Tanzania – Kilimanjaro, Or The Time All My Stuff Got Stolen

Tanzania And How To Define Justice

Justice is a difficult subject to talk about. Justice has a different meaning to everyone. My justice is probably not on the same level as yours or hers. In Tanzania, the judiciary is corrupt and I can tell from my experience that our worlds are far apart when it comes to acting in terms of justice.

The inspector examined the two housekeeping staff at my Airbnb, where all my stuff got stolen – for evidence that one of them had stolen my valuables. She found no evidence. Meanwhile, the inspector lady held the girl’s head and hit her hard so that she began to cry. I was shocked to see this incident before I even knew what had happened. So that’s how the police work in Moshi? I could hardly believe it.

I then had to intervene as soon as possible to prevent more violence towards those two innocent maids of my Airbnb. The woman was mad at me, at us (Amanda and I). In her point of view, she was just doing her job; this was justice for her. For me, I didn’t want to experience any acts of violence while she was investigating the case; this was not justice.

But one at a time.

I’m sure people experienced the effects of the pandemic in very different ways this year. Most countries reacted differently. Tanzania is one of the few countries that still have open borders. The president said that a lockdown of the country would cause more deaths than leaving the country open. I have wanted to visit the country of Julius Nyere, Tanzania’s first President, since last year when I read his biography. Nyere did not always do the right thing, but I admire his kindness and fundamental philosophy.

Sunset on safari

I also wanted to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Safari was not my top priority this time, as I had already gone on safari a lot in Uganda. So I came to Tanzania and started my journey in Dar es Salaam. To understand Tanzania, I think it’s important to know its history first. If you don’t like reading about history, just skip to the next section.

History of Tanzania

I guess somehow Ethiopia and Tanzania both claim to be the cradle of humanity. But fact is that it is believed that modern humans originated from the rift valley region in East Africa. Historically, it goes back to the first millennium AD that today’s Tanzanian area was populated by Bantu-speaking peoples who immigrated from the west and north. Subsequently, the coastal city of Kilwa Kisiwani was founded by Arab traders around 800 AD. The Persians settled down on the islands of Pemba and Zanzibar. From then one a distinctive Swahili culture developed; a mix of Africans, Arabs and Persians.

After Vasco da Gama sailed up the coast in 1498, the coastal zone fell under the control of the Portuguese. A dark chapter was the cruel Arab slave trade in Zanzibar for Oman in the early 1700s.

The German Carl Peters explored East Africa in the 1880s, and in 1891 the German East Africa colony was founded. Britain made Zanzibar a protectorate in 1890 following the campaign to end the slave trade in the region.

Independence

Germany lost the first World War, following which German East Africa was given a British mandate and renamed Tanganyika. The Tanganyika African National Union, TANU, met in 1954 to oppose British rule. TANU was lead by Julius Nyere and gained independence on December 9, 1961.

Nyere became the country’s first prime minister, and when a republic was proclaimed on December 9, 1962, he became president of Tanzania. Did you know that “Tanzania” was created as a clipped compound of the names of the two states (Tanganyika and the island Zanzibar) that unified to create the country? It took a while for Zanzibar to become independent, finally achieving it on 10 December 1963, and on 26 April 1964 it merged with Tanganyika to form the United Republic of Tanzania. Afterwards, President Nyerere introduced Ujamma. Ujamma in turn was his utopian idea of African socialism based on cooperative agriculture.

During the rule of Nyerere, the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Revolutionary State) was declared the only legal political party in Tanzania. His idea of Ujamma failed on many levels, mainly due to poor organization. Nyerere admitted his own failure and voluntarily resigned from the presidency in 1985. In 1992 the constitution was changed to allow for multi-party democracy.

Recent Years

In recent years, Tanzania has made great political and economic developments in social welfare. However, the country continues to face significant development challenges in key areas such as corruption, population growth and the division between party and state. At the same time, new opportunities arise that can be decisive for the necessary changes and reforms. I do have grant hopes for the multifaceted country with its more than 100 distinct ethnic groups and tribes.

Baobab Tree

Arrival in Tanzania

I honestly have to admit that I arrived very tired in Tanzania and was therefore in a very bad mood. In Dar es Salaam I only visited the area around the beach, but for me it was just a noisy city with a lot of traffic which I wanted to leave quickly. I believe that a lot of backpackers would also come to this conclusion. That’s why I headed for the city of Moshi.

First impression of Moshi

We had booked an AirBnb stay in Moshi, a beautiful city. The homestay was beautifully landscaped with a large garden and lots of different plants. The host was a young woman, who for privacy reasons I’ll call Laura. Laura had made a nice first impression on us and always called both of us “Dada”, which means sister in Swahili. Unfortunately on the first day when we walked around, we were harassed by many men. Once a man even came up to us and grabbed tightly one of Amanda’s thighs with his hand and said to her disgustingly “hey babe”. Without hesitation, she yelled “F *** off” at him. We were totally shocked by the event.

Safari

That same day I booked my ascent of Kilimanjaro for the following day through an agency. While I was going to climb Kilimanjaro, Amanda wanted to spend time with our host sister and explore more of Moshi. On the first evening in Moshi we decided that we wanted to go to karaoke with Laura and two of her friends. That evening, money was stolen from Amanda’s purse after we left it for a few minutes in the living room where Laura and those two friends had a private karaoke session. We didn’t know who it was and didn’t want to blame anyone, since Laura was so friendly to us, we hadn’t told her about it initially. Then we went out and Amanda was invited for a beer by Laura’s friend Mara. In the end I came home earlier to climb Kilimanjaro the next morning.

Savannah

Kilimanjaro – Africa’s Highest Mountain

I believe that most climbers dream of climbing Kilimanjaro, especially those who want to climb all seven summits. I wanted to climb it because I wanted to go trekking and mountaineering.

If you read my blog regularly, then you know that hiking and extreme mountain climbing, alongside marathons and triathlons, are my passions. I climbed Chimborazo and Cotopaxi (both higher than Kilimanjaro) in succession last year in Ecuador. This is one of my greatest passions which makes me feel reinvigorated and alive. One more fact: I’ve never had altitude sickness (even without acclimatizing) and can go hiking for hours without breaks or drinking (but I wouldn’t recommend that!)

View from Kibo Huts

Marangu Route

Anyway, I decided to trek the Marangu route. It is also called the “Coca Cola” route because of the huts that are along the trek that actually sold Coke. It’s five days long, the sleeping accommodation is huts. Plus it’s a very easy route, therefore also the cheapest of all the six routes.

Landscape

Due to the pandemic, the price was “cheap” – I paid USD $1,200 for the 5 days (why is mountaineering always so expensive?) but the price even included food. I had a guide, three porters and a cook. And I didn’t want three porters to be honest; I wanted to carry my backpack by myself. Also I didn’t have much with me anyway. In the end all they had to do was carry the food, which I could have taken myself. But since it is compulsory and contributes to the economy of Tanzania, you always have to have a guide and porters to ascend Kilimanjaro.

The climb was just wonderfully breathtaking. Alternating landscapes and a diverse ecological system with rainforest, moorland, alpine desert or cultivated land, the flora and fauna, the peace and tranquility makes this an unforgettable trek. And the best for me, it is far away from cities. All of this was just delightful, one of my true highlights in 2020.

Some Interesting Facts About Kilimanjaro

Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest mountain on the African continent, and at the same time the highest free-standing mountain in the world. What most people don’t know is that Kilimanjaro has three volcanic cones: Mawenzi, Shira and Kibo. Mawenzi and Shira are extinct but Kibo, the highest peak, is dormant and could erupt again. The most recent activity was about 200 years ago. Every climber who has summitted Uhuru Peak has been on Kibo’s crater rim.

This is beauty.

The mountain’s snow caps are diminishing. Unfortunately they already lost more than 80 percent of their mass since 1912. I feel honoured to have partly seen the snow cap, but I know it will be completely ice-free if many of us and the governments don’t halt climate change. It is happening, I see it everywhere I go and it breaks my heart. If I can raise awareness in my posts, I will persist.

Lion next to the Jeep in Ngorongoro

Annually, there are approximately 25,000 people who attempt to summit Mt. Kilimanjaro. Approximately two-thirds are successful – altitude-related problems are the most common reason climbers turn back.

My Trek

As described above, the Marangu Route only lasts five days. After hiking through the forest the first day, I was disappointed that we hiked only for four hours. The hike had been so easy that I thought I’d like to hike much longer the next day. Therefore on the second day I persuaded my guide to hike to the very last hut right before summiting Kilimanjaro. It was a total of 2,000 meters of altitude to conquer.

On the Summit

My advice: take your time with the ascent and don’t rush like me. It is better to acclimatize first to ensure succeeding. Since we were going too fast, all three porters and the cook developed altitude sickness and had to rest. My guide only had mild symptoms like loss of appetite.

Versatile Kilimanjaro Landscape

On the third day we got up at 2 AM and hiked the last 1,000 meters of altitude in approximately five hours. I reached Uhuru Peak at 7 AM – standing on the rooftop of Africa.

Not much ice left on the top compared to a decade ago

This was an overwhelming and indescribable feeling. A feeling of being alive and enjoying life with all its ups and downs, even though I was deadly tired because I couldn’t sleep that night due to excitement and merciless cold. The same day I hiked all the way back to Marangu Gate, finishing my trek in two and a half days. This was my actual the highlight of the Tanzanian trip.

Kilimanjaro Team

The Turning Point

I would compare my last few years metaphorically to eating a chocolate cake (or just imagine your favorite food). But no, I never ate just one piece; I always ate the whole cake.

Sunrise on Kilimanjaro

I mean, the last few years of travel have been a feeling of soaring and complete freedom. Free from the constraints and expectations of society and family, living my independence fully. Able to decide what I would like to do, where I would like to go or how I would like to spend my time and with whom. This year I had planned to travel around Central and South America, but then the pandemic came. I spent ten weeks crossing the Atlantic. I lost a beloved one this year. Nowhere had I traveled a country that I could fully identify with as much as Iceland.

Reflection

But on the way to the summit of Kilimanjaro, I saw the milky way above me and wanted to slap myself. I really never pitied myself before, but to be honest, the year didn’t go as I hoped. Of course, I was still privileged to go to Antarctica (incidentally, I experienced the hottest day on the continent this year).

Dawn at the summit

I still traveled to Iceland, at a time when hardly anyone traveled, and visited friends in Switzerland, the Netherlands, and Liechtenstein. Yet for some reason, I felt weighed down. But as I stared at the sky that night on Kilimanjaro, I thought to myself, despite all this, I AM the happiest person in the world. So many people had a bad year in 2020.
Meanwhile I still follow my heart and keep going my path. I got a grip on myself and that was the turning point for me in 2020. I declare it to be a successful year of maturity, and a reflection on life, the environment and myself.

4 Days, 3 Nights Safari in Tanzania

I decided to go on a four-day safari to visit Tarangire National Park, Ngorongoro, and Serengeti. Setting up tent in a camping site there is my definition of romance. So if you want to see the so-called big fives this is the perfect safari trip, because I can almost assure you will see them. With a little luck you can even watch the amazing annual migration of wildebeest and zebra in September. My heart beat faster when I first saw the baby elephants in Tarangire National Park. The park has countless maginificient baobab trees, screeching flocks of brightly colored birds that are only found in the dry savannahs of north-central Tanzania. Another attraction is the large Maasai ostriches next to the well-known wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, gazelle, antelopes and so many more.

Ostrich

Extinction And Problems

Sadly, ever since colonization, big game hunters have been shooting animals at a large scale and thus decimating populations. The black rhinoceros that once lived there is now extinct. Caution: The tsetse fly, which transmits sleeping sickness, is found throughout the Tarangire National Park.

Serval Cat in Ngorongoro

Probably everybody has heard of the Serengeti. The Serengeti is a savannah and one of the most famous national parks in the world, stretching from northern Tanzania to southern Kenya, with the volcanic Ngorongoro reserve in the southeast. The word comes from the Maasai language and means “the endless land”.

Wildebeest Migration in Ngorongoro

In the 19th century, today’s nature reserve was still grazing land for the nomadic Maasai. The Maasai, who were not to blame for the destruction or extinction of the animals, were severely restricted in their freedom in their own homeland by the nature reserves. Protecting the animal habitat also means curtailing the rights of the local population. The original residents of the park were relocated in the 1950s and were no longer allowed to enter their own land. To compensate for this, attempts were made to improve the living conditions of the residents at the park borders, but this has not really been successful. Therefore there is still a problem finding the balance between the rights of the locals and the protection of animals.

And her cubs.

My dream was to see cheetahs, and I was lucky enough to encounter seven in the Serengeti — plus plenty of lions and even a leopard. Yes, like I said – I was lucky enough to see wild animals roaming in their natural habitats.

Raising Awareness About The Biggest Crisis Of The 21st Century

But once again the climate crisis will irreversibly alter biodiversity here. Will the next generations get to experience this beauty as I did? I say “YES” because I still have hope for humanity and believe in our actions.

A lion roar in Serengeti

And as long as I live on this planet I will never stop talking and raising awareness about climate change. Everyone who is aware of the upcoming biggest crisis in the 21st century can be a game changer, and I am still optimistic that we can stop this upcoming climate crisis if many people pull together.

We don’t need a handful of people who do it perfectly, but just a billion people who do it imperfectly. Or the comment of my climate activist friend Sally : ”Or just rich people to stop buying new houses and flying in private jets, and fossil fuel execs to stop exploiting natural resources and the land. Ordinary people are not to blame for climate change.”

Ngorongoro Conservation Area

One of the greatest natural wonders on my trip was not only climbing Kilimanjaro but also visiting the unique Ngorongoro, a large volcanic caldera within the Serengeti Nationalpark. The side walls of the caldera are 400 to 600 meters high and the diameter is 17 to 21 kilometers. The local climate also varies greatly due to the different altitudes. An abundance of wild animals live there.

Cheetah

Just the thought of it amazes and fascinates me again and again. The number of zebras, wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelles and buffalo is huge. Approximately 25,000 large mammals live in the crater with the highest density of predators in all of Africa. The famous great migration in the Serengeti also leads through the caldera. As an aside, there are still a very small number of endangered black rhinoceroses in the crater that you can only spot with a good deal of luck. Truly heartbreaking that they are on the edge of extinction due to poaching.

Leopard!

If you have a bucket list, things you might want to see before it gets dark, then put this incredible natural wonder on your list. I still can’t believe what I saw in front of me: the spectacle of a wildebeest and zebra migration in Ngorongoro.

Ostrich

Every traveler’s nightmare: When all your belongings get stolen

I came back to the AirBnb late in the evening after four days of safari and no shower or proper rest, and had the pleasure of discovering that all of my belongings had been stolen. I’ll roughly reflect what happened.

I came back and asked Laura where my stuff was. She said that she had never entered my room, so I understood straight away that it had actually been stolen. Before I left, I had asked Laura where I could leave my valuables and she’d assured me that nothing had been stolen from her home in all these years, so I should just leave it in my room. In addition, my room was in a house which was usually locked (the family had three houses on the property that are located next to each other). So I believed her words and left all my belongings and valuables there while going on safari.

Agatha Christie Play

When I came back, she noticed the same night that my window was a bit open (but actually had a grille so you could only get your arm through) and she said there were handprints on the wall outside. The prints weren’t really any handprints in my opinion. The next moment she claimed someone had opened her room window too. But I was sure my backpack was not stolen through the room window. Someone actually had been in the room because some of the other things were mixed up, as if someone had rummaged around. Also before I left, I put the door mat in a specific position and it was askew even before I entered the room when I returned.

But I was so tired and sad that I went straight to bed and fell asleep.
The next day was Sunday, and Laura’s mother took me to the police who in turn said they don’t work on Sundays, so I had to wait until Monday. In the meantime I had already done the most important things, called the German Embassy in Dar es Salaam to help me with my passport, and blocked my credit cards.

Laura also involved one of her friends who worked as a policeman to help me with the case. During the talk with Laura, she told me who her suspects were. She also said “I shouldn’t trust anyone here, not even her or her mother”. My mind was like “come on, I didn’t ask for Agatha Christie play!”

This Is Africa

Moreover, I was also disappointed that it was urgent for me to go to the police yet they had made me wait for more than two hours (people told me you have to get used to it because TIA – “This is Africa” – what bullshit). As compensation, Laura offered to cancel the cost of the whole stay at the AirBnB. I thanked her and accepted the offer. Meanwhile, my mother had to send me money because I was broke as hell.

Massai Village

On Monday we went to the police again, spent about four hours at the station and in the end they wrote down on a blank piece of paper what I had lost. Later, one inspector and three other police officers came to Laura’s house without any permits. They started searching the maids’ and house gardener’s rooms without any questioning.

The Inspection

The inspection was just an act of violence for me. One of my most terrible experiences this year was seeing one of the house maids being beaten in front of me and crying while they rummaged through her room. I DID NOT WANT ALL OF THIS TO HAPPEN and stopped the investigation. I really never wanted anyone to get hurt physically or mentally. In the end I almost didn’t care that I had lost all my things.

I left Moshi the next morning to clear my mind. Laura’s mother said I must pay for the stay because Laura was not allowed to make any decisions without her. I did not argue and paid.

I know it was horrible to lose my rucksack with all my stuff. But inwardly I was just sad and disappointed I guess. On the side, I could still feel very balanced somehow. As I described above, Kilimanjaro had been a turning point for me in 2020.

In The End…

In the end, I was more downcast about the emotional value of my stuff than about the loss itself. It’s because there were many valuables that my mother gave me back then for Christmas. In fact I was only emotionally bound to my personal things, like some of the trekking clothes I had used years ago in the Himalayas (Nepal). But in the end I knew that my memories are and always will be irreplaceable to me.

Landscape at the Massai Village

The irony of life: sometimes when you think it can’t get any worse, it gets funnier… After all these events, I had severe food poisoning and lay for days in my hotel room.

Nonetheless, I appreciate all the experiences gained on this trip. How else could I be happy if I let small things like that tear me up? I can enjoy eating the chocolate cake again. I’m still incredibly grateful for literally (almost) everything; in the end, I want to make it clear that despite this experience, I don’t hate the country. I think that hatred only breeds hatred, and conflicts can never be resolved with bad feelings — including external conflicts. I just try to reflect on the situation, and hope that people can keep a clear head in bad situations to avoid hatred, violence or anger, because it is never a solution. And I know one day I’ll return to Tanzania.

Zanzibar – A Chapter To End With

I would like to finish the article about Tanzania with a nice ending. Don’t get me wrong, I hadn’t acted very cleverly and probably lost my things as a result. But it could have happened to me in Europe or South America as well. Overall, I had a wonderful time in Tanzania. And this year I would call it “The Year of Inner Reflection” and Tanzania played a key role in the chapter of 2020.

Dhow in Zansibar

As an aside, Tanzania has a beautiful island called Zanzibar with sandy beaches and crystal clear blue waters. So if you’re fed up with mainland Tanzania, then avoid the hustle and bustle and go to Zanzibar. Stonetown, the capital, is historically and architecturally a masterpiece, and it is worthwhile lingering there for a while. In addition, the island has a strong Muslim influence due to past occupation of the Arabs and Omanis. You can try fusions of Arab-African cuisine on Zanzibar, the island where Queen’s front singer, Freddie Mercury, was born.

Lovely Paje, Zansibar

Kangas of Tanzania

By the way, an interesting fact: in Tanzania, women’s clothes, the traditional kangas, say a lot about people, especially women. The kangas reveal the character traits, attitudes, wishes or even political and religious convictions of the wearer. I got one in Zanzibar and will probably wear it every summer from now on. It is indeed very colorful like most East African fabrics and patterns. My kanga is a delightful memento of my time in this very diverse and multi-layered country called Tanzania.

Tarangire Nationalpark

I hope one day you might consider visiting this country with all its natural beauty and general hospitality of its people.

Massai

Back To Germany For The Rest Of 2020

Believe it or not, I left Germany when I was 18 years old and never returned to live there again. But my mother and many of my closest friends still live here. My mother lost her job this year due to the pandemic. Therefore, I decided to stay in Germany for probably the rest of the year, to support my mom emotionally and spend some quality time with her and my friends. I look forward to a peaceful time at “home” during which I can also devote myself to projects which are extremely close to my heart. But traveling doesn’t stop here. Tanzania was my 90th country, and in my lifetime I want to make friends from at least 100 different countries around the world. I am curious myself where I will be next.

“A piece of iron can only become what the blacksmith says it should become.”  – African Proverb

“Every bird flies with its own wings” – Swahili Proverb

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