For what looked like miles, there were fields of deep, blood red grass stretching into the distance. Each blade floating, gently bobbing from side to side, in the lightest of breezes. Each of those blades soaking up energy being beamed down from a small dwarf star some few million miles away. To the east you could see a tremendous range of mountains, boasting blue and shimmering trees that glinted like a Caribbean shore. To the west, a deep canyon, going to the core and showing the heart of the planet itself. At night it cast a radiant glow across the fields, the millions of blades of grass reflecting both that and the vista of the moons and stars above. To the south, you could see the cold. The frost like tendrils seemed to pierce the very air, turning even the hottest of objects into glass with a graze. Lastly, to the north, were the never ending fields of lush, red grass that felt like velvet on your skin. And there, in the center, watching this alien star set over the azure mountains, was you.
You take a step forward and brush a blade of grass, not sure whether to expect pain or pleasure. When you realize it's the latter, you run forward and realize gravity means nothing here. You're gliding through the fields, each step carrying you 20 feet as you take titanic graceful strides. The blades of grass are caressing your face and hair, extending towards the sky another 10 feet above you. You take one more step and jump, wondering how far you could launch yourself. You clear the top grass and begin to flip upside down, slowly and gently. You extend your finger and brush across the tips of the grass and watch it ripple away just like water. You look around you and see those glorious blue mountains shining a last salute, almost unbearable to look at due to the intensity of it's mirrored reflection. You look over, and you can see the canyon to the west, already glowing the night sky. A night sky which is filled with complex and gaseous nebulae, pock marked and icy moons, rings and more planets yet beyond your own. You see this intricate and exquisite extra-terrestrial artwork, look upon this wonder that no one else has seen before. How do you feel?
The emptiness of space is staggering. The complexity and sheer enormity is beyond any humans comprehension. The distance between us and the sun is by no means small, but compared to the distance between us and another galaxy, it is pathetically insignificant. Those thoughts alone were enough to drive my child mind crazy, and that horrifying feeling resurfaced 3 years, and not in a way that I'd have hoped.
I was walking home from the mall, a new video game in hand and an itch to start kicking ass. Music blasting through my overpriced headphones, I was still trying to find a way to kickstart happiness. The video game was an impulse purchase, a means of trying to get this day to fly by faster. The cars were zipping by, the dense fog not slowing them down at all. Unsurprisingly there had been an accident an hour ago near the mall, someone ripping their front bumper off and causing quite a nasty bump to the taxi in front of them. While interesting to watch unfold, it was a cue to get home and away from the daft drivers.
I ran up the grassy hill, careful not to slip on the rocks as I had done countless times. I, of course, did, and promptly started singing out a string of swears that would make Ozzy proud. The street, a small cul-de-sac, was empty. This was unusual, as the weather here is pretty predictable and the kids have never been stopped by such a thing before. Nonetheless, it merely made the walk more enjoyable without having to look every 3 seconds to make sure you weren't about to step on the head of some innocent child. I slid the headphones around my neck, fishing the keys out of my pocket and prancing up the stairs to unlock the door. The key strained as the deadlock made the satisfying thunk as it clicked in, letting the door open. I, without looking, twisted the door handle and walked inside, still looking at my phone to check my email.
As the door shut behind me, something became startling. There was no light. This was a problem as it was 3 in the afternoon and my door was surrounded by windows. I looked up and immediately dropped my phone. The space was vast, beyond anything you could have ever imagined. Everything was beyond black, something devoid of all color. That's what I've come to call it now anyway. The void. I retrieved my phone from the ground, the dull glow from the naughty screensaver illuminating my shoes. I couldn't help it but I uttered a very distinct “What the hell”.
This is when the panic sank in. A couple of minutes must have passed before I backed up, hoping and praying to hit the doorknob. I didn't hit anything. I turned around and there was nothing. Nothing as far as the eye could see. My feet didn't feel as if they were touching anything solid. It was like walking on a cloud that some how kept me sustained. Then again, I'm not sure if I was moving at all, or if my feet were connecting. Naturally I unlocked my phone and tried calling 911, hoping I was suffering a psychotic break and this was something that could be fixed. The only response from my phone was a “No signal” notification and a dropped call.
African safaris have made countless romance and other novels simply because there are never enough words nor accurate words to capture the experience. I know that now for a fact.
DAY 1. The trip started on African time where no hurry is the order of any day. An hour plus drive to the city of Arusha for a fuel stop and a lunch stop somewhere in between before heading on towards Ngorongoro National Park. That road trip seemed shorter than the first time somehow and there we were at the entrance gate of the park, being greeted by the resident welcome committee of baboons. "Remember to wind up the windows before getting out of the car"… sure, but I wasn't getting out of the car so I left the window open to enjoy the cool breeze. My second mistake was to fiddle with the pack of biscuits leftover from the lunchbox. Before I knew it, a big bad baboon had bounced into the car right into the driver's seat. He grabbed the packs of shortbread biscuits, took a look at the fruit juice tetrapak and decided he liked that too… whilst I gaped at him at less than 2 feet away. I guess I must have uttered something like "shoo" and gestured for him to scoot out the window and fortunately he did just that. Okay, that was close, as I saw him settle down below a tree and have his afternoon teatime. Since there was no more food visible in the car, I made the third mistake of thinking I was safe now and could leave the car window open as it had been. Just as my breathing and heart rate returned to normal, Mr baboon (or his relative) decided to pay another visit and there he was again in the driver's seat looking around for titbits. Not satisfied that there were none around, he clambered over to the backseat and dug round, failing to open the ice box. That was all too close for comfort and I opened the door and scrambled out the car - now how does one get a baboon out of a car? I tried reasoning with it (ok, "shoo" did not quite work this time) and then waved my arm to signal that he should get out (and why is my guide taking so long to get the park pass?). He wasn't too pleased about it and when I waved the seat cushion at him, he launched at me with teeth bared and fortunately (for me), he only managed to touch my arms with his dirty paws (I have dirt on my shirt to prove it!). That's it, he was out! I scrambled back into the car, shut the door and wound up the window faster than you can say 'boo baboon'. There was a similar episode being played out in the next car as a baboon entered the car through a half-closed window and foraged for edibles… whilst the poor lady from Lithuania screamed in panic (i'm fortunately not too good at screaming). Karibu to Ngorongoro National Park, pole for the baboons.
The Ngorongoro Crater is a unique natural wonder that simply seems unreal, a cradle of life preserved from eons. It is millions of years old, yet is full of life and vitality.
It's serenity gives the impression of time stood still, yet the circle of life spins on endlessly. Its ephemeral beauty is apparent, yet its richness can only be discovered deep within. We drive around the crater, heading north to Ndutu area, where the wildebeests are migrating.