BootsnAll Travel Network

“Where are your teachers?”

After a relaxing five day stay in Amani, we decided our next destination would be the western side of the Usumbara mountains-Amani is on the eastern side.  We had heard of a farm in Loshoto that produced it’s own jam, cheeses, and breads and also offered nice accommodations overlooking the town of Loshoto which is home to some amazing hiking, so we decided that this would be our next destination.  The only issue, how to get there from Amani.  There is zero public transportation off a mountain and through a rain forest.  The closest town was over an hours drive away.  Luck was on our side again, however, because the owner’s our campsite in Amani were actually headed in that same directions and offered to drop us at the nearest town where we could catch a shuttle up the mountain to Loshoto.  PERFECT!  So, in the morning after breakfast, we piled into Steven’s and Pia’s land rover and headed down the mountain.  About ten minutes into our drive, we rounded a corner and came face to face with a huge downed tree that stretched all the way across the road, making it impossible to pass.  Now, this type of situation in the U.S. would be no big deal.  You make a call on your cell, someone comes out, cuts the tree with a chainsaw, hauls it out of the way and off you go.  In Africa, first off, there are no chainsaws, which is really baffling considering these people live off the land, making their houses out of trees.  So, how do they cut trees?  With a knife about the length of my arm.  A very thin knife.  They hack away at a branch for hours and hours.  So, when we arrived at the downed tree, there was already a local man hacking away at this massive tree trunk with basically a butcher knife.  We were stuck.  So, the local man and campsite owners spoke in swahili and the local said he would walk back to a friends house and barrow an ax.  This was a bit more promising than the knife.  By the time he showed up with the ax, there were about 20 other locals waiting like us to pass through this narrow mountian road.  So, for about an hour, each local took turns swinging the ax at this massive tree.  Each took about ten swings, then passed the ax on.  Amazing teamwork.  About half way through the process when all was going well, we heard a big SNAP and the falling of more trees, directly above our heads.  People dashed in all directions, trying to escape the new falling tree.  Luckily, branches and vines from neighboring trees caught it and no one was hurt.  The chopping resumed and we were soon pushing the giant log off to the side of the road.  We were off again.

Pia and Steven dropped us off at the bottom of the western Usumbara mountain and we were able to catch a shuttle up to Loshoto.  Similar to the Dhala Dhala, we piled into a small mini van with about 21 other people, some hanging out of the side sliding door and away we went.  Upon arriving in Loshoto, as in most bus stations in Tanzania, we were met with hagglers pulling us in different directions, asking if we need a taxi, do we need a place to stay, how about a bottle of water, banana, coke, sunglasses, melted candy bar???  We decided to stick with our originial plan and took a taxi to Irenti Farm, which was about 6 km outside of the chaos of Loshoto.  It was a beautiful place and the homemade jam was incredible.  Some of the sweetest jam I have ever tasted.  The farm was on a hillside and a 1km trail walk leads you to the most incredible over-look/view point I’ve ever seen.  The view-point was on a cliff-side so high that you could see the ocean, which was a least a three hours drive away.  It was really a beautiful experience until locals started approaching us for money.  It seems everywhere we walked people were asking for “changey, changey” meaning bills not pocket change of course.  We came across a kid with a chameleon and he offered to let us hold it, so we did.  Little did we know we would have to pay him for it.  When we tried to refuse, he insisted so we gave him pocket change of about two dollars and he looked at us like we spit in his face.  He said, “no, no, my friend, more.”  We were shocked.  Here was a little kid expecting us to give him several more dollars for holding a chameleon.  We just laughed and walked away.

The next day, we decided to go out exploring more hiking trails.  Instead of heading toward the view point again, and in an attempt to miss all of the hagglers, we hiked in the opposite directions.  We past a few young kids along the way and in broken english they told us we were heading toward their school.  Sure enough, the trail wound right past a school and school yard.  Needless to say, schools are very different in Africa than in the U.S.  If I had to explain it, I would say that it’s basically a couple of concrete building, no windows, no doors, no sign of books, blackboards and basically no one inside any of the buildings.  The kids are usually hanging out outside in the yard, playing tag or talking in little groups or just watching people go by.  No one is outside supervising them.  In fact, all of the shools that we have seen all over Tanzania, there are never any adults arounds what so ever.  This school was no different and when we walked by on the trail, we were mobbed with kids!  About fifty of them came running toward us, saying “Jambo,” “Hello,” “How are you?!”  It was crazy!  Several of them were carrying large amounts of wood and big sticks, so we asked them what the wood was for.  Many of them didn’t know English (which they are suppose to be learning in school), but a few of the older kids said that they were collecting fire wood for the kitchen.  That was their project for the day…collecting fire wood.  Once they realized that we were walking the trail, all of them wanted to go with us and be our guide (for a fee of course).  We politely refused and told them that we didn’t have any money, but the didn’t care.  As soon as we started our hike again, we were being followed and lead down the trail by about 50 kids.  None of them would go back.  We stopped every now and then and asked them “Shouldn’t you be in school?”  “Yes,” they would all reply, but not a single one turned to go back.  So, we continued on and after about a half hour we stopped to rest.  Again we said “You should go back to school.”  “Yes,” they would reply but not a single one turned back.  So, we told them again “We do not have any money, no changey to give you.”  They stared at us blankly.  Christy then said “Where are your teachers?”  A few of the kids shrugged their shoulders “I don’t know.”  So, we said “Go back to school” but none would go.  We continued on our hike and a few of the kids in front pointed us toward another view point and when we arrived, they asked for money.  We said to them again “we have no money.”  So one kid pulled on Christy’s watch.  She pulled her arm away and it was at that time we decided to call it quits on the hike.  So, we headed back down the mountain with kids in tow back to their school.  We scanned the grounds for any teachers, but there were none.  Luckily the kids stayed behind as we continued our hike back to our bed and breakfast.

Tags: ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *