Crater Day

Fr. Joe Herzstein is the pastor of Ngorongoro parish. Olbalbal, an hour and a half to the South, is a satellite mission. Joe and I arrived in Tanzania together in 1966. A few days ago, Joe and I took Fr. Brendan Smyth and Fr. Kisuda, one of the members of our Tanzanian Spiritan Leadership team, into Ngorongoro Crater. Fr. Smyth lives in Brussels Belgium and heads up the European Spiritan Fund Raising Organization called “Kibanda.”

It was a beautiful sunny day, a perfect day to roam the crater floor taking pictures of the animals and enjoying the spectacular scenery.  Ngorongoro Crater is 20 miles across and some hundreds of feet deep, a caldera created when the top of the mountain blew off some millions of years ago. This day Brendan had the opportunity to take pictures of most of the more well known East African animals, wildebeest, zebra, various gazelle, a couple of huge male lions, and a rhino from a distance.

We were surprised at the absence of elephants at their expected haunt, a small forest near the salt lake, tinged pink by numerous flocks of flamingoes. Disappointed at not seeing any of those most magnificent of the Ngorongoro crater dwellers, we went on to the hippo pond for a delicious lunch of cold chicken and hard-boiled eggs prepared by Joe. Despite having to compete with swooping birds for our food, we enjoyed a great picnic. A couple of massive hippos chose that hour for their mating rituals and vied with the dive bombing birds for our attention.

Awaiting us as we exited the hippo pool was a most incredible sight. Some seventy elephants were grazing on the open plains on the side of the road. They were not spread out but were grazing the prairie grass in compact groups. I had never seen so many elephants at one time. Brendan was able to get some stunning close up pictures.

crater2crater1herd2herd1It was a good day. Brendan is the man that found most of the funding for the Olbalbal car, the Toyota Land Cruiser we used for our crater excursion. He will retire from the fund raising job at the end of this year, so it was a chance for me to say ‘thank you” for the help that he has provided Olbalbal.

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