We drifted off to sleep gazing at the constellations of mildew scattered across our ceiling, with the sound of a crowd supporting a football match sporadically filling the air with cheers and a moped driving in circles around the neighbouring township.
Around 11pm I woke, aware of a presence outside the tent. Listening for a while I could make out footsteps and then, more concerningly, hushed male voices. I don't mind admitting that I panicked and numerous irrational scenarios crossed my mind as I hunted around for the only weapon I could find, Bob's nail scissors.
Fortunately before I dropped on the circling rogues like a whirling nail trimming dervish a deep voice called out and upon poking my head out of the canvas I was greeted by the smiling face of Eric, our new guide. My initial shock must have been visible on my face as he half heartedly apologised for his late arrival before asking where we had arranged for him to stay. Thus followed a slightly stunned silence and I heard an exasperated chuckle from the neighbouring tent as Charlie added a mental postscript to the strongly worded email. With Eric heading in search of a guesthouse we returned to bed and slept intermittently until morning.
The odour in the tent had improved marginally overnight but needless to say a lie in was not on the cards. We breakfasted, with the assistance of Fleabag, and whilst the girls and I packed up PR3, Charlie followed up his email to the manager at Kilidove with a very well articulated phonecall.
His words fell on deaf ears and with Eric champing at the bit we roared out of the campsite to head to the bank which Josh had assured us was open on Sunday... It wasn't. Failing to be surprised by any further hiccoughs we shrugged and amended our plan yet again which resulted in an impromptu restock of our groceries from a shop which sold only tomato purée before trying to track down a man with a drill who might provide Charlie's tent with some much needed holes.
A drill seemed to be a prized commodity in Karatu as we drew blanks with 2 separate groups of 'mechanics' both of which were too busy hitting random bits of dismantled engines with large hammers to offer any further advice. Our third stop revealed the location of the town's drill and after extensive discussion it was wheeled out to produce 2 small, shallow holes in the soft aluminium of the tent's base. The drill looked more like a pneumatic kanger hammer, taking 2 people to wield it and none of us could watch as the drill roared into action. It goes without saying that precision was not this mechanic's forte and the drill was eventually stopped as it tunnelled deep into the tent leaving Charlie shaking his head in exasperation.
As we were unable to enter Ngorogoro without a painful visit to an open bank we decided to head back to spend the day in Lake Manyara, a smaller reserve but with very different terrain. As a cost cutting exercise we planned to head in to the Lake side park after lunch, so leaving us the morning to entertain ourselves and we headed to a coffee plantation to do exactly that.
We arrived at the English founded 'Good-Life' themed hotel which produced 90% of its requirements on site and the Masai guard on duty welcomed us warmly before taking us on a tour of their extensive vegetable gardens. This included beans, pumpkins, herbs, avocados, artichokes, asparagus, leeks, papayas, rhubarb, squashes and even coffee which our guide enlightened us as to exactly how much effort went into creating the finished product. As we wandered back through the amazing network of tiered beds, brimming with lush produce, our red robed guide in his snazzy recycled tyre flip flops casually commented that their most regular nuisance was attention from elephants, which rather put the British bunnies out of perspective with their pilfering issues. On the subject of scrumping Hattie pinched a squash for our vegetable curry.
We jumped at the offer of a cup of coffee on the terrace and walked into paradise. The smell of freshly baked bread wafted over the lawn to where we sat looking out over beautiful, almost English scenery, drinking their home-brew coffee which was some of the nicest I have tasted. It also appealed to both Bob and Hattie, neither of whom are natural coffee drinkers so they were obviously doing something right!
The impressive toilets summed the place up but as we returned to the confined quarters of the car a somewhat unfortunate and unwelcome air freshener arrived in the presence of Eric. With the windows closed, gear changes were almost unbearable and Hattie spent most of her time with her head out of the window as we whirred our way back to Mbo Wa Mtu with as much ventilation as PR3 could muster.
Having asked Eric's advice on where to get a quick local lunch we found ourselves perched at a plastic table and chairs outside a butchery deciding whether any of the very authentic local cuisine which had been thrown down in front of us was edible. The samosas contained bones, the chips were cold, limp, oily and grey and the chicken was questionable to taste, texture and origin. We didn't stay for pudding but I did manage to purchase fists of red and yellow bananas which we devoured as we entered the park.
For a small park the complications over entering were impressive. Charlie, Eric and I waited 20 minutes to be able to talk to a guy about the entry paperwork and after nearly an hour of painfully slow decision making attempts we finally headed through the gates.
We cruised around the rainforest section of the park and were quite surprised how different it was from the day before. We saw blue and vervet monkeys, flamingos, pumbas, elephants, giraffes and wildebeest but the piece de resistance was a local speciality, a pair of tree climbing lions!
In what appeared to be an unbelievably uncomfortable position a relaxed lioness used a branch as a pillow and chilled out 12 feet up in the air, which was very cool to see. A few hundred metres further on an unperturbed little dikdik was enjoying the last of the evening sun and wiggled his nose very endearingly as he posed to be photographed.
We returned to our Bandas just inside the park entrance and tried to enjoy boarder line dodgy steak cooked to within an inch of its life with garlic mash and greens. I can now safely say that we all survived but it was a very worrisome few hours. For our after supper entertainment Hattie elected to try to remove the large portions of chicken and now steak which appeared in Charlie's teeth from the days meals with mixed success.
Eric wisely ate elsewhere but returned with his jumper on the wrong way around... We hoped that it might of been washed, but it very clearly hadn't and any more romantic liaisons were inconceivable.