Last week we travelled three long days from Ruanda to Arusha, Tanzania. The journey was extremely long, roads in poor condition and we didn’t have internet so we had to find a place to sleep when arriving to each village exhausted after such long travel days. However, crossing the border to Tanzania was easier than any other border crossing before, we got the visas from the border and the staff was really friendly. The only hint we want to give to you to make it even easier is to take a bodaboda (motorbike) from Ruanda office to Tanzanian office, since the border zone is really broad and hilly and you probably have a lot of luggage just like we did.
Finally we made it to Arusha, but had booked a hostel for one more night since we couldn’t really know beforehand what time we would reach the city. The following day we got to start what we had been waiting most from our trip to Tanzania - staying for a week with a local family in a village called Likamba. I found Duara last spring reading travel blogs and got instantly excited about the idea of offering homestays in villages where regular tourists would not find their way otherwise. Apparently we were only the second travellers staying in Likamba.
First we met with the local Duara contacts Doreen and Suzzy, who had organized everything for us in Likamba. We talked about practicalities and then took bodabodas to the village. The ride was long and bumpy, but the views were spectacular.
Doreen and Suzzy introduced us to the family, showed us their house and the neighbourhood and after that left back to the city. In addition to the “bosses” of the family, Mama and Baba, our family consisted of several kids, grandkids and neighbors’ kids since here visitors come and go all the time.
Only Baba and some of the daughters spoke English, but we could communicate with others by gestures and a couple common Swahili words. The family was very active in welcoming us to join their everyday errands. We got to milk cows, cook traditional african meals by the fire, fetch water from the well, visit the livestock market, study plants in the field, participate in the traditional Sunday service, help kids with their homework - list goes on.
It is definitely not a luxury accommodation and the purpose of staying here is more about being part of the family than guests. However, some amenities are offered, such as your own room, mosquito net for the night and warm bathing water in the evenings which actually feels like luxury after cold hostel showers. The food has been tasty and we have been served more than enough, also fruit and bread are at hand at all times. The family even bought us some bottled water, although they are not asked to take care of that and we also brought our own water with us.
At the end of our stay we also spent one night at Doreen’s and Suzzy’s and got to know city life in Arusha. Emilia shopped a pile of fabrics, which we turned into tailor-made dresses at a very reasonable price. We had dinner and went to the movies together and intended to go dancing too, but Emilia and I were so exhausted that we ended up going to sleep way too early.
The purpose of staying here is more about being part of the family than guests.
I can’t really say anything negative about the concept, especially because we happened to get the best host family we could hope for. So if you do travel to Tanzania (or elsewhere in the future), consider staying in a Duara village. We have gotten a totally different experience here than staying in a basic backpacker hostel for a week.
A special thanks for both Duara teams here and back home for great service and flexibility even though we had to adjust our travel dates a million times. Now we are on the road again, flew to South Tanzania and will take off to Malawi tomorrow!