Thursday, March 7, 2019

Day Arriving in Tanzania and exploring Arusha

We arrived in Tanzania while it was still dark after flying 8 hours from Turkey. We were happy to finally be here and arrived at a quiet, small airport and found out quickly how expensive our trip was going to be. 

We had to have cash to pay for our Visas before we could enter the country and we had prepared for $100 for each person until they charged us $200 a person. Sure enough we look at the fine print and all Visa's are $100 a person UNLESS you are American, we had to pay $200 each. Lucky us. 

We had a driver from our hotel ready to drive us which was good because we realized during our trip that transportation is not easy or cheap. 

We got to watch the sun rise with Kilimanjaro in the distance. 

At first we felt like our first hotel was very remote until later in the trip when we realized that there is only one main road that is paved and every other road is dirt and in various states of disrepair. 

Once we got to the compound of our first hotel it was quaint and peaceful but getting there took us through a busy town/village with tumbled down houses, shops and street vendors that were built with questionable building practices, a variety of building materials and was very different than what we were familiar with. We turned down a road that looked like a washed out river and didn't look passable. Our driver took the van down it slowly and by some miracle we got there. Our place was behind a large gate and armed with a guard and a gun at night. It made me a bit worried at first but I realized by the end of the trip that this was true for all of the places that we stayed at. This also made it so that once we were in our place for the day there was no leaving it unless you had a driver or an escort. 

Each of the rooms were in a round hut/cabin that was build by the proprietors brother. There were paths and lawns and an outdoor dining room. I realized later that all the dining rooms were outdoors (with the exception of one that was in a lodge). 

Our hostess was nice enough to make us a nice breakfast, that was included in the price of our room and then we went and took a nap since we had flown through the night.  We found out that there weren't many options for meals. For lunch we ended up eating at a local mall but dinner we were stuck and either had to pay for our hostess to make our dinner at $15 a person or hire her son as a driver to find a restaurant. For the two nights we paid to have her cook. She did a good job but it got pretty pricey. We realized how little meat a lean genetically modified chicken has and learned to appreciate getting protein from eggs, and other sources. Meat was limited and we learned to appreciate it when we had it. 

Our place was on the side of a hill and the view from the dining area was spectacular. 

This was the inside of our cabin. There were a couple of lamps for the lighting and no mosquito nets (so I had to make sure to load up on repellent). 

The green partial wall was the partition blocking the shower and the toilet. There wasn't a door, just a slanted curtain that didn't cover things up really well. 

Taylor and Ashley slept on the bunk beds and Taylor on the top bunk had to be careful to avert his eyes while the rest of us were using the bathroom. We got really close as a family those couple of days, ha ha. 

While we were staying there we enjoyed watching the monkey's in the trees. Nobody at the hotel would feed them, they just liked to eat the fruit that grew on the trees near the property. 

At the hotel she had her son driving the van and another helper that she just called "the boy". We had to wait a couple of days for Joel and Virginia to get there so while we were waiting for them the second day we followed "the boy" along a trial that hugged the ridge of the mountain to visit his house. 

This was the walk that he made to his work every day and it was beautiful. It was the end of the rainy season when we were there but it was still cool outside and the whole time the weather was pleasant even though it was hot in the northern hemisphere. 

The man brought us to his brother's house who had a beautiful garden with sculpted plants and paths. 

We met his parents and his children (don't think he was really a 'boy'). His parents were 1/2 way between my height and Jeff's height. They were very nice and seemed happy to see us. They lived in a house that looked much nicer than most of the ones I saw on our trip. 

This was the house of his brother and wife. They had a young baby. The wife looked like she was high school age. The house was pretty nice on the outside but didn't have any glass in the windows so the baby was covered in bug bites. It made me realize again a lot of things that we take for granted.  

We visited the cows that they had which they were really proud of. While we were in Africa we would see people riding around on a moped with a giant load of grass/hay and we wondered what it was for and we found out it was to feed the animals. People would have to get transportation out of town and cut their own grass to feed their animals!

This was Simba the dog that wanted to follow us back. We had to tell him to go back home more than once but he kept whining and wanted to follow us if we let him. He was so sweet. 

While we were in Arusha we hired the driver to take us into town. He took us to a Tanzanite shop which they had everywhere. Tanzania is the only place where you can get tanzanite. 

This is what it looks like. It's a purplish rock that ends up looking clear and purple when it's cut. 

We got a lesson about the tanzanite while we were there. I ended up buying a silver and tanzanite ring for myself and Taylor bought his girlfriend tanzanite earrings for their one year anniversary which they were going to celebrate after we got back off of the trip. 

After the tanzanite shop we were driven to the largest gift shop/museum that we saw while we were in Africa. It was called the cultural center and it was kind of like a cultural center since it was full of artifacts from various tribes all over Africa. 

It was chock full of all sorts of locally produced art, statues and souvenirs. 

The courtyards were filled with larger pieces as well. 

We were amazed at the variety of statues. We liked this life sized rhino.

Ashley and Jeff found this statue that was of a dwarf who was an attendant to a king. 

This was right outside the front door and was a giant totem that was probably 20 feet high. It was all carved from one piece of wood!

Next door was a western style mall with it's own food court. We wanted to eat and started to walk to the food places but our driver told us to just sit down at the table. We sat down and sure enough a number of people came to the table bringing us menu's from their places and we all just picked what we wanted and they came and brought us our food. Later when we went back on our own we went directly to the food place that we wanted to order from and even though it had its own dining room it wasn't set up for people to eat in it. I am assuming it was just the culture that you eat outside, maybe during the rainy season it's different. 

Ashley hanging out in our courtyard. 

Taylor hanging out (literally) in the swinging chair taking advantage of the wifi. We realized later that this was the most reliable wifi we had while we were in Africa. You learned to enjoy it while you had it. 

While we enjoyed our time in Arusha we were looking forward to our adventure on our safari!

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