After getting back to our campsite at Snake Park in Arusha, we were all pretty wiped from our three days in the Serengeti and pretty much passed out in our tents early in the evening. We were facing a few travel days coming up before arriving in Dar Es Salaam for one night prior to our mini-trip of five nights on the island of Zanzibar.
Travel days are quite arduous. Sitting on the truck for hours at a time, sometimes with very limited or no toilet stops (or having to go on the side of the highway) and limited options for food along the way is a challenge. The heat has been a difficult adjustment for me – it has been over 100 degrees since we left the slightly cooler foothills of Kilimanjaro. As has the dust – the efforts to keep skin, clothes, tent, feet, and hands clean is a constantly losing battle.
I’m very grateful that I invested in a Kindle Paperwhite before the trip, and I’ve already finished reading two books. Otherwise, I find it literally impossible to nap on the truck due to the heat and the noise of 15 individuals talking, playing music etc.
The three travel days were nicely broken up by a morning excursion in the town of Marangu. A few of us opted to do a small trek to a waterfall and learn a little about the local indigenous tribe – the Chaga.
We found ourselves walking through small farms and houses in this mostly rural village (also the starting point for the most popular route up Kilimanjaro) and getting to observe how the locals live and keep their chickens and cows. Vegetation was lush and the temperature already searing by mid-morning as we made the steep descent to the refreshing waterfall. We eagerly got into our bathing suits and had a swim in the glacially fed waters, taking a jaunt upstream with our guide, Thomas, to a natural water spring where we could drink free of the worry of any contaminants.
After walking back up to the village, we were introduced to the history of the Chaga people who came to live here in the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania more than 700 years ago. We visited one of their re-created grass huts and saw examples of their weaponry, masonry, pottery, furniture and artwork all masterfully explained to us by an enthusiastic descendant and proprietor of the museum. Later we descended into a cave that the Chaga people used as a hideout during the war with the invading Masaai who came from the north to take over these lands. As the Masaai were tall warriors and used jumping when they fought, the caves offered the Chaga people a distinct advantage, and were able to hide from their enemies and kill them more easily if they attempted to enter the cave.
After about a five hour drive, we arrived in Zebra camp where we ate a simple dinner and I took a shower by scooting under a running tap in the dark (the showers and the lights were not functioning – fun!) and went to sleep after setting up our tents, forced to use our rain fly despite the heat because of the high winds.
The following day involved a very long day of driving into Dar Es Salaam, which to date, might be the most congested, polluted, and scariest looking place I’ve been to. When we arrived in the urban area, our guide Tabitha (who is Kenyan) told us to lean out of both sides of the truck and keep an active eye out for people who would run up to the truck and try to open one of the doors on the side where we kept our gear and food – in an effort to dissuade them from trying to rob the truck. Unfortunately, a couple of guys actually ran under the truck as we were stuck sitting in idle traffic and stole the dipstick from the engine.
Crazy, huh? Apparently such a part is valuable enough that they would risk their lives to take it.
This is not a city where you would wander around, especially by yourself, and even more especially as a woman.
Luckily, our night before heading to Zanzibar was spent at a lovely campsite next to the beach on the outskirts of the city center. I was thrilled when I saw the lovely white sand, swaying palm trees, pool and bar welcoming us from the long, hot, dusty journey.
I jumped into the water well before I set up my tent and it felt amazing. The ocean was actually like bath water – so warm! After two rum and cokes (with safe ice!!) I was feeling a little more like myself again. Though the amount of attention I get as a white woman swimming in a sea full of black men is rather disconcerting. It is about as opposite of an experience as I could possibly have to doing the same thing in Seattle. Still, it is flattering to be reminded that I am desirable, even if it is just for being “different”, or being perceived as having money?
In the morning, we took a tuk-tuk (yay!!) to a ferry, walked 15 minutes with our bags wrapped closely to our chests, to the big ferry that we would take to Zanzibar. We have so far spent one night in Stone Town – so named for its Arabic (Oman) architecture and history.
I will fill you in on Zanzibar in my next post! Incidentally, I wrote my post on the Serengeti on another person’s computer and they didn’t bring the laptop to Zanzibar – therefore, I will be posting out of sequence 🙂