Last Friday evening I took a stroll from the centre of town, at the New Arusha hotel, to the even newer Mount Meru hotel up on Nairobi road. For peace of mind I went by way of a stately and well-timbered route along Haile Selassie road.
This is the old diplomatic quarter of Arusha where large old houses are set in extensive gardens adjacent to the Gymkhana Club and our only golf course.
Despite recent architectural eruptions, resulting in a pair of monstrous cement-with-chrome, buy-to-rent carbuncles which have mushroomed out of a formerly leafy plot, the walk along this avenue is still a relatiely quiet and tranquil affair. A stroll through what might suggest the former existence of a slightly more sustainable world (of) order.
On Friday however belching SUVs, encasing their smug and portly owners, blubber in boom-boom air-con, tended to gloat their way along the main drags both in and out of town. They are especially frequent along Old Moshi Road. Whilst the poorly-maintained trucks and shoals of people-packed town-ship daladalas must throng the outer Nairobi Road.
So this, my “old git’s” route, is a dog-leg angling up past the Criminal Court, and it remains primarily a walker’s, even a jogger’s, route.
Consequently you can still see and hear the birds and you can even smell the flowers, all for no cover charge.
In thirty minutes around six pm I saw or heard some twenty bird species.
There were many Common (Yellow-vented) Bulbuls of course, one sweeping Yellow-billed Kite, several tailor-bird-type Grey-backed Camaroptera, a singing serinus the Southern Citril, flocks of Africa’s own comical Coliformes the Speckled Mousebird, many of the one and only Baglafecht (Swagalfetch) Weaver, twittering flocks of Little Swift that nest in the Mount Meru hotel, Variable, Amethyst, Collared and Olive Sunbirds, numerous Red-eyed Doves, four Silvery-cheeked Hornbills who flew-off, looking like flapping piebald reaper drones, up through the petro-chemical haze of our booming little city toward their roost site high on Mount Meru. There were two Northern Common Fiscals, staring down from the wires at grasshoppers in the deliciously weedy lawns outside the Mount Meru hotel. Here too were glorious Red-winged Starlings, who piped and wheeoed, jesting at me, and at the dumpy Speckled Pigeons from up there on their lofty roof.
Finally at dusk several skinny African Palm Swifts, a pair of Wire-tailed Swallows and even a brace of Scarce Swifts (far down off the mountain) flickered in to my view, catching termite alates over a new wee pub, popular with the well-heeled, the internationalist youth of town, a pub called Zest (… for Life…). Count me in!