One Week in Tanzania

There are so many good things happening to me thanks to this blog, but going to Tanzania was beyond all expectations! The bakery ‘Junge’ from Hamburg sent six lucky customers to their coffee plantation in Northern Tanzania and organized an amazing trip which I was able to join. Going to Africa was always a big dream of mine and it was even more magical than I imagined it could be.

Day 1 – Shangri-La Estate

We had a long flight from Hamburg via Amsterdam and Nairobi, flying in with a small plane into Kilimanjaro Airport followed by a 5 hours drive through buzzy Arusha and over bumpy roads. We were passing rice fields, bananas plantations, modern business centers and traditional craftsmen shops, seeing Maasai warriors crossing the street with their cows and goats, advertisements for schools, mountains, open plains and jungle. The panoramic view was breathtaking, I felt like entering a new world of which I couldn’t get enough from watching. Although there were so many new things, it seemed familiar at the same time and when meeting peoples eyes I could see they were watching us with the same curiosity.

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The car was climbing up mountains for the last kilometers, entering the town of Karatu. Leaving the main road behind us we found ourselves on a bumpy road in lushy highlands in the middle of coffee plantations. In 1930 some German farmers got the permission to root out the bush on the slopes of Mount Oldeani and Ngorongoro Crater and established farms on the land. One of them was named’Shangri-La‘, our home for the next week. The estate has a long history of coffee plants and since around 25 years, a Danish farmer owns the farm. The house we stayed in is the Samaki Tatu Guesthouse which is located on the top of the hill, overseeing the town of Karatu. It has lovely rooms and a beautiful terrace with an endless view. These endless views are actually one thing I miss the most being back home. The first day was relaxed and we explored a bit the surrounding. In the evening we got to know the amazing cooking skills of Damian who looks after the house and spoiled us a lot during our stay. He was such a cute, helpful host and made us feel very welcome!

Day 2 – Lake Manyara National Park and Maasai Village

The next day we started our first Safari to the beautiful national park Lake Manyara. It had a scenic beauty, and although the Serengeti Park is supposed to be the most beautiful one and offers much more game to view, I loved the Manyara park. Our guide gave us the time to watch nature, unfold before our eyes, in their natural habitat and we never felt rushed. And it was a great day for Elephants indeed! We saw so many and also baby ones, as they are one of my favorite animals I was a very happy girl.

After the Safari we were visiting a Maasai Village. The Maasai live so far away from civilization and the world we are used to live in so I was very excited to visit them and learn more about their culture. Our guide told us that it will cost $50 for all (we were 7 people), which I found totally ok. He also gave us the advice that we shouldn’t buy any of their jewellery which I was thankful for because it was quite hard to say no their offers. The visit started with a traditional dance and we were also dancing with the Maasais, the women teaching us what to do. The dance took place outside their village which consists of a number of small huts made of cow dung and thatched roofs. The huts are placed in a circle, every position has a meaning like for example who is the first wife of the Maasai warrior, and who is the second and so on. The Maasai woman and men are dressed in pretty colorful dresses with a lot of jewelry around the neck, arms, ankles and forehead.

The Maasai showed us how to light a fire with only sticks and invited us inside their huts which are round about two square meters big. So I found myself sitting on the bed of a Maasai warrior and learning about his life; the only ‘food’ he is eating is animal blood, milk and meat. He told me about a typical day in his life and was keen to learn more about mine. They live with three people in this small hut where they sleep and cook. We had a good laugh and found lots in common although coming from such different worlds. He found it amusing that we don’t own cows, where having a cow is one of the biggest status symbols in his culture. I received a very thoughtful face when telling him I neither ate blood, milk or meat. After showing me his hut, I had to take a look at the jewelry his wife created, but he accepted a friendly no. Whenever you have the possibility to visit a Maasai village, I highly recommend it. I’m still reading more about their culture and their rituals, being amazed by this different way of living.

Day 3 – Coffee Plantations and Market

Patrick is a tall Kenyan, who is the farm manager of Shangri-La since a couple of months. Working in the coffee industry all his life, it was great to get a tour around the coffee fields of someone who knows so much about it. I never thought much about the process of coffee production although always loving a good cup of coffee. The Ngoro Ngoro mountain coffee is an Arabica bean and the process starts with the picking. Around 300 pickers pick the coffee ‘cherries’ on a single day and already preselect the red berries which are called cherries from the green and almost black ones which are called berries and can’t be used for the coffee production. Within a few hours, these sorted cherries are transported to the factory where the pulping begins. Here, the parchment is separated from the pulp using a pulping machine. The parchment will be pregraded and depending on the grade channeled to different fermentation tanks. Once the fermentation is completed the parchment is washed in the washing channel. After that, the wet parchment is spread out over drying tables and the sun drying removes the moisture within the coffee. The coffee is hand sorted and is prepared for filling and oversea transport. The coffee roasting is always made in the country of destination to make sure there is no loss of quality and aroma. We also visited the coffee plantation of the Junge bakery from Hamburg, whenever I have my next coffee at their bakery, the image of their lush green coffee trees will pop to my mind. During this day we also got to know the farm a bit more, which is like a proper farm with pigs, cows and a cheesery, tractors and plant nurseries.

We also got to know the lovely, humorous and beautiful Elfrida, who is working on the farm since over 20 years. She told us a lot about how people live in Karatu. On this day, there was a market in Karatu which only takes place twice per month and Elfrida asked us if we want to visit it with her, of course! We came to this huge place with smoke bubbling out in the sky, such a buzziness and craziness, piles of clothes and shoes, all the clothes donated from charities in Europe and America. They are sold for 2-5 dollars, and the bags with more and more clothes don’t stop how far the eyes could reach. Anything you could imagine was sold on the market, medicine, honey, tobacco, salt, vegetables and fruits, alcohol, ropes, cooking pots…it was such a great experience to see all this, happy to have Elfrida with us who could explain so many things. When asking how much a cow is, she answered $500, teasing a bit that we only buy the packaged meat in the supermarket and forget where this is coming from.

Day 4 – Visiting Children’s Day Care and Mlimani Sumawe Secondary School

I was so much looking forward to this day! We were visiting the farm’s daycare center for children. The youngest kid was 2 years old and they go there until they get to school with 6 years. When entering the door we had kids running at us, some staying a bit shy in the background. These kids were adorable and they were singing songs for us. Soon after they had their late morning tea and we got to spend time with them. Some people from our group bought presents over and in the end, we had 30 kids nibbling some German chocolate Lebkuchen, not all convinced it tastes good. I fell in love with this little girl on my arm:

We continued to the Mlimani Secondary School. As it was Saturday, the children didn’t have school but a teacher showed us around the different class rooms. Primary school is free in Tanzania, for the secondary school there is a charge but people working at the farm can take a ‘soft loan’ so their kids can visit the school. All subjects are taught in English.

The school is located in a small village quite close to the coffee farm where most people live who work there.

The afternoon then came, which we spent back at the guest house, at the pool, reading.

Day 5 – Ngorongoro Crater 

The famous Ngorongoro crater. To be honest, I didn’t know about the crater before this journey but it is just fascinating. It is the 6th biggest crater in the world, so basically a mountain which collapsed and the only one with fresh water, sea water and animals living inside. The crater is 20km long and 600 meters deep and truly a breathtaking natural wonder. When seeing the crater from above, you can’t imagine the wildlife happening down there and while passing the area it all feels surreal. We saw a variety of game – hyenas, zebras, buffalos, gazelles, warthogs, elephants, hippos, one rhino and lots of lions. We came so close to the lions I would never have dreamed of, and I will never forget this experience. We even saw some baby lions. For all Lion King fans, did you actually know that ‘Simba’ means lion in Swahili? And that they call warthogs ‘Puumba’ which means literally stupid? Hogs have such a short memory that they sometimes forgot why they run when they run away from lions. The Ngorongoro crater is a conservation area and not a national park, which means Maasai people live in the crater as well. As they don’t eat game, they are allowed to live there. They seem to be brave enough to have a hundred of lions as neighbours!

Day 6 – Market in Karatu and Coffee Roastery

Already our last day! Damian took us to Karatu and showed us the local market and the shops where he buys all the food for the guest house. I loved strolling around the market which was much less crazy than the one before. Elfrida has told us that the people in the village don’t eat what they like, but what they get. Meaning that they are very depended on what is on offer on the market and that they always buy , what they cook, on the same day and they don’t stock food. I was surprised to see basically the same vegetables as on the markets here – tomatoes, carrots, cauliflower, beet, cucumbers…and lots of cooking bananas of course! Damian was cooking mainly ‘western’ food with potatoes, meat and vegetables but we asked him to cook some African dishes one night and this was my favourite one! We had dishes based on cooking banana, rice with pineapple and many stews.

When I’m in Germany, I mainly eat vegan / vegetarian. On the one hand because I just don’t like the taste of milk and milk products and on the other hand because I can’t agree with buying meat from companies that endorse mass production. Before the travels I thought I can also keep this up while being in Tanzania but to be honest, I was eating meat because I couldn’t refuse food in a country where they don’t have enough of it. Damian was cooking with such a passion that I would have felt bad not eating the food and anyway, the meat was ethically sourced from their farm.

In the afternoon of our last day we had the chance to see how coffee is roasted and we also were able to take as much coffee back as we wanted. Heaven! We enjoyed our last evening and were lucky that some elephants came to visit the little pond close to the house. It was amazing to see the elephants so close. There would be days where around 30 baboons would come to get some water, evenings with lots of buffalos and elephants too.

Day 7 – Saying Good-Bye, Cultural Heritage in Arusha and Flight Back

Time to say good-bye! We had a relaxed morning, saying good-bye to all the lovely people who took care of us during the week, one last time enjoying the endless view and going back on the 5 hours trip to Kilimanjaro Airport. We stoped in Arusha at a Cultural Heritage center where we had the chance to buy some souvenirs. On the drive back I realized how different the city life in Arusha is to the ‘village’ life in Karatu, already much more advanced, more urban – but I felt like I saw the ‘real’ Tanzania out there in the small roads of Karatu.

It was especially fascinating to see how connected the people are with the wildlife, how honest their smiles were and although many of them were living a very basic life in terms of their houses, they seemed much more happy, as a whole, than many people over in Europe would ever be. The country is very peaceful and I wish I could have stayed longer. But I’ll come back one day, take my boyfriend because he has to listen to all my stories at the moment and I want that he sees everything with his own eyes. Words and pictures can’t describe the magic I felt out there.

And a huge thank you to Junge again to let me be part of this adventure!

Love, Sarah x

 

 

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