We left the Serengeti this morning and headed to the Oldavai Gorge. You know that place, it’s the cradle of mankind. Technically, we’re all Tanzanians. Pat suggested they issue honorary citizenships for $5 each.
On the rain-soaked roads (we had a wonderful lightning and thunderous storm last night), we saw a pack of hyenas, kori bustard, chanting goshawk, and some jackals. The Gorge is a 31-mile long , Y-shaped, river bed stretching on the east from Ngorongoro Reserve to Serengeti Reserve on the west. The river bottom soil is basalt devoid of life. Next up is volcanic ash making up Layer One (1.5 million to 2 million years), where they found Lucy, a very important human track containing human footprints preserved in solid ash deposits which was researched and then re-buried for periodic study (they’re digging it up again next year to preserve in a new museum on the site by 2015), and early stone tools and animal bones. Then comes Layer Two made of some ash and sandstone (800,000 to 1,500,000 years), where not much is found because river sand doesn’t preserve much. Layer Three (600,000 to 800,000) is that iron-rich section you’ll see in one of the photos on the top of a dirt island in one of the photos (again, not much). And then there’s two layers leading up to the rim of the Gorge where the visitor center is. Lots of stone tools, animal bones, and evidence of recent ancestors were found in those deposits.
Notes of importance: 1) it’s Oldapai, but an early German researcher heard it wrong from the Maasai (the name is from a Yucca-like plant found there); 2) Mary Leakey found the Australopithicus skull on a day when her husband was back at camp sick; 3) continuing research is being supported by universities in Spain, and in America at Rutgers, Wisconsin, and UC-Berkeley. The Getty Institute is funding most of it.
Just before lunch, we left the Gorge (not without pocketing a small stone which could have been a hand-tool while no one was looking) and drove to the Ngorongoro Crater to the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge. Lunch overlooking the Crater was exquisite, though some remarked that the staff seemed like they were in training compared to other Sopas we’ve been to. In late afternoon, we’re catching up on travel routine chores (laundry, emails, blog posts, and a group orientation before dinner.
Not many photos, but click here to see them: Wednesday, Feb 29th, Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge