Awesome waterfalls, pics will never do it justice.
The day started with a hangover for me, as we had had a big party the night before to celebrate the birthday of Vegard, a volunteer from Norway, as well as the first lot of goodbyes for some of the others who were leaving. So first thing, I think it was fair to say I was hardly feeling tip-top. After an invigorating cold shower, I met up with about 22 others who were all supposed to be going on a trip to see the waterfalls of Kilimanjaro. The atmosphere was far from rowdy, mainly due to the mixture of hungover people and confused newcomers, and I must admit that when the Dela Dela (small bus) that was to be taking us there arrived, my spirits did not exactly soar.
A Dela dela is a kind of minibus, also known as a Matatu in other parts of East Africa. They are designed and built to safely transport about 15 people. Which means they are unlikely to leave the bus station until there are at least 30 people on board. It is hard to describe what it is like to ride one of these things, as apart from the fact you usually have some random people sat on your lap, no legroom, a child on your shoulder, terrible smells everywhere and a ride rougher and more violent than any you have probably experienced yet. These things have usually been crashed repeatedly, repaired with baked-bean cans and sellotape, replaced all suspension with iron girders and driven by alcoholics, badly, down the most bumpy terrain this side of the moon. So it was quite refreshing to know our Dela deal for this trip was only transporting 7 people more than there were seats for.
Looking up at the falls. Wow.
Within a few minutes of the journey starting, I had lost all feeling in my legs and had headbutted the roof more times than I could possibly recall. We stopped at a nearby restraunt, Deli Chez, for a quick lunchbox pick-up. Quick here meaning about an hour or so (“pole pole” as the locals say all the time – meaning “slowly slowly”).
How they do bridges in Tanzania
Then we set off again. I was able to get somegreat views of the passing scenery, between ‘roof-butts’, but soon the smell of alcohol sweating out of all the cramped passengers nearly had me drunk again.
We finally arrived at a sort of mini village and untangled ourselves from one-another before falling out of the Dela dela.
We re-grouped and were led by our leader for the day Vincelaus into a forest, along a narrow path. We walked up and down hills, along ledges, over streams and ravines bridged by whatever timber had been left as not good enough to use for fire or building (!), past bemused locals and by crumbling huts and bar – things (a kind of wooden shed even homebase would consider ‘flimsy’ with a hatch and maybe three or four bottles). We walked out into view of a fantastic valley, covered in Banana trees, Coffee plants, Mango and papaya trees and a clear view for miles of Tanzania. At the bottom of the valley was a small stream, edged by rocks. As we continued, you could see people washing clothes in it and floating things as a way of transporing them down stream. Then the temperature dropped a little, the air became more moist and as we rounded the next corner, a truly magnificent waterfall came into view. I simply had not been prepared for the scale of it, it looked huge, but as we got closer to the foot of it, it appeared to loom even higher. I think each and every one of us instantly forgot about hangovers, or any complaints of the 45 minute trek that we had just endured to get there. There were cameras clicking everywhere and a few of the braver volunteers jumped into the water. I decided I wanted crawl into one of the cave-like gaps behind the falling water, so clambered over the super slippery moss covered rocks and stepping stones, limbo’d under an overhang and squashed myself in. I was very pleased with myself for a matter of seconds, when I remembered I had my phone, camera, journal and everything else essential on me and one small slip could not simply injure me, but piss me off for a long time to come. Fortunately I managed to wobble and sway my way back to the safety of the waters edge without incident. Once we had taken in the scene as much as we were going to, we climbed up the valley to a hut made of banana tree skins and wooden posts. We had our packed lunch (burger, chips, watermelon and pineapple) and I was reminded of the realities of this small piece of natural beauty we were at when the group of tattered children that had grown to watch us unnoticed by me, started to collect our rubbish. But it soon became clear that this was not a gesture of environmental concern or even to please the visiting mzungu’s, but actually to fight over the scraps of food that were left in the boxes. They drank ketchup from sachets, picked up discarded cucumber and tomato pieces out of the dirt and ate them – once again making you very aware of the mix of poverty and beauty so abundant in this part of the world.
Great variety of greenery in the Kilimanjaro national park.
We trekked back a much steeper, but shorter route, found a chameleon which we took turns in letting run over our arms, looked around an old ladies traditional house made of mud, timber and stones then returned to the Dela dela. We squeezed in, got pins and needles all over our bodies in no time, and virtually held our breath all the way home. When we got back to the hostel, we all collapsed into pub chairs and refreshed ourselves while telling all the people who didn’t go what an amazing time we all had. What a day.