4th – 5th Sept
Back in Iringa
The guy that fixed the Landy came to town so I took him for a couple of beers and lunch. It was a true local African experience; we went to a bar run by a local gangster after which he took me to a dusty square filled with eating houses in the form of shacks! They served pork from a tacked together makeshift oven and we ate with our hands. Have to say the food was just delicious and there was a great vibe about the place. I paid “local” prices i.e. a fraction of what you would pay normally.
5th – 8th Sept
Morning of the 5th we set off for Mikumi National Park, about a 6 hour drive. The Whacky Races has nothing on the trucks and buses here. They drive like lunatics, testimony to which can be seen by the number of vehicles crashed and tipped over on the sides of the roads. That said, I was pulled over 3 times for speeding (how can that be possible in a Land Rover??). The Cops are waiting for you in places where you simply don’t have enough time between seeing the 50kmph sign and reaching it to slow down sufficiently. I paid one bribe, one fine and was let off – no complaints!
We arrived at Mikumi mid afternoon and decided to spend 3 nights at Camp Site 1; a new Camp Site, right in the middle of prime Game viewing territory. New ablutions and a kitchen and lovely spot on the plains, surrounded by bush that makes for a natural Boma.
Mikumi is contiguous with Selous Game Reserve to the south. It’s mainly made up of plains, small pockets of bush and surrounded by mountains. On arriving, we learned that Lions had made a kill (Buffalo) in the bush, right next to us. We could see the vultures and heard the Lions calling all night. We’ve seen Giraffe, Buffalo, Wildebeest (first since leaving S.A. – can you believe it?), Zebra, Eland, Reedbuck, Bushbuck, Elephant and of course Impala.
The first afternoon we caught up with the Lions resting under a tree but at quite a distance.
The following day we had some great sightings of game queuing up at water hole; there were about 200 Buffalo that came to drink and most of the plains game.
On the way home after a fruitless drive, we spotted a male Lion not far off the road near the camp. It turned out to be a mating pair of Lions. We watched them for a while and then on the way back came across another Lioness stalking Wildebeest. We found the Lions again the following morning and I got some nice shots of the male in early morning light.
We met Veronica Roodt. For the uninitiated, she is the lady that maps and gazettes the roads in the Parks in Botswana, Tanzania and elsewhere. She’s written a number of books about the bush and is quite an authority on flora. Nice to meet someone with so much knowledge and passion about the bush, she’s quite an inspiration.
8th – 11th September
Udzungwa Mountains National Park.
The Udzungwas are a two hour drive from Mikumi. We are now staying at Hondo Hondo, on the slopes of the mountains. This is rain forest area. The drive here took us past very different type of scenery and topography. Suddenly we were in tropical Africa; Palm trees, Cashew trees, fruits of all kinds, lush green surroundings and a riot of colour.
Hondo Hondo is set in picturesque landscaped gardens very close to the Park’s HQ. The Staff are all very pleasant and accommodating, food is almost as good as the scenery! There is a small Tomato Shumba next door that gets raided by Elephants under the cover of darkness, never a dull moment. Tomato crusted Elephant trunks!
Udzungwa is famed for its Primates. There are 11 different types of Primates of which three are endemic. The first afternoon here we saw Black & White Colobus Monkeys, Iringa Red Colobus Monkey (endemic) and hordes of Yellow Baboon. There is something quite special about seeing an animal in the wild that you know exists nowhere else on earth. They were really difficult to photograph as they’re up in the canopy and also very shy (been hunted for the pot too many times in the past). So pics not usual standard, sorry!
There are also many kinds of Butterfly, a number of which are endemic. The one in the pics is the Golden Banded Forester.
The hike. We took a hike up the mountain, through rain forest to reach Sanje Waterfalls. It was quite a gruelling trek. Five hours in total. The Guide pointed out all manner of Flora that cures every illness you can think of, aphrodisiacs and poisons; all growing naturally in the mountains. There was a “Testicle Tree”…………..you guessed it, grows big round fruits (not nuts) in pairs! And a Viagra au Natural – The Long Leaf Dragon Tree – no I haven’t tried either, thank you.
Halfway up the falls there is a place where you can look out on to the plateau below. Once upon a time this vast area (which was a corridor to the Selous) would have been teeming with wild Game, as it is so rich in nutrients and fed by numerous streams and rivers that stem from the mountains. Unfortunately all you can see now is sugar cane plantations. I’d give anything to have a time machine and go back to how it once was.
We’re now having a relaxing day, recovering from our knackering walk!