Typed up: at Kindoroko Hotel in Moshi Posted from: Internet cafe in Lushoto
Our safari was really over when Walter and Peter dropped us off on Sunday, August 10, at Sakina Campsite. No vehicle breakdown could avoid that. The campsite is more of a hotel which allows camping on the lawn. It’s a clean, nice looking building with a small restaurant and comfy seating area. When we got there, and indeed for our entire stay until the 13th, we were the only guests.
We spent a fair amount of time talking to the staff, which was fun to get some local perspective on the world, as well as some more local info. Specifically, the Masai are allowed to live in Ngorongoro because they don’t farm, and thus don’t really modify the landscape much. We also learned a bit about local farm life, as well as of the history of the Iraqw people. Thanks, Elli! Zapporah, the owner of the hotel, also gave us some good information about travelling through Kenya. Our short term plan was now to visit the Usambara mountain region in Tanzania, go north to Mombasa in Kenya, then head west to Nairobi, and hopefully catch a bit of the wildebeest migration before flying to Egypt.
While a safari is physically pretty easy (sleep, eat, sit, eat, sit, eat, repeat) it does take quite a bit out of you just processing all the new stuff you see. So we’d decided to relax for a few days in Arusha before continuing on. In addition, we had some more things to buy. And of course we wanted to upload pictures and keep you guys informed about what we’ve been up to.
The first thing we had to do is to figure out how to use the dala-dala minibus that went from our hotel, which is a bit outside of Arusha, to the town itself. It’s actually really easy. Just wave at one as it passes by, get in, and then get out at the main bus stop. We paid 300 shillings each. Dala-dala rates are set by the government or something, so there’s no special foreigner-price. A dala-dala is basically a minivan with 5 rows of cramped seating. 4 people can fit on each of the back 2 rows, and 3 on each of the front ones. So you can seat 17 people, plus the driver. In addition there’s a guy standing in the doorway, looking out for more people who could get in. The fullest dala-dala we travelled in had 21 people, with 4 people (including us) standing.
Each dala-dala is brightly decorated. They all have some slogan on the front. Many are religious, either Christian or Muslim. Some seem totally random, like the Kobe (with basketballs instead of the o) one we saw. My favorite is the one that read “100% pure pain.” We did not get on that one. In general there are is a lot of western cultural imagery around, and I don’t know if the Africans know what it means. Like the guy wearing a Brian Urlacher jersey, or a random man wearing a Curves shirt. Similarly, some common phrases pop up but don’t seem used the way you’d expect. “House of Lubrications” stores are common, and I also saw a “House of Bikini.” You also see a lot of “Bolts and Nuts” stores.
I still don’t feel sure about taking pictures of all this, so there are very few. I’m worried about accidentally upsetting somebody, although this has not happened so far. Maybe by the end of this trip I’ll get over this, but for now this is the way it is. Generally people tell me that pictures of large scenes are fine, and pictures of individuals are fine as long as you ask. Some refuse, some ask for money, and some accept.
Over the course of a few days we learned our way around Arusha. We had a good map from the tourist information office, but unfortunately most streets do not have street names posted. Most of our navigation was based on which hotels we could see. One day we bought a blanket, in hindsight for no really good reason. It just felt like we might need one again, so now we’re lugging around this heavy blanket in a separate container. It’s not coming with us to Egypt, if it even makes it to Nairobi. We also purchased a cell phone for about \$70, a sim card for \$1.70 (we’re +255-787-543-992), and \$8.50 worth of minutes. This is the way cell phones ought to work. No monthly plans with limits and overage charges. Just buy some scratch cards for minutes (available at several places every block) and fill up your phone. Changing carriers is cheap and easy, although you do lose your phone number.
We also revisited the Shoprite to get toilet paper, shampoo, and conditioner. A short while later we had all that stolen from us when we were at a touristy bakery with wireless Internet. Danielle had gone to use the rest rooms, and I was not paying attention to the bags that were hanging on her chair. When she got back, our shopping bag was gone. Luckily that’s all it was, and her purse was still there. Usually we’ve been more careful with our bags, but this place felt very safe. Now we’re properly paranoid. Bags go between the legs, and not on the backs of chairs. It was a cheap lesson. We replaced the stuff at a corner store for less money than it cost at Shoprite.
I did my first haggling in Arusha when I bought a tinga-tinga painting. The asking price was \$50, and I mentioned that \$30 might be more appropriate, and this was accepted. (Maybe I should’ve tried for \$20, but baby steps…) At produce stands where we buy fruit, we still pretty much pay the mzungu (foreigner) price. It seems silly to complain that your 3 oranges cost 42 cents when you know they should cost less than half that because, after all, it’s just 42 cents.
When walking through the touristy part of Arusha (a few blocks around down town) we were constantly harassed by people trying to sell us safaris, tanzanite, tinga-tinga paintings, batik, taxis, and anything else people thing we might have bought. But as soon as we got outside that zone, the problem was virtually non-existent. We generally stayed away from the tourist area.
Another general observation, is that most people have their work shops on the street. Cell phone repair, sewing, painting, welding, it all happens in front of the store on the street. If you need to buy a stock item, you can walk into the store (or just talk to the person doing the work). At night everything is packed up inside the store when it is closed.
On our final night in Arusha we used our new cell phone to book 2 nights stay in Moshi. The next day we took the dala-dala to town, and walked to the main bus station. Finding the bus you need is easy. You just walk up to anybody (or they walk up to you) and you tell them where you’re going: “Moshi.” They’ll then walk you to the bus, or point you in the right direction. On our way to our bus we saw several soldiers (I think) carry a subconscious man off a bus and onto a pick up truck whose bed was already full of people. Apparently the crowd of onlookers got too close, because somebody got kicked in the legs, which created a lot of space for the soldiers. I have no idea what happened, but I was not unhappy when our temporary guide led us on to our bus.
We finally squeezed in a workout. AMRAP in 12 minutes of: 5 pull ups (on the bar holding up the clothes lines) 10 push ups run to concrete pad and front gate and back (300m?) Wow I’m out of shape. Did 5 rounds plus 7 push ups, and the last 2 rounds I had to go really slow on the pull ups to not throw up.