Trip Start Nov 19, 2004
7Trip End Dec 06, 2004
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Where I stayed
A long, rickety, and sweaty public bus ride took us from Arusha to Lushoto. We sat squashed together in vinyl seats that had seen much better days, alternating between opening the window to super strong gusts of wind & dust while feeling relatively cool, and sweating in the stifling heat with the window closed. African pop music played over the sound system - the same tape played over and over again. Many, many, many stops, and often vendors clamoring at the window, selling water, peanuts, popcorn, toothpaste, hair combs, hats, toys, sunglasses, and anything else that is relatively portable. As we neared Lushoto, we started to climb into the mountains
A very clean single room with private bathroom here at the Lushoto Sun Hotel goes for $10 including breakfast. The only problem is that the advertised hot water has not materialized. My cold "bucket" shower last night, while refreshing, was a far cry from the previous evening's lodge luxury. The food is a tremendous bargain. Three of us had a huge lunch yesterday with ugali (the main starch in the East African diet) & chicken plus drinks and a shared plate of chips for $5 US total. The chips here are amazing - always freshly made and eaten with a little "tomato sauce" (sweeter version of ketchup) or pile pile (hot sauce).
Today started with a 90 minute banking transaction just to cash travelers' cheques. Forms had to be painstakingly completed by hand in triplicate using good old-fashioned carbon paper. The numbers were checked by a supervisor, and it was discovered that a mistake was made. So, new forms were started, and we were shuffled in and out of various lines. Much patience was needed!
Next was our guided hike around the area, including an uphill trek through a cool forest inhabited by numerous noisy monkeys, lunch at a dairy farm, a trip to a place called Irente viewpoint (stunning panoramic views), an itchy encounter with army ants, and finally winding back through the outskirts of the village. We didn't bring anywhere near enough water, so all of us became quite dehydrated before finally making it back to a store to buy more.
Throughout the day, children called out to us "Jambo, jambo!", or "Mzungu, Jambo" (hello foreigner), and sometimes "Give me pen?". One group of kids just wanted to slap our hands in "high 5's". Another little toddler took each of our hands in turn and walked a few steps with each of us. Almost everyone we met smiled and responded warmly to our grins and greetings. We told our guide Amil how amazed we were at how women and children carry such large loads on their heads. He told us that Tanzanians are similarly amazed by how we mzungus carry such heavy loads on our backs (i.e. our gigantic backpacks)!
Amil spoke about both the positive and negative impacts of increased tourism on the community. Much needed cash from guided hikes like ours is appreciated and is usually invested back into the community, but tourism has also encouraged kids to beg for money from tourists instead of going to school, even though begging has not traditionally been part of the culture. Another negative influence is the provocative style of dress often displayed by visitors, when Tanzanians are a historically conservatively-dressed culture. So many travelers are unaware of these issues, making it crucial to do some research before heading out into the world and blindly causing unknown damage. This made me vow to do my best to be an informed and respectful traveler wherever I go in future.
The power went out as we were eating dinner in the hotel cafe. Candles were quickly provided, and now a generator is supplying some noisy power. The water is not working, so there will be no shower to wash off the day's sweat and dust. I lie here dirty, hot and smelly, but really quite at peace. Another day ends in East Africa.