Day 339: Sparkling Yogurt Tickles the Tongue
The cake was good. The yogurt left me wondering. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Daily Updates are not edited and function more as daily journal entries – so if the plot seems to be all over the place or missing entirely and the tenses changes faster than a kaleidoscope, well, that's just the way it is.
THE die hits the round wooden table where I've been eating breakfast alone. The food is familiar a huge glass dish of butter spread out on a thick slice of toast with marmalade produced right here in Lushoto. A young woman came to take my egg order after I'd finished pouring hot water from a thermos and mixing in my Afrikans Coffee – the instant stuff.
I'd originally thought about staying here for the day, shooting some German cows and the area for another drone video. However, I woke early this morning with a desire to saddle up and kick Rafiki into gear. I couldn't put my finger on it, but despite yesterdays long drive, there was something stirring inside me that said maybe I should get back out on the road today.
Then again, maybe not. Perhaps I'm being unreasonably restless. As long as I manage to pay with US dollars here, I think I'll have enough money to get to Kenya.
If die reveals an even number, I hit the road. If it's an odd number, I stay in the area for the day.
“What better way to manage my indecision?” I think as I fill my mug up with more hot water and instant coffee.
It's a three.
Well, it's settled then.
I received an email from my father this morning. It's good news. He can send money via Western Union and it will be ready to pick up in minutes. However, it's 24 dollars cheaper to send it to Kenya. Do I want to receive it in Kenya or Tanzania?
I go through the numbers again. I think I can stretch everything out to make ends meet here in Tanzania. It will be damn, damn close, but possible.
“Kenya, please,” I write.
Yet one more reason I can relax once I get across the border with Rafiki. There is still the possibility they won't let me bring her back in since I only have a Zanzibar police report to explain that her paperwork was stolen.
Settled into my breakfast chair, surrounded by pictures of Christian saints, I prepare to work.
I leave my seat, pace the courtyard, walking around and around, muttering encouragements to myself. Then, back to my chair to write. Again and again I repeat the pattern alone in the hostel except for the staff who who I scarcely see.
It's 2pm before I wrap everything.
“Where are there cows?” I ask a heavy set woman in the kitchen.
It takes a few minutes for me to explain that I want to see the famous dairy farm in the region. A place with pastures full of bulky black and white German cows, rather than the brown cows that dominate the East African landscape.
“Irente Farm,” she tells me, pointing up around the corner. “Just ask people. Tell them Irente Farm, they will show you.”
I smile to myself, thankful that the die slowed me down today.
It's a nice dirt track to the farm, enough rocks and dirt piled up as speed bumps to keep things interesting, but nothing remotely technical.
With blind luck navigating, Rafiki and surprisingly find a sign for the farm after about 15 minutes of driving, having yet to stop for direction or make a wrong turn. The road cuts through the Amani Nature Reserve.
Cobblestones wet and dark run below a canopy of trees after Rafiki and I slice through grassy fields and past a couple large wooden barns still in use. Derelict, historic field equipment dot one of the fields as some sort of exhibit.
I park Rafiki in the shade next to some rental mountain bikes and walk into the welcome center.
A small sign in a charmingly cluttered gift shop designed to appeal to a yuppy eye briefly explains the founding of Irente: The site started as an experimental coffee estate set up by the German colonial government in 1896. However, due to soil infertility the project was abandoned.
In 1961, as independence loomed for Tanganyika, Tanzania before it took Zanzibar under its wing, the Greek farmer who had continued to run a coffee plantation as well as a bacon and dairy farm on the 60 acres sold the property to the Lutheran Church.
The famous Irente Farm yogurts with homemade natural preserves on the bottom, made in a facility I passed on the way up, are stacked in a glass-door fridge.
I peruse my options, settling on a black current yogurt.
I pay a young woman behind the counter and take the yogurt past a small wooden gate on the other side of the cobbled road, where there sits a stone-walled restaurant that I would gamble was at some point the Greek farmer's house.
Narrow gardens on each side of a path burst with flowers as it opens onto a veranda overlooking the Irente Biodiversity Reserve, which seeks to integrate conservation, production, and rural development through multiple activities. At least, that's what I read.
Perched on a hill with several dozen meters of forest cleared from a steep, grassy yard behind the stone porch of the restaurant, it's possible to gain a drone view of the mountains. Nestled into the shades of green are more than 680 species and sub-species of trees. (In Europe, there are only 71 species of trees.)
Farmhouse windows on the white-washed building open in to the restaurant. I spot a waitress and order a slice of cake to go with the yogurt.
The cat was kind enough to keep me company. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
A long-hair Siamese cat lounges among the quaint mixture of unmatching wicker and wooden furniture on the deck. It's supple, silky fur slips between my fingers. It's eyes flutter open for a moment, then close again, allowing me to pet her in the weak warmth of the afternoon sun.
There are no other tourists here, which isn't a huge surprise. I'm finding that places that tout themselves as “alternative traveling destinations” – and live up to the claim – are alternatives to the big game shows for very few.
It's a shame that it's so empty, I certainly didn't come up here to beat the crowds. Though the yogurt was a motivator, the real goal of coming up here is to make another video for Top Journey.
Though still not 100 percent certain Top Journey will continue to come through with payments, a few hundred dollars for drone videos could make all the difference at the end of this trip.
Either way, I probably shouldn't have spent so much money on food.
Ride and dine. Photo: Isaac Stone Simonelli
I delicately cut into the moist, dense slice of cake, eyes wondering across the thick sub-tropical jungle landscape opening up in front of me.
There's a strange, sparkling sharpness to the yogurt. It reminds me of the probiotics I was drinking in Phuket during my Six-week, Six-pack Challenge for the Phuket Today show.
There's nobody around to ask about the taste.
Maybe this is what Megan meant when she said it was the best yogurt she'd ever tried. Maybe it was supposed to be a slightly sour, champagne infused experience. Again, as seems to be the case over the last couple of days, I find myself longing for a companion.
The conversation easily plays out in my head.
“Here, try this,” I would say, making a face.
The person would take the spoon in their mouth, smack their lips, and think.
Then, we would decided if we should take it back to the gift shop and get a new one or if this was indeed what we should be expecting from Irente yogurt. I'm no yogurt expert. I need a second opinion. And, even if the cat was interested in offering one, I'm not convinced it would be able to articulate how it felt about the strangeness of this yogurt.
Later that night, I would follow up with Megan about her experience.
“Their yogurt is fresh and creamy and mixed with their homemade jams!” she would write.
However, not knowing that in the moment. I settled further into my seat and do my best to enjoy the experience.
Part of my justification for spending the money on the food is to establish a non-parasitic presence so I can get drone video of the site.
I press my fingers into the last of the crumbs on the small white plate before getting out Dorsey II.
She's flying fine, which is a relief given that she got a little wet on my final day at The House of Giggles. However, she isn't recording. There must be something wrong with the SD card. I think about what's on the card. The only videos I can think of are a few shots from The House of Giggles and it's possible those are on a different SD card.
I completely forget about the shooting I'd done at the Stone Town market; the shooting that nearly got be busted by the cops, but instead left me bustling through the crowd trying to shake some fucking Rasta tout determined to drag me over to the officer. I'd narrowly escaped Stone Town with Dorsey II that day.
With the card reformatted, Dorsey II starts recording again – their was more than enough free space on her before the formatting, but it seems that she needed a shake up.
The women working on the farm house-cum-restaurant and lodge, pour out to see the drone.
“It's like a helicopter,” says the woman from reception, the one with a silver of gold sparking between her two front teeth.
They are all wearing the same congi patterned shirts, a beautiful mix between authentic, natural clothing and a uniform. The woman comes close after the drone lands. She takes pictures, or maybe a video, of the craft with her cellphone.
The receptionist wanted a picture taken with Dorsey II. Photo: Isaac Stone Simoenlli
“You surprised us very much,” she says with a big smile.
“Yes,” I think. “The world is full of surprises, such as Irente yogurt.”