This last month has flown by with hardly a chance to take a breath! My travels began when I left Kibidula with a few friends destined for Zanzibar. After spending Sabbath in Dar es Salaam at a local church and walking down to the fish warf in the afternoon we set off early Sunday morning to catch our 7 am fast ferry. The boat was surprisingly nice and didn’t leave the dock too late. We were happy to arrive in Stone Town after a short ride. As we walked out of the ferry terminal, we were met by the usual onslaught of people trying to sell us a taxi or other merchandise. We were blessed to get a cheap taxi to our destination at the northern tip if the island. By 11 am we were walking on the white sands of Zanzibar.
The next few days were absolutely perfect. We took a local dhow out to an island sanctuary to snorkel in the pristine waters on Monday. The next day Allison and I (the only two with scuba licenses) went on two dives. On the way to the dive spot we came across some dolphins swimming. I skipped into the clear water with visibility all the way to the sandy bottom about 25 ft. below and started swimming down to where the dolphins were. Just as I neared the bottom, a dolphin needed air so we swam at arms length to the surface. Probably the highlight of my whole trip. It was amazing to observe the beautiful animals in their natural habitat where they were not afraid. The dives were also great for seeing lots of beautiful coral and sea life.
On Wednesday afternoon we headed back to Stone Town. After catching dinner at a beautiful rooftop restaurant we headed down to the park where many people were cooking Zanzibar pizza and squeezing sugarcane. Those foods were amazing! On our way to the hotel, I observed some guys jumping off the sea wall into the bay. It was dark but at their encouragement I pealed off my shirt and took a flying dive into the bay to cheers from the spectators. The best part was one guy who convinced me thoroughly when he said “you can’t beat this cause it’s free!” That was the best part of Stone Town. The next day we took a spice tour in the interior before returning to the town for a quick tour before our boat left. The town has so much character in the buildings and especially the carved doors.
As soon as we arrived back in Dar it was off to the airport for the flight to Kilimanjaro. Allison and her brother visiting from the States were the only ones left for this portion of the trip. On Friday we traveled up on the mountain and took a hike to a waterfall and visited the gate of the National Park. Made me want to hike the summit… maybe some day. We spent Sabbath at the Moshi church where they placed us in front of an extremely loud speaker. They were closing out their week of stewardship and had many people meeting in the open air. I finally convinced the man translating for us that it would be far better sitting behind the speaker. Whew! Didn’t lose all of my hearing. In the afternoon we hopped on a bus to Arusha to prepare for an early departure for the Ngorongoro crater. The trip to the crater went great until we reached a decent hill on the road. The Land Rover we were in began having engine trouble. Eventually we made it to the crater where we saw many types of wildlife including several lions at close proximity. The weather was great for the morning and we enjoyed a great game drive. On the return journey out vehicle again started missing and we got to sit at one of the roadside shacks where a “mechanic” helped remedy the problem. The remainder of our time in Arusha was spent seeking out food… turned out to be a rather fruitless endeavor. By the time Tuesday evening rolled around we had finally completed the long journey back to Kibidula. It was wonderful to be free from the constant bartering and hounding by various people out to get money from tourists. But my rest was not for long.
The next morning before most people were awake, Philip and I departed for an epic bike tour. His dad drove us the first three hours on the main highway to our drop off point next to the mountains. We started riding around 8:30 am and finished the day at around 6 pm and 1700 meters of elevation gain later. After all the travel and biking was totally beat. But the second day was even more grueling. We again left around 8 am and very soon we entered Kitulo National Park. This park is absolutely stunning. It’s set in mountains covered with grass, sprinkled with wildflowers, and dotted with waterfalls. We took a few swims on our ride through them continued past grazing cows on winding dirt roads. I thought I was in Switzerland. The we began descending from the high point of the day at about 2900 meters to our destination in the Livingstone mountains. The clouds joined us as it got dark. We got lost a few times and traveled through many villages in the sense fog. Once one of the bikes lost it’s brakes we were forced to push the bikes to our lodging (a room at what once was a small guest house). We arrived at 11 pm and got to sleep at 12 am. Constant thoughts of rats running around kept me awake so I got up with little rest.
Friday we had the challenge if pushing our bikes down the mountains on twisting, steep, and dangerous trails to the valley floor. The trail descends around 5000 feet in just 4 km. It took hours to get down. We thought it would never end. But finally at about 3 pm we reached the valley floor. The 11 km to the shores of lake Malawi only took about 40 minutes. Unfortunately I succumbed to riding my bike directly into an oncoming motorcycle. Still have American reflexes steering me right. Fortunately neither I nor the driver were seriously injured.
We met up with the Fourniers and clan at the beach and had a great few days relaxing and surfing in the waves with the wind surfboard or just bodysurfing. I got to putt around on a wind surfboard for the first time. Great sport.
On Wednesday we returned to Kibidula. The irrigation project is coming along. One section of avocados is completed with the others nearing completion. The new orchard (still to be planted) has the main water line and filter installed. By the time I leave in a few more weeks we should have sprinklers to every planted tree and valves on the main line for the larger, unplanted orchard. Working here has been one of the highlights of my life so far and I look forward to visiting this place and the people that make this place in the future.
Written from my iPhone (read tired fingers :p),