“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett.
I was back to fighting fitness and raring to go as we made an early start to the long-awaited and delayed leg of our travels to Ngorogoro and Serengeti. It is a drive of a few hours only before entering the Lodware Gate of Ngorogoro so we had ample time for a few chores in Arusha. First was filling our gas cylinder at Manji’s Gas (the same family that owns our tyre resuppliers ). They had told us that they had the needed adaptor to fill a South African Cadac cylinder. However it was not that simple, they would need to send this to their central depot and it would only be available to us the next day. Something else very strange was that they wanted us to pay in advance, without weighing the cylinder to determine how much residual gas was present to determine the charge. One would have to pay the full price for what was just a top up. Both of these were unacceptable so off we went.
We did some final shopping at the nearby Nakumat supermarket before doing our bookings at Tanapa HQ for Serengeti. All went to plan. Two nights at Ngori Nanyuki no 1 special campsite near Seronera. We were to report to the Tourist Center at Seronera and they would take us to the site. Next were 2 nights in Lobo Hills Campsite which did not require booking. The final 2 nights were at Kira Wira no 1 special campsite in the western corridor close to the Grumeti River.
Task completed with minimal fuss we headed for Karatu and the NCA (Ngorogoro Conservation Authority) office in Karatu. We first stopped at Exim bank in Karatu to pay the fees as we had pre-checked. We were a little displeased to find that the bank would not accept any credit card and we had to pay US$ cash. Having their receipt in hand we proceeded to the NCA HQ where we were a little shocked to find that we should have paid our camping fees as well, for Simba Camp. I was now able to clarify a few things. The banks had been accepting credit cards, but no longer. Simba A was the public campsite, Simba B was a special campsite and was fully booked out by tour operators. We then went to the nearer NBC Bank and obtained the receipt after paying the camping fees. Finally I was again informed that there was no official requirement for a ranger to accompany self-sufficient self-drivers when they enter the crater. After insisting and a few phone calls later, I was issued a note stating that we did not require a ranger (who I had no room for in any case). They then issue you with a smart card for the amount you paid, but with no specific booking dates. When naming this blog I am now wondering what came over me to include the word Slow in the Slow Donkey branding, who did I think I was to tempt fate?
Well, again we were stuffed by this same finger of fate. Thankfully we have both a generous time allowance and a reasonable budget. According to our GPS we turned back not 40km away from Simba Camp. Why did we turn back? Whereas Slow Donkey had been easing along like a thoroughbred, we now began noticing a repetitive rumble from the drive train area. I really lack the expertise for any diagnostics but it was repetitive and the cadence increased with an increase in speed. It appeared to be coming somewhere from the drive train but proved difficult to localize. Once again I immediately turned back towards Arusha as we could not afford to be carried out of Serengeti on a flatbed. It was already mid-afternoon and we could not hope to reach Arusha Toyota before closing time, but we will be there very first thing in the morning. Thank goodness for a homely haven like Meserani Camp. Hopefully, at most all we will miss out on is one night in Simba Camp on the crater rim. We had not paid for Serengeti yet and could still alter these bookings. The NCA fees were not for any specific 2 days so we could still use what we had paid for in a productive manner. BJ at Meserani, an experienced mechanic, went for a drive with me and put the vehicle up on jacks, but could not pinpoint what he agreed was a potentially concerning noise. Fortunately, once again we have no urgent time lines but the times they are a-testing. Testing, testing…1,2,3.