9 April 2012

Tanzania: Morogoro, the City Without an Ocean

opinion

Dar es Salaam is well known for its moniker term of "Bongo" to mean "brain", literally implying to residents and all the visitors who visit the city to use their brains wisely because Dar is full of crooks who are good at cheating visitors and easily soliciting money from them.

On the other side to the north of Tanzania lies the other city of Mwanza, well known as the "rocky city". I asked Isaac Methusela a colleague in our office who happens to come from there "rock city" why this acronym was given to this city.

He says the city is really rocky so much so that some of the houses are built from rocks while the sole famous miraculous combination of the rocks which are spotted visibly in the Lake Victoria carries the symbol of the city.

Yet my interest was on this other city lying to the South of Dar es salaam called Morogoro or just Moro which I was going to visit. The city is branded as "Mji kasoro bahari" Swahiri for "a city minus an ocean" in English.

I had leant before my tour of "Mji kasoro bahari" that this brand was given to this city after comparing it with several other cities and realizing that the only thing Moro city lacked was an ocean and thus the brand of "a city minus an ocean" was born.

Upon my arrival at 6PM from Dar es salaam boarding Abood bus services for $4.16, I searched for a place to sleep. I however couldn't find one because I had arrived at an awkward hour and most of the good hotels had already been occupied by guests who had come from different localities to attend seminars that were to take place the following morning.

Mine was going to take place at the Glonency 88 Hotel; it was being organized by Tanzania Food and Drug Authority.

I however did manage to spend a night at a low class hotel for $15, the hotel that lacked a name and was neither fitted with a television set in its rooms let alone no warm water in the showers.

I couldn't hesitate the next morning but to find a better and suitable place with security. Luckily I found one at the heart of Moro city centre, at Gwami Hotels where a single room ranges between $20 - $40 a night with warm showers and DSTV channels.And when the night came I had to visit the "snake bar" located at the heart of the city centre where I had to enjoy the "Nyama choma" for only $7 at half a kilo.

One thing that kept roaming up in my mind was on whether I would find any attraction in this city minus an ocean where I could 'unwind' after the seminar.

As we finished the seminar at around 5PM I went on to look for someone to guide me around the city since there was none other than the bodaboda driver Swallo Kahinde.

"There are no attractions in this city. The only place where tourists usually visit upon arrival is the Mikumi National Park located at some 200km away from the town," Kahinde said.

It was unbelievable to hear such statement from a Moro resident whose city is surrounded by huge chain of beautiful Uluguru Mountains that gives it spectacular scenery especially if you happen to come from a city like Dar on a plain coastline.

These mountains are a good place from where one can exercise both mountain climbing and experience the waterfalls that comes with the rocky Morogoro River flowing from the mountain through to the city.

"But aren't there any waterfalls around those mountains?" I kept pressing Kahinde. "There is one good place to visit, he said, "the rock garden resort".

I should have gone with you to the national museum which was unfortunately destroyed during the 1979 war against Idi Amin and has never been reconstructed," he said.

The rock garden resort lies to the east of Moro at Mtori Street. It is a 20-kilometer journey that costs a tourist about $6 as return fare from the city centre by a motorbike. I was welcomed by the natural setting beside the virgin Morogoro river.

It is more than just a resort, though it offers no beddings but only food stuffs and drinks. We were soon joined by some five tourists soon after our arrival and paid a $1 entrance fee to tour the place.

However the garden boy who came to give us the ticket could not allow me to enter the place with my camera unless I paid him $50.

"Cameras are not allowed in this area unless you pay me $50", he said. I protested and was rescued by a young girl who was washing the dishes who argued that there was nothing wrong with taking personal pictures around the place and even for publication because that will make the place be famous.

"You see whether he take pictures for himself he will show them to his/her friends and they will be interested in coming here and if he publishes these pictures then the place will even be famous," the dish washer girl argued.She seemed to have not been learned at all, yet she was more intelligent than the elder young garden boy.

After a while I was allowed together with Kahinde the bodaboda driver to tour the Morogoro river. At the rock garden resort you will have a chance to spot baboons and other wild animals like antelopes that descend down the river from Uruguru Mountains.

The rock garden resort offers soft and hard drinks including variety of buffet. We had however arrived very early at 9: 30 AM and we couldn't have time to taste any of buffets especially considering also that I was to board a bus at l0 AM for my way back to Dar.

The rock garden resort is owned by Judith Karue in partnership with John Darue. It is visited by hundreds tourists daily to experience the natural surroundings along the resort.

Despite the absence of the ocean the fresh air and whistling created by the river and the beautiful trees make the place worthy visiting.

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