Where have the last 2 months gone?! I can’t quite believe it has been 8 weeks since I sat around the table eating a Christmas Day feast with the family. But then again, I say the same every year. Time moves fast.
January and February last year were miserable. I was drowning from the teacher training workload. Getting nervous about my Mountain Leader assessment and, most of all, hating the short grey days, the cold and the tiresome commutes. What a transformation. One year on and I find myself spending what are usually my ‘down’ months travelling around my favourite country, Tanzania.
Falling in Love with Mafia Island
To say our trip didn’t start well would be an understatement. I’ll save you from a full disaster report but in brief….
….we lost track of time in Heathrow and had to sprint (damn that airport is big!) to catch our flight, making it just in time as they closed the doors
….our connection flight in Ethiopia had to turn around 20 minutes after take off, alarms blaring, for some reason which was never explained to us
…we have to spend 3 hours waiting in a hot room in Addis Ababa airport until we can take off again
…because of the delay we miss our connection flight to Mafia Island. Ethiopian airlines (who are absolutely rubbish) wouldn’t pay for our replacement flight and….
….they lost our bag! Which took 5 days to get to us.
Not how I imagined our trip kicking off.
We had planned to spend the first week on Mafia Island. Despite the unlucky events, I don’t think anything could have ruined my time there. I completely fell in love with the chilled atmosphere and the authentic people. But most of all the Whale Sharks. Swimming with these giants was the most amazing experience of my life and, more than ever, I am driven to do more with my passion for marine life…watch this space, I’ve got lots of ideas brewing!
After a week on such a quiet, untouched Island, it was hard to feel as inspired by Zanzibar, our next stop. It was so busy and the locals were constantly trying to rip us off. We had a great stay in Kaure Sands Beach Lodge though, where we met a fun loving Canadian family to share stories and play pool games with.
Lazy mornings spent writing and chilled afternoons spent swimming and reading. Not surprisingly, it went too quick.
Seeing the Big 5
Most people come to East Africa for one thing, the safaris. These trips are pricey, but so worth every penny. After our island visits, we enjoyed a fantastic 4 day camping trip with Misele African Safris.
So much wildlife, so many good pictures and memories to take away.
A little village called Wiri
After 2 weeks travelling we headed to our main destination for our time in Tanzania, Wiri, a small green village at the base of Kilimanjaro.
For the last year we have been fundraising for a great charity called ACE who have been supporting the build of Arise school in Wiri. We’ve also been sponsoring a little boy called Junior to attend the school who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.
For a month, we volunteered in Arise school updating their record systems (that was a challenge!) and teaching the staff computer skills. Breaking occasionally to play a game with the children. While there, we stayed with Anna, the assistant head, and her son Jovi. It didn’t take long for them to feel like family.
Our time there wasn’t always easy. Wiri is a poor village. It’s not a comfortable thing seeing poverty, let alone living in it, when you have such a privileged outlook on life. It’s so unfair. After my terrible regrets from my last volunteering experience (read about it here), I wanted to do this one the right way.
Compared to others we were living in luxury, in a large-ish house with running water. Without a fridge though and only a gas stove to cook from, I found preparing food a constant battle. I missed the convenience of being able to throw together a snack in 5 minutes. How could I complain though? I’d stand at the kitchen watching my neighbour (who lived in a small 1 room house), cooking outside on a small fire. A meal scraped together from the rotten vegetables in the garden.
The people of Wiri
Despite the challenges, it was an incredible stay. We’ve made some good friends in Wiri and I will miss the humour. There was so much laughter with the villagers and the staff at the school. We could learn a thing or two from the Tanzanians when it comes to having a good time!
The most memorable moment though was meeting sweet little Junior, the boy we sponsor. I didn’t want to make a fuss about us being there but his parents found out and insisted on us visiting. I didn’t want them to feel like they needed to be grateful to us. We give £16 a month. The cost of a trip to the cinema with popcorn. It pays for Junior’s fees, his uniform, resources, a pair of shoes and 2 meals a day. It’s nothing to us but means the world to him and his family. (Click here to find out more about sponsoring)
I don’t think it is special what I am doing – I think it is only right. What opportunities would this little boy have without an education? A little boy who lives in a 2 bedroom home with his siblings, who spends his spare time helping his dad look after their handful of animals so they can at least afford to eat.
His parents were amazing. Incredible, kind people. Their loving family will stay with me. After meeting them and seeing the reality of their lives and the immense gratitude they have for us, I felt terrible and wonderful, all at the same time.
Time for home
We said our tough goodbyes to Wiri…and Kilimanjaro. Although we never actually saw it without cloud for the month we were there. Not once!
We spent a week travelling to the lush Usambara mountains for a day hike where we met a Dutch couple and German couple who we spontaneously joined for a trip to Pangani. One last look at Tanzania’s coastline. Sleeping to the sound of waves and the smell of salt in the air, my favourite.
Then, our final stop, Dar es Salam. Tomorrow we fly home for a much needed 1 months rest. I’m ready to see my friends and family and, especially, to spend some time with my niece and nephew who I miss so much when I travel. I have a lot of blogging to catch up on (as always!) and am planning for some exciting expeditions later in the year (I’ll reveal more soon!). I’m also going to be bridesmaid to my best friend, Averil, who I have known since I was 4 years old. I wouldn’t miss that for the world! Not to mention the long winter walks and even longer soaks in the hot baths….and the cheese and chocolate. Oh man, I’m going to eat so much….Tanzania isn’t exactly known for its cuisine….
Tanzania has been amazing and remains my absolute favourite country. It’s cliche to say it but after 2 months living here, I’m more grateful now than I have ever been for the luxuries in my life. I’m ready for a bit of comfort again, although I vow to continue fighting to help those who aren’t as fortunate.
I’ll miss Tanzania but I’m not worried, I know I’ll be back…
Need more inspiration on traveling to Tanzania? Check out 11 Cool things to do in Tanzania