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  • Day13

    Arusha

    August 19, 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    Arriving from the Ngorongoro crater a little later then hoped, it was dusk, we made a plan to go looking for accommodation where there were the most people around (as to not isolate ourselves). Thankfully our drop off was a few blocks away from a very lively market and so we made our way towards it. The very first room we visited at Cayote Guest house was actually quite nice, with a renovated washroom and king-size bed. Of course, we negotiated - instead of 30,000TZS for the night, we got two nights for 50,000TZS.

    This is now my last day touring Tanzania. I'm sad to not continue with Jack both because I'm sure she will have an amazing adventure in the west, and because there's a part of me that thinks I should be there to keep her safe. Trust me, I'm aware she can manage herself. Heck, she takes care of me most of the time, but there will always be a protector in me that feels the need to keep an eye on her. I'm also happy to return home to my family and friends. I loved my time in Tanzania, but I feel Iike 2 weeks was close to perfect - not too long to make me feel anxious, not too long to make me miss general comforts, but long enough to make me want to return and hug my family and have a beer with fellow Canadians. It can be tiring to always have to put on a pleasant, polite face as to not offend anyone (when you don't have the ability to communicate your intentions, you have to show them by being friendly, always).

    Our only goal for today, well at least mine, is to but my ticket for the bus to Dar Es Salaam tomorrow. It's an all day bus, and since my flight leaves the next day, I don't want to risk not having any seats for me. Despite Jack knowing very well that they would never run out of seats, she supported me in this goal.

    We set out onto town in the morning with the expectation of being followed by every tout in town. We had rwsd and heard about the relentless touts in Arusha, wanting to sell you just about anything, to the point where they follow you around town. Surprinsgly - this wasn't our experience at all! I think Jack and I have just gotten very good at our clear messaging. Anyone that approaches us we say "we're ok, thank you" no matter what they say. Sometimes it's "nice tattoos" or "are you a masai?" (pointing to my gauged ears). But these are simply to break the ice into a longer conversation leading to being our tour guide or showing us around town or something. So consistantly, and politely, we'd simply say no thank you to any man approaching us. Soon enough, almost like word got around town that we weren't interested, no one bothered us. A firm answer, and off they went. Easy enough.

    We walked around town to find the public parks, as Jack enjoys doing in every city. Arusha was odd though - it had a beautiful wooded area with a raven going along but it was entirely inaccessible with dense forests. And it had a really well maintained public park that closed, roped off. So we settled on getting some WiFi time in and sat at a coffee shop. This is when Jack asked me to trouble shoot her "polarsteps" app and instead I deleted all her drafts... Oops.

    We also found the German clock tower everyone talks about in the books, meh. Then off we went to buy my bus ticket because Jack is an awesome partner and knew I was thinking about it non stop. This part was easy, looked online for reviews, found that Dar Express was reliable. Went to their ticket office (becuase again, never buy anything from a tout or resaler - save the middle man fees!), and bought a ticket. Easy done it.

    Not being huge fans of Arusha, not really seeing its charm, we decided to get creative and paid for a boda boda driver to take us towards Mount Meru where we hoping to hike to the Themi Waterfalls. This driver had no clue what he got himself into, and neither did we. It was quite the steep climb up the the restaurant where the trail started, and clearly this guy didn't do hills very often.

    Once we arrived, we secretly used the restaurants washroom because I read somewhere that they charged money to explore their grounds. After a little sneaking around, we made our way down the little dirt road passed tiny mud house and gardens / fields to a tree plantation where according to "maps.me" when needed to cross. As we starting walking two young men came chasing us down. According to them, we had to pay to continue towards the falls, and we were on the wrong path. Now, we knew we were on the right path. And I did read online it was 10,000TZS to pass, but we thought we'd get away with it since we didn't need or want a guide. Unfortunately these boys were insistant that we needed to follow them to the office to get a "special permit" that was 10$USD, not shillings! Frustrated, we turned around, not to follow the boys but to make our own way back and talk things out. We decided to drop by this "office" to see if the prices quoted were correct, and if there was room for negotiation since we didn't want nor need a guide.

    There was not. Plain and simple. We had to pay 10$ each and have a guide take us the whole 20-30 minute walk over to the falls. This sounded ridiculous to us. 20 minutes of walking, followed by someone who doesn't speak English, who likely won't add to the experience, and who will only make Jack and I on guard for being followed by someone. So what do we do? Decided to walk back to the restaurant and sneak onto their grounds to see the smaller, yet closer waterfall. This also failed. Yes, 10$ per person to see a waterfall that was basically 20 steps away.

    Oddly enough, we still made the best of our afternoon! We decided to walk back to town, through the tiny village. We got to their "downtown", basically 2 restaurants, a shop and a sports bar, and decided this was the perfect place to settled in for our second beer of the day! We dropped by one restaurant, who didn't have beer. They pointed us to the second restaurant, who pointed us towards the unidentified building with a few young adults sitting outside. Perfect! We walk up, enter, there's a bar, a magical young lady shows up from outside, serves us a beer, and we grabbed our plastic chair and brought it outside to sit with the rest of the gang! We basically chatted amungst ourselves until Baba Charles came to chat, funny man.

    Anywho, we eventually decided to head back and hire a boda boda driver to assist us in getting to our hotel room in time to pee! (beer... You know...). This time, it was luxury! We each had our own boda boda! Only two people per bike, how comfy! Jack decided this was her chance to practice the side saddle on a bike like most local women do. I was terrified she'd fall but she says it's quite comfortable!

    Our hotel being conveniently close to the market meant we could safely go out after dark to grab some local grub! We had the power of lots of people arond us, and the random older gentleman with gauged ears (likely an actual masai) who welcomed us home everytime and who waved off the few touts hanging around. I think he liked me - the white masai.

    Last minute, Jack decided to change her plans. It's dark, it's evening, but she decides she wants to go to Mwanza in the morning (also an all day bus). So we head to the central bus station, blocks from our hotel, and start checking prices and times out. Once again, you have to ignore the crowd of men surrounding you and yelling out destinations as if they knew where you were headed. We walked into 3 different ticketing booths, for Jack to decide on the third one because the man had a nice smile. While she was busy booking her ticket, I had my own interesting interaction.

    An older man who was sitting in the corner of the office stood to come see me. He had a look of amazement, was studying me and goes "yellow Masai?" To which I answer "yes! I'm a yellow Masai!" We continued this exchange for a good minute, as he kept this look of amazement, and repeating "yellow Masai?" I started thinking he honestly thought I was a Masai so I said "well, I'm not a Masai, but you can make me one". He asked if people at home (Canada) looked like yellow Masai too. I said no. So he asked if they look like me. I said no, I look different. To which he answered "different! So all eyes on you then? You must be famous!" This was one of my favorite interactions in any trips, ever. From now on, call me Yellow Masai.
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