June 26. Hiking….eating….socialising…eating..and a loooong walk!!

Susan and I, together with Daniel our guide and the trainee guide, Ann, climbed our way into the mountains.
The first German built church; local dukas (shops);
the secondary school; a newer bigger church to accommodate the larger population;
Monday = Public works Day = All the community are building a new road into the mountain top to carry the dead to a hilltop cemetery. Small groups of man and women working, burning firs to heat the huge rocks then split them apart to remove them, trees being chopped down etc…clearing the land preparing for machinery to come later; up through the thick rain forest, many varieties of trees, fruit plantations, wild strawberries, peppermint and guava; bricks drying waiting to fire,
the natural Healer’s Boma; finally the Malameni Cave where the women & children hid whilst the men fought the Maasai years ago and today the Mbaga villagers offer prayers for the fulfillment of their wishes.;

We snacked at Malameni Rock. This huge rock, about 70 meters high, was used for killing abnormal children because they were believed to be carrying evil spirits. They were either left on it to die or thrown over the edge to join the spirits It is very sacred and imposing! Susan, not so good with heights, slid herself along the ledge on which we sat, to obtain the breathtaking views.

Again, just like in the French Alps, I was in my element….on top of the world …..this time in Africa!!

 Having reached the road back to Tona, we were given a cob of roasted mahindi by local road side seller who was very happy to meet us!
 A familiar sight of the structures built to fire the mudbricks before using them to build a house. The bricks are piled on top of each other; the structure is smothered in grasses then two fires are lit in the openings at the base. This gently dries them out hardens them.

Downwards and homebound, we explored the waterfalls and bush bashed our way through eucalyptus plantations…the smell made me rather homesick!
The descent was certainly a good leg workout!….Back at Tona we joined Phyl for a huge satisfying lunch after which we climbed a short way down the hill to meet Monica’s family. Her daughter, Love, had mad a big pot of Maize and beans.
We discovered that when you visit it inevitably involves sharing chai or food…
Having just finished a big lunch we had to politely eat again. It is also rude not to partake in a second helping as it will offend the cook!!....so we ate with these beautiful, warm and humble people.
Fortunately we had arranged to visit John’s mother so headed off, walking off our food and enjoying the views on our descent. Unbeknown to us when we started that the walk was going to take us 2½ hours!
“It must be just after the next church……It must be around the next corner…..”
A search party had been sent to find us and we gratefully welcomed Denis and David, young members of John’s family, and followed them to Mama John’s home where they, too, lived.
We were given a royal welcome by all the neighbors and again fed with venison, rice, bean,s fruit, chai mazewa (Milk tea)

We greeted, ate, greeted, took photos and had to say farewell just as the sun was setting…but not before Mama John had bestowed upon us a sawadi (a present representing her friendship) of beans, bananas and a LIVE chicken! We decided to collect our sawadi as we drove down the hill the following day
We were met by Daniel and Ann and accompanied on the 2 ½ hr walk back up the hill. Monica had another meal ready for us and surprisingly….we had room for her wonderful chappati.!
We fell into bed happily exhausted!

June 26. Thornton Falls..

8am: Chai = Chapati, banana and eggs
John drove us up through the clouds along the winding mountain road higher into the South Pares to the beginning of the descent to Thornton Falls. One of the highest waterfalls in Africa.

We trekked our way down along a route of farms and houses. Around the falls there are traditional superstitious caves where skulls of the dead have been preserved in pots for prayers by descendants and which are still there today. We weren’t privy to these however. There was certainly an awesome feeling as we cautiously climbed our way out on the limbs of an overhanging tree, cliff side, to get the best view over the falls! Ample supplies for our picnic and fresh sugar cane for chasers!Yum!

Meeting one of the local mountain rustas. He has been growing his dreads for 10 years!! You can see that they go all the way down to his feet!! Wow the weight must be great!

On our trek down to the waterfalls we heard some locals yelling and as we rounded the corner John acted quickly to give his help and succeeded in killing the snake which had terrorised them !

  A steep climb back up where we gratefully squatted over the open fronted choo (toilet) with an exhilarating view down of the mountain range. Definitely a room with a view!!

Susan’s long time friend, Gertrude, met us back at Tona and walked us high into the hilltop to her home which her husband had built. Gertrude proudly showed us the buildings she had built. A sturdy chicken coup and cow shed. She then showed us how to make the traditional Tz meal of maize and beans (mkundi) over her jiko which uses minimal fuel. Chooks cat and kids wandered in and out as we laughed and shared then ate together. A saying in Tz is “return your visitors before the sun sets” as it is good charma! We were grateful to be heading off in the light as it was a steep descent with water crossings. We made our way down through the mountain villages and homes passing cultured gardens and lush vegetation! Their lives are very healthy, people are friendly and the children suffer very little malaria or colds. The soil is rich and productive, rain and sun aplenty. Their lifestyle involves plenty of exercise. They are relatively wealthy in their simple lives. Basic needs are being met by most.
Looking down over Tona Lodge as we climbed the hillside to Gertrude's home.

Sundowners was tangawizi chai (ginger tea) and kahawa (coffee) whilst we watched yet another amazing sunset. Hamna umeme…headlights to eat,wash and settle in again…no charging phones or batteries!!

July 25. Mkomazi National Park

An early breakfast then descended into the sleepy town of Kisawani, got water and travelled the rough dusty road to Mkomazi NP. Entrance gate was deserted. Mkomazi NP runs along the border of Kenya and has only recently been named a NP. It is flat scrubby savannah with an abundance of birdlife but little big game. We did see some ostriches, dik dik and zebras. It was a different experience from the other NP I have been in but certainly had its own charm. At chai stop I managed to attract a tick which I didn’t find until lunch time! ….fortunately it hadn’t dug too deeply into my armpit by then!
 Early morning breakfast enjoying a spectacular sunrise and planning our day.
 Chai stop....I think the tick must have got me as I took this pic
There had been confusion about our lunch and we ended up only having a meager lunch packed for 1, shared between 5 of us! However, we sat in a luxury dining tent at the camping site in the center of the NP. It costs $99 per person per night to stay there. Views across the savanna were to die for at the cushy, 5 star camping ground! Bird watchers….you would love it! We were happy to pretend and didn’t notice the meager lunch rations!

 Surveying the savannah across Mkomazi NP
 3 Aussie Girls...(well nearly...Sue is NZ! Pole!)
 Limited rations. L-R: Phyl, Sue, John
 Birds galore out there!
5 star camping!

Dinner by candle light, knitting, wrapped in our Maasai shukas, reading and chatting by candelabra in our cottage..

Hamna umeme tena!!
Phyl in here Maasia shuka and Susan in her homemade sleeping bag
On returning, we took sodas at Kisawani and watched the locals slowly going about their daily lives.
Back to Tona Lodge = Hamna Umeme…no electricity. Our accommodation was full of character! Intermittent electricity supply was to become our way of life during our stay but being used to this occurrence we were well armed with headlights, torches and candles. Dinner by candle light, knitting, reading and chatting by candelabra in our cottage.. What more could we want? We were very happy.