Archive for ‘October, 2014’

Yay it’s the holidays!!!

So the holidays finally arrived and after much deliberation on where to go we decided to hit the beach, the jungle and a safari park, we called this a compromise!  There are so many places we want to visit that choosing is not an easy task.  The problem is everything is so, so far and the roads are so, so bad…

Anyway, off we went to Amani Forest Reserve, up in the clouds, a veritable jungle, out in the sticks.  It was meant to be a stopover point on the way to the coast but the roads are bad and slow.  We had a puncture on  the way and after much searching decided we had no jack or spanner (in fact we found out that we did a few days later!).  Some kind souls took pity on us and sent for help from the next village.  We were left to wait by the side of the road pondering our fate and wondering if anyone was going to turn up, it was 5pm and it is pitch black by 6.30 and we were still a way from our destination.  Our rescuer came on a motorbike with the necessary tools and tyre was eventually changed.  Off we went to the mountains, driving most of the way by then in the dark without any idea which small tracks to take!  At one point, we found a man on the side of he road and he said he knew the way so he was invited to ride with us.  Not a good idea as it turned out he was drunk, took us to the wrong place and then a few other people tried to get into the car too.  We managed to drive off and continued on our blind drive.  Two and a half hours later we found the campsite, had dinner and put the tent up looking forward to waking up in the jungle to the sound of birds and going for a walk.  It poured with rain through the night and most of the next day so we were left with a soggy tent and a very muddy, slippery mountain road to drive down on!  Still, we look back on this with fondness and wonder if we will ever make it up there again…

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So off we carried on to Ushongo Beach which turned out to be a lot further than expected due to awful road conditions yet again.  Getting the puncture fixed turned out to be difficult due to power cuts so we had to drive out of our way to the next town to get this sorted before going onto the coast.  Once again we managed to arrive at our destination in the dark and woke up to heavy rain!  Ushongo Beach is a truly beautiful beach, lined with coconut and palm trees, white sand and the Indian Ocean.  It is also very quiet and we had the beach to ourselves for practically the whole week.  Ushongo itself is a traditional Swahili Muslim fishing village, its people little affected by tourism; theirs is a way of life apparently governed by the tides, their community spilling right out of their palm-leaf houses and onto the shore.  Ushongo  Beach is protected by three reefs although we did not go snorkeling this time, next time…  Some rain, some sun, swimming, nice food and plenty of relaxing with lots of time to ponder where we could go next!  During our stay we met the beach basket man on his bicycle and some school children who were fascinated by our binoculars, plenty of millipedes of varying sizes and a few weird jellyfish.

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From the beach we visited Pangani town across the river, Pangani became an important centre of the slave trade, shipping captives taken in the wars attendant on the collapse of the Shambaa kingdom in the Usambara mountains to the plantations of Pemba and Zanzibar.  After the Sultan of Zanzibar signed treaties with Great Britain outlawing the ocean-going trade in slaves in 1873, Pangani became a centre for smuggling slaves across the narrow channel to Pemba, in evasion of British warships.  I  have learnt all this by reading “The Last Slave Market”.  Although steeped in history, nothing much remains now and Pangani is a crumbling town!  it’s said to date back more than 1,000 years and to have long been a significant stop on the East African dhow route established by Arab traders.  More modest accounts peg its origins to the 15th century.  Pangani grew into a prosperous port connecting the inland caravan route from Lake Tanganyika to the sea; ivory and slaves left from here, while missionaries and explorers arrived here to begin their journeys inland.  The oldest building is the Old Boma (1810), built as the home of a well-to-do Omani trader who had slaves buried alive in the foundations, supposedly in order to strengthen them. Although the building was greatly modified by the Germans, it retains its original, handsomely carved wood doors.  Just a little bit of history to make it a little more interesting….

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So after relaxing on the beach, what better way to end the holiday than by going on safari with a tent and the trusty tank. Off we went to Tarangire National Park.  We camped just outside the park although this makes no difference as there are no fences and the animals can roam where they damn well please!  Tarangire is truly beautiful and it is the sixth largest national park in Tanzania.  It is famous for its large numbers of elephants, tree climbing lions and baobab trees.  On the way there you drive through the Maasai Steppe, the area dotted with Maasai villages, Maasai herders and a desolate landscape that seems to stretch out forever into the horizon.  The Maasai are gentle people and the women’s beadwork is truly amazing but that will be another blog…

The campsite was a dusty, very basic affair, at night it was pitch black which made toilet trips speak for quite scary!!!  The park itself is beautiful with breath taking scenery, amazing birds, hundreds of elephants, zebra and giraffe to mention a few.  We went to a posh lodge for a swim and admired the $500 per night views (cost for the 4 of us per night with a discounted residents rate – hence the camping!).  It is easy to drive around and made us realise how much safari companies must make!!  We spent one evening and a day in the park, see photos as themselves – it felt like being in a David Attenborough programme, we even saw a dead elephant being eaten by vultures.

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So we are now back home and back at work and school.  Life feels more settled here and we are finding where to buy food and be more comfortable.  We like the house and the garden and have acquired quite a few staff!  One cleaner and 4 gardeners, all local people who need money a jobs which is a good way to help them.  Life here is relaxed and laid back with few expectations.  Labour is cheap and there are plenty of people to help, staff carry your shopping basked in the shops, pack your shopping and take it to your car!  I feel I hardly have to do anything…  It is a very different way of life and it takes some getting used to but I shall leave that for another blog.


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