|On the way to Chala|
To celebrate our successful first week of school, the whole group of us (teachers, missionaries and their families) drove out to Lake Chala – a campground on the border of Tanzania and Kenya. It’s a remote and beautiful place, and the lake appears totally out of nowhere – it’s in an old volcano crater, so it’s isolated, no water flowing to it or from it, just underground springs that feed it.
It felt like any other camping trip for only about an hour – about 5 minutes from the entrance to Lake Chala campground, Stacy (one of the missionaries) stopped the car and said, “everyone be quiet – there are elephants right outside” and sure enough, I looked and just off the road was a herd of elephants – probably about a dozen of them stomping through the bush parallel to us. We quietly opened the car door and leaned out to take pictures – we couldn’t attract too much attention or they might feel threatened and charge. I was totally taken off guard – in a whisper shout I was like, “HOLY CRAP, ELEPHANTS!!!!!” and tried to get as many pictures as I could. And from that point on, I just kept saying to myself, “I’m camping. IN. AFRICA.”
|My housemate/fellow teacher Holly and me|
Camping was cheap too! About $2 per person, to camp overnight – you can even rent a tent to be all set up for you when you arrive for an extra charge of about $10. It was great. The area is just beautiful – grassy woodlands, a clear blue lake and the most amazing night sky, complete with more stars than I’ve ever seen and the milky way.
The best part of the weekend was our hike down to the lake. Since it is in a crater, they’ve created stairs that zigzag down the crater wall, and you hike straight down for about 45 minutes. About 5 minutes into the hike, we came to a point that overlooks the bush area opposite the lake. About 100 yards away there was a watering hole in the middle of a huge expanse of dry bush land. The watering hole is quite the popular location – when we arrived there were hundreds of baboons running around the edge of the hole, having a morning dip. A little ways away were dozens of elephants on their way to the hole. It was surreal to see! One of the kids, a typical teenager, looked at it for a minute and said uninterestedly, “So…can we go now?” I laughed – I could have stayed for hours and watched the scene at the watering hole.
|Baboons at the watering hole|
|Elephants on their way to the hole|
All in all, a wonderful trip to end a good week of school!