We have moved out of our indoor camping facility where we hung the wet laundry on an indoor line to avoid the possible burrowing and egg laying of mango flies in the damp clothes. Reports have it that if you wear the clothes with the eggs implanted, they may burrow into your skin, incubate and hatch. They do just fly away when that happens but sounds like it might be good to avoid, if possible. Most people here iron their clothes in order to kill the eggs but standing over a hot iron in the hottest February (normally the hottest month) in Tanzanian history seems well, hot. So we shared our only living space with criss-crossing laundry lines and with Anna who used the couch or “Zanzibar bed” as her bed — sharing the full size bed with Layla had become bruising.
The urban camping theme played out each night with the screened windows wide open. Intermittent yelps and cries of the neighborhood dogs scared my sleep away. Alex and I were well-tented in the lower double bed of a bunk bed encased in mosquito netting. Each time I came in and out of the tent, I hit my head on the bottom of the top bunk. I lay cursing looking up at scribbles on the cross planks – Nico, Sarai – the names of the previous owner’s children? Drapes covered only a few of our windows so, like camping, we were up with the birds at dawn which really wasn’t so bad because after all these were East African songbirds.
Honestly, I think we may have rearranged and refurnished and readjusted to our apartment if there had not been one inescapable problem. Here we were on the outskirts of Arusha, Tanzania where Mount Meru dominates the landscape towering overhead at 15,000 feet and we had no outdoor space. I mean zero, really. Our front stoop faced our parking area and the ten-feet wide, rear utility space backed up to a towering hedge that surrounded each and every property in the neighborhood. I called it the “Land of the High Hedges.” Forget about seeing a view or waving hello to a neighbor.
So, like I said we have moved. Where to you ask? To paradise, aka Kimemo, a coffee farm that looks very much like the wineries of Tuscany. Kimemo is owned by the Bannister family. The family started in the coffee farming business in India in the 1880’s. In the 1920’s, they immigrated to Tanzania and capitalized on the potential for coffee farming here. To our delight and relief, they have sliced out 13 of their 1000-acre, Arabica coffee farm for a cafe, coffee tours and thankfully five cottages. The cottages have three bedrooms, two large baths, come fully furnished, are looked after by a housekeeper and laundry is done for you twice a week. They are available long-term or nightly.
While the girls were experiencing their first day at the International School Moshi, Arusha Campus, Alex and I drove to Kimemo. Turning off the main road we passed through a tree tunnel to a sign, “Kimemo Coffee Farm.” We turned left passing row after row of coffee plants – their trunks thick but the height of grape vines. Sarah Bannister greeted us and we shared a “plunger” of coffee on the veranda of the café which I am now calling “The Chateau.” Her mother, Di and father, Chris both joined us and slightly later her sister, Denise emerged from the office. Di told us a little bit of the history of Kimemo and then we were off with Sarah for our tour of House #4. We crossed the lawn, ducked under an acacia tree and cut between the low hedges to the house. Snow-capped Mt. Meru hovered over my right shoulder. The house was open and bright and airy. The bedrooms felt palatial; their mosquito netting draped from the tall ceilings. Gas stove in the kitchen. A five-shelved walk-in pantry. It took Alex and me about thirty seconds to say, “Yes. Please may we move in today!” We were drunk with visions of a living room empty of suspended socks and underwear. Silence only broken by songbirds. Anna and Layla sharing a room again, each with their own bed and dressing tables – Layla’s converted into an art desk and Anna’s, well, a dressing table covered with lotions, hair bands and you know just teen-girl things.
So here we have settled. Day 2. But we still miss all of you. So luckily we have a guest room for any of you who want to take a Tanzanian holiday with us.
Please don’t forget that you can read short travel vignettes written by all of us on the Travel Shorts page. And, new photos posted as often as possible on the Gallery page.