T is for *Tea. A-Z Challenge.

Tanzanian style tea!

I enjoyed many vibrantly spiced cups of tea whilst in Tanzania last year and of course I just had to go and fall in love! It’s like chai only so much more. A true cup of beauty! Rich and spicy. Warm and comforting. Like nothing I’d had before.

I’ve been trying to recreate it ever since to no avail, even though Grace, our lovely friend and guide so generously gave me detailed instructions. The spices I have aren’t as fresh, the water and milk are different, the tea is not even close to being as fragrant…boooo! I got the sugar down though, ha ha. That’s one thing! I’ve been driving myself nuts with the process but have still come up short. I guess it’s just one of those things.

ANYhoo, I do have a version that comes close and while not exactly “right” it was made per a Tanzanian’s instructions and it’s good!

Ready? This recipe serves one.

Smash up:

  1. 1 cinnamon stick
  2. 7 cardamom pods
  3. 5 cloves

Grate 5 slices of ginger.

Add one mug’s worth plus a touch more of water to pot. This mug holds 1.5 cups of water. You’re adding a touch more because some water is going to boil off in the process.

Add your spices to the water along with a good couple of grindings of black pepper.

Yeah,yeah. I didn’t grate the ginger. I am lazy. You should though!

Bring to a boil and boil gently for 5 min.

Turn heat to low and add your black tea. Steep for 5 minutes. Bring back to a simmer. If you’re not having milk, strain and serve. If you are having milk, you have to use canned milk. Seriously. It’s a must. Just trust me. Add your canned milk to the pot and heat through. Strain into mug.

Add sugar if you wish-I do- but the sugar must be the unprocessed kind:

Et voila, Tanzanian style tea.

I highly recommend you actually go to Tanzania and enjoy it authentically there! My version is good but there is nothing like the real thing. Report back here if you do!

Conservation Walk & Crater Hike

A treed mountain, a rolling hill, a stark plain, a country road. All of these things draw me consistently toward them. “I wonder what’s over there?” is the question in my head. And yet I so rarely get the chance to fulfill the urge to go see. Life, fences, distance, husbands all seem to get in the way of my wandering curiosity. But not this time!

I’m with my travel ladies, we are in Tanzania and we’re going to go see what’s over there. We’re hiking across the Embulmbul Depression in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Woot Woot!

The day starts with breakfast and then our main bags are loaded into a truck to be transported to our next campsite, where we will be sleeping with an armed guard because of WILD BITEY ANIMALS!

Our ranger says its mostly the buffalo we have to worry about but death by buffalo seems somehow nicer then death by leopard, hyena or lion.

We hiked for four hours with-gazelles, zebra, jackals, cattle, goats, birds and much more. It was amazing to me to out there, with the animals in that vast land.

We were exhausted by the time we were done but felt accomplished by our feat.

See that mountain in the distance? We hiked from that!

Grace met us at the road and we drove for a but until we came to the rim of the Empakaai crater and our home for the night!

We inhaled our lunch of salad-cuke,tomato and avocado-, chicken stew, zucchini soup, and slices of white bread. Yum! We had a short rest and then it was down,down,down into the crater.

Have you ever smelled leopard shit? Ha, I know what a question. I have! And our ranger and warriors got these funny looks on their faces all the while telling is everything was “fine” Uh huh. Which one is it boys?

The hike down was over a very narrow trail laden with roots and rocks. The jungle is quick to take over here.

We made it to the bottom and tried- unsuccessfully- to sneak up on a flock of flamingos! Luckily some of us got some photos as they flew off.

On our way back up we spotted a neat cat in a tree. Nobody got a photo – it was shy and scared- and it was hard to see but it had a strange flat round head and big eyes.

This was also where I got bit by a damn tsetse fly. Assholes. The lot of them!

There was some concern that we were going to be in the crater at dark. Two of us ladies struggled with the altitude. This is a problem because a. its against the law. All tourists must be out of the conservation areas by 6pm. b. the wild animals that come out in the dark. It was the latter that really motivated the slowest of our group and we were up and out of the crater in an hour instead of two, ha ha ha.

We ended up back at camp, STARVING but lucky for us, our chef made us FRENCH FRIES! Salty, yummy goodness. We also had a spicy tomato salad, chicken, soup and vegetables. We Hoovered it all up and ended up shaky and sore at the camp fire for the rest of the night. I don’t think any of us slept well that night. We were too sore and too hydrated. I must have peed 5 damn times in the night! I think it was the altitude.

Campfire of Lies

Our ranger was supposed to stay up all night by the fire and “guard” us. But every time one of us ventured out, he was nowhere to be found. The fire was dead and cold, with not a soul in sight.

I suspect our ranger was sleeping in the truck, ha. It was freaking cold at night! I don’t blame him. I think the rangers are just there as a precaution. I can’t be sure but I highly doubt much happens. It doesn’t make sense that the government would offer such a thing to tourists if it was reeeeeally that dangerous. I don’t think we were ever in any danger. A pack of hyenas ran past our tents and ignored us completely. Hyenas! Those guys are assholes.

Some of our group were really concerned though but most of us felt safe. It was scary the first time getting up to go pee, but after that I was fine. I knew to shine my light into the night and watch for reflecting eyes. And I felt quite kick ass and brave to be walking around, by myself at night, in the Tanzanian wild. 🙂 ❤

Olmoti Crater

We left Sopa Lodge and drove to the Nainokanoka Ranger Station…

where we met our ranger and then made our way up a short but steep hill…

Yes, that is a rather large gun our ranger is carrying…it was purely for show. Don’t get me wrong, its loaded. Its just that we were never approached by any creature -human or otherwise- that required force.

until we reached the top, overlooking Olmoti Crater.

It was one hard hike up! We were at 3000feet and boy oh boy, my body felt every foot of it. I wasn’t alone in that, we all suffered. Those who had never been at altitude wondered why they were so out of shape but I knew it had nothing to do that nonsense. It felt good to hike and be so bloody winded and just accept it for what it was. When I hiked the Inka trail I really struggled, not just with the altitude but with the truth of the altitude, blaming myself, blaming my fitness level instead. Why are we so quick to fall into self hatred? I was grateful for another opportunity to show myself that it was all OK 🙂 

 We sat on top of the edge of the crater and chatted with our Ranger and our very own Maasai Warrior, enjoying the views, asking them questions. I felt so grateful for them, for the conservation work they do. It felt so good to thank them both for their efforts, to show my appreciation for them. They really care about the job that they do and are absolutely dedicated to it. They have my highest respect.

We practically skipped back down the hill to have lunch at the ranger station:

Lunch from Sopa Lodge was amazing. A full container of roast beef plus fruit and an egg and chocolate and the best.hot.sauce ever! Oh! We even had chips, yum! 

After lunch we hiked through the Maasai village, meeting people along the way, waving at our warrior’s mum as we passed by his house :), stopping to chat with people and take pictures…it was so peaceful and interesting. People were super friendly and curious about us too, even taking time to teach us some basic phrases (which we butchered horribly much to their delight, ha!) 

The plans for the night? Overnight in the village, with a host family 🙂 That experience requires its own telling…it was quite a thing! 

Isoitok Camp- Tanzania

We bumped along a dusty road heading toward the hills, passing by the occasional Maasai boma and groups of women and children. Smiles and two-handed waves all around. When the little girls we passed saw that we were a Land Cruiser full of women being driven by a woman, their faces lit up and their welcome was even more enthusiastic.

You could feel their surprise and delight. It was a tangible thing!

Would any of them grow up to be like Grace and break from their restrictive social norms?  Was Grace inspiring them to go their own way and chose for themselves, a different life?

Seeing their faces really brought home the full scope of the importance of what Grace was doing, just by being herself and doing what she loved. So.fucking.cool! And truly, a nice way to end the day. All day long our Grace had been shrugging off questions and dirty looks about what she was doing out ”there” with us, away from her family. “Who’s looking after your kids?!” ” What does your husband think of this?” It must have been so stressful for her. Yet she answered all queries in her quiet way and didn’t seem ruffled one bit. If I’d had to endure the stares and glares and questions and lectures the way she did…I probably wouldn’t have been so nice. DSC07500


Isoitok Camp was unassuming from the outside. Completely fenced within a perimeter of acacia thorns was the most interesting place!

Isoitok means many stones and so stones are used liberally throughout the camp to form pathways and other much more interesting structures to honour that. It was so interesting and pleasing to the eye. We were greeted and seated and offered juice and hot towels while our genial host told us all we needed to know about our new home.


Isoitok Camp has a partnership with the Maasai communities surrounding the camp through its African Roots Foundation. How cool is that?! They use the foundation as a platform to run small-scale, sustainable projects that seek to help improve the daily life of the communities surrounding the camp.

We freshened up and met back at the main tent to watch the evening show which for us that night consisted of watching the sun set , accompanied by the soothing sound of cow bells as the Maasai led their cattle back home for the night. When people say “More cow bell” I think of something else entirely now 🙂

Dinner was bloody fantastic!

Avocado Salad & Stuffed Eggplant, Chicken stuffed w/ veg then battered and fried, Stuffed tomato to mimic the chicken, only the tomato was roasted and all caramelized , Vegetable Gratin and Cheesecake for dessert!

We sat under the stars and enjoyed a fire until bed. Bed being real beds in canvass tents. So cool!


We were up early the next morning to visit a Maasai family but first…



Coffee on my porch!

We spent the morning with a lovely family and were formally introduced to Maasai culture.


Reuben leading the way.

We visited with one of the wives in her boma and had fun asking questions and answering hers in return about our daily life. She was so open and welcoming to us, interested in our lives as we were hers. Of course we all admired her children, an older daughter – about 5 or 6 – and a baby girl, probably about one years old, who was the most beautiful child I’d ever seen in my life. She had the brightest eyes and the longest eyelashes. She made us all gasp with astonishment. We were welcomed to take photos and we took some from a distance but it still felt wrong, so we refrained from close-ups. (That subject is a whole other post!) But we didn’t have any problems cuddling her when her mum plopped her in our laps 🙂




It was an interesting experience. We were welcomed and the people we met were friendly and engaging. The money that comes from cultural tours help improve the lives of those in the community.

The idea of cultural tourism opened up questions for us about responsible tourism. This was a mild, gentle reciprocal experience. It felt respectful but we were still questioning ourselves and thinking about how tourism has an impact on the world around us…unknown to us at the time, even bigger questions, from an even bigger experience were just around the corner.

Up next, *Ngorongoro Crater.

( I totally spelled Ngorongoro right from memory. Go me! I’m so proud. )


Now I Am Masaai.

Our stay at Arumeru River Lodge was pleasant enough. The grounds of the place are lovely, with the rooms being individual cottages, scattered throughout the gardens. Service was fine….capable for sure but honestly it was the only place where I felt unwelcome. Our hosts were mostly civil, mostly. Some of them were down right surly. That was a surprise and it was most unusual compared to our treatment everywhere else. The animals were sure cute though!



We only stayed the one night and then we were off in our trusty stead:


Our first stop was The Maasai Crafts Market where we visited some women, had a wander through and of course, bought some things!


Grace and our new friend, just AFTER they were dancing and being silly. This woman was THE BEST! She has such a fun sense of humour and we just loved her.

I bought three pairs of earings, a necklace, two bracelets and some gemstones. It was really fun to engage with the ladies and playfully bargain back and forth. Crafy, crafty business women, these gals! I usually HATE doing that but I don’t know…these women were just a pure delight. I was all TAKE MY MONEY. The lady I bought a pair of carved giraffe earings from said “Now you are Maasai!“ and my silly heart went SQUEE.

We drove on further to visit another shop-The Tanzanite Experience-and holy crap! What a capitalistic delight that was. I had planned to buy a piece of Tanzanite jewellery but the prices at this place put me right off. A total tourist trap, which is fine. People gotta live! I did enjoy a wander through and they had lots of other things. I would have liked to rent a shipping container to bring it all home.

We were supposed to be visiting somewhere else but for some reason or another-we were never told why – plans changed so we visited these places instead, chosen for us based on our interests. It was all good! I know other people have complained that they were taken to places just to shop and then their guide got kick backs, that wasn’t happening here. I wanted to clarify that! Our trip was so jam-packed that if a person didn’t plan to stay an extra day, they wouldn’t have had a chance to pick up any souvenirs. We were all willing and appreciative that we had the chance.

We ate the first of our boxed lunches under some acacia trees. These lunches are a thing of beauty. Packed full of yum, they vary depending on who made them but it was always so fun to open up our boxes and marvel at what was inside. I didn’t take photos-this was before I developed an affection for them-but I do remember we enjoyed :a chicken drumstick, a hard-boiled egg, a jam sandwich, a juice box, two pieces of fruit, a package of cookies and a chocolate bar!

After lunch, Lake Manyara National Park!




We were excited enough seeing the damn baboons, the elephants rendered us speechless. And teary. They have special meaning to me personally, but it was more than that. I felt so lucky to be in their presence while they calmly ate leaves and moved about the forest. I felt happy they were alive and well and not in a zoo. I felt humble and small and insignificant. I felt angry at humans and how we fuck things up for other beings.



Do you see the lion?




Zebra. These things are everywhere. So cool.


Warthogs! See them kneeling to eat?




Look at its little fists!

And then this happened:




It seemed SO deliberate and SO cheeky that we all just roared with laughter. “Ladies…“

We left Lake Manyara feeling silly, happy and content. We drove to our next new home, silent and absorbing, thinking about the day. It was good to share such things with like-minded people who appreciated it all with the same reverence.


New Wrinkles in Tanzania.

Let’s continue with our Tales of Tanzania!

The whole point of why I was in Tanzania was because I had bought and paid for a guided trip with Wild Women Expeditions. I’d done this once before, in Peru, when I hiked the Inca Trail. Wild Women Expedition is a travel company catering to women (ALL women) and it really gave me ease and comfort in travelling alone, back in the day when I was SO afraid to do so. This time, I wasn’t afraid but knew from experience that I’d meet the coolest people and have a great trip. I was not disappointed!

After leaving the great care and hospitality of Korona House, I made my way to the Arumeru River Lodge to meet the ladies. Wow! What a group! We gelled pretty much instantly and made a tight group of five. I wish I could explain how effortless it was and maybe it was just me, but it was like we’d known each other and travelled together for years. How does that even happen?! It was the first magical event of the trip.

Who are we? Myself, my roommate Veronica, Monica, Janet and Kate.  More on them later. They deserve their own post.

Our guide was an amazing woman named Grace. Now here’s the thing about guides in Tanzania. There are around 400 guides in the place. Of those 400 guides, 10 are female. 10! In a climate like that, how many of those women get a chance to be lead guides? Not very many! Pretty much never, although we couldn’t be 100% sure. The fact of the matter is, its unheard of. Our group was making history in Tanzania, with Grace as our guide! And the fuss we made…the reactions we got…well that was a WHOLE thing!

Our first event was a trip to the village of Mulala on the slopes of Mt. Meru, to visit the Agape Women group and experience one of their cultural programs.

What a hoot! We were greeted by Mama Anna and there was much dancing, singing and carrying on. My face hurt from smiling and laughing. I came home with new laugh lines and this was the day that started them off!


I am in love with this building .That colour! It housed a small gift shop and the cheese house. They are also adding on guest rooms so one can stay in the village for a total immersive experience.





After tea and an introduction to the program we went on a nice walk through the village. It was carrot season and that top picture is a field full of carrots. It stretched up the slopes of Mt. Meru and there were many, many more like them. They were also planting green beans and corn!

The amount of work that goes into farming like that…I was in awe. Much respect. I know my own little garden is hard enough, I can’t imagine growing on that scale, on hills and having to lug water, tools and if you’re lucky, the harvest up and down and then on to market. WOW!








See that stuff on the left? Justin ,Mama Anna’s son-told us it was like marijuana but not actually. It only looked like it.  He said if you crushed the leaves-just a small bit!-and gave it a sniff, it could be used to treat headaches. So of course we all had to try that! It was really neat! The smell was most appealing, sorta minty…and it went straight up your nose, ha ha, it was like smelling eucalyptus or something, not skunky like actual weed.  Veronica said it did indeed cure her headache. I loved the smell so much I wanted to keep stuffing it up my nose. Justin cautioned us that too much would make us dizzy and want to lie down and sleep!


I do aim to try to figure out WHAT that stuff was though. It smelled SO good. From photos it looks like it might be Artemisia herba-alba- White Wormwood. It sure does look like Cannabis Sativa…I don’t know. It’s a bit thin and leggy, maybe its the third kind of cannabis. ANYWAY. This is taking me down a rabbit hole and you can be sure I’ll have an answer for you at some point! If YOU have an answer for me, please share. It was neat stuff.

After our walk along a narrow dirt path-where were learned about the elders and other plants and fences and magic words and had our own little parade of cute kids amongst all that green and flowers of every imaginable kind-we found ourselves back at Mamma Anna’s for lunch. A traditional lunch!


I am ALL about the food.


Oh my, what a feast! On my plate is the lovely kale and onion dish I so enjoyed at Korona House, rice with potatoes, dried and rehydrated peas cooked in pounded maize, beef stew with peppers and a rich, peppery gravy and the biggest, bestest, giantest French fries. I have no clue what they were coated in but they were delicious. Watch for them here soon as I try to recreate them.

We also enjoyed some smoked gouda, as made by the Agape Women Group, watermelon and tea and coffee. (The tea also deserves a whole other post.)

After lunch, we got to see how coffee is harvested, roasted and ground by hand!


The grinding.


Amazing Grace with the end result.

The amount of work that goes into this stuff!? WOW! First they have to pick the beans which are just tiny little berries. Then they dry them in the sun, then there are different layers of dried skin they have to get off, then it’s roasted over a fire, in a pot, then they pound it by hand into a powder. I have a bag I bought from their gift shop but I almost don’t want to use it! I will but still…every sip is a sip to be grateful for.


Grace grew up in a village not far from Mulala and she spent her days doing this very thing! No wonder she was such a natural! We all had our turns, it was hard work but so fun to give it a try!

We learned about cheese making-Sorry. I stopped taking photos because I was so immersed in the experience and visited their gift shop and then it was time to go home. It was an exhausting day! But the best kind. The kind of exhausting that tires you out and leaves you feeling happy and content. The kind of day that had I been forced to go home, right then, I would have felt happy and totally satisfied with my Tanzanian experience. Can you imagine? And we hadn’t even seen animals yet! That comes next!




The Beginning & The End.

I’ve been home for one week today, exactly and I’m just starting to feel like myself. Between the ten airplanes, Malarone, culture shock and wicked jet lag I’ve been a hot mess the entire time. Last night was the first night I haven’t woken up in a panic. Perhaps I’m on the mend!

It hasn’t all been bad, through it all I’ve switched over my summer clothes AND rearranged my bedroom so that’s something. Thanks Malarone! It’s an anti malarial drug that’s supposed to be the least likely to mess with one’s head but it’s still making me slightly wonky. And highly efficient.

It’s all good! I’m grateful to be home! I’m grateful for the trip. I’m covered in bruises, bug bites and full of experiences,stories and recipes that I cant wait to share.

Kinda. Sorta. It’s the strangest thing.

This past week has been not only a week of recovery but one of reverence. I’m almost afraid to set it all outside of myself in case doing so alters my memory of the experience or changes it in some way. I don’t want to lose any of it, as it is, inside my head!

The experience was intensely beautiful and because of that, almost surreal. Every day I asked myself: Is this really happening? Is this real life? I worry with the retelling that I won’t do it justice. Hell. Scratch that! I KNOW I won’t do it justice. I have been so inspired by the words of others though, that I shall try. If I should fail know that the fault is mine alone. Tanzania treated me most kindly.


Airplane #1 was a WestJet flight to Montreal at 930am on a Friday morn. Of course I got there 3.5 hours early and of course the agent couldn’t sign me in until 6am sharp. I grabbed a coffee and anxiously waited. I was worried that something would go wrong and that somehow I would be sent home or something. Silly anxiety. My flight was uneventful and I ended up safe and sound in a chic little airport.

Is it possible to fall in love with a place from the air? Is it possible to fall in love with a place because of their airport? Because both of those things happened to me. Oh! That and smoked meat and bagels. Stay tuned for a future visit based solely on those reasons.


I flew out of Montreal on KLM arriving in Amsterdam after a mostly sleepless night.


I didnt care though. I was OUT of Canada and ON MY WAY.  Trying to find the location of my next flight on the big boards was most challenging in my state. I found it and after a refreshing wet wipe bath in a washroom..er…toilet…that smelled of urine, I stayed put until my last flight.

Its funny, when I first saw my itinerary I was concerned about all the free time I’d have between flights. Ha! Once you find your gate, go pee and freshen up you have hardly any time at all. I spent the time I had writing furiously in my journal about people in safari clothes and whether or not I had the right gear. Seeing people all decked out in green made me feel all at once excited and ill-equipped. I have no clue why. I had all the right stuff, I think I was just nervous. Plus I stood out in my plum coloured dress and tights.

My last flight was not too bad but it took a bit of effort on my part to stay still. I was getting a wee bit antsy. I was d.o.n.e with flying but still in the honeymoon phase of things so not ready to admit it just then.

My discomfort did not stop me from tearing up upon arrival in Tanzania at Kilimanjaro airport. I was really there! Other people stopped to take photos of the sign, I stopped to inhale the warm air. It smelled like dirt and wood smoke.  I wanted to imprint the moment in my brain.Besides there was nothing much to see, we’d arrived at 930 pm and everything was dark!

I’d heard horror stories about slow-moving officials and getting the run around when it came to obtaining a visa but I had no such experience. The gentleman I met asked me a few questions, took my money then directed me off to border control. It was entirely pleasant and I was entirely pleasant in kind, even when I was asked my “favourite” question “Where is your husband?”

Maybe in 2025 a woman travelling alone wont be seen as odd. And just in case you think this is some weird Tanzanian thing, let me tell you this: I was once asked this question on my return to Canada by a female border agent.

I made it through everything else just fine and found my driver in the throng of bodies outside after much squinting at wavering signs. Not only did I find my first driver, I found my second one too! I’d arranged for my hotel to pick me up and my tour company had come to get me too. I was too tired to care who did what and the drivers figured it out amongst themselves. I just went with one of them and somehow I made it to my hotel. I had to laugh because I completely placed my trust in perfect strangers and gave not one rat’s ass about it. I’d either make it safe or not at all. Whatevs. Talk about trusting in the moment. Besides, strange male drivers were not really the danger. Driving itself was.

In the hour and a half drive from the airport to my hotel I was in multiple near miss head on collisions. MULTIPLE. Actually, too many to count because by the third near miss I figured out that these weren’t really almost accidents and stopped counting. You see it seems as if each driver waits until the absolute last SECOND to change lanes when passing and no one freaks out about this, it’s just the way it is. Each driver trusts that the other will exit the lane before hitting the other car and…they do. It was apparent that the whole thing was well orchestrated ( once one got ones heart to stop pound wildly out of ones chest.) I did have to laugh though. We passed a transport truck that was madly belching black smoke and my driver shook his head sternly stating that the condition of said truck was “SO dangerous” Bwah! Sure thing. That`s the thing on this road that`s dangerous.

Soon…Korona House.