A Travellerspoint blog

Tanzania

Animals in trees

In what will rapidly become an extremely boring tradition, todays snippet of African news comes from another newspaper though i have forgotten which, but mentions that a big but struggling South African TV station has paid a huge sum of money to the grandson of Nelson Mandela for exclusive rights to the funeral of the great man, reasoning that coverage of the funeral will magically solve all the stations problems. Now whilst i know that he is not the youngest of people, I didn't think he was dead just yet, and buying funeral coverage for somebody still alive (and not even from the person in question) just seems very wrong to me.

Anyway.

I miss Fred

And there is nothing I can do about it as he is now enjoying constant attention, booze and saunas in Finland.

With thoughts of doom in my head, and increasingly not wanting to actually be involved in what I had just spent 540usd to do, we left Moshi just after a lucky break in the clouds had allowed me to see the summit Kilimanjaro towering over the town.

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Though it was never clear enough to see in all it's glory, i did at least get to see the peak of Kilimanjaro sneaking through the clouds

My spirits were hardly raised when we collected the other 4 people on our tour: an American couple plus their daughter and her friend, and I discovered that (a) they were from Iowa – not necessarily a bad thing, but in my case there are 2 separate stories in the midsts of time there – and (b) the father, Jeff, had never before left the USA. I admit that a feeling of dread started to descend over me. The fact that they spent the next several hours pretty much discussing every college student and shopping mall in Iowa in great detail, and lots of religious discussion did not exactly help. Happily, I need not have worried. They all turned out to be really nice people, and the tour guide Simbo was also superb.

I actually enjoyed the tour. After driving to the small town of Manyara we set up camp and headed out to Lake Manyara National Park. The Lake takes up a fairly large proportion of the park, meaning the area to drive through is fairly compact. But it also has a good variety of wildlife, of which we saw lots: elephants, giraffes, buffalo, flamingo, antelope of various breeds, zebra and several species of monkey amongst much else. But what Lake Manyara NP is famous for is Tree Climbing Lions, which are very rare in the wild. Apparently, the lions climb trees up to 4 or 5metres in order to avoid being attacked by certain insects which proliferate around the alkaline lake.

And we saw some. They were great, though I am not sure I have ever seen animals looking quite so content and uncomfortable at the same time. Though obviously at ease with the tree, they were also resting with paws literally holding on for grim death: they reminded me of a small child who has happily climbed a tree without fear before suddenly looking down, realising what he has done and then refusing to move/climb down again, out of a massive sudden fear of falling.

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Now, if only we can find that elusive giraffe climbing a tree, we'll be all sorted!

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No, they are not tree climbing giraffes (sadly), but I liked them just the way they are. And with Fred awol, they are my only reminder of him

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This family of baboons was over 100 strong, and walked in an extremely ordered fashion

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This guy was happily standing by the side of the road until we approached, whereupon he embarked upon a great branch waving ceremony, seemingly solely for our entertainment

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A view across Lake Manyara

Posted by Gelli 02:30 Archived in Tanzania Tagged animal Comments (0)

Gelli's super patented 'impeccable timing' strikes again.

I'm not entirely sure why I will start with a note from the national news, but as nobody complained last time I did it, i figured i may as well do it again. Todays snippet comes from a Tanzanian paper that might have been 'the Guardian', but then again, might not have. It was a small item announcing that Norway were opening a new Consulate on Zanzibar today. In itself, that is not particularly amazing, I grant you, but two small things jumped out at me about it: The first was that whilst the Norwegians said that really, the amount of trade and interaction between Zanzibar and Norway was too small to normally warrant such a move – perhaps understandably: After all when you think of the worlds largest or most important trade partners, they aren't two that instantly spring to mind -, 'an increasing number of Norwegians are finding they require assistance on Zanzibar, but generally only of the consular nature'. Translation: lots of Norwegians are 'losing' their passports (and almost certainly most are not accidental loses, either) and need new ones in a hurry*. The second thing that amused me was that the consular officer who has been appointed is actually Danish, after a thorough search for a qualified Norwegian familiar with the island was, apparently, 'sadly unsuccessful'.

And now I've happily wasted a paragraph.

As you might deduce from the fact i was reading a Tanzanian newspaper, i was back in Tanzania and bouncing merrily down the not yet built Arusha-Nairobi main road (although the later part, you might not have deduced. If you did, serious kudos). I was back in Tanzania for a couple of reasons, most relevantly of which was that my previous days violation had gone reasonably well and I now had almost a week free before I needed to be back in Nairobi. My love of that glorious city has already been documented in these annals, and thus (especially as I have a still valid Tanzanian visa) I had resolved to get the hell out of there as quickly as possible.

Bouncing down the 'hopefully-will-be-a-real-road-in-a-few-years' south of the border, the only tourist on the bus and on a gloriously sunny morning, I suddenly felt perfectly content: I was no longer in Nairobi, my rear end was coping with the bouncing with surprising ease, I was listening to some good music and gazing happily out of the window whilst my mind merrily wandered. Then, from above the layer of cloud, I saw Kilimanjaro – or at least the patchy snowy sides of the top kilometer or so of Kilimanjaro, and its summit – in the distance, and for the first time in a while i actually felt properly happy with the world and was enjoying my travels again. Great stuff.

Sure, there was a small (OK: really large) pang of regret that I wouldn't be able to climb it anytime soon (for reasons of both current issue and Italian exploits from last year....), but that just gives me an excuse to return to East Africa, and hopefully soon. More than that was the joy at realising that it actually exists: Maaret and I had traveled this way twice when we went to Arusha, without being able to see it and I had begun to wonder whether my relationship with the mountain would turn out to be similar to that of Mt. Fuji-San (for those lucky enough not to remember that tedium – or the non Kiki parts anyway – there is more detail here.

Oh great. The electricity has just died completely. So I am now sitting in the bowels of a pitch black hostel, with just the strange glow from my laptop for company. But lets move on, and see if i can finish this warble before the battery dies.

But as I mentioned above, there were a couple of reasons for coming, and here we explore the main one. Back when I was still pretty much chained to a loo in Nairobbery, I had spent some time googling and looking at ideas. After realising that independent travel to most of the East African parks is either not possible or hideously expensive, I had begun to investigate tours. Though I generally detest guided tours, i am also realistic – and poor – enough to accept that sometimes, they are the only way I will be able to visit certain places.I have long wanted to visit the Ngorongoro Crater and the nerd inside me (or, perhaps more correctly, the nerd that is me) really wants to visit Olduvai Gorge and see the area where the Louis Leakeyand family had done so much brilliant archaeological work, and found the remains of Homo Hablis (aka the Handy man) a major link in the evolution of humans. I had found a decent sounding and affordable tour from a company who had been recommended to me, and provisionally booked it on the hope that I would be well again. So far, so good, i hear you say.

However, all Ngorongoro trips come tagged onto trips to a much larger and generally better known attraction: The Serengeti National Park, and here lies the issue. Although Ngorongoro is a famous and compact game reserve in its own right, I want to visit for the geology of the Caldera as much as anything else. And when provisionally booking this trip, it looked like it would be perfect timing to catch the wildebeest migration, and a safari in the Serengeti sounded brilliant. But, of course, I had not been to the Masai Mara.

Now, I suddenly find myself heading to arguably the most famous and well known game reserve in the world (you could probably argue Kruger, but that would be it), an area of vast grassy savanna of the sort that, I'm sure will now realise, I have been to a week ago - the much smaller Masai Mara is actually part of the Serengeti ecosystem, and separated only by the irrelevant political boundary – and ended up hating immensely.

And, apparently, the wildebeest have moving on from the area that we will be in. Yup, I have been here for the whole of the most famous animal movement in the world, an event of apparently unrivaled grandeur, and despite visiting the middle and the end, will probably miss them in both locations by a matter of days.

My timing is impeccable as ever.

I am going to try and go into it without any preconceptions and take it on its own merits and experiences. And obviously, things might work very differently in the Serengeti to the radio-linked hunting madness of the Mara, especially given it's much greater size, although I sadly doubt it. But i must admit that pretty much the last thing that I want to do at the moment is go on a Safari (I am kind of animaled out and don't currently have the “wow” factor that you should have for such trips. I have, after all, recently seen the big 5...) in grassy savanna, much less one where there will be lots of other vehicles around all driving off-road – and thus affecting the habitat – whilst hunting down sightings mercilessly.

I will of course let you know how it went when I actually know, but if I don't, and you hear reports of, say, a crazed gunman killing lots tourists in different buses near some rare animals in the Serengeti, I wouldn't try to hard to put 2 and 2 together...

  • Technical note: Despite the fact that Zanzibar is part of Tanzania (it is, in fact, the central 'zan' part of it), it maintains many independent rules and regulations, including running its own immigration checks. As a result, you have to fill out immigration forms and get your passport stamped on arrival/departure from Zanzibar, even if you have come from/are going directly to the mainland. Which means that it is not quite as simple for Norwegians – or anybody else – who have lost their passports to just get a boat to Dar and replace it at the embassies there, as one might suppose

Posted by Gelli 20:56 Archived in Tanzania Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Bye-bye Yes-Dear

sunny

After abandoning me for the second time – this time, 10 days in Uganda – Maaret returned to Nairobi. Feeling a bit better and in one of my “let's wait and see” rotations at the hospital between appointments and Maaret's return to Europe looming, I made an executive decision and decided we would go to Arusha for a few days. Now I freely admit that I am not entirely sure what i expected to accomplish as i am still not in anywhere near good enough to attempt such things as long safari trips or climbing Kilimanjaro (I can barely climb stairs at the moment, let alone anything else!), but it made sense at the time. Basically, I was so bored of looking at the same walls that I just fancied looking at some other walls for a bit.

And it kind of worked. The journey didn't cause me too much in the way of problems, and we found a nice little hostel mostly used by long term volunteers, and where we were instantly brought into the 'family' and made to feel very welcome. Plus there were puppies. Which for those that understand – and even those that don't, as it is pretty obvious at least from one angle – means baby animals.

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The people behind the Ujamaa Hostel have links to several local charities and projects, and people come and stay for a while and volunteer. You can choose to do as much or little as you want, and get involved in whichever project you want, and mix and match pretty much as you please: It is one of the few programs that i have come across in the last few months where they are genuinely looking for people to come and volunteer, as opposed to the norm which is that they want the money the volunteers pay (normally lots of it), but then really seem like they couldn't care less if the volunteers stick around or not. At Ujamaa, you don't pay (read: hand over a blank cheque) for the privilege of volunteering: You just volunteer.

Sadly, i wasn't really up to much. I had good moments and bad, but pretty much did not allot except hang around the hostel and occasionally wander around Arusha. Frustratingly, I didn't make it to a single of the projects (reasoning that with my currently extremely sensitive stomach, the last thing I need was enthusiastic kids running up and grabbing/hugging me), though have already resolved to return when I am finally alive again and stay for a few weeks and help out.

One of the things that I have enjoyed so much about being sick and stuck around Nairobi for the last few weeks has been the wonderful support and consistent presence of Maaret. And so having been abandoned by her twice in the previous couple of weeks, and with a third abandonment rapidly approaching, I was warmed to discover that when she went out to a club with most of the hostel residents (pretty much everybody except for me and 2 other sicknotes), she had to field 2 wedding proposals – and not from locals – and got involved in this**...

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Sigh. The hints are becoming increasingly less subtle. The evening was topped off when part of the group arrived home around 4am, and when Maaret came in to check on me, I got a strong whiff of alcohol and “club” smells and pretty much had to sprint straight off for another, erm, comfort break. And who said romance was dead?

  • * To be fair, the three guys are all really cool New Yorkers who are gay, gayer and really gay.

DISCLAIMER: I have been almost politely asked to point out that Maaret has never really abandoned me, and I am using that term for semi-dramatic-ish affect. Left me alone for days on end whilst she went off to do other, more exciting things on 3 different occasions? yes; abandoned me? not really. To set her worries that free that any of my friends who ever stumble across this and actually read it will think that by leaving me in my hour of need (or something like that) she is a heartless so and so, in the hope of not being slapped later on, I hearby state for the record that I had no problems with – and actively encouraged – her side trips. I don't want somebody ruining/wasting the end of their holiday to sit in a cell staring at a wall with me hen i'm in an even less friendly, sociable and useful way than normal, when they could be out enjoying themselves and seeing all sorts of exciting things, such a paint drying. Fred, on the other hand I am a bit miffed that he deserted me. He could have worked wonders in several hospital situations that I have found myself in! Now, Honey, please don't slap me?

Posted by Gelli 16:42 Archived in Tanzania Tagged volunteer Comments (0)

Such a pretty name


View Zanzibar to Nairobi on Gelli's travel map.

Vladivostok. Karaganda. Pondicherry. Outer Mongolia (I know, I know). Samarkand. Jokkmokk. Yokohama. Timbuktu. Aylesbury*. Zanzibar. Some places have attracted me since I was young for no other reason than I like the sound of the name, which I think sounds so wonderfully exciting and exotic. Though Timbuktu remains the number 1 destination for me on name alone, i have no illusions about how it will actually be should I ever make it there. I expect it to be a veritable dump. Over the years, I have often (but not always) found that places which you hold in such high mental regard sadly fail to live up to expectations, and so I have to admit that my hopes for Zanzibar were not overly high.

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Loading the boat in Dar-es-Salaam

So I was pleasantly surprised. Sort of. Six hours on a cargo boat later and we had covered the 35km to Zanzibar Stone Town, and i loved it. Parts of it reminded me of Fes, parts of Qom and parts of another Middle Eastern city that I cannot quite place. Lots of narrow pathways and alleyways heading off in all directions, with brilliantly evocative – though in some places a little bit too neglected – architecture and, especially, doors and doorways throughout. Unlike Fes, for example, most of the alleyways were through passages, and with Stone Town surrounded by water on 2sides of it's roughly triangular shape, it means that it was hard to ever get truly lost (although I accept that getting lost can be one of the best experiences of such places).

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We spent a happy few days wandering the town, browsing the shops and stalls, and eating as much seafood as possible, including lots of skewers from the excellent outdoor evening bazaar by the seafront. From there it was up north, past the endless police checkpoints and roadsigns with oddly specific distances (19.3km, for example) to Nungwi, to do something that I rarely feel any great need to do: sit on a beach for a couple of days.

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Food in the night bazaar in Zanzibar Stone Town

Sadly time was not on our side, and after a week, we had to leave without getting to the East or South of the island. We also had to leave with my stomach unsatisfied. I had seafood everyday, yet with the exception of a few of the skewers from the bazaar and the last meal I had in Nungwi, I was almost universally disappointed with the seafood that was served. It was all edible, and none of it was bad, but on a small island with a deep fishing history and large amounts of truly fresh fish to use, I was surprised at how average the seafood was. I was also disappointed by the locals: Whilst there were some very friendly and helpful ones, many were not. In Stone Town in particular, it is easy to 'collect' followers (normally younger men, and especially when you have several women in the group) who are near impossible to shake off, believe you are best friends if you have exchanged 3words or asked a simple question/direction, and can then get very abusive when you try and actively get rid of them. People are also actively trying to conn you: short changing you which happened so often that it obviously was not accidental, not fixing – or even causing - problems (like no water in a hotel room) and the inevitable need to haggle for everything – on our return to Stone Town we (5 of us) agreed on 4000 Schillings each for a taxi, but had to promise not to say how much we had paid to 2 others in the taxi who had paid 10usd each, or about 12500 Schillings. I know it happens. I know it's normal. I know you have to fight for a decent price. But it can be tiring, especially when you are already feeling really, really sh1tty.

  • No. Not really.

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Nungwi, a beach resort on the north of Zanzibar Island, me doing an uncharacteristic not allot (with Fred, of course) and fishermen heading out for the nights fishing

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more images from Zanzibar Stone Town

Thanks to Maaret for many of the photos in this entry. For reasons that I have forgotten, I took few photos, and so have since decided to shamelessly steal hers instead

Posted by Gelli 16:54 Archived in Tanzania Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Duh? What? No? Oh... Dar.


View Tazara on Gelli's travel map.

And so to Dar (of the '-es-Salaam' variety). Which I loved. Although i'm not a true big city person like some, I have always enjoyed being in cities: especially those which are proper, lived in, energetic and slightly chaotic. And for someone who has spent the past 7months on a boat, an island (population 4008), in the desert and assorted middle of nowhere places – plus Lusaka which doesn't really count – arriving in Dar, a real city, was wonderful.

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I can't say that we actually did that much in Dar: rather, we completed a few chores (woohoo! the parcel has finally been sent) and just spent some time wandering. The old city of Dar is not actually that old, and doesn't even really contain any of the narrow winding streets and alleyways that I love. But what it was was a condensed semi-grid of constant action, bustle, sound and smells. Jamestown it isn't, and I was in city heaven. Such exotic extravagances as shops were viewed, and, inevitably, searches for specific Ice-cream parlours undertaken. We even got the fun of having 2 electricity transformers explode near us: One of which, just outside our hotel around midnight, went on for 30mins in a veritable display of sparks, flashes and big bangs. Not good for those with a nervous disposition.

And perhaps of even more relevance, there was Indian food. Good Indian food. And lots of it.

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I almost feel like I am being back in the real world. Then, in a not so good way, that was confirmed to me. A couple of days after we left for the second time, a munitions dump in the city blew up causing all sorts of chaos, and making the city and its inhabitants extremely jittery as it remembered the terrorist attack of 1998.

Posted by Gelli 23:29 Archived in Tanzania Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

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