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16 Mar

Tanzania, Kisima Ngeda, Lake Eyasi : Day 6

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / March 16, 2013 / 0 Comments

Wow. From one paradise to another. 

This morning we found out a little more about the Rhotia Valley Children’s Home and how they have set up – Jorg and Marise, being Dutch Doctors have used their connections for years in terms of fundraising and have a foundation set up in Holland to provide funds to operate and they have quite a number of ways to receive donations and sponsorship. They reiterated their thanks for the books we brought and help we have provided. sadly, we didn’t impose enough to get a photo yesterday with some of the kids. 

On leaving, we drove down the hill and took some pictures of the mud huts, children and animals we passed. Most families have goats, chooks and cattle in very small numbers. The kids are always smiling, waving, often running towards us as fast as they can, yelling out hello. Luca made the observation : we are so rich compared to these people. Quite.
We drove through lands that are lived on by the Iraqw people – very dry, subsistence living. A very occasional small township, but mostly single houses. 

The Dagota people also live here, and the Hadza people. After a couple of hours driving on roads that were being repaired but making better time than George had feared, We arrived at Kisima Ngeda (‘spring’ in Swahili and ‘spring’ or ‘water from the ground’ in the Dagota language).  We sat in the open bar area and ate our packed lunch (well, the kids didn’t eat much of it – turning up their noses at different food that still tastes good) before being shown around by Nani Schmelling who owns the place, with her husband Chris. Chris’s parents owned the land after farming the area for many years (from Germany originally) and he grew up here. Nani came to Tanzania traveling and met Chris in a bar in Arusha 18 years ago. She travelled on but returned 18 months later. 16 years ago, Chris’s father died, so they took over the land. About 10 years ago, they started developing the lodge. 

The area we started in included a grassy area with a fire in the evenings, a viewing platform high in a tree, another small platform overlooking a waterhole, overlooking the salt lake. We were shown past the salt water swimming pool, and then past the various pools fed by the spring that the property is named for. They have stocked the pools with tipalia, and we are able to fish using simple stick and string lines, baited with bread. Charlie and the kids caught 14 this afternoon, keeping 3 to give to the kitchen. The largest pool used to used as a swimming pool, until the Schmellings decided to construct a water project. They installed a solar powered water pump to pump the water up to the school and the village. The area here is very safe – there are flamingos on the lake, protected by the sticky mud which stops us getting too close in a hurry, there are no dangerous animals, so we can walk quite freely – along the mud flats or the small creek of spring water from the spring to the lake, or into the forest of palm and acacia. 

Our time here is now much more peaceful, and not much in the car for the two days. This afternoon, the kids swam, fished, and walked along the creek to the lake, through the mud. We have read and relaxed, walked and enjoyed the space. The rooms are once again amazing. A large canvas tent (just like the tv shows), with a thatched roof overhead, an ensuite bathroom with actual plumbing, as water is not scarce here, and the laundry service included as well as full board (yay). This truly is ‘glamping’, and we are loving it!
We walked with one of the staff here to the top of the rocky outcrop behind us to see the view, and to look down into a hyena den. The animals were hiding (as a group, we are not good at sneaking up on anything), so we weren’t able to see her or her 5 month old cub. Afterwards, we sat up in the treehouse, watching the swallows catch insects over the waterhole, while mum sat on the deck overlooking the waterhole and the kids played charades below us. This is the life!

For dinner, we had a leek and potato soup, beef steak with potato bake, broccoli and red cabbage, and the fish the kids caught on the side! It was fantastic. Dessert was pineapple chunks in a mango purée. Lovely and refreshing. 

Tomorrow morning we get to go hunting with some of the local Hadza tribe. In 1974, the government tried to centralize the tribes a little to provide services to them (schools, healthcare), but when the Hadza grouped under a tin roof, they claimed that the noise of the rain on the roof killed an infant, so they rejected the governments help and have continued to live only in their small huts, with little contact with other tribes. Except for the folks that let tourists follow them on a hunt!  They hunt with bow and arrow, using 3 different types of arrows depending on the animal being hunted – sharp stick arrows for the small animals like birds and mice, metal tipped for the medium animals like dikdik and monkeys, and poisoned metal tipped arrows for bigger animals like impala or buffalo. The poison is made from the ‘desert rose’ that they cut up and boil down until it is a gum that they then dip the tips in. It kills them by inducing cardiac arrest, and can even kill a giraffe in an hour!

16 Mar

Tanzania, Ngorongoro Crater : Day 5

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / March 16, 2013 / 0 Comments

We greeted the day with an amazing sunrise over the valley behind our tents. A cool and hazy morning with many layers of cloud shrouding the many layers of hills into the distance. A simple breakfast of fruit, cereal or eggs and we headed off down the hill and across to the Ngorognoro crater. We drove past many mud huts, small single roomed dwellings housing a family and their goats, small children laughing and waving as we go by.  

Ngorongoro crater was formed about 2.5 million years ago in a massive volcanic eruption. It is 22km x 18km, 265 sqkm at the base, the rim is 2300m above sea level and the flatland is 600m lower. It is called Ngorongoro after the sound of the Masai cow bells as they herd their cattle in the marshlands there. The view from the top was amazing, all painted plains in the soft light today. You can’t see any wildlife and you wonder how many animals there could be down there. There are lots. 

It was slow to start, and we had no ‘Oh my god’ moments, but we saw a lot of animals at peace. Grants Gazelle, Thompsons Gazelle (a very beautiful animal, and we saw a mother with her small baby), buffalo, zebra, wildebeest, this time so close – almost touching distance, warthogs (more babies), jackals, hyenas, a few shy Eland – the largest of the antelope, several hippo pools (again, more babies) and our first lions and a solitary black rhino. 

The lions were all grubby looking and bloated – they had fed last night and were covered in blood still. Their tummies were extraordinary – so full and round. All they did today was lie around in the sun or in the grass. Apparently they would have a drink as well, but we didn’t see any move that much. And they won’t eat again for a week. With the size of their bellies – I mean, we joke about having food babies after a big meal, but this was ridiculous!

Seeing all these animals coexisting feels just like an Attenborough special – ostrich, zebra, wildebeest (or white bearded gnu!), eland, and buffalo all grazing together.  Later we saw a Black Rhino grazing amongst the same mix. There was a lake filled with flamingos, and groups of them ‘doing a dance’ all huddled and bouncing along together like a long legged pink mosh pit! That was one of Gran’s highlights of the trip. Lots of other birds for her today as well.  Little fire finches, bustards, beautiful crowned cranes, black and white storks, spur winged geese, weaver birds, guinea fowl, kites so aggressive we had to eat our lunch in the car overlooking the hippos or they’d likely take a finger along with the food they snatch from our hands!  This was a safe spot to eat, or get out of the car for pictures of the hippos as the grassy bank was too high for the very short legged beasts to get out that way, so there is no chance of an angry hippo getting a tourist. 

Once we got back to the lodge, we were able to walk over to the adjacent children’s home with the owners, Jorg and Marise from Holland, and give our gifts (5 bags of books and 20 small teddy bears and blankets. The soft things were bought by one of my patients for me to donate on her behalf, and the books and puzzles were a combination of things I had bought, books my kids no longer needed, and Christmas presents from family to our kids that were specifically for us to pass on today). They have been here five years, buying two adjacent parcels of land at the top of the hill. The forest behind has elephants in it (!) that will come out of the forest for water in. The dry season and wreck havoc on the farmers properties. So they were only too glad to sell this land. 

The tented lodge with 15 double/ twin tents and a dining / bar / reception hut is on one side, with generator power for only a few hours at night and for an hour or so in the morning if you have an early start. There are solar powered lanterns that charge all day to use in your tents during the night as required. The water is solar heated, and we have to catch the water from the shower in a bucket to use to flush the toilet. Kerosene lamps light the tables in the dining area.

The children’s home is on the other hill. 38 children live there in 3 homes with 3 house mamas.  The little kitchen uses a gas hot plate and a bio gas hot plate. The bio gas is provided by the cow dung. There is a small herd of cattle, 2 infants and one pregnant cow, imported from Holland. The milk, butter and yogurt for the children and for the lodge all comes from these cows. They have the bio gas set up behind the cow sheds, next to a huge veggie patch, so they are very self sufficient. Once again, the water is solar heated, little electricity is used, and water is collected in several 50 000L underground tanks. 56 local people are employed across the site. They have a bakery further down the hill that produces all the bread for both sites as well.  The volunteer teacher that helps the children with additional school work after school each day was thrilled with all the books we brought, and looking at their set up, they will be well used.  It is an amazing and inspirational sight. 

They have a graded soccer pitch with a basketball ring attached to one of the goal posts and a volleyball net set up on the other side of the road. Unfortunately, by the time the kids were home from school and then doing their homework, there was not the opportunity for our kids to join in with them and play soccer. 

Being as high as we are here (1700m), there are no mozzies, and therefore no mozzie nets to sleep under. We still take our anti malarials, of course (along with a probiotic each day to try to protect our guts), but it is a relief to not need to be so vigilant for a few days with the kids. Back on guard tomorrow, I expect. We have so much insect spray – 4 bottles, and I haven’t actually seen a mozzie yet. There are plenty of other big bugs around here – crawling and flying, but they all seem harmless. The big spiders with spindly black legs we saw last night – not so much. 

For dinner tonight, watching the lightning flash over the valley and smelling the briney lake smell from Lake Manyara once the wind changed, we had a cauliflower soup, lamb in red wine stew with homemade pappardelle and an eggplant parmigiana, followed by a ‘chocolate treat’. It was delicious, although tonight it was Milla’s turn to cry, declare herself too tired to eat and need be escorted to bed during dinner.  Last night it was Luca. Of course, they are awake before 6, like usual, and once awake are functioning at full power – no slow wake ups for them. 

I sat in the back of the truck with them for a while this afternoon, playing I spy, thumb wars, and another word game they had made up. They were so good this morning when we first got to the crater and had been in the car for several hours without seeing much. They all read or watched quietly, patiently even though they were bored and hungry and pretty tired. It is amazing how tiring a long day on the car can be. The kids have been writing in their travel diaries most days, and have done so when they are in the car. I can’t wait to read back through them. They are loving the experience here, although they are not all thrilled about the food – it is all fine, but they are being typically fussy with different foods. I’m hoping they relax their resistance as we go through the next 2 weeks of our adventure.
Tomorrow we are moving to our next lodge, and will have the opportunity for a bit of walking in the afternoon – not before time as 2 full days in the car so far is wearing the tolerance a bit thin for all of us. 

Sheesh, how lucky are we?

16 Mar

Tanzania, Rhotia Valley : Day 4

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / March 16, 2013 / 0 Comments

Wow. What a day. We were picked up from the hotel by our lovely guide and driver, George.  He is from a village on the shores of Lake Victoria, but has lived in Arusha for 20 years. He grew up hunting Impala, did his 8 months of compulsory national service, worked as a Vet assistant in the national parks tranquilizing animals for blood samples and so on, then returned to school to study to become a guide. He loves animals, and working with people and so far, we are very impressed.

We drove from Moshi towards the west, past Kili whose summit was clear above a low cloud line, the JRO airport we arrived at, and into Arusha. Traffic was heavy and somewhat chaotic, but after China, my chaos standards are pretty high. Watching people walking along the road, Masai tending to herds on the roadside, motorbikes – up to 4 people on a bike at once, the ramshackle stores, the fresh food market – we even saw a ‘butcher’ with a leg of meat hung in a cupboard, cutting bits off for customers. A stop to collect some paperwork from the Wayo office, then to collect our lunch packs before setting off for Lake Manyara National Park.

After leaving Arusha, the landscape quickly became quite dry and barren. We saw many small groups of Masai, their thatched wet season huts, herds of goats and cattle and bright red draped clothing. Several hundred were at a market, trading animals on one side, fresh food and other goods on the other. This was the real Masai country. We were so surprised to see such traditional lifestyle by the roadside, not realizing that they did still live that way, so close to town. They walk to a swampy area in the dry season to feed their herds, then back to this drier area in the wet season. We went past one settlement that apparently housed one man, his 20 wives and 105 children. The government built him a school on his hillside in exchange for his services to population!  We also drove past a Masai tourist town, much advertising, so many souvenir shops, so many paintings for sale, a more than a few flabby white tourists. We also past a couple of pairs of young Masai men with white painted faces. George explained that this was part of their initiation and circumcision that heralds their arrival as men, at around 15 years old. The detailed paintwork, ostrich feathers on their heads and just walking along the side of the road. The boys must keep their eyes open when the knife comes down, or they are deemed to be soft. The white face paint indicates to the girls that they must keep away!

Lake Manyara is the smallest of the national parks in northern Tanzania. It is mainly water, but there is 110 sqkm of land based park. It is promoted as being the place you are most likely to see a lion sleeping in a tree, but George scoffed at that. We stopped and ate our lunch in a designated spot where a solo blue monkey was close by, then foraged for leftovers as tables were cleared. Being a national park, all rubbish was taken out with us. We saw a few groups of monkeys – blue monkeys (which are almost black), Oliver baboons and vervat monkeys with the most amazingly bright powder blue scrotum!  We saw our first elephant (then another 3), a few hippos wallowing at the hippo pool, herds of zebra, small herds of impala – groups with one male and many females and young, and the bachelor herds of many young male impala, as well as seeing a pair fighting. The impala are a good looking animal – muscles rippling under their hide, tails with white tips twitching away the flies, pretty painted faces.  A big herd of wildebeest, a small family group of warthogs wandering across the plain with two young and two females, a couple of giraffes, the smallest of the antelope – dikdik and a large monitor in a tree.

The magic moment was when we saw a baboon on the side of the road and stopped to watch as a few more baboons came out from the roadside scrub, and then more. It was a group of over 60, running down the road and tumbling into the trees and bushes either side of the vehicle. Youngsters teasing each other, scuffling, then two leapt up onto the bonnet of the car to watch us closer. We saw a baby suckling, less than 5 feet from the car, just so many monkeys surrounding us. It wasn’t noisy at all – only a few grunting sounds. They seemed so at peace with us so close – and we were all spellbound.

We saw lots of birds – hornbills and bee eaters, kingfisher, heron, Egyptian geese, a small flock of ostriches, a massive flock of flamingos from a distance, a bishop bird and a Eurasian roller – a pretty blue bird. Lots of trees as well – mahogany with crazy red and black fruit, the quintessential African tree – the flat top acacia. Funny story about that – it is no relation to the acacia genus in Australia so the African are under pressure to find a new name for it – there are more Australian acacias so apparently we get to keep the name for our genus. There were enormous sycamore fog trees, flame, palm and thorn trees, the remarkable sausage tree with big pale sausage shaped fruit dangling down, all fed by artesian water the landscape here was such a contrast to the landscape only 20 or 30 minutes down the road, to the east.

The lake and national park is on the floor of the Rift Valley that runs from Jordan to Mozambique – 6000km. The western escarpment of the rift is very pronounced, and it was above this escarpment on the lower slopes of Ngorongoro that we are staying the next 2 nights. As we left the park and started driving up the hill, we could see the valley floor below us, and an enormous dust storm front blowing across behind us. Just as we got to the top, the cloud engulfed us, reducing visibility to less than 100m for a short time. Within minutes it had blown past us and we had climbed a little higher as we passed school children walking home from school after their long day (it was 5:30) whilst smaller children were helping tend livestock.

We reached the town of Karatu and turned up the drive to the Rhotia valley lodge and orphanage. We arrived at the tented lodge – and were blown away again. A stunning spot high on the hill, overlooking the valley below us and just in time for the sunset and dusk. We were shown to our tents – a large canvas tent for two with a thatched roof and ensuite bathroom with solar hot water for the shower and a bucket to collect shower water to be used for toilet flushing. They are very comfortable. The main area had several large fireplaces, scattered couches and chairs, smaller chairs and table near the balcony, under a huge thatched roof with fairy lights dotted around. There is a large herb, fruit and vegetable garden with most plants labeled, and herbs line the winding paths between tents. The kids found a few cats and then a couple of small kittens, surely less than 8 weeks old (I’m no expert, but they were still suckling). A Dutch couple set up the lodge and the adjoining orphanage. We have arranged to be able to meet with some of the children tomorrow afternoon, and hopefully Luca can have a chance to play soccer with them.

On arrival we were welcomed with moist towels and a small glass of banana juice. Once we had been seen to our rooms, we settled onto the balcony to start writing up our day and going through photos. Some Pringles and then some curry puffs were brought out while we had a drink, watching the changing colors of the valley as the light dropped.  Dinner here was a set menu with a tomato soup, a meat dish (nyama choma) with warm spicy pineapple chutney, ugali croquettes and a salad of tomato, cucumber, cabbage and capsicum (kachumbari). It was so nice to eat some salad. Fingers crossed the tummies stay happy. Dessert was a fruit crumble of banana and pineapple. Followed by a lovely local tea – I’ll find out more tomorrow. 

04 Mar

Tanzania : Day 3

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / March 4, 2013 / 0 Comments

Thoughts from Tory.
I woke at midnight and sadly, didn’t get back to sleep. Turns out, day 3 is a good one for jet lag. The alarm was set for 4 am anyway, so shower, wash the kids clothes and hang it out, out for breakfast (bread and bananas, with a cup o’ tea), then the bus to the stadium by 5am. It was so dark, they were still setting up, the stadium is dirt with some grass in the middle, a volleyball court on the side and some other nets around the place. Meat was being barbecued for later, the air was think with smoke, and runners were starting to file in. After a while, the music started – cheesy dance music at about 3000 decibels, and the MC kept reminding us of the various start times. The loos were Asian, with no TP supplied,  much to some of the American girls horror. Fortunately, I’ve been to third world countries before, so came prepared. Of course.

The first glimpse of the top of Mt Kilimanjaro in the pre dawn light was so special. It has been shrouded in cloud and haze since we got here, although we haven’t been able to see it early in the morning before. It was stunning, truly breathtaking and both Charlie and I felt a little sad that we won’t climb it. We’ll find other cool things to do, though, don’t worry.

It was so cool to see the startling crowded with scrawny fast Kenyans and Tanzanians, who sprinted off the start to get the advantage on the bend. The nature of the course with two ‘in and out’ legs meant that we could see the lead pack and eventual winner streak past through the morning. I settled in to my style – waving, high fiving kids, being laughed at by women, comments from men (I choose to believe they were just cheering), as I occasionally curtseyed in return. I suspect many of them had never seen anything quite like me 😉 I was rocking my NYM outfit – named T shirt and Jodi Lee Foundation tutu, getting a few call outs for ‘Toe Ree’ and thoroughly enjoying myself. It was a cool flat run for most of the first 12-14k, out of town and back again, then a loop through Moshi which included small hills. Several thousand people were lining the street the whole way, creating a very festive atmosphere. I was joined by groups of kids for kilometers at a time, and at one stage, by a man on a bike for over 10k!

We went back past the stadium at the half way mark, already a km or so into our climb. The climb continued until 31.5 km, through smaller villages, past coffee plantations, people going about their day – burning rubbish (choking on smoke), carrying enormous bunches of bananas (they may be plantains – I am not sure of the official difference), washing clothes, watching the world go by. As we climbed higher, it became a little cooler (very welcome) and we passed the banana plantations. Motorbikes were going past constantly, few of the roads were closed, and none were after the lead pack went through, then more cars and buses, loaded with local folk. Drink stops provided water in cups that I suspect were being recycled off the ground and refilled for slower runners – a few I was offered had coke on the outside once we got the the drink stops that also offered coke.  A few stops provided sponges as well – very much appreciated on a day that would have been over 30 degrees already.

The long climb had me walking a few sections. My right thigh (middle part of rectus femoris) was quite tight on the climb, so I was conscious not to be a hero with the hill – 10k of downhill running was going to put more load on that than I really wanted. Finally, after a few 7 minute km’s, the turn around point was in sight.  A drink, then open up the legs a little and enjoy the run. I had realised at 27k or so that I was actually still in with a chance for a 4 hr run if the hill wasn’t too brutal, so was watching my pace on the way up. I calculated I would be able to get there with low 5 min km’s all the way down.  So when I felt good and the slope was not severe, I was able to get a sub 5 k done, but I always slowed down for the water, and I didn’t want to be too sore afterwards given my holiday starting tomorrow. Soft, I know.

By the last 4 km or so, the road was getting very crowded with people doing their normal Sunday thing. I was having to run around the outside of buses as they pulled over to pick up passengers (the roads were all sealed but there are never any footpaths). I was really trying to get my 4 hr mark, worried I was needing 5min even km’s and I wasn’t feeling able to do that. It was hot, dusty, fumey (is that a word?), I was tired, and I felt a bit insignificant on this crowded road. I couldn’t even see the runners ahead of me, there were so many others about. As I approached the stadium, inside the last km, it was hard to even see the marshall, I didn’t know whether to turn left or right once inside the outer gate, and still couldn’t see any other runners. The roadway was crowded with people sauntering along (drives me bonkers at the best of times), then a small African hurtled past me, kept looking back at me and gesturing me onward. He led me into the stadium proper, I could see the finish archway, and hurtled towards it (I’m not sure how pretty I looked!). It turns out, there were two finishing shutes – one for the half and the other for the full. The marshall was standing directly in front of the only sign directing full marathon runners to the right, while he was chatting to his mate, so he grabbed my arm as I went past, ‘no, no, this way’. Arrgh.

I whipped around the star dropper, sprinted up the shute, and went under the archway in 3:59:56 (garmin time, not seen any official timing). Woot woot!  So excited to have done it. I really went in with a plan to run between 4 hrs and 4:20, but to just run by feel. My heart rate monitor hasn’t worked well for months, and I haven’t worn it at all for the last month or so – just running by feel. Weird for me. But now 3 of my 4 marathons have been finished in 3:50 something. I am nothing if not consistent!  I feel like my training has really paid off, and a run without jet lag, mothering duties and a 10k climb could have seen a PB run. I am stoked with it.

We ran on roads the whole way, which I didn’t expect. I only brought my Trabuco trail shoes, but I have run a fair bit on road in them with no problem, so figured they would be ok. They were, thank goodness. But my Kayanos at home which have about 1500km in them and are a little overdue to be replaced are still sitting at home. If I had thought about it a little better, I would have brought them as well, worn them for the run and then donated them. They are in reasonable condition – I just should not run in them anymore. My Trabucos are about 18 months old and have a fair bit of wear in them, but I will be wearing them all trip as my everyday shoe. They may not see much running once we get home, but I have run the Great Wall Marathon and the Yurrebilla Ultra Marathon in them as well, so it will be sad to retire them.

Thank you to everyone for your support – it has been wonderful to get the Facebook messages, and the donations to the Jodi Lee Foundation. I will thank everyone individually properly when I get home to easier Internet access. But thank you xx.

Thoughts from Charlie.
At the start line of the 5km run, the kids were hijacked by a large group of African dancers complete with drums, trumpets and cow bells. They were all chanting and singing and once they saw the kids in their braids they were instantly grabbed to join in on the fun. They look both puzzled / confused and slightly scared by this hoard of black people – but once they got into it they enjoyed the experience.

When the starting gun fired we all started walking and trying to run. The crowd was 5000 strong so took a while for the momentum to stat. Once we broke into a jog Luca took off followed by Milla and Charlie. I kept with them for a while but lost sight of Milla and Jr decided to hang with me. Gran was in the back markers with a new friend she found called Kathy whom both decided to walk.

Jr and I did well, running the first 2.5km with my camera pack on whilst i wrestled with a camera in one hand. I got some great shots of the chaos during and after as well as some further pics of mountain.

I think the low and high of the day was the GoPro debacle. Long story short, Luca decided take it off and put in his sponsors bag and then leave it on the ground in a crowd of mostly 8000 Africans. The stadium was pure chaos, nothing was normal. When I found out it was lost I sent Luca, by himself into the crowd to try and find. He came back empty handed after 30 minutes looking a bit sorry for himself. When Tory arrived and had time to relax this gave me time to try and find an official to see if there was a ‘Lost and Found’. I mean if you saw this place, the very notion is laughable in the extreme. 

After a few hand gestures and speaking with people around the main stage i was told to go onto the stage and speak with someone who was holding a mic to a speaker. He motioned to a man across the stadium whom i could only just make out. He was standing next to some dignitaries, probably the king or president or whatever they have here. The man with the mic told me that he had a camera that someone handed in!! He told me to go to the man and see if it was mine. Right. So I’ll just struggle through the crowd, climb under 2 barriers, dodge a guard and run up the stairs to the top row of the VIP section ask about a GoPro?? I did! And guess what the man had a red bag with my camera in untouched!

Amazing – I wouldn’t expect to see it again in Adelaide, let alone in one the poorest countries in the world, in a stadium of 8000 raucous Africans, street vendors, touts, runners and street urchins. I certainly didn’t judge in the purest sense, I didn’t expect to see it again just because the basic fact that it was about a years wage and it was our fault that it was on the ground. 

The only thing Im sad about is that no-one gave their name, they just handed it over. I was prepared for a reward payment, and happy to pay. 

The person that handed it up, required no reward, except for good Karma for the next 2 lifetimes.

02 Mar

Tanzania : Day 3

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / March 2, 2013 / 0 Comments

Thoughts from Charlie
Today is registration day for the Kili Marathon, which meant we got a free bus to the Keys Hotel in Moshi town, within easier walking distance to the Moshi town centre. Trudging a now familiar broken footpath to the large roundabout in the centre of town, we made our way to the supermarket to get water supplies and some afternoon snacks. Many things for sale are about half the price you’d pay in Adelaide. The standout difference was 1 litre of Smirnoff was $11! Probably out of reach for most people. Heineken was $2.30 a stubby for 330ml whilst the local brew is $1.20 for 550ml. Considering the low wage in this country im surprised how many people can afford to buy many of the things on offer. On the way to the supermarket I walked into a service station to check out the fuel prices. They were the same as Australia’s price per litre, and considering the amount of bikes and cars zooming around at speed it makes we wonder how much they have to work to get the bare necessities. I guess they don’t have iPhones / iPads / Gym Memberships / Large Mortgages / Broadband bills / Waterbills and probably not even electricity in a lot of cases.

After the Supermarket I wanted to head further downtown to the Buffalo Hotel. I read about this hotel as it bosted a Indian / Italian Restaurant, and was quite popular according to the intramanet. I figured Tory needed the carbs and the kids love their butter chicken. I guess I could sample a pizza as well!

The walk turned into a sensory overload of sounds, people and selling. The main road was a live market of people sowing clothes, washing and restoring old shoes, bartering, catching cabs, jumping out of cabs, horns blaring, yelling . . . It was a little too much for the kids at one stage but they soon took it in their stride, and with each day they get braver and more confident as they walk the streets of Tanzania.

As we got further into the melee that was Tanzanian trading I was starting to get worried that I may have got the family lost. At the last minute we stopped and looked lost we were pounced on by touts. One young man offered to show us where it was. It sounded like the all too familiar sales trap. But it wasn’t. The hotel was tucked away in a side alley, but as we walked closer we soon found ourselves beset by shirt, painting, and necklace sales people trying to extract dollars from our ‘wealthy anglo’ pockets.

I tipped the 2 guys that helped us and we went onto enjoy our Lunch. Luca and Charlie Jr got Butter Chicken, Tory ordered the Spaghetti, Milla, Spaghetti and Meatballs, Jenny had the Eggplant Parmigiana and I, the Anchovy and Olive Pizza. Washed down with Sprite and Beers it was the best meals so far and one of the best Butter Chickens I’d tasted!

Trying to escape the touts, we slipped further up the road to a side street, but our man was waiting patiently! We were trapped, we escaped only to get the sales pitch for a Tanzanian Soccer Guernsey further up the main road. Luca tried his hand at some bartering and we managed to get the top for 20,000 shillings and $4 USD. I think its the first time weve ever bought anything using 2 currencies before – very odd and quite amusing at the time. Final price was about $17.30 for an Adidas sports top. Good value but hard work.

Heading back up the road to our sister hotel I managed to get some nice shots with the big lens. You have to be very quick around here because if you get caught snapping a pic they yell and carry on, mostly for $USDs I think. So there were 2 shots I wanted to get, so I happily paid $1USD each for them – and they were equally happy to let me shoot away.

Back at the Keys Hotel we got the shuttle back to our place. 20 seconds after dropping our bags back at our room the kids were in the pool and the world was right (and cool) again.

Blinged up Taxi Bikes are everywhere.

Traditional Masai Medicine.

Roadside snack van.


Pineapple delivery.

Jr’s Butter Chicken.

Extra cheesey pizza and the stock standard Kili beer.

A man washing and restoring old shoes for sale on the sidewalk.


One of the many seamstress working on the main streets around Moshi. I paid this lady $1USD for her picture and she was happy to be my model.

Another stall selling candy, mints and cigarettes.

A shoe salesman / fixer naps in the heat of the day.

Thoughts from Tory.
We were now ready to get out of the sun, and into the pool at home, so started the 3km or so so walk to the main hotel again to get our shuttle. Milla commented that she didn’t want to go home.  I was surprised – she’d been talking about the pool for most of the last 2 hours. But no, she didn’t want to go home to Adelaide – she’s enjoying seeing Africa too much.

This afternoon, after much pool time and my trying to lie down and get off my bloody legs in preparation for tomorrow, one of the staff at the hotel here finally said she was ready and able to braid the children’s hair. Mum had organized it yesterday when she asked  Petronila if she knew where we might be able to get the kids hair braided (so I don’t need to brush it every day!!) and Petronila said she could do it. We suggested 8.30 am, and she agreed. So at 4pm she arrived and said she could do it now. Africa time. Eventually 4 other ladies joined her so we had 5 women huddled over the 3 kids heads, braiding for a solid 90 mins. Remarkably, they all finished at the same time!  Luca has 38 braids all sticking out of his head, Milla has 10 and Charlie has 9 that are mostly combined with 2 braids into 1 plait. They look awesome and the lovely ladies were all so pleased to have played with these kids straight hair. Awesome photos.

Luca was pumped with is – with his denim shorts, Tanzanian soccer shirt and funky hair, he looked very cool, and the girls look gorgeous. We are very much in holiday mode now, and are really enjoying all the family time.  They kids are all writing a little into their travel diaries, and Milla has done a little of her school homework. Both girls like to sit and do some of their puzzle book activities and I had bought Charlie quite a good looking maths book to work on while we are away. They are back in the pool again now, playing Marco Polo with a bunch of middle school kids that have arrived – we thi k they are form an international school, but the kids will fill us in later.

An early start tomorrow, 0430 for breakfast then the 0515 bus for me, 0545 for the others, for my 0630 race start (oh, there are the race jitters kicking in), and 0730 for my fun running family. Gran found a friend today – a lady called Kathy who Iives in Angola now but has a house in Houston – who saw us getting off the shuttle, so knew we were part of the Wild Frontiers group for the marathon and asked if she was walking the fun run. She has a sore ankle so will be walking and was so excited to find a potential buddy!

02 Mar

Tanzania : Day 2

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / March 2, 2013 / 0 Comments

Thoughts from Tory
After our ‘english breakfast’ of toast (somewhat sweet bread, seems common throughout the world trying to provide western bread – much sweeter than commercial bread at home, but perhaps the same as cheap bread in America), scrawny bacon, weenie wieners, anaemic scrambled eggs, cereal on offer, deep fried eggy bread, fresh mango, teeny bananas, watermelon, mango and papaya juices, we sent the kids for a swim before walking into town.

The walk was described as only being 10 minutes, but took over an hour.  Despite the fact that we walk at double the pace of any of the locals! We walked along the dusty road, occasionally being choked by diesel fumes again, but waving to passers by.  

Moshi town is messy and primitive, but we found a bank to collect some Tanzania Shillings from, organized a vodacom sim card for the phone, served by the ‘data expert’ who signed us up. He then proceeded to cut down a standard size SIM card for a pair of rusty scissors so that it would fit the iPhone, and guess what it worked perfectly the second it was put in the phone! Much better than our experience in NY. We asked where to eat lunch, and were directed to the Tanzanian Coffee House, where we saw our greatest concentration of western tourists so far. The kids were pretty happy to see regular food, so we did eat there. $50 for lunch today for 6 of us, about the same as dinner at the hotel last night. Cheaper than home, but not local pricing. 

We were beset by hawkers when we tried to look for a map – they are not handed out here like in other parts of the world. We started at a tourist centre, but he had none.  A man said he could get one for us, and led us down to his souvenir shop to wait while a map was found. His friend wanted over $25 for the regular tourist style map, so we declined, but the bead seller, wrist band seller, and painting seller surrounded us showing off their wares. This was the kids first exposure to hawking – trying to teach them to be a little savvy, even though I know we are being had. 

We did buy a couple of pictures from Ben, a man running a stall a few meters down the road from the hotel whom we met at the start of our walk. Our kids liked him and his manner and insisted that we go back there and buy a picture from him. So we did – a picture for each of the kids rooms. I’m hoping they’ll transport ok. We’ll see. No bargain there, paying $70 for the two, but the kids liked them, and we were happy to support him. That’s the whole point, isn’t it? 

The kids are playing together beautifully, enjoying the pool while we are here, and are fascinated by the differences here – the people, the roads, the cars (all right hand drive, so same as at home, but old and often crappy), the food, the buildings. They have commented that people are so friendly – waving and saying hello as we pass (‘not like in Adelaide’), converting money to work out if something is good value or not, and not once complaining about a 4 hour walk in the heat and dust. Playing in the pool, they made friends with a couple of local boys (young men) who had been ‘picked up’ by a group of 3 English backpackers. They all played happy rough games – throwing them in, doing tricks (one handed hopping hand stands) and having a load of splashy fun. Very sweet to watch. 

Another early night after dinner in the hotel – $40 for 6 of us, with the kids all eating well before settling down to sleep by 8, utterly exhausted after 6 hrs in the pool, a 5 hr trip to town, mostly on foot, and some quieter playtime. They’re having an awesome time and it is so cool to be here with them. 

Thoughts from Charlie
Highlights for me was dealing with the ‘Data Expert’ and his scissors and ability to get the job done. It seems in Africa it’s about working with what you’ve got. We saw a couple of men walking down the road, one with a car door balancing on his head, another with a car bumper – off to see the ‘scrappy’. Probably enough metal for a meal or fuel for their own cars.

I loved all the motorbikes you see here. They are their pride and joy. 125cc Hondas or Toyos. Blinged up with chrome and anodised mirrors. Sometimes carting 2m lengths of steel, sometimes a friend, sometimes half their family. Another standout mode of transport are old Toyota hi-ace vans. These to are covered in rapper’s names or adidas logos with Rastafarian stripes and mostly used as make-shift taxis, all you need to do is wave your arm and you can pile into the van with 19 other people and their goods.

Another highlight was Ben the art salesman. He is a Masai man, who against his fathers wishes, left his village to go to school and get educated. He did, and since then his brothers have got an education and have gone into ‘business’ for themselves. He talked to us about Masai life and his life helping young artists sell their paintings . His Unicef polo shirt was well worn and held a clipboard full of young artists that he supported. He also painted and he proudly pointed out the pieces of art that he created. His back story was amazing and he delivered it so passionately, i was slightly annoyed at myself for no thinking to film or capture it. But sometimes these experiences are best, in just listening.

I was allowed to take pictures of his ‘gallery’. It was an abandoned shell of what was once a house, some rooms with old stools covered in paint, a broom to keep the dirt tidy. All very humbling. 

As we were waiting for the pictures to be removed from the frames a thunderstorm cracked above the tin roof and the heavens opened up. We all (including the kids) ran around picking up his paintings from outside the broken walls and brought them in from the rain. He thanked us and we got our painting wrapped in old newspaper. It was a great end to a sale.

Very tall traditional Coca-Cola bottles.

I think this is why the cars smell so bad.

Quintessential African shot.

Scratchy appears.

Local schoolchildren playing in a 3 wheeler taxi.

The main roundabout into town had a water fountain and hoses where a lot of locals filled their water buckets and barrels to take home. Kids with bikes balancing buckets on their handlebars was the norm.

Inside Ben’s gallery.

The kids posing with Ben and their new pictures.

Ben removing one work from it’s frame.

Old chicken shed through a hole in the wall.

The workshop.

01 Mar

Tanzania : Day 1

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / March 1, 2013 / 0 Comments

Post from Tory
Waking early but needing to stay quiet. Africa is a massive change for the kids. We arrived later afternoon yesterday, around 5.30 pm to our hotel after 33 hrs of active getting to airport type behavior (straight from school, to shower, to grans, to brush hair there (both girls in braids), wait for Charlie, then the taxi, then for Chrisse to drive back with my handbag (and all our passports, left on the back of my car which she is using while I am gone), then to the airport.

Next, we check our 6 bags through to central east Africa, have a drink at the coopers bar while the kids explore the airport, virgin flight to Melbourne, collect boarding passes for the remainder of the journey from Qatar airlines, find some dinner, go through customs (have half a tube of toothpaste confiscated because it was a 120g tube originally, thus too big for the gel and liquid laws), wait for delayed flight, manage to keep all kids sane on 14 hr leg to Doha, transfer quickly to flight to Dar Es Salaam, watch thousands of kilometers of desert from 33 000 feet that gradually change to some greenery as we get to Southern Kenya and Tanzania, dried river beds snaking their way through the sand, sharp ridges, occasional signs of human life below (roofs, occasional road), a glimpse of Zanzibar and turquoise waters from above, and we land in Dar es Salaam.  

We wait on the plane for an hour, the kids play UNO, then we take off again for the final leg that takes us to Kilimanjaro airport. Watching out the window at the tin roofs, incomplete buildings, shanty towns and dry dusty roads of Dar, over increasingly lush forest and small fields, seeing small stand alone hills and the red dirt, comparing this ancient land to Australia – so similar in so many ways, seeing Kilimanjaro rising out of the plain, shrouded in haze and cloud, and a smooth landing at JRO. 

We take stairs off the plane, walk across the tarmac, a man at the door checks our yellow fever certificate, another sends us to fill in immigration cards, then through passport control (only about 30 people on the flight) to our bags that made it all in 1 piece!  A young man comes up with a trolley to help us with our bags, only a few meters to the door, where we find our bus driver to get us to the hotel.  The road is sealed, but there are speeds bumps fairly regularly, so our pace is never above 60 kph. Dust blows in the open windows, poorly refined diesel fumes fill the air and we drive for 45 mins along the road between Arusha and Moshi. People walk along the road – kids in near school uniform, most wearing jumpers on this 33 degree day, women carrying bags and buckets on their heads, shepherds with their goats and cows, some dressed in the red cloaks of the Masaai, drinking at little bars – open flat roofed 3 walled lean to buildings, made from scrap, with a large ‘Tusker’ sign out the front, all the way to Moshi. We saw no tourists along the main street, so wonder where the main part of Moshi is that the trekkers visit. 

We arrived at the Keys hotel, several 2 story buildings, basic and clean, and get to our rooms – 3 twin bed rooms, pine beds, mosquito nets over each, rickety shower, squeaky fan on the wall.  The pool is deep, warm, And we all pile in, trying not to disturb the 4 young trekkers reclining in the fading sun. Dinner didnt come quite fast enough – Africa time applies so food ordered for 7.00, arrived at 7.45 when all three kids eyes were hanging out of their heads!  Luca managed 4 bites before going to bed, Milla about the same, followed by Gran, then little Charlie. We finished up, paid for dinner ($50 for 6 of us in the hotel restaurant), then bed. Not much sleep, however, so today will be a long one. 

Post from Charlie.

Nothing much to add from Tory’s observations above. The beer is cold, the bed at our hotel is comfortable and the weather is great. Ive encouraged the kids to bring along a toy of which they can take photos of in-situ along our African journey. Toy chosen, Scratchy from the Simpsons! Perfect! So if you see a toy cat pop up then u know the back story. 

Doho, Qatar. 
A quick stretch of the legs after a 14hr leg, and then back on for another 7hrs.

On the way to Dar Es Saalem. 
Scratchy makes his appearance.

Through airport security and on our way to Moshi under the billboard advertising the marathon.

On the way to Moshi from the Airport, a Masai herder and her cows.

29 Oct

New York Holiday : Day 1

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / October 29, 2011 / 0 Comments

After a few too many beers at Uncle Vern’s house last night, Im now sitting in the 1862 Bar at the airport trying to muscle down a Coopers Clear. Feels like Ive forgotten something – but I guess that is always the way when getting ready to leave the country. Today Im flying from Adelaide to meet Tory in Brisvegas. We will then leave for NY Sunday morning so Tory can run the race of her life in the Big Apple. Im looking forward to the trip with some trepidation as I saw on the weather channel this morning that it snowed this morning and my wardrobe of ‘snow’ friendly clothes is lean to say the least. Having said that it will be 14º during the week – so Im expecting cold Adelaide winter weather for the whole time. That’s doable and besides I think we will be in shoe shops and restaurants most the time – so all good. Speaking of lean of managed to only take 1 body and 2 lenses for this trip as opposed to the 16kg of camera gear I took to Iceland. Oh and my Holga so I can hopefully get some ‘art’.

04 Sep

Day 14 : Our full day in Paris

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / September 4, 2010 / 0 Comments

After a 9hr sleep in Paris, it was time to begin day 2 in this wonderful city. The weather was forecast to be 20º and sunny. After a predictable Parisian hotel breakfast of bread, ham, cheese, yoghurt and croissants we headed on our way. Our first stop was to the shopping mall, Galleries Lafayette. An increasingly sprawling network of old buildings linked together by overhead covered gangways. Each building catering for each requirement. There was the womens fashion, perfumery and fashion séduction (lingerie), mens fashion and ‘David Jones-esque’ food hall and so on. It is an amazing building inside with stain glass windows, vaulted dome ceiling and all the opulence by an bygone era. First stop was the fashion séduction level so Tory could browse for some new sexy undergarments. The selection was to the horizon. Every shape, colour, style and fabric was catered for. The change-rooms even catered for men, with each booth, a comfortable a pink ottoman awaited. Quite the ‘experience’. Some choice numbers were selected, paid for, tax free refund was collected and we made our way to the men’s building. After walking the several levels we were soon convinced that french men dressed like girls and besides that, the size XL did not exist.

Next mission was to find the food market area (Rue Montorgueil) as described in a book that Tory recently finished, ‘Almost French’ and also described in an article I read in the Weekend Australian before our departure. After some very good navigating via the map we found the district and it didn’t disappoint. We purchased a selection of cheese from a Frommagerié which included goat, sheep and cow milk variants. Some beautiful ham (Jambon) from little Italian Deli, a Tradtionalé Baguette and 2 punnets of raspberries. All that was left was the champagne. After some extra exploring we found a place that had all the best French in a fridge, chilling down. It seemed ‘right’ to get the Moét as we were in Paris. Lucky for us they sold glasses. We weaved our way around to the Louvre and found a lovely spot on the grass of the Jardin du Carosel (ohmigod – allowed on the grass in Paris?!?!?!!?!?) to sit and enjoy our lunch. A lightheaded champagne-y walk through the gardens, then to the d’Orsay for a look there. We got there just in time for a tour, and after our experience at the Orangerie yesterday where all signage was in french, we thought it would be a good option. The tour took us past only a dozen or so pictures and sculptures, but the basic art history lesson was very interesting.

We then walked through the back streets again, again marveling at just how French the buildings and streetscapes are, before getting to the Musee Rodin. We opted for just a wander around the garden, which this week is free as they are doing some building work in the garden, so it is not as peaceful as it could be.

We tossed up going to the catacombs, in the dying minutes of the day, but decided that after 26 km of walking so far today, our feet had had enough. We caught the metro back home, and rested up for dinner – an afternoon of texts home to Mike (armed with a computer and internet) and to Michelle (for her memory after Mike’s googling skills didn’t quite get where we want) and we asked our concierge to book a table for us at Chez Francoise – the restaurant in the old Air France terminal.

Chez Francoise was the locale for our wrap party over 2 years ago when we were shooting a travel doco. In between the haze of the night I remember it being a cozy, out of the way, French Restaurant. It is downstairs of the old Air France Terminal. Long before school dropouts with towels for hats decided to set light to their shoes and bring down planes, you could actually check-in to your flights in the city, hand over your luggage and then make your way to the airport. The old terminal still houses some car rental offices, but other than that it is mostly empty.

The restaurant was French the whole way, we guessed our menu items (Foie Gras was easy, aubergine with chevre was manageable, De Carnard – Duck and Grilé Bouefe – Grilled Steak), ordered a bottle of wine from Burgandy and enjoyed the atmosphere. We quietly poked fun at the rich upper middle class French types, tanned like buffalo leather and draped in gold and expensive glasses. Clearly several tables of clientele just arriving back from their mediterranean holidays, when in August 30% of French locals disappear on holidays. It was a great romantic 3 course meal and at just under $200 seemed like a perfect way to almost end our holiday of holidays.

04 Sep

Day 13 : Travel to Paris

In Blog,Uncategorized by Charlie Lawrence / September 4, 2010 / 0 Comments

An early start for the 5am taxi to the airport, and we get there just before the buses. A quick check in, and some breakfast in “Europe’s Favourite Airport” (still expensive food, rest assured) and we board our plane for Paris. Cannot believe how much carry on luggage people get away with – handbag plus hiking sized rucksack plus IKEA sized shopping bags, on you go, sure you can stow it overhead!

We arrive at CDG (probably Europes least favourite airport) and wait over an hour for the bags to come through. No customs check, no passport check, and no stamps for us from iceland nor france. Bit sad really – probably my next passport will just be a card rather than bothering with pages. And on to the trains.

Charlie was a bit horrified with my approach. I figure – I have to walk for a long way – with my dodgy shoulder I can’t carry much in my right hand for long so the handbag is slung across my body, the big pack is assembled for my back, and the little pack is across my front, koala style. Hands free for train tickets and maps. Perfect. Just not pretty. Chuck had to drag his bag – turns out not only do wheels suck going up or down stairs, they also suck on the footpath. Fearlessly navigating the metro and the streets, we change at Gare du Nord, then pop out at Galleries LaFayette for the walk to our hotel. Through the crowds at 3pm on a monday, trying to get orientated so I know which direction to go in. We get there, and lug our gear the remaining few hundred metres to St Augustin’s hotel.

We walked out towards Place de la Concorde, enjoying the Parisian streets and the glorious autumn weather – 18 degrees and sunny. Lots of places are closed on mondays – we need to remember that for next time 🙂 Jeu de Paume, a photography museum in the Jardin des Tuilleries isn’t open, nor the Orsay, but the Orangerie is – so we went in there to admire Monet’s waterlillies, commissioned especially for the building. They are huge. And beautiful. Our plan for the evening was to get to the Eiffel Tower, so we crossed the river and sat in a little bar, finding out first hand the price difference between not only the ‘terrace’ vs inside, but the tables vs the bar – twice the cost in some instances. Wandering the backstreets, as we get to the Invalides, Charlie spots the old Aerogard Air France – there used to be an Air France terminal, right in the middle of town, where you could check in for your flight, then travel out to the airport and board. Very civilized. He had enjoyed a dinner there on his last (work) visit to Paris, so we decided to try to eat there tomorrow.

According to my trusty Lonely Planet guide, there was a casual bistro on level 1 of the tower. We thought we’d try there. The girl at the information desk laughed at me after I enquired which Pillier to go up, and she asked if I had a booking. Oh well. Trusty guide book also suggested the new restaurant at the Musee de Quai Branly – the museum of the colonies, with the plants all over the outside wall. Not open mondays. We ended up at one of the tourist trap brasseries that are on most corners, in a room filled only with foreigners. Not quite the experience we were after, but the food was nice enough, and the service was good. We walked back to the Eiffle Tower. I had never been up it, so we wanted to do it at night. The line up was 45 mins or so, in the increasingly chill air,and as we made our way up, it got windier and colder. We were the only ones wearing t shirts (bloody Australians) and half the others had parkas on! The view was pretty cool, though.

We crossed the Pont d’Alma, took a pic at Diana’s flame (tomorrow is the 13 year anniversary of her death in this tunnel) and caught the metro home 3 stops.