18 - 21 March: Farewell weekend for Mae in Iringa.

An invitiation to share Mae’s farewell camping trip to Ruaha National Park was impossible to turn down so I travelled to Iringa in excited anticipation of this!
We met Shalin at Neema’s then shared in his exploration of several business enterprises in Iringa. Shalin had spent four productive hours with Tony, the founder of Neema’s. You might remember that Neema’s was where I bumped into the Melbourne Carey students on their World Challenge community project back in December. It is a very successful Cafe and Craft Workshop supported and run by local disabled and deaf people.
Having walked the whole town visiting various cafes, restaurants and other small businesses, (with my rucksack on as I had just arrived in Iringa!!) we finally arrived at Mae’s, freshened up and the three of us headed out to enjoy dinner at the restaurant Sai Villa.
Saturday morning the rain settled in. This, together with several other factors, led to the decision to abandon camping to Ruaha NP and instead depart @ 4.30am Sunday for a day trip instead.
We shared a lazy morning chatting together over many cuppa’s then, when the sun came out, we were joined by a teaching colleague of Mae’s and travelled the ½ hour by dala dala to Isimila Rock. Mae had befriended her colleague only last week on observation rounds. She is a vivacious, fun loving Tanzanian with a heart of gold. She is a lecturer of trainee teachers at the Teachers’ College with Mae. On her meagre wage she supports both her brother and sister and another young, needy youth in their schooling. She is passionate about helping her people and is collecting warm clothes when she can afford to, and plans to take them to the rural families higher in the mountains, at the end of April before the really cold weather settles in.
Her name is Philomena.
It was easy to love her. Even though she is only in her late 20’s she has decided that she will be my African Mama as she is my Australian Mum’s namesake!!
She is beautiful in every way Mum....just like you!
We are sad that Mae didn’t meet her earlier in her placement!
Isimla Rock reveals an area eroded by the elements revealing rock strata as ancient as the Stone Age. Many rocks lying loose were tools for survival; knives, spear heads axes etc. We wandered for several hours having first been informed by our guide of the history recorded in the museum. The Valley of Stones, and further afield, The Gorge of Pillars....A geographical wonderland explained carefully by our friendly guide.
Havin heard so much about Roland, I finally had the pleasure of meeting him and sharing our Ruaha adventure with him. roland , a VSO vol of 2 yrs @ Iringa Teachers’ College and his girlfriend, Stephie, had supported Mae throughout her 6 months of challenges. To them I was grateful as they had kept her sane (I think!)
Sunday 20 March 4.30am: Into the full moonlit night we set off on our Adventure to Ruaha NP.
Apparently this Full moon was the closest the moon had been to earth in 19 years. It’s illumination over the dark, African land was eerily spectacular. A perfect start to what was to become one of those magical, unforgettable days that etch themselves clearly in your memory!!
What was special?
• A day shared with my friends and with Mae’s special friends.
• Breakfast with the hippos
• A countryside filled with lush green beauty
• The diversity of native birds and animals – all colors shapes and sizes. Hippos, giraffes, zebras, baboons warthogs, implalas,.....and there was more...!!!
• a family of elephants wallowing in the mud
• a herd of Impalas tolerating a torrential downpour
• Unending Boabab trees with fully leaved canopies glistening after the rain
• Slipping and sliding in 4WD mode through the muddy tracks and NOT getting bogged!!
• Fay’s anxiety with Arthurs’ driving and Arthur’s carefree attitude and fun loving jokes
• THE ULTIMATE: Discovering a whole pride of lions: Dad, Mum teenagers, kids and babies.....Mae’s screams of delight (or fright to be more accurate!) were quickly hushed by all four of us in fear of her inciting an attack. Peace reigned as an hour of entertainment unfolded almost an arms’ length away from us!!!!
Thank you Fay and Arthur for giving us this day.
I am looking forward to going camping with you and sharing more time with you in the future.

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