Typed up: at Tumaini Hostel in Lushoto
Posted from: Internet cafe in Lushoto
The bus ride from Arusha to Moshi was only about 1 hour and pretty smooth. We arrived at a much smaller bus stand in Moshi, which is the town that people go to when they want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. We just wanted to see the mountain, as well as relax in a smaller town than Arusha. Moshi feels about Carpinteria-sized, but with more hotels. We walked to our hostel, although we passed it at first because it has a different name (Kilimanjaro Backpackers Hostel) than what our book says (Da Costa Hotel), and I did not get this from the phone conversation.
The room was nice, and conveniently next to the shared restroom and showers. It was noisy, though. Combined with a sagging bed, we did not sleep as well as we would have hoped. We ate at the restaurant for lunch and the food wasn't good. But we stayed the 2 nights we had booked. After our second night there, there wasn't space for us to stay another night so we moved to the Kindoroko Hotel one block down. It cost twice as much, and was much nicer to stay at.
In Moshi we got some of our energy back to do touristy stuff, but both of us were basically out of commission for a day due to a head cold. We did make it up to the Kindoroko's roof top bar every night to see how much we could see of the mountain that day (it's often hidden by clouds), and to watch birds come into roost. We were pretty lucky to be able to see the mountain top most days, although we never got the postcard view with barely any clouds at all. There were always tons of swallows at dusk, while in a slightly far tree a lot of egrets settled for the night. In a different tree further away, a large group of ibises would rest. There were also lots of crows, plenty of hawks, a pair of horn bills once, and several unidentified flying animals. Oh, and bats once it gets really dark. It's a nice and relaxing place. Even with a cold, you can ask for tea and they'll happily bring it out.
Moshi has a very nice little market. It's very stereotypical, with big piles of various legumes, spices, meat, fish, etc. I'm still getting comfortable with pictures, so you won't be able to see much of it. I did get some more street scenes, as well as bus pictures. The few people I've asked for a picture declined. Also in these few days, we managed to mail home the tinga tinga painting I purchased in Arusha. It was pretty easy, but pretty pricey. $20 to send home a medium box that weighed a little over a pound. We also sent home my first notebook, and our mp3 players which we've never used. There's just too much to see to need them.
As I said, we had some energy for touristy stuff. Specifically we took a tour to a coffee farm. We found a flyer at a coffee shop, called the number (go cell phone), and arranged to go "tomorrow." Helpfully, the organizer texted us the name of the place we were supposed because I had written it down totally wrong. It was a bit interesting to show up at the bus stand, and say the name of a place which we had no idea where it was. But as always, we were pointed to the right bus (which was actually medium-sized) and we got on. We went out of town on the north end, on a dirt road which led through what appeared to be banana plantations. At one point we also passed a "real" church. It was made of brick, had a nice tower, stained glass windows and everything. We were a bit concerned that we did not know where to get off. Then the bus turned around, everybody got off, and people confirmed that this was indeed Timbirini.
We were met by Mike, who walked us through a small village over to the coffee farmer's campsite called Kahawa Shamba. There Josephat told us a bit about the cultural program, and we had coffee. That marked the first cup of coffee I'd had in my life. It tasted fine. The program is a community tourism program. Farmers volunteer their time. People like us come and take tours. The money goes into a community pot, and the community decides what to do with it. In the 3 years the program has been running they've built a school, improved the road, and built a restaurant area for tourists.
Our actual tour was led by Felician, an old (56, above life expectancy) but spry coffee farmer. He led the two of us through another small village to a coffee farm. We just enjoyed walking, and seeing the small village side of Tanzania. It's just a bunch of interconnected trails, with small plot farms scattered throughout. At the coffee farm we got to see all stages of coffee production. It's a very small operation, where one family just manages a single plot. On this plot they plant coffee fairly spread out. The extra space is first used for banana trees. They provide shade for the coffee, and bananas. Then extra space is filled with beans and corn, for the farmer to eat. Around the edges, or in separate plots they plant elephant grass, which is used to feed the cattle they keep in a pen.
We got to pick a little coffee. Then we pulped it in the hand-operated pulping machine. That's actually how it is done. Not some tourist gimmick. Then the beans are soaked in water for 2 days to remove the slimy covering. Then they're dried until they're good and hard. They did a here's-one-we-prepared-earlier for us, and gave us what is the product that they actual sell to coffee buyers. But if the farmer wants coffee, he uses a big mortar and pestle to take the skin of the dried beans. These are then roasted in a ceramic pot on a cooking fire. Then they go back to the mortar and pestle to grind. Filter them. Grind the remains. Then toss it all in a pot of boiling water (over the same cooking fire). Cook for a few minutes, filter, and serve. So I had my second cup of coffee ever, still pretty good.
On the way back we got to taste banana beer, which is pretty good. I also attracted a lot of school children when I took a picture, which was fun (but only because we had a guide with us). We had a tasty lunch, and then we took the bus back to Moshi. We both had a great day.
We'd intended to leave Moshi on Saturday, but when the alarm rang early in the morning, we both rolled over and decided to stay another day. That was the day I was the most sick, and I spent a lot of time in bed. We did go out to buy a bus ticket for the 9am bus the next day. So the next day we were up bright and early to pack, eat, and make it to the bus. We got there at 8:50, but we were told we were too late. A little confusion later somebody told us there is no 9am bus to Lushoto. Luckily, all kinds of buses run all the time. So they shuffled some money, and we got a little bit of money back and ended up on a bus to Mombo.
This was a regular tour bus, but somebody had done a seat job on it so that instead of 2 seats to the left and 2 seats to the right of the aisle, there were 2 seats to the left and 3 seats to the right. But the ride was pleasant enough, and one of the attendants loudly announced Mombo when we got there. We were unsure of where exactly to get a bus to Lushoto, but a samosa salesman showed us to where the dala dalas were a few blocks away. There were two buses waiting, and people from each bus approached us trying to convince us to take their bus. One bus was larger, so we went for that one. It also had Barack Obama written on the back of it, and was loudly advertised as "Barack Obama bus." While walking to that bus, the other (smaller) dala dala was trying to block our path by going back and forth on the road.
In the middle of all this, the samosa salesman was getting some money out of us. Danielle bought a way overpriced samosa by way of tipping, and independently I tipped the guy too much because I didn't have any small bills. Then on the Obama bus we were charged 2.5 times the going rate. I didn't know what it was supposed to cost, but I did know we were being asked for too much money. But once you're on the bus, what are you going to do? Always check the price before getting on.