30 January 2012

EK Climbs Kili: Day 4 (Arusha)

Note: click on the "kilimanjaro" label to read about the entire trip.

I wake at Planet Lodge at a reasonably normal hour (6am local time) after a reasonably decent sleep. I claim first shower and have the pleasure of about 3 minutes of warm-ish water, and then it's room temperature water for the remainder. The water pressure isn't that great either, but hey, I'm in Tanzania! Hakuna matata! I throw on some "town clothes" and go back into the main room. Chris is not there...uhhh, should I be worried?...then he comes inside from the balcony area (we have a balcony?!) and proclaims "It's f---ing paradise out there". Good morning to you too! But paradise is something I've got to see so I stick my head out of the balcony door and...he's right:
Mount Meru, from our balcony at Planet Lodge. 14,977' or 4,565m.
We can see Mount Meru from the balcony, but we don't even have to look that far to be amazed. The hotel is meticulously landscaped and maintained. I'm torn between appreciating its niceness and wondering how many gallons of irrigation water they go through each day. 
Panorama from the balcony of Planet Lodge.
Chris showers after me and there is no hot water for him either. We head over to the main building for breakfast at 9a. We are the only guests eating in the dining room so it's pretty quiet, but the food is excellent. We have the Planet Lodge special: fruit plate, 1 egg, piece of toast, tomato, bacon, sausage that looks like a hot dog, and a croissant. There is instant coffee on the table and we will soon learn to love the ubiquitous mixture called Africafe. After breakfast, we meet with David from Good Earth to go over details for our trek. Nothing he says surprises us, and at the end of our discussion, we get to pay him! Lucky us! At the end of the meeting, he arranges for another Good Earth driver to pick us up and bring us into Arusha for some lunch.
The LandCruiser we drove around in. Photo is courtesy of TripAdvisor.
We meet Joseph at noon in a Good Earth LandCruiser and we go into Arusha which is about a 5-10 minute drive from the hotel. Planet Lodge is so new that you can't even see it on The Google, but here is a quick map of some places we visited (some are from the last day in Arusha). Anyway, once in town we go to a Bureau de Change where we buy Tanzanian Schillings. Then we go to Arusha City Park Restaurant for lunch. Chris orders a meat stew with rice (wali nyama), I order a banana and meat stew (ndizi nyama), and Joseph orders a Sprite. We eat and it's all delicious, I am only hoping that my gut doesn't reject anything later! After lunch is over, Chris and I convince Joseph to drop us off at the Central Market to let us walk around the town. We don't want to spend the whole time in Arusha being sheltered by a vehicle, especially one that so obviously screams "tourist on board". Joseph agrees, we set a meeting point and time for later in the afternoon, and leaves us two last pieces of advice: #1: Swahili for "no thank you" is "hapana asante" and #2: Chris should carry my bag.
Typical scene outside Central Market. http://blog.travelpod.com/travel-photo/discovering_tz/1/1263222293/central-market-arusha.jpg/tpod.html

The Central Market is like nothing I've ever experienced. There are vendors everywhere, of every scale and level of sophistication. Some women are selling only a few carrots from a plate. Some are selling used shoes on tarps that cover several meters. Some have actual booths or carts. It is dense but not clausterphobic. Chris walks first and I am behind, so the bag (messenger style) is between us, but I don't really need to worry about its security because by and large people are ignoring us. I did not anticipate this; I thought the market was going to be a stressful solicitation event.
A typical vendor at the Central Market. http://interningtanzania.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/arusha-central-market/
I don't take pictures, mostly because I feel it would somehow objectify the market as a tourist attraction and not a way of life. (As I write this now I realize I WAY overthought things, but I am still comfortable with not having pictures. You can always see other people's here and here.) After the Central Market, we walk down to the Vegetable Market which was recommended by a friend of Chris'. It's similar to the Central Market except less organized, and more crowded. People still ignore us. When we get out to the street, a couple guys try to pick-pocket Chris, but there's nothing for them to find. We decide to cross the street and Chris darts through a small gap in traffic, but I wasn't paying attention so I stay on the 'sidewalk'. Traffic resumes and there isn't a good place to cross, but more pedestrians are sort of gathering on my side of the road. Eventually, we unspokenly decide there is a critical mass and we all start crossing together. Traffic stops. We make it. I feel like I'm starting to "get" Arusha.
The ShopRite (aka ShopWhite). http://gettingaround.tanzania.xp-travel.com/HighlightDetail-GettingAround.Tanzania-Get-new-supplies-in-Shoprite-Market---Arusha-2075.aspx

On the other side of the street stands what is fast becoming a symbol of African westernization - the ShopRite, which is a modern chain grocery store becoming more and more widespread in Africa. We don't buy anything but after the intensity of the market, it's nice to just walk through a few isles. As we are leaving, the power goes out. No one panics - it's a regular occurrence.

After the ShopRite we visit several little shops in strip malls on either side of the giant grocery store. it seems that this is a more touristy area of town since the shops actually have walls and windows and doors, and no Tanzanians are shopping here. We pop in a bunch of gift-shop-type places and I buy a postcard and a Christmas ornament. We also use the public toilets - squatting again! - before having an unusual coffee drink from Msumbi Coffee. It's called an iced coffee but it's very airy and not cold, sort of like drinking a whipped, room-temperature Frosty. Not exactly refreshing but still tasty. We still have an hour or so before meeting Joseph so we decide to just walk the streets of Arusha. We walk Sokoine Road to the Central Market and back.
Sokoine Road. http://www.panoramio.com/photo/59616337
The road is full of people going about their day. There are no stoplights or stopsigns in Arusha, so traffic can get a little hairy, but it seems to me that somehow everyone gets where they need to go. We see every form of hauling method - bicycles, mini-buses (aka daladalas), motorcycles, human-pulled or -pushed carts, people with loads on their heads, etc. It's bustling in the best sense of the word. It's been hot out but not oppressive. I wore my Tevas, black knee-length skirt, flowery tank top and a short-sleeve cardigan, and felt perfectly comfortable (both temperature-wise and culturally) all afternoon.
Chris sorts the gears at Planet Lodge.

We meet Joseph back at the ShopRite at 4p and he takes us back to the hotel. Since it's sunny and warm by Northern Hemisphere standards, we decide to try the (small) outdoor pool. I swim a few strokes of goggle-less butterfly and pronounce myself in shape. We eat dinner in the hotel, complete with local brews: Kilimanjaro lager for me and Serengeti lager for Chris. The rest of the evening is spent sorting gear in the hotel room. It totally feels like AR prep for me and I am giddy. I can't wait to get on the mountain tomorrow!
My gears all ready for the morning. CHALLENGE: Spot the Bonk Hard race shirt and tell me the race and year for a non-prize.

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