Mbeya: 27-29 Aug 2006

7 09 2006

Mbeya was wonderful!!! The train ride and the city were such a nice break from the chaos of Dar es Salaam.  On Sun, the 27th, we did a hike with Martina and Andi and a Sisi Kwa Sisi guide, Felix.

Sisi Kwa Sisi, literally translates to something like “Us for Us”, but the meaning is more about a group of guys working as tour guides for themselves; sort of a cooperative.  The profits are distributed equally at the end of the month after the bills are paid and it’s owned by each person involved.

Felix is really just this amazing person.  He knows about every topic Martina, Andi and I brought up:every country, politics, philosophy.  He gave honest, thoughtful answers to almost any question we asked AND he was such a patient, thorough guide.  He really knows the area.

We climbed in the Poroto Mountains to get to Ngosi Crater Lake.  It was a good climb.  At one point we had to go up by climbing roots (like rope climbing, but using tree roots) and the lake inside the crater was just beautiful.  Kids from the area went up and down the mountain like nothing.  The water from th lake is said to have special powers, so it’s used to make medicine, but no one swims in hte lake.  At the top we had a gourmet lunch provided by Martina, Andi and Felix 🙂 and were accompanied by many of the local children (we were their entertainment).  Andy tried to monkey up the banana trees like the local kids-but it was a bit harder than they make it look.  We headed back down through the rainforest mountain (with wild banana and palm trees) and back to the hotel.  We were SOOOOOO tired! 

On Mon, the 28th, Andy and I went with Felix and his friend, the driver, to Kaporogwe Falls and “God’s Bridge” over the Kiwira River.  Fortunately, the day didn’t require much walking, since we were still tired from the day before.  We had a driver, so we could drive close to our destinations. 

I forgot to mention, on SUN, to get to the crater lake, we took “dala dalas”.  Dala Dalas are this amazing public transportation system consisting of anything from a minivan to small buses that are privately owned and transport people from place to place.  They can be very elaborately painted or very junky (or both), but almost always they are VERY full.  At times, people sit practically (or literally) on other people’s laps.  ON the one we took bacl from the crater lake, the woman next to me was holding a live chicken!  It was so funny!   I wanted to take a picture, but didn’t want to offend her.

Anyway, the Kaporogwe Falls were beautiful and played a role in Tanzanian history.   When the Germans and English were battling during WWI, the Germans hid in a cave beneath the Falls.  The discovery of stone tools also indicates that the area was populated during the stone age.

From there we drove to the Kirwia River and saw a natural lava bridge over the river.  It was pretty cool, also, but seeing the tea and coffee plantations and hte way people in the area live was more interesting.  Also, the bridge was on the land of a government installation where prison guards are trained so we had to go on the installation to get official clearance.  It was a good example of how official Tanzanians like to look and act REALLY official-as if the mundane task they are performing is way more important than it really is.  An interesting scene from that:  As we drove into the government area, all of the trainees were on lunch so we drove through this sea of people in drab tan uniforms…but each was a holding a brightly colored plastic bowl.  No pics were allowed (the government is weird about that), but the image had a nice contrast.



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