I really struggle with what I wanted to title this post, as although it seems like every single day that I get to spend in Arusha is an adventure, this past weekend was my first ~real~ adventure here and it was INCREDIBLE.
Early on Saturday morning, we left Arusha for the city of Manyara, a small town on the edge of a massive lake and national park known for its elephants, baboons, and other wildlife. The car ride itself was only around 2.5 hours, but the incredible views made it go by so quickly. We even stopped on the side of the road at one point to take pictures of the elephants roaming around in the fields on the side of the road. The whole thing was honestly surreal. On one hand, going on a road trip with friends felt so normal, yet we were watching mountains, African villages, and other incredible sights pass by, and with that, it was clear that we were not in our home countries.
After a stunningly beautiful drive, we got to our campsite which was much nicer than we had expected. I completely forgot to take any pictures here so I am pretty bummed about that, but it had a beautiful view of the lake and we ended up walking to a lookout path to check out the scenery on our way in. It is safe to say that I was completely in awe of the beauty here. Living in a city, it is easy to forget that places like this exist right in my backyard here and after living here for a few weeks I feel like I had settled in and become accustomed to the beauty of Africa. Yet, this place just continues to surprise me as just when I believe that I have seen the most beautiful place here, I see animals, mountains, and other natural beauty that puts everything else I have seen to shame. Needless to say, I really need to stop having expectations for this place, as I firmly believe Tanzania will just continue to surprise me.
After leaving the lookout point, we got settled at the campsite and the headed back into the “city” for lunch. We sat down at a small restaurant for a quick lunch (which ended up taking 2 hours) and then headed to the trailhead to hike to an overlook. The hike itself was not crazy long, but it was arguably the most strenuous hike I have ever been on. Not only was it super steep, but the majority of the path was rocky, and ended up being a bit more climbing than hiking. Nevertheless, the views at the top made it more than worth it.
After making it back down the trail, we headed into town once more for groceries and dinner before heading to bed in preparation for the next day’s activities.
In the morning, we woke up to see the sunrise, and although it was cloudy, the way the bright red and pink rays crept through the clouds had us all in awe. After breakfast, packing up our things, and making sure the van was ready for our travels back home, we headed to meet our guide for a cultural tour through the village on bikes. The first place we stopped on our tour was the rice paddies. We were taught all about the cultural significance of rice in Tanzania and how the farmers here harvest the rice twice yearly. After the rice paddies, we headed to the fruit market which was absolutley incredible. We got to try several fruits that I had never heard of before and this market was much more accessible than the one in Arusha which was really nice. We wandered around here for a while heading to a nearby village to learn about the creation of banana beer.
At the village, we were taught about the cultural significance of banana beer as a tool for mending broken relationships, settling disputes, and even as a paternity test. We were all given a turn to stir the giant pit of boiling bananas before they begin the 7-day process of being turned into a beverage. After being taught about how the beer is made, we were all given a chance to taste it, which I cannot quite describe.
Our final destination was the massive waterfall outside of the city. Although our bike road to the waterfalls was beautiful, we ended up having to carry our bikes for at least a mile through a farm, as the path was as not wide enough to ride on. We laughed through the whole thing but wow it was hard!! After about 2 hours we made it to the path that we would hike the rest of the way to the falls. The water was not clean enough to swim in due to recent rains in the area, yet we ended up climbing on the rocks and having a picnic of Pringles (the only western snack we can ever find) and avocados.
We took a much shorter (and less treacherous) path back into the city square to our waiting van and we quickly loaded ourselves inside and headed back to Arusha for work the next morning.
Although strenuous, the weekend was incredible and I am so thankful that I am getting the opportunity to see the absolute beauty that Tanzania has to offer. Heres to more adventures in this beautiful country that I am blessed to call home for a little while!
Song of the Week: Born Again byJosh Garrels