August 18, 2008

Tanzania, July 2008
Back In Arusha

Our Tanzanian adventure continued after we returned from safari. We weren’t exactly sure what we were going to do with our remaining two weeks, but we had loose plans. This, for me, was the biggest struggle in planning a huge, important trip such as this one. It was hard to know what would be important to see and do before we got to Tanzania. At home, I had unlimited access to the computer, which I did not have in Africa, and spent loads of time on Trip Advisor trying to learn how we should best spend our time. I was afraid that if we made no plans, we would be lost and not have Internet access to guide us once we were there. The compromise was to make general plans, but to be flexible should locals make suggestions to us about where to go and what to see. So, we had a general plan for the week which included our classes at Via Via, a hike into the mountains, and a visit to a local school with Stacy, Ayubu's boss at Duma Explorer. The first thing we had to do was move, because the Outpost, while lovely, was expensive for us.

July 14, Monday, we packed up and moved out of the Outpost and into a guesthouse called the Ivory Annex that Ayubu had arranged for us. We had to pay $25,000 Tsh (about $22) per room, per day, as opposed to $91 at the Outpost. But, we weren’t in Kansas anymore. Having our laundry done was going to cost twice as much as it did at Jambo (12,000 Tsh for about 20 items.) The Ivory Annex woman charged us 1,000 per piece. We gave her about 25-30 pieces of our most important clothing and I vowed to find another alternative. We were able to get money from the bank and barely make it to Via Via by 1, where Jonathan and Jeremy had signed up for a drum making and drumming lessons with a guy named Fred. Elsa and I weren’t sure what we were going to do, but we had asked Azizi, the cultural director, for a batik class. While we waited for him to be ready, we ate lunch. Yum! We love the food and the atmosphere there. Then, later in the afternoon, Aziz took us to an artist named Felix’s batik shop where we had our lesson and each made a batik of our own. I took tons of pictures. For dinner, since we had eaten lunch at Via Via, we decided to try the Maasai camp which Brian, my online safari tour friend, told us had pool tables. It was an eternal walk, (4 kilometers) and we thought we were lost. We finally found it and had a great time drinking beers, playing pool, and eating burritos and chips kuku, food that was familiar to us and very delicious. We took a taxi back to the hotel.

July 15th, Tuesday: The hotel fee, we learned, included breakfast for two, not four, and each additional meal was to be 5,000Tsh, about $4.50,. But the breakfast was runny eggs, bread, hot dogs and hot milk and a tea bag, not worth the price at all. So, I took Elsa and Jeremy to a café on the other side of the hotel, not to Ayubu’s, because it looked more breakfasty. It was a mistake, and we were not able to get real tea, just Chai, and there was nothing there that Jeremy wanted. Elsa tried to order a vegetable omelet and had big problems. We are not really sure what she got.

It was pouring rain and freezing cold that morning, so much for the "dry" season! We were scheduled to meet Simon, our delightful ‘Arusha guide’ at Via Via at 10 am for a hike to a waterfall. I wasn’t sure if it would be on, but we didn’t have a cell phone for Simon and we thought we should show. Simon saw no reason not to go, and I assumed that the rain would stop as it did most days in Arusha, but it didn’t. The hike turned out to be grueling, a steep climb up slippery rocks and a difficult path. We each fell in the mud, both on our way up and on our way down. Like Dana, (a colleague and fellow blogger who traveled to Malawi this summer) after a certain point, I refused to go any farther and we stopped to eat where we were. Miraculously, a woman outside of her house invited us to eat our box lunches (from Ayubu’s café) in her living room. It was the strangest thing! So we went in and ate, while she worked outside tending to her animals and such. She had a regular house, not a manyatta, made of bricks and cement with chairs and a couch. Baby chicks peeped inside, looking for food. It was nice to rest and warm up, and our climb down was much more pleasant as the rain subsided. It was still treacherous. As we walked back though town, everyone laughed at us because we were so covered with mud. It was obvious that we had fallen. Simon helped me buy a tub and washing powder once we got to the village to wash our muddy clothes. When we arrived back at Via Via, everyone greeted us and asked what had happened. We ate dinner there and then walked back to the Ivory Annex. We snuck the tub past Lillian (the hotel matron who would surely object to the use of so much water) and then I was able to do laundry in the room. It took four days for Elsa’s jeans to dry.

July 16 After Elsa and I had breakfast at Hope’s (Ayubu’s café) and Jeremy and Jonathan ate at Via Via, we took a dala dala to Laganga to meet Remmy. A dala dala is Tanzania’s most efficient transport system: a Toyota van with bench seats that charges modest fees, like 500Tsh per person, about 40 cents, to travel in various directions in and around town. Simon explained to me, “Mama, a dala dala is never full!” and the conductors do manage to squeeze in as many passengers as they can who need rides. People bring chickens and boxes on as well. When we traveled with our luggage, we had to pay for extra for seats for our suitcases. At Leganga, Remmy met us with a taxi that took us to the woods for a walk near his house. There, because of the proximity to Arusha National Park, we saw a beautiful rainforest-like terrain, chock full of blue and colobus monkeys. As we walked through the woods, we came upon a field with horses and camels grazing. The field belonged to a lodge and Remmy arranged with a worker there for us to have a tour. We gazed upon the fanciest and most beautiful lodge we had ever seen. After we had had a look around, we negotiated with the manager to stay our last night in Tanzania there using our worthless travelers checks as payment. Afterwards, Remmy bought us delicious bananas for sale on the road back where the taxi waited. We caught the very same dala dala to Arusha (it had gone to Moshi, 80 kilometers, and was on its way back.) We decided to eat lunch at Hopes-yummy- and then wandered around town shopping and sight seeing. We decided to go back to the Maasai Camp for dinner. This time we took a dala dala there. We befriended a lovely waitress there who will visit the States this fall.

July 17, This was the day we had hoped Stacy would be visiting a local school and would take us with her. But, she didn’t call us in the morning, and I felt as though I had been too pushy about it, so I let it go. Instead, I called Ayubu to see what he was up to because I wanted to video tape him telling the two wonderful stories that he had told us on safari and I had hoped to meet and interview his children. We met Ayubu at Hope’s where we all ate lunch together. I taped Ayubu telling his lion story, while the TV was on, blaring a religious channel the entire time. Customers came in to order, and all of their voices are on the tape, but Ayubu is so compelling, that even though he was nervous, the story came out well. This was also the day Jeremy developed a fever, so after lunch, he and Jonathan went back to the Ivory Annex to rest. Ayubu took Elsa and me to find Maasai blankets in town, and I bought 6. It was my understanding that afterwards we were going to Ayubu’s children’s school, but apparently that was not Ayubu’s understanding, because after we bought the blankets, he bid us farewell in town and walked off into the Arusha sunset. Elsa and I then walked to the big market in town, looking for additional patterns of Maasai blankets which I had seen but did not buy in Mto wa Mbu to use at our Africa museum in school. There, we negotiated to buy a few more blankets, and had lots to carry back to the hotel. Jeremy’s fever wasn’t too high, considering his history, but never the less, Jonathan went out to find a dispensary in Arusha to buy a thermometer to take his temperature. It was about 99.5º. We packed our things and went to bed early to prepare for our departure the next day.

July 18, I had spent the week arranging our trip to Monduli. My friend Brian, whom I had met on line on Trip Advisor and didn’t really know from Adam, suggested that we visit Monduli, a town about an hour west of Arusha. He runs a tour company like Duma Explorer called Access2Tanzania. His company is about twice a large as Duma, and he has numerous employees. We went to Monduli to “review” the experience for Brian’s company, but it ended up being a most important element of our trip. Brian sent a Land Cruiser to the Ivory Annex to drive us to Monduli and arranged for us to stay in a guesthouse in town. He also arranged for us to leave our excess luggage in his office and for us to have a personal guide, an intern named Steven, in addition to our host, Thomas, in Monduli. I will post a separate account of this trip-which was fantastic. I will add here, that Brian’s driver, Sadie, asked us about our safari, I’m sure to compare our experience to what A2T offers. We had seen another A2T guide at the Outpost preparing our American friends for their trip and could tell that they run a nice outfit. But, I was very proud when Sadie told us that he knows Ayubu and described his deep, booming voice. Sadie acknowledged how knowledgeable Ayubu is.

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