Monday, June 23, 2008

A weekend in... Moshi!

Saturday and Sunday, June 21st-22nd

This was the first weekend I spent completely in Moshi so I had lots of time to explore. There are several really cute coffee shops here. One almost reminds me of Starbucks, except in addition to cappuccinos and lattes they also serve hotdogs. They all have really good coffee which is grown right here in Moshi, and all of them seem to be very popular with tourists!

I bought some postcards and went to one of my favorite coffee shops—appropriately named, The Coffee Shop—and sat in their garden while I wrote them. But I realized that I don’t have anybody’s address so if you would like a postcard please send me your address! After some exploration I located the Moshi Post Office and I even bought stamps so I could practice my Swahili.

To balance my touristy afternoon, for dinner I went to a real local restaurant and ate a huge plate of food with my hands. Each meal begins and ends with washing your hands in steaming hot water. Sometimes you have to get up and wash your hands under the communal tub of hot water, but other times the waiter brings the hot water to you which is really nice. The only problem with this dining situation is that sometimes you’re halfway through your meal and your phone rings, but you can’t exactly pick it up because your hands are covered in food.

On Sunday I expanded my exploration and headed for the mountain. On clear days Kilimanjaro looks absolutely majestic and I would love to climb it, but I don’t think I’m ready yet. A lot of the tourists I see in Moshi are on their way to the mountain and I often think about joining them… maybe on my next trip. Anybody want to join me?

Joseph’s grandmother is from a village called Marangu which is just about as close to Kili as you can get without being inside the actual national park. Aside from being home to the tallest mountain in Africa, Marangu boasts a large natural waterfall which is where I was headed. We drove up to the entrance to the park where we were literally accosted by a dozen guys claiming to be mountain guides. I ended up choosing a young guy named Benedict who had climbed Kili 15 times. We negotiated a deal for the day and then set off for our first destination.

We hiked for about an hour, winding our way through the edge of a coffee farm, collecting small children who wanted to follow me along the way. Whenever I go hiking I always end up with a pack of little kids following me. They’re really cute but they always make me feel lame because they quickly scamper over the rough parts in plastic sandals while I’m in my super North Face hiking boots and still slipping all over the place. We finally ended up at a beautiful little waterfall. Joseph hopped his way into the middle of the river so he could get closer to the waterfall, but I was very content to look from the edge.

After lots of photos we hiked our way back out and up to gate where we had left the car. Then we drove about halfway down the mountain before we turned off onto one of my favorite Tanzanian dirt roads. We bumped and jumped our way down until Joseph decided his car couldn’t go any further. So we got out and started hiking!

We eventually made it to the entrance to Marangu Waterfalls and I could already hear the water roaring up ahead. Kilimanjaro is home to the Chagga tribe and the area around the waterfall was like a kind of museum of their culture. It was interesting to read about the history of their tribe and some of their folk stories, but I was too excited to see the waterfall. Somehow I climbed down the steep, muddy steps without falling, although Joseph had no problem letting me know that I was going really slowly and that he could fall asleep waiting for me to get down.

All the hiking was definitely worth it. The waterfall was just beautiful. The water, which comes from the mountain, was moving really fast and the sound of it hitting the rocks below was the only thing you could hear. This time I decided to take a chance and try to make my way into the middle of the river. My guide helped me to take lots of pictures so hopefully some of them came out well. When I find an internet cafĂ© with a faster connection I’ll try to post some.

After we made our way back out again I was pretty exhausted, but Joseph wanted to say a “quick” hello to his aunt who lived down the road. Now I have to tell you, nothing about saying hello in Swahili is quick. Saying hello can actually be quite a lengthy process, shaking hands or hugging while you go back and forth exchanging greetings. If the person you are greeting is your elder you have to give them an honorable greeting by saying “shikamoo” to which they have to reply “marahaba.” Then you get into the jambos and the habaris; then you have to ask about everybody else in the person’s family that you know. So we went to greet Joseph’s aunt who was really sweet… and we ended up staying for almost two hours.

I took a much needed shower and I’m back home now, but I think I’m too tired to go out. Good thing I stocked up my kitchen a few days ago.

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