Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L. (emo_snal) wrote,
Echidna Media Organization project S.N.A.L.

Moshi Day 3

No comments at all to my last update, does anyone read these at all?

Wednesday, November 19th -This day we headed up the mountain to Simon's home village of Mbahe up near the edge of the forest. It took about an hour to get there, first east out of town out the main road, past small houses of rough brick, open fields and stands of trees. We'd still pass the occasional hulking baobab tree -- I think seeing baobab trees is more exciting than elephants personally and can't ever resist trying to get a good picture of a particularly impressive one. There were also several open gouges in nearby hillsides. I was told these particular ones were mostly for brick making, but tanzanite mining is a major industry in the area. Tanzanite is a blue gemstone that only occurs in the area of Mt Kiliminjaro, is neon blue after being heated, and I'm told is "10,000 times rarer than diamonds." Simon told us that he got the initial capital to start his safari company by selling tanzanite.

   Presently we turned off the main road and headed up the mountain. The road wound up and up, the vegetation became thicker, and if anything, so did the number of houses -- still not exactly lined up like suburbs, but every few dozen meters, veritably hidden from each-other by banana trees and stands of maize. The road was pretty good for most of the way but then it changed to a bumpy dirt road. Finally, we came out on a shoulder of the hill where we parked on the grass off the road, we couldn't drive any further.
   In the bright cheery morning light Simon led us down the slope, carrying various supplies. I had an ice chest, Shimon was carrying a mattress for Simon, and he and Doug decided to demonstrate that they could carry things the African way -- on their head.
   We went down a short way through open land that was either too steep to farm or just kept clear for grazing, filed through a narrow passage amid some corn, and came to a cascading river at the bottom of a small valley. The mountain stream poured down a small waterfall into a deep swimming hole and then fell in cataracts a hundred feet down to another pool below and continued on its way. Lush vines and flowering trees overhung the swimming pool, it was gorgeous. We paused at the edge of the swimming hole and set down our loads to admire the beauty. Simon scurried about the rocks and within moments had fetched up a freshwater crab to show us.

   The other three disappeared into the thick foliage on the far side of the creek while I was still busy taking pictures. Finally I followed, gingerly picking my way across the slippery stones between the edge of the pond and hte hundred foot cascade. On the other side the foliage practically qualified as jungle and I couldn't see which way the others had gone. I chose a direction and as it happens chose wrong, but other than some extra bushwacking and stepping in hidden rivulets I found the trail again a little ways up the slope and there was the entrance to Simon's farm.
   The farm consists of 15 acres, upon which in a little cluster Simon has constructed about ten little one-room guest cottages that are of five-star quality and cleanliness, built of a quaint and endearing style around a vegetable garden courtyard, with a view of the expansive valley below. Being what I'd call a genius of an entrepreneur he has turned his share of his father's land into an extremely valuable part of his tourism business -- and not in the crass way of the hideous hotels that besmirch all the nice beaches of the world that tourists had discovered, but in a very environmentally conscious manner. After his brother refused to sell him his share of land Simon had to have one of the buildings deconstructed and moved 20 feet, and is now barely on speaking terms with said brother, who's land sits overgrown and unused. His aged father still lives in a house Simon built for him behind the new cottages. The father currently lives in a solid house of brick with a corrugated metal roof. I'd call it a modern house but the house beside it Simon described as "the first modern house I built for my dad" -- it's made of wood and looks like a dilapidated barn. That anyone would call this wretched shelter a "modern house" tells you something about what must have been the alternative -- "before that we lived in something kind of like a teepee" Simon said. Simon's family are of the Chaga People, and I'm picturing this earliest shelter must have resembled the one in the wikipedia page. There was a locked gate between Simon's cottages and his dad's house, which, ominously, was always kept locked from Simon's side.

The "modern house"

   We also got to see Simon's original room in a shed-like wooden one-room building. What was particularly of interest here was that one wall was completely covered with the bib numbers from races all over the world, frequently in America. It seems as soon as he'd made it in the world enough to travel he started running 100 Km "ultra-marathons" and endurance runs in the states all the time. The sight of these bibs amused me because my dad has always had a similar bulletin board covered in bib numbers, also an avid runner who has been known to do ultra-marathons upon occasion himself. I'm hoping next time Simon is in California for a race he can meet my dad.

   We went for a short walk of a two or three kilometer loop up toward the boundary of the national park and back down to Simon's farm. Terrain continued to consist of steep hills, narrow valleys containing waterfalls, and little houses hidden in thick stands of corn. It was interesting to note that many of these little houses clearly had no vehicle access anywhere near them -- which, of course they don't have any use for vehicle access, even if they did they wouldn't own a car, but I still I find myself looking at a house on a slope across the way that clearly has no way to get a car within a kilometer of it and thinking it somehow doesn't seem tenable. Vehicle access is a 1st World Problem. And maybe 2nd world. Probably all the way to World 2.5.
   Above a certain point on Mount Kiliminjaro it's all national park, and you can very clearly see the line where the developed land turns abruptly into a solid wall of forest. I'm told there's a one kilometer buffer zone wherein only women and children can go but men are absolutely barred from entry -- unless you go through one of the main gates and pay $75 a day for the official pass.

   Returning to Simon's farm, we were treated to an absolutely delicious meal that had been prepared by his staff while we were out walking. It involved black beans, pork (a rarity in Africa), spinach (as noted earlier, seems to be a staple of every meal here), and a salad of fresh greens from their gardens right there. Even the water --rainwater collected on-site-- tasted fresh and delicious.
   Altogether I was already thinking the place was so delightful and beautiful that it hurt. Even while being there and enjoying it I could feel the sands of time slipping through my fingers -- you can't take it with you and in a blink of an eye it will be nothing but a memory, yet another place you'll probably never see again.

   And in the blink of an eye, it was time to continue down the mountain.

Tags: africa, east africa 2014, moshi, tanzania, travel, travelogues
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