It was 8am on a Sunday morning in Moshi town when I woke up thinking I had drastically overslept and that everyone was waiting for me at breakfast. Well, I thought wrong: I was the only one awake and James and Niamh were both still sound asleep in their respective bunk beds, not to mention the other four girls were still deep in their dream worlds in the other room! For someone used to waking up at 5:30am, I guess you could say 8am is still a “sleep-in”: I took advantage of the time and ran for the shower before anyone else had the opportunity to. Compared to my semi-bucket showers back in Arusha, the Backpackers in Moshi had a lovely running shower with tepid water to wash my hair. A shower has never felt so good in my life, especially after the fun-packed, yet muddy, adventure in the mountains the day before.

By the time I came back to the room, James and Niamh were ready to go — dressed, packed and hungry — so the three of us made our way to an unexpectedly glorious roof terrace for breakfast. Sitting beneath the pergolas, covered in bright green leaves, pink African tulips and admiring a lovely view of Moshi the three of us enjoyed a rather more complete breakfast than offered at the homes of our host families. Brown (toasted) bread, two different jams, Tanzanian pancakes, bananas, tea, coffee and juice: the smiles on our faces could definitely have been used for a Kodak advertisement. I also added to this buffet for three with my moderately ripened avocado I bought from a local lady in the mountains the day before: it was unlike any other avocado I’ve ever had.

Once the seven of us reunited downstairs after breakfast, we headed to the brightly coloured, ever smelly and flavorful Sunday market. Frank, one of our guides, met us to ensure that any purchases we made would be at a “rafiki” (friend) price. We had a very African encounter at one stall where exquisite fabrics were being sold: a few of us girls were in love with the typical women’s “kitenges”- I had never seen so many of them being sold at one place so this was a bonus- and so we began bargaining as best we could. Surrounded by locals, not only the shop owner, we bargained our way to a third of the price until Frank managed — in much more fluent Swahili — to halve the price.

After purchasing a few more fruits, namely mangoes, oranges and avocados, we rushed to catch a dalla-dalla to take us to a nearby village where Frank’s family lived.  Firstly, this dalla-dalla was by far the oldest and most rundown one I adventured on during my stay: there was no paint left on it, inside or outside, the benches were basically metal structures with sponges taped to them and the door no longer locked. Nonetheless we arrived at a gorgeous riverside village about 10 minutes out of Moshi, alive and in one piece. As we approached Frank’s family’s house, we walked along the river where about 75 people were washing freshly picked carrots from their farms. A bright, sunny orange colour shone from the aqua green water of the slow flowing river, as men and women collaborated in the washing processes. Just as fascinated by their skill and precision as we were, they were fascinated with us “mzungus”: this village was so small I’m sure they’ve maybe seen (if any) one white person before. A few even came up to us offering us carrots to eat, that in African culture, if offered something, one must accept and thank them profusely!

By the time we arrived at Frank’s house it was nearing 12:30pm and his entire family (mother, father, brothers, sisters, grandma, aunt, etc.) were so excited to meet us. This was definitely a non-touristy visit…no other guide would take you to their family’s house nearby and cook you lunch! All of us were extremely grateful and humbled by the effort every single family member put into receiving us. But yet again, as per African tradition, they were very excited and wanting to show and share their meal with us.  After an intricate tour of the land, Frank’s house, his grandmothers, his aunts and uncles, their small farm and minute moat surrounding the land, we all sat down at the table, in couches and even on the floor to enjoy the massive meal organized before us. Delicious meats, rices and cabbages were finely cooked and prepared full of love and expectation. The fact that nothing was left in the bowls or plates is a clear representation of how good the food was! It’s typical African culture to be received with such love into someone’s home and to be offered food — not this much food but at least chai and peanuts — and as guests you essentially can’t say no and must accept all that is offered in front of you. It was a very lovely meal that we thanked them for in our best Swahili and with a basket of fruits from the local market. Unfortunately we needed to rush out of their to get our 3pm bus back to Arusha: we still managed a few pictures and hugs with the family members still around.  A very complete Tanzanian day was topped off by a free bus ride to Arusha as we offered to carry a mother’s children back on our laps since we managed seats and she didn’t.