October 22nd, 2015


Return to Moshi!

Wednesday, October 21st, Day 17 - Moshi is a very peaceful town on the slopes of Mount Kiliminjaro. It is one of the most "suburban" places I've seen in Africa, with broad tree-lined streets under arches of overhanging jacaranda trees, whose purple-blue flowers float down to the ground.

   Moshi feels very safe. Usually. Finding myself in a pitch black street, the overhanging jacaranda blotting out the moon and stars, with three large dogs growling at me, it didn't feel so safe. I tried to continue on my way but every time I turned from them they'd start lunging at me. I considered walking back to the hotel, only half a block away now, but that would lead me back towards the epicenter of the area the dogs seemed to be guarding. I could barely make out their shape in the dark, but I'd seen them earlier in the day watching passersby warily from a neighboring yard that wasn't fenced -- I wouldn't say positively they were german shepherds but they were that shape and size, and now they were growling at me in a way that clearly meant business, in a dark deserted street.

   I tried to continue on my way and the pack leader made a snarling lunge for my back foot. I turned around and looked at it sternly, raising my arms a little to look bigger, and it crouched back growling angrily. Is this how I'm going to die? Mauled by domestic dogs in the peaceful town of Moshi?? I asked myself.

Last year in Moshi

   The previous day I had left Dar Es Salaam by bus. It took approximately ten hours to get from there to Moshi. The bus ride was mostly uneventful, passed two crashed trucks, saw baboons two or three times. I noted that sometimes we would pick up someone selling nuts or drinks, typically somewhere we had to stop like a weigh station (they seem to be on the borders of every Tanzanian region), who would go up and down the aisles trying to make sales and then get off at the next weigh station, presumably catching a bus bound the other direction. The bus crew seemed to know these people very well. A related observation is that the busses always have a "crew" of two or three persons in addition to the driver, and even trucks in Africa seem to always have several people in the cab. When the cost of labor is insignificant compared to the value of the vehicle, might as well.

   Arriving in Moshi I went through the familiar routine of catching a taxi, who said he knew the hotel I wanted to be taken to but then did not, and tried to charge me three times what I knew it should have cost. The hotel I stayed in was the gaily coloured little place called Blue Acacia, with a lovely seating area out in front and a pretty garden. I have no pictures from this time because my DSLR battery was dead, power was very inconsistent, and all pictures on my phone were lost with the phone (yes I'll probably gripe about that in every single entry about this trip).
   Being the top reviewed location in town on tripadvisor and other sites, the hotel attracted all the travelers who were "in the know." And Moshi itself primarily attracts people who want to climb Kiliminjaro so there was a steady stream of fit young people coming in, meeting with their guides in the evening, and heading out early the next morning.
   That evening before it was dark I trotted down the street to the nearby Thai restaurant I'd been looking forward to getting back to for the entire last year. It was still there, with its tall thatched roof and spacious open patio (see interesting roof under-structure on right), but it was under new ownership and no longer a thai restaurant. It was good though and I ended up eating there twice more during my brief stay in Moshi, and every time the owner came by and chatted with me.

   It was this restaurant I was trying to reach for a late dinner the next night when I found myself beset by aggressive guard dogs on the street. I found that if I faced the dogs they would stay back but as soon as I turned they'd start lunging for me. I ended up mostly backing down the street until I reached the corner, which they seemed to regard as the extent of their territory. There I crossed one of the major streets by a round about and proceeded down a long dark block towards my favorite restaurant.
   It was around 10pm and no one was about. This block seemed to have construction sites on both side, which were darker than the night. As I walked down the street I was acutely aware in fact that no one was about, and the construction yards were full of places one could hide. Moshi is a very safe peaceful town, it really is, but it also strongly occurred to me that it would just take one unscrupulous thug who might be hanging around the construction yard at night to see a muzungu alone in a deserted area on a dark night and think it might be very profitable for them. I looked at my feet, instead of my sturdy black combat boots I was only wearing flip-flops for this little jaunt, which would severely hinder both running and kicking. I walked carefully, spinning around at any sound in the night.

   That morning I had lazily awoken enjoying a rare opportunity to sleep in a bit after 6am bus trips the past few days (two and a half weeks in and jet lag was still causing me to be pretty wakeful in the morning though). Enjoyed the complimentary breakfast of pancakes and fresh fruit. Despite being a coffee producing area they don't know how to brew coffee around there though. I was excited to actually see a coffee percolator but the coffee was insanely weak -- another guest later told me she saw the staff reusing the used coffee grinds.
   I was torn for awhile in the morning because there were still things to see in the Moshi area (despite my having spent a week there last year), notably a hot springs, and I felt like I should make the most of it, but I also really felt like spending a day relaxing in this beautiful place. Finally the latter idea won out and as other guests went off to climb the mountain or see the hotsprings I took my jolly sweet time eating breakfast and generally "chilling."
   That afternoon I walked downtown to look for somewhere that might sell a new lensecap for my camera. Since they get a fair number of tourists doing the mountain there's the accompanying annoying gnat-like hangers-on downtown, trying to hook tourists for their travel agency. As I walked along several tried to engage me in conversation but I kept going. One followed me for a fair ways trying to start a conversation with me in a friendly manner despite my ignoring him and walking along at a brisk pace. In Egypt I learned you can't say one word to these guys or they'll never leave you alone, but nowhere else I've been have they been as bad and I deigned to answer a few basic questions from this guy so as not to seem like a complete asshole ("where are you from?" "California" ... "here on safari?" "nope" ... "let me take you to my safari agency" "nope" ...) eventually he gave up but another one picked up his place in less than a block. The town's not big and by this point I'd gotten to one end of town and was headed back the other. Went through the same basic questions with this guy, he really wanted me to stop by his travel agency or let him book me to go to the hot springs. When he asked me what I was doing and I said I was looking for a lense cap he said he knew someone that sold them (of course) and since he claimed it was the direction I was going I let him guide me to it. Of course the guy didn't have them, tehre didn't seem to be a camera shop in town which I was rather disappointed about since it seemed likely enough in this kiliminjaro hub.
   I then let the guy guide me to a bus company office since I did need to get a ticket for a bus the next morning. It was kind of interesting because the posted rate was about twice the price I ended up paying but after talking to my "guide" the ticket agent said that the guide had arranged the lower price. (I think it was like $15-$20? I dunno all my notes were on my phone) After that I was headed back to the hotel, even though he seemed to have gotten me a good deal I was still anxious to shake the guy. About a block or two from the bus station the man said goodbye and with a handshake he was off .... and I was shocked! I was thoroughly entirely expecting him to put it hard to me for payment for his assistance -- and I wasn't opposed to it since he had gotten me a good deal on a ticket but I had still been not lookign forward to the issue coming up. And then he was gone and I was left wishing I _had_ had a chance to give him something. Now, he _probably_ got a cut from the ticket sale, even with the reduced rate -- especially since he could honestly say I was planning on going with a different bus company, because I had been, and he'd brought me there instead.

   Had lunch at the former thai place on the way back to the hotel, chatted briefly with the owner and continued down past the construction yards, across the big road, into the leafy green suburban neighborhood where some neighbors dogs lazily watched me go by, and back to the hotel.

   This is a bad idea, this is a bad idea, this is a bad idea, I had started repeating myself earlier when I met the dogs and it was still going through my head as I cautiously made my way down the dark street. Many times I thought about just going back but the dogs made that prospect unappealing.
   Fortunately I made it to the golden glow of the restaurant without incident. Unfortunately, they had just shut down their kitchen.
   "Ummmm, could you call me a cab?" I asked the owner, "it's a bit sketchy out there," he was shocked I'd even attempted to walk around out there. Moments later he came back with a taxi driver who I believe was just finishing eating there anyway. The driver drove me back to the hotel, which took merely a minute or two, and declined to even charge me for so short a trip. He seemed nice, I took his name and number down for next time -- now lost with my phone.

View looking up from the main road at Kiliminjaro (picture from last year)

Thursday, October 22nd, Day 18 - Early the next morning I took a taxi down to the bus station, got on a small shuttle-bus (as opposed to the greyhound style coach buses I'd taken to and from Dar Es Salaam), the Moshi-Arusha-Nairobi route seems to be entirely done by these smaller busses for some reason. It took us two hours or so to get to Arusha, where we had to board a different bus, and who should be on that bus, and not only that but with an open seat right next to her, but the girl I sat next to on the Nairobi to Arusha leg two weeks earlier! This was a bizarre coincidence especially since we hadn't discussed what days we were returning, and I'd been playing my return entirely by ear, and I would have taken a different bus line anyway if that guy hadn't intervened! She got a mention in the earlier entry just because she was the source of the hot tip that Uber works for getting rides in Nairobi (you get much better rates that way I really recommend it!). She had also stayed at the Blue Acacia when she was in Moshi in fact! But she was on an opposite circle from me, starting in Moshi and ending in Arusha before returning to Nairobi.
   And then we arrived in Nairobi, or as many call it, "Nai-robbery," as I would soon find out...

( Pictures from in and around Moshi last year )

( Relive last year's adventures! All entries tagged Moshi )

[Originally posted 2015/12/07, readjusted]