Up the mountains, down to the coast and return to Zanzibar...AGAIN
12.08.2012 - 01.09.2012
Back in Stone Town, Zanzibar! Still absolutely in love with this place. As much as I try to visit other areas and get inland etc, can’t help but come back to the coast. Where was i…..
Arusha turned out not to be AS full on as I’d feared (big town anxiety) and I think especially the area I was staying was definitely not the nice area so people probably just assumed I was not worth bothering. I hadn’t noticed my last time here in April, or the first couple of days this time due to the rain but one day it cleared up and looming over town is the very impressive Mount Meru. It looks especially stunning in the late afternoon as the sun sets and just the tip glows gold. I did some shopping, found ice cream. For my last safari in Africa I joined another group and went to Tarangire National Park. The drive there is really great, alongside Meru and then through dry plains farmed by Masai. Alongside the road are teenage Masai dressed in all black with their faces painted white (as in Ace ventura, I was half expecting Jim Carey to jump out) as this is the traditional dress they wear during the healing period after circumcision, though I would assume these guys would be there just to get photo money. The park is beautiful, dotted with baobabs and perfect ‘umbrella’ acacia’s and with a vary of landscapeds from hilly scrublands to sprawling golden grassy plains. We saw elephants while waiting in the carpark to enter and loads more once inside. Some lovely bird life which usually doesn’t interest me but there are some very pretty colours, also plenty of ostriches, wildebeest, zebras, and a few distant lions. A lot of the time we couldn’t stop for long as we would get swarmed by ‘sleeping flies’ which REALLY hurt when they bite and can carry sleeping sickness. The safari itself was great though and we had all been promised a lot longer (double the time) in the park by the boss.
NOTE to anyone planning to come do a safari in TZ – DO NOT USE AFRICAN SMART SAFARIS!!!
Long story short – you know I’m good at this – we ended up in a huge fight with him and pretty much all the staff, then they all turned on me and said I am the bad person trying to guide the 3 German people also complaining in the wrong direction and I brainwashed them to think they didn’t enjoy it. I was “a very bad girl’, ‘colonial days are over’, we still got to see the animals, whats the problem? “Yes, you had 6 hours, 12:30 – 4:30”…hah this, guy used to be a lawyer yet he can’t count? But my favourite was when I pointed out their contract stating a full day safari recommends AT LEAST 7 hours, and everyone tried to convince me that ‘at least’ means ‘less than 7 hours’. I was having a real laugh. Actually, even better than that was when the boss, in his ridiculous shiny cream pinstripe suit, jumped up and ordered “CALL THE EMBASSY”. Hahah again in hysterics. I was ready to start cursing Arusha, but then as usual after a bad experience someone was able to turn it around and when I went back to my guest house I had a really funny evening with the Masai who run the place, in particularly one woman who I had a real laugh with about marrying her brother as he stood there very nervously laughing. The people working there come from a Masai village a couple of hours away, arriving in Arusha in groups to run the guest house for a couple of months and do various other business such as selling jewellery before returning. She was dressed in her beautiful blue and red shukas, fabulous jewelery, and just kept brushing my hair back and saying “nakupenda sana” “ I like you a lot”. We discussed the details of the marriage and worked out I could go home and study then come back here for work. I had to tell her I would not be able to carry buckets of water etc as I am a lot weaker than Masai women, and told her I have tried before to carry a bag on my head and failed (I did try once and I think i shrunk a couple of cm’s. apparently something you have to do from a child). Then with a goodnight hug she walked me to my room….then entered with me and shut the door behind which had me a little confused as we sat there awkwardly on my bed. Until she presented me with a gold bracelet, and came back a little later with a necklace also. In return I gave her a tube of vegemite, telling her most other nationalities don’t like it but maybe Masai will. She at least pretended to be grateful. She even called me the next morning to make sure I got on the bus safely. We passed Mount Kilimanjaro in Moshi and it would have been the perfect day to stop in Moshi and snap some photo's of it as it was sooo clear...ahhh next time.
Next stop - Mtae. Head up the Usambara Mountains to Mtae, a tiny village perched on the ridge of a mountain, without electricity apart from a few generators, no cars or even motorbikes, just bicycles, and the only way out are the 3 daily buses from 4-5am. A few skipped heartbeats along the way, winding along the bumpy, narrow road on the edge of the steep mountains, and certainly not the ideal place for the driver to get out and let a couple of the younger guys working on the bus have a practice. My room at the guesthouse was just big enough for my bag, but to open it I had to take it out into the corridor (outside, next to the huge pot of water constantly heating over a charcoal fire for our warm buckets of shower water). The first morning that I started my hike with Rogeros (?), my guide, was very foggy and COLD and we couldn’t see much so first we climbed down the mountain to see some caves where a traditional healer – still commonly used in the Usambara region – stays, one for living, another for work. Then we climbed back up heading to Mambo view point . I am so unfit, I thought I was going to have to be helicoptered out. It was worth it in the end, as the fog cleared and down below you can see where the gold, green and red Tsavo plains – stretching all the way up to Kenya – are met by the mountains. Passing through villages along the way I came to think it must be the fresh mountain air but people in the mountainous areas seem to be sooooooo nice! Even kids, who don’t ask for anything but for a picture so they can look at themselves. All day I heard “HAAALLLOOOOOO” from all around, even when I could not see anyone, or “UPIGE PICHA” (take a picture). So gorgeous as some really young ones get so excited screaming “HULO” and waving big with both arms up while running to get a closer look they almost lose balance and fall. The houses all have 2 tiny windows and a teeny door – no big mama’s here, life is tough in Mtae – and most are painted a pink-peach colour by mixing water with the earth of the area. I think Mtae is in the lovely phase of just starting to get visitors, but not many and knowing that the few who do come to the area generally go to Lushoto, the nearest town about 3 hours away. Everyone is amazingly welcoming and the kids haven’t been handed out enough money or lollies or pens to start associating these gifts with foreigners. The only not so friendly person was a young kid who I saw throwing around a chameleon on a stick. I told him its not a toy and put it in the bush, and then he ran alongside me for a while angrily chasing me with a stick. Fair enough, it was his toy.
I even met an Australian at the sunset view point which was beautiful (the viewpoint, not him) and his group invited me for dinner. After a tough day hiking, my first question was whether there’d be beer which was funny as he was the only Aussie in the group and apparently the only one who had asked that earlier on as well. I had a another day of hiking, through more mountain top villages, steep farms, fertile green valleys and to the peak of one mountain with the hut and fences of a chief of the area a long time ago “how long Rogeros? How many years ago?”…”many years”, a characteristically well informed guide. Up there I was serenaded with ‘Happy Besssday” by a group of kids and had a quick photoshoot. I couldn't recommend paying this beautiful place a visit more strongly. I felt so at home and the man running the guest house was just the sweetest and treated me like a daughter, as well as the attached mgahawa where the man whips up some great meals (beans comparable to Ilongero, and VEGGIES!) I stayed at Mtitu wa Ndei Guesthouse I here, basic, but all part of the experience and they'll bend over backwards for you.
After Mtae, back to Lushoto, a small town in a fertile valley. I decided to go for a walk around town but after 5-10 minues that’s it. All the hikes are ‘expensive’ as they are ‘cultural tourism’ organizations so they support the community but by this stage I really just wanted to say can’t you just take out the community support fee, I just want cheap cheap? So I just did a day hike through the lovely Magamba Rainforest, but my feet were by then starting to reject this exercise and fall apart so I was happy to get back to town and into my thongs. Good excuse to put the hiking shoes at the bottom of the case and throw the grotty clothes away.
Next stop, Tanga, Tanzania’s 3rd largest town which had me pretty unmotivated. It was actually really laid back. Once you get away from the bus stand, no one really hassles you, the seafront area is nice, and its quite enjoyable. I stayed at a pretty nice place, one of the older men there is Mnyaturu (the tribe from Singida) so Bula was back. Not much to do in Tanga on a rainy day, especially a Sunday. The days are pretty hot and steamy but the evenings so mild and beautiful it’s impossible to stay inside. Ramadan ended while I was here, and being back in the largely Muslim coastal area was nice as there are 3 days for celebration for Eid, especially in the night as everyone goes out for fancy food, the ice cream shops suddenly appear from nowhere bursting with kids and there was such a nice atmosphere. I went for a bite and sat with 2 old ‘spinsters’ who bought me dinner of fried potato slices and delicious coconut chutney (which is also served at the front step of my guest house here in Stone Town). One of those nights I know I'll look back on and feel all warm and fuzzy. When people take you in, when everyone appears happy, it is all about family and love...really kicks those crappy moments and crappy things people do in the world out and replaces them with hope for humanity when you see the core of what life is about and human nature. Ahhhh.
Anyway, I took a bus to a village about an hour away on the waterfront to see the Tongoni ruins, the remains of a mosque and tombs from the 14th/15th century. Really atmospheric as it is set amongst bush and baobabs near the mangroves and tiny fishing village. The buildings were built from coral reef brought from Persia and some still grow coral. On the way back the driver of the car worried that there would be police up ahead and the car was over-filled, so he made one of the guys put a kitenge on the front of the car “put the flowery one” and told us all to start singing if we see the police as it was still Eid and he hoped they would just let us off. That was funny, another moment when laughter and smiles erase unite EVERYONE.
After Tanga I headed down the coast to Pangani at the mouth of the Pangani river. The beaches aren’t amazing but are lined with coconuts and the odd cow leg. I hired a bike for a couple of days and crossed the river on the ferry to ride to some other beaches and villages. I actually really enjoyed riding around, much nicer than walking and I only fell off once. The only thing is along the main road when trucks or buses pass, they obviously see my stiffness and just as they pass honk the horn and then turn around to look out the window and laugh at my reaction. Mzungu are funny aren't we? The few streets around the river have buildings and doors similar to Zanzibar so that was nice too, little did I know I’d be there/here in a few days.
I was here for the 3rd and final day of Eid and as usual everyone was out and about, the women and girls looking especially fabulous in amazing clothes, makeup and beautiful henna painted up their arms. I was adopted by a couple of young rasta guys who have a tourism office but ended up just helping me as a sister “dada Nicole”. Maybe we bonded because of the state of my hair after the beach, the humidity and wearing a hat which had created a dreadlock appearance. I met a group of brits and have been travelling with them since, getting a boat over to Nungwi - one of the northern beaches of Zanzibar - and although we all thought we were going to die at some point during the trip, arriving on the turquoise waters at the beach made it worth it. I got
to leave my big bags at Rasta Ally’s office in Pangani, and use his tent he left at his rasta friends lodge in Nungwi. We stayed here, and you can imagine a lodge run by a bunch of rastas is quite and experience. The beach here is beeeeeeeeautiful, lots of Masai, lots of Italians and LOTS of white speedo's. A night out at Kendwa Rocks, the beach party, had similar consequences to when I went there on my tour, but was just as fun. Came to Stone Town this week and by chance there is a jazz festival on so a few of us are staying to see that and then head back up to the northern beaches. Yesterday we did a day trip to Changuu Island (Prison Island) where there is a sanctuary for endangered giant tortoises. Also did some snorkelling and wandered around the island. Of course each night I have been at the Forodhani night markets , getting in as many REAL Zanzibar pizzas – as well as learning to cook them - (the copies on the mainland are no good) and as much seafood as possible, and we have found a bar with sunset views and happy hour at the same time so have been there 6 times so far in 3 days. Last night we went to Livingstone’s, a bar on the beach here in Stone Town for the opening night of the festival with some jazz bands which was great and today heading back up to the beaches for Kendwa Rocks again, tonight featuring Michael Jackson! We met him last night, he must’ve had more surgery.
As always, amazing getting lost in the alleyways, admiring the beautiful doors and architecture…I really don’t think I could ever tire of this.
Happy Fathers Day all you Baba’s.