An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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Self and Service

This is one place I can guarantee you’ll leave feeling better about yourself. Partially because you’ll have had one of the most comfortable nights of your life, melting into a pillowy mattress that’s been pre-warmed with a hot water bottle, after returning from a long day dodging rhinos. Partially because you’ll have eaten one of the best meals of your trip prepared and served flawlessly by local hands. Partially because when you unzip (yes… unzip) your front door in the morning and walk out onto your own personal deck, your rested eyes will think they’re still dreaming as you gaze peacefully over miles and miles of lush African land decorated with a collage of flowers and crops.

But when you finally check out of the Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge and Children’s Home, and trust me you will do so reluctantly, you’ll feel better about yourself because you’ve supported a great cause. You see all the profits from your nirvanic experience will fund a children’s home built nearby to educate and provide for the needs of Rhotia Valley’s less fortunate kids. So you don’t drive away feeling sinful for tasting the divine in the land of need. In fact the only guilt you’ll experience is from not paying more than you did. It’s beautiful! Like losing weight after spending the day in an all-you-can-eat hot fudge brownie bar.

When I first heard of Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge and Children’s Home I was in Zanzibar, and was reluctant. Our Dutch friends, who recommended our safari itinerary and Jackson for a driver, also raved about this magical “tented lodge” that we just HAD to do. So before I left Zanzibar, I called Marise Koch to reserve our spot.

Marise is the brains and heart behind this operation. She and her husband are also Dutch but are not strangers to the area. They’ve been serving Rhotia Valley as doctors for years, developing a bigger vision. I tried to negotiate the already low prices over the phone, something I had trained myself to do, but still feel guilty about. I agreed to the price and planned to meet when we arrived.

It had been a long day, filled with close encounters of the African kind. The air was crisp, cool and damp as we approached the property. Sun falling, the rich colors of red earth beneath a lush green spotted with colors from flowers both wild and cultivated. It was landscape neither painter nor picture could ever recapture. I soaked it in as I stood through the sunroof trying to get as close as possible to the source of serenity that swelled in my soul.

Everything exceeded expectation. The landscape. The “tents”, which were nicer than most hotels I’ve stayed in (and I’ve stayed in a LOT). The food. The service. The décor, which I later learned was entirely provided by local skill. Even Mrs. Koch, who joined us later in the evening after having hiked something like 10 miles from Ngorongoro Crater with 10-12 men helping her hack the way. She joined us but just for a moment. She was warm, beautiful, full of life, and after saying hello she returned to the African men who sat visibly exhausted but happy, laughing I presume over the days events.

It’s easy to forget everything, like some type of ancient meditation while sitting on a large deck with a light drink, or smoking a gentle pipe. But when you finally come back down from that cloud which seemed so far from reality, you remember something- the children. The same children who greeted you with glowing smiles and waving hands as you rode by. And you can’t help but smile to yourself at the wonderful work that one special couple has begun so that one special community will never be forgotten.

Do yourself a favor. If you ever plan on visiting Africa and doing a safari-which is one of the coolest things you will ever do-stay at the Rhotia Valley Tented Lodge and Children’s Home. This is one thing you should do for yourself, and by doing so you’ll be doing it for the children as well. Self and service have never worked so well together.


1 Steffani { 08.08.08 at 1:01 pm }

Now THAT is beautiful!! 🙂

2 Eric Daams { 08.10.08 at 8:32 pm }

I love the last photo: two chairs on a balcony overlooking the incredible African landscape. Just beautiful. If I ever do get to Africa, I’ll certainly be taking your advice and staying there!

3 The Other American { 08.11.08 at 7:03 pm }

Mmmm… hot fudge brownie bar….

4 Lotte Koch { 09.03.08 at 11:03 am }
5 Lotte Koch { 09.03.08 at 9:43 pm }

Yes, Koch-Familymember..
Nice Blog en nice story!!!
For all the tourists:
Voor de Nederlanders..managing the lodge…sponsoring?
Greetings, Lotte

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