My accommodation for the duration of my 8 week trip was in a village called Rau. It was located a 25 minute walk away from the center of Moshi and a haven of dirt roads laden with pot holes, lingering dust clouds and mounds of rubble. To walk upon, minus flip flops not lasting a week and every pair of shoe becoming hole ridden, it became a treacherous journey to get from A to B to return with clumps of dust clinging to the sweat on the backs of your legs. Car journeys were renamed ‘butt massages’, tarmac became heaven on both the feet and the eye and pavements in the western world soon became a luxury. Cutting the dusty tracks a little slack, they sure added a little spice to the daily routine and you soon became a professional at walking with your eyes closed and your breath held when cars or Boda Boda’s (African motorbikes) zoomed past.
Moshi itself sure had everything we needed. The expectation was that Western food would be impossible to find, vegetarians would be forced to consume wild animals and that drinking out of the tap would kill you in an instance. I can assure you, none of the above was true.
Western food was everywhere. If anything, we had trouble seeking out the quirky and delicious local food places that seemed to offer themselves up in the last few weeks of the trip. Moshi had an array of supermarkets, Indian restaurants, Thai, Italian and even a Bistro. Vegetarianism was a recognized lifestyle choice and there were no sneaky meat pieces (or that I know of!?) floating around in my vegetable soup. As for the vast range of Indian cuisine, they even had an all vegetarian Indian restaurant that served great food for cheap prices. And, as for the tap water, Moshi’s water was ‘drinkable’. Many expats and foreign doctors I met drank the tap water if necessary and never complained of being sick. I personally chose to only brush my teeth with the tap water and stuck to bottled water at all times. However, it was comforting knowing that main water sources were providing fresh water from the mountain and if, in desperation, I was to consume a glass, I wouldn’t keel over.
Moshi was not short of banks or cash points either. I was surprised to find a Barclays bank and separate ATM machines around the town as well as many other banking companies that originate from within the continent. Putting safety first, all trusted banks and ATM’s had armed guards patrolling outside however these were within restricted working hours and their uniforms never did quite tell you if they were Armed Police or crazies with AK47’s!
On the outskirts of Moshi there were an array of hotels many of which have swimming pools in which non hotel guests can use at a small fee. The favourite of mine, and surprisingly was only visited once throughout my trip, was at Keys Hotel. For a small fee of 5,000 TSH you were allowed access to their small, but lovely clean over-chlorinated pool. The over-chlorination soon was viewed as a blessing as you knew any bad bacteria floating about never stood a chance at surviving! They also served food and drinks by the poolside which, if you were up for pushing the westernization within your day, then burgers and pizzas were available (quite tasty I heard!).
Coffee, I hear you ask? Well, you’re in luck as Moshi had a wonderful array of coffee shops (I will rate my top 5 in another post, but for the moment you were never short of the stuff). As coffee is a significant aspect of the economy, it’s largest export crop to be precise, it was on hand everywhere you went. Some places, yes, even mimicked Starbucks and Costa and sold takeaway coffees (this seemed almost impossible to comprehend with in my mind). Whether you were a cappuccino gal, an americano guy or an espresso milkshake kinda honey, you could find almost anything coffee flavoured. I sure stepped up my caffeine consumption let’s just say.
So you’ve had your Western food fix, you’re bored of supermarkets as they remind you too much of your old way of living so you decide to be adventurous and buy fruit and vegetables from the side of the road. Before I left for Tanzania, I was warned against buying most street food, be it your fresh 5-a-day or kebabu’s and samosas: it was just not advised. And how I am so glad I tend to go against what I am told. The fruit and vegetables sold by the Mamas was the best you could find. As organic and ripe as you can get, carried miles from A to B on the tops of their heads in the blistering heat and sold for a tenth of what you would pay back in the UK. Fresh watermelon was juicy and sweet, Avocados were perfectly ripe and soft and bananas came in the sweet variety and the not so sweet. Plus, once you get to grips with your Swahili phrases and learn to haggle, you’ll be paying less than 30 pence for an avocado and around 35 pence for a large bunch of bananas. As for the street food, dependent on where you go and where the locals recommend, buying samosas from a street seller could be a great decision. Meat eaters loved kababu’s: a Tanzanian sausage which resonates the look and apparent taste of kebab meat, they also loved Mishkaki: pieces of BBQ’ed chicken on kebab sticks and were suckers for the traditional Beef samosas. For veggies, we consumed vegetable samosas that were crispy and full of flavour and also once you seek out the authentic Indian places, lentil patties that were crispy and surprisingly light.
Beer. Even for the non-beer drinkers Tanzanian beer is light, smooth and extremely satisfying. Be sure to ask for ‘Bia biridi sana’ and you’re sure to have an ice cold beer and not a luke warm bottle. Many different types of beers appeared in their strengths in alcohol content and in strong taste. As a non-beer drinker I stuck to Kilimanjaro Beer. The lightest and tastiest in my opinion and at only 2,200 to 2,500 TSH (Around £94p) a bottle you can’t really complain. The intermediate beer drinkers consumed Serengeti, a slightly heavier beer with more of a ‘beery’ taste as you could say. A good beer to drink on Safari whilst in the Serengeti which brings me to the next beer: Safari. The stronger of the 3, Safari was a man’s man beer and a packed a bitter aftertaste compared to the others. They marketed the beers well those Tanzanians: Kilimanjaro beer to drink whilst climbing Kili, Serengeti whilst exploring the wonderful plains of Africa and Safari beer if you went on a safari but decided not to venture to the Serengeti (bad move – the Serengeti is incredible!)
I’ve covered money, food, alcohol, coffee and leisure. Quite the westerner’s way of looking at visiting Tanzania. However you’ll find that once you’re there you’ll begin to act like a local, surround yourself with locals and almost become a local. You soon lose interest in the western food, the swimming pool on the weekends and the need for a takeaway coffee. You soon step back and see Tanzania in all it’s beauty and realise these materialistic and western comforts are really insignificant.
The tacky array of knock-off suitcases and medicine men perched on the roadside with bottles of pills and potions ready to be consumed.