Tanzania Day 4 - Exploring the jungle and tribal villages of Mount Meru

Phew, what a day! Today Andy set us up to do a cultural tour of the Terengu tribe, which lives at the base of Mount Meru.

For starters, we had another delicious breakfast. I was so proud of myself - I ate 90% of a Spanish omelette all by myself… and enjoyed it! During breakfast they play the news which is quite interesting. Most of the stories were about Al Qaeda and terrorism in the Middle East. They also had a story about rich bankers in America who are screwing people over. There was no mention of Justin Bieber :).

After breakfast, our driver picked us up and drove us over to meet our guide for the day. The first thing we did was introduce ourselves and drink some lemongrass and ginger tea which was delicious. They say it is good for soothing upset stomachs. Before the hike, I had the joy of using [another] squat toilet. Yuck!

School bus in Tanzania

Then, we set off on our adventure. We started by meeting their cows and learning how they use the methane from their manure to power their gas stoves for cooking.

Since the sun was starting to come out, we also decided to put on some sunscreen. The guide and his assistant seemed amused by this and didn’t really understand what sunburn was. Charlie was able to show them by the end of the day!

Then we began to move uphill. We walked up a dirt road that was so dry that every step resulted in a huge puffy dust cloud. I felt so bad for the guide’s assistant. Not only was she carrying some of our water in a handheld bag, but she was also wearing flats. The poor thing had so much dirt going into her shoes, and she didn’t complain once.

Dusty dirt road near Mount Meru

We proceeded to learn about many different types of plants and vegetation, including:

  • The “quinine” tree, whose bark is used to treat malaria
  • Coffee beans (which Charlie thought were baby avocados)
  • Maize (which Charlie thought was sugarcane)
  • Banana trees
  • Other various crops that we were surprised to see, like cabbage, brocolli, and zucchini
Exploring vegetation in Arusha

The walk was very hot and dry. We were thirsty all the time. We walked through four different villages and passed by tons of little kids. They loved us! Any time we were spotted by kids, they would start to giggle and walk behind us. At one point, a little girl and boy grabbed onto my hand, although I couldn’t tell if she was grabbing my hand or my camera! At another point, we passed by some more kids and they started screaming, “Give me my money!” This was especially funny because they don’t speak English.

The children of the Terengu Tribe at the base of Mount Meru. They were following us screaming "Give me my money!"

One thing that disturbed me during the hike was that many of the cows were tied up via ropes that went through their nasal septum :(.

Baby cow in Tanzania's Terengu Tribe.

As we continued walking uphill, we took a break at the boundary of the villages and Arusha National Park. Our guide set out a blanket to have a picnic, and we had a taste of chapati, which is a yummy type of flatbread. He also brought up a thermos of hot water for tea, which I could have done without, give that it was about 90 degrees outside.

At the boundary of Arusha National Park.

After lunch, we started walking through the jungle and made it to a beautiful waterfall. As we were enjoying the scenery and taking photos, some random guy carrying a machete appeared from the woods. Luckily he was just a security guard for the national park and wanted to make sure we paid our fees.

Pretty waterfall at the base of Mount Meru.

After the waterfall, we started to make our way back down. We talked more with our guide about things such as American football (which they had never heard of), snow (one guy thought we heated the roads to clear the snow off), and our guide’s experience climbing up Mount Kilimanjaro. He said there are four things you need to do:

  1. Drink 3 liters of water a day to stay hydrated and prevent altitude sickness
  2. Eat frequently
  3. Pole, Pole (slowly, slowly)
  4. Change out of wet clothes at the end of the day to stay warm and conserve energy

He also told us the meanings of the colors on the Tanzanian flag.

  • Green = vegetation
  • Blue = water
  • Yellow = minerals
  • Black = people

We eventually made it back to our starting point after doing way more walking than expected. We walked roughly 23km (~14 miles) and got as high as 2200m (~7000 feet), which is great for starting the acclimation process for Kilimanjaro. I’m so excited!