East Africa 2011: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda & Rwanda travel blog


I'm having to go back a week now since I have had no opportunity to write until now.

Lottie, the jack of all trades at the Kilimanjaro Safari Lodge in Moshi Shanty town was bartender, waiter, tour guide and mind reader.  He is a very quiet unassuming man who has a big smile that comes out when he is nervous or happy and gets a very quiet contemplative look on his face when he is confused and makes an audible "hmmmm" noise.

I spent the most time with Lottie but by the time I left many of the staff felt like old friends because I spent so much time alone there.  He would be at the restaurant when I came down for breakfast and would bring the butter, honey, marmalade and peanut butter with the thermos of hot water to my table and check that I had a good sleep.

This would be followed shortly after with juice and bread (sometimes toasted) and then his "omelet today, yes?". Sure sounds great.  The omelets reminded me of the egg in fried rice but everything was edible and knock on wood, I didn't have any stomach problems.

I should pause here and say that power is not a guarantee in Tanzania.  Sometimes there's power, sometimes not and there is no way to know when it will shut off.  The hotel does have a generator but when I was the only one there, I don't recall them turning it on.  All this to say that meals depended on whether there was power at the time or not.

The day Lottie would walk with me into Moshi I had breakfast and then had to wait for him to clean up and wash the floors before he took on tour guide duty.  It was about a half an hour walk from the hotel to town along the side of dusty red dirt roads.  On the way Lottie did his best with limited english to have a conversation with me.  

I managed to get a bit of his story.  He works at the hotel 6 of 7 days and has two young children that live with his mother in the town where he was born (about 17km) from Moshi.  His kids live with his Mother because he had to ask his wife to leave; she was an alcoholic and he'd come home to discover that she had spent their food money on booze.

This was surprising to me for two reasons; I didn't realize divorce would be common here and I was shocked that it was the woman that was the alcoholic, but there you go.

As we walked to town I was happy to not be alone since for the first while I did not see another woman.  The one thing I have noticed is that the majority of people are very kind and happy but until you get a smile, their faces (women and men) do not give off a very welcoming vibe and I'll cop to being very intimidated.

I am not sure how best to describe Moshi.  It was busy, people walking with large loads of supplies or fruits / veggies.  Women normally would have a basket full of items on their heads.  There are drain ditches along the side if the road but right now it's very very dry.

The men generally are in slacks and a button down top while the women's clothing ranged from traditional, jeans and t-shirt to prom dress.

The roads are a bit chaotic and people and cars seem to go where they please.  There were several hotels around but I didn't see many other tourists.  The shops have t-shirts for sale - lots of Tanzania or Kilimajaro (pole pole) and also the required Mzungu (foreigner) shirt.  The main crafts seems to be wood carvings of animals you'd see on safari, some jewelry: beaded bracelets or necklaces, earrings and paintings of the Masai people.  They are all relatively the same- some colorful, others in blacks, greys and whites.  Some have them walking with Mt Kilimanjaro in the background.  The image of the Masai is all the same though; tall with a staff of some sort, wrapped in their traditional clothing and bald heads.

Lottie took me to a couple shops to have a look but I think he was frustrated, thinking that he needed to find more shops when I didn't buy anything but all I wanted to say was "it's my first day, I don't want to buy anything yet".

I broke down and bought one thing to hopefully put an end to the shopping.

We wandered to the exchange bureau which involved simply sliding US $ through a hole in the window and being handed Tanzanian shillings.  He didn't count the money out but I did quickly ask how much I had received in Shillings and stepped to a corner to put the money away and also pull out my iPhone to calculate - 318,000 TSh divided by 200 USD and got the same rate that was listed on the board.  (When I counted the actually Shillings later at the hotel, I did in fact have 318,000 so that seemed to go fine in the end.

We had to try several internet locations before one had power and Lottie occupied himself for an hour.

It was lunch time so Lottie took me to what he referred to as a "Swahili" reataurant.  This just meant that it was a local place and I'd be the only foreigner in sight.

Lottie ordered me beef and rice.  This is just a beef curry of some sort in a bowl and a monster plate of rice.

Now at this stage I know zero Swahili (not that I know that much more a week later).  We ordered food in the back of the restaurant - quite literally you went through a hole in the wall and there were some tables in the damp and dark area where they also made the food; but wandered back out front (the bar area apparently) where there was a TV mounted on the wall showing news and then soccer and about four plastic tables and chairs.

The waitress came over and bent slightly towards me, looked me right in the eyes and said "Karibu".  I was a deer in headlights.  First she scared the ** out of me because it seemed as though she was challenging me to a fight. Second we had just ordered so I had NO idea what she wanted. Third as far as I knew "Karibu" means "Welcome", so I was waiting for a question or whatever should follow that.  It never came.  She repeated herself about four or five times each time looking harder into my eyes and I cowered and just begged Lottie for some kind of help.

"What do you want to drink?".  Oh right...Water, please.

The rest of the meal was uneventful and I didn't need to be polite and offer to pay for Lottie, it was assumed and his meal was on my bill.  When I asked if I should leave a tip, the response was "not good service", but I gave her something anyway because I secretly still think she wanted to take me out back and fight.

It was quite warm at that stage and I was ready to flee back to the safety of my gated hotel where people smiled at me.  So agreed that it was time to walk back.

I was a bit taken aback when Lottie's response was, it's too warm we should take a taxi.  Ummm sure, I guess except that it wasn't too warm for me and I would be footing the taxi fare.  But off we went...

As I headed back inside the hotel, the owner Tony was sitting on the patio in the shade and waved me over.  I was instructed to have a seat and drink his juice because it was too cold for him.  He chatted with me while I enjoyed his mango juice.  Everything from where I am from, tips to successfully climb the mountain and he brought me two brochures I was supposed to read - one on the various routes up Kili and the other on the Tanga region. His final words to me as he got up to go somewhere else were "don't be nervous, you will make it, pole pole and drink lots of water".

So there I was, empty glass of juice and a light dusting of copper dirt covering my feet, flip flops and pants.  I headed upstairs to the large terrace off my room and finally caught a glimpse of the mountain.



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