The Problem of Water

Trip Start Nov 19, 2004
Trip End Dec 06, 2004

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Where I stayed
Sun Hotel

Flag of Tanzania  ,
Tuesday, November 30, 2004

How wonderful it was to relax at a comfortable lodge after 5 days of camping and bouncing around in a jeep!  Karama Lodge is situated on a hilltop overlooking Arusha, with individual log cabins scattered over forested grounds. The warm shower and comfortable bed were heavenly indeed.

A long, rickety, and sweaty public bus ride took us from Arusha to Lushoto. We sat crammed together in vinyl seats that had seen much better days, tufts of stuffing poking out from tears in the fabric. We alternated between opening the window to super strong gusts of wind & dust while feeling relatively cool or sweating in the stifling heat with the window closed. African pop music blared over the sound system - the same tape played over and over again. Many, many, many stops with vendors clamoring at the window selling water, peanuts, popcorn, toothpaste, hair combs, hats, toys, sunglasses, and anything else that is relatively portable. As we neared Lushoto, we started to climb into the mountains. Red clay and lusher foliage. Some gorgeous views of cliffs and waterfalls as we rounded switchbacks and hairpin turns. 

A very clean single room with private bathroom here at the Lushoto Sun Hotel goes for $10 including breakfast. The only problem is that the advertised hot water has not materialized. My cold bucket shower last night, while refreshing, was a far cry from the previous evening's lodge luxury. On the other hand, the food is a tremendous bargain. Three of us devoured a huge lunch with ugali  (the main starch in the East African diet), chicken, drinks and a shared plate of chips for $5 total. The chips here are amazing - always freshly made and eaten with a little "tomato sauce" (sweet ketchup) or pile pile (hot sauce). 

Today started with a 90 minute banking transaction. Forms had to be painstakingly completed by hand in triplicate using good old-fashioned carbon paper. The numbers were checked by a supervisor, and it was discovered that a mistake was made. So, new forms were started, and we were shuffled in and out of various lines.  Much patience was needed.

Next was our guided hike around the area, an uphill trek through a cool forest rulled by numerous noisy monkeys. There was a simple lunch of bread and cheese enjoyed at the rough-hewn kitchen table of a dairy farm, a climb to Irente viewpoint (stunning panoramic views), an itchy encounter with army ants, and winding trails back down through the outskirts of the village. We ran out of water a little past the half-way point, so all of us became quite dehydrated before finally making it back to a store to buy more. I had never before experienced the tingling of fingers, flushed skin, chils and light-headedness associated with dehydration, and hope that I never do again.

Throughout the day, children called out to us "Jambo, jambo!", or  "Mzungu, Jambo" (hello foreigner), and sometimes "Give me pen?". One group of kids just wanted to slap our hands in "high 5's". Another little toddler took each of our hands in turn and walked a few steps with each of us. Almost everyone we met smiled and responded warmly to our grins and greetings. We told our guide Amil how amazed we were at how women and children carry such large loads on their heads. He told us that Tanzanians are similarly amazed by how we mzungus carry such heavy loads on our backs.

Amil spoke about both the positive and negative impacts of increased tourism on the community. Much needed cash from guided hikes like ours is appreciated and is usually invested back into the community, but tourism has also encouraged kids to beg for money from tourists instead of going to school, even though begging has not traditionally been part of the culture.  Another negative influence is the provocative style of dress often displayed by visitors, when Tanzanians are a historically conservatively-dressed culture. So many travelers are unaware of these issues. As travelers, we owe our hosts the courtesy of being informed and respectful of local life. After all, experiencing authentic culture is the reason we travel at all.

The power went out as we were eating dinner in the hotel cafe. Candles were quickly provided, and now a generator is supplying noisy intermittent power. The water is not working, so there will be no shower to wash off the day's sweat and dust.  I lie here dirty, hot and smelly, but really quite at peace. Another day ends in East Africa.
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