“Some people love to chase money; live for the fame; drive fancy cars; eat at the best restaurants; wear the latest fashion; have the latest gadget; live it large etc.
And I just want new stamps to countries I’ve never traveled to before!” ~ Sadia Ibrahim
I now take every opportunity I get to travel within Africa – if it’s easy to get there; visa free and cheap, count me in!
A bunch of my friends, who all happen to be French, had been training for The Kili Marathon taking place in Moshi, Tanzania. The travel dates were 26th – 28th February.
Initially it didn’t look like I was going to make it to Moshi. But of course, when you set an intention and put your heart into it, manifestation happens.
6 days before the Moshi trip, everything fell into place. One of my friends fell out of the race because he injured his leg so there was space in the car (poor Rémi) and I had a project to handle the same week which basically paid for my trip.
Gauthier handled the transport, Emmanuelle (Emma) handled the accommodation and we were all set to meet at Emma’s place on Friday, 26th Feb at 12.30pm.
Gauthier, Emma, Matthieu, Emilie, Paul and I set off for Namanga border. Oliver was going to join us the next day. We left at 1.30pm and got there around 4.30pm.
Immigration at the Namanga border is the most frustrating and the most interesting thing I have ever come across.
Travelers: No matter where you go, whether they ask for it or not, carry your yellow fever card! Attach it to your passport somehow but never travel outside a country without it.
A random check for your yellow fever card as you exit Kenya was requested for; those who didn’t have one were asked to get a shot and a new certificate.
There was a mishap with Matthieu’s passport – he by mistake carried his regular passport instead of diplomatic which had his Kenya visa in,
so they wouldn’t allow him to exit. There was however “a way” to let him exit but he refused to take that path. He called Oliver to pick his diplomatic passport from the embassy, and bring it with him the next day. Matthieu spent the night at a little hotel in Namanga.
We crossed over to get our entry stamps for Tanzania, the process was short but it took forever! I am not going to get into how the systems work, but Namanga Immigration needs to learn a thing or 10 from Busia’s Immigration!
We left Namanga at 6.45pm and got to Karibu Hostel at 10.15pm. We were welcomed warmly by one of the Volunteers. He showed us around, gave us the rules and we settled in. Dinner was still being served – Mexican chicken with guacamole and chapatti. The bar only opens on Friday’s and the rest of the Spanish crew were in the garden and asked us to join them! What an awesome welcome!
Side note: Karibu Hostel is a Spanish NGO called BORN TO LEARN. Spanish individuals travel to Moshi to teach English to young students on a volunteering basis.
Saturday, 27th Feb
Got up for breakfast – They had banana bread, all sorts of jams, toast, teas, coffee, cold and hot milk, cereal – it was a proper breakfast!
Emilie, Emma and I were sharing a room with a Finnish lady called Eeva and we asked her to tag along with us for the day – she was visiting from Dar for the Marathon as well.
We made our way out for the day, in search of a spot called “Maji Moto”. Our driver was Kenyan. So he obviously didn’t know the way to most of the places and neither did we. So we stopped to ask a number of people where this little piece of paradise was. Some called it “Chamuka” a translate into Swahili from Hot Springs though it really means “boiling”.
Every few kilometers into this unbelievably dry, dusty and long marram road, we came across someone or another and the driver kept asking how many kilometers further it was – We were using Google Maps now and sort of got frustrated at every single stop because we had an idea of where we were going. We reached a point where it was rather evident that we were close as there were suddenly green trees and bushes around which means water exists here! Yet he still stopped to ask how much further! *sigh*
We turned to the left and voila! We finally made it! The official name for Maji Moto actually is Kikuletwa Hotsprings.
This little piece of paradise left me dumbstruck. The colours were incredible. I have never in my life seen colours like those – only in images, but never in person. It was hard to believe that something this beautiful exists in the middle of nowhere and that too in an African country!
As read on TripAdvisor.com: One of the best places to go to in Kilimanjaro region. Located in the semi arid desert of Boma, this spring is a source of water for farmers who mainly farm onions in that area but is also a recreational spot for both tourists and locals. The tourist fee is only 5000Tshs. Best time to go there is Early afternoon and best thing to do there is swim like a fish and camp the night out around a bone fire.
We hung out in the hot spring for about an hour – then got out to grab lunch. They had a little shack called “Hot Spring Restaurant & Bar” where they made the legendary Tanzanian Street Food
“Chips Mayai” and had some Nyama Choma going as well.
After lunch we set off to Karibu Hostel to get their passports then pick up the registration stuff for the marathon. As an event organizer, everything about the marathon seemed a little disorganized, but who am I to say, I haven’t participated in one since 1998!
Mount Kilimanjaro started to clear up, we could somewhat see the peak of the Mountain as we walked into Moshi Town to shop for some basic needs. The screen protector on my phone managed to come off and I found a little shop in town where I got a glass screen protector for 10,000 Tanzanian Shillings. I don’t care if in Tanzania that was a rip off, but when you convert that to Kenya Shillings it’s less than 500 and less than 5 Dollars! My phone’s a happy device now!
Moshi Town felt vibrant and fun – some interesting buildings and interesting bars and restaurants.
We weren’t ready to walk back to the hostel so we decided to take Boda-Boda’s. Of course, this is when my Swahili is needed. I was negotiating with a guy for 5 Boda-Boda’s (because we will never ever pile up on one anywhere in the world – unless it’s a last resort!) and suddenly all my friends go “Sadia!”I turn around and say “What?!” And Emma points up to the sky, I turn around and Mount Kilimanjaro has cleared up. That was my favourite moment. The Mountain looks so majestic and I look forward to climbing it soon!
Get back to the hostel, met Robbie who was visiting from Ireland – he and Andy, another bloke just travelling through had made plans to go out that night to watch some football and rugby, I was keen as I wanted to check out the night life!
We chilled out in the garden. Snack, chat a bit as Oliver and Mattieu arrived from Namanga. Then Eeva and I decided to play Volley Ball! Emma and Matthieu joined us. A good one hour of fun!
Robbie, Andy and I left for Moshi Town! Found a bar called Pub Alberto. Looked like a place that turns into a riot at night! I was starving – Had fish and chips for dinner. The footy was on, but not the match Robbie wanted to watch. And the bar guys just wouldn’t change the channel even though no one was really watching TV. Our cut off point was when they put on the 9pm news! We moved on over to Black Diamond! Yes, Moshi has a Black Diamond too and it’s better than Nairobi’s! (Yes, I said it!)
We hopped on to Boda’s at around 12.30am to head back to the hostel.
So it’s the 3 of us, I have an idea of how to get there but I get thrown off completely when Robbie’s boda goes in a completely different direction. So I get my boda guy to follow him but now we can’t find him and the boda guy just wanted to take me back so he can get on with his night. I find Andy on the side of the road and say, dude we lost Robbie. Andy’s like, Robbie’s a big boy, he will find his way. We drive in and Robbie’s waiting outside for us. My boda guy got paid a little more than he should have because of the diversion earlier on.
So now here we are, Robbie, Andy and I and everyone’s asleep with no one to open the gate for us. I bang the lock on the gate, shake the gate, scream hello and nada. So Andy’s had a few to drink and decides to climb over the gate and look for help. Robbie and I decide we’ll try to slide through under the gate. Just as we were about to get to the ground, the care taker came over and opened up for us. Andy, poor thing, ripped his shorts and got a cut on his leg trying to get over the gate (I have to add that it may not sound as hilarious reading this but we were in fits of laughter as all this was happening and I am laughing right now as I type this).
Sunday, 28th Feb
Just before 5am, the Tanzanian Police train every night – singing songs up and down the street we were on and woke everyone up. I heard everyone running around getting ready to head to the marathon. I was asleep for a bit in the morning and was also probably the only one at the hostel at that point – but woke up feeling horrible – that flu was kicking in.
Showered, changed and had breakfast as everyone, one by one, came through after finishing the marathon. I had already packed up and waited on the others.
Talk of the morning was how disorganized the event was, how challenging the marathon was and their track record.
Before heading back to Nairobi, we decided to grab lunch at a local joint. Suggestions were a Mexican Restaurant, an Italian Restaurant or an Authentic Tanzania Restaurant called The Taj Mahal – so unfitting but we chose to go there.
Found taxi’s and made our way there. We were welcomed by grills on the sidewalk cooking what they call “Zanzibari Pizza” and what looked like Chicken Tikka. Inside, they had pilau, mandazi’s and the like going on. We ordered for Zanzibari Pizza – which was great!
And then went back to the hostel. Said bye to our hosts and left for Nairobi.
The trip back felt super long. We came across a “sand twister” or “sand tornado”. It was incredible. The land was so dry that all the fog wasn’t moist, it was a thick layer of dust in the air that you couldn’t see further than 10 meters ahead. Eventually we drove out of it and a little further it was raining. Bizarre weather coming back.
Traffic police: I feel calm and oddly proud to say this, but Kenyan Police are much better than Tanzanian Police. We got stopped a number of times coming into Tanzania and while leaving and they stop you for the most random things and ALSO make stuff up and try to charge you, until you pay a bribe because you’re in a hurry to leave. Such a shame.
The border process getting out of Tanzania and into Kenya was so much easier and better than getting out of Kenya and into Tanzania – which was really weird. I’m just glad it happened quickly and we were out fast.
Got back to Nairobi around 8pm but wasn’t home till 9pm.
This trip was different and interesting – I have to say I didn’t take any time to get to know the place better, learn a bit of history and all that as it was constant go-go-go. Which is probably why I will have to go back to Tanzania, to gain more knowledge and experience more places and see new things.
Tanzania is a huge country, and Moshi was just a little fraction of it – I’m not done with that beautiful country.