The one thing we need to do is to have to decide with the time that is given to us. Try having this at the back of your mind, as we do, to remind you to live in the here and now, and not in the future or past. When it comes down to it, we can only live with what we are given, taking advantage of the opportunities that come our way. A reflection on how three of us go to sign up for a trip to Tanzania with Keitan Safaris.
0400 hours had a number of us assembled at International House, Opposite the Kencom stage quite ecstatic about our weekend getaway. We are not full-time travelers. Most of our days are spent working to make a living. So when the opportunity came to visit a far off destination, we jumped on it. This edition to Bongo gunnered 70 enthusiasts eager to have their adrenaline crave replenished and hunger for adventure fully satisfied. We came in couples, troops of friends and groups of families since great memories are best shared with love.
Our itinerary had speculated us commencing the journey by 0430 hours. However, the engines revved up at 0515 hours following delays by some travel mates who either succumbed to ‘parte after parte’ shenanigans, as is the Friday night tradition in Nairobi, or mates who had to turn back halfway through their journey after realizing they had forgotten their travel documents. Case in point, our dear friend Cate. She narrowly missed the bus as it is Keitan’s tradition to leave people unceremoniously. This was, however, a blessing in disguise for the early birds who enjoyed 45 minutes of taking pictures on the streets of Nairobi.
Note: Delays are anticipated with group travel. Most members keep time. One or two among you will always be late. Patience is a virtue at such moments.
You would expect people to cuddle up and catch up on their sleep given that we had less than six hours of sleep. Most of us did exactly that. Some of us decided to bond over tales of places we have visited and our experiences. At dawn break, our first stop would be at Maanzoni for a loo break, where we caught the sunrise. The sun’s glowing golden sphere slowly rose into the dull morning sky, casting its sunbeams in every direction as it illuminated the small town- a vivid depiction of the great day that lay ahead of us.
Our second stop was at Emali for breakfast, after which we continued with the journey to the border. This stretch had us engage in dealing with cards, lots of music and shared laughter. The activities seemingly made our journey shorter. We got to learn of a card game known as ‘bullshit’. A thrilling and mindblowing game. It requires you to dupe your contenders to exhaust the cards in your hands. A poker face is the only skill needed to win the game.
Note: In long distance group travels we advise that you carry board games as it keeps you distracted from the kilometers or hours left to your destination. Besides that, games are a perfect icebreaker among strangers.
Getting to Tanzania, one can use the Tarakea, Holili or the Namanga border. The Kenya- Tanzania border is a bustling one. Therefore it can get chaotic and hectic, especially when intertown and shuttle buses are passing. However, crossing borders can be seamless upon planning well and meeting all the requirements. We went through the Tarakea border because it is closer to Moshi town. You are required to have a valid Kenyan Passport or a temporary travel permit, yellow fever vaccine and your National Identity Card. East Africans do not need a tourist visa to enter Tanzania. Usually, you are given an exit card to fill in truthfully, stating the duration and purpose of your stay. Keitan had prefilled this for the group so all we had left was having our passports stamped and photographs taken. It’s also at the border that we exchanged our money and had lunch.
Notes: Yellow fever Vaccination is offered at the border for Ksh. 1500. It is cheaper to have your jab at the border. The rate of exchange is 1Ksh= 21Tsh- 23Tsh depending on the financial market rates at the time of travel.
Important note: Be sure to have your passport stamped for exiting Kenya and entry into Tanzania.
Once we were done with the border clearance we embarked on our 2-hour journey to Ndoro falls in Marangu. An admirable aspect of Tanzania is its emphasis on road safety. We encountered numerous stops of law enforcement/ traffic officers who ensured all the passengers had fastened their safety belts. They also emphasized to the drivers to maintain the 50Kph speed limit.
Ndoro falls is located at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The road to the entrance of the falls led us through lush landscapes offered in Tanzania, structures by the dominant Chagga people, coffee and banana plantations. See, the good thing about Tanzania is that the vast land of plants and vegetation are bright green, the earth is pure brown and the structures depict an authentic culture. To be immersed in nature here is quite pleasant to the eyes. Before heading out to the falls, we got to know each other better and engaged in some team building activities, as you may have noticed is a tradition in all our trips. Shortly after, the sky turned gloomy and there was a downpour of rain. The team was however determined to chase the falls. Those with raincoats and coverups for the rain ran back to the bus for theirs.
Once we passed through one of the entrances, we had a small hike through a stunning forest. It offers incredible views. After every two to three steps, we found ourselves stopping to admire and take in the beauty. At some point, we went down some stone steps and through cave-like tunnels. Banisters of thick tree branches that are edged into the hill and zigzag toward the bottom ushered us to the stunning view of the cascading Ndoro waterfalls! You can pretty much guess what followed: Every Tom,Dick and Harry rushing to have a photograph moment, inspite of the freezing temperatures! ‘Kesi baadae’ , we were not going to let this moment go wasted.
Accommodation at Kilimanjaro Crane Hotel:
As a budget hotel, Kilimanjaro Crane Hotel epitomes the western contemporary luxury but the interior design of the restaurant and bar lodge transports you to a Tanzanian chill feel. It is located at Old Moshi road, 0.8 miles from the center of Moshi. Arriving in the early evening, we received a cordial welcome from the staff at the lodge. It is quite admirable how Tanzanians are cultured; from the broker at the border, to the officer on the road, to the waitress at the lodge, to the random children, name them; you wouldn’t miss an opportunity of their kindness and humility.
The hotel offers 30 guestrooms ranging from single to quad rooms. Meaning the rooms can sleep two- eight people. Pick your poison. The rooms are quite spacious and depending on the room chosen the cemented floor could carry one to even four beds with light subtle blankets, a dressing table, wardrobe and a door leading to the bathroom. The rooms also have a balcony that helps you soak in the sun and admire the amazing and beautiful features that the hotel has to offer. Downstairs, the hotel has an indoor bar area, indoor and outdoor restaurant as well as a swimming pool area.
The night life:
Club Red Stone is the buzz of the night in Moshi town. Tanzanian culture dictates that clubbing commences at midnight till dawn. Before that hour, you might find yourself alone with the staff and might just help with their preparation duties. Having received that memo, we decided to host a pool party at our hotel. We millennials call it a pregame.
The pregame with travelers at Keitan has never been shot of epic. A pool party is usually the norm. The music will have you moving like puppets inside and around the pool. The crowd needs no spectators. Hence, the active spectators found themselves immersed in the water with their full attire.
2030hrs had us having dinner, after which we slipped in among the crowd, a beeline for the bar. Shots later we were ready to hit the club. Regular entrance at the club requires a fee of Tsh. 5000 and Tsh. 10,000 for VIP. (Ksh. 250 and Ksh.500 respectively).
The club was electric. Everyone was feeding off the smiles and fast dancing. Disco ball lights twirl above- launching every shade of the rainbow into the darkness. We were ready to move to the music, despite being the early ones at 2300hrs. Hands were in the air and our bodies moving like uncoiling rope. Needless to mention, our eyes were on fire. At midnight, people streamed in in groups. Good vibes flowed like a virus. The music was like a drug that got us higher and higher until our minds buzzed with pure joy- joy that feels like a shot of adrenaline and at once, you move with every person dancing in the place.
The night was still young when we had to leave at around 0300hrs. The peak of the night was nigh but we had to preserve our energy for the following day, which would be the highlight of our trip. Stay tuned for Part 2.
A big shout out to our friends who signed up through and with us: Violet, Eve, Jesse, Gordon, Silk, Maggie, Karis, Koi and Cate. Thank you for the support. We love you!
Special shout out as well to Kasee (responsible for dipping spectators). You made the experience worthwhile.
Important note: Keitan Safaris organizes this trip 4 times a year. Follow his social media pages for updates. Further, do watch our IGTV Videos as well as instagram stories as we take you through the entire experience.
Ess Opiyo (ess_opiyo on Instagram), Cynthia Njeri (@cynthianjeri on Instagram) and Nelly Mutave (@mutave_nellie on Instagram.)
Trip Credits: Keitan Safaris (@keitasafaris on instagram)
Photography by Brent Focus (@40cus_photography on Instagram).