Our First Impressions of Arusha

Trip Start Jan 18, 2012
Trip End Feb 04, 2012

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Saturday, January 21, 2012

January 21, 2012 – Day 1

We lie in bed staring at the ceiling and listening to our growling stomachs until 5 A.M. I seem to have a penchant for criticizing the airlines but we are hungry for a reason. KLM's food was unfit for human consumption. Breakfast does not start until 6:30 A.M. but at 6 we can wait no longer. We grab our flashlight and head for the dining room in the main building.

A Serena employee immediately stops what she is doing to serve us coffee. The Arabica coffee beans are grown locally. The coffee is good and…strong. My breakfast consists of 3 croissants, a piece of freshly baked bread, a cheese omelet, baked tomatoes, bacon, three glasses of just squeezed local orange juice and coffee. Breakfast is awesome….and all is now good in my world. .

Several blogs we read at home complained about the food at the Arusha Serena. We found breakfast and lunch to be excellent. Lunch was Zanzibar grill – lamb and beef kabobs along with grilled sausage, potatoes, cassava (not my favorite) and much more.

We spend the morning taking pictures of the impressive Serena grounds. This afternoon our safari group is treated to a tour of the Tanzanian Cultural Heritage Center in Arusha. The art is impressive. Most of the works are exported. We purchase several t-shirts for the grandchildren but nothing else. We will return to Arusha in a week and we want to see what is available elsewhere in Tanzania.

Going to and returning from the Cultural Center, we drive through Arusha town. It is an experience. We see two traffic lights – no more. Even when red, the signals are often ignored. We conclude one needs nerves of steel and reflexes like lightning to drive in Arusha. Fortunately, our driver – Phillip – has both.

Traffic lights are few but speed bumps are everywhere. I ask why and how long speed bumps (known as lazy policemen) have been a way of life in Arusha. I was shocked to learn the speed bumps are only two years old. They appeared after a series of multi-fatality auto and bus accidents.

As we drive the streets of Arusha, most of my fellow travelers get their first glimpse of African poverty. The dirt roads, dilapidated buildings and unsanitary conditions are a shock to the uninitiated. However poor these people seem to be, they are smiling and well fed. All of the children – and many adults – wave enthusiastically to us as we pass.

Vendors have blankets spread on the ground piled high with the most beautiful fruits and vegetables. People are going about their business with clear purpose. Trucks are every-where. Private cars are less common but that is hardly surprising with gas costing over $7 / gallon. Bicycles and cheap Chinese motorbikes abound.

We return to the Serena Hotel for dinner. The meal is anything but special. Apparently, it is the dinner meal which failed to impress past visitors. From my perspective, our dinner is still far superior to airline food and the Serena staff is fantastic. 
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