With its laid back lifestyle, small town feeling, good hamburgers, nightlife, international university, international school, architectural pearls from the past, cool weather, remote villages, forest with cinnamon trees, cardamom, pepper, coffee, oil seeds, indigenous species and some waterfalls in the mountains this place offers more than enough to keep tourists, weekend birdwatchers and foreign talent interested alike.
Morogoro is 200 km or 3 to 4 bus hours away from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I was lucky to travel with one of the few researchers of Nothobranchius in his private car, so the trip took us 5 hours. Because we went looking for members of this fish family on the way. They live in small ponds and when the water disappears the fish lay eggs and die. This happens every year and as soon as the rainy season starts, small Nothobranchii hatch from the eggs and life returns to the pond.
Through Lars the fish scientist I got to talk to his friend, a Norwegian social worker who is getting into a side business of equipping and renting out safari vehicles. Should you ever require a reliable 4×4 in Morogoro or Dar es Salaam, let me know. Just as fascinating are his sightings of leopards, lions, wildebeests, crocodiles, etc. in government owned Rukwa Game Reserve, where he is working as chief ecologist to keep track of wildlife to find out which animals are safe to hunt without unbalancing the food chain
We had juicy burgers at the Acropol Hotel that sports an interior design from all over africa – mostly wood carvings. It’s kind of a colonial chic that actually looked quiet good in dim light. But back to the food: the french fries were nice and crispy. Less impressive were the red and white wines – better drink beer or soft drinks in this place.
Next we went to open-air MoTown club, which had recently introduced a cocktails section. Apparently Lars had made the suggestion some time back and was very happy to see that the owner had taken up his idea. He just had to try a cocktail. Wine was good too. We called it an early night, just as the loudspeakers were tuned to the congress of the ruling party announcing whom they would support for presidential election. In a lot of places people would have complained about the lack of music, but not here. All 50 or so eyes were glued to the TV and they didn’t even notice us leaving. Tanzanians seem to be taking a huge interest in their next president.
We stayed in one of the guesthouses of Sokoine University that were built for visiting scientists many decades ago. It became apparent that the agricultural faculty of Sokoine is having plenty of international contacts and exposure. This might be the reason why they also host the mine-sniffing rats I blogged about earlier.
The next day was dedicated to the Uluguru Mountains. We took the 4×4 on a one-and-a-half-hours drive around the mountains to Kinole. On the north side we saw dry steppe with Baobab trees, red topsoil and maize fields. As soon as we had climbed a small pass the vegetation became more lush and green. We followed a stream that was being mined for gold by locals and followed the dirt road through settlements which were into agro-forestry, pepper, banana and pineapple business.
We bought ourselves lunch from a local market: deep-fried dough rolls (mandizi), coconuts, fresh bread and water. And we organized a boy to guide us, as some of us spoke excellent Swaheli. Then we set off through a small settlement where young guys were working hard to make bricks from soaked soil. A woman was crushing what looked like rice in a big mortar and food was being cooked on open fires outside. Very peaceful.
All the way there were small pineapple fields, recently planted cassava, we smelled cinnamon trees and pepper plants, crushed Croton seeds with our fingers until oil came out (bio-fuel). Some endemic species are at home here and it’s a great area for bird watching.
The highlight was the waterfall that didn’t seem to have a normal mode of access. Instead we climbed down through the vegetation and ended up at the bottom of it near a nice pond. It took us about 1 hour to reach it so the trek is also suitable for a kid. Chilly water and the warm sun complemented each other perfectly and my only regret is that we had to leave so soon because I needed to catch a bus back to Dar es Salaam.