Kilimanjaro Day 4
There has been a mosquito haunting me all day. I woke up this morning at 4:45 am to him buzzing in my ear. Taunting me, letting me know that he outsmarted my mosquito net and will soon be feasting on my ankles. I managed to avoid him all morning, slapping my ears like a mad woman whenever he ventured too close. He finally drove me out of bed at 5:30, when I decided to take a walk in the hazy morning light and attempt to spot a glimpse of the looming Mt Kilimanjaro. I am actually staying on the slopes of Mt Kilimanjaro, the low lying ancient volcanic rock that spreads out towards the Serengeti, so seeing the peak is a slight challenge between the trees and the looming storm clouds of November rains. I didn’t have any luck on my first attempt, and I returned, defeated, to the Kibo Estate house to brew some homegrown coffee and sort through the hundreds of photos I have taken so far (a tease, I know, since I can’t seems to upload them to share quite yet). My second venture out at 7:30 proved more fruitful, and I was able to catch a glimpse of the snowcapped peak, officially starting my fourth day here in Tanzania.
After greeting Kia (Jambo, Kia!), the old man who prepares breakfast and tends to the house and eating a hearty breakfast of bacon and fried eggs, mango juice, coffee and bananas (nataka ndizi kahawa bila maziwa mayai…), I set off with Adam and Jackson, general manager of Tudeley Estates, to visit a pulpery called Nkoanekoli on the slopes of Mt. Meru near Arusha. We were greeted by Isaac, the manager of Nkoanekoli pulpery, who explained that the region of Nkoanekoli is in the peak of their late-harvest crop, and they are still receiving a lot of coffee cherry to process. This pulpery receives around 6.3 tons of coffee cherry per day through the end of December, which equates to around 1.1 tons of dry coffee parchment to be sent to the mill in Moshi. Sometimes the pulpery will receive up to 100 different deposits a day from different farmers, and the biggest farm drops about 3 tons of cherry per season. Right now, coffee is not kept in separate lots. All of the coffee received in a day is processed together and fermented for an average of 3 days in large batches (2 tons at a time). Nkoanekoli is having a water crisis at the moment, there is a shortage of water now that it is the end of the dry season, and the water pump at the mill is malfunctioning, making processing very difficult. While I was there, a truck pulled up with plastic containers full of water to pour into the ferment tanks for washing. The end of the washing canal was full of murky brown water, a real problem that is affecting the taste of Nkoanekoli’s coffee right now. The mill is run by a large 60’s era British pulper, which is powered by a generator, however the model is not the most water efficient design.
After the coffee is pulped, it is put out to dry on long African beds and is sorted through for quality by local women. The women are paid by the task, meaning that they are assigned a reasonable amount of coffee to sort for the day, and they are paid each day when their task is completed. They lower the coffee to the ground when they are picking through it, a long line of women sitting in the shade of the raised drying beds. When coffee is dried to between 10 and 12 percent (checked by a moisture machine), it is transferred to the tanks in the storage room and loaded into large canvas or plastic sacks for transport to the dry mill.
After seeing the pulpery, we set off to visit the farms of two local contributors. The first farm was quite small, owned by Furahini Mingure and his wife Elly. They grow a traditional Tanzanian variety, KP- 423, which is available locally. They do have a small problem with leaf rust, but it is not a major issue and Jackson did not see it affecting the quality of their coffee. This farm does not have their own “mother garden”, so when they need new plants they must purchase them. They are now buying rust and coffee berry disease resistant plants from Moshi. The second farm we visited was much older. The trees had been planted in the 70’s when coffee farms were nationalized. For this reason, the farm was much larger as during this time the government subsidized coffee farms and paid for the plants and fertilizers. Now, the farm is hard to keep in good shape because it is too big for the owner to manage all of the land. The trees, for what I could see, had never been pruned, and their large, knotted stumps were sprouting up to 5 new coffee trees. Jackson advised the farmer to cut down the old stumps so that the new trees could flourish.
After farm visits it was time to head back to Kibo Estate, and I was more than ready after my early morning wake up call. The road was bumpy, and while not as steep of curving as I am used to in South America, it was a much rougher ride (thank you, Dramamine). I was out cold as soon as my head hit the pillow, and was haunted by dreams of my mosquito buzzing in my ear. I woke up to myself swatting my head, and realized that the mosquito had won. His victory buzz is still ringing in my ears now while I scratch my knees and ankles. There is no outsmarting nature in Africa.