This past weekend we went to the Mulala Village and camped in Mama Anna’s back yard in tents. On our way to the village on Saturday we first stopped at the Arusha National Park and did a walking safari tour. Unfortunately, the only things we saw were buffalo and lots of ants which proceeded to bite many of us! The walking tour was really beautiful! It was basically all up hill (which was good practice for our upcoming hike of Mt. Kilimanjaro). It was extremely hot during our tour but everything we saw made the exhaustion worth it!
Once we got to Mama Anna’s house on Saturday, I think Mama Anna gave us the best greeting we could have possibly gotten here in Africa. As we were getting out of our cars she came out of her house singing and dancing towards us. She kept singing and dancing until she ended up close enough to someone to wrap her arms around them and give them the absolute biggest hug! She was singing a song that all of us knew which made it even more fun because we got to sing and dance along with her. After dinner we all went up to where our tents were set up and had a campfire. One of the safari drivers told us the story of his first safari drive to the Serengeti with clients and I think it’s important to mention that it was his first trip to the Serengeti EVER! During the campfire many people told stories which led to lots of laughs being shared.
Sunday was packed full with so many different things for us to do! After breakfast we went on another hike to a couple different viewpoints which were absolutely beautiful. Once we arrived back at Mama Anna’s our guide taught us about stingless bees and the honey that they make. The families in the Mulala Village take a part of a tree that is about 3 or 4 feet long and hollow it out. They create an entrance point for the bees and then seal it together, leaving it out for the bees to come into. Soon after making this, the bees will come and start to make their hive within the tree and along with that lots and lots of honey! Our guide opened up one of the trees for us and allowed us to see the bee hive on the inside and then let us taste the honey! This was by far the most delicious honey I have ever eaten! After eating honey, we got to learn about how coffee is made. We we able to roast the coffee beans as well which I thought was one of the best parts because I am an avid coffee drinker. After learning how to walk, or attempting to walk I should say, with bananas on our heads we had to say goodbye to Mama Anna and head back home. This weekend was filled with so much laughter, singing and dancing! I think all of us ended up wanting to bring Mama Anna home with us! She really made this weekend so much fun (except for being woken up by cows and goats at 6am!) It truly was an outstanding experience!
This past Saturday we headed to Arusha National Park to go on a walking safari, which ended up being more of a hike than we expected, but it was still real fun. Seeing another waterfall was unexpected and was definitely a pleasant surprise for us all. I have a feeling we would have been swimming in that one if we had seen it more towards the end of our hike uphill. After the long hike we went to go on another mini safari through the park, which was so nice, since I had no idea we would be seeing any more safari animals after our trip to the Serengeti. After leaving the park we did not have a clue where our camping site was going to be, so the ride there became a little interesting.
Our trip uphill to Mama Anna’s home was bumpy to say the least. I live on a dirt road in Michigan and I can say from now on I will never complain about a pothole ever again. The “road” we were driving on was so uneven and full of cliffs that I was not going to be surprised if our truck got stuck. But, of course those safari trucks can handle anything and we made it up safely. We made jokes along the way and asked why do people ride rollercoasters when they could just ride up this road to Mama Anna’s? When we arrived to Mama Anna’s I jumped out of the truck to see a short lady in blue dancing, singing, and walking towards us with her arms wide open ready for a hug. She wrapped her arms around me as if I were some sort of relative of hers that she hasn’t seen in years. The hugs and smiles she gave everyone was all we needed to fall in love with her. Abbi’s first words about Mama Anna were, “We need to figure out a way to bring her back to America! I’m taking her home to America!”
Mama Anna and the other women had prepared dinner for us, and by the time Mama Anna had finished singing and hugging each one of us it became pretty dark. After claiming our tents we got our delicious dinner and had eaten it outside under the stars, using any light we could find to see the food we were eating. After dinner we headed up to the campfire, which turned into story time. One of the safari drivers had told us the story about his first trip to the Serengeti, which he had lied to his company and told them he knew the Serengeti well, but in actually he had never been there. So, his story was about how he got lost and had to lie many times in order to get his clients to their destination and to keep his job. While listening to his story Baba had been walking around the fire picking up the fallen wood that was still burning, with his bare hands and throwing it back into the fire. Many of us were in shock seeing him touch something so hot, and as we screamed and screeched he would just laugh and keep throwing the burning wood back into the fire. After the fire we headed to our tents for some much needed sleep. That was my first time camping so having the chance to sleep in a tent, in Africa, with wild animals, was certainly an experience.
The morning began much sooner than I thought it would, the rooster alarm went off at 5am and the cow alarm went off at 6am. After breakfast we had spent a while singing and dancing with Mama Anna. She is one of a kind, and someone with that personality can really change your tired cranky mood fast. Seeing her so excited and happy to be with us makes you feel so loved. She had definitely given us each memories that will never be forgotten.
Walking Safari: We were expecting to walk around Arusha National park and see animals in their natural habitat. Right off the bat we saw a herd of buffalo. It was really neat! They were walking around grazing and standing together. We stayed in one spot to look and take pictures while our guide (who was equipped with a gun) was watching to see if the buffalo were going to charge us. The buffalo did not charge us, thank goodness, so we kept on walking through the herd of buffalo. It was really cool to be on the same level as them. Then we started the hiking part of our safari. Now safari in Swahili is any type of journey and did we go on a journey. We walked up the mountain across the mountain and then straight down the mountain on a road that was made of dirt and rocks. Going down the mountain was harder then going up the mountain. Our group was not prepared for the hike so there were a lot of complaints. On the other hand it was good preparation for Wednesdays climb up Mt. Kilimanjaro. The views were spectacular. We were (in retrospect of the town) really close to the top of Mt. Maru. The climb up Mt. Maru is harder then Mt. Kili because of its steep incline.
We got to Manna Anna’s house after our walking safari and were happy to sit down. She made the most amazing African dinner. It was the best dinner we had here that was of African taste. After dinner we brought our chairs up to the bonfire. It was a very short-lived bonfire for me because people started telling scary stories. I headed to my tent so early that I was able to start my new book.
The cows and the roosters were our alarm clock an hour before we actually had to wake up. Someone did not tell them the correct time to wake us up. We sat down for breakfast and had rolls and cheese. The cheese was delicious! The day started out cloudy so we ended up learning about their process of honey harvesting. They hollowed out a log about 1 meter long where stingless bees could go in and do their honey making thing. They reopened the log 6 months later and walla honey on honey on honey. It was really neat because you could scoop the honeycombs that held the honey right out of the long. The older man had us taste the honey by dripping some honey on our hand to then lick it off our hand. I was expecting it to be very sweat to the taste, like honey in the states, but I was wrong. At first it tasted tart with fruity after taste.
Dancing and singing! After honey, we danced and sang in a circle. Mamma Anna and some of her other friends came to sing and dance with us. I could listen to them sing all day. Even though I do not know what they are saying, they have really good rhythm and melody with each other to make beautiful music.
Another hiking adventure was next on the schedule. We were all thrilled about walking for hours again. What was really neat about the walk was the stops we made. Our guide was really happy to share with us all of the remedies the plants around their living space does for them. A lot of the plants are used for healing of headaches, sore muscles, sore throats, and more. I just wonder how they learned all of these combinations of plants to “cure” some of their medical needs.
We came back from our hike and sat down for lunch, another great meal from Mamma Anna. From what I gather, eating meals in Tanzania is a relaxing time. We usually sit around wait for food for a very long time, eat really quick because we are starving, and then sit for another very long time. It is a nice change from the states.
Coffee Time! We already knew how coffee grew so now all we needed to do was see the process from plant to coffee in a cup. The coffee bean is nestled in two shells. One machine split the first shell from the bean. Then they took the beans over to (what looked like) an elongated bowl and then used a long mallet to crush the second layer off of the bean. To separate the shell from the raw bean, the mixture was put in a large round bowl to be thrown up in the air. The wind would blow the shell casings from the raw beans. A worker would repeat this process until just the raw beans were left. Roasting time! The raw beans were put into a cast iron cooking bowl over a hot fire. We had the job of constantly stirring the beans so that they would not burn. About 15 minutes later the beans were dark brown and ready to be crushed into coffee grinds. Our guide gave us all a bean to taste and it was out of this world delicious! If it were covered in chocolate it would have been even better! To grind the beans we put them back in the long bowl to crush the beans. It was very hands on and a great way to see how people use the resources by them. Mama Anna’s group sells and drinks their own coffee made from their own hands.
Our coffee was our last adventure of the weekend at Mamma Anna’s. Before we left Kristen and I went to give Mamma Anna a hug goodbye. As she was hugging us she was blessing our family, country, and ourselves. She was very thankful that we would come and see her. It really amazes me because a lot of people that live in Tanzania are very thankful to people who come and help them out. In the US, most people are thinking about themselves and what comes next on their list of things to do. People in Tanzania have a “Hakuna Matata” (no worries/ no problem) way of life.
I think the part of this weekend that I most thoroughly enjoyed was the day hike through the hills near Mulala. We proceeded to walk out off of the road. I was told that this hike was going to be the “steeper, shorter path,” which meant that it would take about four hours round-trip. At first, I thought this would be very daunting. We walked out onto a plain for something like ten minutes before we reached a clearing filled with water buffalo. That was pretty awesome, except that I stepped in poop once and got lanced by an acacia bush. Beyond that, though, it was the closest any of us had ever been to a water buffalo, nonetheless an entire herd of them. Our ranger waited for most of them to cross a stream before we walked across, and she told us to walk quickly so as to not spook any of the buffalo into charging; that would force her to use her rifle. No, she didn’t shoot the buffalo if they charged; she would fire it into the air in that case, and the buffalo would scare and run. That was what she told me, anyway.
Beyond this plain was the beginning of the actual hiking part of the hike. By this I mean that it went uphill and fast. I should mention before I start this bit that I began this part of the hike in about the middle of the crowd. By the end of our first leg, however, I had distanced myself from the majority of the group and was being told to pole pole by the ranger. It is not that I think that hiking is a race or anything. I just have a certain pace when uphill climbing, and it seemed to be faster than everyone else’s pace, with the exception of Amanda. She was the only person who kept pace with me. And we both had to sit and wait for the rest of the group to catch up for a short break. After the short break, the ranger told her and me to hold up the rear of the group, so we waited for everyone else to pick up and go again before walking ourselves, and even then, we gave the rest of the group about a minute or two head start on us. We caught up in maybe forty-five seconds, and found the same troubles with the pacing – people just didn’t move fast enough, and it seemed energy-inefficient. Nonetheless, we held up the rear of the group for some time until I couldn’t help passing people again.
So most of the hike, I was somewhere close to the front of the pack, and the times when I wasn’t, it was again because the ranger told me to hold up the rear. About halfway through the hike, it got insanely hot out. This was probably due to the fact that halfway through the hike was high noon, and also that we were hiking up a hill. Anyway, it was at this point that I decided to use one of my shirts as a makeshift turban for the sake of cooling my head – great call. I was set for the entirety of the hike. A little while later, we reached a small creek across the path, which was surrounded by a small swampy area and which had small rocks that functioned like stepping-stones. I hope I explained that in enough detail. When I reached it, some of the girls in the group told me that I “had better be helping girls across.” The first girl to ask my help was Abbi. I extended a hand and she took it. The hope was that she would stride past me, onto the next rock, and back onto the path. What happened was that she grabbed my hand, stepped onto the rock, leaned forward, and knocked me backward. One of my feet stayed on my rock, and my other sank ankle-deep into the swamp. Awesome. I had ‘soggy foot’ for probably two or three (or five) hours after that, but I did stay to help the rest of the girls cross. It was a small price to pay for helping.
After some more walking, we arrived back at the car park and took lunch. There were two options for lunch: outside (in the sun) and inside (under a covered pavilion). We chose the “inside” option and ate there. There was a pop cooler and a freezer with ice cream! We ate lunch and had some middle-school-esque tradesies of food, and enjoyed lunch. We packed up all of our things and then drove out. It was a hike that might have made my week.
I fell asleep again for most of this drive as well, so I have no idea how long of a drive it was. My best indicator was that I fell asleep midway through the “Cell Block Tango” from Chicago’s soundtrack and woke up somewhere near the end of “Come What May” from Moulin Rouge. So it could have been as little as ten minutes, or days. I honestly have no idea.
We arrived, and I still had soggy foot. We walked into the homestead and saw two rows of tents; we would be two to a tent. Naturally, Jeremy and I were in a tent, and we went about the business of bunking up – we set down two bedrolls, put down sheets over them, and put down our sleeping bags. Once we accomplished that, we went to dinner, which was lovely. We even got black tea with dinner! Then we had a campfire, where one of the Safari Makers drivers told us a very funny story about his first trip to the Serengeti (which he did not know very well, but had apparently lied and said he did to get the job). It was a ridiculously far-fetched story, and it was long, but it was pretty funny.
The next day, we went on a hike through the hills, but not before Mama Anna did some awesome dances, dressed us all in Maasai fashion (kangas and Maasai robes), and sang many songs with us. Then, of course, we had to sing an American song with them. So, after much deliberation, we decided on the song “Shout” by the Temptations. I had to lead this song. I say “had to,” but I loved it. So we sang it, and they loved it. And we ate honey from stingless bees. I had no idea there were stingless bees. And then we went on our hike through the hills of Mulala, and we saw many viewpoints, of Mulala, of the neighboring village, and of lakes and mountains. We could even see Meru in the distance.
After that, we came back and we had lunch, over the course of which we held kittens and fed them, and they loved us. One almost fell asleep in my arms – adorable. Anyway, a little after that, we packed up and went home and had dinner. It was a good weekend full of adventures.
This weekend was definitely not what I was expecting. Going into it I thought we would be camping in a very rural, flat area, but I was very wrong. We ended up staying at Mama Ana’s house, which is located in the foothills of Mount Meru. Here she leads a women’s organization and they make and sell their own coffee, cornstarch, honey, and mozzarella. Mama Ana’s husband taught us the process of making coffee and we even made some! He also showed us how they collect honey and we tasted it. Learning all of these things was great and something that many do not get to see in their lifetime.
The first day of this excursion we went on a walking safari. This was not what one thinks of a safari since it was more of a hike up the mountain and back down. I was not prepared for this and I ended up struggling a bit to make it to the top, but I did it. Looking back on this hike I did have fun and we did see a few really neat animals. At the beginning of the hike we walked through a field full of buffalo and were about 10 feet away from them. We also saw a few monkeys and many biting ants. The safari was nice even though we did not see as many animals as we did in the Serengeti.
On Sunday we were woken up by a rooster at 4am and then again at 5am by the cow. I think not one person from the group knew this would happen and we ended up getting up an hour and a half before breakfast time. Mama Ana and her friends made us a traditional African breakfast of mandazi and fried bananas with tea and coffee. After breakfast we started another climb to a viewpoint at the top of one of the foothills. Again, we were not prepared for this 2 hour hike since we were told it would only take 30 minutes. But again it was a lot of fun and we learned a lot about the area and the mountain. Overall, this weekend turned out to be great even though much of it was unexpected and I am very happy to have been able to experience it all.
So when the syllabus says “walking safari”, it really means a 4 hour hike up Mt. Mayru. The highlight of the walking safari was probably walking among a herd of buffalo. It was both terrifying and exciting at the same time; don’t worry though, we had a guide who was carrying a rifle to protect us. It was pretty legit. After lunch we headed over to Mama Anna’s house.
We were greeted by Mama Anna and the gang singing “Jambo, jambo bwana…” as we got off the bus Saturday evening. It was the perfect way to start the weekend…and it helped that we knew the song (Lisa made us memorize it before we left for Tanzania). We ate dinner and then sat around the campfire for awhile and shared some stories.
The next day we woke up, ate breakfast, and sang and danced with Mama Anna and the group for awhile. They taught us some sweet dance moves and of course we showed them some of ours! We walked for a couple hours after this before coming back for lunch, a quick tutorial of the cheese they make, and a demonstration on how to make fresh coffee.
Like every weekend here, this past weekend was an adventure. We got to see so many cool things and experience things that most people don’t ever have the chance to (like walking with wild buffalo). It really makes me realize how lucky I am to have had this opportunity. Also, meeting Mama Anna was a great reminder that the people here are so friendly and caring. On top of that, they are willing to just invite you to their homes and teach you about their culture. It’s so great. I love it.
This weekend was a blast! We got to meet Mama Anna and she was so nice and friendly! When we first arrived she started singing the song that goes, “Jambo! Jambo bwana, habari gani, nzuri sana, wageni…” This was the song that we learned before we left and it made us so happy to hear her singing it.
We did so many different things this weekend! We first ate a very big feast that Mama Anna made for us and it was delicious. We then set our campsite up and sat by the fire to tell ghost stories. The night ended pretty early because we knew we had a busy day the next day! It was my very first time camping out and I loved it!
The next day we started with breakfast, which was just as wonderful as dinner. After that we went on a hike and saw some different view points. Baba (sir) shared many different stories and told us about all of the different plants that could be made into medicines. We also made coffee, carried bananas on our heads, danced to many different songs, and tasted honey that we cracked open out of a log! I saw many new and different things this weekend at Mama Anna’s house and was able to experience Meru culture! I am so thankful to have had this experience. 🙂
Here is a picture of me making coffee!