Tanzania 16 October: Momela Gate, Arusha National Park
Mount Meru Waterfall
With no schools programme or civic ceremony planned for today, three of our team opted to take the Peace Torch out of town to discover the natural beauty the Arusha area is so famous for, and maybe see some of the wildlife. We chose a half day hike to Mount Meru Waterfall with a return journey by 4-wheel drive through the Arusha National Park. Our first glimpse of Mount Meru came as we drove out of town towards the Momela Gate.
The start of the Waterfall Trail. Many trekkers start their ascent of Mount Meru from here but that takes several days - we were only planning to hike for 3 hours.
We were accompanied by 2 guides, Mohammed and John. Mohammed told us his rifle was just in case we startled a buffalo in the forest. That was reassuring as we were in the Arusha National Park which does have a small lion population!
The upland scenery was beautiful and peaceful - a lovely contrast from the vibrant and colourful streets of Arusha where we had spent the last few days.
The trail followed a stream across the open country towards the forested mountainside. No climbing required!
We were expecting a tough hike but it was actually pretty easy going - John and Mohammed stopped regularly to tell us about the plant life - there were plants that yield natural soap, fruit that can settle an upset stomach and leaves that can be used to heal wounds and prevent infection.
The waterfall was spectacular, a torrent falling from the cliffs into a deep gorge in the forest. We lit the Peace Torch and it was passed around to a few hikers who were following the same route.
After enjoying the tranquility of the gorge and breathing in lots of the super-fresh air around the falls we headed back by a different route.
A lovely surprise on the return route - we got close to a small herd of giraffe and were able to walk up to them watch them feed. We hadn't expected to get close to these beautiful creatures while on foot, so it was one of the highlights of the day. We spent a long time giraffe-watching and our guides eventually had to drag us away.
Once we had completed our hike we got back into our 4-wheel drive and our guide drove us home via the Arusha National Park - this was very much the "long way round" and took in a few hours of game driving. Arusha Park is just outside the city and doesn't have the same profile as the Ngorogoro or Serengeti regions but we were lucky enough to see lots of wildlife. First came this family of zebra...
Where you find buffalo you also find Poomba, or warthog. They have an arrangement - the warthogs act as an alarm system as they have better senses for detecting danger than the buffalo. In return the buffalo crop the grass making it easier for the warthog to feed. It's a win-win situation. Later we saw warthogs play-fighting with each other, in a kind of headbutt contest - they're very entertaining!
Baboons were everywhere, sometimes we had a dozen or so blocking the road and had to slowly drive round them. They seem be constantly picking ticks from each other - it's clearly a full time job.
Little Momela Lake was completely covered by flamingoes. They look very stately and poised when standing on one leg but their take off and landing are quite comical. We watched them for ages and only moved on when our car got invaded by bees and we had to make a quick exit.
Our team at our lunch stop - the Momela Lakes Viewpoint. Lunch was provided by our guide and included some interesting vegetarian treats such as bananas, doughnuts and a portion of cold chips (fries). Delicious!
After Momela Lakes we drove up into the rain forest for the last viewpoint of the day, set among amazing tropical trees.
We were treated to a lovely view out over the Ngurdoto Crater, a volcanic crater surrounded by ridges covered in rainforest and filled with lush meadows and marshes. Looking out over the crater was sublime and serene. We also saw hornbills perched in the trees around us and flying out over the crater. Not your average day of Peace Run but a great trip and very good for the Inner Peace of all those who went! As the Peace Run's Founder once so eloquently said - "If peace is not In Nature’s beauty, Then where is it, where?" (Sri Chinmoy)