The Road to Noloholo
by Christy Ihlo -- June 7th, 2012
A few minutes before five on Saturday afternoon, the trucks were loaded and we all clamored aboard, starting down the road to Noloholo. Along the way, we passed children herding sheep, goats, and cows, bicyclists heading home for the night, and fields of maize. Almost everyone smiled and said hello, or would reply when I said hello, especially the kids. The light began fading fast and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a huge owl sitting in a clump of trees. We stopped to look and instead of flying away, it turned and cocked its head as if to say “What are you?” It was a spotted eagle owl (which incidentally shares its name with one of my favorite animals, the spotted eagle ray, so perhaps this will become my favorite African owl!). It flew off and we continued on our way, spying huge baobob trees and enjoying the sunset. In the distance was a ridge, the start of the Maasai Steppe, our final destination. Just as darkness closed in, we reached the Simanjiro plains, home to herds of wildebeest and zebra. Unfortunately the herds are leaving the plains for Tarangire National Park this time of year, and Laly told us we might not see any, especially in the dark. However, just a bit down the road, two wildebeest crossed the road right in front of the truck! We joked that Laly had paid them to stay behind for us! A bit later, we came across a herd of wildebeest and a few zebra heading towards the park. We made the turn onto the road to Loibor Siret and came across yet a second herd of wildebeest. I certainly thought we had met our quota of wildlife sightings for the evening! But just down the road we came across a pair of dik diks, the smallest of the antelope! They are so tiny and when they are startled, they defend themselves by simply freezing. Apparently one of them didn’t get the memo on that and would freeze for a few seconds, and then take a few cautious steps, and then freeze again while the other one stood completely motionless. But the best was yet to come. We drove into a herd of zebra, split on both sides of the road. Looking more closely however, I realized that there were also half a dozen or so giraffe amongst the zebra! We could see their heads silhouetted against the skyline and I smiled to see them gracefully run into the bush. Shortly thereafter, we rolled into Loibor Siret, the village closest to Noloholo. Loibor Siret was quiet at this time of night, but there were a few people about. Winding through the bush, we saw a pair of impala hiding in the trees, and then the hillside of Noloholo came into sight. The journey was finally over, and this peaceful retreat will be my home for the summer.