Published: July 12th 2012
July 12th 2012
Katesh lies at the base of Mt. Hanang, a presence that dominates the entire
region. Often circled by a ring of clouds, it is referred to by the local
indigenous people as the white necklace. Its other claim to fame is the
complete absence of wazungus except for the occasional stray hiker and Canadian
supporters of CHES, an NGO that supports education of the girl child. If you
aren’t one of those supporters, then you aren’t lucky enough to have a bed at
the very comfortable CHES House. Your
choices are limited to some rather dubious and noisy guest houses ($3.00 a
room, sharing) near the bus terminal. Rumour has it that the Summit Guest House
might change your mind about putting up your tent on Mt. Hanang.
Located in Katesh, in addition to guesthouses, is one bank
that does not accept wazungus’ ATM cards, one not-so-supermarket (The Pick and
Pay), a police station, bus terminal, clinic and hospital and numerous dukas
that sell everything from hair straightener to cell phone vouchers, three
secondary schools, and on the last count, a mosque, half a dozen evangelical
churches, Seventh Day Adventists, RC, charismatic Lutheran and too many bars to
count. The sikoni, the open air market, is like other crowded sikoni found in
every village and town of Tanzania. Here
you will find freshly slaughtered goat, healthily squawking chickens, carrots,
onions, tomatoes and eggplant, fruit you may never have seen before, pulses,
grains, second-hand clothing, this week’s kangas, pots and pans from China,
tools and tobacco. There’s not much you
need that you won’t find in the sikoni. The mnada (cattle market) happens
bi-weekly if you can’t find that special pair of used sandals you have been
wanting or the perfect shuka.
Katesh lacks the neon lights of Dar es Salaam and the usual
diversions of Pizza parlours, movie theatres, opera houses and art galleries. Hanging
out at the Jesus Loves You Restaurant that has a TV (owned by an evangelist
pastor cum taxi driver), is the major entertainment, at least for men. Women
are to be at home looking after the kids. Non-believers chose from one of the
many drinking establishments.
Hungry wazungus head to Mama Kabwogi’s. Food there is known to not cause an attack of
diarrhea nor send you running to the closes Duka la Dawa for a single dose of
Finazol 400 S deworming pack.
But for all the off-putting differences from the western
world, Katesh has something that you won’t find in too many other places. Where else will you walk to the market and
have everyone greet you with a shikamoo
or habari? Where will you find vendors calling you out by name? Where else will
you have little children come running up to you to see the Mama Mzungu?