Finally, Somewhere to Call Home

After leaving the Ngorongoro Crater we arrived at Mto Wa Mbu, our last spot where we had a walk around town and finished off with a traditional dinner. We all overate after being encouraged to finish all the food, a challenge we just couldn’t accomplish, and went back to the campsite for a celebratory drink despite our 6am departure the next morning.

We arrived in Arusha (Tanzania) on Saturday morning where half of us said goodbye to the rest of the group who would continue up to Nairobi. I explored the town and encountered my first questionable experience with a local. I was walking down the street and someone asked me how I was going, he seemed friendly enough so I responded and asked if he knew where a particular shop was. It was his day off so he was happy to walk me there which I felt relatively comfortable with considering the streets were busy enough. Upon arrival he insisted on waiting for me and walking me back despite me saying that it could be a couple of hours before I would be ready to depart. As I left he was sitting and waiting and ran to catch up to me and helped me get home, letting me know that the street we were on was popular for robberies because it can be quiet – despite the large amount of cars passing through – and he didn’t want me walking back by myself. He seemed friendly enough and I had enough trust in him to walk back to the hotel I had my bags stored at. As we neared the end he encouraged me to take a tuk tuk to my hostel rather than a taxi, granting me a good rate (which wasn’t much cheaper than a taxi). I was fine with this until he said goodbye and said that both he and his friend would come to collect me in half an hour. Now I’ve heard a lot about traveling solo in Africa, particularly as a female, and it’s been quite common to be robbed in a taxi or tuk tuk if there are two people taking you. Perhaps this guy was friendly and he really did want to ensure I got to my new hostel safely, but I’ve also learned that while traveling alone I have to trust my instincts, and something about the situation was putting me on edge. I said goodbye to him and he told me he’d be waiting, but I walked into the gated car park, got to reception and requested a taxi to pick me up immediately. As we drove past he was there waiting and attempted to yell out to us, but I told the driver to continue on and he did as I asked, seeming to understand the situation.

In over 4 months this was the only ‘close call’ I had, and I don’t think it’s even worth calling a close call. It’s quite likely that I would’ve got to my hostel safe and sound, but there are some risks worth taking and some that just aren’t. I had planned on taking a taxi despite the higher cost so was unphased in going back to this plan and taking the lesser risk.

I arrived safely at Banana Farm Eco Hostel where I would call home for the next three weeks, my last stop in Africa. I had organised to volunteer for the hostel in exchange for a private room and meals and was unsure what to expect. Driving through the gates I was welcomed in to a new world, secluded from the bustling village outside. The vibe was homely and I looked forward to my free time that I could spend in the hammocks or sitting at the tables in the outdoor garden area. Bananas filled all free spaces and I was told to eat as many as I wanted whenever I wanted. I was introduced to Godwin, my ‘boss’ for the upcoming weeks and could immediately see the passion he had for both his hostel and his guests. He aims to provide people with a more traditional homestay experience than that of a regular hostel and has the customer service to prove it. Proudly boasting its ‘Eco’ name, Godwin has installed a biogas system aided by the cows, a compost system, as well as recycling which is surprisingly hard to find in African hostels I’ve found.

I was shown to my room and immediately emptied my entire bag into the wardrobe, thrilled at the prospect of living like a regular human being for a bit. Constantly moving around can certainly take a toll, and I was excited to have a place to call home for three weeks, the last time having been in Cape Town in March when I worked for two weeks, something that felt like years ago. I spent the afternoon relaxing, exhausted from the tour that had only concluded that morning and feeling the effects of the four months I had spent traveling.

I ventured into town the next day, walking the 1.5km to the main road and boarding a daladala. A daladala is Tanzania’s public bus, providing me with a similar experience to that of my time in Malawi with their buses. There is a flat rate of 500tsh, approximately $0.5 AUD, which you pay to the ‘conductor’ who stands at the door whistling to the public in the hope of finding customers. Eventually he’ll shake a handful of coins in your face which translates to ‘pay your fee’ and you hand over your cash. I don’t think it’s possible to have a comfortable ride on the daladalas, with all of them constantly at maximum capacity if not exceeding what they’re allowed. I followed our position on google maps so as to get off at the right stop before walking towards the town centre in search of Tigo, a telecommunications company that I could buy a SIM card from for internet usage at the hostel. Wifi was provided however with the research I need to do for South America I figured I would benefit from faster 4G, allowing me to also spend time calling various friends and family.

The first couple of days at the hostel were relaxed and I slowly learnt everyone’s names, something I’ve grown quite skilled at since being away. I was excited for what was in store for me and above all, thankful to have a room to call my own and some form of routine to keep for the next few weeks.

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