Monday, June 11, 2007

A Weekend in Arusha!

June 10, 2007- Day trip to Mulala

Earlier this week I had booked a day trip to Mulala with a local tour company, so this morning I set off on what turned out to be quite an adventure! My guide, Eric, was about seven feet tall and as skinny as a pencil, but he was very entertaining. We took the dalla-dalla up to the junction at the base of Mulala, at which point we had to switch into another car which just happened to be a Land Rover. But it wasn’t like one of those stretch Land Rovers they use for safaris where everybody has their own comfy seat. It was a Defender without the roof in the back, so people could stand, and they really packed us on there! I estimated that there were 35 of us standing in the back, but my guide thought it was more like 45. I honestly don’t know how they do it!

I didn’t know much about the place I was visiting so I didn’t know what to expect. Once we were packed in, we started driving up the most twisty, steep hill ever. It was absolutely beautiful though because it was flanked on both sides with banana groves and coffee trees that I could literally reach out and touch, they were so close.

After about 15 minutes of this bumpy ride I thought we had reached our destination. I was wrong. We got out of the car and now it was time to walk. And I’m not talking about a pleasant stroll on flat ground. This was a full out hike up the side of a mountain on a dirt road with potholes so big that I could lie down inside of them! We continued our ascent up this little mountain, passing small houses and many villagers along the way. There were many small children and they were all really excited to see me! As we were walking little groups of these small children would surround me and walk with us until they got tired. It was so cute!

As we were about halfway up this mountain, I found out that my guide actually grew up in this town, and his family still lives here. That explained why he was saying hi to every person we saw! Although his conversations with other villagers were good opportunities for me to rest my feet and guzzle water.

Just as I thought we had made it to the top of this mountain, we started going down again. There was a river on the other side called Ngalaliko River that he wanted to take me to, but the route was pretty much straight down! Two young boys came with us to clear the path which had been overgrown by the bush. When I finally made it down it was definitely worth it. It was so beautiful down there, surrounded by a thick forest everywhere, and not another person in sight.

Unfortunately, since we had come down the very steep slope, we now had to climb back up it. It was during this climb that I found out that Eric also guides treks up Kilimanjaro, so this was probably nothing for him! I was so happy when I made it to the top, but suddenly we went around a corner and there was another steep slope in front of us! At this top of this slope was a small house, which turned out to be the house that Eric had grown up in, and the place where all his young brothers and sisters were living. A small pack of little boys had followed us up here and they were very entertaining. I was taking pictures of them with my camera and they thought it was the funniest thing ever. Everytime I showed them a picture they would all fall into the grass laughing! I’m going to guess they’ve never seen anything like a digital camera before.

We were resting at Eric’s house enjoying the view when one of his sisters brought out steaming cups of milk for us. Now those of you that know me will know that I’m not a big milk drinker; maybe I’m lactose-intolerant or something. But it’s not polite to refuse food here so I had to take it. Later Eric took me to see where the milk came from, but it was unclear because there was both a cow and a goat tied up to the stake he was pointing at. Please let it have been the cow! It was time for lunch so I took out the lunch that had been packed for me, but there was no way I could eat it while I was surrounded by my pack of shoeless little boys. So I cut it up into small pieces and let them eat it, which they were very thankful for.

At this point even more brothers and sisters showed up. One of them, Magreth, was really excited to talk to me and practice her English. She’s 16 and absolutely adorable! She wanted to take me to see some monkeys so off we went, up another mountain and down the other side. Her English was really amazing and when I told her that, she replied saying that she thought mine was better. Well I hope my English is good! Before I left she asked if I would write her a letter when I went home, so I took her address and promised to print out and send the picture I had taken with her. Remind me if I forget to do this!

On the way back we stopped at the school where they have a soccer field. A big match was about to begin between the Mulala village and a neighboring one. The field was not in great condition, as it was basically carved out of the side of a mountain. The goals were made from pieces of wood and had not net, and there were no lines. But the people were so excited! I think the entire village was there to watch! Plus it was Sunday so since many people had just come from church, they were dressed in such beautiful clothing! I think I might be one of the first white people that has come to one of their matches, so I definitely drew quite a few stares. And I’m getting pretty used to being called “mzungu” which quite literally means “white person.” Haha

By now I was so exhausted I didn’t think I could walk another step, but it was time to leave Mulala and head back to town, so we began our trek back down. Eric offered o carry me if I was tired and I was so close to letting him. He estimated that we walked about 20 kilometers up and down these mountains, which only made me feel more tired! But when the 90 year old village grandmother started to pass me, I picked up the pace and we finally made it out. We took the dalla-dalla back to town and I probably would have fallen asleep right there in the car if it hadn’t been the dalla-dalla and I wasn’t surrounded by people, baskets, sacks of rice, etc.

The day wasn’t anything like I expected it to be (or like the guidebook said it would be) but it was absolutely amazing. I got to experience things that few visitors have the opportunity to do, and I truly felt immersed in the culture!

I should probably go out and get something for dinner because I haven’t eaten much all day, but I really don’t think my feet can carry me any further. Just standing up to take a shower was painful. I think Advil is sounding like a pretty tasty dinner. Tomorrow it’s back to work at Mobility Care and we have a lot to keep us busy so I’m looking forward to it.

June 9, 2007- Time to Explore

I met Daniel and his brother this morning and we headed off to the Karibu Tourism Fair. For the past 8 years Arusha has been hosting a huge tourism fair for all of East Africa. The idea is that all the hotels, restaurants, etc set up a booth, and then safari organizers can go around and talk to the owners and see which ones they like and want to include on their safaris. So the first few days are only for people “in the trade” but today it was open to the public, and it was mobbed!

It almost reminded me of the homecoming competition in high school when we had to decorate a hallway, because some people really went above and beyond in decorating their allocated tent spot. Some of the hotels from Zanzibar and sprinkled sand inside so it looked you were at the beach, and many of the tented lodges had set up their actual tents complete with canopy bed and everything! Even though there’s no way I could afford to stay at any of these places, it was really fun to talk to them as though I could.

And I was so excited to see an ambulance at the fair! It was there to give out information to tourists on travel insurance and stuff like that. They had set up all their equipment outside and were showing people how to use it, but alas none of it said LVAC so the search will continue for the Lewisboro VAC donated equipment. I had a lovely chat with one of the EMTs who gave me a tour inside and talked to me at length about her training and such. Plus she was really excited that I was also an EMT!

After the fair we headed back to town and relaxed outside for a bit. I had a little Swahili lesson with Fred, and then Daniel joined us and we went to another new restaurant for drinks. Daniel gets a different beer every night and lets me taste it first to see if I like it, but so far I’ve only liked one. I think I just don’t really like beer in general! But there is plenty of Coca-Cola Light to keep me happy.

Later that night I ventured out to meet my new friend Becca, who I had been put in touch with through my uncle (who is a friend of her mom’s). She’s from Westchester and the same age as me, so it was nice to be hanging out with somebody like myself for a bit! We went to a place called Masai Camp, which really wasn’t a camp at all, but rather a large open restaurant/bar where a lot of volunteers like to hang out. It was a lot of fun but I couldn’t stay long because my guesthouse locks its gates at midnight. I actually didn’t make it back until about 1 and the gates were infact closed, but I banged politely on the window and one of the owners came and let me in. I felt so bad coming in like that but he seemed to think it was quite funny!


Dad said...

Absolutely amazing. Too bad you did have the names of the camps we will be staying on safari. Pictures of the mountain, please . . .

Kevin M said...

Wow, 20 kilometers is intense but it must have been gorgeous. It sounds like you are having a great time and coming up with some really cool ideas for wheelchairs.