Having been in Mlandizi for over two weeks, insight into our daily life/work is called for. But tonight, I’ve got jam on the brain so I’m going to re-live our week in Lushoto.
24 hours in Dar had proved sufficient and we headed North to the Usambara mountains. The Usamabaras are one of the Conservation International’s World Biodiversity Hotspots!! That is, it is recognized as an area with an exceptional diversity of species. The area is chalk full of wide vistas, winding paths, and picturesque villages.
Lushoto (formerly Wilhelmstal) is one of eight districts of Tanga Region. During the Germancolonial period (1890-1918), the area was popular with settlers. Large farms and plantations were created, one of which being Irente Biod iversity Reserve, where we took our lodgings. Irente Farm was an experimental coffee estate in the late 1800s – the aim was to test coffee as a crop; the idea was abandoned due to soil infertility. The Germans lost the colony to the Brits in 1918 and the farm was passed off to a Greek farmer until the 1960s when it was sold to the Luthern Church. Years of different managers have developed the infrastructure of the area. The area houses three institutions: the Irente School for the Blind, Irente Children’s Home, and Rainbow School. Irente has found a niche in nature-based tourism, food processing, biodiversity protection, and farming. I would add “feeding guests” and “story-telling” into the mix.
The landscape was gorgeous: the reserve was tucked into the greenery of the mountains (1450m above sea level), surrounded by palms and bordered by eucalyptus trees. We hiked through villages and stumbled upon magnificent views, as clouds lifted to reveal layers of rocky cliffs. Hornbills andblue monkeys traipsed about in trees; lizards and slugs clung to the walls of our room (or in our shoes); and a creature that could only have been a dinosaur called to us from far off. In the mornings, you could listen to village children singing and playing drums on their way to school.
As magical as all that sounds, the food and the company really took the cake. Ute, Richard, and the staff ensure you are full up with a hardy breakfast of homemade bread (either rye or Weizenbrot), jams (we were usually given plum or loquat but on our final morning they gave us a smorgasburg of
variety: passion fruit, raspberry, mulberry, and ‘chill loquat’ with chili pepper and spelling err), tomatoes and cucumbers that shame anything grown in Canada, cheeses (a herbed soft cheese and Tilsit, both made on site – we also were able to visit the cheesery!), fresh milk, and occasionally yogurt and crunchy museli (made on site, of course).
Afternoons were spent meandering along pathways, reading, or writing. It’s cool up in them there hills, and when the temperature dropped we would head into the farmhouse to sit by the fire and play cards or cuddle with Klaus (his real name was ‘Fluffy’ but Klaus seemed more appropriate). Dinners were three courses (likely the best food I’ve ever eaten, sorry Mom) and accompanied by entertaining conversation. Ute and Richard are a product of German efficiency yet molded by 20+ years of living in various African countries. Despite their frustration with systemic organization and the speed at which things get done here, neither have any desire to return to Germany.
On the third night, we were joined by another set of characters. Manou, a French Canadian with every sassy and stereotypical characteristic you attribute with Quebec and Julia, who held her own with her cheeky travel mate. Both women were hilarious and had amazing stories. Coincidentally, Julie had a MPH and was working on her PhD. Manou dropped everything in her life in Montreal, seven years prior, to start a non-profit for tortured children from the ground up. The organization blossomed and she was on her way back to Canada for new ventures. Together, our hosts and new friends taught us Swahili slang we’ve since been told to forget and a few lessons:
- It’s all an illusion
- Pole sana for this decade
- If you can’t put jam on it, it’s not worth eating