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Back into Tanzania

Kilimanjaro, Moshi and Arusha

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6th – 7th January 2007
The drive out of Mombassa was horrific, with potholes three feet deep in the middle of a perfect road, a complete nightmare. Luckily we turned off at Voi and headed through the Tsavo West National Park. The border at Taveta was surprisingly hassle free and we cruised on to Marangu, a small village at the foot of Mt Kilimanjaro. We were planning on staying at the Coffee Tree Campsite but the weather was misty and dull and we wanted a clear view of the mountain to take some pictures proving we were there.
We drove up and up and up until we could go no further, traversing 40 degree inclinations, muddy slopes and narrow tracks, and passing village after village of fascinated people. Not many (if any) Mzungus came this way, and our attempts to shake off the hundreds of children running after us were fruitless. We arrived at a forest almost a third of the way up the mountain. The heavens opened up for us and we were blessed with awesome views of both peaks, one of which was covered in snow.

On our arrival we were greeted by more than 100 Matotos (children) screaming ‘Mzungu Mzungu’ with such gusto like they’d never seen one before! I climbed up on the roof and started taking pictures of the mountain and forest. The kids wouldn’t leave us alone until I used the most trusted weapon against shy Matotos, my telephoto zoom lens. Just point it in their general direction and they scramble out of there before you can say cheese.

The girls were the best, they watched from a distance, then nervously approached offering to bring us fresh ‘froo-it’ in the morning. I asked them for some maize and sugar cane, which they returned with 15 minutes later, picked from their nearby fields. I gave them a handful of sweets as payment and they promised to return with more in the morning. I filled our water tanks with the crystal clear ice cold Kilimanjaro water, which tasted far superior to the bottled variety with the same name (and it was free).

One of the kids offered us a welcome gift: a Kilimanjaro Chameleon.

After a while the zoom lens approach stopped working (they soon gathered that it posed no immediate threat), so Clause opted to use his crossbow, which worked like a charm.

The novelty soon wore off however, and we ended up having to chase them away, both verbally and physically. They sneaked up later in the evening and we let them soak up the warmth of the fire, with the only condition being that they stay 100% silent. No giggling, no pointing, no playing games.
It only took a few gestures of the universal finger to the lips accompanied by a “Ssshhh” to do the trick.

It was fucking cold that night and I finally got to use my arctic expedition jacket that took up 20% of the space in my back pack. The stars in the dark sky were incredible, even though I couldn’t recognize any of the constellations, being so close to the equator. The long drive and chasing the kids away took its toll on me, and Claus got a good picture of me sleeping in front of the fire…

Sunday 7th
In the morning we were once again blessed with clear skies and no mist shrouding the majestic peaks of Kilimanjaro. I took advantage and snapped away using my tripod on top of the truck, while I instructed Claus to reverse back and forth so that I could get an unobstructed view.
I disappeared into the thick of the forest to have the biggest longest excretion in years, while Claus played with the Matotos who had gathered around our camp at the crack of dawn. We only realized later that it was at this time that some naughty little shits had nicked various items from inside and outside the car.
At first Claus only noticed that his thin blue roll-up mattress was missing. He wasn’t that perturbed and insisted we leave without it. He couldn’t find his camera but guaranteed me that it was in the roof top tent which was now firmly closed and that it must have fallen out of his pocket while he was sleeping. Even though it was a mission, I forced him to open it up to look, and it was just as well because the camera was nowhere to be found.
I lost the plot and in my broken Swahili, threatened to call the ‘polisi’. I stormed into the local mud houses and demanded they reveal the fuckers who had taken heaven alone knows how many of our belongings. I was pretty sure who one of the culprits was and decided to even the playing field. I took his radio, clearly a prized possession, and refused to give it back until ALL our stolen goods were returned. It worked like a dream and suddenly the camera, then mattress, then the rest of the things appeared. I wasn’t sure we had everything back, so I kept his radio to teach him a lesson, that crime doesn’t pay. His friends and the elders found this very amusing, especially the sight of him running behind our vehicle for kilometers down the mountain.

Moshi & Arusha

7th – 9th January 2007

We took a back road towards Moshi and stumbled upon a majestic waterfall. A guide showed us around; we braved the icy water, took some pictures and swapped some sweets for a giant bunch of bananas from a local woman’s tree.
We stopped in Moshi, the coffee capital of Tanzania and I stocked up on Camel Lights and a whole beef fillet, vacuum packed for only TSh 4000 ($3).
The rain came down hard, so we pressed on past Arusha, where we were hoping to stay with Kevita who had said ‘Karibu’ in her drunken stupor at Watamu two weeks earlier. She suggested we stay at the camp site known as the Snake Park, which was an hour out of town. We got hopelessly lost and only realized we were heading for Kenya when we noticed Mount Meru on our right hand side. We shouldn’t have been anywhere near it!
We eventually made it to the Snake Park where we had to share the place with no fewer than nine massive overland trucks, not to mention the crocodiles and deadly snakes only meters away.
Many of the overlanders had come directly from Nairobi, and this was their first stop on their safari, some headed as far as Cape Town. It was highly entertaining watching the fresh, brilliant white, Mzungus receiving lessons on how to set up a tent. Most of them were scratching their heads like monkeys in utter confusion, trying desperately to complete their mission before dark.
I persuaded the South African driver of one of the overlanders to give me several shovelfuls of his red hot coals on which I cooked a succulent tender fillet with pepper sauce.
Monday 8th I played with a hyena in the morning like it was my Labrador puppy. It was an orphan that had become a cherished pet, replete with sharp teeth and claws to assist in giving tourists souvenir wounds they could show their friends back home. I also saw the behind the scenes operation required to maintain the diet of the scavenging vultures and hungry reptiles. A few dozen crocodiles, deadly snakes and birds of prey needed to be fed, and all of the food was grown on the property. Rabbits, guinea pigs, mice, rats, chickens and worms were farmed intensively under artificial light in cages.
We bought some curios from the adjoining Maasai craft market and museum. I got myself a fuck-off 18 inch Maasai knife with red cow-hide sheath, to slice up cattle, cut biltong and brandish to thieves (mine’s bigger than yours)!
Kevita let us down and we couldn’t stay on their coffee farm on the rim of the Ngorongoro crater. Instead we attended the war crimes court in Arusha, where they had a viewing area complete with portable audio translation devices for the media and interested public. I was very interested in the process but after half an hour we were escorted out as a witness had to testify ‘in-camera’ for fear of his life (his testimony would lead to life imprisonment for several architects of the Rwandan genocide responsible for hundreds of thousands of people being hacked to pieces).

Claus attempted to get a Tanzanian drivers license, which was as simple as going to a stationary shop and buying one, a tiny matchbox sized book available in a variety of colors and containing just three blank pages. The process required you to take the little booklet to the police, show them your international driving license, tell them you’re an aid worker (no proof required) and then watch them insert the details, your picture and a stamp. Voila!
Next up he needed local registration plates for his car, in the hope of persuading the national park officials to charge him resident rates (a saving of roughly half the exorbitant entry fees).
I walked into a police station with plenty of scrapped vehicles in their lot, and simply asked a pig for a set of plates, preferably from a white Toyota pickup truck. I told him it was a souvenir to put up in my bar in Copenhagen, to complement my African collection! He believed me and agreed.
We later learned that only citizens (not residents) get discounted prices at the parks, so it was all in vain.
I somehow got it into my head that I needed to buy and travel with (and sometimes on) a ‘Phoenix’ (pronounced fo-nix), the quintessential indestructible African bicycle, made in China obviously. They are known to the local Mzungus as ‘black mambas’ and have a reputation of being able to carry more than you can possibly imagine and still lasting forever. I searched far and wide and test drove four different specimens. Luckily I didn’t find one, as I had enough shit to lug around already.
Tuesday 9th On the way out of Arusha, en route to Kenya, we were blessed with surreal views of both Mount Meru and Kilimanjaro on a very rare clear day. An old drunk Maasai man came begging for money and tried to stop me taking pictures of ‘his mountains’ until I coughed up enough money to buy him more Vodka tot packs, to add to the collection he had hidden in his cloak. I reprimanded him for drinking alcohol, but he didn’t understand and continued to clutch his precious plastic vodka dose which he sucked on like a lollypop.
I was told that the Namanga border on the Kenyan side was notorious for corruption. So I was surprised when everything went smoothly. Then the shit hit the fan when Claus refused to pay the $20 road tax because he wasn’t charged when he entered Kenya three weeks before. What shocked (and humored) me, and every other border official I complained to, made us really skeptical. The big mama in charge of customs was demanding KSh200 for ‘overtime’. We decided to report the corruption to department after department including the local police, who all told us that our problem lay with customs, not immigration or the police. I tried to explain to them all that there were massive billboards all over Kenya, urging the public to report and stamp out corruption. They said we had to “pay now and complain later”. If we didn’t, then they promised “we won’t allow you to enter Kenya and we will detain your vehicle!”
Naturally we freaked out and said we would rather return to Tanzania, which they also refused to let us do! After almost three hours of moaning, they eventually agreed to show us evidence of the ‘overtime’ law and receipts of others who had paid, after which we gladly handed over the money. To frustrate us further, they decided to do an extensive search of the truck, but forgot to search Claus’ shirt pocket in which he had stashed all his joints!

Posted by ManicDave 14:13 Archived in Tanzania Tagged backpacking

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