This past Saturday, June 21, we went on a "walking safari" around Mt. Meru. We were under the impression that we would spend just a few hours hiking through Masai villages and what not. I think I've mentioned that one common theme throughout this trip has been a constant sense of confusion - not once have we actually understood what exactly is going to happen when we head out for a day trip of any kind. So on Saturday, we met in town at 10:30 AM and set off together following our guide. Once we reached the rural areas, it became clear that we were going to spend the duration of the hike slipping and sliding in the mud due to the many rainy days in Arusha recently. We "hiked" (slid) uphill through village after village until around 1:30, at which point we stopped on the side of a large hill to eat our boxed lunches with a beautiful view of Arusha.
After lunch, our guide headed not back downhill as we expected but continued up the incline. Soon we were hiking through dense jungle-like foliage up a very steep incline, mostly staying in a kind of two-feet-deep mud-ditch that appeared to run the length of the mountain. Every two minutes or so someone would slip and go flying down into the mud, and as fits of laughter ensued most of us were soon covered in mud. Eventually, we all started wondering exactly why we were still heading uphill, and someone near the front questioned our guide. Word was passed through the line that we were heading to some kind of forest where we might see monkeys, which we would reach in 30-45 more minutes (we decided that this would probably translate into at least two or three hours). About five minutes later, though, word was passed down the line that we were turning around because we had come upon an impassable area full of killer ants. Make no mistake - the ants here are no ordinary ants. Any object or body part that disturbs them will be viciously attacked, and it is no easy task to remove even one of the little devils.
So, we turned around. Seeing as it was almost impossible to go uphill in the mud, you can imagine what it was like going down. The mud-ditch became a sort of slide, down which half of the group was sliding on their rear ends in a kind of train. We were laughing hysterically until we all unknowingly charged through a patch of stinging nettles, which resulted in a chorus of "OWW!"'s as our line moved through. After eventually reaching the bottom of the hill, we continued (seemingly aimlessly) on uphill terrain similar to that on which we had originally set out. At some point we deduced that we were heading toward a waterfall, and after a few hours we reached it. The hill going down to the base of the falls was the steepest we had encountered yet, but seeing as we were already covered in mud it really made no difference. With the help of giant walking sticks we slid down the incline and hung out at the bottom of the falls for a while.
On the way home, we (understandably, I think) elected to take a town bus back to Pelle's store as soon as we reached civilization. This cut out a good chunk of the hike home, and we arrived around 6 PM - covered in mud, exhausted, but definitely smiling. It sure is a good thing that everyone in our group has a sense of adventure.
1) A Masai hut with some kids (they were yelling "wazungu!") in one of the Masai villages we passed.
2) The view of Arusha and its surroundings from our lunch spot.
3) Minette and Shah sliding down the mud-ditch... hilarious.
4) Me at the base of the waterfall. Somehow, I was one of the two cleanest people at the end of the day... probably because I was avoiding getting one of my only three pairs of pants dirty at all costs.
5) Most of the group at the base of the waterfall.