June 30, 2012
Wow. Amazing day. My first glimpse of the Africa I was expecting.
John told us he would take us to a waterfall outside of Arusha, but first came a hectic morning of trying to get our excursions booked (safari, Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro!!!). Our catch phrase has become “TIA”- “This is Africa,” haha. It’s generally applied to things like this, where booking trips becomes a 2-hour affair. Oh well! We’re all learning to calm down our fast paced ways and just slow down. Like the t-shirt slogan I saw on a street vendor today, “You can’t hurry in Africa.”
ANYWAYS, so John had told us it would be a “2 hour walk” to the waterfall. Well, we all seemed to think “walk” meant leisurely stroll through the jungle or something. How wrong we were, haha. “2 hour walk” actually meant about a 3 hour excursion for us unconditioned mzungus up a very steep and sometimes barely there trail through rural African villages and forests. Needless to say, we ran out of water. Quickly. Also, I’m pretty sure John was chuckling to himself as we took breaks while he sprinted ahead. (I’m not even kidding about him sprinting.)
Despite whatever challenges we had climbing what we now call our “starter mountain,” the trek was incredible and more worth it than I could’ve imagined. As we walked out of Arusha, the bustling industrialized town we had been somewhat surprised to find upon our arrival here, we discovered the other Arusha- dusty dirt roads covered in pot holes, small houses of concrete and tin roofs crowded next to one another, people everywhere buying, selling, still dressed in their best clothing… this is where many of the citizens of Arusha truly live, and a part of town many tourists don’t visit.
Slowly, the dusty road became an ascending path through lush vegetation and we began to enter true African villages- small houses, again constructed from concrete and mud, scattered throughout the hills, with fields and vegetable plots, stables and grazing animals all mixed together in between. Here, the cries of “Mzungu! Come look at this! You want a safari? Hey Canada!” you hear in the streets of town totally fade away and are instead with replaced with curious stares. The children tentatively approach us, sometimes breaking into smiles if we call out “Mambo!” or other greetings. Some of the braver ones giggle as they let us take their picture and give us “high fives.” (As a side note, you do have to be careful with photo-taking here. You generally should not take photos of the locals without asking permission, as was made all too clear when an upset farmer emerged with a machete after a hastily snapped picture of his house. That being said, I later learned that even children carry around machetes- they can be used for grass cutting after all, 🙂 )
We arrived at the waterfall somewhat later than John had predicted, with Jocelyn stepping into guide for part of it. The water fall was truly incredible. I took photos but they don’t do it justice. I can’t believe I can sit here and type that I stood under a water fall in Africa today. Last week at this time I was in Canada. Completely surreal.
The hike back (other than the initial bit, which was pretty much like climbing a mud ladder) was much easier and took us through more Tanzanian farm land and villages. You see children everywhere, dusty and sometimes barefoot, sometimes pushing forward goats and cattle, sometimes just playing with make shift toys. Julia taught a couple to give her high fives, to their and our delight. They have so little, and yet they can find such joy in simple things. It made me feel so many different things, ashamed and guilty of my own complaints about life, somewhat helpless, humbled, and yet, profoundly glad that happiness still exists in all corners of the world. Certainly alters your perspective.
After a couple hours, we stumbled back into Arusha, dirty, exhausted and dehydrated. Naturally, we stopped for beers at a local bar. To put some costs into perspective, for 10 of us to have drinks, it cost about a dollar per person. I was feeling pretty warm and happy off of one beer, but they are 500 ml bottles and I’m fairly certain I had sweated out any water left in me on our hike. We then had a late dinner at the Italian restaurant Pepe’s (oh yes, even here you can get ravioli after a long day!) and then, THEN I took the best shower since getting here. Our shower has been about as warm as standing outside naked in a snow storm, but I learned the boys washroom has HOT water!! HUZZAH! (Sadly, the power went out shortly after this leading to a bit of the “naked in a snowstorm” experience for the next person, but, TIA.)
Finally clean, tired and fed, we had a bit a country sing along in the candle light and fell asleep.