Amy was supported by a SAGT Fieldwork Grant.
I am very grateful for the grant awarded to me by SAGT; I can’t thank you enough. My trip to Africa was amazing and it has definitely reinforced my interest in Geography.
Due to the terrorism attacks in Kenya we were diverted from there to Tanzania, and before my trip had even begun I saw how factors outside the control of a country can affect tourism in these undeveloped areas.Staying on this point, however, the local economy of central Tanzania was able to benefit from our travels. After flying to Dar es Salaam and traveling west to the Ruaha National Park, we met a man who normally works in the fields, but he was hired by World Challenge to row challengers like myself across the Ruaha River. He earned more money doing this for thirty minutes than he would normally earn in a week of farming.We spent 5 days treking near and in Udzungwa National Park and one of my favourite parts was experiencing a different culture, visiting the villages, and seeing a different way of life. We visited two villages; the first one hadn’t been visited by white people in a long long time so when we arrived the little kids were very interested but kept their distance. But by the end of our walk through we were holding hands with chains of children! Lots of photos and lots of play. It was the moment that inspired me most on the whole trip and the memory will last a lifetime. I must say, just to see the children’s excitement of seeing their own photo, it was really special.
We helped out at Kitayawa School in Iringa, painting walls and shutters and laying the floors of the new classrooms for the kids. What was amazing was that the skeletons of these classrooms had been in place for two years and all it took was four days of hard work and a bit of money to complete them but money was something they didn’t have. One room was turned into a classroom for the younger children of the village, therefore helping literacy rates at a younger age. We payed carpenters and builders from the local village to help, so they also benefitted from the construction. We actually turned up on the kids’ ‘winter brake’ (although for us though, it was extremely hot) so the pupils weren’t actually in school…. This however made it even more special as the kids of the village turned up anyway to help with the construction and to see us.
At the end of the week, all the villagers put their money together to buy us each a fizzy drink from the local market and they also gave us two chickens. We felt very very honored. We had to walk for an hour back to our campsite with these innocent live chickens and had already named them – so instead of having them on our plate, (even though we had lived off vegetables for two weeks and were ready for a chicken dinner) we decided to give them to two of the people who had helped us out by walking us to and from the school each day. This way they could cook them up instead and they very much appreciated them. Bye bye chickens!
Our accommodation during part of our trip was at a very special place, camping in the garden of someone from Scotland who had moved to Tanzania and set up their own business. What was really impressive was that she employed locals and had set up a place that helped her workers to learn English. A group from Dundee University have set out to help this organisation.
Onto the physical side of geography, the stunning landscape enables National Parks like “Udzungwa” to be set up which means the economy benefits through the tourism. We enjoyed but hated the trekking phase, but it was very worth it as we made it to the top of Mwaniana Peak which is 2500 m high! First World Challenge team of the season to make it to the top! We had guides for our trek and obviously they benefit from this. When we cooked at night, we made extra for all of the guides, and in return they gave us a fabulous one time only dance round the campfire! It was amazing, and they shared their completely different culture with us. Our group however thought it was only fair if we in return showed them a bit of the Scottish culture, so we sang a few Scottish songs and even taught them a Scottish dance! It all ended in a shambles though but it was a lot of fun.
During our treks I saw lots of farming activity which really just reminded me how the majority of the work in undeveloped countries is in the primary sector. Our guides showed us many different plants and animals that live in Africa which was extremely interesting. It just shows how the animals that survive there engage with the land and climate.
For our ‘rest and relaxation’ phase we went of safari and spent a couple of days at the beautiful Kipepeo beach in Shallys on the Swahili Coast near Dar Es Salaam. People from the local villages were selling their goods just outside the resort and this just shows how tourism benefits not only the resort owners but the nearby residents.
To me, the best thing about this trip was experiencing a new culture. I would strongly encourage and recommend a trip like this to anyone let alone someone interested in Geography. It is a once in a lifetime trip and has spurred me on to prepare my application to study Geography at University.