August 2019
  • Day15

    Parting Thoughts

    August 21, 2019 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    While I sit on the plane heading home, I have too much time to think. Here are some thougts.

    Tanzanians remind me a lot of Ugandans. They are so friendly and welcoming, and all say hello with authentic joy. They are slightly more organized, or financially stable I guess... Transportation makes a little more sense, although still chaotic. I mean, they have toilet paper everywhere that you can flush! That's luxury! Everything aimed to tourist is more expensive, even more then Kenya. But everything local - like the food and the cheaper guest houses are real cheap! You can eat a full meal for 3,000TZS (1.30$USD) and have a coke for 40 cents USD. We could easily find a room for 25,000TZS (11$USD). And public transport costs pennies compared to back home. My 11 hour air conditioned bus ride from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam was 14$USD. But what I take home from Tanzania really is the smiles of the people.

    As for my anxious self, which I haven't spoken much about, here goes.

    This is social anxiety at play. When I checked in to my flights, I asked the agent if I had isle seats. She said "yes for the first flight, probably for the second, and the third one I can't check because it's another airline". So I'm safe for the first flight. I got to my first layover in Addis Ababa airport, and I made it a challenge for myself not to confirm with an agent that I had an isle seat, and to just trust that I did. 10 minutes before boarding when I saw the gate fill up with people, I cracked. The agent confirmed it was an isle seat. My palpitations slowly resolved. Once I got to my seat, the guy sitting in the middle arrived and asked "you wouldn't by any chance mind taking the middle seat?" signaling to his broad shoulders (gym dude).

    Now I have two ways this could go - my usual 'would never want to cause any conflict or make anyone else uncomfortable' self and give my seat away. Or take the few seconds of discomfort to refuse and not feel suffocated for the next 6 hours. I took the few seconds and responded "sorry, I'm claustrophobic, that's why I always make sure I have an isle seat". That's the easier response. He didn't debate, didn't make me feel guilty, and we joked around that I was small enough for him to be comfortable in the middle.

    If I really wanted to be honest, I'd tell him I'm not claustrophobic by definition - I'm not afraid of tight spaces at all. I'm afraid of the absolutely terrifying moment where I have to go to the washroom and wake him up. Or if I nugde him too often while trying to eat. Or if I'm sitting with my legs out too far that I'm in his space. Or that I'm moving too much for him to rest peacefully. Or maybe my arm is taking too much of the arm rest. See, I can avoid a lot of these by sitting in the isle seat. I point my legs towards the isle so I can spread comfortably (I know, super lady like ;)). I can get up as I please. I can stick my elbows out all I want into the isle. But I assumed claustrophobia was the simplest way to go.

    I found myself thinking about my anxiety during this trip, but in an interesting way. I was able to identify tendencies that I usually have when I'm feeling anxious, and it turns out I've been doing really well! It might be that this trip is only 2 weeks, something that I find easy. It might be that I changed my medication and maybe its working for me. It might be that Jack knows me so incredibly well that she can now help in moments where I would feel anxious before I even have to say anything. Who knows. But this is what I've observed - I haven't been checking multiple times a day that my passport is still in its usual place. I haven't been looking at my calendar at least twice a day to confirm how many days I have left (to make sure I don't miss my flight). I haven't checked my flight status other then the morning of when I tried to check in. I didn't panic when the online world wouldn't let me check in. I didn't count my money over and over again to make sure I didn't go starving in a town that likely had an atm anyways. I didn't check my account everyday to make sure I still had enough money in case something happened or that I didn't get hacked. I have however needed my medication to sleep, although I doubt that will ever change, insomnia should be considered a talent. I have worried about my family at home, and what I could be doing to help them instead of being so far away. I have missed all of them, but I think that's most people when they travel and not just me. Hey, I even ate everyday! And kept everything down! And that's a big deal!

    All in all, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw how easy I found traveling in Tanzania was. Granted, I had the practice of Uganda and Kenya which were somewhat similar, but I still feel I can toot my own horn here! Yay for sertraline! Or rather yay for me!
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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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  • Day12

    Tanzania = Safaris

    August 18, 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    I don't know if it's the pressure from everyone around us asking if we would do a safari while in Tanzania, or if it was our own wishes, but here we are, sitting comfortably in a 8 seat land rover with oversized sliding windows and a pop top. Leaving at "8am" means leaving the hotel around 830am then going to the parking lot of a supermarket and waiting there another 45 minutes. Once everyone was on board - 2 Swedish girls, one Germain and one American, on we went to Tarangire National Park. We park of course is gorgeous, beautiful dry planes and awesome baobab trees a little everywhere. I particularly enjoyed the baobabs because they made me think of my awesome niece who's first birthday theme was Le Petit Prince. We saw plenty of elephants doing what elephants do, tons of wilderbeast and Thomson gazelles and ostriches which I peeticularily enjoy. Huge fluffy flightless birds who think hiding their heads makes them invisible. I love the simplicity.
    We did see a few lions - some lions under a tree, some in the middle of open grass. To be honest, the scenery, the trees, the way the animals coexist in what seems like perfect balance, it's was magical, but it wasn't about the animals themselves.
    The next day seemed to leave the same impression. The Ngorongoro National Park is inside an massive crater of a sunken volcano said to have been as tall as Kilimanjaro when it was still standing. In this crater where animals do not escape, again the coexistence of wilderbeast, gazelles, buffalos, and others was amazing to watch. The nature was gorgeous - mostly dry with patches of green lands, different ecosystems existing in one crater.

    Jack and I both felt similarly - did we enjoy the experience? Of course! Would we do another safari? I don't think so. At least not soon. As I said - I loved both parks, but not for its animal spotting, and I feel no need to sit all day in a vehicle looking for whatever animal is around and then parking along side 5-6 other vehicles, sometimes more, to stare from a distance. I'm glad I was glad. I'm happy to have done it. It was worth the 320$USD, but I think I'm done with safaris. Let the animals be, and exist as they should - not bothered by a hundred vehicles driving slowly by them as even more tourists snap photos of what has already been photographed in thousands of ways. Just my thoughts.

    Our night between the two days was spent in a "safari lodge". As usual, east Africans (and many others) have difficulty saying no to tourists. They clearly over sold their grounds and were trying to figure out where to put who and were scrambling to find extra tents and rolled up mattresses. When we suggested putting us in their last set up tent, the one employee was saying it was too small for us. Jack and I looked - a double bed, one blanket. Perfect! So we subtly said something along the lines of "oh don't worry, we are small, we travel together all the time, the one bed is no problem". To which the staff was only happy to not have to find another tent for us. It was absolute luxury! A set military tent, high ceiling, light switch over us, two comfy pillows. Perfection.

    Also - this random accommodation had a local dance and acrobatic group come perform for tips at the end. They were ridiculously entertaining, and both Jack and I kept cringing at how close the ceiling was to their heads when they were in the air, held up with sheer balance... We could picture all the injuries that could come from this happening on cement flooring... Thankfully we did not have to enter nurse mode - we simply enjoyed the entertainment!
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  • Day10

    Moshi, Where's Kili ?

    August 16, 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Our only goal today is to book a safari for tomorrow and see Mount Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately, our lingering around town, stopping for a nice coffee, checking out the parks, was not enough to clear the clouds. Everyone we spoke with told us 5pm is the best time to see it. So we continued lingering. We started scoping out safaris by going into the many, many tourist agencies. Obviously here, many of them are offering Kilimanjaro hikes, which no thank you! We visited a total of 3 different offices to try and book a 2 day safari to Ngorongoro NP and Tarangire NP. They started at 450$ USD each. Jack and I couldn't fathom spending that amount of money for essentially just a driver, food and a tent to sleep in. The next company quoted 600$ to which we laughed and left thanking them for their time. The third and last place was with a hostel, can't remember which, but the lady was super nice, she was hilarious, and had an English that seemed like it north American English, which made me wonder if she lived elsewhere before settling in Moshi. She told us the very bottom price for this safari was 180$/day. So 360$ for what we wanted. We agreed to the price and she started calling the sister companies to see if they had a group leaving in the morning, as this was the price to join a group, not a solo safari. The company she called laughed and asked if it was the 2 girls going around shopping at different companies, to which she said yes, so they refused the 180$ offer. They wouldn't budge from the 400$. To her suggestion, we decided to go to Arusha tonight and hope to find an agency with a group leaving the next morning.

    Once closer to 5pm, we made our way to the top floor of a hotel down the street from ours for a better of Kili. Unfortunately, she stayed behind the clouds all day, and now I get to say I've been to Moshi Tanzania and I've never seen Kilimanjaro... The waiter of the rooftop bar asked us how our day was, to which we replied "it was ok, but we couldn't find a group for a safari tomorrow, so now we'll go to Arusha to find one". He replied "I know someone in Arusha, I can call them". Within 10 minutes we had our safari booked for 160$/day, so 320$USD total, and he reserved a room for us in the hotel he works in for 25,000TZS for the night - that's as cheap as it gets for Arusha! We were pumped! All we had to do was bus to Arusha, walk 10 minutes to the hotel, and everything was settled. That rooftop beer turned out to be super productive!
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  • Day9

    Mtae to Moshi

    August 15, 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    After waking up at 6am to watch the sun rise - me from bed and Jack from a cold bench outside, we wanted to make our way to Moshi to get a glimpse of mount Kilimanjaro.
    Jack and I carried our bags from Lushoto to Mtae, hoping to continue on to Moshi without having to backtrack. Yet everyone we spoke to along the way has told us the only road that will take you to the "highway" for Moshi is back through Lushoto. Jack would not have it. She was determined not to go back over our steps. So we took a walk, basically more hiking, to the "downtown" of Mtae. It was one street with a mosque and bus ticket office which was closed. The walk though was beautiful - going along the mountain top ridge, gorgeous views from both sides.
    Of course, Boda Boda drivers were quick to tell us there would be no bus today (we knew otherwise), and so they tried to sell us a motorcycle ride back to Lushoto. So we took the opportunity to bargain for Mnazi, a town were we hoped to get a bus to Mkomazi where we could then get a bus on the main road to Moshi. This may sound like many steps, but it's pretty normal for Africa. You basically get on any bus until you're done going that direction, get off, walk to the next direction and grab the next bus.

    We got on the Boda Boda for 15,000TZS (6.50$USD) total - both Jack and I with both our bags on one motorcycle. Again - so thankful for a small bag! To say it was a steep downhill is an understatement. It was what once was likely a much better road, gravel bumpy and twisty road with at times what seemed like worse then 45 degree descents. I started out nevous, and ended terrified, but we made it! There were so many turns that could have gone so much worse. 12 kms took an hour and a half. This is one of those experiences that once its done, you can think back and say "that was really cool", but I likely would have chosen a safer route had I had a better idea of what to expect. But gorgeous views all along the way, friendly driver, and the town we were dropped in was one of my favorites in all of east Africa! Mnazi clearly is not often visited by us Muzungus. It has one main road. A few shops. A few local eateries. Not too many people, all of which were staring at us, kids yelling "muzungu!" in an authentic surprise to see us. We sat down and had a drink at the shop who's only advertisement was "cold drinks". The older gentleman had some limited English, and we chatted while 5-6 kids gathered around to play my fish game on my phone.

    We walked around town, not much to do, no traffic at all, so we decided to make our way to the Y junction just outside of it to see if traffic would be bypassing the town. After sitting down and reading our books at an intersection were not a single vehicle passed, we understood that if we wanted to get to Moshi today, we'd have to buy private transport. Boda Boda it is!

    We walked over to the man with a motorcycle, assumed he was for hire (which he was) and bargained for Mkomazi. Again, 15,000TZS for an other hour and a half ride! That's 3 hours in one day on a dusty motorcycle, holding our backpacks, with whoever was in the back's bum banging against the metal bars normally used to tie cargo. This time though, no hill, just a decent conditioned dirt road. Once at the main road, it took no more then 10 minutes for a big bus to pass, and a nice man from the town waved it down for us. At this point, we were running very low on cash, having paid for our hike cash and now our 2 transports. We actually had to negotiate the big bus price since we had nothing left on us. All worked out great, and once in Moshi, after a long and dusty day, we checked out a few places and settled on a dorm of 4 beds for 6$USD each per night, which we of course negotiated to 25,000TZS just to have a round number. A warm shower well deserved!
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  • Day8

    Hiking the Usambara Mountains

    August 14, 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    Waking up for your body needing to continue its symphony creation is never a good sign before starting a multi day hike, but I was determined to not let it stop me! We made sure to have both our water bottles full, disinfecting our tap water with our Steripen, and I finished most of a bottle during breakfast alone (and obviously filled it again before leaving). This is where we meet our now best friend and chameleon enchanter, Rogers. I have a terrible memory, so I might be forgetting someone, but I can honeslty say Rogers has been my favorite guide of all times. He's funny, has great English, young at heart and played with all the kids and said a warm hello to everyone we passed.. He could answer any question we had and was a master of chameleon spotting! We started counting the chameleons along the way, joking that he would need to reimburse us the hike if we don't see 50. We got to 21! And last was just as amazing as the first - bright, colorful and changing before your eyes. Amazing creature.

    We spent the day walking through villages, up and down littles trails and ending with a walk on the main road going through the national forest. The sun was shining, birds chirping, everyone we passed was happy to say hello to us, the kids were excited to see us (but not in an annoying teasing way, just genuine excitement to say hello). It was absolutely wonderful.

    But then we sat down for lunch. Jack and Rogers made some fresh guacamole which we ate with chapati, it was so so good. But I had to go the washroom. Now if we were in the forest, I likely wouldn't have had an issue. But we were in town. And my shyness wouldn't let me ask for a washroom for fear the local villagers would dislike the symphony I would create for them. So I said nothing, and kept hydrating. Once we stood to continue our walk, it's like havind had that break allowed my body to realize it didn't want to continue. I became weaker, tired, my back was hurting from my backup, the uphill road ahead seemed impossible...

    After seeing me struggle with my bag, Rogers noticed I wasn't doing as well as the morning. He insisted on taking my backpack but I of course, being proud, refused. That didn't last long, and within a few minutes of the offer Rogers had his bag on his back and mine in his front. I managed to convince both Jack and him that it was just back pain. That I was doing great without the bag... The longer we walked, the weaker I felt. I grew quite. Jack noticed. She knows me a little too well at this point. But she also knew we had no choice but to finish the walk, so I under played it, says I was just tired from the day's hike, and we continued in silence. When we finally arrived to our destination village Lukozi, where a car was waiting to bring us to our accommodation, I wanted nothing but to lay down. I sat in the car while Jack and Rogers explored the town.

    When Jack got into the car, she asked for a full update, knowing I wasn't telling her the truth. I had full body aches, my back was spasming, I felt faint despite having drank more then 2L of water, and damit I needed a washroom! Once we got to our room (with private washroom thank god), I had the biggest master piece yet! Full orchestra. Then I layed in bed. Shivering. Aching. Yes, I had a fever. One heck of a fever. And as a tourist, diarrhea might be normal. Vomiting might be normal. But a fever - you don't want. Jack did her nurse / partner thing and fed me Tylenol and refilled my water bottle. I napped for 2 hours. And by nap I mean laid shivering in bed, not able to find a comfortable position.

    I got up for diner time, knowing that if I wanted to hike tomorrow, I needed to eat, which I did. Nausea was not a problem. I ate a full plate, no problem. My fever hadn't broke all the way when I started shivering again. I couldn't stop my teeth from clamering, and I wasn't due for more Tylenol yet. I left the table feeling worse then earlier, and went back to bed. Jack came in to 'evaluate me'. No rash. No nausea. No headache. Just diarrhea and a wicked fever that wasn't going away with Tylenol. That leaves a few possibilities, most likely (or hopefully) viral, and yes, potentially malaria. So as nurses, we made the decision to treat what we could - I took Cipro hoping the diarrhea was simply travelers diarrhea. And we decided to wait out the fever, took a second dose of Tylenol early (don't worry, I didn't exceed my 4g per day) and tried to rest. It was a long, shivery night.

    Cipro turned out to be our best decision ever! I woke up feeling weak, but no fever, and for the first time I didn't have to run to the washroom!! I can honestly say that was the sickest I've ever felt while traveling (or in general), but magically the fever never came back! I continued a much smaller, string cortet in my washroom visits, but so much more controlled! Modern medicine.

    Jack admitted to me in the morning that she was quite worried for malaria... She was already planning in her mind our return to a larger city in preparation for medical treatment. Jack here - I don't recommend reading the health section of Loney Planet when you're loved one is feverish. The concern that fever was indicating something serious, when in the middle of a mountain village, is a hard place to be. Back to Fred: It's amazing to think that something so easy for us to take, so much better after a single dose of Cipro, is inaccessible for so many people in this world. I'm not usually one to over treat, so for me to say I took 8 pills this morning is funny and ridiculous! I started my morning swallowing 3 pills for my morning dose of sertraline (yay anxiety!), 2 Tylenol, 2 naprosyn and 1 cipro! Fyew!

    Without my agreement but with my gratefulness, Jack reorganized our bags. And by that I mean she basically put all of our things in my 30L bag, took it and left me with her mostly empty 20L bag. By the end of day, we were both tired from the hike, but healthy! I hydrated, ate breakfast and lunch, I'm amazed of how well I'm doing! The hike was beautiful, through villages and fields and chatting with everyone along the way.

    We stayed in a convent the second night, and I didn't burst into flames, yay! Had ourselves a much needed hot shower and relaxed until diner was served buffet style with other hikers.

    The 3rd and final day started off similarly with hiking through villages, but ended with a walk through a forests where we saw our first and only colobus monkey! I love me a good monkey!

    For some reasons, the kids have learnt how to give high fives here - but they all seem to have the goal of the strongest high five! My hand hurt after a few of them. 'Props' was even worse. They'd wind-up before, and go fo a full punch. We sat for a water and banana break and were instantly surrounded by about 8 kids starting at us. My earrings have been the biggest attention draw so far. To distract them from us, I decided to give them my phone with this toddler game I have called Sensory Baby Fish. All you have to do is touch the screen and you feed the fish, the phone vibrates. I have it on my phone for my little buddy Noah. These kids were skepticle at first, but ended up loving it! They were all pushing to get a chance to touch the screen. Cute to see.

    Rogers is a man of many talents - he also is an artist, sells paintings during the low season, and he sings. We started singing random songs together and Jack decided he needed to be introduced to ABBA. Here we are, belting out to Mamma Mia while Rogers held the phone to his ear to actually hear the song. We got some Aerosmith in - I Don't Want to Miss A Thing. I sounded beautiful in these mountains, I tell ya.

    Lunch in a village, we said goodbye to all the other hikers we had met on the way and off we went to our final destination - Magumba Viewpoint Inn. This is the most randomly luxurious room! We got the best room in this place and it was included in our hike! Huge round windows in our room overlooking the viewpoint. All the Usambara mountains bellow us, clear skies... Gorgeous way to end a hike. There's even WiFi! We did some much needed laundry and relaxed, enjoying the view, still so so thankful of how well I'm doing. I stopped the cipro after 3 doses because I was doing much better, and this left us with 3 cipros which should cover another round of tourista.

    This 3 day hike was informative, fun, challenging at times, and rewarding. It's not often I speak only good things of a hike, but this was great. I highly recommend Rogers - if anyone is reading this hoping to head to Tanzania, call him up!
    Tel. 0677 844 568.
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  • Day5

    Onto to Lushoto

    August 11, 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    As much as we hoped this wouldn't be a full travel day, it was. To make our way to Lushoto, we had to bus back to Tanga, then to Lushoto stopping in Muheza and Segera, and transferring onto a dalla dalla from Mombo. Local transportation here stops whenever someone wants to get on or off, which makes for slow moving progress.

    Our goal was to arrive in Lushoto in time to book a hike through the Usambara mountains for the morning, but we arrived much later then hoped. Still - anything is possible as a Muzungu. We got out of our transport in Lushoto and started looking for accommodation as it was getting dark. Within a few minute we were sitting inside a tourist office talking about prices for the hike. The man insisted on accompanying us to find a room for the night, which we usually resist but this time we needed him to hook us up with a hike so we didn't mind.
    25,000TZS for the room, including breakfast. And we negotiated for 50$/day/person (from 65$/day) for a 3 day hike, ending in Mtae.

    During the negotiations, we walked out saying we wanted to get food, really wanting to see what other companies had to offer. But instead, we found out it was market day and we ended up walking around the local market for half an hour, starved and not speaking to any other tour operators... Maybe not the most productive use of our time, but I love markets! We bought a sweater for the mountains since it's colder and paid the amazing local price of 2,500TZS (1.44$CAD). After this useless and wonderful experience, we returned to our tour guy to book everything. So it's 6.30pm and we booked a private guide who will feed us and bring us to housing for 3 days, leaving the next morning at 8am. Tanzania is making this too easy.

    We finally got to eating - it is now 630pm, and all we've had is chapati and banana in the morning, I bought a plain white cake piece and some oranges from the bus window, and that's it. So we sat with the locals and had ourselves some street food. It's the first time we took 2 plates! So far, we've shared the one plate and it's been enough, but this time we hungry! And then of course, like most tourists are familiar with, I ended up spending the night creating symphonies in the washroom, not looking forward to the risk of dehydration tomorrow. Yay for me!
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  • Day4

    Pangani.

    August 10, 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Our bus to Pangani took 2 hours and was 2500 shillings. Same as usual - look for the name on the front of the bus, pay the lady with the tickets. There were actually 4 other tourists who hoped on just before leaving, and they each had 65 litre bags. To put that in perspective - Jack has a 20L bag and mine is 30L. To be honest - my first trip backpacking was in South East Asia and I had a 55L+10; never again! There's even things in my bag now that I'm not using much - like the headlamp which we always bring in case the power goes out, or a bluff which I haven't touched, but for the most part everything has a use and place. There's no way anyone can tell me that they've used everything inside their full 65L bags.

    Side story - Jack stuck her head out the window to buy bananas, and on her way back her earing caught in the latch. She turns to me and calmy says "I think I just ripped my earring off". To which I don't react, assuming she was exaggerating. See, Jack usually just needs space when she hurts herself, you don't talk to her, don't touch her, she takes a minute and recovers. Only this time, she turned to me again and said "no really, I think I just pulled my earring out" as she calmly searches for her Kleenex to whipe the blood pooling in her ear. Now this wasn't any piercing, this was her "conch", the cartilage in the deeper ear crevace. She successfully pulled the bead from the front of the ear half way between skin and cartilage. Unfortunately for her, the back of the earing is fixed and bigger, so there's only one way to fix this - push it back in. The girl never said a word, yet it took me two tries to push it in, underestimating the strength I would need to succeed. We both heard a chilling "pop" when the bead made it way out. Then the blood came, and Tanzanians quietly looking at our experiment... She's a true champ.

    This time, Pangani is small enough of a town for us to be able to walk in rather then catch another dalla dalla. I'm already in love. The streets are all gravel, there's quite a few shops along the main road but all small house front shops. No supermarkets, no box store, just little shops with side walk restaurants. We walked in front of Safarri Lodge, checked out the rooms, and chose the third option as it was furtherest away from the bar. Private washroom again! Except... no toilet seat. You win some, you lose some. 30,000TZS for the night, but we bargained two nights for 50,000TZS. Great central location, this one I would recommend!

    It's hard to describe why I like Pangani so much... it's more of a feeling. It's small. Everyone says "mambo" (hello) in a sincere way, most of them yell out "kariboo" (you're welcome). We walked along the river front which is their pier, sat and had a drink in the shade watching everyday life... It was great.

    Our first night in we walked to the end of town (maybe 20 minutes - small town remember!) and crossed onto the ocean side for the beach. This beautiful, deep and long strip of sand welcoming the waves... Pure peace. We ate at a restaurant lining the beach - a restaurant that we were desperate to find after again failing at finding food as mentioned previously. When a fish with a head attached showed on our plate, I went straight to work, fishing the meat out for Jack and I to enjoy (get it, get it, fishing the meat out!?). Jack being a vegetarian does really well when traveling, eating mostly anything as to make sure she gets enough protein. The only thing she has trouble with is touching the bones - too real. So I get the meat out of the fish, or off the chicken bones. No problem.

    It was at this restaurant that we met HotHot. He's the guy you want to talk to about tours. He's a bit of a fixer - can make anything happen for the right price. Unfortunately, when there's only 2 of you and you want to go out on a boat, you gotta pay the whole boat! We became interested in going out to Mizawe Island Marine Park for it's snorkeling and beaching. After a good chat with him, we decided to bite the bullet - 128$ (100$ is the minimum for the boat and 14$ each for the marine park fees) to rent the boat, captain and assistant for the day. And since food wasn't included - we knew we had to be prepared ahead of time! We spent the rest of the night walking around town, gathering breakfast and lunch items - a few fruits, some fried bread for breakfast and some chapati for lunch. Boy have I missed chapati!

    By 8.30am we were sitting in a boat fit for 10, on our way to a beautiful beach and nice snorkeling. Neither of us knew what to expect, we hadn't seen photos, hadn't heard anyone talk about it... It was an hour and half lovely boat ride in the ocean to a patch of sand. And only that. Not a single tree or grass, just a patch of beautiful white side with washed up pieces of coral. Maybe 3 minutes to walked the circumference. It was absolutely perfect. When we first approached, our captain anchored in maybe 200 feet from the sand for us to snorkel. He said it was low tide, so the best time to do it.

    It was some of the best snorkeling I've ever seen! Tons of gorgeous fish, colorful, a few needle nose fish that I happen to love, the fish with the eye scar in Finding Nemo, a bright white and black striped water snake, bright blue star fishes... It was great. Followed by an hour and a half of burning on a strip of beach and loving it! We finished the day just lazing around town, checking out local businesses and enjoying some chicken and fries at a sidewalk eatery. Simple, relaxing, great day.
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  • Day2

    Tanga we go!

    August 8, 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    As neither Jack nor I are planners, we decided last night that we would make our way north and then inland - passing by Tanga, Lushoto then onto Mtae. Or something like that. So we put our alarm on for bright early 7am, and walked out of Safarri Inn towards the DART rapid bus stop, where there was actually a map of the routes! I honestly think it's the first time I see a map of public transport in Africa! We eventually pushed our way onto an incredibly full bus towards the main bus terminal north of town. Having navigated buses in East Africa before, we were ready for the attack. And as we expected, we were crowded by men shouting different locations at us, even before entering the station, all hoping to score commission for assisting us to our bus. One guy kept yelling "Kilimanjaro" which made me laugh - it's not a destination, it's a mountain, and I guess he's unaware of my hatred for climbing mountains.

    Once in the station (an outdoor parking lot of buses) we took a second in the middle of this crowd to look around and find the bus with our destination written on it. Yes, it can be that simple. Bus stops can get overwhelming for tourists because of the touts, but it's as simple as taking a minute to look around, find the bus with the name of your destination, and then finding the person standing at it's door holding the receipt book. Then you stand next to them, and wait for someone else to buy a ticket. Because yes, even they can up the price on you. And once someone else has bought a ticket, you get yours and demand the same price. And just like that, we were headed for Tanga.

    Jack edit here- It may be easy, but it's a skill which took us some time to learn. Let's be honest, the first few weeks in East Africa last time was a learning curve. We now do know what to do and Fred and I even seamlessly will alternate who's walking in front, to be able to adjust if one is looking annoyed or if a bag is being grabbed (which they only do to convince you onto their bus). Despite the times I might get impatient, I still have a true love for the culture and life it brings. Anyway, back to Fred.

    Lonely Planet says it's a 5 hour bus ride. I don't know where they got that, since Google driving instructions says 6 hours and it took 7 hours. The only thing on my mind at that point, was food!

    But of course, the bus station was outside of town, which meant we needed to jump on a Dalla Dalla (like a matatu, or minibus) into town. And Jack being who she is decided to flag down the one that was leaving because it was full, because god forbid we'd have to wait 10 minutes for the next one to fill up and leave. So here we are, holding our bags with one hand, trying to stand in a mini bus, bent at the waist because the ceiling as at about 5 feet, and holding on to the side rails because your body is no longer over the top of your feet with all the people pilling in. Good times. Thankfully, the ride was short.

    We walked around town to find accommodation and landed on New Coffee Tree Motel. It was even rougher then the last place, but had running water, private washroom with shower and a double bed for 30,000TZS (13$US). We later found out that the street and people noise was ridiculous, and we both barely slept. This one we'd both not recommend.

    Tanga itself is a cute town! For being the 3rd largest city in Tanzania, it's actually quite small, 273,000 in population. It was laid back, easy to walk around, and felt super safe. Everyone saying hi as we walked by, or Mambo! In the morning we visited old Germain cemeteries and bomas (ie. 'German fortified compound' from their colonial days). We went into a museum which Lonely Planet said was free, it was not. But at this point, we were surrounded by about 10 students on a "field study" here from a bachelor's degree in tourism, all looking forward to walking us through the museum. So of course, as good, cheap travelers do, we negotiated the price. Only this time - it wasn't by lying! We asked for a student discount! And considering both Jack and I are going back to school in September, total honesty! Half price!

    By the end of the tour, it felt like they should have paid us, but I wasn't going to try that one... Each student wanted a chance to practice their English and what they had learnt, so we went from room to room, and got full explanations of every single photo lining the walls. I'm not exaggerating when I say I got a full description of at least 50 photos. And I say I, because Jack had to excuse herself half way through to go dry heave and almost pass out from not having eaten yet and standing in the heat. Who had it worse? Jack passed out, pale as can be? Or me, having to listen to all they had to say about sisal plants...?

    Once she gained a bit of color, we walked out to buy some fruit and hunt for food. Only - we really haven't mastered that part yet. Restaurants come to life from 5.30pm to 7pm. Before or after that, finding food is hard! Well, for two muzungus it is. We walked quite a while without finding any meals being served, so we bought yogourt and ice cream at a corner store and oranges which are everywhere here! That was the extent of our food intake before we made our way back out of town to the bus station to make our way to Pangani.

    Granted, there wasn't tons to do in Tanga, but I really enjoyed it. The vibe of the place was great, friendly, we saw only 2 other tourists which made us quite happy, there's plenty of beautifully maintained parks, and there's a massive market around the central bus station that was lively and great.
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  • Day1

    We've arrived!

    August 7, 2019 in Tanzania ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Arriving in Dar Es Salaam was an instant flash back to 3 years ago when we traveled Kenya and Uganda. The people lining up at the airport exit, the men following you to offer their taxi services, the heat, all hits you at once. Except this time - I knew what to expect. I didn't find it overwhelming in the least bit, I thought it was a welcoming! Funny how for some reason, men think that after offering the same service for a tenth time, we'll finally realise that you know what, maybe I do need a taxi!
    Instead of having to negociate, and not having mastered the currency or prices of anything yet, we opted to Uber. Yes, Tanzania has Uber. We used the airport WiFi and 2 minutes later we were sitting comfortably in a car, without having to argue about pricing, heading to the hotel we booked on our layover in Addis Ababa. The people walking the streets, men carrying large loads, women with baskets on their head, fruit vendors everywhere, car and tire repair shops lining the streets... we were definitely back in Eastern Africa.

    Having been flying for two and a half days now, and starved from scarce plane feeds, this afternoon / evening was a relatively simply one. We napped, of course. And our alarm 1.5 hours later turned into a 2.5 hour nap... We then walked around town, mostly looking for food yet unknowingly hitting almost every tourist stop along the way. We saw the main ferry ticketing office to Zanzibar, the waterfront (which was mostly used by fish merchants, so not your typical nice beach), walked by a massive parlement building which was all blocked off from view, and passed a few really pretty mosques. We even crossed the National Museum without knowing it, which had great art and trincklet vendors outside their doors.

    Our basic trick to finding good and cheap food is spotting the gathering of colourful plastic chairs and locals eating... I guess it's not so much a trick as common sense, but when you want to avoid pricey restaurants, this is how you do it! We proceeded to open random pots, and point to what we wanted. 7,000TZS (4$CAD) for fish, coconut rice, fried plantain, 2 meat skewers and a Coca cola.

    Total spendings of the day - including our room at Safarri Inn, Uber and meal - 40$CAD.

    FYI - Safarri Inn was actually mentioned in Lonely Planet, which we only found out after booking it on booking.com for being the cheapest, yet central option. Basic rooms, granted - moldy doors and cold water showers, but private room and washroom for 23$USD, I'd recommend. Jack's impression - according to East African standard - it's perfect, clean, well located and private washroom. But if you're coming from Zanzibar where I suspect the accommodation is cool looking hostels, then you might consider this rougher.
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