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First Day in Africa

January 21, 2016

It’s Thursday night, and I feel like I lost a couple of days early in the week, but I’m firmly on Tanzanian time now — 8:30 p.m. Thursday.

My friend Diana and I met up in Istanbul and flew to Kilimanjaro together, arriving at 1:30 a.m on Wednesday. Alas, her bag didn’t make it, so before we could go to the hotel we needed to file her claim. I got to bed at 4:30 and rose at 6:30 to join two others from our group going to a coffee farm and waterfall in Moshi, nearly two hours’ drive away. Though the rainy season typically starts in late February or early March, it’s been raining for the past week, and the forecast calls for more of the same.

After climbing a steep, rutted dirt road, we reached the car park, where we met Oscar, who owns the farm. He promised it was a one-minute-seven-second walk to the top of the hill, so we gamely began our ascent through slippery sucking mud , where we were rewarded with maybe the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had — and I could drink it without milk.

Oscar looks like he’s about 16, but he’s married with two young children, and coffee is his life.

Oscar's Coffee Farm.jpg

Oscar's Daughter.jpg

Explaining in detail the eleven steps to a perfect cup of coffee — picking, peeling, washing, sorting, soaking, drying, roasting, grinding (with mortar and pestle), steeping in boiling water…I’ve left out some steps, but I think you get the picture. The process takes a full year for a crop of beans. Roasting Beans

We also learned about the fantasy surrounding fair-trade coffee, which supposedly  the vendor — say Starbucks — buys direct from the farmer. In fact, according to Oscar, in Africa there’s a middleman to whom the farmers must sell their beans.

Roasted Beans.jpg

After lunch it was time to venture up to the waterfall, but caution overcame my curiosity and I decided not to go, since the the short trek up to the farm reminded me that I’m not as young and nimble as I used to be. Peter and Brenda soldiered on, and I thought Oscar was going to take me back to the jeep. The rain had stopped by then, and he told me he was taking me another way that wasn’t so steep. After about twenty minutes (having passed some landmarks I remembered from the drive up the mountain) it was clear we had  long passed the place where the jeep was parked.

We were soon joined by his friend Amadeus, and we just kept walking down the mountain, passing through four villages where Oscar seemed to know everyone, as they gave him a shout-out in Swahili as we passed. Soon he revealed they were telling him to tell me welcome, and asking him if he was walking with his bibi (grandmother). I was mildly indignant at first, till he revealed that they call anyone who looks vaguely of an age to be a grandmother or grandfather bibi or babu, or mother (mama) or father (baba). I have to say, it sort of grew on me.

Male Chameleon.jpgOur stroll turned into a nature walk, as Oscar, with his supernatural vision, spotted chameleons and lizards resting on tree branches, and pointed out unique trees like the bubble tree (you can blow bubbles with its milky sap, just like those plastic bubble-makers kids play with); the sandpaper tree, whose leaves can be used just like fine sandpaper; another for indigestion; and fruit trees bearing avocados, papayas and bananas. He pointed out the neckless chicken and identified Tanzanian flycatchers by their melodic song. Here’s a gorgeous agama lizard:

Agama Lizard.jpg

The local drink is banana beer,so we ducked into a sort of bar/brewery where it was being made and consumed on the spot.The ingredients are just fermented bananas, ground millet and water, and it goes bad fast, so it must be drunk on the day it’s made. Because we can’t drink the water here, I decided it was too risky to try it.

My new Swahili vocabulary includes polepole (slowly, slowly); mambo (how’s it going?) and pua (it’s all good); pole (sorry); asante (thank you) and jambo (hello). I quickly learned that jamba (with an a vs. an o) means flatulence, so now I’m very careful when I greet someone!

Three hours and over 15,000 steps later we met up with the jeep. If Peter and Brenda had harbored any ideas that I was a wussy, they quickly changed their minds when they learned I’d walked six miles. Peter was covered in mud from several falls en route to the waterfall, and I decided I’d made a good decision, with the bonus of getting to know Oscar and Amadeus.

Oscar & Amadeus.jpg


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  1. Marlo Quick permalink

    I am sorry you didn’t see the waterfall but your walk sounds like a unique and wonderful time. I am wondering if the Jamba Juice folks knew what they were doing when they named their stores. Sounds like a fabulous trip!

  2. Janie Prevost permalink

    So very interesting, Diana! Thanks for sharing. Looking forward to hearing more about your trip. Miss you!! Janie

  3. Linda permalink

    Wow. Sounds like a great first day!

  4. Karen Dugan permalink

    Six miles- WOW! Sounds like an adventure to me!

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