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Pole to Pole

Day 100: Seronera to Lake Manyara

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleWe wind up from the plain to the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater, almost 6600 feet above sea-level. Spectacular views unfold, of the Serengeti on one side and the vast circle of extinct volcano on the other.

A group of Masai herdsmen approaches from along the ridge, preceded by the soft, delicate tinkling of cow bells - what Wendy used to call 'the sound of Africa'. They are young, mostly teenagers, dramatically turned out in ostrich-feather head-dresses, enormous wooden earrings and cloaks of intense purple and deep red. They are not unselfconscious. I notice one of them adjusting his outfit in the reflection from the car window. Nor is their initial friendliness and curiosity unprofessional. If we want to take a photo of them, or even of the crater below them, we must pay.

We continue on the road around the rim. All the way along are groups of children, decked out in beads, faces painted, holding spears and ready to go into a parody of the Masai dances for anyone with money.

Crater Lodge is a spartan, tidily laid out collection of huts which resembles an army camp, but is in fact a hotel with one of the finest views in the world. Spread out below us is the twelve-mile-wide crater with trees around a small soda lake at the bottom. A pelican, legs dangling lazily, glides in the thermals. The habitat inside the crater looks less dark, secret and Lost World-like than I had expected. In fact it looks suspiciously as though there is a car park down there. Certainly I can see more minibuses than I can see wild animals. But then it could be the effect of the deceptively strong beer I've been served. I look at the bottle for guidance but it has no label, only the words 'Beer Only' embossed on the side.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 100
  • Country/sea: Tanzania
  • Place: Ngorongoro Crater
  • Book page no: 224

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