Day One, 3 August: Arrival at Kilimanjaro and Overnight at River Tree Lodge
My flight with Kenya Air from Johannesburg to Nairobi went very well. Nairobi is a big airport with lots of souvenir booths.
My tour group, Dana, M.E., and Susanne arrived an hour before me at Kilimanjaro airport where Jeremiah (H M Safaris) was waiting for us. He transferred us by safari vehicle to River Trees Lodge in Arusha, a forty minute drive away.
The staff welcomed us with a glass of refreshing hibiscus juice. We were exhausted from all the traveling but excited to be there. River Trees Lodge has a beautiful rustic setting with tall age-old trees, like baobab and age-old oaks dotted around.
We had one recurring problem at each lodge – regardless of our booking for single beds, double or king size beds would await us. The management would then make a switch. We loved the mosquito nets draped over the beds. The lodgings throughout the tour were very comfortable, whether in a lodge or in a tented camp.
Day Two, 4 August: Arusha and Overnight at Ngorongoro Farmhouse
We had a delicious breakfast early the next morning and then left to start our journey. The traffic is hectic, to say it mildly! Three, four people on a motorbike, colorful taxi minibuses, big lorries, carts, and bicycles. I loved all the names and slogans on the taxis.
We stopped at the Cultural Heritage Center. Galleries of authentic African art spiral upwards, each piece carefully dated and labeled. Intricately carved sculptures of people and animals have a place of pride on the floors while finely crafted furniture of dark and light woods from ancient forests rests comfortably on the polished floors.
Decorative jewels, mother of pearl inserts, ebony, and ivory catch the light. Also known as Arusha Guggenheim, it is a truly beautiful treasure chest of art and crafts. Jane Goodall will be visiting a few days after we leave Tanzania to check the progress on the new Jane Goodall Museum on the premises.
Then, it was time to visit Gideon Festibula’s Luwaini English Medium School. Gideon is also the owner of HM Safaris. What a joyous day we had!
We observed a class in action, and then we gathered under a tree for a big presentation. The school children treated us to enthusiastic singing, and individual oral presentations, after which we handed over donations to the school.
We had a big surprise when the teachers gifted us lengths of material, and wrapped it around our bodies, Tanzania-style!
The staff invited us to lunch outside under a tent, and we enjoyed chicken, beef, ugali, fries, and salad.
We left the school in high spirits and proceeded to Mto Wa Mbu (River of Mosquitoes) where Jeremiah grew up. The tuk-tuks were waiting to take us on a tour of the village.
We walked through the rice paddies while the guide explained the cultivation process. He then took us to a small hut where we could taste the locally brewed banana beer and banana wine. Surprisingly, we enjoyed the wine!
We were intrigued to see the different types of homes people built, using mud and sticks or stones with palm leaves or reeds for the roofs.
We ambled through the fresh produce market, admiring the healthy specimens of fruit and vegetables for sale. We also saw some tiny, dried fish.
Jeremiah waited for us at the clinic where his mother worked as midwife coordinator.
We had a short visit before continuing to Ngorongoro Farmhouse where we would stay for three nights. What a beautiful setting! Surrounded by a coffee plantation, vegetable gardens, beautiful trees, and pool area, this lodge relies on its own fresh produce for meals. Our rooms were beautiful, complete with a lounge area, fireplace, tea and coffee facilities, and a beautiful outdoor porch. We arrived just in time for a free Happy Hour gin and tonic! The chefs prepared all meals out of doors. I loved the choices of barbecued meat while my friends enjoyed the stir-fry options. The staff was fiercely attentive, hovering over us and satisfying our every whim!