Monday, September 19, 2005
Sorry for the lack of updates, mostly just had class the second part of last week and not too much going on. Anyways Friday night we went to one of our teachers/fellow students house for dinner. We took a dalladalla to the market at Mwenge, which is always a wild place but particularly after dark, I really cannot compare it to any place anywhere in America, but that goes for all the markets I have been too. We caught another dalladalla and got off near the Posta market. We met all of her neighbors and her husband to be, after she graduates next June. He was very nice and the food we had was unbelievable. Anyone who knows me knows how much I despise bananas, but we had banana/meat stew that was unbelievable. Basically the bananas tasted like potatoes. That was a pretty cool cultural experience that Im sure I will have again while I am here. On to my trip to Morogoro/Mikumi Nat'l Park.
We left Dar es Salaam at 8 A.M. Saturday on a pretty nice bus, similar to Greyhound buses, but with much smaller seats. The ride to Morogoro lasted about 2.5 hours and was unlike any ride I have ever been on. These huge buses think nothing of passing slower moving vehicles, and as with all driving excursions in Tanzania it is better to not look out the front window and just hope for the best. Most of the buses and virtually all of the dalladallas have a message on them like, "May God be with us" or "What comes will come" basically hopeful declarations to maintaining life while driving/riding in these autos. Pretty interesting.
Anyways, on the outskirts of Dar es Salaam and into the country one gets a pretty overpowering look at Tanzanian poverty. Houses are made of local clay bricks, or anything else that may serve as a wall or roof. There is not a single city or town in America that is on par with the way many in Tanzania and sub-Saharan Africa live, most on less than $1 US per day. Despite all that is working against them(lack of electricity, clean water, etc) the children here appear to be the happiest on Earth and are by far the cutest.
We made it to Morogoro and bought some food to eat for the following morning. We stayed at Sokoine University of Agriculture, in their dorms which were fine, although again no hot water. I had a few holes in the mosquito net they provided, but what can you do, so far no malaria or other mosquito-born illnessess, haha. Morogoro is at the base of the Uruguru Mountains and reminded me a little of Colorado Springs, Colorado. The tops of the rounded mountains are in the clouds and resemble what I picture as the mountains of Germany/Austria.
We left Morogoro at 4:45 A.M. or sometime in the 3rd quarter of the Gators impressive victory or Tennessee. Driving west on the Dar-Zambia highway we encountered many men riding bicycles loaded down with wares they would be selling in Morogoro or other small towns along the way. Not many cars out at this early hour, with the exception of buses headed for western Tanzania, about 20 hours away or somewhere in to Zambia and points beyond. The highway enters what is considered Mikumi National Park and within a few minutes we started seeing wildlife.
Just off this interstate were 2 giraffes, on on either side, and just a mile or so down a huge African Elephant more or less in the ditch next to the road. We entered the park about 6:45 picked up a tour guide and headed in to the park in search of Africa's finest wildlife, in one of Tanzanias most diverse National Parks. Before long we had seen many Impalas, Gazelles, and Zebras, as well as Giraffes. About 20 minutes in to our trek we came across a pack of 10 Elephants, including 2 babies, about 40 yards from the path. They are incredibly impressive from such a close perspective and in their natural habitat. We continued on seeing Wildebeests, made famous for stampeding Mufasa in The Lion King(on a side note, from the Lion King, Rafiki is the name of the blue monkey who is the elder statesman, in Swahili Rafiki literally means friend, so those Disney people went all out in using their imaginations). We saw Water Buffalo, many Zebras, and lots of Baboons just off the road. We saw more giraffes, much taller than I had previously thought. Eventually we stumbled on to a watering hole, where 3-4 Hippos were soaking in the water and not far from them was and African Crocodile, about as active as Florida Alligators generally are. After about 3 hours in the park we had pretty much seen all the major animals except for Lions and Leopards, so that will have to wait for another day.
Seeing animals in their natural habitat is pretty cool, but it is disapointing that that is what most foreigners go to Africa to see. I have enjoyed the people and the culture far more than I enjoyed seeing Elephants and Giraffes, not to discount that once in a lifetime experience. But there is much more to Africa than animals, warfare, and starvation.
We left the park and then for whatever reason went to a Snake Park which is basically what the name suggests, the same as such things in the US except they let you bang on the glass and get the Egyptian Cobra all angry so he attacks the glass and spits his venom at it, so somewhat different. That was fine, but not totally sure why that was a part of our trip. We ventured back to Morogoro in the early afternoon and went straight to the regional commisioners office where we recruited some local boys to go with us up one of the local mountains. We climbed for about an hour and reached a school, you have to be a dedicated student to consistently attend a school that is atleast a 45 minute hike up a steep hill. We reached the school, although no where near the tope of the mountain and the view from there was pretty remarkable. The mountains could be anywhere and the overlook the valley that contains Morogoro, a small city. We made it back down in hardly anytime at all and headed back to the University for dinner at the SUASA Club, and Austrian Kitchen on campus, and apparently one of the best restaurants in town.
As with so many things in Tanzania the name Austrian Kitchen is relative, and aside from Wienerschnitzel, the menu was pretty much standard Tanzanian fare. For the first time we were asked if our drinks should be Baridi (meaning cold) and that applied to the soda as well as local Tanzanian Beer. We stuck with the Tusker baridi. Got up this morning and visited a residence for mentally and physically handicapped children. They enjoyed our visit and we brought school supplies for them. The place was better than I had imagined although certainly not anything like facilities available for handicapped children and adults in the US. We made it back to Dar es Salaam this afternoon and I am exhausted from a weekend of getting up before dawn and riding crammed buses in to the interior of Tanzania. Interestingly the large buses stop along the way to let people out, in their towns along the way and the ride was pretty cheap, about US 6.00 for a 193 KM trip. Grabbed some lunch, typed this up and now headed for a much needed shower, my first since Thursday(you do what you gotta do) and some sleep.