Jozani Forest

Trip Start Jul 19, 2007
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Trip End Aug 03, 2007


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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Wednesday, August 1, 2007

We waffled over whether to take any of the available excursions, since we'd both had enough long bumpy rides to last us for a while, but we decided we couldn't pass up the chance to see the endangered Red Colobus Monkeys of Jozani Forest.  This area is a protected section of the natural forest that once covered the island, and it is the last original habitat left for these monkeys, although some of them have been relocated to another island.

At the front desk, we were told that they required a minimum group of six for them to arrange a Jozani forest excursion.  They said they would do four if we paid more, but even then we couldn't drum up any other people to go.  We asked the hotel owner if he could help us out.  We even offered to pay the full four-person total, and he ended up arranging the tour for just the two of us without charging us extra.  Nice guy!

The driver was supposed to arrive at 2:00pm on our last full day at the hotel.  We dutifully arrive at the open front desk area a few minutes early, and settled in to wait for "Africa time" to catch up.  The owner wandered through at about 2:10pm and, remembering that our ride should have been there already, got very upset.  When our ride showed up about 10 minutes later the owner said to us, "Do you mind if I fight with him first?" before proceeding to check out the driver.

When we got in the van, the driver was very nice and chatty.  He told us about a restaurant next door that we should check out.  After turning on to the main road in the village, he stopped the van, rolled down the window, shouted to a man standing by the side of the road, and got out of the van.  The other man hopped in, and away we went.

Mind you, neither man said anything to us about what was happening.  We noticed that the driver's seat belt appeared to be broken, and he just looped it around his upper body.  And the speedometer was broken.

We were a bit nervous, but he seemed to be heading in the right direction.  We had driven through Jozani on the way to Michamvi, and we recognized several landmarks.  Nathan tried to surreptitiously take pictures of the driver from the back seat, just in case we would be filing police statements later...

About an hour later, we arrived at the forest entrance.  The driver stopped and motioned for us to get out.  Nathan asked him if he was going to wait, or if he'd come back later and pick us up.  He pointed at two approaching men and responded, "No English.  Office.  Office!"  Okey dokey.  I asked the men if they could help us with the driver, but they said the drivers always wait.  Not knowing what else to do, we followed them into the office.

Our entry fee provided us with an English-speaking guide.  He hiked us down a trail through a forest of mostly mahogany trees, telling us a little of the history of the island and the forest while pointing some of the smaller residents.  We saw a tree frog, a chameleon, a millipede, a couple of giant snails, and two very large wasp nests.

After winding back around to the forest entry, we crossed the road into colobus territory.  We saw a few here and there, even a couple crossing the street.  We were pretty happy with that, but it wasn't long before we were surrounded by them!  The spend a good part of their days, at least during the cool dry season, hopping from tree to tree eating leaves.  There's enough foot traffic (even some of the locals grazing their cattle) that they don't pay much attention to people.  They usually don't sit still long enough to get super-close, but we got within just a few feet of a couple of them.  They don't seem aggressive, but they have pretty wicked looking teeth so we didn't want to press our luck.

After a while communing with the monkeys, we headed back to the main road to find our ride waiting for us.  We tipped our guide, hopped in the van, and headed back to the hotel.  And here's where things got ugly...

On the way to the forest, the second driver had put in a cheesy pop CD made just for the tourists.  We'd seen lots of people selling them, but we hadn't actually heard any of the songs.  Luckily so: it's really awful.  On the way home it got so much worse, because the CD starting skipping.  Actually, it wasn't really skipping.  It would return to the beginning of the song and start over.  This was especially harsh because the first song is the catchiest and most annoying of all of them.  After a cheesy synthesizer intro, it starts something like this (translations in parentheses):

    Jambo (Hey)
    Jambo bwana (Hey, man)
    Habari gani (How's it going?)
    Nzuri sana (Very good)

That's about as far as it would get before repeating...again...and again.  Nathan has a tendency to get catchy songs stuck in his head anyway, and this one is particularly and nefariously catchy.  It was weeks before he was able to get this song unstuck, and it still sometimes pops back up, unbidden.

Besides that, the drive home was fine.  We tipped the driver, although a tad less than we might normally have.  We asked the owner about it, and he said that there are several drivers in the village who share one van, but he would look into it.
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