Chapter 12: The Safari Team

So it feels like this story should end here, right? Wrong. My experiences in Cheku invigorated me to do more and we conjured up a plan to transition Moshi’s cultural tours into a full-on safari company, fully integrating the environmental projects in the process.

My milk run to Tanzania started in Vancouver and went through Montreal, Toronto, and Istanbul before I finally arrived in Arusha where I met Moshi at the airport.

Plans for this trip were a little different this time. I hadn’t met our new business partner yet, so we had to make sure we had the same vision for the company. It’s almost like dating. We were checking each other out for compatibility, trustworthiness, and integrity.

Before leaving, I packed a really kickass medical kit. I would be able to suck the poison out of a venomous snakebite, sling up a broken arm, provide a wide variety of Band-Aids, stop the bleeding from a spear or a wooden stake wound, or even staple a lion bite. But, I’ll be damned, I had forgotten cold and flu medicine and jet lag hit me hard, which made my cold a little worse—but I wasn’t going to let it slow me down.

I finally made it to the hotel in Dar Es Salaam, and it was only a few minutes before I was sound asleep. The first call to prayer, a little before sunrise, intermingled with singing from an Easter procession that ended up in the field across from my hotel. These sounds—a sonic reminder that I was in a new world—gently brought me out of my jet-lagged sleep.

It had started to pour rain in the late afternoon when I had met up with Moshi to plan our trip to Kondoa. The rainy season (or the “long rains” as they’re called) lasted throughout March, April, and May, but the rains came late and, already grappling with a decline in rainfall, the cash crops that had been planted the year prior had withered. Mother Nature was a tease, and although the earth desperately needed watering, these thirty-minute storms were too much at once and made the roads slippery. The ground gobbled up the water as quickly as it came, and a few hours later, it was as dry and hot as ever.

Our trip to Kondoa would have to wait for a full day of sunshine because the unpaved roads would potentially be too slippery and dangerous for the overcrowded buses. We decided to watch the weather and let that decide when we would leave Arusha for Kondoa. Once there, we would meet up with Ikaji and set up the office in Kolo near Kondoa town.

In the meantime, Moshi, as well as Abu and Beka (the safari guides), met in the Arusha office-to-be, which Ikaji had already rented in a really busy part of the city, and planned the safaris. Abu and Beka both went to college together, and every year, the two of them planned tours based on the migration patterns of the various African wildlife—something that changed yearly. Animals could sense when the rains were coming two weeks in advance, so they tended to go where the grass would be the most lush. Abu and Beka always knew where to find them; they were the people you wanted on a safari.

The next day was dry, just as the forecast had said, so we headed to Kondoa.

We can pick and choose the memories that define our life and piece them together like a puzzle.

Many years ago, in the wake of my mother’s death, I traveled to Africa for the first time. Uganda.

Our time to leave Kalagala eventually came, and my family embarked upon a classic Kenyan safari.

The three of us headed for Tanzania where I met Moshi Changai, a pivotal piece to this story.

From Tanzania, we made our way to the island of Zanzibar, a place to pause and reflect, and to write.

We left Zanzibar for Marrakesh, where the sound of Muslim prayers echoed from the speakers.

Life returned to normal—for just a little while. We returned home, and Zoe went back to School.

Fast-forward six years, and once again, Tanzania stood before my daughter and me.

Our destination was Kondoa, but to get there, we had to board a cramped bus like a bunch of sardines.

Before making our way to Cheku, we visited many of the surrounding Irangi villages first.

We drove up the long road dirt road to Cheku village and finally saw the well that had taken so many years.

With the Cheku well confirmed to be real, the time had come to return to Vancouver.

I finally landed in Tanzania, excited to meet Moshi again and the rest of the safari team.

I spent the days before meeting our potential business partner, Ikaji, at the hotel, practicing my Swahili.

By spending so much time at the hotel, I grew close with the girls who worked there.

On our way to snap some shots at Ntomoko falls, we got stuck in the mud, much like how I felt about Ikaji.

One morning, Moshi and I headed to buy trees and I sat and reflected on the situation with Ikaji.

Ikaji was simply not a good fit for this project and we had to decide how to proceed.

To help foster a community around the tours we decided to have a party for the people of Kolo.

The dry season had been especially brutal for the village of Iyoli and water was scarce.

This trip was winding to a close, but before I left, Moshi and took a final, bumpy motorcycle ride.

Once again, Perry Buchan leapt at the opportunity to be part of another water project.

I was back in Kondoa once again, at the same hotel (or at least the one next door).

To help determine how deeply the hole needed to be dug for the Iyoli well, the team conducted a survey.

We went back to Iyoli with a car full of computer equipment, a generator, and people.

With a car full of just about everyone, we headed to Iyoli one last time before leaving, but this time it was for a party.

The time had come to leave. I knew this because I had used my last square of toilet paper.

It took two and a half minutes to walk off the plane into the Turkish airport and breathe the unfamiliar smells.

It was like a fade-in into a movie, one that started with a reunion between two friends.

The next two weeks went by slowly as the drillers dug inch-by-inch toward the depth of 100m.

Initial digging had concluded, but we still had to test the water, build the tower, and dig trenches.

Tower construction began on market day, and led to a lot of people stopping by to watch the work.

Brick-by-handmade-brick, the tower went up. Soon, it would hold two water tanks and solar panels.

One morning in Kondoa town invited me over to play music at his house behind the hotel.

My worst fear, and I’m embarrassed to say but I will anyway, was having to go pee in the bush.

Today, I met Bar from Innovation: Africa - the woman who helped bring this project on.

I debated whether I even wanted to share this part of this story, but I will.

A few days later, work resumed at the project site.

Despite the recent setback, life continued—progress continued.

Things that were once green were starting to turn brown.

In many ways, our engineer was crazy and messed up.

Moshi, Juma, and I were at the site every day to make sure that things were getting done.

Water began flowing to the different distribution points throughout Iyoli.

This is my story. The stories I tell are the ones that hold me up, that keep me going, that feed me hope.

Each night when I drink a glass of water, I often think of Moshi, and the memories wash over me.