Strathspey Wildlife  
Africa 2006
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Monday 6th February 2006

This morning we were up by 6.15 am, and away to breakfast for 7.30. This was to be the morning of our walk up into the Udzwunga Mountains to the spectacular Sanje Falls. Having reserved their right to change to an easier walk, some opted out, leaving 5 of us to take on the walk, Lucy, Ron, Helene (aka "The Duchess" courtesy of Ron) Nancy and myself. The Udzwungas promised to be one of the highlights of the trip. Described as "The Galapagos of Africa." these ancient mountain rainforests are some of the oldest in the world, with a 500 mile arc stretching south from  the Kenyan border. With  a chain of rainforest islands, the moist air of the Indian Ocean has helped to create a biodiversity that is unique. We travelled a short distance to the Park Office  to pick up Benedict,  our guide for the day.  It was here also that we hired two porters between the group, to carry our daypacks containing our packed lunches, and three litres of water each. Close to the office we saw an Iringa Red Colobus monkey, only found here. It differs from its cousin in that the red only extends down the back of its head, as opposed to the length of its back.



Soon, we were climbing. We were pleased that we were walking in the shade of  the trees, and Benedict was taking us up at a relatively comfortable pace, stopping fairly frequently to point out various trees, many with medicinal properties, both modern and traditional. We could hear monkeys in the canopy of the trees, but sightings were difficult. We were anticipating that the walk to the falls would take between 2 and 3 hours, which proved to be about right. Our first sighting was as we arrived at the lower, first level of the falls, where we stopped briefly, before continuing upwards, through the second level and on to the small lake at the base of the main fall. Despite the dry spell of weather that Tanzania had been experiencing, the falls were still quite spectacular. We took off our boots and socks, and cooled off as we had our packed lunch. Collectively, we gave some of our food to our porters, Jackson and Peter, and by the end I think they had more than us - and they tucked into chicken, cheese and tomato sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs and bananas with relish. These guys were always grateful at the opportunity of earning a little extra cash - with a suggested "tip" of 3 - 5,000 shillings (£1.50 to £2.50) this was good money for them where daily wages can be just $1 a day.

Whilst we chose simply to cool our feet, Lucy and Ron decided to take a dip in the cool mountain waters, followed later by Helene. As Lucy swam, she tried hard, but could not disguise the "coolness" of the water.  My GPS indicated a height of 759 metres, and after a relaxing hour or so, it was time to head down. Benedict took us back via a shorter route - though the path was much rougher. This took us to a break in the trees, which gave us a superb view of the full height of the falls. We could only guess at what a spectacle these falls must present when in full flow. As we made our way down, having negotiated the most difficult sections of the steep path, Nancy took a tumble, as she reached into her pocket for a tissue. She quickly regained her feet, and almost instantly, Ron also took a tumble. He got himself up, dusted himself down, cursing    "..damn monkey sperm!" This was one of his "Ronisms,"
little Canadian/Americanised phrases that had the group in stitches from time to time. Wherever Ron was, you could be sure of a laugh or two.


We continued down, taking time to stop for a cool drink at the bottom, where Steve, our driver had arranged for a local to bring a crate of soft drinks.
 This guy, on our departure "tried it on" as he claimed Nancy had not paid for our drinks. Intentional or by mistake we were not to know, but gladly, the matter was resolved with the intervention of Steve. We departed with an amiable wave, returned by the guy in question. We made our way back to our lodges, meeting the other members of the group setting out on a walk. By this time the sun was at full strength, and we were glad to get back - needless
 to say - for a cool "Kili."Following dinner that evening, Lucy had arranged for a troop of local village dancers to put on a display. This went on for well over an hour - which, given the amount of energy they put into their dancing was quite amazing. Towards the end, the local children joined in. A member of a German group at the lodge was taking video - and the youngsters were only too pleased to dance for him - swarming around the camera like flies around a jam pot. These children too were full of energy - with an inherent rhythm built into their dancing. Some of our girls joined in - but they didn't have the staying power of the villagers !! A quite enjoyable evening.  When Lucy had been organising the dancing display earlier that day - she had approached the tour leader of the German group to see if they would split the cost of the display. She came back later to say that they had declined !!
As it was, the bill was settled by the lodge itself - so it was with some satisfaction later, that when the basket came around our table for tips for the dancers, and once we all made our contributions, I took the basket across to the Germans' table and plonked it in the middle. I took great pleasure watching them  embarrassingly, digging into their pockets.  Basil Fawlty himself would have been proud of me!!!
An excellent end to an excellent day - Off to bed !!