With the recent news of the trophy killings in Zimbabwe lately, I was driven to post my experience of traveling to Tanzania. Of course I did a safari adventure while I was there, and I wanted to showcase these amazing animals I was able to see. Unlike the intentions of the hunters that are relentless killers and poachers, I feel HONORED that I was able to join these animals in THEIR backyard and had the most amazing time viewing them. What a treat! When I was there, I had some other once-in-a lifetime experiences I would like to share with you as well. Sit back, and enjoy the ride….
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In August 2013, I traveled to Tanzania to visit my close friend Charles who has been living and teaching there for almost 5 years now. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life thus far! I flew into the Kilimanjaro airport as it was the closest airport to Moshi, where we we would stay for a day or so. Mount Kilimanjaro is in the next town over, so let’s just say I got some amazing views of her a few times on my trip. (I am really lucky to have seen it because there are times people travel here and the mountain is socked in the entire time!) I flew in at night, but this was the view the very next morning. Unreal.
After a day, we headed to Lushoto, which is in the Usambara Mountains, north east of Kilimanjaro. It was an old colonial German town. We hiked and explored as we climbed to the top of a mountain in the Magamba Forestry.
There were so many amazing plants and trees to see….
In colonial times, there were several coffee farms that occupied this district. There are still many coffee shrubs throughout the overgrown forest….
A pineapple bush just growing where it grows best…..
There were one billion chameleons in this area. Some were huge. It was awesome to watch them change colors.
I was VERY unsure of it at first, but I was convinced into holding one. For a second. Then I gave it right back.
Such a cool fern just about to unfurl.
It was amazing to see people in action in their everyday lives. This boy was taking this banana tree that he just cut down to feed his cows.
We reached the top of the mountain after a few hours.
Charles, Shamimu (his beautiful girlfriend), and myself….. In awe at the view of the rift valley.
Amazing precipices and cliffs….
The sunsets were beautiful and magestic….
After a few days, we traveled to the Ngorongoro Crater. The Ngorongoro Crater is the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera. The crater, which formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, is 2,000 feet deep and its floor covers 100 square miles. From the top of the rim, what you see looks like a barren, dried-up, expanse of grass. Like nothing. I actually questioned Charles worried I wouldn’t see any animals. He had been there before and assured me I would- shaking his head and smirking at me the entire time.
What looks like a crater filled with no life…..
You drive down the rim of the crater in a jeep. Some parts were a bit “fun” to drive down…..
Then, out of what seems like no where, thousands of wildebeest cross in front of your jeep….
Then ostriches….. Who knew?!?!?
Oh, and then the thousands of zebra…..
OMG…. then the elephants….. I was losing it with excitement…..
THEN THE LIONESS AND HER CUBS!!!!!!!! WHAT?!?!?!?!?!
They came right to our jeep….. That was concerning a bit- not for safety, but that they came so close to us….. but they were just checking things out.
Just when I thought I had seen it all, there were the giraffes. HUGE giraffes…..
UNREAL! This giraffe showed us how it got a drink. They have to lower themselves onto their knees, and then their necks can reach the water. It was amazing to watch it check out its surroundings first, to be sure that predators weren’t’ near. Then, when it was done scanning, it looked relieved and knelt down. I don’t know why I didn’t take those pictures…. I guess I was just frozen with amazement that I was really seeing it!
Then there was this herd of elephants….. This was a big mama- or probably a grandma. There were about 5 adults and a baby walking toward our jeep when we were just sitting there waiting….. We were in the path of the elephants, and apparently, they didn’t like that one bit. We decided to just continue saying put, to not disturb them anymore. They didn’t like that ONE bit. Basically, they surrounded the jeep and when they started stomping and roaring, we slowly backed out of there and floored it out of there. It was both scary and the coolest ever. We tried to do the right thing by not moving, but they told us they weren’t having it! Whew!!!!!
Hundreds of elephants all over the place….
A well needed drink after one of the most exciting days of my life….
After another day or so, we traveled by a Bajaj (Ba-jah-j) to this super sweet oasis…. Charles didn’t even know what it was called!
It was an adventurous ride. Our driver had a few obstacles, the “roads” were full of washed out trenches and cobbles, and there were not many rules to obey driving. IT WAS SO FUN! We did get some “air” unintentionally a few times……
Sisal is a major crop in Tanzania…..
Passing along a few villagers who were probably wondering what the heck we were doing in the middle of the bush. It was amazing to travel with Charles. My favorite kind of travel is to be fully immersed in the culture- as little as a tourist as possible. We obviously were tourists, but Charles speaks fluent Swahili and he has an amazing view of life. Do any and everything…. find some hidden gems!
And here’s the gem…. A beautiful swimming hole in the middle of nowhere. It looked safe enough. It was a spring and it was perfectly clear!
Then we traveled to Charles’ village named Endamarariek where he is teaching. This is his house. No electricity or running water. It has an enclosed courtyard in the back. It even has a toilet room and a separate shower room. I forgot to mention the amazing passion fruit tree and papaya tree growing on the side and in back of his home…..
The well was located right next to his house. The villagers all get their water from here. When there is water… The pipeline comes from a distance away. When the elephants sense the water line, they sometimes dig it up and enjoy the water themselves. This stops the village supply. Then they have to buy water from a vender that visits on a cart or truck. Luckily, the water was working for the time that I was there.
In the courtyard, Charles made an amazing potato pancake for breakfast. He is using his “quick” stove.
This is Charles’ stove when he doesn’t have any gas. It is made from an old car rim and the aluminum from a defective bottle cap stamped sheet. Obviously, the bottlecaps werent’ ever cut out but the print for the caps were still there….I think this was a Sprite sheet if I remember correctly.
We were followed by this beautiful girl. She was mesmerized by us. She didn’t understand Swahili, so Charles was speaking to her in the tribal language. She was SO excited to have her picture taken. Many kids in the bush never will see themselves in a mirror or in a picture. They don’t have these things in life. It was amazing to give this girl a treat!
Another amazing experience I had was when I visited Charles’ school and classroom. He teaches biology in Florian Secondary School. His classes consist of girls in the 19-23 year old range. Most of these girls, or any student on campus for that matter, have seen anyone of a different race. Many of them wanted to just touch me, and touch my hair. Also, in their culture, a mix of christian, muslim, and tribal, a woman’s role is not usually one of independence and of certain freedoms. I got to sit with each of his classes and it was a question and answer session for the girls- TOTAL FREEDOM! As a woman, as a teacher for the past 15 years, and as a human- we spoke about any and everything that the girls wanted to know. Many of the girls had questions about USA, love, my family, and about boys (nothing inappropriate- but they don’t get to speak with their families or adults about this kind of thing!) These conversations were really special and moving for all parties! I just tried to leave them with the message that although they follow and adhere to their culture, the all have the sky as there limit as females and strong minds! Every now and then, I get cute emails from them asking cute questions!
These were the older girls and they were very serious!
These were the younger girls and were a much more lively and rambunctious group!
If you ever have the chance to visit Tanzania, you must. It is an amazing country, filled with rich culture, is very safe, and will change the way you view your life!
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