Pretty in Pink – Lake Natron and a lesson in expectations

I found an article listing Lake Natron as one of the most colorful places in the world, a salt and soda lake in the Arusha Region of Tanzania.  I had seen images of its bright pink waters and flocks of greater flamingos and had to go.  A friend helped me organize a local bus, a camp site, and a guide with a motorbike who could take me to the lake and some surrounding waterfalls. 

We left at 6 am, as always in East Africa, and took a track ideal for a 4×4 in a raised school bus.  During the drive I sat next to a missionary and passed the time talking about God and travel.  We arrived at the small, remote village in the north, met up with my guide, dropped off my daypack, and headed to the waterfalls.

It was a sunny warm day and the two of us navigated our way thru a cavern to reach a waterfall running down the back of the ravine.   I can’t resist a good waterfall swim and while floating on my back, my eyes followed the lines of the rocks to the sky, and I had one of those moments of deep appreciation – mindful of where I was and the opportunities I had.  I am in Africa. This is Africa. And I never thought I would be here. 

Above and Below

After a while, our sunny day was replaced with foreboding clouds.  We quickly scrambled back, jumped onto the bike and made it to a nearby lodge just in time for the rain to start.  We waited it out with tea and biscuits and headed back to the campsite for the night.

I woke up energized and excited to visit my glorious pink lake.  I love a life in color and the idea that nature has made a vast pink pool with my favorite birds as residents – how cool is that! I jumped on the back of the motorbike and took off. 

Building my anticipation we first stopped at a fenced site where there have been 24 sets of Homosapians footprints discovered roughly dating back between 5,000 to 19,000 preserved in volcanic ash that later turned to mud. And while this is interesting in itself, my primary focus was my pretty pink lake.

We carried on to a large pan with yesterday’s rain puddles and the landscape morbidly grey.  Petrified would be the right word.  The salinity is so high that everything there dies – trees, birds, everything.  The lingering clouds also lent a haunting feeling to a lonely, deserted place.

Devastated by the barren landscape I asked my guide “Where is all the pink?”

He responded, “Oh, it’s on the other side of the lake – in Kenya.”

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