Category Archives: Weekend at Mulala Village & Arusha National Park

Weekend at Arusha National Park and Mulala Village

This weekend was full of awe and adventure. We started out the weekend by going to Arusha National Park where we took a game drive and did a walking safari. Immediately after entering the gates to the park we drove past a bunch of giraffes. They were right off the “street” (more like a dirt path) just eating away. They did not seem to care about our presence but they were truly a sight to see. As we continued to drive, we saw a family of baboons sitting in the road. They were all looking at us as we drove up in the safari jeep but they did not budge—they literally sat there until we were within feet of running them over! During the walking safari, my favorite part was that we were able to eat lunch right next to a waterfall. It was absolutely amazing. After our time in Arusha National Park, we traveled to Mulala Village. The drive there was the bumpiest car ride I have ever been on. We had to drive up the side of the mountain and I am extremely surprised we did not get stuck. Once we were safely there, we were greeting by singing and even a little dancing. They served us chai (Swahili for tea) and then we had dinner as well. After dinner, we learned about the stingless bees that the family harvests honey from. They let us taste the honey, which is very different from any honey I have ever had—it was very sweet and some people said it tasted a little bit like alcohol. Next, we were given a tour of their animals like the cows and sheep. They had the cutest little kittens too! After putting our bags in the camping tents, we had a bonfire. Ishmael, the owner of the house we were visiting, told us stories and taught us some important Swahili phrases. One extremely important one is, “sitaki kunonua” which means “I don’t want to buy”. This is used when people try to sell us things on the streets. As we were going to sleep in the tents, it started raining. Fortunately, our tents were sturdy so we did not get too wet. Our morning consisted of breakfast, a hike on the mountain in the rain, and learning to balance bananas on our head. Most of us were not very good at balancing the bananas but all of the family members showed us up by dancing with the bananas on their heads. We wrapped up our time at the village with more singing and dancing and then we all parted by saying “asante sana” (thank you) many times. The whole weekend was a great experience. I feel that we grew tighter as a group and learned so many things. Each day I continue to challenge myself to become more adventurous and the events of this weekend really allowed me to do that.

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The First Day at Arusha National Park and Mulala Village

We had an incredible weekend going to the Arusha National Park and the Mulala Village. We left Saturday morning for Arusha National Park with our drivers Joseph and Luther, and spent the day going on a driving safari and then a walking safari. As soon as we drove in the gates of the park, we saw at least five giraffes (twiga in Swahili) right beside the road. It was amazing to see the animals so soon into our drive and so close to us. We then passed through a park of the park they call the “Small Serengeti”, since the landscape is similar to what we will see in the Serengeti National Park. Along our drive, we saw more giraffe, zebra, baboons, cape buffalo, warthogs, and flamingos. We all took advantage of the open roofs on the safari vehicles and took hundreds of pictures. We saw Mount Meru in the distance, which offered an amazing backdrop for all of our pictures.

After our driving safari, we took a walking safari through the park. We saw more animals and got really close to them, probably within 30 yards of two giraffe, and within 20 yards of a warthog (pumba). We stopped at a waterfall during our walk and took time to sit and eat our lunch. Our lunch was made up of a hard boiled egg, a butter sandwich with three pieces of bread, a mango juice box, a piece of chicken, a banana, and a muffin, and a crepe. It was nice to be able to sit down after walking through the park. As we were walking, we kept commenting on how this experience was reminding us if the Jurassic Park movies. The landscape and weather was wonderful, although some of us could have used some more sunscreen. Our walking safari lasted about 2 and a half hours, and then we were back in our Land Rovers and on our way to the Mulala Village.

On our way to the Mulala Village, we drove across some pretty treacherous roads. We were bouncing around our seats as our drivers were dodging giant rocks, ditches, holes in the dirt road. These roads made Michigan pot holes seem like nothing. At one point, our driver stopped and asked for directions, and we drove down a road that was more like a walking path to get back to the main road. Our driver, Luther, later explained that we missed a short cut, and I’m pretty sure it lengthened our drive by about 45 minutes. I was really impressed with Luther’s driving skills, as driving in Arusha is a skill that seems hard to master.

 When we arrived in Mulala, we were greeted by Ishmael and Mama Anna, along with their wonderful family. They welcomed us by singing, clapping, and dancing. It was a great way to be greeted and start off our time together. Ishmael took us to the back of the house where he showed us how they make and collect honey from sting-less bees. The bees create a hive on the inside of a hollow log and produce honey inside. This log has been split down the middle, glued together with a sap-like material to keep it closed and is hung from the roof of the house. Ishmael explained that the hives can be kept close to the house because the bees don’t have stingers and they aren’t a danger to people. The family has 30 hives that they harvest every six months. Although it wasn’t time to collect the honey, Ishmael had his son take down a hive to show us how they pry open the log and spoon out the honey. He explained that they could get five to six liters of honey from each hive. It was really awesome to see what their day to day lives look like and how they harvest the products that they sell in the markets, like honey, cheese, and coffee.

We were given a great dinner that was prepared by the women in the family. The dishes were traditional foods: rice; banana and pork stew; spinach; green beans and carrots; stiff porridge (ugali) made from corn, water, and sugar; a bean and corn dish; fried bananas. It was really interesting to be able to try each of the dishes, which use a different combination of foods and spices that I have never had.

After dinner, we were invited to sit by a fire (moto in Swahili) Ishmael had made. We sat together and were able to ask Ishmael a lot of questions about his life and the Tanzanian culture. Most of us were exhausted by 8:00 since it was such a long day, and we had a hard time staying awake. Ishmael was adamant about us not going to bed, because he worried we would wake up too early and have nothing to do, although most of us could probably use a good twelve hours of sleep. To keep us from falling asleep, he had all of us turn our chairs around and sit backwards around the fire. However, he assured us that he would be the fire guide to make sure we didn’t fall backwards into the fire after nodding off. None of us had ever sat in a circle with our backs to the fire, and it got us talking again.

We left the fire and headed to our tents around 9:00. Our tents had been set up, and we had mats, sleeping bags, and pillows for two people in each tent. We had a comfortable night, and although it rained really hard, we all managed to stay pretty dry. The next morning, we woke up around 7:00 and had breakfast, coffee, and tea with the family, and we were off on our next adventure.

Over the weekend, we were able to see how the lifestyle is much slower than what we are used to. It was a great time for our group to spend time together and bond, and I think we are much closer after this trip. This weekend was an awesome opportunity to slow down and gain understanding of daily life in rural Tanzania, and also appreciate the beautiful environment around us.


Mulala

Within one of Africa’s eastern countries, Tanzania there exists a towering peak formed by a volcano, Mt. Kilimanjaro, and a neighboring peak, Mt. Meru. Nearly directly between the two peaks and on the east side of Mt. Meru is a small village called Mulala. And within this village is a beautiful family, the Pallangyos. This wonderful, authentic, farming family have been kind enough to allow tourists, like ourselves, to stay with them for short periods of time to experience the African human lifestyle, rather than just to experience the African animal lifestyle through Safaris and then be on their way.

As guests to the Pallangyos, we were welcomed with a warm meal and were further provided with more to come for the next 24 hours. The meals were made possible by the labors of the family on the family’s crop land and livestock. These crops included spinach, pork, potatoes, beans, carrots, corn, and what seemed like an infinite amount of bananas! we had sides of pork, spinach, and other vegetables with entrees of banana pancakes, fried bananas, banana crepes, fresh bananas, banana buns, banana cobbler, and other banana dishes. We got our fill of potassium, thats for sure!

Although it was not quite the season of doing so, the father of the host family, Ishmael, opened one of his thirty sting-less bee hives to demonstrate the process of collecting honey. He was even more than gracious enough to let us try a spoon full fresh from the hive. The rest of the arriving evening we enjoyed a peaceful bon fire in the Meru altitudes joined with star gazing, laughter, english to swahili word conversions, and stories told by Ishmael in his Swahili accented English. Our adventurous day at the Arusha National Park, and our authentic introduction to Tanzanian culture was put to sleep in 8 tents propped in the backyard of the Pallangyos.

Our second and final day at the family’s house entailed a relaxing walk up through the village of Mulala and it’s neighboring village. This approximately 4 mile walk led us beside the crop fields of the village while mothers were out in the fields, and children were coming as close as they could to witness the white foreigners on their walk. Every quarter mile, we could see little children running behind a fence-row shouting “mzungus! mzungus!” meaning “white people! white people!” As we strolled along our walk, Ishmael, our walking guide, stopped along the path showing us the uses of many plants for medicine and food, along with Village traditions. He also described the vast peaks and villages which visible from a distance from our high altitudes.

Through this hospitable stay with the Pallangyos, I was able to witness a much slower pace of lifestyle. Whether it was on our walk through the village, during mealtimes, or other activities; life was simply taken at a slower pace, with no rush from one thing to the next. This was what I found most impactful from my stay… the African way of life is humble and rich in labor and love.


Mulala Village Trip

There are so many good things that happened this weekend that it is hard to know where to start. But i will start by saying everything was amazing. We got within 30 yards or so of some giraffes in our walking safari in Arusha National Park. Hendrick was our guide and he was telling us so much about all of the amazing animals that we saw. He was very informative and it was so amazing to see all of the animals up close. We also walked to a waterfall which was gorgeous. We were able to eat our lunch there and really enjoy it for a while. We took lots of pictures and Hendrick was able to take a group picture for us. Before we went on the walking safari we went on a mini safari in Arusha National Park. Luther and Joseph were our drivers for the weekend so they were the ones that took us out on the mini safari. Luther was amazing, he was able to spot animals very well. I really hope we are able to have him as our driver for safari. We saw so many animals it was amazing! I am so excited to go on the big safari!! That is what we did on day one of this weekend in a brief summary. After we were done there Luther and Joseph took us to Mulala village to Ishmael’s house. Ishmael and his family was so welcoming. All of the meals were pretty good, I was worried about that but i was plesantly surprised! Ishmael showed us how they make honey with stingless bees which was very interesting. He opened the nest for us to see it and taste it even though they only normally do it twice a year! After dinner we sat around the moto (fire) and talked together a lot. When we started to fall asleep he had us turn our chairs around to have our back face the fire. It was funny, but it worked, we started to talk more. We did eventually go to bed becasue we were beat. While sleeping it rained but Diana and I did not get wet, which was good. This morning after breakfast we took a walk with Ishmael around the village and he told us many facts about different plants and their village. Many children were following us which was very cute. When we got back from our walk we ate lunch and than they showed us the cheese room and they showed us how to carry stuff on our heads which was fun. We than headed for home down the bumpy, rocky, holey roads. We made it home in one piece! It was an amazing weekend and i can’t wait to go on our other adventures!!


The Second Day of the Mulala

We awoke to the sound of roosters and a light rain peppering the canvas on our tents. Breakfast was prepared for us by Ishmael and his very large family. We all took our seats in a small hut to enjoy our breakfast of coffee, tea, bread (both regular and a kind that I have not seen before… I would describe them as “bread bites”), and roasted peanuts. Everything was made from scratch by the family and it was all wonderful. The coffee was especially delicious when paired with the fresh milk. Soon after breakfast we spoke with Ishmael and told him that even though there was a slight rain, we still wished to go on a tour of the village with him and he obliged. We began our tour of Mulala with Ishmael picking plants and informing us about how they are used in the village as remedies for illnesses like: headaches, colds, fever, diarrhea, indigestion, and even malaria. We zigzagged our way to the top of the village and looked out over the massive valley which contained it. The view was obstructed by the clouds, but was still shockingly beautiful. Along the way we interacting with many of the villagers and some of the children even followed the group and hung around with us as we walked.
After the tour was over we sat down for a wonderfully prepared dinner with Ishmael. We left a few comments about the place in his notebook and then were brought to the house where the ladies of the house dressed us in congas (a large African fabric). At the house we learned about their cheese making process and then afterwards we sang with them and then ATTEMPTED to balance a large bundle of bananas on our heads. They made it look easy as we struggled to just get the bundle to remain on our heads for more than a few seconds. Soon after that we said goodbye to Ishmael and his family and loaded up in the jeeps for the long trek down the mountain. The trip down was much easier than the first and had many less panicked moments where we feared that the jeep would tip on its side. Mulala was a gorgeous town and the whole excursion was an experience well worth having.