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Kwa Heri Ilongero, hello Southern Highlands and Lake Nyasa‏

Byebye village life, helloooo adventure

Ilongero seems like a longtime ago already.

It was a bit sad say saying goodbye, especially to Maria - my Tanzanian Mama - some of the teachers, Baba Horota and the people at the mission…and the dogs. I didn’t even get a chance to see Mama Shayo or principal M as I had to rush home to be there for when the bus passed the house to get me! It was funny at the mission as one of the new kids, when I was up in front of the class to say bye, just said “haya” ("ok then") and carried on with his work so everyone laughed at that. He couldn't have cared less...love the honesty. One of the girls wouldn’t shake my hand as she said I have to stay. I'll miss them. Lydia and I got a bit teary and of course at the police station I said farewell to Oni, and we held hands as he walked me out. He is very disappointed that there are no more mzungu girls remaining to call his fiancé.

I went to the hostel the night before leaving to see all the girls, that was actually quite sad as they all said “usiendi!” (don’t go!) then we all got photos together which was fun. Again, hands patting my head, strands of hair being pulled here and there. I was told I must return for chai the next morning before leaving so I went Friday morning and had some photos with Sara (the matron) and again we were both on the verge of tears. It was good to have at least one thing happen before leaving though (the life skills seminar) and also a Tanzanian girl came has come for a few weeks to see if she will stay and work for the org. G sprung this upon us a few days before so I only had one day with her before leaving. She has studied development and was very sweet and I think it will be a good thing to have a person from Tanzania there running things, and she seems quite strong so GIRL POWER to her.

One night during the week S and I were meant to go to the principal M's for dinner but there was a misunderstanding as we thought it was more of a ‘more details to come to confirm’ type thing but turns out it was confirmed and they slaughtered one of their chickens for us for dinner and waited for hours. Noone worries about making you feel guilty either, especially as we rescheduled and another chicken was served up and S reminded them she doesn’t eat meat (bloody vego’s...was I that annoying when I was one?) and Mama Willie put on such a guilt trip, I would’ve just eaten it! Well, of course I did....but even if I was a vego. I did have to wait until noone was looking and chuck the offal back in the serving dish.
Not quite there yet.

I didn’t want a leaving party but I did go to the duka for bread one night, bump into Mfinanga, the police chief and other regulars – and it is rude to refuse a drink – 3 hours later managed to escape, pretty jolly, and head home. I love those moments. One of my last trips to town was also as exciting as usual, 27 people in the car, a boot full of fish, a couple of break downs and standing in a Tanzanian sandwich, so tangled I didn’t know which leg was which when I could feel pain and wanted to move it. When you are sure there is no space, a few more people get in, except one when they pulled over for a larger lady and then decided against it and yelled out “not you, you're too big”. Not really offensive here. When I was trying on clothes my fundi mama made me, everyone in the shop commented how lovely the clothes were but “she has no belly though” like it's a bad thing. I'll take that though, after all the ugali, pasta, chapati, beans, rice etc I have been devouring. I just know I won't find maharage & ugali like the mama's in Ilongero cook again :(

In the bus, a lady tried to pass her baby to me and it took one look and SCREAMED in sheer terror and wouldn’t stop, they had to pass it to the back of the bus away from me. Which reminds me, in Kigoma walking through the market, a lady held a toddler up to me and said “take the child”.

So, since leaving Ilongero, I met up with J in Singida and had him offer the services of some cousin or brother or uncle or some kind of relative in most places I am going, but sometimes can be hard to relax in someone elses home. Maybe I will take him up on this in Dar es Salaam at the home of the ex vice president. Sounds interesting. Got lots of clothes made by fundi mama using my vitenge and kangas, though of course as usual – even though she writes down what you want as well as me giving her a drawing – she just goes with what she feels like at the time and instead of a shirt I may get a dress, instead of a flowy kaftan I get a tight dress with shoulders that look padded – pretty in fashion here. Then passed Baba Shayo and got given a bunch of biscuti for the road. I really love it here, all the complaining aside. I will look back on it all and laugh.

I had one night in Dodoma, and boy don’t I know Ramadan has started! The guesthouse was opposite a mosque and there are even more blaring prayers and speeches over the megafone than usual. It was worse in Iringa, again close to a mosque with some guy making speeches from 8-10pm and then 5-6am. I’m all for you having a religion but I do love my sleep...this and the 5:30am repairs to a metal gate at the hostel. No one is too big on respecting others' peace and quiet. So have had some pretty painful nights, with the flu as well as more stomach trouble, rotten burps and pregnant belly again. I found myself sitting trying to decide which smelt worse, my farts or my burps (which smelt like farts so samesame really...too much info?). The burps won, poor man sitting next to me on the stinking hot bus to Iringa. Roads have all been sealed, (hooray!) but with that comes crazy speeds and we passed several overturned trucks on the way, a few still lying across the road and scarily a lot were petrol trucks. On the way to Iringa in the Southern Highlands, as on my tour last year, the bus passes Mikumi National Park for about 45mins and we saw zebras, giraffes, buffalo, baboons and impala crossing the road. Then Baobab valley, which I was so disappointed to have slept through last year. WOW! Especially for someone who loves Baobabs. The road goes through the valley following a river and either side the slopes of the hills are covered with thousands of Baobabs! All it needs is darkness and mist and would be the perfect setting for a ‘haunted woods’ scene in a cartoon. I was so tired when I got to Iringa that when I went to have a shower and the electricity – and with it the hot water – cut off I cried. A real baby moment. Iringa was nice, not as cold as I expected. A medium sized town set amongst rocky hills, of the Southern Highlands, it is nice and laid back and I barely heard “mzungu” or got bothered. I went for a hike to Gangilonga Rock, just out of town, where Chief Mkwawa – a legendary figure in Tanzanian history and chief of the local Hehe tribe in the late 1800’s – often meditated and where he learned that the Germans were after him. After leading his army to defeat the German troops on several occasions, they eventually succeeded and legend has it Mkwawa committed suicide rather than surrender. His head was cut off and the skull sent to Germany (it was returned in 1954). It was a nice walk up there and from the rocks are views over town and surrounding hills. I wouldn’t have meditated in silence as there were a few young guys up there screaming out loud a Westlife song. In the afternoon, while a little lost looking for a particular craft shop – Iringa has lots of good souvenir shops – I ran into one of the teachers from Ilongero so the next day we went to the Isimila Stone Age Site together – right up his alley as a history teacher. The ‘guide’ wasn’t great. We walked a bit then came to the edge of a valley and just stopped and waited in silence for a while just looking down until I had to ask what it was we were looking at. And a lot of questions he would just wait for you to give some options as answers and he’d just say yes. I used this trick waitressing when someone would ask about a dish, I knew what he was doing. We were at the ‘Natural Pillars” which was a surprise of the tour I didn’t know anything about and better than the stone age site itself. You descend into a steep valley and walk along a dry river bed where erosion has left really tall sandstone pillars, some with a striking resemblance to a certain male body part. Was pretty cool (the pillars, not that they looked like willies. well, maybe a bit).The stone age site is where in the 1950's archaeologists uncovered some of the most significant stone age finds ever identified, mostly tools such as hammer stones, spear heads and knives from rocks estimated to be 60,000-100,000 years old. They're just left under a small thatch roof shelter and the museum is pretty boring but I tried to look excited looking at photos of what we had just seen. There's another past chief buried in a nearby cemetry where powerlines were built across but spookily the electricity would not pass this spot so people thought to dig up the cemetry but apparently many people involved died in freak accidents or mysterious ways so eventually they left it and just made a huge detour for the lines. For lunch one day was a hot chocolate, chocolate cake and chocolate brownie - no amount of stomach upset, pain and swelling will get in the way of my 'western food' splurge. The staff are all hearing impaired at this place so the menu teaches you to order etc in sign language, that was great I thought.

After Iringa I planned to stay in Mbeya but passing through on the bus just looked like another big dusty town so hopped on another bus to Tukuyu. Loved it there. The drive there is so beautiful, very green, rolling hiils, distant mountains and lots of banana, tea and coffee plantations. I have managed to find a guest house where i can not hear any calls to prayer though I didn't ask if there was water as usually this is a pretty standard inclusion. There is not. But as a bonus during the day a portable ATM sets up right in front of my window so I have an armed guard with AK47 watching over my room while I am not there. Lucky as the lock is pretty dodgy. Tukuyu is a very small town on the rise of a hill, surrounded by mountains, tea farms and with views of the cloud covered Mt Rungwe, the 2960m dormant volcano. One day I did a hike with a guide and a few uni students to Ngozi Peak and Crater Lake a 2920m volcanic peak, the subject of local legends. The local tribe believe the lake used to be located closer to Mt Rungwe but the peoples' cows would go there to drink and disappear. They heated a huge stone and put it in the water to dry it up and then it appeared where is is now located. Apparently where it used to be is ALWAYS damp even when everywhere else is dry. They believe in special uses of the water but you must bring a gift in return for the spirits or bad things will happen. The hike was beautiful. An easy walk for about 8km then a steep climb using tree roots as ladders. The fog was so thick it was like rain, so cold I couldn't feel my face and unfortunately due to the fog we couldn't see the lake but it probably set a better atmosphere for the walk. The boys all laughed at me when I took the bread they offered me and I automatically reached for my water to have with my food, which Tanzanians think is so strange. Ok to have tea with EVERYTHING but water...bit weird I am learning. I tried to have breakfast (this meal is called 'chai' which is also the word for tea so i suppose it makes sense) without tea one day and the girl wouldn't accept it, she just laughed and brought me tea. It is always soooooo sweet too (like the pasta....sugar in pasta hmmm tghat's new to me) I had an extra day in Tukuyu to walk around town and down the main road for several hours - i clearly like the place as i very rarely walk around towns - must be the cool climate, it even rained! Stopped for a chat and lunch with the traffic police and met lots of nice people along the way who thought it was a bit weird I was just walking with no destination. Lots of hugs and only here could I feel not feel threatened talking to a man with a machete with noone else around. I tried to fit in as many meals of pineapple as possible as theyre so cheap and sweet and delicious there. Also in Iringa and Tukuyu there are lots of 'Libralies' as in certain areas people prounounce L's as R's and R's as L's, such as "Habali" instead of "habari". The other day I saw a Che Guevara sticker on a truck window with "Peace and Rove" underneath ahah. not sure he stood for peace anyway but definitely 'rove'.

After Tukuyu I took a few buses following the Livingstone Mountain range down to Matema, a quiet lakeside village on Lake Nyasa. Changing buses in Kyela the sealed roads end and the vehicles are ancient. There was so much stuff on top of the roof you could see it caving in. This is usually a bit of a worry especially when the bus guys keep coming in to check on it with each bag or sack they load on top. With a push start from a few guys we were on our bumpy way, thinking this one would take me all the way as the sign on the bus said Matema, but apparently that just means its going in that general direction so then had to wait in some village for a couple of hours for the next bus. Sometimes it is easier to climb out the bus window than try to make your way to the door. It was worth it! After a couple of sweaty and tiring hours dragging my luggage around with my new friend from the bus Moses (no taxis, the main transport is bike) everywhere was booked out except a litte way out of the village some very nice bamboo bungalows, outdoor tree shower, on a private area of the beach, even more private as I was the only guest. beautiful. Had a day on the beach getting my legs and shoulders out all over the place! Scandal! Talkng to an older German man about the issue of accommodation he kindly offered me the spare bed in his room if I couldnt find anything else but also warned me he hadn't seen his wfe in 4 months Haha. Gotta love people.

Next day I moved up the beach to a cheaper place for the next few nights as I decided to stay and wait for the weekly ferry to Mbamba bay. The beach is pebbly, with the backdrop of the mountains, sometimes it seems like a nudist beach as people use the lake for bathing and washing clothes. in the afternoon the fishermen head out on the canoes - the 2nd most common form of transport. The village is one main dirt road, with paths to the houses surrounded by tall palm trees and cocoa and cassava plantations. You can aways tell there is cassava around when you smell the strong cheesy smell it puts out when drying. mmm cheese. what? Oh, where was i?...The area is known for the clay pots women make, I got myself a special chipsi mayaii clay frying pan later in the week from a nearby village the ferry passed. Moses turned out to be the watchman of one of the resorts and when i freaked out at the cost of meals at the first place he even offered to bring me ugali and beans from his home. He then became my guide and one day we went to a nearby watyerfall, which for some reason I expected to get there by canoe and just look at it but it turned out to be a 'walk' and we were literally rock climbing sometimes. Not ideal to wear swimmers and thongs. I was screaming and in the end reverted to English so hopefully he doesn't understand swear words. There was a lot of crab crawling by me when I just couldnt bring myself to stand. The waterfall was ok, but i think i've seen enough and unless the next one is like Niagra Falls, i'm not hiking to see it.

Another morning I did a hike up one of the mountains to see the lake and village from above. People actualy have to farm on the steep slopes of the hill! the path was so narrow and steep i was again crab crawling as women gracefully passed with huge sacks of potatoes or charcoal or stacks of firewood on their heads, without a care in the word. The afternoons I had on the beach sunbaking, walking down to the village to try put my name down for the ferry several times to be told to come back the next day (never succeeded but was always joined on my mission by a couple of old men - who ended up arranging to meet me as I departed on the ferry to say goodbye...they waited with me for hours in the sun on the beach for it to arrive, how sweet) and studying some swahili, which sometimes turned into a bit of a class as primary school kids whose teachers were not teaching came to hang out. Met a very sweet girl who left and came back with a very pink headband as a gift for me. Lots of people ask for things here though, starting with money, then footballs then anything they see with you. One old lady with an injured leg came and sat with me asking for money and even after I declined and tried to say why, she sat there staring me in the eye. Way to make me feel evil. AIt never gets easier really. Another day I went out on a dugout canoe to see the "fishies, there are bluey fishies, greenie fishies, pinkie fishies, whitey fishies, blackie fishies" (how could I say no!?) i mainly went for the ride which was lovely. passed lakeside villages where more people were washing on the beach, bending over to wash their feet without a thought of the view we were getting. Had a sunset photo session on the beach with a bunch of Tanzanian guys visiting for the day, had to pose as requested, then for the last night I was invited by a german volunteer and the old german man with the spare bed (he is building a boat for a nearby village to transport the clay pots as boat is the only way to reach there) to dinner with the village chief and his wife which was nice followed by a few much craved COLD beers.

After 5 very relaxing days and with feet back to normal colour with the dirt well and truly cleaned off, I waited to board the ferry to Mbamba Bay, on the south east side of the lake. Arriving at the beach at 11 as told, the 2 old men that had joined my several missions joined me to wait. I was assured by everyone it was the big ferry, straight to Mbamba Bay, I would get a room with bed, meals etc. Then on the horizon appeared the small ferry, but still i was assured meals and a good seat, even when I asked if I should run on to get one and "no, not necessary". By the time I got on, had an argument when I was told it does not go to Mbamba Bay but stops a couple of hours out of the bay, and told the ferry staff I hate Tanzania today because everyone lies (really people just tell you what they think you want to hear), "do you understand Bulls*#t? This is bulls*#t!"...there were no 'seats' (wooden benches) not even space to stand up! I sat out the back on the ledge for a bit to cool down then unknowingly climbed the ladder into the captains cabin where i was welcomed and it ended up being an awesome journey, for the whole 29 hours! Very much the boys club, the older men treated me as a daughter and the younger guys as a sister. A couple in particular made sure the cook prepared me nice meals, and when we got to Liuli - the village the trip ends - paid for a couple of guys to carry my luggage to the guest house, paid for my room and gave me their phone numbers when they returned to work on the boat in case I had any problems. They even requested a room where I would not get upupu (my new favourite word meaning a 'rash') from the sheets as they had all experienced the last time, and one woke at 5am to help me get on the bus to Mbamba Bay! Princess treatment! On the ferry I felt bad every now and then enjoying my comfortable padded seat and meals, constant supply of coffee and hot chocolate if I would look down the ladder to the passenger area and meet someone elses eyes, but then I remembered how when I was looking for somewhere to sit or stand and no one so much as shoved a centimetre and away went the guilt. The conversation turned to one of their work trips to Europe and amazement at the 'adult shops' and that there are blow up dolls! which, fyi, now come as plug in and light up and vibrate. They were amazed at how when wazungu marry it means just you want that one person, and baffled how men can be on the beach with girls wearing bikinis and not be 'affected' as when Tanzanian men see thighs they "can not help it because the thighs are a sligtly different colour skin" so the girls must cover up. It is nice being referred to as dada (sister), not mzungu even when they don't know I am listening.

As the sun set I found a couple of sacks of cassava flour (which smells sooooo nice, not the cheesy smell...almost like a mild cocnut scent) to use as a bed near the railing out on the cargo deck. Got under my shuka and slept - a little - under the very bright moon. a 30 hour boat trip was more pleasant than even a 5 hour bus trip, well, with the mzungu upgrade at least. Thank you pastey skin and blonde hair, you really help me sometimes. As we pulled into Liulu the next night the captain called ahead to make sure the beach was clear of crocodiles so we could leave safely...with a slightly nervous jog from me and not before a few Crocodile Dundee jokes...the captain is a fan. The mlinzi at the guest house was a tiny man who would have been at least 80, and we had to shake him to wake him up so we could get in haha. very secure. Then the early bus to Mbamba, which wasn't too bad until the lady next to me started spewing into a plastic bag. At first I felt sorry for her until we arrived and she threw it on the floor of the bus and i ended up with her vomit on my foot. Luckily by now I barely flinch when things like that happen.

From Mbamba Bay town, got a pikipiki - with much difficulty getting all my luggage AND me on, i was very cosy up against the driver (3 people on a pikipiki is called mishikaki (kebab) and you often get guys drive by offering you mishikaki?). arriving at Bio camp at the village of Mbegele on a private beach away from the pests of town i was given a good discount by the manager, Bernardo, who is always LITERALLY running around and when you request something he giggles, "ok ok" then RUNS off to get it i.e. salt, which I have become addicted to and as I had luggage I got to use one of the bungalows instead of a tent, though it was just a matress and my mosquito net put up I had my own bathroom and felt quite lucky. The staff at places in the south are very hospitable, not like 'fat lazy' in Singida (as nicknamed by us volunteers when the man introducing us simply stated 'FAT...LAZY' as she walked away in her usual 'i am telling you I am going to get your towels/key/change etc but I will not return' attitude) and the other people who make you feel like you are very inconvenient for making them work and even try to talk you out of staying there. There was no electricity there so it was nice at night when they set up a beach bonfire to sit around under the amazingly clear sky and watch the glittering lights of many fishermen on the horizon. I didn't do this the 2 nights i was the only guest as what could be lonlier than sitting around a bonfire by yourself? I barely moved off the beach, it is soooooo calm and silent in the morning! One day I thought I should move at least (you know you're being lazy when you get up to walk 10m to your meal on the sand, as they all were, and return to your towel after eating in need of a nap) and went for a 'walk' to the rocks with a young guy and older gassy german man which turned out to be very difficult and a lot higher than they looked from the beach and of course i took my camera so i couldnt swim back with them as I had planned to get to the hill and walk back but the boulders are in the water and it was impossible to get there. They had obvioulsy noticed my struggle on the way there, when at stages i had to be carried on both of their shoulders haha like my slaves - so on the way back i could hear them calling out my name and eventually one came to help me back, just in time as I was close to tears, imagining some '127 hours' type of situation. Enough of rock climbing for a while. Had a walk down the beach to the village area, where "village kids" can be without one of the staff chasing them with stick - is it bad I have become so used to this scene it makes me laugh now? On the sand/pebbes are pots of soaking cassava, sheets with cassava drying, canoes, huge hand made fishing nets. Lots going on. Also did manage to climb half way up the nearby hill for views over the area, once again overtaken by the local women with ease as I am on all fours. Thank god for my love of taking photos or I'd never do anything. Everyone wants a photo and the kids get excited to try their English "this........is.......give" or "my.....name......money!" they have the important words.

After 4 lovely nights in Mbegele, I got to the bus stand for 6am for the once a day bus which can pass any time from 6 until 9. Passed through the town 'Mafinga' (hehehe) then to Songea and Dodoma for 2 long bus days. Songea is Kanga and Kitenge heeeeaaaavvveeeennn oh gosh all the amazing Nigerian wax kitenge especially wow if I had a huge budget, even bigger bag and some sort of sewing skills I would have LOADED UP! At Morogoro stand I was so sick of being annoyed through the window to buy chips or drinks or biscuits or kebabs or ... anything i just put my kitenge over my head. Even the Tanzanian women yell at the bus guys here so I didn't feel too rude. Several bus trips I shared nearby men in handcuffs being taken to jail. another 5am arrival at a bus stand I decided to pass on going to kolo kondoa to see the rock art - seen plenty of rocks - and came straight to Arusha where I arrived at my guesthouse, where it is just me and a bunch of Masai so I feel I need to up my game on the jewellery - and had a big fight with my taxi driver who gave me a ridiculous price i laughed in his face then went on to call him a thief etc and all the guests came out to watch. Didn't realise I was at the window of the resturant too. It's just tiring especially travel days fighting not to be ripped off as the buses and taxis are the main ones who try. The young guy working at the hostel was the one who whispered what it should have actually cost me so i just said i'd sit in his taxi until he gave me the fair price. Me...Stubborn? no.

See the itinerary of this trip, and details about each destination.

Booked my safari to Tarangire National Park for tomorrow so today just have in town maybe some shopping. It's raining here as it was last time and the roads are so muddy and smelly I look forward to moving on to the coast!

Posted by neerg_08 04:14 Archived in Tanzania Tagged arusha mikumi dodoma iringa mbamba_bay mbegele bio_camp matema songea tukuyu isimila_stone_age baobab_valley southern_highlands gangilonga_rock

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