Beautiful scenery on the 10 hour bus trip:
Well, after a 11 hour journey using (pretty rural) public transport, my cousin Anja and I have finally arrived at our destination. We were initially pleased to find a flat screen TV on the bus, but we were not amused to have the same 5 (!) African music videos played repetitively for most of the journey.
The 'toilet stop' was literally just pulling over to the side of the road, and the driver telling us to feel free to relieve ourselves! Thank goodness I grew up in Africa; it was not quite the shock it could have been! Anyway we got there safe and well, and were warmly greeted by Vicky and Geoff Fox on the other side.
First impressions are VERY important, and so far they've only been positive! Geoff and Vicky have lived here for over 50 years. Originally they came out from the UK to manage the tea farm for a season (Iringa is a big tea growing region) - but they never left. In their time here they have established and managed five tourist lodges across the country, while continuing to farm tea. They have also done a lot for the community (setting up an NGO and building community halls, orphanages, hospitals and more!)
Statistically speaking, the region is the highest HIV/Aids area in Tanzania, with around 40% of the overall population being HIV positive. 60% of the youth are HIV positive. As a result, you see much illness and poverty, as well as too many children left parentless. Amongst other things, Mufundi NGO runs a Children's Home for (I think) 36 children. The orphanage is divided into three homes, each of which is manage by a full-time housemother who looks after a dozen children. Anja (my cousin) will be volunteering at the orphanage full-time, whereas I'll be working with the horses during the morning and at the orphanage in the afternoons. I'm told that the Easter period is very busy on the tourist side, with many guests staying-and wanting to ride - so I might not make it to the orphanage over those couple of days!
Tomorrow, being Sunday, will be spent having a leisurely breakfast, followed by Geoff showing us around. In the afternoon we'll be heading down to the orphanage, and then community hall, as every Sunday afternoon, the children go to 'life skills' class in the village. Anyway, I think I've got typing diarhhea, I'd better head to bed. I went down to see the horses this evening (couldn't resist!) and they look like a great bunch. Can't wait to start playing with them on Monday!