Tanzania


15 September 2009 - Arusha - added by Roxy

We crossed into Tanzania and headed north towards Mbeya. On first impression I liked what I saw in Tanzania. The area around Mbeya is mountainous, lush and cool. We were surrounded by bright, sweeping tea and coffee plantations. It is indeed beautiful. 

We spent our first evening in Tanzania outside a camp-site because we couldn't fit in, which is nothing new to us. In retrospect, we were lucky to have not fitted in, because I heard some rather bizarre tales about the place. My favourite was that the camp-site is packed with aggressive dogs, dogs that are only allowed out at night to guard the premises. If you are unfortunate enough to need to visit the loo in the middle of the night, you have to wake up the security guard by flashing your car lights, and he will come and escort you safely to the toilet. Very, very disconcerting.

The following morning we headed to to a highly regarded camp-site known as The Old Farmhouse. The Old Farmhouse is in the middle of dry bush veld with many Acacia trees and great sunsets, which to me, is true Africa. We spent a couple days there relaxing, but were soon lonely and bored. Loneliness and boredom are realities on a trip like this, and we have become used to them. It certainly is a far cry from heaving and stressful London. Steve and I then had a heart to heart and admitted that we were very homesick. We missed our family and friends immensely. We also missed working, washing machines, and of course, Starbucks. So we decided that we would call the trip to an early end and head back to reality. The plan was to put Songololo on a ship in Dar Es Salaam, and the fly to a couple of the spots that we were still aching to see, and then come back to the real world - with a huge thud, we expected.

The next day we headed towards Dar Es Salaam, and drove through the beautiful Boabab Valley, where there are hundreds and hundreds of enormous baobabs (obviously), in a huge breathtaking valley, with a river running through it.




The scenery was quite something. We also got our first glimpse of the colourful Maasai people. The Maasai are pastoral nomads who still hold on tightly to their culture, and their lives centre around their cattle, which is not an easy life in this day and age. You can spot the Maasai from quite a distance because the men wear red cloth that they wrap around their tall bodies in a curious way, they have cool tyre sandals, adorn a mass of bright jewellery and can fit an astonishing number of earrings into their ears. They also have a fondness for stylish shades and cellphones, which does make you look twice when you first see it. 

We spent the evening in a camp-site call the Tan/Swiss Lodge, a confused place that is absolutely covered with pictures of the Alps, in-between very scary child-like pictures of  the Big Five. Their tag line is that it is a place that offers the curiosity of Tanzania and the hospitality of the Swiss. The hospitality certainly escaped us when the staff packed up for the night, left us at our table with a single candle and told us to blow it out when we went to bed! 

Anyway, the following day we headed towards Dar Es Salaam, and found a super camp-site on the south coast called Sunset Beach Resort. Upon arrival we ran into a couple who we have met in Ghana, Congo, the DRC,  Angola and Namibia. We got chatting with them and we admitted that we were feeling rather defeated, and wanted to return home. Seeing them, and hearing that they are going through exactly the same emotions was super. The world does work in mysterious ways, and I think that if we had not run into them, we would have perhaps called the trip to an early end. That, and the fact that a number of family and friends bollocked us severely for even entertaining the thought meant that we had a change of heart and decided to continue. We also realised that it would be something that we would regret for the rest of our lives. 

With that cleared up, we proceeded to have a superb time in Dar Es Salaam. We met up with some more great people and enjoyed experiencing the pulse of a noisy, colourful and chaotic city. It is  very much a typical African city though, in that the electricity is intermittent, the roads are potholed and we still haven't quite figured out what road rules the people were following. One thing that we really enjoyed is the fact that many of the roads are unnamed. This has led to the practice of local businesses making their own street names and putting up appropriate signs! All that said, I'm certainly a city person, so the place was a breath of fresh air for me; and yes, I am aware of the irony in that statement.

After a few days in Dar, my sister, Danielle, and her fiancé, Hilal, flew in from Muscat to come and visit us. We collected them from the airport and immediately caught a minute plane to Zanzibar.     When we arrived in the main town of Zanzibar, Stonetown, I was dumbstruck with how similar it is to Muscat. This does make sense though because Zanzibar was ruled by the Omanis for many years, so the architecture is very similar, but does have some European, African and Indian influence thrown in. I felt bad for Dan and Hilal who had just travelled a fair distance to come to a town in Africa that looks almost identical to Muscat. However, we were soon all drawn in by the charm of the place with it's winding, narrow streets, alleyways with children playing football, beautiful ornate wooden doors and incredible array of colours everywhere. We spent our first evening in a lovely hotel that is  full of character. The building is arranged around a gorgeous courtyard which has a pool in it, and each room has a balcony that overlooks the pool. It is very cute. That evening we went to what was to become our local, Africa House. Africa House is another lovely hotel, which is alive with activity for sundowners, as every tourist in the vicinity tries to squeeze onto the balcony to see the views of the sun going down across the palm fringed beach. Another key attraction to this bar is Gia. Gia is a baby vervet monkey that has been rescued from the previous abusive owners, and now runs around the bar entertaining the most of the customers, but terrifying a few, which adds to the entertainment factor. We liked Africa House so much that we moved to that hotel first thing the following morning. 




We spent a couple of wonderful days in Stonetown, and then headed off for the beaches on the North of the island. On our way up the coast we stopped to go on a spice tour. Spices used to dominate the economy of Zanzibar, so there are spice plantations dotted around the island. On the spice tour you can go and see and taste what the spices are like in the wild. It was really very interesting. One of the highlights was watching one of the locals scale a palm tree. In order to get the coconuts, these guys have perfected the art of shooting up 20m trees. They tie a piece of rope around each foot, and then hold onto the tree and lift their knees up until the rope catches a dent in the tree, they then wrap their feet around the tree and then stand up. They repeat the process at an astonishing speed and almost seem to be jumping up the tree. You really, really have to see it for yourself!!!



After the spice tour we hit the beaches. My word, these are the most amazing beaches in the world. I know that I say that often, but seriously, NOTHING beats these beaches. The sand is white, the water is a hundred shades of blue, and everyone is super chilled out.




It's a lovely place to stay to recharge your batteries; that is assuming that the TriNations rugby isn't on between South Africa and Australia. Steve adores rugby, and when a game is on, then everything else takes a step back. Of course Steve can't watch rugby without a few cold beers to keep him company, and before we knew it South Africa was victorious, we were all as chuffed as hell and having a riot of a time celebrating. Later in the evening we went to watch a Maasai dance that was great. When the Maasai dance they stand dead straight and jump up and down to impressive heights, whilst somehow maintaining their rhythm. They were also doing some acrobatic stunts and some worrying pornographic moves, but that's another story! The dancing served to further our great mood, and we found ourselves partying long into the night. We had a super night, and indeed the whole time there was amazing. Sadly, all good things must come to an end, and before we knew it it was time to leave Zanzibar. 

I have to say that Zanzibar is the best tourist trap that I have ever experienced. It really is great, but be sure to take your piggy bank with you!

When we arrived by ferry back in Dar Es Salaam, we went and got Songololo and headed to the North beaches of the city. There we stayed at a dodgy hotel/camp-site that had all the potential in the world, but looked more like a scrapyard than a beach paradise. In the camp-site was a permanent caravan that someone lived in (chickens and all), a ship container and pieces of toilet paper that adorned the dead trees like Christmas decorations. Scary!! The luxury of Zanzibar was indeed behind us. Dan and Hilal also had to move rooms 6 times! One room didn't have a lock, the other didn't have hot water, one had no cold water, and the list continues. 

We sped away from that scary place early the following morning and headed to Lushoto, a beautiful, fertile town high in the mountains. Be warned though, the trip up the mountain passes is not for the faint hearted. The roads are narrow, there is a sheer cliff on the one side, no barrier to be seen and crazy bus drivers that hurtle around blind corners at ridiculous speeds. I was utterly terrified and actually did think that if it was my time to die, that I'd had a super life. Thankfully, after 30km that felt more like 3000km, we made it to Lushoto and stayed at Lawns Hotel. The hotel is very cute, and rooms have fire places and the views are super. Dog haters will detest the place though. We counted 7 mangy dogs there (one of which was pregnant) and a seriously ill looking puppy. 

We then headed off to Arusha, another town that is leafy, pleasantly cool, but absolutely packed with people who will hassle you to go on safari with them. We'd already arranged our safari though, so from Arusha we went on a 3 day safari with our guide, Adrian and the chef, Kanko. Our safari was a budget safari, and cost $150pp per day. We thought that was very expensive, but apparently it was a great bargain. We stayed in A frame tents that were from many moons ago. And our guide, who was a cool guy, didn't know much about the animals at all. We'd ask him questions, and if in doubt, he would just make up a ludicrous answer, which made us giggle. That was when he wasn't on his phone arguing with someone at full volume, and scaring away any wildlife in the vicinity. 

The first park we went to was called Tarangire National Park. We saw a 2 lions eating a zebra within a few minutes of arriving. We also saw a cheetah which is very rare to spot. We were thrilled. The park is phenomenal. 




We then headed off to Ngorongoro Crater. The crater is jam packed with wildlife, and the grass is relatively flat, so it is easy to spot the animals. There we saw lions, hyenas, hippos and much more. Our camp-site was a real highlight though. In the middle of the camp-site there are zebras strolling around. And there is one elephant that comes to the camp-site to drink water out of the well. He was about 5m away from us, happily drinking from the well, whilst people were going about their daily business. I was pretty taken aback, and wanted to shout out, “HELLO – has ANYONE noticed that there is a humongous elephant in the camp-site??”. We did also hear that there is a leopard that likes to visit the ladies showers from time to time. She's apparently not dangerous...... It's crazy stuff!




After our safari, Dan and Hilal had to leave, back to Dar and then fly to Muscat. The price of their bus tickets to Dar was included in the price of the safari, and we were promised that they would be going first class. In retrospect we should of clarified what first class meant. Their 8 hour drive turned out to last for more than 12, with no air con, on a crammed bus, with insane driving. At least there were no goats and chickens on board.  

We then went to visit some family friends, Will and Shelley near to Arusha. They stay in a lovely spot in the country. They showed us a glimpse of the settler lifestyle in Tanzania. The people out there, many of them ex-Zimbabweans, are a super community. On our first day with them we went along to the polo club to go and play hockey with them all. Playing a game of hockey in a huge green field in the country, with Mount Kilimanjaro in view, is very special. Sadly, our fitness levels and hockey skills needed a lot to be desired. This was given away when Steve had to keep lying down on the field to get his breath back! Afterwards we all went to the club to eat cottage pie with the friendly locals, which then turned into a bit of a riotous party. This was most evident when Steve took a wrong turning on the way home and started driving down the railway line!! Luckily we were on a private estate and were not driving on public roads. 

The following day we decided to go to a town called Marangu that is on the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. We went for the purpose of seeing the mountain up close. Unfortunately, the only camp-site, that boasts about its stunning view of the mountain, requires that you walk for about 500m up a steep road and only then you may see the mountain (assuming that it is not cloudy). Walking anywhere by this point was almost impossible because we were so stiff from the hockey. We did see the mountain though, but the view was not nearly as impressive as it was from Will and Shelleys' house. So, a 200km round trip to see the mountain proved futile. 

We then headed back to Will and Shelley's to partake in the Saturday cricket club. We ended up playing cricket on a bumpy brown field in the middle of the bush, complete with several trees and bushes in the field! There were tents put up, loads of spectators, and some people were taking it seriously; so sadly my participation didn't win me any friends. However, I did score one run, that's after I threw my bat in the air though, much to people's disgust. We had a braai afterwards and mingled with a lovely group of interesting people. They do have a great life there. Not without it's difficulties of course, but it certainly is a super life style. 




The following morning we went to go and watch the polo and tennis matches that are held on Sundays. Fortunately for all, by now we'd given up trying to participate! We then headed off to stay in Arusha for a couple days with Brad and his house mate Nick. We met Brad at the cricket and he invited us to come and stay. That's how hospitable the people are. Just super! 



Comments:

1 .
Happy times and ocngrats on your 1 year anniversary!!!! We still think you should ship your truck to India instead and carry on the trip here! Love Trish and Col
Trish - 7 Oct 2009, 7:17
2 .
sounds amazing and glad you guys came to the decision you did!
Sean - 7 Oct 2009, 7:31
3 .
Sounds awesome guys and loved all the info on Zanzibar. Good tips for when we head there next month!
Belinda - 7 Oct 2009, 7:48
4 .
One more quick question- which company did you guys organise your spice tour through? thanks Belinda
Belinda (again) - 7 Oct 2009, 7:51
5 .
At last! But well worth the wait - sounds fabulous and I can't understand any thoughts of wanting to swop that for London!! Enjoy the rest and keep in touch please. love Mum
germaine lorimer - 7 Oct 2009, 8:37
6 .
Dam you guys make me so jealous! Think we you would have regreted cutting you trip short..although we are missing you guys!
Susan - 7 Oct 2009, 8:39
7 .
Hi Steve & Roxy I went to a talk given by Riaan Manser last night in Jhb covering both his cycle and kyak trips. He must be a nut case for all the strain and hassle!! But very interesting and quite a character. He kept talking about having stories for his grandchildren, hardly mentioned his girlfriend (who appeared in quite a few re-uniting pics) and then said he couldn't wait to see his dog again on his return to Cape Town! Sorry for the girlfriend! Love Dad
Digby - 7 Oct 2009, 9:12
8 .
Hi Steve & Roxy WOW! WOW! WOW! i read your WHOLE journal from beggining to end in a matter of hours!!! - You really are living my dream! love the journal and the way its been told - almost like i was there aswell! - you should write a book with more experiences that havent been mentioned here - ill be the first to buy it! and im not a book reader so that says it all. i have made your web page my home page for every time i log on the net. Rox - Brendon send his love and he's sounding WAY better now - still in Hpital, but things are looking up.
Brad gaertz - 8 Oct 2009, 3:41
9 .
Steve and Roxy. Amazing adventures and good photos. I can't wait to get up to Tanzania and hit the beach. Hope all is well with the vehicle.
John - 8 Oct 2009, 4:42
10 .
You write very well and with nice details. Enjoy your trip. Glad you did not end it! I think you would have had majore regrets! All the very best Allan
Allan - 12 Oct 2009, 10:06
11 .
Awesome journey - brought tears to my eyes reading it earlier! Makes me want to get off my backside and do something different with my life!!!
Paul - 14 Oct 2009, 16:21
12 .
Dear Roxy and Steve, Just a short notice to let you know that we still participate in your journey by following this wonderful website. It’s a great source of information for our own trip down to Cape Town next year and your beautifully written jornals are inspiring and entertaining. Thank you! Always save travelling and good luck, Michael & Sabine (which you met last year in Morocco …)
Michael & Sabine - 24 Oct 2009, 12:58
13 .
Hello Stevie and Roxy First - HAPPY BIRTHDAY Roxy - glad you remembered that it really is in October!! Hope you had a good dinner out in Nairobbery.... Have jsut caught up on your travels since Mocambique - I guess my having being away in the UK and Humph's 2-month trip through the NT and Simpson Desert in Aussie, we're still catching up! Lots of love AA xx
wens & Humph - 25 Oct 2009, 13:05
14 .
Hi guys. Its was so great meeting you and to read about your continuing adventures.See you in London next year!!
Shelley and Will - 28 Oct 2009, 13:10
15 .
Just keeping up on your travels. Sounds absolutely amazing. Glad all is well. You write beautifully and so descriptively, Roxanne. Think about you often, Rose and Lionel.
Rose McArthur - 2 Nov 2009, 10:46
16 .
Hey guys. We are home after our 6 month trip and beleive me, reality sucks. Hold on to your trip as long as you can. Go well and enjoy.
Phill and Kristy (Red Landy) - 10 Nov 2009, 6:50

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