Wednesday, December 21, 2005

The next leg...

I blogged from Arusha and Lushoto already and you can refresh your memories if you so choose. I will however expand a bit as I did not always have reliable internet service or if I did get on the internet it was so slow that I did not have a lot of time. So here is the filler...

I did not get to see a lot of Arusha, but driving through on the way to, and back from, Safari allowed me to see both the poverty stricken neighbourhoods and the more well to do areas, with gated yards and lush surroundings. There is not a lot of in-between housing, it seems it is either shacks with tin roofs or nice houses with a yard. That is not to say that there weren't small houses and apartments, but I did not see very many.

There were an inordinate number of flycatchers or touts hanging around the central area of Arusha, just waiting for unwary wuzungu to sell their wares to. I really don't like being followed, forced into conversation (they all spoke good English) or having fabric, paintings, jewelry and wood carvings shoved into my face. It annoys me and makes me not want to even look at their stuff. I never did buy anything from them and we were in Arusha long enough that they started to recognize me (it was the hair). I would tell them I wasn't shopping today, labda kesho ... maybe tomorrow. But I have to relate how very funny some of these gentlemen were, albeit unintentionally. They were so very desperate for you to buy something from them, but Tanzanians are extremely polite and greetings are very important to them. Rarely will they try to 'get to business' without at least establishing some type of relationship with you through greetings. So it would usually go like this:

"Hello Sister, how are you?"

"Mzuri sana, habari? (I am good, how are you?)"

"You speak Swahili?!?! mzuri, mzuri!! Where are you from, America?"

"I'm from Canada, where are you from?" (this always threw them a bit and they would answer kind of incredulously:

"I'm from here of course, Arusha!" (sometimes they were from somewhere else, like Lake Victoria or Moshi) This was often followed by:

"Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver?" Sometimes Calgary or even Ottawa were thrown in but never Edmonton,. This was the amusing part of the experience, because every city they knew in Canada was pushed out in one big long breath.

After they got to recognize me, they would ask if I was shopping today, I would tell them I had spent all my money and did not need to shop anymore. They finally ended up with saying hello and practicing their English while I practiced my Swahili. I did end up shopping there and wished later that I had spent more time shopping, Arusha had some fabulous shops for all kinds of art work, fabrics and anything else you might want to buy. I was planning to wait for Dar es Salaam, as I did not want to carry a bunch of goods around with me, but as it turned out, Dar wasn't nearly as plentiful in goods and the prices were a lot higher. Oh well, you know what they say about hindsight.

While in Arusha I got very good at crossing the street. Now this may sound ridiculous to you, but wait. For one thing they drive on the wrong side of the road (for me) and it takes some time to get used to looking the other way for traffic (car and bike). Also, forget about cars stopping for pedestrians, it is an adventure in itself just crossing the very busy streets of Arusha, especially on the main street. However, I almost got taken out by a bicycle, nobody slows down here. I am still surprised that I never witnessed any accidents. It is impossible to tell what the rules of the road are, but I would never want to drive there.

We did spend one day at a local village at the foot of Mt. Meru. We visited a local school, it was very crowded, 50-60 kids in a class. They were very excited to see us, again, I wish I had brought pencils with me.

Boma in village near Arusha

Village school children near Arusha
We also had a lunch made by local women and toured through some native homes, saw an ingenious method of using methane for cooking gas, all you need is one cow to cook for one household! We hiked to a nearby waterfall and I bought some beautiful fabric and beaded jewelry from the women's co-operative. It was an educating experience, these people work very hard and value education for their children very highly.

View from day hike in village near Arusha:

Day hike near Arusha
I liked the fact that the money we spent on the tour went to support the village, and our tour guide lived there as well.

I have already described Lushoto, but the bus trip there was not the most pleasant I have ever been on. There was quite literally no knee room. My knees were almost snug up against the back of the seat in front of me and I am short. There were no bathroom breaks and I did not drink anything and only had a bite from a sandwich during the more than 7 hour trip! The trip into the Usambara Mountains was rather harrowing at times, as the bus zig zagged up the side of the mountian. I had the uncertain pleasure of being in a window seat and looking down, down, down. Sometimes I think it would have been better to not look. Once in Lushoto we discovered a favourite 'restaurant', called the Action Safari Cafe, and this is where we discovered our new favourite drink, besides Tusker beer that is, Stoney Tangawizi (swahili for ginger), a wonderful ginger type soda that is refreshing and not too sweet and on a hot dusty day is like sweet goodness to your throat. mmmmmmm...... They also made the very best samosas ever!

It took us a very long time to find a place to stay in Lushoto, but we eventually found the Mandarin Inn, owned by an older gentleman named Mandari. He was so friendly and helpful and delighted in talking with us. We loved the Mandarin Inn, it is an interesting spot with a fabulous view looking down on Lushoto, as you can see from the picture below:

View from Mandarin View Inn

Mandari, the owner of the Mandarin View Inn, in Lushoto:

Mandari, owner of Mandarin View Inn, in Lushoto It is a 'work in progress', but the food was good and the beds were very comfortable, we had box nets and most of us had ensuite bathrooms with showers. On the Sunday, Oct 16, we went to one of the liveliest markets, people come from miles around to sell their wares and produce. I bought some sisal rope for about 150 Tsh, which was about 15 cents.

We took the bus to Dar a few days later, it was a much better experience, easier to buy tickets, more comfortable bus and seats and they stopped once where we could actually get out and use the bathroom (choo). Getting into Dar and finding a hotel is another story all together, stay tuned for more.

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