WE ARE THE WOMEN WHO TRAVEL TO AFRICA (10) / by Mariam Harraz

I was over the moon heading to north of Tanzania, it kept getting cooler and cooler. I was happy to have more rain without the humidity, even though my rain coat failed me. It was time to make absolutely sure that I had plenty of space on my memory cards and everything was fully charged, the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater was once in a lifetime experience and I couldn’t risk missing out. 

Meserani snake park was an emotional place to stay on the last few days of the tour, it has been open for 23 years and has had a tremendous amount of people camping there because of it’s location but also its principles. It’s run by a very old couple who help the community with their free clinic and donations to schools. The path to the bar/restaurant doesn’t reflect at all once in there. The walls are overflowing with t-shirts in different languages and in all kinds of shape, the torn, the dirty, the new, the big, the small, not only t-shirts there was even an arabic sign saying “stop” and amazing pictures and belongings. All of them doing their job: affecting everyone who enters that is passionate about travelling and the best place for us in 2 days time to spend our last night with each other.

We split up into three groups the next day, the 6 of us: jasmine, Cait, Jake, Fabby, Sarah and I, whom became so close to me in the past few weeks sharing endless jokes and heartfelt conversations that I couldn't ask for a better group, we even named ourselves “The Serengeti Spaghetti’s.” Serengeti used to be a Masaai Mara region where the Maassai people grazed their livestock. Siringet was used to describe the area which means “the place where the land runs on forever” and in a very short sentimental sentence it describes the vast striking landscape of the Serengeti.

The road from the entrance to the actual park was a lengthy and rugged road, our blood rushing to see the wildlife, we stopped at the highest point to see Ngorongoro crater. Ngorongoro used to be a volcano 2-3 million years ago and when it exploded and collapsed it formed a massive whole in the ground that is 610 meters deep. It's voted as one of the seven wonders of Africa and seeing it from the highest point we can, I am not surprised. The flat expanse which is about 250 km in size is purely and solely the most resonant green I’ve laid eyes on, surrounded by serpentine highlands and clouds sitting just above your head our first pinpoint were elephants and Buffaloes grazing on what is said to be a land suffused in minerals that the meaning of Ngorongoro was ‘The gift of life.’ Africans really do have the best names.

On our decent to the Serengeti we began to spot Giraffes, zebras and many other species, driving past hillsides and curvaceous ridges we finally we got to the entrance and a group picture later we huddled back into the jeeps to see what Serengeti has to offer.

The film 'The Lion King' was illustrated by artists who went to the Serengeti (and other places) and drew the landscape, so it was even more special to me because of how obsessed my family and I are with this film. I heard that the ‘Pride Rock’ was captured from here and so I couldn’t wait, but not long before we entered, Hussain, our tour guide was frantically shouting through the radio phone and all of a sudden sped to stop right by a Kopje covered with bushes on the side, our eyes glued to the binoculars, he slowly appeared. A male lion circling the space with all the confidence in the world, all of us in complete apprehension observed his every movement until he eventually left and so did we.

What we didn't know is that this time of the year was the annual migration of the zebras and wildebeest, two animals that worked together because they benefit each other. Zebras have good memories and can remember the direction of the migration and Wildebeest can smell water and protect. 

However, it felt like I couldn't see the end of it, the land really didn't end, it felt as if the dusky sky and grass were touching, thousands and thousands of wildebeest and zebras approaching from the left hand side shifting slowly and grazing. In every direction I looked and as far as my eye can see I could see infinite amounts of black and white dots covering the vast savannah.

This time we were back to sleeping in the wild and a night filled with weird noises later I woke up to the next day of searching for animals. 

We set off before sunrise and caught the nocturnal animals. There was an instance to this day I’m still extremely shocked by: we parked by a group of jeeps watching a gazelle but then we realised it was staring at a lion about 20 metres away, we then saw two male lions sitting and staring at something, when we came closer to see what they were looking at, it was a man and a women playing basketball about 30 metres away maybe even closer. We sped like crazy to reach them and warn them they were being watched, their response was “yes we know” not even a thank you. A male lion can run up to 25 metres PER SECOND when it’s hunting. 

If I had to describe every instance of the safari trip I would be taking away your imagination but as the day got closer to sunset we arrived at our campsite in Ngorongoro, it was packed with people from all around the world. 

Whilst dinner was being served we saw a male elephant a few metres away from us, nothing to worry about considering we were indoors. Later on our guides set up a fire for us to keep warm before bed, so we huddled around the last camp fire and chatted until we saw something coming towards us, a herd of buffaloes, one of the most dangerous species in the world. Our camp guard nowhere insight and the buffaloes getting closer we began to panic, even fire doesn't scare them. We all anxiously kept looking at Colleen ‘what do we do?” she replied “stay extremely quiet and don’t move.” it was not long before they were a few metres away and she slowly slipped away to find a guard, the rest of the campers standing by the dinner hall flashing their lights and taking pictures. My heart was beating faster than ever and my chest was closing up. When they were about a metre away the camp guard came rushing down with his gun strongly swaying them awayinto another direction. 

When we got back to our last campsite after our adventure at Serengeti, Colleen did one final dinner speech mentioning all the brilliant times we had together, we cheered on for her and Lulu, and unexpectedly my group cheered for me, saying “Thank you for all your insane comments and just the funny things you do.”

The last day was travelling to Kenya and literally being dropped off and waved at. Our goodbyes were probably the most difficult thing I had to do, the fact that you don’t know when you will ever see a person who’s become like family and have shared countless of memories with you is heart wrenching. You see, when you travel you show a very different side of you a side even your family hasn’t seen, one that is so fragile and yet so powerful, a side that shows your weakness and strength, a side where you show your intelligence as well as your stupidity, it’s like being married but constraining that to 40 days. You can really tell how much a person has grown, the people you travel with are like friends you’ve grown up with since the day you were born. It’s a very beautiful and emotional relationship and it left me with tears for days. 

Kenya was merely a place for me to relax and get back on my feet, it was a dream having a bed, internet, pizza and TV for a few days but I was already itching to carry on. This final time I travel completely by myself to Rwanda and Uganda with no plan, friends or anything whatsoever.

For the Arabic version: 

http://www.huffpostarabi.com/mariam-harraz/story_b_9922250.html