Friday, February 26, 2010

The Green Hills of Africa

Once a journey is designed, equipped and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all other journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality and uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip, a trip takes us.
John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley

Mount Meru, from Rivertrees, Usa River.

On the road, Dar es Salaam to Arusha (Usa River), the most beautiful 9 hour journey made slightly more endurable by the presence of g&t's.

To start with: the drive from Dar es Salaam to Arusha has a reputation close to that of Tiger Woods at the moment - happily poo poo'ed by everyone. We were slightly hesitant but determined to drive, and in retrospect I am so glad we did - it's now up there in our 'must dos' for those living in Dar es Salaam.

Roughly 600km, it took exactly 9hrs each way. Sisal bushes changed into coffee plantations, and by mid afternoon we had reached Rivertrees. We were warmly welcomed in true Tanzanian style, by Joel the assistant manager. The setting is quite exquisite, perfectly manicured lawns littered with grand old trees.

After humid and heated Dar, the green oasis was a relief. The rooms are simple but very comforting, and the four poster beds well- pillowed. Delicious meals were served in the dining room, complete with a blazing fire and large glasses of red wine. Msafiri was always happy to supply yet another fresh bread roll - straight from the oven and lathered with butter. I am not sure who could resist?! All in all exactly what we needed, coming from a totally different climate, and most definitely a relaxing start to a surprisingly energetic safari.


Rest in Peace beautiful, fat, loving, darling Poeding...
Please, enough bad news for one week!


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Roller Coaster Ride

I am exhausted after a week of the highest highs and two quite severe lows. I want to just pass out on my bed and sleep for days but it is too freakin hot! I wish I was back in the cool plains of the Serengti with Hibiscus, silently sipping on a G&T.

As you can imagine, the above constitutes one of my highs. Actually that was THE high of an amazing, unforgettable road trip with my friend. We were in the middle of “the endless plains”, having sundowners surrounded by tens of thousands of wildebeest. It is quite simply indescribable! The Serengti really took my breath away…

But I will bore you with all the fantastic details of our trip at a later stage, I am just too emotional to do that right now! Also look out for some reviews on the wonderful places we stayed at, made all the more memorable by the fellow guests we met as well as the excellent staff!

Life came CRASHING down, and it was back to reality upon our return to Dar Es Salaam. Obviously the one low has to do with a man! It hurts like hell, but when your friends climb onto your bed to dry your tears accompanied by a bottle of Jack Daniels you know that time heals and you WILL survive this heart break.

Secondly I had to say goodbye to one of those Jack swigging friends last night. Hibiscus is on her way to Cape Town…My friend, I will miss you so very much! I will miss 5 star dinners at your flat, your 80’s music, your laugh, endless conversation of the red soil and the men it enchants, which in turn enchant us! I will miss getting drunk on your couch, your jokes and dancing on chairs/sofas of five star lodges! I will miss you, I will miss you! Mother City, take care of this girl and until we meet again Hibiscus, leave no stone unturned!

From your friend Karen aka Andizi ;-)

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Back in the ol' days in Dar

(Photo: archives/Kosta_2.jpg)

I remember:

- when Kimweri Rd was a dirt road.... Shooters Pub & Grill was quite a dusty place!
We had to throw buckets of water on the road, so that the you wouldn't taste the dust on your 1kg T-bone!

- when the area from Shoppers Plaza to the BP garage by Garden Road was all MARSH!!!
NO building, so shopping centers, no housing complexes!

- when you had to buy one kind of tampons (the only one available) for $8 for a packet of 10.
(Talk about saving for that time of month!)

- you only had Shoppers Plaza to go to for any kind of "imported" delicacies...
It cost an arm and a leg of course! Nowadays, no-one minds paying stupid money for it!
I mean, really, compare the price of cheese to what you pay at home......

- Haille Salaisse was the worst road in Dar es Salaam, tarmac was myth,
it was actually ridiculous to drive on it!

- Smokies - legend legend legend pub!


- And then - who remembers 420...... Pub close by Sea Cliff. Man, this was ages ago, I barely remember it!!!

- William, the best barman in town! Garden Bistro's own. Whenever anybody walked in, he would know what you drink, how you drink it and how many you could handle. When you've reached your limit, he would send out a kind warning, but still sell you more booze!! 
I am sure he's been offered gazillions of money at other bars/restaurants, but true as Bob, he's still at Garden's! He is a legend!  Next time I'll write an Ode to William..... after all, he's seen many a body shot on the bar counter on a dodgy Wednesday night, back in the day!

-  and then most important - who remembers when last they  watched the sunrise over the ocean at Coco Beach.....

~desert rose~

Friday, February 19, 2010

Hot, hot, hot...

{Image from Stock Exchange}

At the moment, I am pretty sure that if you look up the word 'sweltering' in a dictionary 'Dar es Salaam' would be mentioned somewhere because an 'uncomfortable hot atmosphere' it definitely is at the moment. February on the equator is torture. Look its hot all year round but between December and March it is unbearable. The weather forecast for today, the 19th of February 2010 reads as follows; maximum temperature of 31 degrees that will cool down to 28 degrees in the evening(?) with heavy showers (that will either prevent the heat from escaping at night OR make it even hotter), this you might say is not that hot but don't forget the 65% humidity.

After moving to Tanzania I was introduced to the concept of 'Heat Index'. The heat index is an index that combines air temperature and relative humidity in an attempt to determine the human-perceived equivalent temperature — how hot it feels. So, 31 is not the temperature we feel...after calculating it (on a website not in my imagination) it is 36!

This is make-up melting weather. I am so hot some mornings I have to apply my make-up in the bathroom at work AFTER I have cooled down, and remember this is barely 8:30!

Flying back from South Africa it feels like a hot wet blanket is thrown over your head when you step off the plane, and this is 8 o'clock at night! Atleast it gets better, when its freezing down south we have mild, balmy evenings and glorious days.

On days like today you can feel and smell africa.


Reasons to ♥ Tanzania....


The Usambara Mountains

Roadtrippin’ with friends up to the beautiful Amani Game Reserve in the East Usambara Mountains. The undulating, lush mountain range is home to unspoiled tropical rainforests that are rare in eastern Africa. We took a forest walk (well…more of a hike) up to a view point looking out over the Western range towards Lushoto, and accompanied by a park guide we were educated about the medicinal properties and local usage of the forest flora. We drove through rolling  tea estates and spent a lazy afternoon exploring a waterfall, the water misting us as it splashed over the sheer rock face. It is a beautiful part of the country, and the perfect place when you need a break from damp and dusty Dar.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hope to restore power in Zanzibar by Saturday fades

Zanzibar haven't had power since the 10th of December 2009. This is shocking because small businesses had to close down because they cant afford to buy generators or even the fuel. Zanzibar also needs power to pump water, so no power means no water.

Big resorts are running on generators 24 hours a day, imagine your distress if you booked your dream honeymoon and there is no power?

The government made promises to restore power by the 27th of February but after a key part didnt fit Zanzibaris have to wait longer for power.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Dar Directory...Digits to dial

Dar Directory


Airport – 022 284 4212

Aga Khan Hospital – 022 2115151


Bajaj – 0717 171776

BA – Saada 0754747777

Barclays Bank Slipway – 022 2601762


Coastal Aviation – 022 284 28770


Dentist – 0713353435

DSTV Fundi - 0715433533


Game - 0787072698


IST Clinic – 022 2601307


Knight Support – 022 2760087


New Image Salon – best for value: hair cuts to waxes 022 2602126


Tanesco - 0784768584


Vegetables from Iringa – 0754897380


Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Luff Story


How beautiful is that. Some dear friend gave me this "command" on a special day in my life. I've tried to do so every day..... 

Seeing that this is a special weekend surrounded by love, and somehow in some or other way, all us women are just complete suckers for it, it thought it appropriate to share a few snippets from a story of love that began years ago in Dar, unfolded in the bush and is still as beautiful as the day it began ………


“… I don’t have a lot to say except that when I wiped my face there was dirt and dust on it. I’m as happy as ever….”


“… I recited poems and memoirs to my tent flaps.

I wrote lyrics in the grass in the early morning breeze.

I worked with delicate pastry using my unskilled hands

I sketched with ashes on the bare cement

But above all, I dreamt about you

About us

That is what I did today”


“ I saw you dancing today, it was around about four thirty in the afternoon, it was to Sweet Caroline. I saw your blue eyes pierce through every vain in my body, Africa was humming in my ears…..”


 " May there always be a light on in your home. May your friends always bring wine. May the vines always carry fruit and may the dogs lie on the porch..."

Enjoy this weekend and love extravagantly! Your friends, your partners and your families!

~desert rose~

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Great Expectations

A couple of nights ago I watched one of my favourite movies…again! The Bridges of Madison County make me cry buckets every time. It is one of the most beautiful but haunting love stories and the final scene stays with me for days afterwards.

“This kind of certainty comes but once in a life”. The famous line from Clint Eastwood’s character has been dissected, debated and discussed at many a girls nights. I am not married and with my disaster of a love life I am in no position to answer if that kind of certainty does indeed exist. I would rather like to refer to another quote in the movie that I can relate to very intimately. In the notebooks that Francesca keep on her affair, she writes: “I realized love won’t obey our expectations, its mystery is pure and absolute.”

(Image from:

I thrive on expectations. Add to that a vivid and lively imagination and there is hardly space for a cloud in between all the castles I build in the sky! But things wont always go according the plan and people will fail you. This applies to nearly all aspects of my existence – my love life (especially!), my career, my family, my friends, my car, weddings, rugby games, parties, picnics – you get the picture right? I love to daydream and I am a hopeless romantic. So this begs the question - are all my expectations a good thing, or do I set myself up to be hurt and let down? I think of this especially now, in times when uncertainty rule my every day. Should I rather stick to the glass half empty mentality that says if you expect nothing, you cannot be disappointed and you might just be pleasantly surprised?

But can I really go through life like that! Would that not change the very essence of me? After careful consideration, i.e. a few glasses of wine, I have come to the conclusion that I will rather continue to dream about a great job, muse about my uncertain future and fall hopelessly in love with completely inappropriate men!

I got a Note from The Universe that said: Would you ever take a journey if you know ahead of time that you’d become completely lost, have your heart broken into pieces and sometimes wish you’d never been born? Now, how about if you knew ahead of time that on that very same journey you’d also find yourself, fall passionately in love, and live happily ever after? I have made my choice…


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Life is too short for bad coffee

I am a self proclaimed coffee snob, if its not excellent I won't drink it. Now you would think that Tanzania's proximity to Kenya and abundance of coffee farms would delight my coffee fetish but no, in my three years in Tanzania, traveling from Kilimanjaro to Zanzibar I have found but three decent cups of coffee so take note...

1. Africafe in Dar 

(luckily 5 minutes from the office making the 3x weekly take away cappuccinos realistic)

2. Zanzibar Coffee House in Zanzibar 

(They have their own roaster on the premises)

3. Ras Kutani on South Beach.

Only one word describes Ras Kutani, paradise.

This weekend visiting Ras for the third time, but this time with friends I again realized that the packed beaches of Umhlanga will never have the same appeal again. 

There are two ways of getting to Ras, by road or by air. We usually go by road which comprises of a ferry ride that is like a can take 10 minutes or 6 hours! And then another hour on a very bumpy road. The air route takes 5 minutes from Dar es Salaam airport where they proceed to row you over the lagoon with your decadent can you get...But I prefer taking the road, it is as if all the worries and stresses of Dar fall away as the tar turns to dust and the villages get further and further apart.

There is no sign directing you to Ras, just vague directions comprising of a sandy road and a well hidden half meter high white and red pole...easy to miss but obvious when you are looking out for it! And after parking your car and checking in you enter into paradise where all the walkways are sand making shoes unnecessary for the rest of the weekend.

{image from Ras Kutani}

The beach is magical with masaais setting up daybeds in pairs for guests with a blue flag to wave if an ice cold pina colada is your desire. There is a shipwreck where you see dozens of tropical fish while snorkeling, just be warned...the sun is potent and snorkeling all day can lead to nasty sunburn in the evening...

Half the bungalows are lagoon facing where you can spot a monitor lizard going for it's morning swim and the Palm Nut Vulture (A lifer as a friend remarked) looking for a palm. The other half is seafacing and you sleep with the ocean breaking basically on your doorstep. The Bungalows are constructed of natural and local materials, making a night feel like sleeping in nature, complete with monkeys coming to visit through the open roof in the mornings.

Oh and the food, Hibiscus has her hand in this, is amazing...having visited numerous lodges Ras's food is by far the best! Breakfast is a full english affair with fresh fruit and juices. After lazing on the beach the whole morning lunch follows as a three course sit down with fresh seafood in almost every dish. Dinner is served under a roof of stars overlooking the ocean with the option of dinner for two on the jetty overlooking the lagoon or on the beach for that extra romance.

So, you might by now be wondering why this post started of about coffee, THIS is the best part of Ras Kutani (well for me) the clinking of a thermos of coffee and fresh cookies baked that morning arriving on your doorstep at the time agreed the previous evening. Can you imagine my delight at discovering that it was excellent coffee! Not instant or burned local coffee but specially sourced to make that cup extra special. 

So sitting on my verandah overlooking the ocean with a cup of amazing coffee, that I didn't have to make, in my hand the thought crossed my mind that life is definitely too short for bad coffee. 


Monday, February 8, 2010

"A change in the weather is sufficient to recreate the world and ourselves." Marcel Proust

[Four seasons]

Sitting here in sunny Dar es Salaam I think of the one thing that I miss the most about home. Its not Gino Ginelli’s ice-cream or garments from The Space, tarred roads or camembert. Second to my friends and family, it’s the seasons.

I miss the cool fresh breeze of spring as the trees start to turn green and the smell of cherry blossoms fill the air. And the crunch of leaves under my boots as the trees turn to splashes of orange and yellow under the white Autumn sky. And the fog and misty rains of winter mornings, Saturdays spent under a down duvet with a book and a cup of Milo. One can taste and smell the changing; see the blue skies of summer and hear the crackling fire of June. And all of these changes mark the passage of time.

The seasons as I have experienced in Dar are: Hot and Hotter, Humid and More Humid, Dusty and Drenched. But what a treat it is to wake up every morning to a cobalt blue sky. Just yesterday I spent an incredible day at Ras Kutani where the waves crashed and the sun kissed our skin under a sky whipped white. The weather was perfect. And in fact, almost every day here is beautiful. And three nights ago as I sat eating delicious sushi at Osaka, the heavens opened and it poured, the air cooled and the fireflies played in the trees. For three hours, the world changed.

I realize that Dar has its own seasons, its own little transitions, tastes and smells. The rainy season has begun and with that comes the smell of wet soil, the puddles waist deep and umbrellas. It becomes a different world, it marks the passage of time and it holds new things. And with that, I’m off to buy a different pair of boots more suited to this season…gumboots!


Thursday, February 4, 2010


Unspoilt wilderness in the south. Ruaha National Park, Tanzania's largest National Park. A massive 22,000 square kilometres and its position far from any major cities, this park is a must to visit for any safari enthusiast.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mitumba Shopping

Literally translation:  2nd hand clothing/shoes/lingerie/anything you can think of hanging in a tree

I remember when we came to Tanzania we only had a backpack on our backs and that was it. Needless to say  - there weren’t many clothing items in it as we would’ve liked, space was limited and we had to ensure we had everything to   survive in deep, dark Africa….. 

Our parents made us pack several packs of batteries for our torches, army issue dry packs, (terrible food that you rehydrate to make it more terrible),toilet paper, a tin cup, the extra tin of bully beef and the likes off.

After my first 3 months when it seemed that I might actually stay in this gorgeous place, I realized I had a problem. My clothes were now in tatters and I desperately needed something to wear to my first “dinner party” in Dar.

After consulting the 3 clothing shops that existed during those days, I humbly went for my first Mtumba shopping spree.

It was the best shopping ever – we got 4 beautiful “garments” (for lack of better word) for under Tsh 3500 each(about R20). Bargain at twice the price if you ask me!

I then never went into any clothing shops (not that there really were any as I said before) but continued to buy all my clothes from the Tree Shops next to the road.

We were such frequent buyers (ha ha) that the one gentleman proceeded to give us a few “garments” on “apro” and we could take it home, try it on and see if it fits and return it the next day if we didn’t like it.  We got enormous bargains and even got a few compliments on how nicely we were dressed.

You can even find the odd GAP dress, an ARMANI skirt, a CHANEL shirt...... What more do you need!

I still to this day enjoy going Mitumba Shopping!

desert rose