Moshi to Arusha

We met a german couple just before we left from Moshi to Arusha.  They were really sweet and about 10 years younger than us.  They were traveling very low budget and having a good time.  The girl was going to stay in Tanzania to do some sort of work.  They’re the ones that told me how cheap it was to get a local sim card.  They also wanted to set us up with a couple of locals to take us on a tour.  They were kind and tried to persuade me off of my complaints about the incessant hovering of hustlers and beggars on the street.  They left on a bus for Dar Es Salaam a day before we left Moshi.

We took a taxi instead to Arusha. One of the guys at the Kilimanjaro Coffee Lounge set it up for us.  The journey was basically a straight line with a couple of turns at the start and finish.  There was some confusion when we arrived because we had no firm destination in Arusha and we didn’t have much luck explaining this to the driver.  We ended up close to the clock tower at the Everest Inn where we had lunch. It was a chinese restaurant with a few rooms and we considered staying there for the night.  We were really indecisive about taking a room there because we were waiting to hear from T’s mom, Maria. Maria and her long time friend Clarinha came to travel with us for a couple weeks and arrived that day.

Part of our weeks worth of doing nothing prior to this had to do with being tired out in general.  Part had to do with trying to put together a game plan for our time as a foursome.  T’s mom had traveled to Europe for a week of so before we all met up.  With our spotty access to the internet and the cost of making international phone calls, it was impossible for us to make a definite itenerary for our time together – an itenerary that we would all be happy with.  I had never met Clarinha before.

So we ended up just waiting, not doing much and being in a bad mood about it.  For instance we thought, “we could go for a hike around Kilimanjaro but what if they want to do that too?”  Looking back at our wish list of what we wanted to do on the Safari and knowing what we actually did on the Safari, I realize we should have done some of the active (e.g. hiking, canoeing) type things during that time before they arrived.

We waited the afternoon at the the Tanzania Tourist Board office and the Africafe Coffee House knowing that the flight of Maria and Clarinha would arrive around 15:00.  There were three foul mouthed well dressed buffoons in the Coffee House babbling on and on about “tree huggers.”


Small Expenses

I was looking back at our expenses for Moshi.  Two expenses I wanted to comment on: a local sim card and a bean bag.

The sim card was with the Tigo company.  It cost me 5,500 Tanzanian Shillings or 3.60 USD.  The only real difficulty I had getting it was walking down the street to get to the shop.  I was highly irritated by the near constant hounding of street peddlers and hustlers.  I got propositioned to buy pot and all kinds of useless little things.  But having a local telephone number really helped out.

T- wanted a bean bag to set her camera on while shooting photos during the safari – which we wouldn’t arrange until we got to Arusha.  So what we did was sacrifice the shirt I got when I had the cooking class at La Vecchia Scuola.  We asked at the Kilimanjaro Coffee Lounge where we could get someone to make a bag out of it.  She took over and talked to someone out on the street to sew it for us.  It costed 1,500 Tanzanian Shillings – less that a dollar – and it had a zipper.  The idea of the bag was that T- could set her camera down on odd surfaces – like the roof of a Land Rover – and make the camera level and steady to take photos.  Later we bought some beans from a roadside vendor and filled it up.  When we were done with it we left it behind in a hotel room.

Safari Ideas

While we were in Moshi we made up a plan of what we wanted to do on our safari.  Here’s the itenerary we came up with. (Its probably not that original, but I have this idea that when you go to spend money you should have some expectation of what you want going to get in return.  How very un-Buddhist of me setting myself up for disappointment.)

Prerequisite: 4-wheel drive vehicle with a roof that opens.

Day 1 – Start out from Moshi/Arusha and go to the Tarangire National Park.

  • Walking safari
  • Lunch
  • Evening game drive
  • Stay the night

Day 2 – Tarangire to Lake Manyari.

  • Morning game drive in Tarangire
  • Game drive through Lake Manyari – climbing lions
  • Stay the night in Karatu

Day 3 – Lake Manyari to Ngorongoro Crater

  • Bike/Walk/Canoe safari at Lake Manyari (choose one)
  • Stay the night at the Ngorongoro Crater

Day 4 – Ngorongoro Crater

  • Game drive in the crater
  • Walking tour to visit Masai
  • Stay the night near the Ngorongor Crater

Day 5 – To Olduvai Gorge and the Serengeti

  • Visit Olduvai Gorge
  • Go to the Serengeti in the area of Lobo or Klien’s Gate
  • Stay near Klien’s gate or Lobo.

Day 6 – Serengeti.

  • Hot air balloon
  • Visit a Masai Village

Day at the beginning or at the end – Hiking at Kilimanjaro.

  • Spend a day hiking at the base of the Mountain

That was our idea and we sent it by email to a few Safari companies.  Thinking about it now it still sounds good.  But, we kept in mind that if we really wanted to see animals we would need to trust that our guide would know where to take us.  After all the Serengeti is an enormous area.

After some false starts in Moshi, with regards to lodging, we settled in to the Kilimanjaro Coffee Lounge.  As the name suggests it is actually a coffee lounge (good coffee and food), but they also have a few nice clean rooms upstairs for a good price.  On our second morning in town we arrived there early with our bags, ready to unload and relax.  After we got in the room we did nothing all day.  Ah, so refreshing.  Late in the evening we finally saw the mountain from the back stairwell.

The next morning when we had breakfast downstairs there was a guy yelling continuously on a cell phone (or maybe pretending to be on a cell phone).  I asked the lady that ran the place what it was all about.  She said he was possibly mad from Malaria.  We spent the rest of the day just keeping busy – life on the road stuff.  We argued a bit, we went to the offices of some travel agencies trying to get some info about a safari, we played back gammon, we used the internet to work on the blog, we watched a Moonlighting rerun on TV, we washed clothes on the rooftop of the Lounge with a view of Kilimanjaro.

Moshi is a town to the south of Mount Kilimanjaro.  At the time of year that we were there, there were clouds that covered the view for most of the day.  Then, every day, just an hour or so before sunset, the clouds would disappear and the mountain would be there in all of its jaw dropping glory.   The combination of the enormity of the mountain, the light of sunset, the distance of Moshi made me feel like I couldn’t believe my eyes.  The best way to describe it is to say that it seemed unreal.  It seemed like a very large picture or an image painted or projected on a wall.

Kigali to Moshi

After just a few days in Kigali we were ready to go.  It was expensive and there was nothing we wanted to see.  So we got up one morning and by lunch time we had tickets on Rwanda Air from Kigali to Kilimanjaro International Airport.  After buying the tickets we haggled with a taxi driver to take us to the airport. This trip definitely taught me how to haggle.

The plane was tiny – maybe 9 rows/45 seats.  We flew over the southern border of Lake Victoria.  Then it got dark and we didn’t get to see Mount Kilimanjaro.  It was a pain getting Visas at the airport.  They would only take US Dollars (50 USD for each Visa), and of course they needed to be dated 2001 or more recent.  I didn’t have that so I had to change Euros at the exchange in the airport.  It was a robbery.  For 200 Euros I got 209 USD.

Once we had our Visas we walked out and were surrounded by taxi drivers.  It was another situation where we felt like fish being circled by sharks.  The drivers refused to lower the price.  We could have hiked out to the main road but it was dark and a sort of “local” Muzungu advised us against it.  I began ignoring the taxi drivers and checking out the other travelers to see if I could find a strategy.

I walked over to a white guy who appeared to be waiting for someone and frankly asked him for a ride.  I would have taken the ride whether he was going to Arusha or Moshi, though I wanted to go to Moshi.  Incredibly, he said yes.  He checked with his girlfriend and it was OK with her.

The taxi drivers, who had assured us that 50 USD was the right price, suddenly wanted to bargain with us.  Because it was already dark, we decided to stay at the same hotel as our new friends.  We got “the last room” for 60 USD.  The room was enormous and clean and nice.  I fell asleep watching soccer.

A Few Days in Kigali

It has been some time since we were in Kigali. But, I’m just now getting around to writing about it. Oddly enough, as I write this, I’ve just finished reading “A Sunday at the Pool in Kigali,” by Gil Courtemanche.

First, what I remember of my time in Kigali. The main thing I wanted to do there was visit the Kigali Memorial.  We took a taxi and arrived in the middle of a hot sunny day.  We slowly walked around the outside.  We spent a few minutes near the walls of names and the graves.  Then we went inside and I had a series of shocks.  Starting at the bottom we learned a lot about the story of the idea of Hutu and Tutsi.  It was shocking to realize that the entire conflict is based on a complete fiction foisted upon the ancestors of present day Rwandans by the Belgians. It’s all a huge error because everybody bought into the bullshit racial profiles made up and written down by some overly successful, idiot “scientist/anthropologist.” It apparently never occurred to this anthropologist that Africans could have a sophisticated economy and names for people in different social classes and that there could be different looking people in each social class.

The second shock was to find out how deeply the government and military of France was involved in helping to develop the Genocide.  The third shock was to know how utterly ignorant I had been about all of it.  The Genocide is still inexplicable and unimaginable to me.  I felt silly and irrelevant as I held back my tears when looking at the terrifying photographs.  I felt a Rwandan woman looking at me and I felt she was laughing at me.  “Stupid white man, come to cry about our history.”

And seeing those photographs made me marvel that the city still exists.  Undoubtedly many of the murderers have left.  Still…  And in the end, I can not see how the situation could ever improve with such an awful past.  There is no justice to suit the crimes that were committed.  What can you do to a man who has hacked into a baby’s skull, or stolen the soul of a woman through rape and mutilation?

On to my observations about the book.  I was unsatisfied with it.  Perhaps it had its intended effect. Perhaps it was intended as a metaphor for the inexplicable behavior of the so-called international community.  If I’m taking the book literally, my over-riding question is, how could any man choose to stay in a place, knowing what is very likely to happen to the woman he loves? This is to say, if you were in a position to choose, why would you choose to stay and allow your wife to be treated so vilely?  There is no explanation that could satisfy me.  In the book there is a lot of romantic garbage and a lot of talk of happiness that in my opinion doesn’t fit into the story of utter barbarism.  On the other hand, maybe the point is that the white world is perfectly happy with the state of affairs in Africa?  Still, what a lot of romantic language in this book.