Saturday, December 17, 2011


We drove to a Masai village this morning and were welcomed by one of the chief's sons.  He showed us how to get blood from the cow's neck and we were invited to drink some.  I just put some on my finger and tasted it.  Not as strong tasting as human blood.  

getting ready to get blood

Piercing the neck

Blood, anyone?
a calf born that morning
We then watched them building a new house and traditional round hut.  They use branches held together by wire for the frame then pack the holes with mud.  They use a steel roof but it is covered by thatch for shade and sound purposes.  We were invited to come on the roof and help thatch, but only Helga, who is in her 80's went up.  Lots of us don't like heights.

showing us how it's done

new style vs old

son and 80 year old patriarch of the family

The women came in a line from behind a building singing and dancing.  They then had the women in our group put on traditional Masai robes and beaded neck circlets.  We danced.  It is really hard to get those beads to bounce on your chest.  It's all in the shoulders.  Some of the Masai men then lined up to sing and took turns showing how high they could jump.  The Masai women then led us up to the men to  be "claimed."  We got hugs and then went back into our own line.  

Debbie and Kelly practice carrying wood

Afterwards, we went into a traditional round house.  It has a square central room with firepit in the middle.  The smoke goes up a hole in the roof.  There are four "rooms" created around the circle, for storage, cattle, and sleeping.  At first the head man asked and answered questions.  Their wealth is in cattle, and that is how they pay for land, dowrys, etc.  Our guide told us that after 9/11 the Masai took a lot of cattle to the American embassy for the workers who were helping rebuild.  They have no concept of how far away America is.  

Then the man left and some women came in.  They did not speak any English but our guide translated.  They are all wives of the clan's sons.  There is a patriarch and  his first wife is the matriarch.  They can have more than one wife, but each wife builds her own separate hut.  The women asked how long we nursed our babies.  They nurse for 3 years and do not have sex during that time.  They were surprised to find out that is not our custom.  They asked if the sperm did not go up to the breast milk and harm the baby.  This abstinence could be a reason why the men take more than one wife.  Our guide was translating and got very embarrassed by the personal questions.

We left the Masai and went to a Makonde tribe woodworking shop about an hour away.  They make carved animals, bowls, masks, etc and sell them to tourist shops.  I bought some rosewood salad tongs.

Makonde woodworkers

We drove past Lake Manyara and finally we came to our hotel for the night,Tloma Lodge.  It has huge gardens and they make and process coffee here.  We were welcomed with lemon grass juice and cookies with chocolate drops in the middle.  We had a beautiful buffet lunch, all very fresh.  They also had spaghetti with meat sauce, shepherd's pie, zucchini casserole, ugali, and two kinds of quiche.

Paul and Mimi from Torrance

My room overlooks the gardens
Peter, our guide, took us on a one hour walk around the gardens.  They are very extensive with many fruit trees and herbs, as well as long rows of many kinds of vegetables.  Different kinds of lilies border much of the garden.  Banana and papaya trees shade the coffee plants.

Lilies surround the gardens

Sunflowers and papayas

According to our driver, Stanley, the dread locked young man we saw in the lodge owns this one and 69 others.  He also owns 600 Kibo company trucks, which he sells to other tour companies after 5000 km (about 3100 miles).  He is half German but was raised by his Tanzanian mother.and never knew his father.  Quite a success story.  OAT contracted with his company so we are staying in several of his lodges and using his trucks and drivers.

Friday, December 16, 2011


On Thursday we got in two Landrovers with drivers Peter and Stanley and headed for Taranguire National Park.  On the way we stopped at Trek Africa Art Studio.  The artist showed us some African art.  I did purchase one of his paintings, a very colorful market scene done in oil, but bargained him down from $450 to $300 and he will pay more than half of the $70 shipping fee.

getting ready to roll

We passed many villages with round grass huts and herds of goats and cows with young Masai shepherds.  Finally we reached the entrance to Taranguire National Park and stopped at their picnic area to eat our packed lunch.  After that was a 3 hour game drive during which we saw lots of elephants, warthogs, giraffes, ostriches, a bat eared fox, impalas, water bucks, banded mongoose, slender mongoose and dik diks.  We saw three lions sitting together in the sun but they were at such a distance I could not get a good picture.  Also interesting were the many termite mounds, which the termites build with saliva into large rust colored castle like fortresses.  They have large holes which mongoose and snakes inhabit.  We saw lots of birds, including Egyptian geese, guinea fowl, leopard striped swallows, reddish ploverine, white headed buffalo weaver, superb starlings, southern ground hornbill,  red headed spotted hornbill, reddish frankoline (quail), and colored lovebird, Not that I would recognize any if I saw them again.

elephants can be destructive

termite mound


Impala grazing

Baobab tree
We went to our hotel for the next two nights, Lake Buringe Tent Camp.  We have huge permanent tents with wooden porches and atttached baths.  You can see the lake in the distance from the terrace of the main building.  I sat there drinking a glass of wine and watching a huge rainbow form.  It seemed like a good luck sign for our trip.  Dinner was a nice buffet.  When it is dark (after dinner and early morning), Masai with spears escort us back and forth to our tents because there is a lot of wild game in this area.

Nicole sitting on the porch of our tent

the main building where we eat 

a good omen?

The next day we got up at 5:30 a.m., had coffee, bread, jam and cheese, and took off for our morning game drive.  There are tse tse flies here so we were told not to wear black or dark blue, which attracts them.  We saw many of the animals we had seen the day before.  There were many more elephants.  We were told the park is about 9,000 square miles and has 4,500 elephants.  We saw a few hundred, including many babies.  One young male trumpeted at us as a sign of warning, but seemed to conclude we were bigger so he eventually walked away.  

Additional animals we saw were zebra, dwarf mongoose, vervet monkeys, squirrels, hartebeest, and water bucks.  Birds included yellow necked spur fowl, vultures, wattle starlings, yellow necked spur fowl, marshall eagle, Von der Decker's hornbill, northern white crowned shrike, morning doves, tawny eagle, fish eagle, ibis, owlet, red chested cuckoo, fork tailed drumbo, orange bellied parrot, kingfisher, red and yellow barbet, and red bellied hornbill.  I am not a bird person, but include a lot of the names just to show the variety.  There is birdsong all the time.

We drove back to our lodge and had lunch, including a variety of African dishes and spaghetti Bolognese.  After a rest we had a nature walk with a local guide and a Masai with spear.  They showed us the purposes of many plants and also a lot of animal tracks in the dry, sandy river bed, including hyenas and jackals, which I have heard but not seen.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


I took the taxi a few blocks to the bus station for 2000 shillings, then paid 3000 shillings (about $2) for the one hour drive to Arusha.  Then it cost me $10 to get from the Arusha bus station to Olasiti Lodge, where I meet the OAT tour.  Nobody was there yet so I had to pay $20 for the buffet lunch.  The people who had taken the pre-trip  to Kilimanjaro showed up around 4 p.m.  and I joined them for dinner.  The people flying from the U.S., including my roommate, showed up around 11 p.m.  I was already in bed but had to get up and unlock the door since there is only one key per room.  I said, "Hi, I'm Mary and I will meet you tomorrow" and went back to sleep.

Our room is quite nice with a large bathroom, luggage room, and a double bed and king size bed in the main room.  There were some mosquitoes at night so I used the mosquito net.  My roommate, Nicole, is 24, a recent graduate in mechanical engineering, and looking for a job.  She worked for Disney for two years as an intern and then was hired but got laid off.  She is traveling with her parents, Mimi and Carl, from Torrance, California, and has taken several OAT/Grand Circle trips with them.

Our room

... and bath at Olasiti Lodge

The other people on the tour are Ellen and her husband Joel, a urologist in New Jersey who retired on Friday and left for this trip on Monday.  Also B.J. and Bill from New Jersey, Helga from the Bay Area, Kathy from Oklahoma, and her sister, Debbie, and daughter, Kelly from Texas.

Ellen and Joel from New Jersey
The next morning we went to Shanga, a cooperative for disabled people that teaches them to make crafts to sell, like beadwork, glass blowing, painting, sewing, weaving, etc.  Emmanuel also showed us the surrounding coffee plantation.  They have a nice restaurant on site where we had lunch before touring the facility.  We also had a lesson in Kiswahili sign language, since a lot of the people there are deaf.

Emmanuel shows us the coffee plantation

coffee beans

preparing an African lunch


He can't walk but he can paint


A wall at Shanga

Beautiful beaded tile footpath at Shanga

On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a market so I could get a bag to store stuff and some socks.  I had thrown most of mine away because they were holey and washed my next to last pair in Moshi, where they still are since I forgot to take them down from where they were drying before I left.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


On Friday, 12/9 I left Victoria Falls and flew to Johannesburg.  Again I was surprised to get lunch on the one hour flight. I got to the airport and there were signs all over to welcome people to the international climate change conference.  

 I had been trying to book a ticket since Tuesday on the Precision Air flight out at 11:30 that night, to Dar es Salaam and Arusha,  but the computer said the third party payment system was down and nobody answered when I tried to call the office.  I finally emailed and was told they would take care of me at the ticket office.  At the airport, I tried to book a ticket for Kilimanjaro that night on Precision Air, but was told by a rather rude man that the ticket would be 6,660 and there were no seats available until the next Thursday.  I went to other airlines and found no seats for the weekend.  British Airways had a seat on Monday at $1480.  Discouraged, I went online at a restaurant and ordered a ticket for the flight I wanted for $855 (not $560 as it had been earlier that week online) one way to Arusha for Monday on Precision Air.  I went back to the Precision Air desk to pay for the ticket, which had to be done within 24 hours.  She told me the online payment system was not working because when they started the new system last week, they had $100,000 in fraud, so the whole thing was shut down.  I also found out that the ticket was 6,660 RAND, the equivalent of $855, and had to be paid in cash, in rand.  I had had no dollars for quite awhile, and stocked up at the ATM in Victoria Falls since dollars were the official currency in Zimbabwe.  So I went and changed $600 into rands and got more rands from the ATM at the airport to pay for the ticket.  I held back $100 in cash, but that is basically all I have, except for a few Tanzanian shillings and about $20 in Rwanda currency that they would not exchange in South Africa or Tanzania.  The good news is that she was able to get me on the flight that night.  I had all my luggage with me and saved paying for a hotel in Johannesburg.

The flight left at 11:30 that night.  We had dinner around 1 a.m. then I tried to unsuccessfully to sleep until we landed in Dar at 3:30.  Everyone had to get their luggage and go through customs.  It was then an hour and a half flight on a propellor jet to Kilimanjaro airport, which is between Arusha and Moshi.  I took a bus to Moshi, the city closest to Mt. Kilimanjaro, planning to stay there for a few days before going to Arusha to meet up with my safari on Tuesday.  I got off the bus near the town center and went to the nearest hotel.  It didn't have private bathrooms, so I went down the street and found the Harambo Hotel with room and private bath for $25.  This is very basic accommodation, very unlike the luxury I had in Victoria Falls. No internet.  It is only 800 feet elevation here and quite a bit hotter, but I have a fan instead of air conditioning.  There is no hot water or sink stopper, so not good for washing the clothes I have been wearing nonstop for two days of traveling.   I went to sleep for a couple of hours then wore the same clothes out to see the town, figuring to start out clean the next day.

I wandered a bit around Moshi with the first objective of getting some money accomplished at the second ATM I tried (KNB).  I went to a travel agency and booked a coffee plantation tour for the next day to keep me from sitting around my hot hotel room.  My second main objective was to eat, and I had fish and chips and beer at a hotel with air conditioning.  Expensive at about $10, but at least I cooled off.  I met several shills on the streets and went with one to see his curio shop, but did not buy anything.  After that I went back to my hotel room and took another nap.  I went out later only to go to my hotel restaurant to get some bottled water, since I was dying of thirst by then and you cannot drink the tap water here.  She charged me a mzungo price of 3000 shillings for a large bottle and 1200 for a small bottle, which are 1000 and 500 in Ngara.  But I needed the water so paid the price.

The next morning I had the included breakfast at the hotel, which consisted of instant coffee, bread, watermelon and cantaloupe, not the huge buffets I was spoiled with for the past week in Zimbabwe.  My driver for the coffee tour, Eddie,  picked me up in a Landrover around 9:15.  He is a very nice young man who was raised in Arusha by his Chagga father and Masai mother.  He finished secondary education there and went to six months at a wildlife school so that he could be a safari guide.  He started out as a a porter and then a climbing guide and has climbed Mt Kilimanjaro 50 times.  He says every time is different because the clients are different.   

Eddie shows me a coffee plant

We drove about 45 minutes on mostly dirt roads to the coffee cooperative.  The land here is all owned by small farmers from the Chagga tribe.  The farms are as little as 1/4 acre in size.  They sell the dried coffee beans to the fair trade cooperative, which then removes the husks and roasts the coffee beans to prepare for sale.  I met our guide at the plantation, Dennis, an older man who owns a one acre farm but volunteers as a guide to help bring tourism money into the community.  We started out with a cup of the local coffee, then hiked around the area.  They have a kind of demonstration area in a covered patio where he explained the coffee growing process.  He showed me how they start the seeds in a small plastic bag and keep the soil wet for 30 days till it germinates, then planted after about 90 days.  They are planted 10 feet apart and may have bananas or some other crop in between.  The first beans come after about 3 years, and a full crop after about 6 years.  The bushes can last indefinitely but need to be pruned.

Dennis selecting beans to pick

We went out and picked some ripe coffee beans, which are red in color.  Then we put them in a hand turned machine with water to remove the skin.  They are then soaked for 24 hours to remove the oil before being put on a drying rack.  After this they are ready for sale.  We continued with the process the farmer would do to prepare beans for his personal use by grinding the beans in a big mortar and pestle to remove the hard husks, then putting them in a flat basket to separate the husks from the beans by bouncing them and blowing the lighter husk material off.  We then roasted the beans in half of a clay pot over an open fire.  They turn dark in color as they cook.  Back to the mortar and pestle to grind the beans to powder, then they are sifted through a wire mesh to remove any pieces of husk left.  We then boiled the ground coffee before sifting it into a thermos to remove the coffee grounds.  Finally, we got to drink the coffee, which was pretty strong.

remove the skin

soak 24 hours then dry


grind then sift



After walking back to the reception area, my guide, driver and I  got a lunch of banana soup, rice, beef stew, vegetable stew, cooked bananas, and a tomato and cucumber salad.  There was one other tourist there, a Japanese woman who was just finishing lunch with her crew when I came.  They had apparently had a group of tourists overnight, and were taking down the tents they had used.  The overnight tourists get the coffee tour the first day and then a choice of nature, traditional medicine, or  Chagga village walk the next day.   I had told my guide, Dennis, that I was a nurse so he showed me a lot of the plants used for swelling, bleeding, emetics, congestion, etc as we passed them.   He also showed me how they twist leaves in different shapes to give messages, like "banana beer for sale at this house."

By next year, the plan is to have a paved road all the way there.  Both the currency and coffee prices fluctuate, so they have been looking at tourism as a way to bring in a more stable income and provide some jobs for the community.