Jambo mambo POA! and a big happy Christmas
Dec 15, 2005
|Firstly all, given that the silly season will truly be upon most of you and we may not have another opportunity:
A BIG HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL! May you all have a wonderful and safe Christmas and New Year period. We wish everyone the best for 2006.
Well, it has been a while since we last wrote. We made an error in judgement thinking that it would be easy to write up our adventures in Tanzania once we reached Kenya - big mistake.
Tanzania is a wonderful country - it has been a joy to discover! The people are incredibly happy and friendly by nature and often you can only see them approaching by their beautiful big white teeth smiles! Everyone speaks swahili here - goodness knows what the Brits were going on about (remember the old phrases about "you might as well be talking swahili?"... well, it isn't that difficult really). Jambo is the normal greeting given to everyone; mambo is how you are going, and POA! is the reply for "cool, man". Even the language is relaxed. We have done our best to pick up as much of the local language as possible and the locals love it ! You get the best reactions from people (especially the old and young) when you greet them in swahili. It is almost always the last thing they are expecting out of your mouth and you gain an instant rapport.
We arrived in Dar es Salaam to find a hot and very humid big city with a small town feel. There wasn't really too much happening, so we didn't spend a lot of time there before setting off to explore the country. Over three weeks we were extremely fortunate to have experienced some real highlights including trekking in the Usambara mountains, going on safari through Tanzania's most famous national parks and spending some time on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. The 3 day/night trek in the Usambara mountains was one of the biggest highlights of our entire trip so far. A big call but we seriously loved it.
Situated in the cooler highlands, the Usambaras are a very fertile volcanic area that supplies much of the food for Tanzania. The people here have very little to speak of (most of the kids have only one dress or a t-shirt and run around in bare bottoms), but it is one of the happiest communities either of us have ever seen.
Over the three days we made our way between a number of small villages and farming communities, waved to thousands of children and amused many adults with our early attempts at swahili formalities. Son also kept the children highly amused with her "jambo mambo poa" dance, which could basically be described as a lot of bum wiggling. Unfortunately she has had to accept that while she is well endowed in that region, she cannot cut it with the african ladies... Disproportionally large, but shapely, butts !
Other than the magnificient views along the way, the thing we especially loved from our trek was that when we stood on top of a ridge we could only hear the sounds of cows, chickens and children laughing - no cars, engines or cross voices. By the time we finished the trek at Mtae - out on a massive escarpment overlooking the rift valley - we were both incredibly relaxed and were pretty sorry to leave this beautiful area.
From the Usambaras we travelled to Arusha for the ultimate African tourism experience: the safari. While in Arusha, we were able to catch up again with our good friends from home, Fi and Ray, for a few drinks and a couple of dinners which was really great. The safari was awesome. It is something that everyone should do at least once - it is just really really awesome. We visited 4 of Tanzania's National Parks over 5 days and saw so many animals, much more than we had anticipated. Nothing can prepare you for seeing such incredible creatures in their habitat just going about their business.
In addition to seeing hundreds of elephants, scores of giraffes and lions (some of which were seriously close), we were lucky enough to catch the beginning of the annual animal migration from the Masai Mara to Serengeti. Literally tens of thousands of zebra and wildebeest moving south for the greener plains - just an amazing sight. Unlike Fi and Ray, we didn't get to see a cheetah, but saw most everything else. Fi and Ray also had few close animal interactions, with Ray having his nuts savagely attacked by a wild Serengeti hyrax... Fortunately for Ray, the nuts in question were cashews and hyraxes are nothing more than a harmless overgrown guinnea pigs !
Probably the coolest animal experience we saw was a juvenile, and then bull elephant, charging a male and female lion. The elephant herd of 15 or so had a number of babies and had come to a water hole to drink, not realising that two lions were hiding in the long grass. Once they realised however, everything started changing. The elephants split into two groups very quickly - one with the little ones protected by adults at the rear, while the other assembled into an advance party to deal with the threat. Once organised, an adolescent elephant (with 3 adults standing close behind him) suddenly charged at the two lions. It was pretty impressive, even courageous, but as Doiv said "even I'd have a go at 2 lions with three bull elephants backing me up". The young elephant was obviously learning and the lions only moved as far as they had to. It came down to the biggest bull to provide the propper example - and he put on a real display. Trunk up, ears forward, tusks swinging and loudly trumpeting, he ran flat out, charging the lions for 100m or so. Funnily enough, the lions didn't take on the 5 tonnes coming at them and decided to leave... in a hurry ! It was absolutely amazing to see and an experience neither of us will ever forget!
Arusha is also hosting the International War Crimes Tribunal for Rwanda, and while we were recovering from our safari adventure we managed to visit the public gallery to view proceedings. It was a fascinating experience, but also incredibly frustrating watching bad guys on the stand and the excruciating slow machinations of a tribunal at work. We walked out glad that we have the UN but with perhaps even more mistrust of lawyers.
Our last adventure in Tanzania was in Moshi, where we went for a day walk to the first hut on the Mount Kilimanjaro summit climb. We had a beautiful walk in rich rainforest with monkeys and pretty flowers (for Son), and at the end of our trip up we had tea with some very friendly rangers. Our walk only ascended 1300 metres of the 5800 odd metres to the top, but was a great taste of what the summit climb must be like. The highlight of this trip however was staying the night in Mwembe village with Bibi - our walk organiser's great aunt cum grandma (bibi means grandmother in swahili).
Bibi is 87, bent in half with a curved spine/osteoporosis and a real twinkle in her eye. She mainly spoke in her tribal language and only a little swahili (no english) and still undertakes manual labour as well as looking after her goats, much to the anguish of her grandson. She cooked us a huge dinner with green bananas and meat and then managed to eat considerably more than Andrew! We gave her a beanie that we had left over from our walking in South America and she must have liked it as she wouldn't stop kissing us... She was a real character and we were really glad to meet someone like her.
The following morning on our way back to Moshi, we stopped off at a local establishment and tried some of the area's local brew - banana beer ! It is brewed from millet (a small grain) and bananas and is only left a day in a barrel before drinking. It is consumed from a bucket that is shared between the group, it tastes okay but you need to keep your teeth clenched so you don't drink all the floating millet. Don't think it'll really take off in Australia...
We arrived back in Moshi and met up with some new friends we'd met before our trip up to Kili - Moses and Frankie. Moses and Frankie work for the state court and we very much enjoyed having a few of the local beers and nyama choma with them. Nyama choma is grilled meat and the locals have it (by the kilogram) as a bar snack. As you might guess, Africans eat a lot of meat. It was really great to spend some time with some cool locals, we thank Frank and Moses for their wonderful hospitality.
Off to Kenya for a bit. Once again, hope you all have a wonderful Christmas break and a fantastic 2006 !
All the best !
Son & Andrew