We spent the next two days in Arusha, which is a large, crowded, intense town at the feet of Mt. Mehru. I ran up and down some red-dirt, bouldery roads and we collected provisions and things like a cellular internet connection for when we get to Loliondo. When mentioning our final destination to folks in Arusha, the general response was "Oh, really? Ok... for five weeks? Really?" I can't wait.
We left in a sort of stretch-land-rover, kind of big for the three of us and our driver, Jonas, but necessary for the piles of medical supplies Anne will use and donate. And don't forget the microscope packed into a huge suitcase and buckled into the front seat.
Nightshades are generally everywhere. Datura stramonium is ubiquitous, including its dried, upturned, spiny remains which litter the roadside and look a lot like the skeletons of animals that you can occasionally find on the grassland. In the city, Brugmansia is everywhere - but once you leave the concrete and cinderblock, a new, shrubby species takes its place. It has the characteristic purple five-parted flower and a golf-ball sized, yellowish fruit with the savory name "Sodom's Apple".
The road becomes - well - less easily passable. There are acacia trees, of many different species, thorny and branching across the savanna. Maasai villagers live in compounds made of small circular thatched huts, enclosed by living fences of sisal and Euphorbia. The children are out all day herding goats and cows.
Acacia nilotica is used for respiratory complaints - the fresh inner bark is chewed daily for asthma and the leaves are infused for pulmonary infections. It has a pleasant smell, and a bitter but kind of sweet flavor. Supposedly the young twigs are used as toothbrushes. Will try.
The aromatic of choice around these parts is a native species of basil, immediately recognizable by its elongated seedheads and short, bushy growing habit that is remarkably similar to that of tulsi. It is Ocimum kilimandsharicum, and is delicious between the lip and gum. Traditional uses: fevers, skin infections, bug repellant, digestive issues. Seems about right.
Another ever-present feature is the termite hill. These fantastic structures, which my daughter aptly calls "castles", are at times six feet tall. But perhaps the most exciting experience comes from encounters with the wildlife. There are lots of zebras and warthogs, baboons and monkeys in the forest, and hippos in their wading pools. We even saw three giraffes. But the elephants - wow.
By the end of the day we made it to Ngorongoro crater, a huge wildlife preserve that we will explore tomorrow on our way up to Loliondo. It is a circular caldera, remnant of a four-million-year-old volcano, part of the tumultuous geology of the southern Rift Valley. Over ten miles across, it yawns yellow-green from our vantage point on the rim - over 1,800 feet up. The entire crater sits at over five thousand feet of elevation. They don't let you do any running on the roads here because of the leopards and lions. Bummer. Not really.