But first, I climb the footies of Mt. Meru...
14.07.2014 - 15.07.2014 82 °F
This is an e-postcard sent to family and friends on July 15th from Arusha, Tanzania
Well, in just a few days I'll be leaving Kilimanjaro and heading for the Himalayas. I have a ticket from Kilimanjaro airport to Kathmandu, Nepal. So is my broken arm healed?...Can I hoist my own bag?
Nope...but my (second) visa expires on July 18th and it's time to move on. So last week, I made a list of things I hadn't done yet and have crazily been working my way through them. Unfortunately, a few of the big items will remain undone, but I've been chipping away so that I won't have too many regrets.
On Sunday, I finally hiked the Mt. Meru footies. Mt. Meru looms large over Arusha though it is often shrouded in clouds. There is a view of it from pretty much anywhere in town if it weren't for the clouds, but the power lines make it impossible to get a decent shot of it. Luckily, I got some good pictures when I went to Ngaramtoni village market last month to see the the Sunday market (food, clothes and anything anybody would want!) and the nearby Maasai cattle/goat market.
The hike in the foothills took us through about five small Maasai villages. Elia, as usual seemed to know everyone we passed. My new next door neighbor Serena from New York who is working here for two months came along with us. When we reached the last village-- Oldonyosapuk-- at the top of the footies, we were looking at the school when we heard church music. So we decided to take a break and join the congregation. I wrapped a kanga around my hiking clothes to look presentable.
Though a small church, they had two lively choirs and a small band (2 electric guitars and an electric keyboard). The service was in a mix of Kiswahili and Kimaasai with an occasional English word or phrase. They were especially happy to see us since it was a fundraising day to help pay for the generator. There is no electricity in the villages. As visitors, Elia was asked to introduce us which he did in Maasai and we got a round of applause. We were applauded again, when we set the pace for the fundraising with a 5,000 TZ schilling donation. If school had been in session, I would have made a donation to them. Here's one of the classrooms I saw...
After church, we continued our hike to Olmoti Falls. It was a nice walk through forests and then we plunged down a steep narrow trail that was a bit tricky until we got to a river that we had to follow and criss-cross multiple times. I traded my hikers for sports sandals and waded in and out as needed. After three months of having only one arm, my balance is still off. Elia and Serena didn't want to get their hikers or running shoes wet either, but they were able to jump from stone to stone and teeter on the narrow banks when necessary. There were a few small falls and then we reached Olmoti.
We left when a group of teens from Canada arrived en masse..To return, we had to climb the same steep, narrow trail back up. My mind was willing, but my body was rebelling. I have been doing a fair amount of walking (generally 3 - 8 miles a day), but it hasn't been aerobic and it's all been on flat surfaces in town. After a month of limited exercise followed by just walking-- I still have a ways to go to be ready for Nepal which has 8 of the 10 highest mountains in the world and is THE destination for trekking.
Half way down, we met another friend of Elia's and he showed us a different route down which was steeper, but shorter and went through the same rich farmland. We passed by the huge vegetable gardens he and his sons tended. Besides banana trees, there were squash, peas, cauliflower, beans, onions, corn...and pretty much everything you'd find in the market in the city below.
It was a nice day among quiet villages, bright butterflies, misty falls, green forests, patchwork vegetable gardens, impromptu soccer games, and friendly people. Seems idyllic, but don't romanticize village life.
There is no electricity: no lights, no TV, no electrical appliances. Women gather and carry firewood long distances for cooking outside. There's no running water in the house. A few have a pipe and faucet in their yard, but most carry water long distances bucket by bucket up and down steep trails. Sanitation is very basic. Some have a drop hole shielded with a sheet of plastic...most just use the ground near their house.
Some houses are made of cement blocks-- others are mud bricks or mud daub. Most have tin roofs, but a few still use thatch. But these are actually prosperous villages due to the abundant water and rich earth.
I enjoyed my day, but I'm glad to go back to my garden apartment where we cook a dinner of shrimp marsala and garlic mashed potatoes. We have Elia's leftover birthday cake for dessert. As usual, Africa has reminded that I am indeed a very lucky woman.
What?!?! There's no sign for Kathmandu...? Well, the next time you hear from me, that's where I will be.
Hope all is well with everyone!
Your wandering daughter/sister/friend in deepest, darkest Africa...soon to be High in the Himalayas