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Seronera and Oswego Camp

We drove in to Seronera thinking it was a town. We were wrong. Seronera is a small collection of buildings with vague purposes and questionable structural integrity in the middle of Serengeti National Park. Over the last few days we had allowed our resources to dwindle a bit as we approached this spot on the map thinking that we would be able to top up on gas, food, cash, and whatever else we needed upon arrival. This was not going to happen.

Our first indication that our expectations were off was our experience with the COVID testing site. We were scheduled to fly though Johannesburg on our way down to Namibia and South Africa is still requiring a COVID test (kinda – more on that later) to transit the country – even just to be in their airport. So we arrived at a rusty roofed cement block building with a medical-looking logo on the side to get our tests and check the first item off of our list. We were immediately redirected to what looked like a small military M.A.S.H. unit on the other side of a wire fence. OK. This is starting to get interesting.

Dave – “Hello. How are you? We would like to get a COVID test please.”

Man in dirty olive green t-shirt – “When do you leave?”

Dave – “The day after tomorrow, but we don’t arrive in South Africa until early the following morning.”

Man in dirty olive green t-shirt – “Impossible”

Dave – “Impossible?”

Man in dirty olive green t-shirt – “We cannot get the test in time. You should have taken it 2 days ago.”

Dave – “But the test has to be within 72 hours of our departure.”

Man in dirty olive green t-shirt – “Impossible”

Dave – “Can we try to take the test and see what happens?”

Man in dirty olive green t-shirt – “No. It is not possible. Today’s tests have already flown out”

Dave – “Can we test at the airport? There are more flights.” Man in dirty olive green t-shirt – “Impossible.”

Dave – “But it’s not even noon yet. Your website says that the tests fly at 2:00.”

Man in dirty olive green t-shirt – “It is wrong.”

Dave – “Any suggestions for how we can solve this problem.”

Man in dirty olive green t-shirt –“Enjoy Tanzania. You will be here for more days.”

At this point our medical advisor indicated that our meeting was over by picking up his lunch and walking outside to sit at a table under a tree.

Well shit. That one’s not getting checked off the list. Since that was our only extremely pressing issue, and James was starting to feel a bit ill, we decided to go find our campsite for the night and at least get him comfortable while I sought out fuel and cash.

The logistics on this expedition have been spot on to date. The camps have been fantastic. The directions have been solid. And we’ve been totally stoked with the way that things are rolling out. Until we roll into Camp. As we get out of the car we’re met by a few teenagers in dirty clothes asking to see our permit and an extended family of mongoose who came running out of the “kitchen” building tumbling over each other clutching bits of lettuce, bread, and an unidentifiable brown substance. It’s at this moment that I have a flashback to sitting on Nick’s lanai in Arusha a few days ago as he explained that “There’s ONE camp that I can’t seem to get an update or verification on. It’s always a bit rustic out there, but just get there early in case we need to change plans.” This is definitely that camp.

When we check out the rest of the grounds we find a bathroom that looks like a drunken hippo used it last, and a “dining building” in which team mongoose has stashed at least a week’s worth of leftovers and produce which they are more than willing to defend to the death. Add in the head high grass surrounding the place and the safety factor starts to look like the cleanliness factor. This might the place where James gets to say “I told you so.” as we get eaten by lions.

Fortunately there is a wifi station here as well (God bless the Tanzania Park System). As we meander back to the truck I hop online, find a nearby lodge with availability, and tell the gathering of tattered teens posing as camp guards that we’re just going to take a moment before selecting a site. Getting in the truck I give James the update on what I’ve found and get back a very quick “Then why the hell are we still here?” So we’re off to find the Osero Serengeti Luxury Tented Camp.

Just when we were pretty darn certain we would never find the Osero camp, we spot a small wooden sign laying in the grass next to a muddy dirt track that leads off in the general direction of where we think the camp might be. It just says “reception”, but we feel like we must be on the right track. After 7 long minutes of following this vague trail through the bush we see the top of a tent ahead. And then we see Piniel.

Piniel is the camp manager, and he is running toward us through the brush and pointing off to the side. Turns out that we are on a staff service road and they would very much prefer if we bushwhacked a bit and found the even more vague track that guests should use upon arrival.

Properly directed into camp we quickly ascertain that they are quite surprised to see us. Not just because we don’t have a reservation, but because there are no reservations for tonight in this small, quiet camp. After a brief discussion of logistics, dining limitations, and such we check in and are shown to our shockingly appropriately named luxury tent where James promptly sacks out. He’s been feeling rough all day and is done.


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