Up and at ‘em, at the crack of 8 am. Another long sleep, the jet lag won’t get us that easy. Today is the official start to the ‘safari’. We are to spend the day and night at a lodge near Arusha. Tomorrow it is on the road.
Andy has arranged a taxi to the Moivara Lodge, a half hour trip to the other side of town. The taxi guy is again very personable and chatty. I do not know why everything I have read about Africa portrays a foreboding place where you are not advised to set foot out of your hotel. Maybe we are just lucky but I have not seen even a hint of any criminal element. Every single person, including the unsolicited guides we acquired on the first day, has been extremely polite and amiable.
The taxi driver told us that the proper name of the vanlike buses is “dala dala” or “Ice”, not “matatu”. Apparently matatu is the Kenyan name. Ice is the model of the Toyota van that is used for most buses. Dala dala comes from when the fare used to be only 5 shillings, and 5 shillings was known as a dala. So a ride anywhere in the city was a dala and the bus was a dala dala. Now the fare is quite a bit more, but the bus is still called dala dala.
The trip is uneventful but we did go through an intersection that is controlled by traffic lights. I am surprised because up till now I had not seen one set. Our driver tells us there two intersections in Arusha that have lights. After passing through I am not convinced that they are any more efficient than the uncontrolled intersections we have witnessed the last two day. There was not one traffic jam in town and at the lights the traffic was lined up 20 cars deep.
The lodge is in a rural area near the foot of Mount Meru. Very pretty location, surrounded by a coffee plantation, but if you wish to get to town it is far too remote and would cost a fortune in taxi fare. The main building of the lodge is quite impressive. It serves as an entrance to the whole complex. Immediately on the inside is the terrace which serves as the restaurant and bar and a large grassy lounging area with a pool. We are in in low season and there are no other tourists around. We start down a path into the jungle where there are 40 or so individual cabins for the guests, one of which is designated for us. Quiet back here. Also very jungley and I immediately search out the Claritin in my pack and take one. I’m guessing my body, with its dislike of rotting undergrowth, will not be happy so why fight it, be proactive, and take the meds first. Debbie thinks the jungle looks ominous, she expects something wild to come of out of the undergrowth and either eat her or carry her away.
The room is above the 3 star room rating Debbie and I are used to but I guess it will have to do. The living space is more than ample, the wash room has a separate toilet stall, a shower and a tub (not integrated). Interesting note: The doors to the toilet enclosure can be locked from the OUTSIDE. Why?
I guess the place is supposed to have an African feel but quite frankly I do not think I could tell if I was here or any other place in the world. There is African art on the walls and the furniture is the heavy dark wood that is common in the area. It is still funky, with the flowers on the bed and the long sweeping mosquito net over the bed, and therefore perfectly acceptable to us.
After settling in our abode we go next door to find R&L, our safari mates. They are in the midst of a late morning nap. After arousing them we set out on our planned walk. The front desk person points us in the direction of the trail head and we are off. About 10 minutes into the walk we realize we are not even going to leave the lodge grounds. We are back at the lodge in 20 minutes and decide to have lunch before we attempt another bout.
We explain to the lady at the desk that we want to climb the very small mountain behind the lodge and asked where the trail is. She is reluctant to let us go without a guide. They cannot be responsible for us if we go alone. So we leave anyway through the gate and into the scary African landscape. We discover very quickly it is not scary at all, not that we expected it to be. Heading up the road we pass a kindergarten, I stop to ask how we ascend to the top of the adjacent mound and as luck would have it the trail is at my feet. So up we go, don’t run into one lion, or elephant or bandido (Spanish for African bandit). We do however come across a black widow spider den. Something L had seen before but is new to the other three of us.
We conquer the top, stopping to look at coffee and bananas growing, and descend down, without incident.
We do run into a couple of little kids that do not see too many non-residents and have fun playing hide and seek. The kids are happy and able to play with whatever is at hand, including Murray. They run up and down a path laughing and giggling.
We arrive back at the lodge sweaty, dusty and happy from moving our bodies. The pool looks inviting so we grab drinks and soak our dirty feet and legs in the cool water. The water cools our bodies while we watch unfamiliar birds flit around the sky.
We have officially started our safari. Tomorrow, hopefully zebras and more.