We arrived here on Wednesday after what was a really good drive down. Didn’t start off too good being stuck in Nairobi traffic but once we were out on the main road we made up for it and made it here in good time.
The drive down is so beautiful, especially with it being so green from all the rains. I can’t say I have traveled that road so much, in fact I don’t think I have as I have had no reason too but I am recommending it. Not sure what you will do down there as there doesn’t seem to be much a long the way but it is definitely something to keep in mind if you ever want to head to Tanzania for a mini break. The Namanga Hill reserve mountain ranges alone are pretty incredible, sadly I didn’t take any photos as my camera was locked away but when I do that road again I shall make sure that I take lots to make up for it. After the boarder the rolling hills and climbs in to Arusha make for an amazing view too. The landscape is quite similar to Kenya in the respect of the vegetation but the rolling hills are nothing like I have seen. Ok so I haven’t traveled round much of my own country either so I am sure that if I looked hard enough then yes I would see something similar but winding in and out of the greenery was a good way to end a long journey. And how can I forget Kili?? Well sadly we didn’t see the peak of it as it was behind the clouds but I have put in my order for a clear day the next time I drive that road so I can really get a good look at it. After the beautiful drive we finally arrived in Arusha. We had a quick stop at the shops for a chance to buy some more food for dinner and the group had a chance to sit down and enjoy a Zanzibar coffee. Not sure how well their coffees went down after I suggested a dinner of beef tongue, chicken feet or roasted goat, there were a few unamused faces. Luckily for them I was feeling nice so I opted for some steaks instead. Besides I was a little hungry and couldn’t even begin to imagine chowing down on either of those options myself. I told them that they caught me on a good day, this was after all Africa and one should eat like an African to get the true experience of life as a local here! Much to their relief we packed the steaks and headed off to the campsite with one last stop a long the way.
Tanzania as you should all know is famous for Tanzanite, there is only one mine in the whole of this country where you can get them from. Being here we had to stop and have a look at some of the stones. Not being able to go to the mine itself as it is rather a way away we stopped at the Cultural Heritage Centre to look at the already cut version of this precious stone. Sadly we caught them on a bad day as they were doing some refurb on their counter and so they had no display to show us but after some grovelling he said he could show us a sneaky peak of an order that he is going to be shipping off to China. With the stones being worth around USD500 per karat I was pretty excited to see exactly how much someone in China would be ordering. It was a large order to put it simply. The stones were beautiful and I was indeed jealous. But that was all we were allowed. Just a sneaky peak. He didn’t even go through any information with us but as we didn’t want to buy any he didn’t see the point. Fair enough but also A bit annoying really. I will be back again with other tours so I will catch up on it then but for the others it was a bit of a shame. Still they weren’t going to let it spoil their holiday! After the quick stone visit we walked around a bit. The Centre resembles someone with a massive African arts hoarding problem. There are carvings and tapestries a plenty, soap stone ornaments and beaded things galore amongst many other knick knacks. With some time to spare we walked around and I had a chance to purchase my first Christmas decoration of my adventure. I don’t think I have told you but my plan is to collect a Christmas decoration from every place that I go so that when I have a chance to have my own Christmas tree it will be filled with happy memories and good times spent on the roads in Africa.
Purchases in hand we headed to the campsite. Through yet some more beautiful scenery we finally arrived at Meserani Snake Park where I stayed for a couple of days with the driver while the group headed off to the Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater. Another great shame that I wouldn’t be able to go but there will indeed be other chances.
I know some of you have been to Meserani Snake Park before but check out their Facebook page and website and if you are ever around Arusha pop in.
Ma and BJ the owners are lovely and they hand out cuddles like candy. The guides say that they get looked after there so well that they wish they never had to leave. The cuddles are also good if you are having a bad day. They are like the travellers grand parents. Always nice to catch up with and always with plenty of beers and good food in hand! I look forward to spending much more time with them, I feel like I have known them forever already!
As it turns out though, they have known my family for some time. Many years ago my auntie or Shoshi as we like to call her used to live in Arusha and indeed spent many a night drinking whiskey and swinging from the rafters. Ma was slightly concerned that there was another one from the Lury bunch hanging around but I assured her that I would not be swinging from the rafters any time soon. The concerned look still on her face. Something told me she didn’t believe me! It was good hearing about all the stories from back in the day, clearly nothing had changed much!
After a quick unpack of the truck and set up of camp the boys in the group got down to some cooking. We all sat round in a semi circle, it was like watching tv back at home actually. They made for quite an entertaining cookery program. Hence the name of this blog post. Max came out with some corker one liners. Have a look at the quotes page. I have added a couple of the good ones on there. After a really delicious meal we were again treated to some really great English Entertainment. Another Acacia truck was in town and it was their last night so they were having a large one. Drinking games and gallons of punch later it was quite messy. Sam, their tour leader had heard that I was in town and so decided that she would take me under her wing and introduce me to the Acacia way of doing things. Slightly daunted by this I was dragged (literally) to the bar and was told that it was time for my initiation. I have seen some horrific initiations in my time so as you can imagine I was not looking forward to this. All the other guides from all other tours got involved so I braced myself for a messy evening. Thankfully Ma was feeling kind so handed me what I thought was her aptly named Ma’s Revenge but instead was a really delicious shot of some pink stuff with Amarula. Not sure what it was but it was good. A night out on that… Easy. But that was it. One shot and My initiation was over and everyone was welcoming me in to the overland family. To say I was relieved was an understatement. The other tour leaders then came up to me and said that all the grief they had been giving me was also part of the initiation (I just thought they were mean) and they said that I did really well. They didn’t expect to get s*** back so were quite surprised when they did. And knowing me I know you can all imagine that they got it back good. After all that was done we spent the majority of the night in the world famous Ma’s Bar. I wasn’t allowed to leave until the last guide went to bed so as you can imagine I was happy at the thought of a lie in the next day. A lie in I did not get as I wanted to see the group off to the Serengeti and to run through a few things but after they were on the road I headed straight for bed. The rest of the day was pretty uneventful. Oh apart from my lunch of goat that I had to try and force down. I hate goat. I never have and I never will but I felt rude not eating it so I stomached a bit. Luckily it came with ugali and cabbage which I love but still it took everything not to throw up straight away. All the others were loving it and I just couldn’t. It was grim. Still though I had to eat some so I covered in it tomato sauce to try and hide the taste a bit more and pretty much swallowed it whole. I can safely say that I still don’t like goat and will never eat it again. Grim stuff. After lunch I spoke to some more guides and caught up on my notes and stuff then headed to the bar for dinner. I met some other guides there too so of course had to have a couple of beers with them. They all seem so nice so I was quite happy to know that we would be seeing a lot more of each other a long the road. I also met another trainee so it was nice not being the only newbie. Ok so he had been on the road much longer than I had but him and his crew looked after me well and gave me some good pointers. I was quite surprised as they work for the competition but it seems that is life here. They all help each other out regardless of who they work for. It was so refreshing actually. I have to admit that I expected otherwise. We had a good time over dinner though and it reminded me of dinner in Rumbek. It was just like a family sitting down and catching up, by the end of it it was like we had know each other forever. It did make me miss my Rumbek family though I won’t lie but I enjoyed telling everyone all about them. And don’t worry, I miss my real family too… Although dinner conversations wouldn’t have met the civilised standards of my family. The people of Rumbek would know what I am talking about… A little less news and current affairs and a little more of the dirty stuff! It was awesome though, and I began to feel right at home.
Friday was also really quiet. I slept most of the day because I couldn’t keep my eyes open for some reason but I did have a chance to take some photos of the birds around here. The bird life here is amazing. I don’t think I have seen so many love birds all in one place! I also cleaned the truck and organised my locker a bit more as well as doing some research and things. Then it was lunch time… I feared the worst. More goat. But luckily I made friends with people in the kitchen and they saved me some if their sukuma wiki. They were pretty chuffed actually as that meant more goat for them! And I was happy because its been a while since I have eaten the local food and here they cook it so well. A really good lunch was had and I was happy that I didn’t have to chew on copious amounts of chewing gum to get the taste of goat out if my mouth. I would have gone in to town for some chips mayai which is famous around here but town seemed pretty far away and I simply couldn’t be bothered. Lazy I know. But hopefully we will have another chance to go through town when the others are back. If not I will save it for the next time I am in Arusha. With yet another family dinner full of laughter and more beer it was another end to a great day. I’m beginning to love Tanzania even though I have only seen a small bit of it. I do look forward to spending much more time here, I think I could love Tanzania as much as I love Kenya. I am adding it to the list of must see places… Hopefully the rest of it will be just as good. I have high hopes. We are after all going to be in Zanzibar in about 4 days passing through Dar and some other Tanzanian towns. I could be speaking too soon as this is Africa but I have heard some good stories so am remaining positive. So far though, not a bad start to a journey down Africa. Happy days!