May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your rivers flow without end, meandering through pastoral valleys tinkling with bells, past temples and castles and poets’ towers into a dark primeval forest where tigers belch and monkey’s howl, through miasmal and mysterious swamps and down into a desert of red rock, blue mesas, domes and pinnacles and grottos of endless stone, and down again into a deep vast ancient unknown chasm where bars of sunlight blaze on profiled cliffs, where deer walk across the white sand beaches where storms come and go as lightening clangs upon the high crags, where something strange and more beautiful and more full of wonder than your deepest dreams waits for you---beyond that next turning of the canyon walls. ---Edward Abbey (thanks Trudy Hall)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

End of Tanzania: Safari and Home Hospitality

November 25—A travel day to Mikumi; and boy, was it!  We learned about low-income public transport.  The dalla-dallas only go when they are full, and then they pick up more on the way.  In short, we took from 9AM to 6:30PM to get to the town of Mikumi, with about 4 hours of waiting throughout. (We took a business class bus back and it took from7AM to Noon: 5 hours instead of 9.) 
bus terminal
Hot and crowded, I was fascinated with the pace and what the thrifty people have to put up with.  There was a man who found Les’s wallet on the floor and returned it to him.  It turned out to be the driver, so they became friends, as the “saved Les’s Life,” (we had been warned about all the thievery on these trips).  Later he took us under his wing as we changed buses, taking our two small packs across the bus station area and fighting off all the guys who wanted to take us in his bus.  It was a little terrifying to realize that could have been us, and we would misunderstand the eagerness as aggression.   
We drove through the park to get to Mikumi town and we saw GIRAFFES!  My favorite!  …also, elephants and zebras, and lots of impalas.  We were thrilled!  WOW!  We were dropped in the middle of town and walked 20 minutes to a hotel recommended by the Lonely Planet.  

 Tan-Swiss Hotel was pretty fancy by our standards; we enjoyed that the buildings were painted with leopard spots and images of the wild animals nearby.  The stones were painted around to look like giraffe spots too.  The office manager was fantastic and organized a driver for us for tomorrow and a bus for the next day.  I finally got to try ugali, made from ground maize.  It was pretty bland without the sauce and held together stronger than Jell-O.  
Herman, Our Safari Driver
Elephants walking

November 26—Like real tourists, we went on safari!  Herman drove us, and once again, we saw wildlife while on the highway.  A baboon ran along side us and crossed the road to meet up with another.  Giraffes ate, and elephants walked majestically.  

 We watched the vultures in a tree to see if there was a lion and food below—never saw a lion. Impalas leapt and kept watch as zebras and wildebeests grazed.  Elephants ripped out grasses as storks puffed up and waddled through them.  Jackals stood to see what we were doing, while in a pond far away hippos played and crocs swam along the edge.

We were thrilled to see so much wildlife and at such close range.  Herman took us to the bus station and we paid $12 each for a ride back (shorter and quieter); this is the price of business class.  The electricity was out most of the night and it was very hot.   
Young Goat Herders Association
We paid for everything with our last shillings and USD that we had tucked away, as there was no ATM.  The room was really expensive for our standard ($50) and because it was so uncomfortable, I thought we could get a $5-10 discount, but no such chance.  An acknowledgement from Tan-Swiss that the room wasn’t worth $50 would have been nice.  
Pee break on the way home

November 27—The bus picked us up on the side of the road, we had reserved seats, so some people had to move out of them and move to the back.  The bus sped home and stopped for only a few minutes at bus terminals.  We cleaned up, used the Internet and soon we were on our way to Anna’s house for dinner.  Alice walked us from their big church to their home down the hill and past the fancy homes along a dirt path to a cement structure that housed several families.  There were 2 rooms for two families and also singles that they rent out.   
Alice Showing Christian Music Videos from her Church
 As chicken fried, we watched their church music videos—professionally done! 

Anna was picking up a couch surfer at the bus station.  As it turns out, Christina from China had had a bus accident in Mozambique, and was days late.  Anna had waited 10 hours for her, and the next day some too, so she thought she wasn’t coming.   
Surfer Ivan and Les
So she accepted a surfer from Uganda: Ivan.  Mama Elizabeth’s household was full of family: her own three daughters (Anna Alice and Karen) the neighbors’ children whom she “adopted,” and us!  The beans, rice, chicken, fresh salad, chapatti and mango/pineapple juice was delicious and the atmosphere jovial.   

Kids braided Christina’s Chinese hair that didn’t hold together without bands.  We sang and enjoyed the stories of adventures on the road. 
Mama Elizabeth and Christina

The whole family showered us with generous gifts.  We were overwhelmed with the presents—a plethora of gorgeous items that would have to be shipped, as we couldn’t carry them for the next many months.  Anna and Alice even took the first leg of the dalla-dalla to the Jambo Inn with us and gave us bus money to boot!
November 28—We made our way to the wrong Transit Inn and had an argument about money with the driver who took us about a kilometer to the right one.  We made arrangements for 3AM to the airport and decided we had spent all our money and could just afford to buy some fruit for dinner.   
African Roofs (thatch and tin) with Satellite Dish
We went down the road to some tents selling produce. The pineapple was delicious!  Next: on to South Africa!  I have trepidations about driving in Johannesburg!  Eeeee.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


School kids
November 20—Janet made us some delicious pancakes before we rushed out to the cab.  (I left a t-shirt and socks drying in the room.)  When we got to the airport, the guy didn’t have our info.  Eventually, we found out we were there the wrong day!  We were put on a plane to Zanzibar anyway, and ended up at the Flamingo Inn.
fish at the market
…Onwards to the market to see if we could find beach shoes and rain jacket for Les and a replacement t-shirt for me.  He got a pair and I picked up a local shopping assistant that I couldn’t shake. 
Treasures we find when getting lost on our walk

We ate an early dinner facing the beautiful sea, and waded in the warm water.  At the hotel, we read then went to the roof to hang laundry; and there was a big wedding party going on—except it was all women! (Muslim men apparently party at some other place.)  We could see them bobbing their dances in the window.
No Malaria for me

They sang for hours—call and response—and when they started leaving, we watched the parade of amazing dresses and headpieces flow from the hall.  I woke to the calls of prayer at 5AM and looked at the stars from the roof.

These are used for walls, shingles, window covering, etc.

November 21—After breakfast, we packed and made our way to where the dalla-dallas (bus made from a truck with a roof.) were.  A guy lead us to the Matemwe bus, another helped with the bags on the roof and asked for money.  He said 30,000 each.  I said I heard it was 1,500.  He said that was the old price.  No, I got it today from the hotel.  He said, ok 30,000 each.  I said 3,000 for two. Need to pay for bags--Ok, 10,000 each. I went to the driver to ask how much a fare is and he said he didn’t know. 5,000 for two. 10,000 for two. 5,000. 10,000. 5,000. The bus started pulling away with our stuff on it.  He had me.  I gave him the 10,000, Grrr.  They pulled away as we were getting in.  As it turns out, everyone pays a conductor who rides in the back.  Most people paid 1,500.  It was crowded with everyone watching everyone else’s moves.  We couldn’t be sneaky in taking photos. 
Cloves drying along the road

Communal Well

They dropped us at Mohammed’s bungalows, where we walked through a little village with a central well where women were pulling up water with a plastic container on the end of a rope.  Goats and chickens were walking around, and we soon found we were the only guests there.  We wanted to snorkel and also make it to our next place in the SE part of the island.  We walked to a diving place, but he wanted me to do a refresher course before taking me out (smart on his part, actually—I don’t remember much), and it would take 2 days.  So we asked Mohammed (who is one of the few Tanzanians with hotel business; most are Europeans) if he could take us out snorkeling. 
Jim look at that boat construction!

They walked the boat at low tide

The island around where we snorkeled

Communicating with water maps

Les "takes the bait"

He called boatman Hadj and his son who took us to the island where we saw lots of fish, sea snake, helicopter and long fish, a beautiful spotted ray, and a white fish you couldn’t see unless you disturb them.  The son picked up an old piece of coral for us to hold, and inside were lots of tiny blue fish; it was like holding a magic ball.  The water was the warmest I’ve ever snorkeled in.  Hadj yelled to us that the tide was going out.  We went back and because the inner channel was shallow, they got out and walked the boat.  Once we got out and pushed.  Hadj got a sea urchin stuck in his foot and I pulled out what I could with my fingernails.  Eventually we could go no further, we walked to the shore and home, happy with our adventure.  Les’s new shoes did well in this situation, but they don’t feel good on his feet, so he will give them to Hadj before we leave.  Les took a couple of tumbles, one into the hole of the hull, rolling like a tumbleweed, and another getting into the boat and falling backwards with pack on. Yikes.  Dinner was the best calamari I’ve ever had, we relaxed in a hammock (a woven bed of branches raised between two trees) and watched the stars emerge, with a strong sea wind in our faces.
November 22—We had breakfast and went out to wait for the dalla-dalla.  A taxi van came by and offered to drive us for $30US.  We said we would wait for the bus.  Eventually he took us for what we were willing to pay for the public transport.  Yeay.
We went to the bus lot in Stone City and caught the next one to Jambiani where Pakachi Resort awaited us.  When asked to pay a guy, I said I’d pay the conductor.  I wasn’t about to make that mistake again.  It ended up even cheaper than I thought it would be.  When it rained, they put our bags on our laps.  Other than the bolt in my back as we rode, it was a lovely ride.  A Maasai warrior was in there with us too; and a white woman! 

After we were dropped off, we borrowed the snorkeling gear and went out into the hot sea!  It was cooler a distance out, but nothing we could see. Then a swim.  After we got back, the sea retreated WAAAY out there.  People went out to gather seaweed for soap making.

We met a nice German couple who love to travel.  Man Tomas and Karen had quite the adventures roughing it when they were younger!

November 23—I tried to use the Internet for hours and hours and didn’t get very far.  Les read.  Later we went for a walk to the nearby town and back.  It was very simple; not much there.  Nice walk, save the few folks wanting us to buy their stuff or services.  It sure is beautiful.

Lumber yard.  Build your home with this.

November 24—Breakfast, a little business and off to catch the dalla-dalla.  At one point there were 32 people and 4 infants on board a truck with benches around the back and a roof.  We took a van to the airport, had a little trouble getting a flight, had a real shot of espresso at the airport and sailed off over the small bit of ocean to Dar Es Salaam.