Arusha, Tanzania: From Rustic to Royal! – by Barb

In order to afford experiences such as a safari, we must cut back as much as possible in the other areas of our budget. Everyone has their priorities when traveling and I think it is good to discuss these ahead of time and be completely clear about them. I know some people who would put ‘food’ at the top of their priority list. It is the experience of trying different foods and restaurants that they enjoy most and they would not want to skimp in this area. For me, at the top of the list is the ‘experiences’. I want to be able to do things like take the boys on safari, go for a trek in Nepal, and visit the Great Barrier Reef. In order to do these things our food budget and accommodation budget are pretty meager. I look for places to stay that are safe for a family (in a good area), are clean, and have wifi – but as inexpensive as possible within those criteria. We cook when we can and if we eat out, we look for budget meals.

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I was quite pleased with our accommodation in Tanzania. For a few days we stayed at a local family’s home; the boys had one room and Clay and I had another. The bathroom was basic – a squatter toilet and we had to heat water on the stove and use a cup to pour it over us for a shower; but it was clean, safe, and yes, there was even wifi!

Then we moved to a small “cottage” which overlooked a small pool. The pool didn’t look swim-able but the cottage was more than adequate. The floor was just cement and one wall of the cottage was mosquito netting but it was quite comfy. We even had a flush toilet and a shower – although the water from the toilet ran all over the cement floor. We had a little hot plate to do our cooking on and a bar fridge to hold necessary items.

pool

While all of the places we have stayed have been adequate, I would describe them as quite rustic. So, I’m sure you will not be surprised to hear, we were all very excited about the one place we had booked in Tanzania that we knew would be in a whole different class! We had heard about Dashir Lodge from a friend of ours. Her brother-in-law and his wife are the owners, originally from Canada, but they “sold everything but [their] kids and moved to Africa”. (see their website: www.dashirlodgeandsafaris.com)

I was equally as excited to meet some fellow Canadians, as I was to stay in a luxurious lodge for a couple of nights. I knew Darryl and Shirley must have an interesting story and I was hoping we’d get a chance to chat with them.

As we drove down the laneway leading to Dashir, you could sense the excitement in the car. “Really, we’re going to get to stay here?!” Caleb exclaimed!

 

And Darryl and Shirley didn’t disappoint. We were greeted with warm hugs, as though we’d just reconnected with long lost friends. Our luggage was quickly swept away (quite a novelty for us, as we are used to lugging it everywhere on our own!) and we were able to sit down and relax. Darryl and Shirley had thought of everything – they even asked if there were any foods we were missing since we had been traveling for so long and had searched high and low to find them for us. They gave the boys their own “tent”, which made them feel very grown up and allowed Clay and I to have our own space. The place was absolutely beautiful and no expense was spared in making it comfortable for guests. The bed was heavenly and I could have spent an hour just enjoying the spacious, hot shower!

The boys’ tent

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Our room!

But the very best part was chatting with Darryl and Shirley. Shirley talks a mile a minute and you have to listen closely to keep up, but she is absolutely hilarious and within minutes we felt as though we’d known her for years. Darryl, who is the quieter introvert, was full of wisdom and added an element of calm, juxtaposing Shirley’s emotion-filled anecdotes.

What a heavenly couple of days we had. The food was incredible – the boys even raved about the salads! Clay and Darryl were able to pull out their guitars and jam a couple of times – once around the campfire, until the ants got too much to bear! And Connor spent hours in the crystal clear swimming pool.

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Our second day we went for a walk into the local village where we saw the primary school, secondary school, the “pharmacy”, a small shop, and several locals harvesting some of their crops for market.

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The incredible view of Kilimanjaro from Dashir.

Darryl and Shirley also arranged a hike on Mt. Kilimanjaro for us. We began at the Machame Cultural Centre then hiked to a cave that had been used in the past by the local Chagga people to hide from the Maasai. We continued on to a waterfall, where we stopped for a picnic lunch. After that we headed back to the cultural centre. Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day so we couldn’t see the mountain above us but it was great to be able to do a short hike.

So, if you’re heading to Tanzania and would like a wonderful place to stay, we would highly recommend Dashir Lodge. They will also organize safaris for you (just check out their website) and you will not be sleeping on the ground, or eating with the rats! Thank you Darryl and Shirley for a wonderful time. While we were only at Dashir for two short nights, we hope to have new friends for a lifetime!

 

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