'm trying to get to the South Pole, dammit, not Tanzania.

Not that I say this to him. He might ask why. And then I'd be floored.

Reluctantly leaving behind the second-largest crater in the world, we descend southwards through thick tropical rain forest and into a network of Mulu villages connected by red earth roads in poor condition.

At five o'clock we reach our destination for the night, another hotel with a stupendous view, this time from the top of the Rift Valley across Lake Manyara. A series of short, steep rivers with mantra-like names - the Yambi, Endabash, Ndala, Chemchem, Msasa, Mchanga and Mkindu - drain off the spectacular western wall of the escarpment through a forest of fig, mahogany and croton into the long slim lake 2000 feet below. The garden of the hotel is dominated by the vivid red and green umbrellas of three flame trees whose blossom looks even more striking tonight against the slate-grey skies of an impending storm. From my balcony I watch the storm approach, trailing curtains of rain across the lake. Then a fork of lightning slices the grey haze, dust from the shore is caught by the sudden fierce wind and swept in clouds up towards me. Wind rattles and batters at the glass, then the rain comes, and after the rain a double rainbow arches over the north-eastern shore.

Life indoors is a bit of a let-down after this. The hotel is full of Western tourists and the food is a bland chicken and leek soup and roast lamb.

To sleep over Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa, a well written but relentless account of his hunting prowess. I should think there was nothing more dangerous in the African bush than our Ernest on a day when he was out to prove himself.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 100
  • Country/sea: Tanzania
  • Place: Ngorongoro Crater
  • Book page no: 224

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