07 April 2013

 

off to the lodge!
tortoises
walk around the suburb
river views

Today we got picked up at 10.00 as arranged and taken to the fancy lodge for a day in luxury before the safari.

Llodge
The lodge is about 5 k out of town, but apparently in a sort of new suburb of safari lodges. It looks nice though and the room is good on first glance. A bit more investigation and we find out that the bed side lights are broken, the tv doesn’t work and neither does the airco.. Oh, well, we don’t want to sit in the room all day anyway..
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Outside we run into Dismas, the resident souvenir seller. He has his own little business set up selling everything from statuettes to bracelets and paintings. He has some nice items, but we don’t want any.

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Then he proudly tells us about the tortoises that live at the lodge. He brings over the small one, that is constantly trying to escape. Pretty quick for a tortoise. We keep an eye on him, while Dismas is off looking for the big one. It tends to crawl under the bushes and can be hard to find..
When he brings him back, the poor thing is off course terrified and refuses to come out of its shell. We let him sit for a while and wait patiently. The shell itself is impressive enough. This is a Big Tortoise! After about half an hour, the heads pops out and one leg. Just enough for it to get himself turned around and then he wanders off to find a new bush!
Tanzania, Zanzibar, Jozani forest, Leopard tortoise (Geochelone pardalis)
We go for a walk towards the river. The river here is a deep gorge and at the bottom we take a break to let the peace sink in. There are supposed to be baboons here, but we can’t spot any. The little path we took down turns out to be a lot more popular then we expected, with lots of locals going up and down and crossing the river barefoot with all their groceries.
Lriver
Back at the lodge Anna had a cold shower..no hot water available..
Time to complain a bit. We got the hot water turned on, the airco also, the tv fixed, but could not get the promised wifi.. To bad, because we wanted to take some time here to plan the next bit of this trip after the safari.
Dinner and a beer at the main road, about a kilometer away along very muddy dirt roads.
An early night and looking forward to tomorrow, even though we are dreading it also, with the standards of this “luxury lodge”..

AA

06 April 2013

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bus to Arusha
meeting Christopher and Mponjo
visiting safari companies

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tourist info
walk around
maasai everywhere
markets

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booking safari
walk along river

A condensed journal for this, as we have not done that much to warrant a day each.
On the fourth, we basically caught a bus from Moshi to Arusha.  This was not too hard, as we could just walk up to the station and catch a direct bus.

Saying goodbye to Kilimanjaro, we headed out over the plains again towards Safari country.  The trip itself was not that interesting.  It was not the small towns we passed through, or the fields, or even the people we passed beside the road.  It was due to the heavily tinted windows that Tanzania has a fascination for.  If the person in front of you opens the window to let some much needed air into these “air-conditioned” buses out of necessity, it slides back over yours and you cannot see a thing out the window.  However there is the advantage of being able to breath semi fresh air.  A mix of the two would be ideal.  Or just don’t tint the windows soo much that you cannot see out.

On arriving in Arusha we were prepared for the fly catchers.  Apparently they are the worst in the country.  This is a reputation well earned, as spotters saw us on the bus as we pulled into the station in Arusha, and before the bus had even come to a complete stop, people were climbing through the window to sell us Safaris, Hotels, Ganja, Stiletto shoes and everything else you can dream of, along with a few things you can’t!!  Trying to ditch these people is almost impossible, and we had to flee to the closest hotel saying we were not interested and we knew where we were going.  The hotel in question was fairly up market, but we thought we could take refuge there and let the people disperse again.  This was not the case, as they followed us inside, even with repeated “go away”‘s.  Since we were there, we confirmed our suspicions that the hotel was out of our price range, and asked the receptionist to try to get rid of the guy that had followed us in.  She did ask him to go away, but he only left when we did.  Back outside we had another couple re-attach themselves to us.  So we tried to make our way along in this fashion.  It got so bad that we stopped trying to be polite to them and bluntly told them to leave us be. Eventually we had to resort to simply trying to ignore them, with them still following us.

Atown
We found a cafe and sat for half an hour having coffee, until they lost interest and left.
Now in peace we could find a hotel. The first cheapish one was pretty bad,  but the guy working there (Christopher) showed us a different place nearby. Promised to be better and cheaper. On inspection it was definitely better, but more expensive. Still, we checked in for one night.

Declaration of Independence roundabout

Declaration of Independence roundabout

Out to find an ATM as we did not have enough to pay for the room. Walking there we met a local calling out Rasta! He came over for a chat, and mentioned a German Rasta that he had met before. Frido! (The guy we met in Tanga)
Frido had told us about this guy, Mponjo, that he spent time with while in Arusha and gave Mponjo the heads up for two Aussies that were on their way. Unbelievable that he had found us within a few hours of arriving.
After the ATM we took MP and Christopher for a beer and a chat.
We pulled up at the local pub, and they pulled out their safari references. It became pretty clear that they are in the safari business, but that is not surprising as this whole town is.

Every town in Tanzania has a clocktower

Every town in Tanzania has a clock tower

After the beer we agree to visit a few companies with them, to get an idea of what is available. Well, everything is available, as long as you are willing to pay. And pay you will, as everything is expensive.. We are looking at a camping safari for about three days, and it will cost us about 1000 US dollars. Oof! (All safaris are charged in US dollars and they prefer for you to pay is US even though there is not one ATM in town where you can get US) It is all a bit depressing..

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We start the day by going past tourist info to get some more info for this safari thing. Christopher and MP are both hanging out outside our hotel, wondering if we had decided on a safari company yet. We let them know we have not, and have not even decided yet if we want to do a tour at all. We can get them to back off for a bit.

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Tourist info is unfortunately not very helpful. We are shown the list of the black listed companies, but all others are apparently “ok” and all the same. They seem more interested in selling us some cultural tourisme programmes.
On exiting the Tourist info office, we are stormed by the touts from (it seems) every safari company in Arusha. Is there some sort of SMS service going? “Two tourist on the loose, they have not booked a tour yet!” This is really overwhelming and we escape to a nearby park. Only two touts follow us and eventually we can convince them that we do not want to do a safari at all. At the moment we really don’t..
MP shows up about  a minute after the touts left, to see if we needed any help today. (How does he know where to find us?) Convincing him we don’t, we head on.

Amarket2

To get our minds of the whole tour thing, we go and visit some of the local markets.
There are a lot of Maasai in Arushu. We have seen them all through the country and they are very recognizable in their red cloth and big earrings. Here there are also quite a few wearing purple and blue.
Akanga
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So we have given in, and will be booking a tour today. We dislike how expensive they are, especially compared to how much the normal people in Tanzania earn, but it seems to be the only way to see anything of the national parks. And why be in Arusha and not do one? We decide to skip on Serengeti because of the distance and money involved, and unfortunately Lake Natron is not possible because the road is really bad during the wet season, so we are going for a pretty standard two day safari of Norongoro Crater and Tarangire NP.
We have decided to not book with the cheapest one, but instead book with Victoria Tours, as they promise great food, and are willing to throw in a free night before and after the safari in their luxury Arusha Lodge! (This comes with free wifi, which will be very good for us to plan a bit of the next stage of the trip)
Off course they are happy to see us, and drive us to the ATM to get the money out. We pay in Shillings, a bit more expensive, but it saves on the hassle of getting it transferred ourselves at a money exchange and walking around town with all the cash. (For whoever is interested : We payed 300US per person for two days safari and one night camping, all food included except water.)
As we get a free night in the lodge, they have two days to try to find some other people to come with us.

Mount Meru behind the town

Mount Meru behind the town

With all this done, and the worries of our minds, we go for a walk along the Arusha river. Not for long though, as about 500 meters in we get warned again by the locals that this is not safe and we should not go there.. Great. We are looking forward to a few days without having to worry about people and being able to just focus on the animals.

AA

03 April 2013

Walk around moshi
good coffee at last
markets

Just a quiet day hanging around Moshi.
Mtown
It is a nice town. Fairly busy, but not too much hassle.
The town itself is not very appealing, but no town so far has been. The buildings are just not very pretty. It is a very clean town though. Lots of bins around, and you can get big fines for littering.
Mtown2
We walk the main streets first. Again all kinds of little stall put up on the side-walk, mostly selling phone cards, phone credit or other stuff to do with phones. Every now and then there is a stall in between with clothes or shoes.
Mmarket1
And occasionally there are the medicine stalls. Lots of jars, big or small, with mostly coloured powers. These are sopposed to be the traditional healing herbs and medicine that the people from the country side bring in to sell in the city. All in Shwahili though, so we have no idea what thay are made off, or what they are good for.
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The market is Moshi is not any different from the others. Fruit, veggies, beans, rice and off course the piles of little dried fishies. Oh, they smell.
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After the main market we wander to see if we cannot walk out of town. On the outskirts we run into another market. This one much smaller and it looks like the local farmers market. Here we get some tomatoes and banana’s and even a avocado! Much better prices then we have been getting so far, and from the smiles on the old ladies faces, we are still overpaying. But here we don’t mind.

Mmarket2Further along is the train track and some factories, so we decide to head back..
One street in dedicated to turning old tins into oil lamps. And another specialises in flip flops. The Maasai now wear thongs made out of old car tyres and in this street these are all they make. Besides the Maasai style thongs, they also make standard ones even painted up with pretty flowers for the girls.

The Moshi region is famous for it’s coffee, so Andrew is looking for a proper cup. So far all we have had is instant coffee. We find a cafe that does great food and drinks. Yes, not for the standard local prices, but this place is set up for the tourists, and you can tell. The coffee is worth it and so is the fresh passion juice. Delicious!

AA

02 April 2013

Lushoto to Mombo by daladala
negotiations for bus
bus to Moshi
view of Kilimajaro

Leaving Lushoto today, heading for Moshi.
Andrew could have stayed for the amazing mashed potato, but they say Kilimanjaro is pretty good too..

A bus!

A bus!

A daladala to Mombo is easy. We passed through Mombo on the way up, and were expecting to be dropped at the main bus station. Did was not the case, and instead we ended up on a street hassled by flycatchers. We quickly grabbed our bags and went for a drink. As there are no bus companies in view, and we do not want to ask the fly catchers, we walk in a direction that looks ok. Here we meet a man that wants to sell us a bus ticket. There is a direct bus to Moshi, that won’t stop anywhere else. That sounds good and he even still has seats available for the 11.00 bus. As it is just after Easter, the buses are very full today. We haggle hard on the price for the ticket, as his asking price was ridiculous. Finally we agree, and he shows us a seat to wait for the bus.

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Off course the bus is too late, but not by much. Then the madness starts. Most of the time the people wanting to get on, don’t let the arriving people of the bus first. And you just don’t all fit in there! We wait to load our bags on and then try to find a seat.

Street life

Street life

The bus is chockers but we get the front two seats allotted. Still cramped, as there are people standing in front of us and in the walk way. We get going, but only for a few kilometres where we are told is a 10 min stop for people to get some lunch. As we don’t need any, we stay in the bus, until the ticket collector makes a fuss. Apparently we did not pay enough for the tickets and he wants more money. We tell him that we agreed on a price with the first guy (he is still on the bus too) and if it is not enough, we can take a refund and find another bus. As we make our way out, he seams to change his mind, and we are told to sit down again. This is no longer possible, as our seats were taken instantly when we got up. The women in our seats is told to get out, and once again we are ordered to sit down. Very friendly…

Passing through towns along our way

Passing through towns along our way

Eventually everybody loads on again and we finally leave Mombo.
The drive is cramped, and as they are working on the highway, we are mostly on bad dirt roads. We arrive later then expected, because the direct bus turned out to stop quite a lot. In Moshi we head for a hotel that is in the guide book, with the best view of Kilimanjaro. Again we get the flycatchers, but in this town they are not too bad. The hotel is big, concrete and ugly, but the room is ok. We get the warnings not to leave anything of value in the room, we can leave it all at reception. Apparently this hotel has had some incidents.

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After check in we make our way to the top floor restaurant to see if we can catch a glimpse of Kili. We met some one before, that had stayed in Moshi for a week, but never got to see the mountain through the cloud cover.

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We are lucky. There she is in all her glory! White snow-capped peak with only a few little clouds about. We have a beer and enjoy the view. Pretty amazing to see snow, so close to the equator. We have clear views of Kibo peak and later on also Mawenzi peak.
Hope you enjoy the photo’s, but they don’t compare to seeing it for real!

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AA

01 April 2013

Change Hotel
Walk to Irrente View point
Irrente Farm
The View over the Maasai Plains
Western food, and the value of Mashed Potato

As our hotel had no running water and really bad mosquito nets, we decided to change accommodation. Right across the street. Better netting, but we found out that the lack of water is affecting all of town..
And then off for our walk! The guest house owner looked stunned when we told him where we were going. “You should not walk there alone. It is not safe. Somebody got robbed only two days ago.” Yeah. yeah, we know. Everybody has told us, but we are going anyway. We are not taking the camera though, and the little bit of money we are taking is hiding in Anna’s bra. Ridiculous that this is the only way we can go for a walk in the county side..

Lroad
The walk to the viewpoint is about 6km. We can only go by the road, as the walk through the forest is not signposted. A few kilometres before the view is supposed to be Irrente farm, where we are promised we can stock up on cheese (!) and dark rye bread (!!).
Through town and past the market and then up into the hills. As it is Easter, a lot of people are heading to church, dressed in their Sunday best. Silk dresses and high heels in the mud. Kids dressed up to the nines with ties and jackets.

Old fashioned Kiln

Old fashioned Kiln

Starting the walk we wind our way above Lushoto. Below us the town sits in the small valley. The main area of town is quite small, but it stretches out much further than we thought. The road is busy with motors going to and from. Nothing to worry about here then.

Small wildlife is still wildlife

Small wildlife is still wildlife

We keep an eye our for  wild life, but can’t find much more than butterflies. Pretty one though. The wild life highlight on the first bit is definitely The Snail! With capitol letters, as it was a big one. We found it sitting in the middle of the road. About 10cm long with a big house on it’s back. While admiring it, a local men comes along the corner and joins us. He does not seem to be as impressed with it as we are, but tries to make it more entertaining by tapping the snail. Poor little thing. Eventually we pick it up and put it back in the bushes so it will not get run over.

Local Kids helping around the house

Local Kids helping around the house

From there we follow the rather bad dirt track over the hill where the houses started to thin out. More and more farm plots on one side and forest on the other. Every now and then we pass through small hamlets. The people are friendly, they wave or yell out “Jambo” or “Mambo” (Hello and no problems?) The kids are nice but insistent that we should give them money. Not sure what type of tourist they get here, but we are not just going to hand out money because you tell me to..

Lview4

we are quite relaxed for this first bit and are starting to forget about the horrible warnings earlier. Looking forward to the cheese and bread, we walk on to Irrente farm. A farm set up by Lutheran nuns. It is now not only a farm, but also tourist accommodation, a orphanage and two schools for disabled and/or disadvantaged kids. Getting there, we were a bit disappointed with the reception. This has been an issue in this country anyway. You would think, that a store would like to have people come and buy goods. That is why it is there. Here we get barely a hello. On the wall is a list of the products they have, but the Camembert-like cheese we were hoping for is not there. We decide to get a different, harder type and also ask for some rye bread. A deep sigh and the girl pulls herself up from the chair to get us some. She comes back with frozen white bread.. Not what we wanted and as it is frozen, useless for our planned picnic at the viewpoint. We leave with only the cheese and the girl seems happy she can get back to her soap opera.

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The area is beautiful though. Green and lush and full of bugs, mushrooms and some flowers. Big trees overgrown with vines and creepers. The occasional banana plants and grazing cows. The small towns are simple houses but every town has at least one pub (Tanzanians like to drink) and two phone shops (Tanzanians cannot life without their mobiles).
It gets very quiet on the last bit of the walk. We have passed the villages and are heading up to the edge of the range. A lot of pine trees here. The signs have ended and we are not sure which way to go. Up seems to be the best bet.

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Eventually we see the light through the trees and scramble up the last bit. Not a path any more, but we are eager to see this famous view. It is breathtaking!
A wide view over the Maasai plains. We are a fair way up and can see the high way under us with the different towns along it. On the left and right are some stunning rock formations, birds circling above. Beyond the highway are views of other mountains and hills and we can see along the Usambara range towards the Pare mountains. A great place to sit and nibble cheese as we enjoy the view.

LviewpointAfter a while we think it might be time to head back. No camera, so no time keeping. Going down we meet a beautiful big green grasshopper with red eyes and two young guys with machetes.. No, don’t worry, they were fine, but the warnings did flash through our heads again.
We have to do the same way back as we came so slightly boring.
Back in town, we found out that we must have done the 12k in record time, as it is still fairly early. We heard about some other nuns that brew banana beer, and decide to go and find them. According to the guide book, it is only about half an hour out of town towards Soni. Australia makes lots of alcoholic drinks from different fruits, but we have never heard of banana beer before, and it sounds interesting. We wind down the main road passing road side stalls, hotels, pubs and all the phone shops, but cannot find the nuns.

Flowers along the walk

Flowers along the walk

View over Mombo

View over Mombo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty sure we have walked for much more than half an hour and our legs are starting to hurt, we give up. Now we just have to walk back up hill to town.. We drag our selves along ok, until the sky opens up. The raincoats we had been carrying all day on the walk to the view are off course back at the hotel. We are soaked within seconds and as we are in the one bit of street without any stores, there is nowhere to hide. Eventually we make it to a hairdressers and duck for cover. It only takes a few minutes for the worst to be over. This is the first long day of walking in Tanzania and we feel drained. Not surprising, as we have really not been eating a lot lately. Today only some banana’s and cheese. Not smart or healthy, but the local African food is horrible.. We decide to treat ourselves to a nice meal out in a restaurant that also does European meals. We paid for it, but it was sooo worth it. Especially Andrew’s meal. He order chicken with mashed potatoes. This meant that we had to wait for close to an hour for our meals, and Anna’s chips were mostly cold, but the mash was freshly made and steaming. Andrews first big smile in Tanzania! (Also to first night in a while that our stomachs did not cramp later on)
Off to the local bar next to the hotel for a couple of beers and calling it a night.  A great day overall.

AA

31 March 2013

Tanga to Lushoto

We  had to get out of Tanga today.  Skipping the cultural tours, the caves, and everything else, as they cost a fortune even by Australian standards, we wanted to head up into the mountains and see if life is different there.  A quick breakfast of a pancake mixed with bread (Chapati – our staple at the moment but somewhat oily) and we caught our first taxi since Dar to get to the bus station.  Fortunately for us it went without a hitch, and we arrived with everything we had left the hotel with!  Still, we were somewhat suspicious.

TL29postmanwalking

At the bus station we were mobbed by people.  “You go to Dar?”  “ARUSHA!” “Where are you going?” were all thrown at us by many people.  Saying we wanted a big bus to Lushoto, and not a Daladala.  We were taken by one person to where they apparently were.  No problems.  Except for the fight that almost broke out to take us…  We did get to a bus though.  It was a bit bigger than a Daladala, but not much.  We were told that there were no proper buses going (not true we found out later).  Settling on our price, we were then told we would have to pay for our bags.  This started out at TZS 2,000 a bag then with haggling went up to TZS 6,000! before we settled on 2,000 for both bags.  Although by then we were threatening to get off the bus and catch a different one.  All sorted out, we settled down for the bus to leave.  At least we have experience with this, but it did not take too long, and within half an hour we were setting out.  Stopping here and there to pick people up and drop off others, we made our way to the next large town.

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Here we were waiting at the bus station for another half hour or so as Daladala’s don’t leave, until completely full.  This includes at least three people standing.  People insistently coming around and knocking on the bus window, or the side of the bus to try and sell us bread, oranges, nuts, batteries, wallets, belts, torches, miniature furniture (stools), drums, popcorn and much more.  Even pretending to be asleep was not good enough to stop them, as they would put their hands through the windows and shake you until you said you were not interested.  Resolving to close the window next stop when we finally started out again.

TL31postsisal

The views out over the plains were interesting,  Flat land that is semi tropical, with most of the ground now covered by grasses brought on by the start of the rains.  There had been a good storm last night, and puddles were everywhere.  Past more sisal plantations and grazing lands.  Dotted with villages along the way.  At one point we were parallel to the old railway lines, and while the tracks were still there, it hasn’t been used in years, as there are small trees growing up between them.

No longer used

No longer used

Looking forward to the mountains

Looking forward to the mountains

At the next main bus station, we did remember to close the windows, but this was to no effect, as people would open them, and then shake you awake to get the “No, I don’t want a toy UN Police car, or sunglasses.”  Still, we were making (slow) progress.  The mountains were getting closer on the right, and after the next main stop (Mombo), we headed up  into them.

The narrow winding (thank god) bitumen road had many hairpins as it quickly rose up above the Maasai Plains.  Presenting spectacular views every time it turned a corner.  One side looking back out over the plains, with the mountain dropping quickly away from the road.  On the other side, it would reveal peaks and valleys.

The foot hills

The foot hills

Here there were houses and fields covering a lot of the landscape with small, almost vertical trails connecting them. It looked as if it would be a challenge to walk up them, let alone tend your fields, going up and down every time!

The small Soni waterfall

The small Soni waterfall

The bottom of the valley had a fast flowing brown river, although narrow, there was a lot of silt laden water flowing down onto the plains.  This was the Sony River, coming off the West Usambara Mountains.  There were a couple of waterfalls along the way, that we could catch glimpses of through thee trees.  Although the Mountains had been heavily de-forested,  a lot is starting to regrow, and the rest are still being used as fields.

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Even though the mountains are ridiculously steep they are not terraced, and look as if someone has applied patches to the sides.  Eventually we arrived at Sony itself, with the town perched on both sides of the river above a large waterfall.  From here it was not too much further to Lushoto.  The temperature had dropped sharply this high in the mountains, and there was a distinct chill in the air when we exited the bus at our destination.  Here we were picked up by a couple of Flycatchers (touts).  Pressing on us pamphlets on the cultural activities offered in town, and offering to take us to a hotel.  We said we would look at them, and as the hotel was in the same direction that we wanted to go in, we followed them.  Turned out we ended up staying at the White Annex House.  No water, power outages, and we had to change rooms to get holey, ill-fitting mosquito nets!  Still, it is within our budget.  WiFi?  What’s that?  Haven’t been in a place in Tanzania with it yet, though all the rooms, including the cheapest, have televisions (even if the plug does not fit the power point, and the only way to tune it is read Chinese).

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A quick walk around town, and a bad over priced lunch/dinner that is no exception to standard fare here, before dropping into Tourist information (the official one) to find out someone had been mugged here two days ago walking by themselves to one of the  main attractions in the region, and they would charge us 25,000 each to have a “guide”  I think the muggings are intentional.  This is to help employment.  Either you make money as a guide,or as a mugger.  Either way…  Then at the Venus Fly Trap (the office of the flycatchers) to find out their prices for a guide were USD$25-35 for a half day “guide”  Admittedly that does include the US$10 per person per day National Park Fee.

That done, we settled down for a beer and game of cards, at least we can afford to do that, before turning in early, as it is too unsafe, again, to walk around at night in this country that every one says is friendly and safe!

AA