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 sidewalk glowed in the rain, reflecting the light back from the buildings above it. Streetlights were dim, in a more run down part of the city, and the air smelt of ash and stale urine. I could feel my feet slowly crunching against the concrete beneath me, hear the sighs as people exhaled, no longer needing to keep their chest puffed up as they passed a stranger on the street. I had been walking since the sun started setting, wound up. Been having a hard time lately, and I needed to go out again. “It'll only be one more time” I promise myself, knowing that it'd be broken in a couple of weeks anyway.
The air started to become more still, the city slowing its pulse as it fell into a slumber. The sun had long since fell away, and now the lights above me were clicking off one by one. The rain was still falling, each drop falling with a soft pat on my shoulder, like the world was urging me on. As I took a deep breath in, I caught the scent. Drifting towards me from behind, a deep and heavy cologne, followed with slow steps that clacked onto the sidewalk.
I slowed down, moving off to the side and allowing him to pass me. He didn't just walk, but sauntered past. His hair was short, brown, and stuck purposefully into place. The earbuds in his ears shouted his music, and his bag bounced off his back with each step. The hoodie he was wearing was carefully chosen, accentuating his back and arms, hugging tightly to expose the definition. I only briefly glimpsed his face, but it was a confident and cocky smirk. Perfect for me in every way.
The music he was blasting helped cover my footsteps perfectly, as I ran up behind him. We were closing in on an alley way, and as we reached the edge I grabbed the handle on his backpack. He skidded in place, and I swung him into a trashbin. He crashed against it, and yelled at me, swearing. One of his earbuds had fallen out, the music even louder, but all it did was show how silent it was when he saw my knife. The second he saw my knife, he knew who I was, and what was coming.
I swung down with my fist, keeping the blade away from him but driving my knuckles into his jaw. He collapsed against the dumpster again, his head making an audible crack. Even with the tiny bit of light that managed to shine into the alley, I could see the blood on his forehead. A smile was erupting across my face as I bought up my fist again, breaking into a grin as I swung down, and a bellyful of laughter as I hit him again. His head bounced off of the trashbin again, making another hollow thud.
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.