21-Nov-2003 -- So finally we made our first successful confluence visit after 2 missed tries on 4S 36E (inside a National Park and un-accessible by car) and 1 abort attempt (stolen GPS while heading to 4S 37E). Albeit, this one was not without adventure since it was in the middle of a dry soda lake!
I caught a flight Friday afternoon to the Ndutu Airstrip which is located in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCAA). Grant came down from Seronera in Serengeti National Park and we headed off to hit 3S 35E. We knew it was close from the maps and headed for Lake Ndutu thinking it was just on the other side of the lake in the woods somewhere. As we made out way down to the lake shore from the airstrip, we had to make a quick detour to make room for a feisty male elephant.
Once we hit the lake shore we started working the GPS but after a while we started to get some funny reading according to where we thought the point should be. It turned out that I had my Garmin Vista set for "course pointer" rather than "bearing pointer", so we got a little confused as to where we were going!
Once we sorted that we started working the point again driving cross country through light woodland/grassland. We then realized that the point was actually out on the lake somewhere! We headed down to the lake and drove up and down the shore to find our closest point to the Confluence which turned out to be about 500 meters. Grant and I congratulated ourselves for an easy bag but it was premature to say the least!
Lake Ndutu is a soda lake frequented by flamingos during the rainy season when the lake is full. During the dry season, all of the water evaporates and a thick crust of salt forms over the lake. Underneath the salt crust is mud; sticky, green, smelly, slimy mud. We started our 500 meter walk and within 200 meters from the car we were in it to our ankles! We paused for a reality check and agreed that we would try for the 100 meter ring and if it got any deeper we would bag it – death from drowning in green slime was not on our agenda.
We made the 100 meter mark and decided to go on as there was a solid bottom about 12 inches (30 cm) down. However, by this time we were exhausted since we had to extract our feet from 12 inches of mud every step! As we got closer to the point the GPS readings were getting more difficult to hold and we decided to call it at 30 meters, since we did not have the energy to go round in circles trying to get in under 10 meters.
We snapped the requisite pics and headed back for the car quite satisfied that 3S 35E was just tough enough for us to break a sweat and have a good laugh.
We followed up this with a second successful and no less adventurous visit to 2S 35E the next day.