We almost miss the exit and with quite some speed we drive off the tarmac. The changeover between tarmac and dirt is a sharp cut off and it feels like we’re diving head first into the gravel road. Immediately we are followed by a large dust cloud as we make our way through Mbuya wa Jerumani. Like every small African town there is a large tree that gives shade to almost half of the village. I have to say that the locals are doing it way better than us. They spend the hottest part of the day sitting underneath the giant tree accompanied by friends, while we are sweating and trying to find the right road. Maybe this is one of the downsides of driving around Africa yourself, like we have been doing for the last year: finding your own way, while the experienced tour guide comes hurrying past, leaving you in a big red African dust cloud.
The coordinates we put into the navigation before we left points us in one direction while the sign in front of us directs us in the other. We look at each others questioningly and decide to follow the sign, but not for long. Insecurity hits us when we haven’t seen a sign for a little while and I had just been telling Helga stories about how, as a child, I used to turn signs around to confuse tourists. We decide to turn around and to make sure the first sign we saw is fixed properly.
Returning to the sign we find out that it is and relieved we drive back to the point where we turned around earlier.
We soon find out that we should have just trusted the signs and we know for sure when the dirt road eventually leads us to the gate of Tarangire National Park. It clearly shows that during the rain season Lake Burunge comes up all the way to the road we’re driving on. We’re visiting right before the rains start and dark clouds already form a thick, angry blanket which prevents the sun from coming through. Not necessarily a bad thing in the current heat.
Looking around us we can tell the land is dry and cracked. The earth seems to be ripped open and deep grooves are waiting to take up the first rain like a sponge. The soil reminds me of the skin of an elephant, deep, furrowed, but still beautiful in its own way.
We now obediently follow the signs to the lodge and it’s not long before we see the main entrance. The car finds a nice shady spot underneath an old tree and we get out, all sticky and sweaty after the long drive. Before we can even walk up to the reception area, the staff comes up towards us with refreshing, but very white, towels rolled up in neat little bundles and a delicious watermelon juice. We are handed the towels and as soon as I have mine it turns yellow from all the dust we’ve had on the way. “that will be difficult to get clean,” I think to myself. The staff are extremely friendly and make us feel like we found a home away from home.
We follow them inside and immediately I understand why a luxury lodge like this would settle here. From the wooden deck lake Burunge is visible, but there is also a waterhole closer by. In the dry season this is a popular spot for a variety of animals and we don’t even need binoculars.
Even in the first half hour of our arrival, which we spend on the elevated viewing deck, we see Elephants followed by Wildebeest, Zebras, Warthogs, Nyalas and later on some Eland and Jackals.
By now we’ve spent our first two hours on the viewing deck and a cool breeze makes it a comfortable spot to sit and relax. The staff is quick and gets us new drinks before we can even put down the empty ones. It is such a treat to relax among all these wild animals, it’s the real African experience!
By the time they take us to our exclusive safari tent, made out of a combination of wood, canvas, glass and brick, we feel like they’ve taken us to the other side of the world. Around us is nothing but wilderness. From the bed with its immaculate white linen, situated in the middle of the room, we look onto the African bush and we feel like we’re watching a documentary by National Geographic.
Helga looks at me and says: “I don’t think I will move from this spot in the next few days.” I look at her and we both start laughing.