Hiking to Sanje Falls, Part 5
Paul and I slept well last night in our oversized bed under the hum of the air conditioner. I sort of missed that squawking bird though:). We were up early so we decide to see if we can eat breakfast now, even though the restaurant has our group scheduled for a 7:30 breakfast. When we arrive at the open air dining room, the wait staff is happy to seat us at our groups prepared table, and we soon have our food. One unusual practice here at the Lodge is that you must order your evening meal at breakfast. When we arrived yesterday they took our dinner order after we received our room assignments. Interesting.
The rest of our companions begin filtering into the dining area as we are finishing our meal. We find out that we missed seeing monkeys that were climbing in the trees near our balcony. Rats, sometimes the early bird misses out. Hopefully the monkeys will show up outside our room tomorrow morning.
Tembo and Mbuzi decide to forego the hike and enjoy the beautiful surroundings of the Lodge, as we have been told the Sanje Falls hike will be tougher than the Morogoro hike. I am surmising that another reason our friends are staying behind, is that Mbuzi needs to recuperate from tsetse fly bites. For some reason, these nasty flies decided that Mbuzi was the tastiest member of our group. While we were in Mikumi, the stinking tsetse flies were relentless in pestering Mbuzi, and their bites left welts and even bruises on her arms and legs. Mbuzi was obviously having a reaction to the bite of the pesky insects, but she never lost her sunny smile despite this misery. In our vehicle, I only know of Paul and Ngruwe who were bitten by the nasty flies. If Uwiano or Vidole Juu were ever feasted on by the insects, they never told us. Ngruwe learned the hard way that you really need to think about where the enemy has landed, before you viciously swat a tsetse fly. It took twenty minutes for Ngruwe’s voice to come back down two octaves! Poor Ngruwe, it’s a heck of a deal when your friends laugh at your demise instead of commiserating with you.
Well to get back on track here, we climb into the Rovers and take an extremely bumpy, dusty ride to the headquarters of the Udzungwa National Park. Once we arrive, we are ushered into a room where a ranger talks to our group about the Park, and the endemic species that are found in the Udzungwa Mountains. Unfortunately, I really can’t understand the man so my attention is wandering. I notice Nyama keeps looking out the door and eventually she leaves the building. Being curious, I look out the door myself and see that she has returned to our Rover. I walk over to the vehicle and ask Nyama if everything is alright. Nyama motions to a trio of young men she has been keeping an eye on as they began moving toward our unlocked vehicle. Nyama felt it might be wise to stand vigil since our packs and some cameras were left in the truck. The fact that the young men are leaning on a fence right next to our Rover might be completely innocent, but we both decide to sit in the truck while the others are still inside.
Eventually, Bacari appears at the door, but when he rushes out to return to his truck, it is because a baboon is walking towards the Rover, and the driver’s window is rolled down. Bacari makes quite a ruckus in order to chase the marauding baboon off the premises. The baboon has obviously found goodies in vehicles before and was again hoping for easy pickings.
When the program is over, everyone returns to their vehicles and we backtrack over the bone jarring road. Somewhere (due to my lousy journal keeping I’m not sure where) we stop and divide the box lunches among those who are trekking the long hiking trail and those of us who are taking the short route. We shuffle around so the long trekkers are in one of the trucks and those of us going the short route take the other two Rovers. Brian, Vidole Juu, Nyama, Ngruwe, our driver Kevin, and a local guide are taking the circuitous route. That leaves seven of us going up the shorter trail, plus Bacari, and our local guide. We go our separate ways now, as our trailheads begin in different areas of the park.
I am surprised that Njema, Mawe, and Uwiano didn’t hike the long route because they had no problems, as far as I could see, on our hike in Morogoro. Earlier, I had told Paul that he certainly didn’t need to stay with me if he wanted to hike the long trail. Paul waffled a bit but then decided the short way was fine with him.
We arrive at what appears to be a private home and sure enough this is where the trail begins, so we prepare to follow our young guide up the mountain to the top of Sanje falls. The trail is steep but well maintained and our guide has obviously been instructed to go “pole, pole” (poh-lay, poh-lay) which means slowly. The young man evidently took it to heart as sometimes it feels like we are standing still! Oh wait, often we are standing still, as many of the trees and bushes have educational signs by them containing the trees name, and all the products that can be derived from that tree. We stop by every one of the labeled trees and listen as our guide tells us the name, plus all the products, be it lumber, medicine etc., that the particular species is used for. Some of the trees and bushes are also poisonous or have mind altering properties if its leaves or seeds are ingested. At one place our guide uses a rock to pound on the huge trunk of a tree (I don’t remember the name of the tree). We listen as the hollow sound booms through the valley below us. In ancient times the natives used these trees to communicate with each other. It was pretty cool.
The education of the forest is very interesting for a while, but at least for me there is getting to be too much information. Several of us become restless and are ready to walk steadily up the mountain. Some of us, me included, ask the young man leading us if we can’t walk faster, but he insists we go “pole, pole”. I suppose to this youngster we look ancient, (anyone over 35 probably looks old to him), but hey, we are not in that bad of shape. Eventually, Njema and Uchunguzi begin walking in front of our guide which seems to speed things up a bit. At times, Paul and I take the lead and walk faster too.
Our group reaches a point in the trail that opens up for a wonderful view of Sanje Falls. We stop to take photos of the waterfall as it plunges over 500 feet down the mountain cliff. I notice, (I do have an imagination) that the rock ledge at the top of Sanje Falls, looks like an African mask. Paul agrees, and points out an elephant shape in the rock towards the bottom of the waterfall. Sure enough, I see it easily. I can’t remember who else admits that they see our fanciful images, but it certainly is not Daktari ya Moyo. With his usual dead pan humor, Daktari questions whether Paul and I sampled some of the hallucinogenic leaves we were schooled about along the trail! Daktari delivers a lot of priceless one-liners throughout our safari that always makes us laugh out loud.
I am surprised that we have seen virtually no birds or even heard much for bird song on our hike. Maybe it is just too late in the morning. We do see Black and white Colobus monkeys, but they are obscured by the foliage of the trees they are perched in.
When we reach a fork in the trail, our group splits up as three members decide to go down to the bottom of Sanje Falls and Bacari will take them there. The rest of us opt to travel onwards and upwards. There are lots of manmade steps in this segment of the trail and they vary in height, which adds to the challenge of climbing them. At least as we climb higher the air is cooler and it certainly isn’t as humid. I am going pole, pole now and it has nothing to do with the pace of our guide! The sound of the falls continues to grow louder with each step and finally we reach our destination. Yea, we made it and I feel pretty good!
Our guide takes us down a short path which leads to a huge slab of rock situated at the top of Sanje Falls. There is another man and his guide occupying the rock ledge, (truthfully, this duo breezed by us like we were a bunch of turtles, quite some time ago) but there is still plenty of room for our group too. We ohh and ahh, as we look out over the expansive valley from this birds eye view. There is a gush of water tumbling down a small rock face behind our stone picnic table, and the water gathers in a channel carved by water erosion. The small river flows along the edge of the rock ledge, and then fans out as it approaches the precipice, before plunging hundreds of feet down to the valley.
The stunning overview and the soothing sound of rushing water makes for a great backdrop to eat lunch. Hey, we have cold chicken, boiled egg, an apple, and a cucumber/tomato sandwich. All kidding aside, I really do enjoy the chicken and boiled egg; these two items travel well and they always taste good to me.
There is a pair of Mountain Wagtail who entertains us, particularly Usiku, Paul and I, as the birds forage in the crevices of the rocks. We discover that the birds have a nest tucked under an outcrop of rock, close to the small waterfall. We are delighted to discover with the aid of our binoculars that there is a chick in the nest. These birds crack me up as they never stop moving their tails up and down, hence the name wagtail.
We relax in this special place for a short time after lunch and then begin walking up to the main trail. We haven’t traveled far when we hear the sound of familiar voices. I wish I had a photo of the rather shocked look on the faces of the foursome when they see us. I hear Nyama exclaim (is that disbelief in her voice?), “It’s Nancy!” which makes me laugh out loud. After exchanging some pleasantries, the long haulers, tell us we should hike on to the other small falls which are farther up the mountain. Vidole assures us that it is only a hundred yards or so to the first waterfall. Oh why not, we had a nice rest while eating and if they are that close, we can handle it.
A least a quarter of a mile later (was Vidole pulling our leg?); we arrive at the first waterfall. There is a sign that proclaims you are not to swim here and we are told that there is a deep hole beneath the surface of this innocent looking pool of water, which has a whirlpool effect. If you get sucked into the dervish, you aren’t coming back out. We continue up a steep path until we find the second waterfall which plunges down a vertical wall of stone. The water is falling with such power that mist is spraying through the air. With the roar of the waterfall and the spray of mist, this falls is quite dramatic.
This time we really are returning to our Rovers, and the steps are no easier to navigate going back down. Sometimes you must take giant steps, then regular steps, baby steps, and too often, rickety steps. Brian’s crew catches up with us and we hike the trail together. When we reach the fork in the trail that leads to the base of the falls, the fearless four along with Uwiano decide they will make the trip to the base of Sanje falls. The rest of us say no thanks and continue to where our Rovers await. The reason I call them the fearless four is because Nyama told me they had to cross a suspension bridge while hiking the long trail, which is a bit thrilling in itself. This bridge went beyond thrilling though, as it was missing some planks, so they had to shimmy along the support wires to get across the thing!! No Thank You.
As we continue down the path, I see a long branch hanging down from a tree just off the trail. Except this isn’t a branch at all, it is a tail, and the tail belongs to a Red Colobus monkey. Hurray! I really wanted to see one of these red-headed primates and I am pretty excited at spotting the monkey. Usiku, Paul and I show our enthusiasm verbally with the sighting of the Red Colobus. Daktari and Mawe enjoy the primate in their typical quiet demeanor. We realize there are several monkeys when they begin to vacate the tree, and are making acrobatic leaps to tree limbs below them. It dawns on me that I have hogged the prime spot to take photos of the primates, which makes me feel terrible. Everyone, including Paul, should not have been so polite, and told me to move!
When we reach our truck, the trio who went to the bottom of Sanje Falls this morning, are waiting for us, along with Njema and Kevin, who left those of us walking at a more leisurely pace in the dust. Kevin agrees to take five of us back to the lodge since we see no reason to wait for the people who are hiking down to the base of Sanje falls. It was a tough, tiring hike but the spectacular view was certainly worth it. Plus we were able to spend some quality time with others in our group that we are separated from when we are on game drives.
In visiting with Tembo and Mbuzi this evening they tell us they saw three different species of monkeys on the grounds of the lodge including the Red Colobus. Excellent! We also see photos of the fearless four spelling out KSU(Kansas State University) on the peak of the mountain. I would guess they are the first KSU graduates to strike this pose in the Udzungwa Mountains in Tanzania!
Tonight our dinner entertainment includes a flute player who is very talented. The dancers have a wider variety of moves than the guys last night too. The food is excellent once everyone gets their order straightened out. Well, a few people just give up on receiving what they ordered this morning and take the plate of food that is offered to them! Nancy
P.S, If you want to confuse spellcheck, Swahili is the way to do it:).