Devlin and I had been yearning for a remote “off the beaten track” area and after discussions with friends in Arusha we were told we had to visit Enduimet.
Enduimet is located in the Longido District to the west of Mount Kilimanjaro & on the border of Kenya across from Kenya’s famous Amboseli park. Enduimet is a wildlife management area.
We decided that to get there we would circumnavigate Mount Kilimanjaro in an anti-clockwise direction to get a proper feel for this mighty mountain.
15 March - Arusha to Snowcap Cottages via Moshi:
We left Arusha early and headed out east towards Moshi. Our first misty morning views of the huge Kili were with much excitement and Johnny Cleggs “Kilimanjaro” blasting in the background! People tell you it is huge but until you see it standing VAST and huge you cannot quite believe how huge it is. Circumnavigating Kili really is a cool thing to do as it gives you a great feel for this vast mountain and the varying terrain around it. After leaving the main road you head on the sliver of space lying between Kili and the Kenyan border and climb past endless plantations of bananas on steep twisting roads passing monasteries perched precariously on hilltops. And down below you, deep in the valley, lies Kenya. Suddenly the banana groves change to timber plantations reaching high up to Kili. It seems a daily phenomenon that Kili gets covered in cloud from about 9am everyday. So most views are early morning or late afternoon. Our stop for the night was at Snowcap Cottages on the NE slopes of Kili. A previously busy lodge/campsite for intrepid Kili climbers from Kenya. Log cabins and Deodar trees make you feel like you are in the Alps! After our tent was set up we had a lekker chilled afternoon and for the first time felt a little chill in the air being at such a high altitude. We had a few glimpses of Kili that evening as the sun was setting
16 March - Snowcap Cottages to Enduimet
The view the next morning took our breath away. The HUGE snowcapped Kili stood large and proud. And the pink sunrise made it glow pink in the suns first rays. And it had much more snow on the top that we expected for mid summer. The kids excitement seeing it so close was awesome to see!!
Our drive further around the mountain that morning just kept affording us better and better views of the mountain. It really is an incredible geographic icon!
Quickly the lush green plantations were behind us as we approached the rain shadow area. Harsh terrain, chilly mornings and remote almost forgotten villages dotted the road. But thankfully they had piping hot chipatas (rotis) for our breakfast.
As we turned down to Enduimet the terrain turned into dry dusty scrubland.
We have never in our lives experienced dust like this. I think they call it feather dust. Most of the journey from the gate to the campsite we lost sight of the trailer behind a massive billow of dust. And we quickly learnt stopping was a nightmare as the cloud of dust then enveloped you!!!!
This dry parched wasteland was dotted with tall Masai Marons (warriors) and leyonis (young boys) herding their sparse herds of sheep or cattle. Their radiant red/ blue or purple and black blankets seen from miles away.
The dusting down on arrival at our campsite brought on much enjoyment from the kids who were handed grass shanellas/ brooms and given free whacking range on the trailer!!!
Our campsite just near the rangers post was a dream come true. Perched on the side of an open dry pan, a huge acacia presided over us, provided shade throughout the day. No toilets, no showers, no power - just us and the bush! And we had views up to Kili in the distance. Incredible wild camping at its best.
16 - 19 March - Enduimet
The next few days we explored this amazing Savannah area. Wide open spaces, dry scrub lands, koppies to climb and explore and vast open plains. Endless spans of cattle leaving dust trails visible for miles, gazelles, zebras, eland, wildebeest, Ellie’s .... And this eternal white dusty sand. A real sense of freedom was found here - you could walk, get out your car, drive anywhere and really felt alone. We had finally found the remoteness and “out there” feeling we had yearned for. Our hearts absorbed the peace and breathed massive soul restoring hot dry dusty air!
When driving around the Masai were so friendly and wanted to speak to you and some guys even started their traditional jumping /leaping dance for us then begged us to take their numbers and send them our photos!
With the terrain being so flat when you climbed a koppie and got some height you were blown away by the endless views surrounding you. To the east the huge Kili protruded and took up a vast area of space. (Sadly it peak often haloed in cloud) To the north, The red plains of Amboseli (Kenya) and large herds of wildebeest and the whole time one sees these caravans of cattle like ants marching through the plains leaving dusty trails visible for miles. These views made you sit down and just stare and appreciate gods creation and the absolute privilege of being where we were.
Each evening we would return to our campsite and this incredible ranger would have lit a huge roaring fire for us. And we would sit around the fire and gaze at the magnitude of stars and go to sleep with lions roaring and hyenas cackling all around us.
Enduimet was more, so much more, then we could have expected. It is definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and not having a shower for 5 days and having to dig your toilet and the constant dust is testing, but the sense of peace, the feeling of space and freedom was worth every layer of grime!
19 March - Enduimet - Longido -Lake Natron - Wild Camp Ol Doinyo Lengui
A long day of driving lay ahead to get us from Enduimet to lake natron to the west. Another day of serious dust and heat! But the scenery .... we felt like we were driving though Mongolia (dev was there in 2017).
Ol Doinyo Lengui is a massive active volcano which dominates the skyline for a vast area and believed to be the Masai mountain of God. This massive cone like mountain with rocky steep sides is an awesome sight. For hours we drove towards it then around and below it. Kids (and maybe me a little!!) terrified it would erupt again since it’s last eruption in 2019!!!(not that long ago)
After serious 4x4 driving around the base of the volcano we finally arrived at Lake Natron at 4:30pm having started at 8:30am. Sadly our end was not in sight as were told that the entry fees and then community levies were going to cost us over R3500 for one night excluding camping. We were not THAT keen to see this deadly salt lake and knew we had other expenses ahead of us (Ngorongoro and Serengeti) so made a hard decision and back tracked nearly 2 hours to a dry river bed on the side of the road. Our “campsite” was surreal. Here we were surrounded by yellow grass plains and the vast Ol doniyo volcano as our backdrop. Breathtaking! The sunset and sunrise colours will be etched in my memory for ever and know this random campsite will probably be in our top 10 “campsites” ever!
20 March - 22nd March : Wild Camp Ol Doniyo Lengui to Lake Manyara
The following day we headed south down the eastern leg of the Rift Valley. The massive escarpment of the Great Rift Valley lined the right hand of the road and then an endless valley lay to our west. Along this route we picked up an elderly Maasai man on the side of the road. This man exuded grace and wisdom, kindness and cheekiness. A ready smile and a love for kids and a wonder and joy at the world around him. I am not sure how I know all this but he had this amazing feeling surrounding him. A very special man who I wish we could have understood and learnt from. With the language barrier we presumed he wanted to go to the next village which was about 10kms away. A long walk for even a young man. We somehow told him we were heading south to lake Manyara a good 3 hours drive away. When we approached the village we expected him to tell us where to drop him off but he happily sat and waved at all the Maasai people and locals we passed.... He then told us to would come to lake Manyara with us. At this stage I was now praying this dear old man didn’t in fact have dementia and we would drop him off MILES from home and no one would know who he was. I was mildly worried!!! And he had no sign of money to get a bus back. Aaaggh. Eventually after about an hour of this calm quiet man pointing out waterfalls in the escarpment, and chivving on the goats or donkeys we passed, he asked us to stop in a village and told us he would get out here. I breathed a sigh of relief that we wouldn’t have to abandon him in lake Manyayra. I helped him out the car and with it received the most massive hug. My eyes welled up and felt like I had been given a blessing from above. X it turned out there was a large gathering he was attending!
Arriving at Mto Wa Mbu was like coming out of the wilderness to civilisation. Suddenly there were veggie shops and Chipata stalls and tea sellers. This village had such an awesome feel to it.
Migombani campsite is perched on the hillside overlooking lake Manyara. Green green grass and a sparkling swimming pool greeted us like a long lost friend. Not to mention a much needed shower!!!
Two blissful days were spent here allowing us time to de-dust everything from our clothes to the entire car and trailer. Spring cleaning at its best!!! And all the while the kids could swim and play with their new friends from Moshi(Israeli family living there).
We then headed back to Arusha for 3 nights to resupply, do laundry and homeschooling and get sorted for our next adventure to Ngorongoro and Serengeti .....
Enduimet and Ol Doniyo Lengui will remain close to our hearts for a very long time!