Kitty Robertson: Bonding, tourism, cold beer brought me to Tanzania

Kitty with friends at a local bar in Stone Town, Zanzibar

What you need to know:

  • Kitty is not new to Tanzania or Africa. She has travelled across Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania for Hashers running events.

By Anganile Mwakyanjala

Kitty Robertson, a Scottish lady in her mid-forties residing in Thailand, believes in working hard and playing hard.

Staying active has kept her glow and given her a vibrant lifestyle. After working for a while in Thailand, fate had it that she would choose Tanzania as her next playground.

“I was actually invited to run in Tanzania,” she said. Kitty is a member of Hash House Harriers, a running club humorously referred to as ‘a drinking club with a running problem. “We are known to have a drink after each and every run,” she laughs.

Hash House Harrier, an international non-competitive running club that is more than 80 years old and originates from Kuala Lumpur, Selangor (now Malaysia), has gained a firm presence in Tanzania.

What they do is go for a run and grab a beer afterward. “I loved Tanzania’s local beers when I was there,” she said, mentioning a few popular local brews.

It was the Hash running club that welcomed her to Tanzania, and upon arriving on the spice island of Zanzibar, she went for a walk in the famous Stone Town.

No picture in a brochure or on the internet can truly prepare anyone to see this colourful island and its people. While walking on the island, I was mesmerised by this amazing island in the Indian Ocean and its richness in its ancient culture mixed with modern times, with its history that is as intriguing as it is interesting.

Her four days in Zanzibar took her to Paje, a coastal village described as one of the most beautiful, if not the most beautiful, beaches in the whole of Zanzibar. Kitty was superbly fascinated with the spice market, and to her amazement, she found mace spices in Zanzibar that are very difficult to find in Thailand, where she resides. “I bought mace spices, mango, and vanilla essence,” she said.

Kitty is a very energetic and outdoor person, from running with fellow Hash members to hiking. In fact, her visit to Zanzibar was to run, and she ran what she refers to as a short distance of four kilometres.

To any other person who is not a frequent runner, four kilometres doesn’t seem like a long distance, but to Hash House Harriers, running is a frequent and favourite activity, not for any cause but more for building friendship and having fun.

After the end of each run, a bottle of beer or two is consumed, and stories are shared as they bond. “It’s about keeping healthy, maintaining a level of activity, and drinking a lot of beer,” she said with a laugh.

She took a public bus, famously known as daladala, from the town centre to Paje, and that was one of her most fond memories of Zanzibar. “We were fifteen of us in a daladala, jubilant and having fun without a care in the world,” she remembers.

She went to Jambiani and just relaxed at the white sand beach, watching the waves of the ocean, away from the noisy city life, and just serenely bonded with her new found friends.

The fun did not just stop in Zanzibar. Kitty also got to experience the Dar es Salaam life and even went for a short run with fellow hashers. She also had time for shopping for some crafts and the “Dela” dress, a popular long dress made of light fabrics worn by women in Dar es Salaam due to its comfortability in the humid and hot weather. “I bought some Delas with beautifully hand-painted drawings on them,” she said.

The local running mates took her around Dar’s best bars for cold beers at night, and one particular local brew was her favourite. “It was a very chilled and good time,” she shared.

Kitty is not new to Tanzania or Africa. She has travelled across Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, and Tanzania for Hashers running events. “Not all hashers hash across the world, but I have run across eighteen countries across the world,” she said.

Running across the world has not only contributed to her physical fitness, but she has also been able to see the world from a perspective different from her own, seeing different cultures across the world. “I think travelling humbles you; you get to see the world, from insanely rich people to extreme poverty,” she said.

That is what keeps her grounded and humble. She does not take anything for granted, but she is grateful for it all. “I love the people I met in Zanzibar; they are very welcoming and humble,” she remembers. She got to learn about Tanzanian culture and even fell in love with our cuisine.

“Anytime I travel, it’s about the culture and food. I love eating,” she insists. She tried all types of local foods in Tanzania and didn’t say no to any food that came her way. For a person who is toned and slim, all that food she eats is burned during her long runs and hiking around the world. “I ate lots of different types of Tanzanian food, but I just watch the fats I consume and eat lots of vegetables,” she said.

Kitty insists Hashers club is open to anybody and everybody, and the members in Tanzania do not even use real names but prefer nicknames, which eliminates any classes. “Regardless of what you do or the life you live, everyone is welcome to be a hasher,” she said.

Kitty’s time in Zanzibar and the mainland was short, but she used every bit of her seconds in Tanzania to bond with her new friends and explore parts of Tanzania that have truly been thrilling to her life.

She is a huge fan of fishing, and her social media feeds are full of the huge fish she has caught during her adventures. She hopes to come back to Tanzania in April 2024 for another visit, get a boat, and hopefully catch some fish on our coasts.