Yes, it was a very eventful weekend for me, so here is part 2. Yea, I broke it down so it wouldn’t overwhelm you. You’re welcome.
Getting people together to meet in Arusha was a mess in itself. Everyone basically lives in three different neighborhoods, TCDC (The nicest, the compound), Usa River, and Makumira (where I am staying this first month). They are all along the same highway, with Makumira and Usa River on opposite ends of TCDC (or as the locals call it, Danish). In a daladala (mini-bus), its probably about 5-10 minutes, depending on how many stops it makes.
Anyways, getting everyone to Arusha (the main city of the area) happened by everyone trying to travel by neighborhood. We all met up at 10am (which was really late compared to the 8:30 meeting times we had every other day), and rode the overcrowded daladala bus about 30 minutes into town. Trevor (the tallest man in our group measuring in at 6′ 4″) and myself ended up doing this standing/squatting thing for the majority of the ride over, because there were no seats. Tiring, but definitely a ton of fun.
Once we got to the city, we found a map, walked around, people exchanged money, and then we split into smaller groups; its incredible how much inertia a group of 18-20 people can have, its nearly impossible to get everyone moving! So in my smaller group, we went around the local markets, getting huslted by nearly every other man we met. They would always ask us where we were from, how we were, and then walk with us for about 10-15 minutes, making conversation, until they had secretly guided us to their store and try selling us.
Once we had about 3-5 guys following us, we decided it was enough and tried our best to implement a ‘no talking to locals’ policy, if only to ease our traveling. I had an okay time, talking to two teenage guys about music. Apparently they love Kanye West, Eminem, and Lil Wayne. When I told them I was rafiki (friend) with Kanye West (yes, I lied, shame on me), they got so excited. On the other hand, some other people were getting talked to on one side, and someone else would sneak up on them from the other side, looking at their pockets, searching for easy prey. While we had all travelled smart and kept things in hard to creep bags and front pockets, it definitely showed us a more sinister side of the tourist heavy Arusha. Luckily, Roshan and I had dealt with similar people in India and knew how to deal with them. Some other unnamed members in our group, not so much.
On a recommendation from Larry, our technical instructor, we walked to the outskirts of town to find a restaurant/bar called Mahai Camp. When he described it, it was very near the city, right next to the Impala hotel. Unfortunately, when he said the Impala hotel was near the city, he meant it was a 10 minute walk from the city limits. And when the Mahai camp was right next to the hotel, it was actually another mile down the road. So while we had a group of 8 walking down this dirt path in the middle of what felt like no where, we got stared at by basically everyone. Nothing new.
When we finally got there, the food was decent, probably enhanced by our hunger after walking for at least 1 hour in a foreign country side. I met this one really interesting guy there. He had traveled from London to South Africa by plane, but then had bought a bike, and had been biking north across Africa by himself, and he was at Arusha trying to tag along a group of other tourists to go on a safari to one of the national parks. Talk about beast! I had a hard time convincing myself that living in a foreign city with one other person for a month would be difficult (that’s next month), but biking from the southern tip up north by yourself, thats incredible! Probably the most common theme of this trip has been meeting amazing people. So far, I could easily start a blog “The interesting person of the day is…” and actually sustain it for a few weeks.
Finally, our ride back was really intense, we were trying to catch a cheap daladala back to our neighborhood bar (its like 500 shilling to take a 30 minute ride, imagine paying about 40 cents for a ride from Chicago to the suburbs!!), but they were all super crowded, and so we were basically smushed inside like tuna for the majority of the trip. A small price to pay. We finished the day off with a nice cold beer with the entire group (drinking age is 18, I’m totally within the scope of the law, not that they enforce it..). Good times.