I scheduled a late start to let everyone recover from the long journey of our first day. I was happy to see every one looking fresh and cheerful at breakfast especially Martin who had seemed the most tired the day before. The day was bright and sunny so we set off to the Udzungwa Mountains National Park. Modest had misgivings about it as he had driven there last week and been seriously bogged down on the way. We had planned this as an option, depending on the weather – it was the rainy season and I had been monitoring online weather reports rather anxiously as it rained day after day. However this had stopped abruptly a day before our arrival and I was optimistic; I was sure we would get through and find the forest dry and welcoming.
As we passed through a lovely rural landscape of villages, mango trees, markets with piles of fruits, green fields , forested hills and rivers swollen with rain water I asked Modest if we could change our plan and stay the night at Udzungwa – it was looking so beautiful it would be a shame to have to cut our visit short. Without a word he fished out his mobile made a few calls and said – “its done”. I was beginning to really like this guy. We came to and crossed the Great Ruaha River, for the rest of our trip we would never be far from it.
The road, though deeply rutted , was dry and we got to the park in the late morning. Now we had plenty of time and so we hired a guide ( a young lady named N’eema), picked up a light packed lunch and started up into the forested mountain on the trail to the famous Sanje Waterfall. It was the middle of the day, hot and sticky. Rainy season is also the hottest. Still we climbed bravely up the steep forest path, stopping frequently to catch breath and cool down from red-faced to merely pink.
Some trees along the path had signs with their names hand-painted on and N’eema’s explanations gave us good excuses for more stops. Finally, and with much less stress than expected we were at a viewpoint overlooking the falls. A shaded table and benches invited us to take the weight off our feet , enjoy the spectacular view and get our packed lunches out ( turned out to be a spicy vegetable spaghetti with a hard-boiled egg – perfect).
On the way up we had seen some Udzungwa Red Colobus ( a mouthful but that’s their name) lively little monkeys with a bright orange punk hairstyle, found only in the Udzungwa mountains. Now as we started down the path to the waterfall I caught a quick glimpse of a larger grey monkey running along a branch on one of the immensely tall trees we were passing. I described it to our guide, as we scanned the trees to try to find it and we agreed – it had probably been a Sanje Crested Mangaby, another endemic; it was the right size, colour and behaviour but I hadn’t seen enough to be sure.
Oh well, on we went and soon we were by a large pool at the base of the falls. It was a little piece of paradise. Bathing suits came out and soon the heat and the climb and just about anything else were all forgotten as we swam and dunked in the perfect water…
Quite a while later , cooled and healed by our lengthy ablutions we climbed a short way up and started down the mountain.
It was now later in the day and the Red Colubuses where out in force. We met gang after gang of them on the way down up to all sorts of monkey business. With them as well were some of the larger Angola Black and White Colubus; apparently they have different food preferences so the two species get on well together.
We were in no hurry, taking our time and Hilde made sure she had a photo of every tree we passed. Eventually after passing a few forest dwellings, we came out of the forest to where Modest was waiting with the Land Rover. A local had coconuts for sale; seeing me slaking my thirst with the mineral rich water of one everyone soon followed suit. It was a nice end to a super day and we were reluctant to get in the car for the short drive to the Twiga Hotel.
At the Twiga everyone took off to their rooms, leaving me to complete a rather lengthy registration procedure. That done I was about to follow them when the dining room staff asked for our menu choices for dinner. So I went around to each room with the menu and after much discussion (Hilde was in the shower and had to be passed the menu and her spectacles by Jeanne) choices were made. The wide choice of soups was commented on by everyone and when we sat down to eat we eagerly awaited the Onion, Clear Vegetable, Tomato and Cream of Mushroom we had chosen. The soups arrived and much to our amusement – after all the fuss – we all got the same orange coloured dish; it was ,of course delicious and we all had a good laugh for no extra charge.
N’eemi, it turned out, was also the barkeeper at the Twiga. We sat around chatting and she told us that there were many Syke’s (also known as Blue) Monkeys in the area between the hotel and the park headquarters and if we liked she could show them to us in the morning. We arranged for a pre-breakfast walk for those who felt like it.