Monday 20 August

Lake Duluti

It rains all night and into the morning, and there is another, stronger, earth tremor in the early hours. Eat breakfast and then complete our packing. I go with RL to the hotel’s Internet terminal to try to reserve her a seat on her second flight from Amsterdam to London, but we are defeated by a series of power outages and a poor connection.

Amani is our driver for the day. We take the road east to Tengeru and then turn off to the right to Lake Duluti. The bumpy track gradually deteriorates, until we reach a very steep hump. I suggest that Amani could leave the car here and we could walk the remaining short way to the lake, but he is determined to take us all of the way. Nevertheless, we get out while he manoeuvres the car over the hump in order to give him more ground-clearance.

(magnify) Water Lizard

We pay an entrance fee of twelve dollars each plus twenty dollars for a guide, which all seems a bit steep for a four kilometer walk. From the visitors’ book it appears that the number of visitors even on a good day is in single figures.

After initially saying he will stay behind to look after the car, Amani decides to come with us after all to translate for the guide. Unfortunately his city shoes are not the most suitable for the slippery trail. The sky is overcast and there is rain in the air. Amani doesn’t have a raincoat, but is able to borrow an umbrella from the entrance office.

Cormorant

We follow a narrow path clockwise around the perimeter of the lake. The water is quite green and the banks very overgrown. Our guide explains that it is linked underground to Lake Manyara and Lake Victoria – surely rather a long way away? (The Rough Guide says that the underground link is in fact to Mount Meru.)

We see cormorants perching on branches in the water and some water lizards. Our path crosses a line of very large and fearsome ants, and some inevitably climb onto us as we pass. They can inflict painful bites and one has even drawn blood from RS. I find one still doggedly hanging onto my right leg and taking the occasional nip some ten minutes later.

Catch of the day!

It is a pleasant walk, but I can’t understand why Amani is constantly concerned about the time and keeps mentioning the airport. Finally we establish that he thinks that RL’s flight is at three, not nine. This raises a slight problem for him as he had expected to be back in Arusha by mid-afternoon. He requests an increased fee of $100 to cover the full day, which under the circumstances seems not unreasonable.

The lake hasn’t taken us very long, so we ask if we can visit a coffee plantation nearby to see how coffee is made. We drive a little further down the Moshi highway and stop at a plantation. Amani finds two workers who show us how they propagate the young coffee plants and explain the different proportions of sand and soil used for the different stages in their development.

It is not exactly what we had in mind – I think RL was more interested in the bean harvesting, drying, and roasting, but that seems all to be done elsewhere. We do see a bush with ripe red berries on it though. The coffee bean is the slimy white kernel inside. The workers seem very satisfied with Tsh5000 each for their trouble.

Shy tortoise

Amani pulls over in a layby to get his car washed after the muddy track at the lake, and then takes us to a café owned by a friend of his who will not mind us sitting there to eat our packed lunches. (The weather is too wet to picnic outside as we had originally intended.) There is a shop next door and RL buys some Kilimanjaro Arabica coffee as presents for her family, which resolves one of her most pressing problems.

It is getting hard to fill the time leading up to RL’s flight though. Amani suggests a reptile zoo near to the entrance to the Arusha National Park. It is a twenty-five minute drive along a very rough road and it seems that the earlier car wash is going to be be all for naught.

Our guide at the reptile zoo

The entrance to the zoo is Tsh5000 each. It is surprisingly interesting and our guide is a very enthusiastic and knowledgeable young woman. We get the chance to handle a small grass snake (non-poisonous) and a chameleon. They also have a good collection of venomous snakes including a green mamba and several spitting cobras, and some tortoises and crocodiles.

We make a couple of brief stops at roadside curio shops but don’t find anything worth buying. Reaching the airport with plenty of time to spare, Amani takes us into the best value coffee shop in Arusha. It is just outside the airport, and we get two coffees, a Sprite, tea, and a sausage for Amani for Tsh2500, which is about one pound.

At the airport – mini Kili

After saying goodbye to RL outside the terminal building we drive back to Arusha.

The Meru House Inn have our reservation but the room is taken by someone else and they are full. Apparently there is a postal workers’ delegation in town. Or something that was lost in the translation. With some prompting from us, they set about trying to find us alternative accommodation. We are taken back to the Backpackers’ Lodge but they too are full. After a bit of phoning around they find us a space at the Davos Hotel, Levolosi Street. Apparently it is not the best part of town and they recommend we take a taxi (which we insist that they pay for).

It looks quite all right, $25 for a double. But only one breakfast is included… Doubts begin to surface – is this really a double room or a single? We demand our money back until we have seen the room. It turns out it is indeed a double bed. We are in no mood to go traipsing round more hotels tonight, so we take it and order dinner.

(magnify) One dinner or two?

As we prepare to take showers, there is a knock on the door of the room. Someone wants to confirm whether we ordered one dinner or two? I go down to the kitchen to clear this up. There are two of us. While I am downstairs I return to the reception and request a second towel.

Dinner is filling but bland. I’m really not sure about the ugali, which is some kind of stiff paste made from maize. It is completely tasteless, and the chicken I have with it is full of gristle, skin, and bones. The sauce is nice though.

We are quite alone in a large dining room, which has a large TV mounted on the wall at one end. The hotel seems fairly new and bits are not quite finished. We pass through a large bare unlit space at the top of the first flight of stairs on the way to our room that looks as if it might someday become a lounge when more funds are available.

Before going to bed I tot up my money and get a shock – I have only $200 left plus Tsh15000, which doesn’t seem enough to cover the final week of our trip. I decide a visit to a cash point tomorrow morning will be in order.