I currently lay on the bottom bunk in the Edinburgh Castle Rock hostel, waiting for my phone to charge before I shower and head out to eat a delicious (and deliciously cheap) falafel wrap and watch from fringe festival comedy. But while I waited I thought, by gosh, I haven’t posted in awhile. (Instead, I’ve been reading in my free time. Like five books. It’s been amazing.) (But anyway.)
So, Africa first. Since I descended Kilimanjaro early, I ended up having to entertain myself for four days before meeting up with everyone. Entertaining myself turned out to be pretty easy at at The Hibiscus B&B (run by a lovely Brit named Rebecca — highly recommend!)
My first night, I met some newlyweds – Sarah and Gabriel (“Gabby”). They had been traveling for about a month and a half and were spending two days at the hibiscus before jetting to Zanzibar. Hailing from NC (Sarah) and Argentina (Gabby), they live and work together in Ushuaia, Argentina, the most southern city in the world (I believe). They sell tours to Antarctica. Which is just awesome. And they had tons of incredible Antarctica pictures, which were also awesome. And it turns out that they were pretty awesome too! We went out to dinner together to an Indian place and came back and sat around the campfire and drank beers while chatting about life and love and work and marriage and everything. I love meeting people that feel like they click, like they’re a breath of fresh air and talking is easy and genuine and flowing and silence is comfy and laughs are often. They were those kinds of people.
The day after we met we spent time at a coffee shop in town. And by coffee shop I mean the local gathering place for mzungus (Swahili for, basically “white people”). This felt pretty strange. The coffee shop was really quite cute. Smoothies and French press local coffee and sandwiches and pizza and hummus plates and western bathrooms. But it was also kind of awkward to be literally surrounded by tourists while everyone on the street was a local.
As it was last time, it was an interesting experience walking the streets as a minority. There was lots of staring and always attention: from men this attention was most often unwanted: they either wanted to sell me something or, better, marry me:
An actual conversation at coffee shop:
50 year old Tanzanian man: are you married?
Him: then you can marry me!
Me: no thank you
Him: but why?!
Me: uhhhh. Ugh.
However, I met another man at a different tourist-heavy place and he was very kind. We shared a table and he told me all about how he’d been driving for six hours to go see his daughter, who was at boarding school, a few weeks before she took her exams. He told me some interesting things about how the boarding schools work there — at his daughters school there’s no communication with parents. No packages, no letters, no phone calls. Instead, they have visiting hours about once a month. So he drove six hours to talk to his daughter for an hour and she had no idea he was even on the way. Blew my mind.
The attention from the kids was generally pretty cute. The younger they were the more excited they were to see me, a white person. They waved and smiled and giggled. The older they got, the more they were over it and either stared and said hello and giggled or were super straight faced as they passed.
The women were hit and miss. Generally a smile from me and a “Jambo!” (Which means “hello”) was awarded with a smile from them. I even struck up a conversation with a woman on the street who was on her way to work. But many just kind of stared stoically. Who knows what they thought of me. Or if they thought of me at all!
After a dinner of takeout Chinese food (seriously), and another few hours by the fire together, I bid Sarah and gabby goodbye the next morning. Then I just had two days left to figure out what to do with myself :).
First day, (which was also the day the rest of the team was summiting) I did a lot of reading and eating at various areas in the city. The second day, I went to a place called maji moto which translates to “hot spring” (or really “fire springs”). (It was lukewarm, but I like their enthusiasm.)
I took a cab from Moshi about an hour outside of town. On the way there, my driver was pulled over for speeding and would have been written a 30,000Tsh (~$17) ticket but instead paid the officers a 10,000Tsh bribe. I took a picture in the side view mirror of everything going down.
When we got to maji moto, it was a little awkward. It’s basically this beautiful spring in the middle of nowhere that the locals have monetized. They charged us 2,000Tsh to go over a bridge that leads to the spring (a two minute car ride away) and another 5,000Tsh once the car arrived. They had a little tent set up with soda and food you could buy, they had a (gross) outhouse and a they had a “changing room” (aka a structure that a mountain lizard often lived in where you could change if he happened to be out.)
It was also full of the kinds of fish that nibble on your toes, which was totally disconcerting and made the prospect of getting in a little less exciting. But eventually, I used the rope swing to fling myself in and as long as I stayed moving, the fish didn’t nibble.
Finally, it was the 10th, the day to meet up with the rest of the hikers at the mhabe farm (which btw is gorgeous).
The reunion was at times awesome and heartfelt, at times awkward and disappointing, but all in all it was really wonderful to see everyone and hear the funny stories they had about making it to the roof of Africa. Everyone seemed happy to see me (that was the awesome and heartfelt part) and they also all got certificates for getting to the top of Kili (which was the kinda awkward and disappointing part).
That night we ate dinner with the porters who helped us up the mountain, for once serving them first. The dinner was traditional Tanzanian cuisine and we ate and drank ourselves a bit silly. Topping off the night was an awesome game of farkle (because farkle is amazing and also because I won) and then a great night’s sleep.
The next day, Jessy and I headed into Moshi for lunch before I headed off to catch my flight. This lunch was awesome in that it was the first place that actually had Tanzanian food on the menu but horrible in that it literally took an hour and a half to cook and get our food. We were dying. Dying. And when we asked about it an hour in, they said oh yeah, it’s coming. It’s almost done. No. No it was not. But alas, once we did finally get it, it was amazing. Incredibly delicious.
And speaking of food, I’m so hungry, so I have to go shower and eat and tomorrow I’ll have an update about my first two days in the drop dead gorgeous Edinburgh, Scotland.
For now, though, a peek of the amazing “park” (aka mini highlands) in the middle of Edinburgh.