The Great Rift Valley – correctly called the Albertine Rift – is a tear through the fabric of Africa from Mozambique to the Red Sea which is moving apart at about the rate your fingernails grow. In tectonic terms that’s pretty speedy.
It’s a messy rip made up of the Tanzanian Craton and the Somalian and Nubian Plates. There’s a western and eastern rift with Lake Victoria and the Serengeti between them. The lakes Manyara, Eyasi and Natron, together with the Ngorongoro Crater, are the result of volcanic turbulence along the eastern edge of the Tanzanian Craton.
Here molten magma is close to the surface and the Rift is littered with active and sleeping volcanos, boiling hot springs, craters and black rocks spat out from the planet’s interior like congealed blood of the underworld.
We drove through the tatty town of Karatu and up the Rift wall. From the top the mountains of the Rift fell away, north and south, in ridges of deepening purple. Far below Lake Manyara shimmered under a sky punctuated by towering thunderheads.
It was cool up there and we drove through fields of maize, beans and coffee to Crater Forest Lodge, where I’m now scribbling these notes.