29.09.2014 - 10.10.2014 26 °C
Our first day in Tanzania started with a 4am start and drive over a steep pass on the way to Dar-el-salaam. The landscape is thick with vegetation, the lush green is intersected with the red soil all the way to the horizon where mountains frame the sky. I remember my high school art teacher scolding me for making the blue perspective light between the mountains in my backgrounds too blue, too unrealistic she told me. Well she's obviously never travelled to Tanzania - I was just a bit before my time.
We head down the pass into the valley dodging broken down and crashed trucks to a scene of babao trees and the sounds of call to prayer. As the morning progresses the roadside is full of hustling communities, all out brushing their teeth, carrying water in buckets balanced precariously on their heads and sweeping the dust from outside their stalls with bundles of unidentifiable grasses, twigs and leaves. It is like the light of the day brings everyone outside again, as if being inside would be impossible, like time would cease to exist.
We had a couple of long drive days to get to Dar, through the green expanse, humidity and hilly outcrops but once there we setup on the beach for swims, cold Kilimanjaro beer and goat curry.
From Dar we headed to Zanzibar. Being almost completely Muslim, it feels like you are stepping into another country, not an island off the coast of Tanzania. The societies seem linked in name and proximity only. Zanzibar is a magical place, I can only attempt to explain it with a mixture of countries. If you mixed the Moroccan Marrakech medina with Hawaiian foliage, threw in a dash of British colonial like Raffles Hotel in Singapore, but don't ever clean it and then coat it with an overpowering Arab influence is the best way I can describe it. Oh with a sprinkling of Freddie Mercury - described by the locals as 'the gay'.
Zanzibar has a really interesting history of linking Africa to Europe, in particular through the slave trade. This inspired me to learn more about some if the historical slave trades. By doing this I stumbled upon a book called King Leopald's Ghost by Adam Hochschild. It is an in depth historical study of the Belgium colonisation of The Congo. It is a harrowing read. I would definitely recommend it. The book explains a humanitarian crisis on a scale that is unfathomable, and the events that lead to the world finally learning about the horrific raping of the Congo territory and the greedy tyrannical leadership of someone who never even stepped foot in his colony. I think the most horrific part is that I had NEVER heard of it. Not the book - the period of history. Here it is estimated that between 8-10 million people lost their lives. You might think that it's probably not in the history books because it was so long ago, but the majority of the bloodshed was between 1890-1910, AFTER the British had done their part in abolishing the slave trade. It's a big book, and quite graphic so not for the faint hearted but I would definitely recommend if you are looking for a new book to read.
We spent time in Stone town on the west side of the island before heading up to the beaches in the north. Here was my island holiday part of my holiday. Book reading, lying in the sun, drinking cocktails, sunset cruises... Ah the life.
Once returning to Dar we started our journey up to the Serengeti. For many this was the reason for their whole trip. The Serengeti has an enigma about it, a place that is mostly devoid of human influence and ruled by animals. It is like you are dropped off in a world so recently made, that you got to see it before Adam and Eve.
We left the truck in Arusha and headed off in 2 4x4's. NZF and a new younger, even more odd version of NZF had planted themselves in one truck, so naturally I found my way to the other.
The new version of NZF is very odd. He joined us in Dar, after having flown over Malawi from Zambia. Most people would say Malawi is one of the highlights of their trip. Not him, he said 'I didn't come to Africa for the people, Kayleigh. I'm just here for the animals'. Which was made very evident when one day in Zanzibar he sat in the room the curtains closed while he started and finished a Truman Capote's, In cold blood in a single day. He was my room buddy.... Yeah.... We were besties. He made an effort to find fault in everything, and one day I found him just sitting on a chair in front of the mirror. He'd been here for about half an hour. Not doing anything, he'd pulled a chair halfway across the room and was just sitting there. It was a little unnerving.
His thing was the Serengeti, so when our truck broke down for about an hour and their truck had to stay and help us our he lost his mind. We were taking too long. We were ruining his experience. We were wasting his opportunities. Our truck didn't mind in the slightest, we had a little portable speaker, sweet tunes and we were having a disco dance party safari. In true Kayleigh form, I had an even better time knowing that he was not. I'm a little sadistic like that.
The Serengeti and the Ngorongoro crater far exceeded my expectations, I tend to go in with low expectations for everything, so as to not be disappointed. I needn't have worried. It was just spectacular. I tried to convey it through my camera lens, but I am afraid I haven't done it justice. I had 3 days of great friends, experiences, laughs and a backdrop of animals, wide skys and such variation. Even if you do only come to Africa for the animals, you have to take a moment to appreciate the magical location in which they choose to reside.
This was my last hurrah with the Livingstone - Nairobi group. When we arrived back in Arusha we celebrated the end of a great twenty days with far too much booze and it was with a heavy heart and a killer hangover that the truck left without me the next morning. From here this was my time to concentrate on the next challenge. Kilimanjaro. Once my head stopped pounding and I stopped hugging my white porcelain friend.