Tucked away in the rolling hills of Tanzania’s Southern Highlands, lies a refuge for all travelers on the path of awakening.
I’ve arrived at Ohana Amani, a permaculture farm and holistic retreat center- an oasis of conscious community and alternative culture, carving out a vibrant existence in rural Tanzania.
The warm hearth of home slowly evaporates the stress I have accumulated from life on the African road. Upon entering this conscious refuge, I feel immediately welcomed, relaxed, and at home. I breathe a sigh of relief.
Ohana Amani not only walks the talk, they live the life.
Despite having wandered my fair share across the African continent, I had never been on a Safari before.
Enter Ruaha National Park- the largest national park in Tanzania, and the second-largest in all of Africa. Unlike other Tanzanian national parks, its name is neither plastered on Tanzanian beer bottles, nor is it the largest unbroken crater in the world. But it is famous for is all the reasons a national park should be: an abundance of wildlife, intense natural beauty, and a minimal amount of people.
Ruaha is said to have the highest concentration of elephants in all of East Africa. While this is clearly a blessing for tourists wishing to experience these majestic creatures firsthand, this impressive statistic casts a shadow that extends far beyond the boundaries of this expansive park.
The Uluguru Mountains erupt up from the red Tanzanian landscape, as if to defy the flatness that extends in every direction.
Cradling the mid-sized town of Morogoro, six hours west of Dar es Salam, the Ulugurus and their inviting, verdant peaks can be seen from miles away.
I wondered several times if my impromptu guide was trying to lose me, judging from the speed at which he zig-zagged through the market pathways, suddenly taking a sharp turn, or ducking under a massive basket of vegetables blocking our path.
That paranoid voice of skepticism and self-preservation that all travelers must cultivate began suggesting the worst: that I had been duped into following a young trickster, whose only intention was to lead me into the stinking bowels of this African marketplace, leaving me alone to contend with beggars and filthy, snarling children demanding, “MONEY! MUZUNGU! MONEY!”
I stumbled out of the market, dazed, and blinded by the sudden flood of glaring sunlight, and came upon a scene that left me simply speechless.
Broke, lost, homeless, and without a friend within 500 miles of this desolate savannah town, I was truly at the mercy of the goodness of others. It is in these moments when a traveler is truly tested.
I knew that if I went with him, I would be putting everything on the line: my possessions, my money, my passport, and possibly my life- all would be in the hands of this young stranger who appeared out of the dust in the middle of Tanzania.