Safe to say this is the biggest trip I have ever undertaken in my 35 years. This 3 week journey to Tanzania, Africa has been one for the heart and nothing to do with sitting back in 5 star luxury or snowboarding down some faraway ski slope.
Ever since I was a little boy I can remember growing up with Africa around me, my parents having lived there for 2 years before I was born, had gathered a fair few materials from the great country and I grew up surrounded by carvings and animal skins (back then I guess it was more acceptable to have).
While driving to the airport my excitement and nerves started to overcome me and when that happens I tend to do silly things and start making stupid decisions so I managed to calm myself and get the car parked and off to the Brisbane International Terminal I went. I was so looking forward to seeing The Alexander’s, Christina and Godwin. Upon checking in I started to worry about being over the baggage limit, my backback and suitcase full of goodies were heavy and in fact I smashed the baggage limit, but this was a time where the cost of the baggage did not out weigh the resulting reward at the other end, so I was happy to pay.
As I boarded the plane I once again went over my 3 week Itinerary. There really is no rest until Zanzibar. Dar, Moshi, Arusha, Safari, Hike for 50km across the crater highlands. I wanted to capture the trip as best I could so I took whatever camera gear I had, excepting the small digital, which I now regret. Sometimes on trips I have a tendency to be too caught in the moment and forget to capture an image or video. This time I wanted to make sure I did not let that happen.
So the plane flights (3 altogether, Singapore, Doha and Dar es Salaam) were very smooth, albeit long, approximately 30 hours in transit and I was in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I have to say Singapore Airlines and Singapore Airport are simply an amazing experience.
Justin Alexander picked me up from Dar Airport and I was surprisingly feeling fine, perhaps adrenaline from finally arriving. We travelled through Dar up to the peninsula where Justin and Kellie and the kids lived. Suddenly everything I was comfortable with was thrown out the window. It felt like another world being in Dar. People walk between the lanes of traffic selling things from water to maps and even fruit. Car number plates are embedded in rear vision mirrors because people steal them and sell them in the markets, having the number plate on the mirror is the only way for you to retrieve your mirrors, even though you have to pay for them to get them back. It seems like the whole population of Dar hangs out on the roads. Mostly due to the fact that not all people have cars like it is back in Australia.
After crawling our way through the city traffic we finally arrived at the Alexander’s house where I was met by Kellie, Darcy and Christina. Darcy had put on her cheeky smile, which I had missed greatly. It was good to be finally in Dar and the adventure was about to begin.
I settled in and gave out the gifts I had brought from half way around the world. The excitement and joy from everybody receiving their gifts warmed my heart. The Aperture book went down well and I look forward to doing a part 2 book.
Justin, Kellie and myself headed to an Ethiopian restaurant named Addis in Dar. This was a very cool experience as it was new and unique way of eating a meal. The food you order is literally dumped on a layer of bread and you dip in rolls of bread to eat your meal.
The next morning we woke early and travelled out to Godwin’s school. I had a bag full of more goodies to give out, a football and some Wildlife Warrior materials. We reached the school early and the kids were all out sweeping the grounds and watering the gardens. It took a affair while for the teachers to show up, they lack in enough teachers so it seems be a struggle for them at times.
As we waited the children’s curiosity grew more and more about me. Why was I here? Children started to gather closer and closer and they even noticed the football in my bag to give away. I thought while waiting we might be able to get into a game so I pulled out the football to pump up and start a game. This gave the unintentional go signal for a free for all. Kids started grabbing at everything in the bag. Having a language barrier really didn’t help. We soon restored order and most of the goodies were returned to be handed out in a more formal fashion.
It wasn’t long before we found the principal and they started the morning parade. I was introduced to the school children and the principal explained why I was there and the story behind Christina and Godwin going to Australia. I greeted the kids in Swahili and I was told the kids had said they all wanted me to take them to Australia.
After the parade the principal and teachers showed me through to Godwin’s class and I enjoyed handing out goodies while the secondary principal showed the class the Aperture book I had printed for Godwin and Christina. Once we finished at Godwin’s School, Christina and Godwin headed to Moshi on the bus where I would meet them the next day. Kellie and I headed to a French coffee shop for some breakfast and coffee. I was still buzzing form my experience at the school.
Kellie then attended a school sports day with Darcy and I was picked up by a local taxi driver named Idie. Idie is a big Tanzanian guy and has grown up in Dar es Salaam. I spent the rest of my day with Idie showing me the local area and some of the attractions I may like. We travelled around to the fish markets, a kanga market, Wonder Welders and the Tinga Tinga market. It was an awesome afternoon and I learnt a lot about the local area.
The next day was an early morning taxi ride with Idie to the airport. Catching a flight to Kilimanjaro and then a bus to Moshi. I arrived at Bristol cottages where Chrisitna and Godwin greeted me before heading out to the Moshi markets and her husbands village in Mowo. After the markets we took a taxi ride to here husbands village, which is a spectacular position at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro.
The village of Mowo is surrounded in beautiful lush forest and is quite a climb in a taxi, a car not at all suited for the terrain but it manages to get us there. On the way we stop at a school to visit Christina’s sister in law. A simply amazing setting for school to be in.
I managed to get permission to shoot some photos and also discovered a albino boy attending the school, so we got a great group shot.
We then pushed on to Christina’s husbands house and were soon enjoying a traditional Chagga lunch with Christina’s in laws. Beef and banana stew, never tasted anything like this and it blew me away, also Chai te with unprocessed cows milk, dangerous but tasty (Kevin Rose would love that).
After lunch and many thanks the taxi driver and I headed back to Moshi down the roughest road you can image (*10). I waved and greeted everybody on the way down, they don’t see many tourists up this way. I then spent the night at Bristol cottages and had a chicken pizza.
When I woke the next morning something felt wrong and one of my fears was starting to come true. I had the beginning of the runs. I now put it down to the Chai tea with the unprocessed cows milk. It wasn’t a bad case at the morning stage so I persevered and went for an early walk around town and got some breakfast. Shortly afterwards Christina and Godwin met me at Bristol and we took the Dala Dala (stick 50 people in a Toyota Hiace and you have the most common mode of transport in Tanzania) to Mchame, the location for Christina’s parent’s village. Once we reached Mchame we then jumped in a taxi to drive up to Massama village. This was not any old taxi, or maybe it was. In any case it was certainly old and needed to be roll started to get going, there were no seat belts and the windows struggled to work. But to the locals this is very normal. The drive up was actually worse than the drive to Chrisitna’s husband’s village (it was actually possible). So much so that the car did not make it.
So we legged it the rest of the way, it wasn’t too far. On the way we passed another school and once again the curiosity of the kids astounded me. This area is not frequented by the likes of me so they followed me on our route to the village.
Sure all the tourists were hiking up Kilimanjaro but this is better than any typical tourist route.
We eventually ended up heading off the road walking down to the location of here parent’s home. Another beautifully forest location.
It was pure joy and an honor to met her parents, sister and brother. We gathered for another traditional lunch and looked through Christina’s Aperture book while I took photos and video of everybody.
Afterwards Christina and her father took me on a tour of their crops, corn, spinach, cucumber, banana and coffee. It’s simply entirely self sufficient. It is amazing to meet people who’s daily tasks are to simply survive yet they are so happy.
After lunch we headed back to where we left the taxi and headed back down to Mchame. Christina placed me in a Dala Dala by myself and Christina had this look of worry on her face, which made me wonder how safe it is for a tourist to travel on…