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.

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