This feels like the real Africa
Trip Start Jan 01, 2009
38Trip End Jun 30, 2009
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Our last day in Cape Town we spent a final day on the beach, the kids getting one last chance to brave the wickedly cold water for a boogie boarding session in Llandudno Bay. Our friend Pam arrived and we spent the evening at a big band concert in the Kirstenbosch Gardens - which really are beautiful ala Bouchart Gardens in Victoria. It was very civilized, with everyone having picnics on blankets on the gently sloping grassy amphitheatre, the sun setting behind the mountain vista with glimpses of the city below in the distance. The difference between Canada and here was that we were sipping champagne and wine and it was allowed! It was a great family atmosphere - the kids even enjoyed it I think (Duncan said, don't push it - but consider it a good sign that he didn't tune into is IPod). Popular hits by Sinatra and the like made it fun. It was interesting to note that there was not a single black person in the band (and just a few in the audience) - very much a social scene for a specific crowd. It seemed a bit funny that in a country with largely a black population, a white fellow sang a Louis Armstrong song (albeit very well).
One country down, 5 or 6 to go. As we leave, we reflected on our experience here.
The Highs and Lows of South Africa:
Maddie - High - encounters with the penguins, monkeys and sharks
Low - the surprisingly cold water (who knew that water so turquoise could be so cold!)
Duncan - High - Zip line, shark cage diving
Low - the cold water
Andy - High - Township tour, climbing Table Mountain, shark cage dive
Low - general feeling of unease related to the contrast btw the affluence of white Africans and the impoverished black Africans.
Meggie- High - township tour, Boulder Beach with the penguins
Low - Sasha dying (Darryl's dog)
We are settling into Moshi. We are staying at a hotel on the outskirts of town that necessitates an interesting 20 min walk into the central area offering the opportunity to observe the medium sized market town life. Dalla dallas (small mini vans that function as buses) are crammed full of people (we have literally seen people being pushed into the van to allow the door to close - sometimes the door can't be closed so people just hang on to the doorway and the bus takes off anyways - the van would have a safe capacity of 10 - 12 people, but there must be at least 20-25 people stuffed inside); children dressed in their blue and white uniforms heading to school (Moshi has a high level of education for Tanzania); women dressed in traditional African dress walking with enormous baskets of bananas on their head that they will sell on the street corner or market; rows of sewing machines are set up outside shops and men and women are hunched over sewing custom suits and dresses; fully veiled women in burkas, majestic Masai men in their traditional red dress; and touts everywhere looking for the vulnerable tourist (they too must be experiencing the economic slow down so are even more desperate (read annoying) than perhaps they usually are.
"Hello, where are you from? Canada? Toronto? Oh, Vancouver (close enough). Have you climbed the mountain yet? What is your name? My name is Jimmy Carter (yes, that was one fellow's name). I can help you. Please, I have a shop just down the road and I make art - just take a look." That is just the start. Jimmy will be there waiting outside the coffee shop you ducked into to escape the harassment. If you do manage to avoid him, he will find you the next day. Actually Jimmy was useful and helped Andy find a number of the Kili tour companies - and was rewarded accordingly.
Duncan in particular found Moshi to be overwhelming, especially interacting with the touts. He also was conscious of being a white tourist as there seemed to be very few of us about and he felt stared at. He understood that this is what it feels like for anyone who appears to be different or not a member of the majority (say, a black person in Summerland, or someone with a disability), and that people were not necessarily staring in an unfriendly way. In fact, we found that at least ½ the time, if we smile and say 'jambo', a neutral stare will turn into a broad smile and a 'jambo' back. All part of the learning.
We have booked our Kilimanjaro climb after interviewing several companies in Moshi. We went to the Kili Porter Association office to find out who is recommended. It seems there are a number of companies that do not treat the porters fairly (poor wages, inadequate clothing, too heavy a load etc) and the guide book advised selecting a company that treats the porters well. We are very happy with our choice (Ahsante Tours) and leave Friday for an 8 day climb via the Shira route. We hope that we are all able to summit but ones susceptibility to AMS (acute mountain sickness) is fairly unpredictable and not necessarily dependent on fitness level or age. We will be taking the time to acclimatize at altitude by climbing for 8 days rather than taking the standard 'Coca Cola' route that can be done in 4-5 days but with a high number of people experiencing symptoms and failing to summit (or worse, needing evacuation from the mountain). Wish us luck!