The Path Of The Other Coin


This blog entry about the events of Tuesday, May 04, 2004 was originally posted on May 11, 2004.

DAY 199: On Day 193: Tomorrow in Tanzania, it was up in the air where I would go after Dar-es-Salaam.  I had boiled down my plethora of options to just two:  1) go to the touristic town of Arusha and organize a trek and safari combo with a Mr. Jalala of Kilimanjaro Crown Tours (recommended by fellow travelers Frank, Francesca and Yvonne in Nkhata Bay, Malawi); or 2) go to the smaller town of Moshi to meet American expatriate Tony (referred to by Cristina in Lusaka, Zambia) and organize a trek/safari with Tin Tin Tours (recommended to me not by a fellow traveler, but a Tanzanian rasta named Goba).  In the end, it boiled down to a simple toss-up and rather than just flip a coin, I played the laws of probability in a more mystical way.  Like randomly picking one of two stones out of my pocket as done in the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, I blindly picked one of two coins — a Malawian and a Tanzanian — the former representing Moshi, the latter for Arusha.

Malawi came up and my path from there was decided.  But little did I know at the time that the path of one would lead me right back to the path of the other one.

THE FIVE-HOUR TREK DOWN the rest of Mount Kilimanjaro’s Marangu Route was straightforward.  After breakfast, Jimmy and I hiked back the way we came, through the moorland, heather zone, mountain forest and rainforest.  Halfway down we stopped at the Mandara Huts for lunch.  Nearby a family of black colobus monkeys looked down on me from a tree branch above.

Back at the entry gate I received my certificate for reaching the end of the Marangu Route at Gilman’s Point.  I returned my rental raingear and hopped back in the jeep bound back to Moshi.  Before returning to the Tin Tin Tours office, we stopped at an exchange bureau so that I could charge cash off my credit card so that I would no longer be cashless for tips.

“How are you feeling?” Jimmy asked me.

“I’m so dirty,” I answered.  “But it’s good to be breathing air again.”

I thought I might have had the rest of the day and the next before starting the second half of my trek/safari package with Tin Tin Tours, but when I arrived back at the office, Freddie told me I was already booked for a safari to leave the next morning.  It being the low season for tourism, there weren’t enough clients in Moshi for them to organize a trip themselves.  Instead, they tagged me onto a group from another tour agency based in Arusha. 

After taking a much needed shower in a nearby guesthouse courtesy of Tin Tin, Freddie escorted me all the way to Arusha to oversee that my transfer to the other company when smoothly.  We rode in the comforts of Princess Class on a Scandinavian coach bus and were picked up by a jeep at the bus terminal.

“DO YOU KNOW YVONNE?” the tour manager asked me when I met him outside his office.

“Yeah,” I answered.

“I’m Mister Jalala.” 

Slowly it began to register; this was the Mr. Jalala that Yvonne had e-mailed me about.  By some strange coincidence, the path of the coin I chose the week before had led me back to The Path Of The Other Coin.  By some strange coincidence, out of the dozens and dozens of tour agencies in Arusha fighting for the tourist dollar, Tin Tin had picked one that I might have gone to anyway.

Mr. Jalala put me in the same guesthouse that he put Yvonne in.  She wasn’t there when I arrived; she too had just come down Kilimanjaro (via a different route) and was out somewhere in town.  After settling down in a room, I went out somewhere in town too:  to the internet cafe down the block.  I was instructed by the hotel manager not to stray any farther than that; at night Arusha got very dangerous and strangle muggings were a common thing.  When Freddie and I went out to dinner at Khan’s Barbecue (picture above), a humble-looking but incredibly delicious sidewalk barbecue buffet on nearby Mosque Street, the restaurant owner reiterated the warnings of nighttime Arusha, even to a local like Freddie.

“If you want to keep that jacket, you should take a taxi,” he advised him.

I stayed in the courtyard of the guesthouse the rest of the night.

“HEY!” I CALLED TO YVONNE when she arrived by taxi instead of merely walking five-minutes through the dark Arushan streets.

“Hey, Mr. Jalala said you never came,” she said.  Last she heard from me I was only just thinking about going to Arusha to meet the folks at Kilimanjaro Crown Tours.  I told her of the strange coincidence of the day.

We passed the time through the night chatting at the table in the courtyard.  We swapped Kilimanjaro stories; she told me how she had actually reached Uhuru Peak via the Machame route, a different and steeper trail spread over six days, which she decided to take after hearing that the “easier” “tourist” “Coca-Cola” Marangu Route was actually the more challenging one.  (The percentage of people reaching Uhuru Peak via the Marangu Route was lower than the number taking the Machame Route.  In fact, she spoke of a Japanese guy that had attempted reaching the peak via the Marangu Route four times, failing each time.)

Yvonne was slated to stay in Arusha for a day to catch up on her writing duties — she too was a freelance travel writer (based in Hong Kong), also maintaining a blog — before going off on a specialized five-day safari.  I thought maybe we’d head off on the “standard Serengeti safari” together, but she had already seen those grasslands on a previous assignment and was headed south on a pricier trip to see the bushmen.

The Hong Kong-based writer filled me in on what kind of service I might expect from the Arushan tour company.  Her trek guy already started asking about tips before the trek was over, and she was dropped off in the wrong town (Moshi) after her tiring descent.  She had to organize her own ride back to Arusha and was so pissed off when she got back to the guesthouse.

Perhaps the random selection of the Malawian coin that night in Dar-es-Salaam led me the right way after all.  Whether or not the questionable service on The Path Of The Other Coin would continue on my upcoming safari I didn’t know, but I was soon to find out.

Next entry: Modern Maasai

Previous entry: Surviving Kilimanjaro

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Comments for “The Path Of The Other Coin”

  • “I’m so dirty” ...reminds me of someone else….LOL

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/12  at  12:19 AM

  • That reminds me of the awesome comedors in Nicaragua - just out there for the taking on the street!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  05/12  at  01:20 AM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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