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Several friends of mine, residing in Arusha, always request that I bring back with me a gallon or two of ‘ulanzi’, the local bamboo wine, whenever I undertake my annual pilgrimage to my roots in Njombe. Now ‘ulanzi’ is the in thing in that part of Bongoland.

It so happens that this precious liquid is only available in regions located in the southern highlands of Bongoland. These are Iringa, Njombe, Songea and some parts of Mbeya. I have a hunch the minerals in this part of the country have a lot to do with the availability of ‘ulanzi’.

For those who are not familiar with this drink it is vital to know that it is fermented or unfermented bamboo sap, obtained by taping young bamboo shoots during the rainy season. It is a clean, whitish, beverage with sweet/alcoholic taste and a shelf life of several days under correct storage facilities.

Now my Arusha friends need the ‘ulanzi’ whenever I visit Njombe, rainy season or not. And this time it was during the dry season. During such a season, the drink becomes very scarce because the bamboo shoots do not grow.

As we drove up the tricky Kitonga escarpment, to enter the real southern highlands, I reminded my friend Evans about the ‘ulanzi’demand by our Arusha friends. We decided as soon as we reached a promising settlement we should enquire about the availability of this precious liquid.

It was at Tanangozi village where we were informed about the availability of ‘ulanzi’ at some backyard street joint. Indeed we found several Hehe elders enjoying their favourite drink. This was accompanied by some curious fried sardine like bites which we came to learn later that they were young cat fish.  I could not bring myself to taste them.

Instead I collected some ‘ulanzi’ for my onward journey to Njombe. At least we were sure we would be able to find more when returning to Arusha.

It was on our return journey that we were reliably informed that the best ‘ulanzi’ was available at Ifunda. A local guide assisted us to navigate the backyard streets until we reached a football pitch surrounded by market stalls. It was at Mama Mnyawami’s stall where we found a barrel full of fresh ‘ulanzi’.

Curiously the joint had several other alcoholic beverages including beer and sachets of hard drinks. But everybody was drinking ‘ulanzi’ saying this was the beverage which stimulated them most. Nearby stalls were teeming with customers who were busy munching bowlfuls of boiled and fried meats, rice, kandes and the like and all washed down with ‘ulanzi’. And this was not even 10 a.m.

I bought three gallons of the ‘ulanzi’ for my Arusha friends. For one reason or another we had to spend two more days on our way back before arriving Arusha.

Now as I wrote above, ‘ulanzi’ ferments fast when stored under dubious conditions. And being stored in the boot of a rattling contraption for three days is one of them. Therefore the ‘ulanzi’ which arrived in Arusha was what we call back in Njombe as ‘mdindifu’ – very very strong.

Imagine I, for one, cannot drink any ‘ulanzi’ which is more than a day old, even when kept under correct conditions. I was therefore surprised, actually shocked, when my Arusha friends easily guzzled down the ‘mdindifu’ ulanzi and with relish. I think it is time I organised an ‘ulanzi’ tour to Wanging’ombe district in Njombe region.

About Woinde Shizza

Mwandishi , Mjasiriamali na Mbunifu wa Mavazi. Email : , Instagram: woindeshizzablog.