We arrived yesterday at Dipa Lodge after a day of driving eastbound through Tanzania. We passed through the Baobab Valley again and saw the familiar villages and smiling faces. When we arrived we were surprised by our accommodations. Thus far in our tour through Africa we have stayed at very modest places: Riverside Campground in the banda at the top of the hill with the hot water heater and the pump that we had to turn on 40 minutes prior to showering; Chogela Camps where 3 of us shared a tent and 20 of us shared a seated toilet; and the Ruaha Rest House where the shower is cold, the electricity is temperamental, and you fell asleep to the sound of elephants outside your window. Dipa Lodge looks like the Taj Mahal compared to these places. There is a swimming pool, each room has its own elegant bathroom and a porch overlooking the jungle, and the rooms have TV so we can practice more Swahili. Despite all of these luxuries, I find myself missing the simple life, especially Chogela Camps. There we felt most like a family, catching up on our stories and gossip while waiting in line for the warm shower.
On the schedule for today was a visit to the Ifakara Health Institute. IHI is essentially a health department for the region and they provide health services such as STI testing, psychosocial support, and rabies vaccinations for dogs. Their staff provided us with a great overview of their programs and research, and again I was impressed with how well they have the finger on the pulse of their health issues and challenges. After our day of lecture we headed to the wetlands to discuss the challenges associated with water scarcity, poor water quality, overharvesting of fish, and water-borne disease. What I loved about this was the “in situ” lesson – we even got an insider perspective from a curious onlooker who happened to be a fisherman in the area and had some honest feedback about the fishing practices and trends.
Tomorrow we head up the Udzungwa Mountains for a hike to a waterfall. It should be a great hike and another opportunity to appreciate the beauty of this country. I am really looking forward to being active and seeing more of Tanzania. It seems a new wonder at every turn!