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April, 2010:

Koninginnendag in Dar

As tradition goes there is a reception for the Dutch community in Dar es Salaam to celebrate the Queens’ birthday. This year it is not at the ambassadors’ residence but in the most expensive hotel in town. I always thought the Dutch government paid huge amounts of rent for the ambassador’s residence so it would be suitable and representative for these kinds of gatherings. But the new ambassador (A. Koekoek) apparently does not want strangers on his compound. Besides he just constructed a swimming pool so his huge garden is now too small for parties. Fortunately I do not pay tax so I was not too bothered about this double spending. I was more bothered about the traffic to the hotel and the lack of parking spaces. As I heard later, quite a number of cars got stuck turning the hotel meadows to hotel mud pools. After the reception there was an ‘Orange Party’ on the Slipway Terrace. A big band had been flown from the Netherlands and Maya danced quite heavily. I drank mainly beers although considerable less than last year.

Kingday

Kingday for the 35th time. Tarek forgot about my birthday completely. Maya gave me a nice little board game called Pandemic which would prove to be a great success a week later. At the office there was actually a cake and my colleagues even sang. In the evening some people came over to have some drinks and bites. Unfortunately quite some people could not come because of the horrible traffic.

Amani Forest Reserve

National holidays are a treat in Tanzania. In Europe we only have the Christian ones. Here we also have the Muslim ones. In addition there are quite a few national ones. All in all there are about 20 a year. If you add to that the 30 I get from work, I come to 50 a year. Not bad. Today is Karume day in honour to the president of Zanzibar. It gives me some time to write about our Easter trip.
We left on Good Friday together with Susanne and Josephine and their kids Mattis and Hannah to Amani forest reserve in the Usumbara mountains. These mountains are part of the Eastern Arc Ecosystem and are one of the remnants of tropical rainforest and extraordinary biodiversity. Amani forest is the wettest part of Tanzania with an average humidity of 87%. Most of the forest has been chopped down as we discovered during our previous trip to another part of the Usambaras, around Lusotho (pictures 2009/09). Now we went to Emau Hill Forrest Camp, close to the Amani Forest reserve, a more remote and less disturbed place. From Dar it was about 5 hours of driving on nice tarmac to Muheza, followed by 2 hours on pretty rough road. We hired one of my company’s vehicles because our personal car is considered to be untrustworthy. The rough road led us uphill through some villages, forests and sadly clear-cut ex-forests. Further up, the road got worse and the forest more beautiful. Finally we arrived at the camp which consisted of 5 large canvas tents with a straw cover. It was pretty basic with no electricity and running water but the setting was marvellous, on a hill with large trees all around. There were many different birds and the owners were proud that quite a number of endemic species could be seen on-site. And indeed, particularly in the mornings from bed, the songs of the birds around were beautiful. Down the hill through the trees with impressive rock outcrops was a small stream. I had always looked forward to playing with Tarek in a stream and build dams as I had done so a lot as a kid in France and the UK. We found out Tarek is still a little too young for this but the other kids (at almost 4) where already quite dedicated. Many of the rock formations around were covered with African Violets, the original violet which has unlike its intensely crossed family members, small and subtle purple flowers. At the camp we got introduced with the game of Kubb, which is basically knocking over blocks of wood with wooden sticks. There was a very suited field and we could all join the game. Tarek was the distraction as he did not listen when the rules were explained. I do recommend the game which is particularly suited for the late afternoon with chilled white whine. In the evenings we played board games, adults only, glad to get some time off with children gone to bed.
Emau Hill Forest Camp
Playing in Stream
After three lovely and relaxing nights we returned to Dar. We decided to take the shortcut via Bagamoyo so we had 60 kms of nice sandy road. I felt like a rally driver and resolved again to participate in a long distance rally through Africa in the future. When we arrived at 17:00 at the compound we discovered that Amani was not the only place in Tanzania where it had rained intensively over Easter. The garden is considerably greener. The temperature has seriously dropped and yesterday Maya was even complaining about cold legs. Unfortunately with the rains the mosquitoes are coming, but: you can’t have it all.