Sitting at the foot of picturesque Mount Meru and at about 4,200 feet in altitude, Arusha is a welcome break from the heat and humidity of Dar es Salaam. It’s perhaps one of the most developed of Tanzania’s towns due to its proximity to the great parks of Serengeti and Ngorogoro and the towering Mount Kilimanjaro — the tallest mountain on the African continent — less than an hour away. It’s here most tourists visit; coming from Dar or Nairobi in Kenya. Me? It’s clear that due to political and terrorist activity in Western Africa and the relatively recent uprising in Kenya, that my itinerary would change and change again. So, I had two goals for my Arusha stint in Tanzania. First, to see the great parks and second, to figure away to get around Lake Victoria and spend some time in Rwanda and Uganda. This would give more time for the poltiical situation and violence that has hammered Kenya to cool down while giving me an opportunity to see more of East Africa. Certainly, I didn’t want to enlist the expensive services of a custom safari company, so I am looking for economical pre-packaged options with regular departures.
People going about their day on the streets of Arusha.
I was offered an amazing rate for a room at the Arusha Hotel which for three nights served as my recuperation center for not only my leg, fingers and forearm but for a nasty eye infection that I woke up with after my first night. It was horrible. Reminded me of sleepless nights in Ecuador when the hard days riding lodged something in my eye that I couldn’t get out until weeks later in Trujillo Peru. Ahhh… the memories. This time I tried the best to flush the eye, but the pain stung and everything was blurry. I walked to a medical clinic but no eye specialist. Got a phone number of a opthamologist who held office hours at a Luthern Medical Clinic in a nearby village. He assured me, as did the elderly doctor in Quito, that “absolutely” there was nothing in my eye and sent me on my way with antiobiotics. Two drops every four hours and the best self-control I could muster to keep my fingers from rubbing and then spreading the infection to the other eye.
Selean Lutheran Medical Clinic outside of Arusha, Tanzania
Doctor Kombe, my opthamolgist in Arusha.
Feeling lousy in Arusha.
After my good fortune and rate at Arusha Hotel expired, I moved to more modest accommodation, La Jacaranda, with a corresponding modest rate. But with my eye still half-closed, my world view remained blurry and and my mind in a frustrating and dizzy state. Though this didn’t stop me from taking in some local colors and flavors. I received a proper ex-pat Arusha orientation thanks to Chris and Ingrid of Bush2Beach, a local safari company. Tall and with long hair tied back in a pony tail, Chris has been running custom tours in Tanzania for nearly a decade while his wife previously coordinated expeditions up Kilimanjaro. Together they now do it all.
But I didn’t come upon Chris and Ingrid in search of an adventure up Kilimanjaro or into the wild bush of the Serengeti. No. I was referred to Chris by Woody, another pony-tailed ex-pat friend of Steve back in Dar who runs the very successful Wild Things Safaris. My plan was to simply to park my bike securely at Steve and Ingrid’s while taking a pre-packaged “seat in a truck” tour of Ngorogoro and the Serengeti before returning to fetch the bike and head to Rwanda or North to Nairobi — pending road conditions and political conditions. Because it’s not possible to ride through the Serengeti, Woody and I figured it would be easy to find a truck with open cargo space passing through the endless plain and ride in the cab with Doc tied down in back. But with my nagging and half-closed eye, sore fingers and leg, I began thinking of alternatives.
First, the ride across Serengeti could take two days. And as a tourist in Tanzania I would have to pay $50 for each 24-hour or fraction of when in the parks. Plus, I have been unable to get data on the roads south of Lake Victoria west of Mwanza. In the past, Congo refugee camps meant questionable safety for travelers and truckers alike. Supposedly this has stablized. But still no solid information. So going north, taking two days to ride to Kampala and then another day into Rwanda over the top of Lake Victoria, though a long way around, was looking more appealing with every blink of my bad eye.
Spending a few evenings over good food and cold Kilimanjaro beers with Chris, Ingrid, their marketing manager Neils and some of their friends in and outside of Arusha a new plan began to formulate.
One night Chris, Ingrid, Neils and friends celebrated appetizers and happy hour as the sunset over Lake Duluti, while another night Chris, Ingrid, I and some others had exclusive access to the Lively Lady, a local bar whose owner decided to close down for a few nights — but it was open to us!