Wednesday May 27, 2015 (Kenya, Tanzania)
We're sorry we didn't have much to say about Arusha. Or Tanzania, for that matter. The thing of it is, we realized we had spent a whole bunch of money doing the safari stuff in Uganda and in order to even up with our budget we were forced to lay low for a while. We're still in that "laying low" process, but we're slowly digging out way out!
Regardless of the financial situation, we would have to give Arusha a thumbs down.
Our first three nights were spent at the Clouds View Hotel. This place was pricey, but it seemed like one of the nicer options in Arusha. They had a reasonable restaurant on-site where we would enjoy some dinners and our included breakfasts. When we were at the hotel, we managed to get out twice to go for big runs along the main road. Boy oh boy, was that ever interesting.
Unlike what we'd experienced thus far in Uganda and Rwanda, the locals in Tanzania are accomplished starers. It seemed like the entire town had nothing better to do than to fix their collective gaze upon the two white people running along the road. Friendly smiles? Um… sometimes. Mostly just staring. Lots of men staring at Sandra. I'm right beside her. They don't care. I can feel them turning around to keep looking once we pass them. Sometimes I turn my head around while running to check, and yes, they're still staring at us. It's awkward and frustrating.
Now add to that the endless cries of "Mzungu! Mzungu!". This effectively means "White person!". Children that appeared young enough to speak only a few words knew this word. It must be in the primary school curriculum: day one. People yell it to get your attention. Some just want a wave. But it gets exhausting. After a few days we stopped responding to "Mzungu!" calls and instead focused our attention on people who just said "Helloooo!". Sometimes kids would say "Hello!", and when you'd respond in kind they'd immediately follow up with "Give me money!". No thanks. I've gotta give credit, though. We had at least one guy get pretty creative and drop this bomb line: "Hello White Human!". Uhh, hi. Thereafter, we were told by our Tanzanian host that an appropriate response to cries of "Mzungu!" was "Moafrika!", or "African!".
After three nights at the hotel we decided we wanted to switch into something on the cheaper side to try to make back our missing budget even quicker. We found an Airbnb and made the swap for our last three nights in Tanzania. We only moved a couple of kilometres down the road to a suburb called Mianzini. There we met with Tizia and Martin, a German/Tanzanian couple who were living in the area. They had two cool dogs named Takwa and Bella, so we had a great time with them. The two of them suggested we might go for a hike to the Themi River Waterfall. With Martin as our guide, we set out on what we were told was "about an hour and a half" hike. Six and a half hours later, we returned with very sore feet.
It was refreshing to get out of the city and see some of the countryside surrounding Arusha. This was a cheap option that allowed us some nice views and exercise, so we jumped at the chance. The images taken on that little trip will be covered by a future video, as almost all of the images we captured were on the GoPro. The lowlight of the trip was when we got to the actual river fed by the waterfall. Sure, the river was great. But Martin, our guide, had forgotten that the last time he'd visited it was the dry season so the river was just a little trickle through the rocks. It was now almost waist deep at points. Neither Sandra nor myself were prepared for this. Thankfully, a guide that accompanied us to the waterfall offered to carry us across the deep portions of the river. At first we thought it'd just be one little portion to cross. Nope. About six crossings later we made it to the waterfall. This poor guy had to piggyback us both across, one at a time. We were shamed, but our desire to avoid sopping wet socks for the remainder of the hike back overwhelmed our pride.
Another amusing portion of our Mianzini stay was the makeshift church erected about 50m away from our place. When we arrived at the Airbnb, the church was in full swing. It had been going all morning, and would go until dark. When I say "going", what I mean is that the church leader would emphatically yell at his congregation. All day. Into an amplified microphone connected to a powerful PA system. This was some serious stuff. At one point during our stay, curiosity got the best of us and we wandered over to take a peek inside the church. We were expecting throngs of locals packed into this tarp-covered building. I mean, why else would you need a powerful sound system but to project your message to a vast audience? Upon entering the church, of course, we discovered an audience of approximately eight people. We sat down to get the full experience, and were in due course bombarded with the full wall of sound. The leader could easily have spoken without a microphone and been heard just fine throughout the room. But somehow it was deemed necessary to amplify the proceedings such that they could be heard throughout the village. All day. Oh, and this didn't just happen on Sundays. Every. Single. Day. It's church every day of the week in Mianzini!
We did find a lovely burger joint called Alpha Burger that we managed to visit twice in three days, so that was nice. And we learned that the Tanzanian equivalent to poutine appears to be Chipsi Mayai, or "Chips Eggs", which is sort of a french fry omelette. Well not sort of, it IS a french fry omelette. Tasty. So that was basically it for Tanzania as far as we were concerned. In summary, Arusha seems like a great place to visit if you've got a nice safari set up to take you to the tourist highlights (Serengeti, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Ngorongoro Crater). But if you're trying to travel on a budget… well… good luck!
We've safely arrived in Nairobi where we'll be residing for the next nine nights. We came in on the bus this evening, and once again, the traffic astounds me. I've really never seen gridlock like this before. It took us about an hour and a half to drive five kilometres into the city centre. Anyway, our plan now is to obtain an Indian visa for our upcoming time in Asia, so hopefully we can get that organized. Other than that, we're going to continue to lay low and get our budget back in line! We're also preparing a little post on what we packed for this year-long trip if that's of any interest to you whatsoever. Let's hope so. If not, there are at least a couple of interesting sights in the city here that don't require a lot of money so we'll definitely be checking those out and reporting back!
Wish us luck!
P.S. Apologies that the photos have been somewhat lacking during this stage. We've been mainly hanging around in cities and towns and not seeing anything overly spectacular. Hopefully once we make the swap to Asia, we can hop back on the photo bandwagon.