Best samosas ever

16 January 2023 | Anne-Huus & Klaas

One of the goals that Anne Huus had on her wish list after retirement was to make another trip to Africa. I had never been to Africa myself. For this reason, based on Anne Huus’ previous experiences, Tanzania was selected as the most accessible African country. After some research on the internet, we made an appointment with Explore Tanzania, and we went to Apeldoorn to discuss a few things. The professionalism with which our wishes were translated into achievable goals was unprecedented. But the passion that the people at Explore Tanzania exuded went beyond that. A provisional trip was put together, and after some back and forth proposals, we finally came up with a nice plan for a trip of 15 days; 10 days Tanzania and 5 days Zanzibar. Fully adapted to our wishes: Fly to Dar es Salaam, then by car to Udzungwa Mountains National Park, from there via Mikuni to Selous/Nyerere. And finally from an airstrip with a local flight to Zanzibar for a beach holiday.

Our journey started at Schiphol with a malfunction of the KLM plane; after standing on the taxiway for two hours, we were finally able to take off. The KLM staff has done their utmost to keep the inconvenience to a minimum. (Recommended: book a seat with extra legroom). At the airport of Dar es Salaam, we finally arrived around 1 o’clock in the morning, and there was a beaming guide/driver, he was already aware of our delay, and the first thing he said to us: Hakuna Matata! Fortunately, we had already planned an extra day in the trip to get used to the local temperature of 30-32 °C in Dar es Salaam, so we were taken to a hotel about an hour south of the airport. After Patrick (the driver) had called the hotel manager out of bed, we were assigned a neat room and someone was even sent to unlock the bar, to arrange a Kilimanjaro beer. We turned out to be able to use this extra day very well, because after a good night’s sleep, Patrick called at about 3 o’clock to ask if everything was going well, and if we agreed to leave at 8 o’clock the next morning.

During the car ride from Dar es Salaam to Udzungwa, Patrick turned out to be a very pleasant guide and travel companion. His own life story is good for a boy’s book (which still has to be written by someone). He can tell a hundred stories about his country, about politics, traffic, eating and drinking, other customs and ceremonies, about “mishkaki” (or as we should say satay?) but then on a moped, about the charcoal couriers, about the organization of public transport and you name it.  We stopped a few times along the way to score a cup of coffee with the tastiest samosas ever, or a great lunch of local dishes at a roadside restaurant, and also at a tree where a man was selling his morning-picked mangoes. These mangoes were so tasty that we spontaneously made an elderly Maasai who happened to be passing happy with our packed lunches. We also saw along the way what happens when it rains in Tanzania. This is a different size from a Dutch rain shower. Along the way we see many garden centers and many petrol stations.
Arriving in the Udzungwa Mountains (Hondo, hondo tented camp) we were met by all radiant faces, here too every question we carefully asked was translated into an assignment and answered with “Hakuna Matata”. It seems as if in Tanzania, nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible. Where we usually say “that’s not possible”, they say “that might be difficult”. The kitchen at this accommodation was fantastic! We were especially impressed that we couldn’t leave anything outside the tent, and better always close the doors of the tent behind us, because the baboons could use everything to investigate or demolish. Because we were still very impressed with the journey so far, we took it easy, by visiting a village nearby, where all the children greeted us very cheerfully with “Jambo, Jambo” Those happy children’s faces, must be stored somewhere in the gene bank of all Tanzanians, I have not seen one look unhappy.

Udzungwa is a paradise for trekking, past waterfalls, bird watching, listening to the rain forest sounds, looking at special trees and plants and more. There are very well-trained guides who can tell you all about the “small five” but you should not be surprised if you come across a huge pile of elephant dung on a steep path of a meter or two wide. Considering the condition that belongs to our age, we did the shortest walk, and the park guide and Patrick came up with a solution to visit a second larger waterfall. Hakuna Matata! Every morning during breakfast in Udzungwa, different types of monkeys came by. Not pushy or aggressive, but curious and apprehensive. They were probably as surprised by our presence as we were by theirs.

Because the journey from Udzungwa to Selous would not be a very comfortable journey, this trip was cut in two and we spent the night in Mikumi. We only ate and slept there so I can’t tell you much about this. The room with shower was neat and clean, the complex is well maintained. The staff was a little less enthusiastic than I had experienced until then, but Hakuna Matata also worked there. During the trip to Nyerere National Park, Patrick suggested an alternative route, not much around, but straight through the sugar cane plantations. Along the way he told us all about the production of cane sugar. The most remarkable thing was that the roads appear to be unpaved, but are actually paved by letting waste sugar cane break down on the roads during the rainy season, leaving a hard sugar layer on the road, comparable to asphalt. Another fact: only the 3rd grade sugar stays in Tanzania; the good quality is for export. A kilo of that 3rd grade sugar then costs 2 dollars. Unaffordable for the common people. We also stopped briefly at a marble quarry, where marble mined on the surface is crushed with human hands and large hammers to make “bling bling” stucco. After a long day of driving, say around tea time, we arrived at the Matambwe gate of Nyerere National park. We had to cross this quite a bit to reach our accommodation for the next few days. Part of the national park is the Selous game reserve, the place where a lot of game still roams around. With about half an hour to go, Patrick told us that we had just entered the game reserve, and that we were actually guests of the wild animals.

No sooner had he finished speaking than a huge solitary male elephant emerged from the bushes, flailing his ears and trunk furiously. Patrick stopped the car and explained to us how to deal with such a situation. No noise or wild movements, and furthermore it’s just a “staredown” where the elephant finds it enough at some point and starts looking for something else to enjoy. About 30 minutes from our destination, near the airstrip, Patrick asked if we were ready for some wild animals. He drove off the path for a while, and in no time there were two lionesses with two little ones three meters next to the car. Enjoy the moment, and then back to the road, in the meantime spotted buffaloes, zebras, impalas and giraffes.

Finally we came to a river, where a wooden staircase led down to the water, and a hollowed-out tree trunk was moored. After a few minutes a boat with sunshade came to pick us up to take us to the Selous Wilderness Camp. When we arrived we were welcomed with fresh towels and the inevitable glass of fruit juice. You can say with certainty that once you have tasted a mango in Tanzania, you will never enjoy a mango in the Netherlands again. It even seems that all tastes, colors and smells are much more intense than at home, but that can also be a bit of euphoria. Because it can be a bit busy after sunset with crossing animals such as hippos and such, we were guided from the restaurant to the tent by a Maasai in a traditional red blanket and on car tire slippers, but with the help of a rechargeable lamp from Ikea. Where tradition meets progress. In the tent a lot of luxurious decoration, (rechargeable fans from the HEMA!) And…. an emergency whistle. This last article in case you should have a disagreement with the natural inhabitants at night. Three people were present all night around the tents to keep any curious animals at a safe distance.

This does not alter the fact that we were awakened at night by the grunting of the hippos that scurried around the tent. Due to the weather forecast and the possibility of a rain shower, Patrick had adjusted the program, so that we spent the whole day on safari in Selous. At the end of the day we still had to process all the impressions we had gained. I then suddenly realized that a safari is not a holiday, but exactly what the term means: a journey, and that is quite hard work! Fortunately, the food in all camps is of a very high quality, in one case a bit more original and local, in the other a Western meal through the eyes of a native cook (chin) what they have in common: it is all very tasty. Very often the food is almost vegetarian, but with so much flavor you don’t miss the piece of meat.

The next day there was a morning safari on the program, and then another boat safari towards the end of the afternoon. At the end of the morning we actually wanted to see the zebras close up again, but after a hundred or more impalas, 30 or so giraffes in all kinds of colors and markings, a beautiful wildebeest stallion, a nest of hyenas, crocodiles, hippos, ospreys, purple herons, gigantic dragonflies, lizards, trumpet hornbills, hammerhead birds, umbrella birds and a tartan lunch on the bonnet of the land cruiser, we were completely exhausted, we couldn’t take in any more impressions. Back at camp, freshen up, have a drink, and then board a boat with an old two-stroke outboard engine that you think is about to blow out its last puff of smoke, first watch the river downstream. With amazement seen how the local population deals with the aftermath of the floods that destroyed a lot here three years ago. The children just go to school (are transferred by canoe) they have swimming lessons in the same water where their father tries to catch a meal with a leaky canoe, and the local crocodile population preys on the same fish.

With this picture still in my head, the skipper headed upstream, to a nesting site of the yellow weaver bird… so impressive: all the males build a nest of grass and other fibers and stick it together with saliva. Then a female comes along like a spoiled building inspector, and if she doesn’t like the nest, it’s a pity for the male… Further along the river Patrick saw some small crocodiles with his busheyes. He said the osprey we heard calling and saw circling was probably looking for those little crocodiles. Even further upstream, there are a few large sandbanks in the river. Of course with a large colony of hippos. After docking here, a cooler appeared out of nowhere with cold beers and wine, popcorn, and beach chairs.

And all to watch the sun set over the rainforest… impressive, but especially how it is organized. Then over a pitch-dark river full of hippos and crocodiles back to the river camp, and had another delicious meal. The next day we had a look in a souvenir stall and then to the airstrip at the Mtemere gate. Here we were helped into a kind of bus with wings (Cessna Caravan) without any problems, and we were in Zanzibar about an hour later. I felt a bit burdened towards Patrick, he finally had to return the car to Dar es Salaam. The distance we covered in an hour on the plane took him all day, but as he said himself “at least I have an “African back massage” all day long.

Once on Zanzibar we were neatly and efficiently driven to the village of Jambiani and delivered to the Casa Beach hotel. CULTURE SHOCK!!!! After more than a week living among the wild animals, this modern hotel felt like a decadent retreat for disgustingly wealthy sultans. We were received like king and queen despite our well-traveled appearance. And the next morning we were already addressed as “Baba & Bibi” every member of staff and staff, came every morning to ask if we had slept well, and how the eggs were fried or cooked, it never took longer than two hour before another one of those incredibly sweet people came to ask if we were still short. Never pushy, and always friendly and seriously interested in our well-being. That day we also received a text message and e-mail from the Dutch embassy that there was increased vigilance in connection with a possible terrorist threat. Avoid places where many Westerners gather. We have taken note of this, and in the spirit of the Hakuna Matata thought, we will be here for another week first… no worries.

We enjoyed the stay in the hotel immensely, but also sometimes felt a little vicarious embarrassment. Pampering, I think that’s the right verb for what these people have mastered to perfection. Every day during this short week, a trip was planned. First a cooking workshop with Mr Okala, who welcomed us in his traditional restaurant and tried to teach us how to make samosas in the traditional way, seasoned rice, fish in coconut sauce, and chapatis also had to be made. All very original and unaffected, and above all tasty. The next day a visit to the traditional village of Makunduchi, where, in addition to the traditional huts, the art of picking coconuts was also demonstrated, but all kinds of fruit were also picked from a tree and eaten together with the local children (Jambo Jambo). There was also a demonstration of what it takes to make a piece of rope from coconut fibres.

The next day a boat trip to an uninhabited island was planned with a traditional dhow. But the weather had been turbulent for a few days, high waves and a lot of wind. At first we were not so sure that this could continue. Now I am not so easily stuffy on a boat, but in rough weather I can sail on the North Sea as often as I want, only my wife does not (voluntarily) come along. It turned out that this trip was planned on the other side of the island, and the weather was very different there. This day was again a king’s day, all day on the water with a wooden (and therefore leaking) Dhow, sailing as much as possible in the traditional way. Snorkeling on a reef, BBQ lunch with lobster and fish on the beach of a desert island, unforgettable. For the hotel staff, the moment we returned to the hotel was unforgettable. The wonderful manager of the hotel came up to me and said: you must have had a lot of fun, because you have a head like a tomato… Stubborn as I was, I had not applied any grease or a cap. Typical for Mzungu, but they can never take the experience away from me.

In the evening there was also a message from KLM that there was a “disruption in the operation” which delayed our flight by 16 hours! After an app with Explore Tanzania, there was a solution for the next day within an hour. Because the plan for the next day was that we would be picked up in the morning, then go by taxi to a “spice farm” for a tour, lunch, and purchase of herbs, and then be taken to the airport for the return journey at approx. 0:00. This plan was quickly changed: We stayed at least an extra night in the hotel. The rest came later (Hakuna Matata) The next day, Explore Tanzania had made sure that our tickets were changed to a “local” flight to Nairobi, and then home from Nairobi with KLM. At that moment I was so happy that we left all the paperwork and paperwork to Explore Tanzania from the start. It was a small price for an enormous convenience, and it is precisely when things go wrong that you are glad that you can count on these people. For comparison: in our hotel there were also others who e.g. had arranged the flights themselves, but they received “zero” at every airline.

In the end we came home very satisfied and the many photos proved to us that it was not all a dream.

Thank you Marjolein & team Explore Tanzania for a “Safari” of 16 days and beautiful memories for the next 16 years.

P.S., even the settlement of the refund and damage claim at KLM was handled by Explore Tanzania without any problem.

Hakuna Matata! It’s a trouble-free philosophy

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