Tuesday, December 18, 2012

"Recovery" Day - 23/07/2012

Waking up feeling as if we had been engulfed within a marshamallow came as a surprise after our first night down from the mountain. However we weren't going to laze around all day, we only had eight more days as much of Tanzania as we could squeeze in.

Three taxi's for 17 people and many forms of health and safety rules out the window, we arrived in the centre of Moshi. Our first port of call was the somewhat familiar sight of a Barclays bank branch. Although in the UK Barclays wasn't making a great name for themselves, here in Tanzania they would be our saviour on many occasions. After not being quite sure how much money I had just taken out after losing count of the zeros I headed over to the Buro de Change. Tanzania has taken advantage of it's weak currency by forcing tourists to use dollars. This does mean you are constantly working with three currencies in your head. If you can manage a few phrases in Swahili and know how to work Tanzanian shilings then you will be well on your way to getting a price to your companions.

This was our first encounter with Tanzania away from the mountain, on the mountain there are foreigners everywhere. Downtown Moshi is a different story and we were hawked down whenever we saw sunlight. Luckily with a little polite Swahilli and the ability contain my emotions and not flip out at them I could walk around surprisingly freely. The streets were covered in brightly dressed vendors with equally bright personalities selling everything from oranges to mattresses. For being at the foot of one of Tanzania's biggest tourist attractions (literally), Moshi still appeared to be a town for locals. This was all true until you started reading signs and they were highly anglosized cramming in any western reference possible. I think my favourite one was a tiny stall called the "Hilary Clinton Shop."

Moshi market
We took shelter in the highly westernised café called the Kilimanjaro Coffee Lounge which a man on the street said was "a favourite of the whites." I went off with a separate group that decided it would be more fun to embrace this hectic little city we were in. As a whole group, we were heading out on Safari in a couple of days but I, at least, wasn't the type to let these days go to waste. Across the street from the cafe was the Hotel Kindroko where we could book a number of excursions out with Moshi. Without little bother at all we managed to organise a tour the next day out to a waterfall, coffee and banana plantation, a cave and most importantly (to me) we got to try some Banana Beer.

Feeling proud of ourselves we headed into the market hoping to find some local street food. The market directly opposite the Western café our friends were in turned out to be a pretty local market selling hardware supplied and food staples. The food market itself was a sight to behold and it laughed in the face of health and safety. Slabs of half slaughtered cow were plonked on wooden benches under the hot midday sun to give any nearby flies their lunch. We decided mangos were the best way to preserve our insides, for now. In Tanzania, it is illegal to drop litter on the ground and when our personal rubbish bag broke and a mango skin fell on the pavement one of the locals took advantage of this and posed as a policeman. We were about to buckle and follow him to "his office" until we noticed other locals fighting in our corner, we weren't scared to walk away.

Ugali and the mystery stews
Fleeing the crime scene, we headed into a Tanzanian equivalent of a Gastropub. As we nursed our 'Kilimanjaro' beers we were fed a selection of Tanzania mystery stews and ugali, a form of cornmeal that you roll into a ball and dip into your concoction. While the group in the other cafe were paying about 21,000Tsh a piece, we paid that for all six of us- that's about £1.30 each! Smug and equally satisfied we headed back to meet the other group who were only just gracing the market with their presence. I had read in my guidebook that the coffee in these areas is some of the best in the world so I wanted to see what the fuss was about. The coffee is probably as fresh as you can get it with coffee plantations all around Moshi from tiny household plantations to much larger corporations. You truely can taste the difference; a fly landed in my cup halfway through and that didn't stop me from finishing it.

Half the group headed back to the hotel while the rest of us went in search of a small artists market out beyond the centre. This meant navigating our way through countless street sellers, Moshi's Dalalala stands as well as it's main roads. Trusting not much more than our gut instincts, we found it and although it was smaller than anything in the centre there was a much greater wealth of interesting souveniers. The stall owners were also a lot less pushy than those in the centre, they let you peacefully look around and only start the bargaining when you do. It's safe to say we all still came home with several things we didn't really need, mainly gigantic  painted canvases of elephants.

Something I never quite picked up on before coming to Africa was the sheer amount of dust everywhere. It's not instantly visible and doesn't get in your eyes or face, it's gets on your feet and legs. It doesn't just get on your feet, it get's all over them and in between your toes. I walked into our restaurant for the evening as if I had been spending the day knee-deep in mud at a music festival. However those who have been to a festival, or third world countries know that tissues are a must for the day bag.

Our restaurant was made up of two kitchens one serving Indian food and the other Italian, hence the name Indioitaliano. The restaurant appeared to be a haven for anyone not wanting to go anywhere near the local cuisine and was filled with westerners waiting to enjoy their favourite imported dishes. Our group slowly arrived and seventeen refreshed students filled up four tables and, naturally, proceeded to get drunk. Compared to British standards the food took longer than people were used to but I imagine the poor waitress wasn't fluent in drunken English. Before the drama of splitting the bill spiralled into madness, the half of us at the drama-free end of the table were bunked into another cosy taxi.

London cabbies are known to past a test known as "The Knowledge" where they must be able to recite any potential route in the whole of London turn-by-turn. There is no such equivalent in Tanzania. We thought repeating the name of the hotel would help our driver but the go-to British tourist strategy didn't work this time. Eventually we got back to the hotel, being the first to leave the restaurant but the last to get back to the hotel and everyone had accumulated on our balcony and we continued playing to the student stereotype we do so well.

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