I would have written this blog post a couple of days ago, but the internet at SHUCo was busted for four days. No access to the outside world unless a kind person gave us their modem to check e-mails on Randy’s computer and tell our kids that we are alive and well and hoped they were too. Finally, today, the internet came back up just about an hour ago and I am ready to tell you about our latest adventure. So here it goes.
The provost, Dr. Mankenja, had in mind to show us a little wonder of the world in these parts. There is a waterfall south of Tukuyu, where the mountains ranges form a beautiful valley with some rivers and this hidden waterfall. It is quite spectacular, he said, with a huge open cave underneath it, where the locals have built a stone bench and table. Worth seeing, for sure. So we set off to see it.
The first half of the journey is tarmac road, to Tukuyu, but after that it gets absolutely crazy. Mind you, I have yet to see a road sign anywhere. We turned off onto a gravel road, passed by a few houses and entered a banana forest (no kidding) on a really rutted dirt road. The people there grow the bananas as a crash crop and I wondered out loud how they can possibly get their produce to the main road for shipment to urban areas. “The lorries come and pick up right here,” Dr. Mankenja said and he wasn’t kidding. We are talking a one-lane dirt road, ruts deep enough to swallow a goat and rocks flying every time the land rover turned the wheels. The bounce going down this road was strong enough to put your head in contact with the roof. But as always we managed this particular “African Massage.”
After the banana forest we had to climb the mountains. Scary stuff! By now the rutted dirt road had turned into a hint of a footpath with high grass between the ruts and crazy never before seen vegetation brushing the side of the car. No guardrails anywhere. They hardly exist in Tanzania anyway. At this point Dr. Mankenja fessed up that he hadn’t been to the waterfall in ten years and was a little bit unsure as to where to go next. So whenever we hit upon anyone on the way, a farmer, a couple of school girls, a child, the Land Rover stopped, the windows got rolled down and Donald, our excellent driver, inquired “Which way to the waterfall.” I was sure that we were hopelessly lost and that ten years from now some explorer was going to find our bones in an abandoned field, but time and again we chanced upon someone walking the path who pointed us a little further.
We finally came to a junction (super-deep ruts) and did not know where else to go. A young man standing by the road was asked the same question we had been asking for an hour and he offered to jump in the car with us and lead us there. More footpath road, up a high ridge and the car stopped. There was an old hand-painted sign put up by the people of the nearest village to let us know that climbing down a realyl narrow and steep incline would cost us 5,000 Tzs ($3) but we would then arrive at this wonder of the world. And believe it or not, one of the villagers was there waiting patiently to collect fees from people who actually made it that far. If I had known Swahili I would have asked him how many visitors he gets but I was way too busy holding on to the rocks and trying to keep my balsnce to be nosy about that.
Down we climbed, then over a slippery narrow path with the scariest drop-off I have ever seen (and me hugging the wall on the other side) and we finally stood in an enormous cave underneath the waterfall. It was spectacular. And do I think that I got to see something that most other people in the world don’t. You bet. Wow.