Day 1 in Tanzania
I woke to a misty morning filled with the sounds of birds. I pulled back the mosquito netting that wrapped around the sleeping area and opened to drapes to a spectacular garden panorama.
Jacaranda, flowering shrubs and numerous trees flourish on the landscape. In the distance, Lake Duluti shimmers.
Each hut has a spectacular view and mine is breathtaking. I shrug off the fatigue of travel and consider breakfast up at the lodge.
The Serena Lodge in Arusha is a collection of beautifully appointed huts, nestled on acres of manicured grounds. The property has a vaguely British feel to it, with dark woods and white starched tablecloths in the dining room, and floral prints in the bar.
Breakfast is a daily buffet that includes fresh mango, passion and other juices; eggs prepared to your liking; breads and sweets; fresh fruit; cheese and meat; baked sweet potatoes and more.
And freshly dripped African coffee.
This is coffee as it should be. Each sip is rich with the essence of roasted beans. There is a body to the beverage–not a thickness but a sense of aromatic presence that translates into an almost savory, lingering flavor.
It is simply delicious. I could become a coffee drinker again.
Africa is a different place. It is simultaneously exotic, ordinary, lush, and lean. I was currently experiencing lush, although just a few miles outside the gated property, was lean.
This disconnect, from the tourist experience to the local reality is one that I will witness throughout our trip. But people everywhere seem kind and helpful. The pace is relaxed.
Back at the hotel, echoes of British monarchy seemed to linger, in the language, in the food, and in the interior architecture of the Serena.
Which got me to wondering about the history of Tanzania.
A Short History of Tanzania: The Portuguese, The Germans and the British
The region that would become Tanzania was known as Tanganyika throughout its colonial history. It would not be until April 26 of 1964 that Tanganyika and Zanzibar would be united and the name Tanzania (a blend of Tanganyika an Zanzibar) became official.
Early western influence dates back to Vasco da Gama’s 1498 visit to the region. In 1505 the Portuguese capture of Zanzibar established trade.
In the early 18th century the Portuguese ceded control to Omani Sultan Seyyid Said who, with the assistance of the Omani Arabs, conquered Zanzibar in 1840 and made it the capital of the slave trade.
German exploration in the mid nineteen century led to the discovery of Kilimanjaro by Johannes Rebman and brought railroad transportation and roads to the area. In 1885 the German East Africa Company took over the region, bringing railroads and roads.
The German defeat in World War I and the terms of the Treaty of Versailles then ceded the territory to the British.
World War II brought more western influence to the region. One hundred thousand natives fought for the Allied forces in Somaia, Abyssinia, Madagascar and in Burma. Food became an important export for Tanganyika during this period.
After the war, Tanganyika became a U.N. Trust Territory. But the gradual transition to independence was begun. The colonial officer David Gordon Hines was instrumental in helping to develop farming cooperatives that encouraged trade.
And in December of 1961 Tanganyika became independent from the British and all European rule.
Hiking Lake Duluti
Lake Duluti is a lake in Tengeru, on the eastern edge of the eastern branch of the Great Rift Valley. It was most likely formed when a volcano collapsed, leaving behind a small caldera that filled with water.
The lake lies just beyond the gates of the Arusha Serena. A hike seemed the perfect anecdote to over 30 hours of transcontinental travel.
A guide is required, as is signing in at the entry. Beyond that, the jungle envelopes you. You are now in its element and any notions of separation vanish. Animals move about; monkeys jump through the trees. Beautiful purple Jacaranda trees are interspersed along the lakeshore.
And in the distance, 14,980 foot tall Meru rises, overlooking it all.
Meru isn’t as tall as nearby Kilimanjaro (19,341) but it is a more difficult and technical climb. While Kilimanjaro can be summited by most people in very good shape, Meru presents about 4,000 feet of technical climbing plus a 1,500 foot climb over nearly featureless granite.
But climbing is not on my agenda. A simple walk around Lake Duluti is.
Views from Lake Duluti
The hike around Lake Duluti is an easy one. After a day and a half of travel, this was exactly what I needed to start settling into Africa.
That and a glass of wine. As the evening approached, I approached the beautiful wood bar nestled in the corner of a room set with groupings of sofas and chairs, some in a floral print reminiscent of English chintz.
“Wine?” I inquired.
A nod and a smile from the bartender.
“What kind?” I asked, not sure how detailed to make my inquiry. Savignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay?
“South African,” the bartender responded.
But of course.
And a well bodied and balanced Chenin blanc accompanied me out to the grassy patio overlooking the property.
As the sun sets, the air cools and the cicadas chirp. A Chinese group gather around one table, playing a ukulele. An Australian couple sits without speaking.
The wind moves. Every tree has its own dance. And with my first day in Africa, I start to settle in at 4,300 feet in the lush jungle.
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