Dar es Salaam
Saturday 18 Aug. 2012
As frequent business travelers both Meike and Grég had access to the Swiss Air lounge at Zürich airport for a free fancy breakfast before departure, while Sam had to wait outside. They were kind enough to sneak out a banana and a peach for him, but he felt a bit second-class getting their leftovers. The in-flight movies weren't bad; The Avengers was showing and Hysteria - a movie about the doctor who invented the electric vibrator. During the stop-over in Nairobi Sam suffered through had a nasty headache while Grég was chatted up by a Tanzanian Lady with big hair from Luzern.
We landed and found our lift to the Transit Motel, where Shu was waiting/sleeping. The motel was in a rather crappy part of town and everything was full of holes or dirty, but it did the job. You all had beers in the little cafeteria - Kilimanjaro and Serengeti - and talked about Shu's adventures (so far) coming via South Africa: arriving at the wrong terminal for his hotel, ordering scooter pizza with a mix of currencies, and so on. Sleepy time.
Dar es Salaam - Lushoto
Sunday19 Aug. 2012
The day began with a knock at the door - Sam mis-set his alarm not considering the one hour time difference between home and Tanzania. While we were sleeping the car-lady had already arrived. The 4x4 didn't look too bad: the back tyre was worn out and the tents are a little shifty, but we had hopes it'd get us places. After breakfast we drove off for shopping. We managed to find the shopping center and with it most things we needed, but no jerky and no chickpeas. After the shopping we drove off away from the city. The first part of the drive was mostly uneventful. Sam drove us through a couple of villages with lots of speed bumps, to a service station for a tyre check, and we had a few pee-breaks. Eventually we swapped and Meike continued driving.
Just before sunset we decided to turn off the main road into the Ilsambara Mountains to Lushoto. It was a nice drive but the end of daylight made Meike rush. It got harder to see speed bumps in the dark. Also, it got harder to find the camp in the darkness; we needed the help of a friendly youngster on a motorbike. In the end there was no camp, only fully-booked bungalowes. We got authorisation to camp on the muddy car park in from of the employees kitchen, where an all night party seemed to be happening. We quickly boiled pasta under one of the rooftop tents to avoid the rain, used the employees toilets and crawled into bed. Meike couldn't sleep with all the noises outside and the car rocking - when someone turned in their sleep it was enough to make you seasick.
Lushoto - Lake Chala
Monday 20 Aug. 2012
At half past stillbloodydark-o-clock started the first Allah Akbar. It was loud, close and out of tune. This bloke had no singing talent or concept rhythm whatsoever. His yelling was out of tone and full of false starts - he took long enough breaks to make you think he was done, then started again. The second Allah Akbar was a little better and also further away. It melodically echoed up though the valley rather than just ringing in your ears. Several others started at about the some time in neighboring villages, and in combination it was actually nice. Being able to sleep at some point that night may have been nicer... During breakfast some patches of blue sky appeared, but were filled with grey clouds before the tea was boiled. Birds fluttered about the carpark trees and a cloud of mosquitoes hovered over the car. Grég applied more mosquito repellent.
Sam drove slowly down the mountain, stopping at choice photo spots on precarious bends in the road. There were many ant mounds by the roadside - it looked like they had tidied up the place - and several surprise speed bumps along the way. One particularly surprising hump loosened some of the 4x4s paneling, which we fixed with Shu's gaffa tape. We saw a few monkeys, one of which did a suicide dive from his tree into the valley as we approached. While stopped there looking for him a friendly old bloke happened by and explained he was going to farm onions, and wished us all a nice day. We did some handstands, passes some kids playing soccer with a sticky-tape soccer ball, and filled up with petrol back at the main road while Grég bought us all some bananas.
The roadside along the entire distance from Lushoto to Lake Chala was blanketed in flux plantations, while the road was riddled with potholes. In Tanzania the general speed limit is 120 km/h on open roads and 50 km/h in cities and villages. Occasionally there were 40 km/h signs, and at special locations 30 km/h zones. You missed a 30 km/h sign before one village consisting of little more than two huts and three trees, and was waved off the road by the police. "You have made a mistake" said the policeman in a deep Tanzanian accent. This expression became a running gag for the entire trip. At least it only cost 30,000 TSH. We stopped a few times for biscuites and pee-breaks. During one break beside a flux plantation Shu climbed a tree and used his first film slide! It was a big moment, since the slides were professional grade and cost a few dollars each. We passes a few trucks which had veered off the road in tight corners. Most trucks in Tanzania looked like they could barely drive straight, let alone stay upright in corners. Tanzanian coaches usually drove slightly sideways (bent axels) and always well above the speedlimit, which is scary to pass on bad roads.
We found the dirt road to our campsite and after a bumpy few kilometers arrived at Lake Chala at 3pm. The camping ground was very nicely setup and the landscape was pretty: to the west was Mt. Kilimanjaro, and east was steep-rimmed crater containing Lake Chala. The camp seemed to be under development as they were building some new luxury bungalows on the ridge overlooking the waterhole. Each campsite hat a big tree, water source and a BBQ fireplace. Meike and Grég cooked couscous on our gas burner, while Sam and Shu watched elephants at the waterhole. There were a few baboons walking around who looked interested in raiding people's campsites but there was no action. In the evening when the clouds lifted we thought we saw Mt. Kilimanjaro, which didn't look impressive at all. We were later told it was only Mt. xxx. We requested some firewood and a few hours later (after dark) someone brought us a kerosene lamp and started chopping. Shu unintentionally cooked a smoked potato, pumpkin, onion thingy over the fire; it didn't taste too bad.
Lake Chala - Moshi
Tuesday 21 Aug. 2012
We woke up in the morning ready to see the sunrise but the raindrops falling on the tent told Meike that she'd not have much fun following Shu and Sam to the lookout. It stopped raining a few minutes later, just in time for a nice relaxed breakfast before starting a guided stroll of the area. Our guide pointed out some elephants in the distance, and then walked us around a few dry waterholes and riverbeds. We walked along a mini grand canyon with very hollow sounding rocks. Just as he was showing us the rest of an elephant skeleton (the elephant was shot for ivory about a year ago) the clouds lifted and we saw the summit of the Kili for the first time.
We walked down to the lake where Sam and Grég had a splash (one with and one without pants) and then walked back up past the artificial waterhole where about 150 elephants were drinking. We were only a couple of meters away from the herd, within it a couple of really small babies, so that it felt rather wild standing there with only a camera and binoculars for protection. Shu made one step towards them which caused one of them to sniff our way. While he was getting too restless we bolted back up to the camp, packed our bags and drove to Moshi.
After a short visit to the tour operator we checked into a shifty hotel he recommended and ventured out for lunch (Sam has some local dish which turned out to be ox-tongue) and shopping. Not expecting any supermarkets, we ventured to the markets where Shu almost got hit with a cucumber: "No Photo!". We got constantly pestered and also ripped off at the markets and left them to find more 'likable' food elsewhere. In the end we did find a supermarket and got everything necessary.
We tried splitting off the enormous amount of food necessary for the four day hike into our packs leaving us with what felt like 20kg to carry for the next day and no spare room in any of our packs. When everything was stored, we briefly visited a stinky hot internet café and then to the surprisingly good Indo-Italian restaurant, which for its own reasons had two menus to choose from: Indian and Italian, plus they had everything we ordered. Afterwards we went to bed to get ready for our first adventure.