I was completely unaware of the danger
And no. Guns weren’t involved in this event. Neither were knives or other weapons. In fact, I never got to see my attacker from up close. I was out in nature and completely clueless about the danger I was walking into.
Things you do when you are young and fearless. I’ve surely done a fair amount of activities described as dangerous or being classified as an extreme sport. And I still do.
But not once did I come so close to getting knocked out like that day in Tanzania. I had nothing else in mind than just hiking to a waterfall.
I was on a long solo trip traveling through several countries in southern Africa. Yes, I was traveling solo but I wasn’t alone. Most of the time at least not. Every solo traveler will know this. If you travel alone, you meet people around every corner.
Together with a group of Spanish travelers I had met in the hostel I was staying in, I made my way up to the mountains. Yes, I was the outsider. I was the only German and in fact the only English-speaking person. I do speak many languages but Spanish isn’t one of them (yet).
And while the group was all happy and excited about our little trip to the mountains we had nothing to worry about. We thought.
The Spanish group had in fact two Tanzanian friends, locals, who were coming with us. That way we didn’t have to worry about getting the right Dalla-Dalla (local minibus) and they even organized one for us. We didn’t use a shared one but got a private one that took us up the mountain.
At first, I was upset about the group. All girls were wearing super short hot pants and surely didn’t care about the culture in Tanzania. But I knew better than to criticize them and just went along.
They clearly only moved around in a group and never were out on their own. To travel far and in such remote places I’ve been to, I had to adapt to the local culture, be modest and always be on alert.
Even now, I didn’t know who I was with. I didn’t know these people. They could be talking about me all the time. I wouldn’t understand. This is why I always do my own research. I watched the roads we were driving up and down and tried to memorize the tracks we were walking.
It was just for my own safety.
We were driving up the mountain passing banana plantations on a red dirt track. Rainforest was what I was looking at. And what I was admiring while listening to a constant background sound of Spanish words.
We got to the parking lot where we had to pay an entrance fee. It is what it is in Africa. You do pay a fee at every single waterfall you go to. But we deny the need for a guide. After all, we have a local with us who knows the way. We really don’t need one.
The cashier argued for a bit but we stayed put and started to hike without a guide and without losing any more thoughts on the situation.
Following a narrow path on the hillside, we had a great view of the surrounding mountain slopes covered in lush green forest.
No cars to be heard. Just the sounds of nature. The air was fresh and the sun was shining.
Then I could hear the burbling of a mountain river. Such a peaceful sound. We crossed the small water and hiked deeper into the forest.
I remember walking ahead with the local friend of the group who was telling me a lot about the landscape and also spotted this lovely chameleon.
It wasn’t too hot or humid either. The treetops kept the sun from burning onto the forest floor and made it a beautiful day for a hike.
First, we heard it, then we saw it.
It was like magic. The loud sound of dripping water. The cooling wetness in the air. And just the look of the water crushing down the cliffs. Spectacular.
Countless children were up here. I wasn’t sure what they were doing. Our group started to do a photo shoot. Or lots of them. Everyone was taking pictures of the waterfall or of themselves.
I walked down to the edge of the water and put my feet in the cold but refreshing water. I heard some splashing. Not like the splashing of falling water.
I turned around. Rocks were falling in the water. I looked up and all of a sudden I felt an impact on the back of my head. I was in shock and didn’t know what really happened.
I walked back to the others asking if they could see something on my skin. That was a rock falling from the sky hitting my neck. Someone asked if I was okay.
I don’t think I had realized yet what had happened and how lucky I was. The rock “only” hit my shoulders/neck. And luckily I got a strong back and some muscles.
I was watching the rocks falling from a distance. That was no natural rockfall. Those were rocks thrown down from the top of the waterfall.
We packed up and soon left the site.
The local guy we had with us told us a guide was approaching him on the way up saying he would be our guide when our friend denied it. He was almost certainly sure he was the one walking to the top throwing those rocks.
As if I can’t walk 50 meters without a guide. Not in Africa. Here you need a guide for everything.
Or they’ll throw rocks at you.
I mean seriously, throwing hand-sized rocks 150 meters down towards a crowd can be life-threatening.
And while one of the Spanish girls said I was unlucky to be hit by one of the rocks, I knew it was the opposite.
It was my lucky day.
Because I survived.
“Luck is believing you’re lucky.” — Tennessee Williams
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