After our overnight stay in Saadani National Park we had planned to head North in Tanzania about 7 hrs. to Lushoto. Lushoto is located north of Dar in the Usumbara mountain range. Our trip there was pretty eventful.. would you expect anything else?? First off, we drove from Saadani so we were off of the main road for quite awhile. Bumbling along the red dirt African roads is both exhilarating, nerve-racking and well.. bumpy. Take into consideration that since we left Dar es Salaam we had not seen a petrol station and we’re watching the needle slowly decline. This includes the 3.5 hrs drive from Dar to Saadani and now we are headed on a 7 hr. trip north with the diesel we have in the tank. Never fear. They sell 12oz pop bottles full of it on the side of the road in some villages if you should need it. Thankfully we never had to test if the pop bottle diesel was legit or not.
We made it to the main paved road and started forging ahead making great time when the call from the back comes. “Dad, I have to pee!” We were on the outskirts of a small village and as we pulled over to take J to use the good ole’ side of the road potty someone pulls on a motor bike just ahead of us. Bruce got out of the car to get J out and notices the rear driver’s side tire is smoking significantly. This is why the man on the motorbike pulled over as well. This man was definitely our person of peace.. or angel in disguise or whatever you wish to call him. Within minutes he hops back on his bike and rides back to the village (this is where he lives) and comes back with his friend who is a car mechanic by trade! Long story short, prior to this happening Bruce had felt the brakes go a little funny. The back brake had disengaged and was now burning against the tire well. Never fear.. better than ‘AAA’ road side assistance this mechanic just jumps on the job. He removes the brake and plugs the line, refills the break fluid for the remaining brakes, tests the remaining brakes and hands us a plastic goodie bag with our brake in it. Good to go. Who knew we could drive with only 3 brakes! (<— enter a slight amount of sarcasm here) All said and done the man and his friend were a blessing and only in Africa (to my knowledge) can you break down in a small village, have complete strangers approach you to jerry-rig your brakes on the side of the road and be on your way again in less than an hour. Service with a smile.
We made it to the base of the mountain after that with little problems, even finding a petrol station and a place to buy a cold soda/juice or two to cool off. Most of the ride was beautiful with the mountain views and the vivid colors. Once we hit the base of the mountain and started to ascend we could feel the temp dropping. (Glory! haha) The trip up the mountain was not for the faint of heart. Its basically one road that is used to go up or down and it may or may not have
a small place to pass if say a bus is coming at you from the opposite direction. We are talking no guard rails should you get to close to the edge and my thought is, “What good would they be anyhow with a big bus coming at you and nowhere to go?” Bruce was enjoying the ascent. He was peeking over the edge now and then saying “WOW look at that waterfall!” I saw no waterfalls, no beautiful views. My cheeks were clenched tight and I had hawk eyes looking up the mountain for potential oncoming vehicles. We couldn’t get there soon enough in my opinion. (ok. so if I let myself relax. it was beautiful.) Also, since getting out of the mud we had a clunking and grinding noise coming from the front of the vehicle. It didn’t sound too serious so we said a prayer and forged ahead.
We got a tip about a place to stay called Irente Biodiversity Farm. We had heard boasts of its German roots and the bread and cheese and were lured in. Haha! Irente is actually an area that is owned and run by the Lutheran Church. It runs a full dairy farm and a jam making business and has several schools. One for Autistic and mentally challenge children and one for blind and deaf children. It also has a small section with cabins and camping and a small cafe’ restaurant. We had a perfect sized cabin that really was very quaint and simple. It was relaxing and we loved it. The weather was in the 60’s during the day and the 40’s at night. We froze and we loved it! Yes, we have become total cold weather sissies after living in hot/humid climates. The kids had hours of fun running in the grassy area surrounding the cabin. (A rare treat to have grass!) We took a hike through the nearby village to one of the many view points. It was quite a hike for the kids but definitely paid off with the views. Unfortunately the weather was not the best for taking pictures but we took mental pictures. In places like Africa you get to experience for the most part a lot of raw, natural, non-commercialized beauty. This comes with a trade off as there are also no railings or proper stairs or safety measures there to protect you (and you can’t sue anyone if anything should happen). This is part of the wild beauty of Africa. However with a 7, 5 and 1 year old it definitely gives you a healthy sense of fear as you grip their little hands a little tighter and keep them on a shorter leash.
We also went to the dairy farm on the premises because we had heard rumors that you could milk a cow. If you know Bruce, you know if there’s a chance to do anything different and remotely strange we are in! So Bruce, J and A all tried their hand at milking a cow. Me.. well it just hit to close to home since I was still nursing L. 🙂
The man who milks these 30-40 cows twice daily BY HAND had forearms like cuban missiles.
To continue our car drama, before we left the mountain we had another fundi (mechanic) come up the mountain to check out the mysterious clunking sound coming from the front. Come to find out that the front drive shaft had come detached and was causing the noise clanking in the wheel well. Hence, the reason the 4wd wasn’t working anymore when we were in the game park. So what did he do? Was he able to fix it right there and then? No! He simply took it out and yes.. handed it to us in a plastic bag. There are no words.
Thankfully our drive home was beautiful and uneventful with the exception of the stop at the ONLY restaurant stop on the 6.5 hr journey between Lushoto and Dar. There are times we feel like we are living in a fishbowl and this was definitely one of those times. It’s hard being foreign here sometimes when there are certain people who just shamelessly stare at you and you’re trying to politely eat your lunch. Thankfully it doesn’t phase us too much anymore and we enjoyed some yummy Tanzanian food and were on our way. We loved our time up North. It was such a change from the fast, hot, pace of Dar and even different from our village. I think we would definitely like to go there again sometime. Until then we will be piecing our car back together. 😉