A quote we love, a quote we are obviously trying to live up to. Though the author is unknown to us it comes from our Pal Cecil back home in good old Oxnard, CA
Life is not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty, well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming WOW, WHAT A RIDE!!!
Come along and explore the allure of Kili. Join us in the warmest winter we’ve known. Sail with Pirates in a Dhow. See beautiful Zanzibar, the Spice Island. Meet the people and enjoy the places of Tanzania with us. See some of the most gorgeous scenery in the world. We hope that when you finish this chapter of our Journal you’ll say, “WOW, WHAT A RIDE!
Kilimanjaro to Malawi
Why Kilimanjaro? Picture a 12-year-old boy sitting in a darkened theatre in Spokane, Washington in 1952. Hemmingway’s “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” leapt off the silver screen in living Technicolor and into his mind, never to leave, always to pose the question, “How can there be a place in tropical Africa where there’s snow, all year round”? He knew that someday he had to go there, he had to see it for himself. And now, he has!
January 23, 2004
The Climb Begins
Moshi, Marangu Gate to Mandera Hut
Our last breakfast before the climb. We sat on the patio and stared toward Kili as we ate. A gal, Beatrice from Switzerland, struck up a conversation. She has been up, not to the top but up, several years ago. A dermatologist, she used to live here in Moshi, and is back for a meeting and holiday.
The bikes and bags are safely stored and locked in a room off the hallway. The driver from Mauly, Donald, picked us up at 8:30 and the adventure begins. I took the CDs of pictures and the DVD to the Poste and sent them off to Web-master Wally. The Postal Clerk, Sharill questioned the contents and when I told him he demanded to know more about a bicycle trip around the world. He wants to be an e-mail pal. I ran back across the street and got a card for him.
Our guide Genesis slipped into the seat behind us. The Porters, Johnson who is an assistant guide, Salvo, Rafael and Rama jammed into the back along with the bags and supplies. The drive to the Park gate is a steady, at times steep climb to 1980 meters. (6534 feet)
It took about an hour to get for the Porters to get organized while I picked out rain pants, boots and gloves from the clothing rental place there. The only pair of boots that came close to fitting was too tight then the fellow there pulled the insoles out. I had toe room, we were on our way, up!
The distance is only 7.2 kilometers but the vertical is 700 meters or about 2400 feet. The walk is not demanding in fact it’s a pleasant stroll through a tropical rain forest. The walking trail is steep at times but well maintained. Time passed quickly as we sauntered and talked. Genesis is a wealth of information. He takes his position seriously and has tried to learn the answers to the questions we and other trekkers have. Rain spit down on us a time or two. There are two different kinds of monkeys that inhabit this area but we saw neither. They had packed box lunches, which were okay, but the best of it was just sitting in this gorgeous place and talking with Genesis.
We did experience our first casualty shortly after starting. Our Porter, Rafael, fell ill and after sitting, resting for a while he decided to return to the gate. Genesis filled us in and assured us that they had already replaced him. Porters are allowed to carry up to 25 kilograms so it isn’t like they can divide the load. Rafael went down and Turo came up to take over.
Our second loss was Cat’s sunglasses. She is taking Genesis’s advice about drinking plenty of water but that necessitates lots of stops in the trees. On one such she thinks they fell off while she was in full squat. We backtracked and looked but one bush begins to look just like all the others. Genesis pulled a funky old pair out of his pack and handed them to her. There are two lessons here for us. 1. Genesis is always prepared for any emergency, and 2. These glasses like so much of the equipment the Guides and Porters have was either donated or left behind accidentally by former trekkers.
in the Jungle
The Mandara Huts are in a lush setting. They’re A-Frame structures with 2 huts, back to back under each roof. They were designed and built by Norwegians. We had to sign in and were assigned hut number 5. Each hut has 4 single beds, two that bunk up on the back wall and one on each side just above floor level. The toilet is a walk down a narrow pathway.
After settling in and savoring a cup of tea Genesis took us up to Maundi Crater, 300 or so meters above Marangu. A good view of both mountain peaks above when it’s clear but for us, the clouds made it an exercise in acclimatization. Genesis says that he likes to end each day with a short climb up then back down. The crater is now overgrown with grass and trees but the indentation is obvious. It speaks of the power Mother Nature exerted here in creating this obstacle that so many feel compelled to challenge.
Dinner is cooked by Johnson and served by Salva. We just have to find the checkered cloth and sit. Potatoes and a vegetable sauce plate to pour over them. Tasty and filling. We were in the hut on the bunks and ready for sleep by 8:30.
During our walking and talking we asked about his life, here is a little of what we learned. His Father was a teacher and Christian but his job took him away and he ended up married to another woman as well as Genesis’s Mother. He couldn’t really afford to support all his dependants so that put a lot of pressure on his first born son, Genesis. His Mother was ill with a heart problem so, as eldest son, he had to help support her and pay her medical bills. By the time he had enough earnings to get her into the Hospital it was too late. She died in 1984. Genesis is 50 years old and trying to make a career change. If he can get money enough together to buy a Land Rover he’ll start freelancing as a Safari Guide.
How does one become a Guide on this mountain? Genesis was already involved in a career but wanted to try the climb. He bribed a Guide to take him up as a Porter. He was fit and played tennis so was sure he could handle the load. However the 25 kilos (about 55 pounds) felt like a ton on his head. He talked with the Guide and they let him carry the big box full of bread. It looked impressive but was light enough for him to handle.
That tour company specialized in German tourists. Genesis could speak English and picked up a little German. He could communicate and understand better than the Guide. After that experience he knew that he wanted more but didn’t think he was strong enough to make the grade. Then, the Tour Operator called and asked him to accompany another group. He didn’t learn until later that the first group had written a letter to the Boss about how much they liked him and how his language skills had helped them have a great experience. That was in 1992 and he has led groups up 64 times since.
Interesting, he thinks his strength lies in his knowledge of the mountain and language skills. We believe it’s in his ability to relate to people, wouldn’t you know that his previous work was in sales. A great guy and now, a good friend.
January 24, 2004
Marangu to Horombo Hut
Not a very restful night, Cat had to go twice but the sounds of monkeys and lord knows what else kept her near the hut. Luckily there are some bushes just under it. The idea wasn’t original, she saw lots of toilet paper, probably left by the less than hearty group of French women staying upstairs. Well their defense as well as Cat’s, it is dark as pitch and pretty scary out there. (Those girls are here with their company. They walked up to this hut today but will go back down and onto a Safari tomorrow. They are smoker, drinker type partiers, not trekkers.)
We awoke at 6:00 AM. Incredible, 10 hours sleep. Salva knocked and left a basin of warm water at our door at 6:30. Cat rinsed off then I shaved on the front step with out the help of a mirror. We had a light breakfast at 7:30 and were on the trail by 8:10. Genesis sets a slow pace and that suits us just fine. There is a German group of 11 and a couple, he’s Moldavian she German. They left after we did and all passed us by.
We fell in with a Russian gal, Ludmila. She is probably more interested in the flowers and plants than the mountain. Genesis has a little book and looks up the names of the plants and animals. He began to share with her. Later Genesis told us that her guide thinks that she isn’t eating or drinking enough water. He fears she’ll get sick. Awe, just to shake our confidence, as we rounded a corner in a slight drizzle one of the famous Kili stretchers pulled up and the rescue team took a quick rest. They set the single wheel stretcher on its end. The guy on board was sort of propped up in standing position. He opened his eyes and looked directly at me. I asked how he was and held his thumbs up. Then he rolled his eyes and closed them tight, again. No pictures because of the rain, darn it. He would probably have wanted one, once he feels better.
Onward and upward, we sat in the rain and ate our box lunches. The rain continued off and on all afternoon. It moves in and out quickly.
We were first out this morning and last in this afternoon. We feel good and slow is okay with us. It was 4:45 when we reached Horombo Huts. They are similar to those at Mandara. Same drill, too. Cat signed us in and got the key for hut H-13. We are directly behind the dining hall.
During the Kili Tea and sweet biscuits tradition Genesis picked up our LPGB and discovered the pictures of African animals identified by their common and Latin or scientific names. He was excited, this is info he needs to learn to help him into his Safari Guide career. We loaned him the book, he’ll study while we spend our two nights here acclimatizing. We won’t go out again this evening but we’ll take a hike up to Zebra Rock and back tomorrow.
The dining hall was jammed. We couldn’t believe a guy we saw sitting near the door in shirtsleeves and sandals without sox? We were shivering and as the sun sank it got colder and colder. We found our tablecloth and were seated when the underdressed guy, Wayne from Orlando, Florida, sat at his assigned spot just across from us. He had just come down and was feeling weak. He apologized for not being a good table conversationalist but he felt terrible. Having just finished that sentence he looked up and said, “I’m going to be sick” then wretched and spewed vomit on the table, the bench and his leg.
You know from earlier writings that I hate to throw up and there is little we can do to help. We jumped up and I went looking for his Guide. Salva joined the hunt when I explained what had happened. He also grabbed another table and moved out things. Poor Wayne, he just sat and stared, I went back to see how he was doing and he said, “Bet you haven’t had table entertainment like that before”. I told him that I’d been table entertainment like that before, myself. He felt better and his Guide joined him so I retreated to dinner.
Still worried about Wayne we stopped by on our way out. He said that throwing up made him feel better. We talked about seeing him in the morning but he told us they were scheduled to leave at sunup, he wants to get down and out of here. Strange, nobody, not his Guide or Porters, nor any of the staff at Horombo ever made a move toward cleaning up the mess. In fact it was still there, on the bench and floor, the next morning when we went in for breakfast.
The clouds had rolled in and out earlier but, as we walked to our hut, the sky was crystal clear and full of stars. The air was crisp and cold. The lights of Moshi twinkled like a carpet of diamonds far below. We were snuggled into our sleeping bags by 8:00 PM.
Sunday, January 25, 2004
Acclimatization at Horombo
A toilet trip for two at 2:00 AM. It was cold, crisp and the thousands of stars and lights of Moshi continued to glow and light the path. Cat snoozed but I had trouble getting back to sleep. We lay and listened to our hearts pound. We are both having accentuated heart rates. Blame it on the altitude, 3720 meters or 12,976 feet.
Another urgent call to toilet at 6:00 AM and no further sleep. We did lay in then take a little walk around the camp at 7:00. Salva brought the basin of hot water at 7:30, we both washed up and I shaved, again on the steps of the hut.
Cat talked with a German guy just as he came down and into Horombo. He told her that he’s been at the top at sunrise. It was his first time at that altitude and his first bout with altitude sickness. He said, “It was great, very dangerous but great. I was seeing the sun come up and puking and puking”! Fun comes in all sorts of packages to all sorts of different people.
At breakfast we sat across from a young guy from England, Martin, and two girls from Norway, Christine and Erica. They have been to the top and agree that it’s not easy. They have been taking an electrolyte Sports Drink called Maxim and swear that it helped them make the grade. They wished us well and said goodbyes then reappeared and gave us two packets and a partially used can of their Sports Drink Powder. Camaraderie among climbers!
Our morning was a climber, up to a place they call Zebra Rocks. Genesis tells a story about a guy who decided that it would be cheaper to haul supplies up on donkeys instead of Porters. He got as far as Zebra Rocks and the last of his three donkeys keeled over and died. The rocks are named thus because of the stripes, not the donkeys. The trek was easy, we seem to be adjusting pretty well to the over 4100 meters (13,600 feet) altitude. We both wore our rental boots for the first time. They felt okay. Nine German trekkers caught us there and I took a group picture for them. They’ll be climbing to Kibo tomorrow, too. We were back at Horombo and ready for lunch by noon.
Genesis, Johnson and Salva joined us for lunch. It was a good round table discussion. Genesis has decided to have both of them accompany us to the summit. They are both trying to get experience and move up in rank to guides. Johnson is already an assistant Guide. The five of us tasted the Maxim in hot water. Cat and I like it a lot better than hot tea. Genesis really liked it but the other two felt like they’d stick with the Liptons.
Horombo is full this afternoon, a group of 53 Brits accompanied by 90 Porters and Guides arrived this afternoon. There is a group of tent campers setting up near the huts. They camped on top, in the crater last night. It sounded miserable to us. Matt, a young guy from San Diego, California, told of his climb last night. His water froze and he went without for more than 2 hours. He was tired and weak but thrilled that he’s made it. A young couple from Britain walked up, they had just come from Mandara in only 4 hours, it had taken us 7 to do the same distance.
The skies darkened, the wind blew. Thunder echoed through the canyons and lightening bantered about through the clouds. We watched out the tiny window of our hut then spent most of the afternoon snuggled up in our sleeping bags. It was cold! Cat suffered a touch of the Guff-Guff.
The dinner dining hall was jammed. A group of guys from Finland were seated next to us. They had just made the decent this afternoon. They had lots of advice and tips for us. We think we’re as ready as we’ll ever be and we’re anxious to get up and back down. The altitude really gets to us. (A line from the song “Up on a Tight Rope” that Leon Russell sang.)
Genesis came in and set the plan for tomorrow, 6:30 AM wakeup, breakfast at 7:00 and the Kibo assault starts at 7:30. The big British group is here on a fund raising adventure. They each had to get 2,500£ pledges to qualify for the trek. (About $3,500 US) Some of them don’t look very fit, the next two days could be tough ones for them. The non-profit is called SCOPE, the money is to pay expenses for kids who have Cerebral Palsy.
We were back at the hut, in the bags and asleep by 8:15 PM.
January 26, 2004
Horombo Hut to Kibo Hut
Hard to believe that you can sleep well at 13,000 feet but we did. Cat stirred a few times early on, she was being bitten by high altitude bed bugs? That was our best guess. We finally pulled her sleeping bag apart and sprayed with repellent. That was our last waking memory.
Salva delivered the warm water basin at 6:30 AM. We were already up, half packed, and ready to climb. Cool eggs, cold white bread for breakfast and we were off. Nice cool weather this morning. We are now in the desert zone. Once again Genesis set the “pole, pole” pace. We ascended through rocks and small scraggly brush. The paths are very well maintained and we see little garbage. Once in a while we see a plastic wrapper or those terrible little blue plastic strips that top off the water bottles. We stopped often to pick them up and stow them in our pockets. We’ll throw them away, later. The Porters are required to weigh their supplies and garbage when they leave camp in the morning and again when they arrive at the next station. They carry the garbage along with them the entire trip, up then back to the gate at the bottom. We have been pretty impressed with the organization of the park regarding cleanliness and the rules that govern our Porters and Guide.
Our greatest disappointment was in learning about the small dollars they are paid. Although we learned what we know now through hearsay we are beginning to believe what we’re hearing. (My friend and Attorney, Richard, has a big rock in his office with these words chiseled into it, “Hearsay, though etched in stone, is still hearsay”.) It may only be rumors but we’re beginning to understand the economics of Tanzanian Trekking. Most of the chitchat among trekkers is about how much the Guides and Porters are paid and how much they expect to earn through tips. Our best info is that Genesis probably gets 25,000 T Shillings and the Porters get 13,000 for the 6 days. This seems like slave wages to us? Especially for the porters who work so hard carrying the food, water, pot & pans, garbage, AND their own personal belongings ON THEIR BACKS! Then, when we reach camp and crash they cook and serve us dinner.
These guys are virtually, totally dependent on customers tips. This seems unfair, we’ve already spent more than our budget to make this journey. Now we’re beginning to feel compelled to tip another $100 or more? We suppose that it’s all about supply and demand, the capitalist way. If they’re willing to work for next to nothing in the hopes that they’ll make it up in tips, why should a tour operator pay anything?
Ludmila, our Russian flora friend came down toward us. She had skipped the extra day and forged upward without rest or acclimatization. She did climb almost half way to the summit becoming ill and turning back. She’s happy, she’s off to Zanzibar Island for sea level and sun! For us the wind howled it’s ominous warning as the temperature dropped. We continued our “pole pole” (slow, slow) journey. Sana and Mohammed, a couple seated near us at dinner last night, caught up with us. She asked, “Aren’t you the people riding bikes around the world? We overheard you telling about your trip at the dinner table last night”. We walked together for a while, they’re from Boston, Massachusetts, he’s a Doctor and she works with a non-profit assisting the homeless. They’re young, dedicated and fit walkers, they moved on ahead. Two Chinese guys also passed us. They work at the Chinese Embassy in Burundi. One of them didn’t look very good and said that he felt sick.
The wind chill made the temperature feel like it was plummeting. As you approach Kibo Hut the summit looks close enough to reach out and touch. The trail above zigzags up in loose gray shale. The snowcap, ice and almost vertical path look daunting from this angle. It’s a mere 4 kilometers but Genesis says it will take us 7 hours to reach Uhuru. The thought of climbing there in the pitch black of night with ice on the ground doesn’t feel very inviting.
We registered then went to our “dorm room”. Sana, Mohammed and a German guy, had already made themselves at home. He was lying on a lower bunk, resting and dreaming of Uhuru Peak. The 4 of us chatted while we had hot energy drink and popcorn, and tried to convince each other that we were going to all make it to the top! Cat was chilled to the bone and crawled into her sleeping. She was wearing all the warm clothes she had. Even with her Maasai blanket on her feet she was shaking and shivering. This is not a good sign, she just doesn’t do well in cold. Though I wasn’t as cold my head was beginning to throb.
Mohamed is a Doctor, a General Practitioner at a hospital in Boston. He was a very popular guy. One of the Chinese guys came knocking first, asking for help. His partner was throwing up and throwing up. Mohamed went with him but told him that it was due to altitude and the only cure was to get back down the hill. (We heard later that the well one did make Uhuru, the other left Kibo at midnight and went back down in the darkness. He must have really felt terrible.) Then it was a German guy in the group that we have been leading or following for the past 4 days. He was in agony but wanted to continue. Dr. Mohamed’s prognosis was the same for him and his prescription again was lower altitude. Several others sought his advice then went on with their plans in spite of the aches, pains and sickness.
The four of us also climbed into our sleeping bags. We rested and talked until the Porters brought dinner. Ours was COLD pasta and COLD potatoes. They don’t have a good way to transport the hot food across from the kitchen area. They sleep and cook in a building about 30 yards from Kibo Hut. The wind must be at least –10 Celsius and it almost put a thin layer of ice on the food as it was transported. Appetites were hard to find. Cat refused to get out of her bag so I took a plate to her.
Genesis came in at 7:00 and we talked about our plan. He has two thermoses of hot water coming so that we will have plenty of the hot energy drink with us. He did a little pep talk then we stacked our hands, white, black, white, black, white and did a little cheer. We were a team, we were determined, and we would go to Uhuru.
He hadn’t been gone 10 minutes when, as we tried to relax and get a little sleep, Cat started experiencing an exaggerated heart rate. As I tried to calm her, my head began to throb then felt like it had a band of steel tightening around it. We tried to relax but between the pounding heads and hearts it was impossible. Then, I began to feel that old familiar feeling, arrhythmia, an irregular heartbeat. Remember our days on the bikes when I felt so weak because of this? It was back in Minnesota that a good Doctor convinced me to take Metaprolol and that was the last time I have felt this way, until now. I really hate the feeling and the way it drains me of my strength. So here we were, Cat shivering and experiencing rapid heart rate and me, my head pounding and my heart doing flip flops.
Mohamed and Sana seemed to be sleeping until we had to make a toilet call. What an ordeal, we had to find our boots then pull on the big coats and gloves. In the process Sana woke up and decided to join us. Mohamed was now awake and stayed to bolt the door to keep out the cold wind. We have struggled with the door most of the evening. Every time someone came in or out it blows open and chills the already cold room down another –10 or more degrees. Sana walked with us through the bone chilling wind to the harsh concrete floors of the “Long Drop” squatter toilets. Once again our headlamp and little flashlight came in very handy.
Cat now sought medical advice from Dr. Mohamed. He listened to her story and her heart then said, “As a Doctor I must advise you not to climb any higher but, as an adventurer I feel that you could go onward if you carry your medications, especially the Nitro tablets. Also, try to get a cylinder of oxygen from the staff to carry with you.
We avoided a final decision and lay back waiting for the 11:00 PM call to climb. I lay thinking that we’d come a long way to turn back and maybe the oxygen might be enough insurance to keep us headed up? The more I thought the worse the feeling that a steel band was tightening around my head got.
At 11:00 Genesis came in and shook everyone out of their sleeping bags. I half-heartedly asked about oxygen and pretty much knew that they wouldn’t have any. I also knew by then that we weren’t going on, we’d had it. Genesis seemed a little disappointed but agreed that it was our bodies and we should listen to them. We shook hands and wished Mohamed and Sana good luck then bolted the door behind them and crawled back into our bags. It was close to impossible to get to sleep. Breathing was a struggle and the other maladies continued to plague us both.
January 27, 2004
Kibo Hut DOWN to Mandara Hut
A knock on the door at 4:00 AM. Sana was back, she began to throw up then got dizzy and hallucinated. She said that she looked back toward Kibo and could see Angels flying up from the toilet lights. One of their Porters came back with her. Mohamed continued his quest for the top. Fully clothed, she crawled into her sleeping bag and covered her head.
At 7:00 Salva came to awaken us but we were awaiting his call. He brought cold toast and a thermos of hot water for coffee. Mohamed came in while we were eating. He was first to the top and the first back down. Though he didn’t get to Uhuru, nobody did. It was super cold and the wind was howling. He did have some sickness, too but hurried back to make sure that Sana was okay. Man, he is fast!
We began to pack. When Cat pulled out the towel the camera took a big fall to the cold, hard cement floor. Parts flew off, the battery fell out, even the CD went flying. I had wrapped it when we were still planning on climbing to keep it from freezing. It’s a goner, the LED screen is cracked and there is a piece of the cover missing that protects the CDs. We agonized at the loss for a few minutes then the need to get out of this altitude consumed us.
We did see a beautiful sunrise from above the clouds, just not from the summit. Neither of us felt that badly about not having made the final climb. We’d seen Kili up close, no reason to let her KILL us. This little side trip shouldn’t leave us unable to continue our Odyssey. We didn’t have the strong desire that allows you to override warnings and sickness to succeed. We enjoyed a stunning morning in the high altitude sunshine as we began our decent.
I felt terrible, my head continued to throb and the flippy floppy heart drained me of energy. Cat was soon on the road to recovery, each step we took found her feeling better. As for me, I felt weak and each step was a challenge. I wanted DOWN. Trekking, even going down, is a slow and arduous process. The sun took the cold away and we began to shed layers of clothing. I walked ahead and thought of being in the warm, lower altitudes. Cat and Genesis walked behind and kept up a constant chatter.
We’ve decided that Trekking isn’t our game. Going down presents new difficulties. The couple we met in Arusha, volunteers Michael and Shelli, said that most of the people they talked with that had made the climb said that they’re most lasting memory was in the toenails that they lost while descending. I began to feel the pressure with each step I took in those all too small hiking boots. It was a slow, bone jarring, tedious experience.
It was Noon when we arrived at Horombo Hut our guys, had fried bananas, chips and soup waiting for us. Genesis asked if we felt like continuing rather than spending the night at Horombo? Our bodies were tired but we wanted down! So, full of warm food and a desire to get to an altitude that our bodies can handle, we set off for Mandara. Genesis estimated that it would take 4 to 5 hours.
Toes on both of my feet are taking a beating. We continued our slow, tedious, bone- jarring journey downward. The food did have a positive affect and we both felt better. The air seems to thicken as we dropped below 3,300 meters, 10,000 feet. The walk to Mandara and 2,700 meters, 8,910 feet took longer than Genesis had suggested. It was 5:30 PM by the time our aching feet and stiff legs got us there.
Confusion, though Genesis said that he’d called to make sure we would have a Hut, the camp was full. We were relegated to spending the night with another person, a guy from the Netherlands. As tired and sore as we were I went to the office and argued with the Manager. It was to no avail and didn’t even make me feel any better. He couldn’t give us something he didn’t have?
Stef, the climber from Holland, wasn’t that keen on having company in his hut either. He’d already spread his gear on the bunks and had to re-organize to accommodate us. Europeans seem to understand sharing better than we spoiled Americans. He suggested that he would be going to dinner shortly and we would have privacy. Actually, we aren’t bathing and we’re sleeping in our long underwear so there isn’t an issue of privacy.
Spit baths and we were off to dinner. Stef passed us on his way back to Hut 5. The dinner was pretty much left overs from the original store of food. We were back at the Hut by 8:00 PM.
Stef was already lying down, reading a book. He’s here to celebrate his 50th birthday. This has been a dream of his for a long time. We relate well to dreams as well as physical and mental challenge. Stef has been working out for years. He takes a handful of vitamin and mineral pills daily. His wife isn’t here because she has an injury. He manages a team for ING Bank and seems as driven in business as he is on this quest to conquer Kili. He’s even taking some sort of pill to help ward off altitude sickness. He is very confident and save a terrible, debilitating problem with altitude he will climb to Uhuru.
We were all laying, looking at the rough board ceiling by 9:00 PM. Sleep came much easier for us at under 2700 meters, 8900 feet! While Stef dreamed of conquering the mountain our heads were full of cycling, beaches and the experiences of the rest of our African Odyssey.
January 28, 2004
Mandera Hut to Hotel Impala
Back to Civilization
The 3 of us were up early! Stef, ready to climb and we, ready to head down and out. Stef’s porter was at the hut and had his breakfast ready to go by 7:00 AM. For us the service seemed to break down on our final day together. No wake up call, no bucket of warm water. We waited then packed and walked to the dining hall. I set out on a search and found Salva. He apologized, they had over slept. We know that they’re tired, too. Our legs are so stiff that we had a hard time climbing the stairs. We sat with Stef and offered our encouragement. We shook hands then hugged like old friends. He walked out toward his destiny amid promises of Internet messages and continued communication.
Anxious, we wolfed down our food and loaded up for the final decent. Just out of Camp we came upon a tribe of monkeys. They put on a great show, swinging from the tree branches and cavorting around on the ground. We got some video and truly enjoyed the moment with nature. I felt much better but we were both too stiff to gallop down the rocky path. Genesis wanted to talk about the trip and get our feelings about how the Porters are paid. His main point was to debrief, see how we enjoyed the trek. See if the service was what we had expected it should be.
Genesis is a genuine good guy. He has ideas about forming a Foundation to supply 3 wheel bicycles for the physically disabled. He wants us to be involved because we travel by bicycle. We promised to let LandRider know about the needs that exist here in Tanzania. Also, there is a non-profit company that earns money by bringing cycle tourists to Africa and uses the profits to provide bicycles to needy Africans. I will try to get them connected, too.
We were strolling, Pole Pole, as usual. The time flew by as we walked and talked. Then from behind, familiar voices. Mohamed and Sana had caught us. They left Horombo early this morning and decided to do the distance in one day. They want to get out on the savannah and on Safari. Youth and stamina are great assets for trekking. They slowed and kept our pace the rest of the way. We really chattered, like those monkeys we’d seen earlier. At the gate, Mohamed received his Certificate of achievement for having reached the summit. The rest of us just signed out and thanked the Park Rangers. This was a wonderful feeling, we had been in the elements and altitude for 6 days and were ready to move on.
Mohamed and Sana lagged behind, buying souvenirs. Though our car was there we had to wait for our German roommate. He had also summated and was on his way down. Since he was a Mauly Tours client we had to wait. We sat on the grass and ate the vestiges of lunch that had survived the entire trek. We reminded Genesis that most of the trekkers spend most of their time talking about how much to tip the Guide and Porters. We chose to pay Johnson and Salva 25,000 each 20,000 each to the other guys. Of course, we were in love with Genesis so we upped our anti to 60,000 for him. He has been a trove of info and a treasure to be with. Originally we were prepared to follow the Lonely Planet’s suggestion and give each guide 15,000 T Shillings and the Guide 40,000 to 60,000. (Remember, the US Dollar is about 1000 T Shillings.) So, we were into the trip another $150 US. If you’re thinking of going up, you should be prepared to spend almost $1,500 for the 6 days. (Oh yes, if you need equipment throw in another $75 for rental.) This was definitely way over our budget but again, one of those once in a lifetime experiences.
At last, the very tired and weak German guy came in and we were off to Moshi. The first stop was Mauly Tours showed up and off we were. First stop, the Mauly Office to sign out as clients. They wanted a debriefing but Cat wanted a shower. We promised to send an e-mail with our comments. I ran next door and checked e-mails. Cat made a quick trip to the market for wine, it’s been a long, dry week!
The Impala had reserved the same wonderful room for us. The AC spewed cold air into the warmth. We hit the TV switch, hungry for some news. No CNN or BBC? I called and the desk apologized, the room is in an area that is having wiring problems. They did try to fix the problem then offered to move us to another room. Disappointed, I followed him to a room upstairs. It felt uncomfortable so we moved back down and to a smaller room. I hated the room but it did have AC and TV.
Tired, hot and sweaty, we took it though we had been looking forward to a big bed and it had twins. The staff helped us move our bags, we got a shower and sipped our first glass of wine. That did sooth things a bit but Cat was peeved that the rate for the tiny room was the same as our old favorite. Even dinner was a stressful event. Cat ordered a dish with an herb sauce that turned out to be tomato, which she doesn’t eat.
Awe well, the beds felt so much better than the Hut Bunks and sleeping bags that we had trouble keeping our eyes open to watch a little news. Lights out, before 9:00 PM.
**Sorry, Broken Camera, NO PICTURES until February 11**
January 29, 2004
A Fantastic Day at Hotel Impala
We were so sore from the walk down the hill, that we were definitely resting our legs today. While we were having breakfast the young man who helped us the first day asked how we were doing and we replied that we were fine, but a little disappointed in having to change rooms. He said, after breakfast you find me and I will show you another room. We found him and he led us into a huge, beautiful suite. The bathroom was huge with a tub and shower! We happily moved everything again and were delighted since the price was the same! Cat immediately took a nice long shower and got all of our things organized. I set up “shop” and started typing about our Kili expedition. Cat went exploring for water and picnic stuff and just to see what the neighborhood had to offer. She returned with water, and reported that there was little else around. We had our picnic lunch sitting on our patio overlooking the pool.
The Hotel has a car that took us into town for $3.00. We cleared e-mail messages and wrote to the family. That burned up more than 2 hours. We taxied back to the hotel, relaxed and had dinner. We tried their version of Chinese cuisine, which wasn’t that great. The restaurant here is a far cry from the one at the Impala in Arusha. It’s hard to believe that they’re the same company. Awe well, we’re in Africa.
January 30, 2004
Another, Even Better Day at Impala
Today is CASH day. We will need enough to carry us through a couple of weeks between ATMs or Banks. We asked the Impala to advance cash on our Visa card but they declined. We stretched our limit on Visa Card Cash Advance and now need an ATM. We discussed our dilemma over a good breakfast, outside near the pool. Our only real option is to get back to Arusha and the Barclays Bank. The Impala Hotel operates a shuttle service to and from Arusha. Cat volunteered to make the money run while I tried to finish our Journal pages while she shuttles back and forth. Jerry, the Impala Manager, offered to drive her to the Shuttle Office. The trip is a 3-hour turn around. Cat got a ticket then hustled to the Internet Café and bought new sunglasses along the way.
Back and on board, the bus pulled out right on time, 12:00 noon. Her plan was to get to Arusha, get the cash and have lunch before the return trip. Unfortunately, they had booked students at the International School just up the street. School was still in session, they waited in the bus for 40 minutes. This really cut into Cat’s time plan. She would only have a 30-minute turnaround there. When they reached the Arusha Impala Cat asked the bus driver if he’d drop her at Barclays Bank. Just as he agreed a woman stuck her head in the bus door and told her that the bus to Moshi was leaving, right then. Cat explained our need for cash and the entire bus journey she’s just made to get it.
The woman took her to the waiting bus, turned to the driver and said, “You must take this lady to Barclays Bank before starting back to Moshi. Whew, a very close call. The Shuttle Bus stood idling as she withdrew cash then roared away and headed back.
The close call left Cat hungry and her new sunglasses gave her a headache. She needed food and rest when she got back at 3:30 PM. I took the glasses and ran hot water on them while she ate a sandwich. Snap, I broke them in half. Now those bargain glasses weren’t really that great a bargain. Once in my hands they only lasted a total of 5 hours.
Cat repacked all the bags, while I continued to work on picture placement for the website. Dinner was just fair again, then back to the room for a Jim Carey movie, “The Majestic”. Great movie.
January 31, 2004
Moshi to Mwanga
On the road again! Well the morning was invested in journalizing. I was intent upon getting the chapter from Conakry to Kili off to Wally before setting off. Cat got the bikes loaded and ready while I toiled over the picture placement. Finally at 11:30 I went to the computer in the lobby and e-mailed the package to Web-Master Wally.
At last, goodbyes to the friendly staff and we pulled out of the Impala drive and rolled down toward town. By the time we stopped and bid adieu to our friends at Mauly Tours we were both hungry. ChrisBurger, again, Cheeseburgers and fries. It was hot and 1:30 PM by the time we finally started pedaling up the hill and out of Moshi.
We came to a round about and asked a local girl if this was the turn off to Hino. She just sort of stared and squinted. The blank look told us that she wasn’t connecting with our pigeon Swahili. A couple of mzungu girls walked up that understood English. They’re from the US here on a Mission of some sort for a year. They did confirm that the turn to the right was the main road to Hino, Dar es Salaam and points south.
We stayed on the seats, with only an occasional stop for a stretch or trip to the bushes, until 6:00 PM. Mwanga is a dusty wide spot in the highway. Tired, we got soft drinks and sat on the steps of a teleboutique. The girl there told us that the Rhino Hotel mentioned in the Lonely Planet has been converted into a school. Cat looked at a tiny place nearby but it was too small and too dirty and too primitive. The girl told us of a place called Hotel Anjelika but couldn’t find a telephone number or decide on directions to the place. She suggested that a guy lounging nearby would guide us there for 1000 Shilling ($1.00). Exhausted and tired of getting nowhere we hired Omar. He immediately lit up a cigarette, assumed a stature of importance and began leading us down the side street.
He spoke to most of the other passersby as though he was accompanying Royalty. Cat began to get a little nervous about his directions. The road deteriorated to dirt and dust. The passing Matatas stirred up clouds of brown as they roared past. Omar couldn’t communicate with us at all but a sort of slick looking guy sidled up and started a conversation. He assured Cat that we were headed in the right direction. He also chatted with Omar and we began to feel that he was trying to cut himself into the 1000 S. deal. Then, as suddenly as he had appeared, he pointed out a sign for Anjelika said goodbye and disappeared into the bush.
Omar puffed on another cigarette and puffed up his chest as he told the staff about leading us there. They were great, they threw open a big metal gate and helped us get the bikes into our room. It was tiny but clean and we have our own toilet and shower, we were pleasantly surprised. Cat called it a haven in an otherwise bad looking place.
It took all of us to lift the bikes in and around to a place that left at least turning around room for us. Three more pleasant surprises, the price is only 10,000 Shilling ($10) and they have a ceiling fan and color TV. They only have one channel and it is constant African Music. Great music to relax and shower by.
We chose to sit inside, away from flying pests, for dinner. The Afro videos continued to blare. The food was good, the wine great. What a stroke of luck. What a HAVEN, as Cat had said.
We think we’ve lost our stamina from trekking and having been off the road. We shut down the videos and hit the pillows before 10:00 PM.
Sunday, February 1, 2004
Mwanga to Same
Up at 6:30 AM but not moving too quickly, breakfast at 7:30. It is included but not very much food. I bought a box of Mango Juice to supplement. We were packed and ready to roll by 8:30. We’re back on the road, again!
A goodbye to the nice people there, but few can understand more than, bye, bye. Down the dirt driveway, out and down the dirt street, around the corner onto the other dirt street and we were headed up, to the highway. At one point a Taxi Van came toward us at top speed for the narrow dirt road. I waved and yelled but to no avail. He came close, and the cloud of dust he showered upon us left us choking and gasping.
At the highway a tall lanky guy, bare from the waist up, sort of staggered across in front of us. He seemed to be mentally disturbed, talking to himself as he staggered about. His right leg was swollen, I liken it to pictures I’ve seen of Elephantitus. His ankle was huge. He was obviously known, everyone just sort of ignored him. He walked across and reached into the window of a parked bus. We bought two bottles of water and stood watching as we drank, filled our bottles.
Off, day 2 and we are already feeling tired. The road is up and downs. Long slow ups and downs. We are again riding along the base of the Pare Mountains. The landscape is green but dry. This is probably a brown place later in the year.
There isn’t much traffic, possibly because it’s Sunday? Buses are busy, regardless of the day of week. As we almost crested one of the long pulls a Land Rover passed, honked then pulled over. Robin, a South African, is on an adventure of his own. He started in Sweden, drove north then looped back to the south and has been moving back home, toward South Africa for several months. Robin was a career victim of Tyco International. You remember, the company that went down after Enron. The company whose CEO was taking $300,000,000 a year wages and still felt a need to dip into the til? He was the one who hosted a birthday party for his wife that cost $2,000,000 and paid for it with company funds. Awe, poor guy? Well, his illegal cavorting caused Robin to take and early retirement and set of on his Voyage. He gave us a cold Coke, his last and we spent several minutes comparing travel stories.
A Service Station, more Coke and some cookies. We were looking for energy. We both feel depleted and weak. The nice young boy there says that it’s 20 kilometers to Same. We had planned to get there yesterday until I took the better half of it typing. So, we decided that Same would be it for us, today.
As we rolled in at 1:30 PM a Policeman waved to us. I pulled over and asked him where we would find the Elephant Motel. It and the Amani Lutheran Center are the only 2 mentioned in our guidebook. We decided to go for the Elephant since it may have a glass of wine for us later this evening.
It’s almost out of town, we thought we might have missed it but a couple of guys indicated that we should keep going, until we see the sign. The driveway is dirt. Cat walked, I rode slowly up, under a big tree and parked in the shade. We went in and were greeted by a young girl who could barely see over the bar. The 15,000 Shilling ($15) room is small but adequate. We squeezed the bikes inside and were surprised, almost shocked to see a snowy, fuzzy BBC picture. I went back to the bar and asked the girl, she came to the room and slipped the antennae wire in and voila, BBC in living color.
Lunch, I had a bowl of macaroni and cheese. Cat ordered chicken sandwich but it was small and not too good. The best news, they do have a fair white wine and the price is right, 7,500 T S. We ordered 2 Bitter Lemon drinks and enjoyed listening to our friendly waitresses better than average English language skills.
Showers felt great, we relaxed. Both of our tail ends are scorched with saddle sores. We really have softened this past 2 weeks. A generous application of anti-biotic cream soothed and cooled our affected areas. Cat lay back on the bed, I typed for a while then did the same. We both still feel almost woozy?
The dining room, bar area was crowded with guys, mostly guys watching a soccer game on a fairly large screen TV. Wine and dinner, strange presentation but okay taste for what they called Stroganoff. No noodles like we’d expected but a big clump of good tasting rice in its place.
BBC news and bed by 9:30 PM. We are both getting road weary, already. Maybe still affected by the climb and altitude?
Today’s big news, both George and Tony have conceded to independent investigations of the faulty intelligence that led to the Iraq war.
February 2, 2004
Same to Mombo
Breakfast, they offer Continental but we supplemented with eggs. Cat had sausage and I had bacon. They had a small bottle of Mango juice that added to the mix. All in all a good send off. Oh yes, lets no forget the monkeys. They were whooping it up for us this morning, making those monkey sounds and swinging in the trees. They watched with interest as we pulled the bikes out and struggled to get them around the walkway.
Off, still in the shade of the Pare (Pa-ray) Mountains on our left. They are imposing, sometimes-sheer cliffs jutting up 2 or 3 thousand feet. Off to the right, the Masai Steppe, flat fairly lush savannah for as far as the eye can see. The lay of the land is flat or down, gently down.
Rain, well more drizzle but we both felt great and it wasn’t wet enough to stop and apply the waterproof. We are making good time, we passed through a town with several possibilities of food. Opting to keep flying was a bad idea. It was 2:00 PM and we were starving by the time we pulled into the wide spot in the road known as Buiko. We turned to a young guy, Nuru for advice and he suggested a little wood shack for food. He is in second year at Mazinda Day Secondary School.
It’s market day in Buiko and there were lots of Maasai Warriors drifting in an out. Several young guys were dressed fit to kill. I tried to get a picture of them but they made it clear that they didn’t want to be a part of our memories. They didn’t ask for money, just put up their hands and covered their faces.
We made a slight right and are now in the shadow of the Usambara Mountains. Though not as dramatic as the Pare they are covered in lush tropical vegetation. For us it just means more ups and downs but they are shorter and less dramatic, too. The clouds hanging above them threatened but never cut loose on us.
Entering Mombo, a place behind a solid wall called The Liverpool Bar and Restaurant drew us in. We sat in the shade, sipped soft drinks and chatted with the locals. They all agreed that the best Hotel in town was Saldina Inn. Following their directions we crossed the bridge and found ourselves in midst of hustle and bustle, busses and Matatas coming and going. Kids, pushing and shoving trying to get their wares up to a bus window and in the face of passengers, potential customers.
The Saldina is down a muddy lane. Cat checked the room and came back saying, “If this is the best I’d hate to see the worst”. The clerk was smiling and helpful though he spoke no English. He led us around back then across a patio and into the interior courtyard. The room was stark and dingy looking but big enough to handle the bikes.
The toilet and bath, both across the courtyard, were even more dingy and in fact kind of slimy. The squatter toilet had an aroma that could be detected long before entering. The showerhead put off a trickle of cold but it was enough to cut through the road grime. We felt fairly clean as we dressed for dinner. No, not our formal wear just long sleeves and pant legs to ward off the Mosquitoes.
Dinner at a place next door called the Midway Express. I walked over to check it out while Cat finished dressing. The waiter sat behind the bar, didn’t move when I came in but looked up and said, “We have only Omelets and Chips or Chicken and Chips”. There’s something about a simple menu that simplifies life.
The tables are all outside and covered. We chose one with an advantages view of the two other groups eating omelets or chicken. We chose chicken. Long sleeves and deet spray didn’t completely repel the little stinging monsters. We ate, slapped and scratched. They did have a bottle of okay wine, the evening was not a total waste.
Back at Saldina we made use of their best features, an oscillating fan and mosquito nets.
February 3, 2004
Mombo to Segera
Strange, we were both sure that it would be tough to sleep in the $2.50 room. We made a family toilet run at 11:40 PM. We both lamented because it was still so early.
Thunder, lightening and rain again interrupted sleep, sound sleep. Not just rain but buckets of rain pouring down on the tin roof. It was thunderous in itself to begin with but became soothing. Cat checked to make sure we weren’t taking water then we both went back to sleep, sound sleep.
6:30 AM found us feeling lazy. Our plan to be at Midway Express Restaurant next door for breakfast by 7:30 applied a little pressure on us. Shaving in the bath, I had a couple of knocks on the door.
We were loaded and ready to roll exactly on time. They were opening the gate as we pushed up the street, through the mud. Breakfast as promised, egg, toast and coffee. Cat took a walk looking for bananas, none to be had but she did get some drinks called milky orange and milky mixed fruit. I took the orange, we each tasted both and decided that they were the same, just a different color. Service was slow the food was so-so. We were on the road by 8:30.
I asked the guy at Midway if the roads were open. He didn’t understand. When I asked about bridges or dirt blocking the road he shook his head, “No, is okay, road is okay”.
It’s a slight pull out of Mombo on a slightly damp road. We were surprised at how little water or mud was left on the road from the deluge. In fact within just a few kilometers the road was dry as though it hadn’t even rained?
We both felt strong to start but the hills began to take their toll. Cat called it, we were either coasting down or Granny Gearing it up, there was no in between.
The 43 rolling kilometers to Korogwe were ours by 11:30. With a fading feeling and almost 4 hours since we sat down for breakfast we decided to stop for lunch. The Transit Hotel is just that. A Bus Station, noisy buses, engines roaring, horns blaring, come and go every few minutes. Some stop and the passengers string out in a herd and try to feed before the blaring horn warns of impending departure. We pulled the bikes around back and took a table with bike view. About the same faire as yesterday, rice and meat. The meat was more edible but the price was double. Krest Bitter Lemon for me, Cat stuck with water.
Maybe it’s just day 4 syndrome? Maybe it’s the overcast thick warm air? For some reason we’re both feeling terrible saddle sore problems. We cycled the ups and downs pretty much non-stop to Segera. Well, we did take turns powdering out tails behind a tree. We thought of Albert as we applied the soothing white dust. Remember him, the cyclist pulling a trailer on the Pilgrim’s trail, Santiago del Campostela, in Spain? We wondered what he’s doing right now and if he’s dreaming of getting back out on the trail, again.
As we entered Segera our spirits dampened. It was only 2:00 PM and there was plenty of time to ride on to Muheza and another $2.50 room. A nice man, Albert, who is a teacher, pointed out a place, he called it a shack, where we could get a soft drink. We rolled down then struggled through a big muddy area to get to the porch.
Natasha was cooking coconut with beans and fish. She brought Healtho and Angli drinks and opened them for us. They were okay but the best of the stop was talking with the people, the kids, and resting. Natasha gave us some great news. She says that there’s a Motel just 1 kilometer further up the road. We’re ready to call this one a day.
She was absolutely correct. We pulled up at Segera Highway Motel and Mohamed took Cat to see the room. It has a bath, TV and AC. We really needed this! Our tires are muddy from the stop at Natasha’s so I tried to wash them. A Maasai man, the head of security here, held and pushed the bike. When Cat came back he refused to let her take over, he liked helping.
The room does have all the accoutrements afore mentioned but no electricity so nothing is working? Mohamed said that they have been having some problems today but it will come. I went for a Sprite to settle my rice and meat stomach. Cat hit the shower. The water was cold but clean. The shower is the entire toilet. I came back in just in time to save the toilet paper from the flood.
Power back on but only 2 stations available. One is a soccer game, African Cup action with Egypt and Cameroon going at it. Cat walked down to the office and Mohamed told her that BBC would be on after the game. She said the restaurant is lined with guys, here to watch the game.
I typed a little, Cat checked the restaurant menu. Good news they have Pizza. Bad news, they have no alcohol? Mohamed pointed out a stand where she could get a beer. I typed and we watched the game and sipped our suds. A chameleon scampered down the wall while I typed. We are trying to like the little guys, we know that their job is to eat those pesky mosquitoes.
Dinner in the big open hut dining area was another interesting experience. A herd of chameleon roamed up and down the walls seeking and eating as we ordered. I had pasta and pizza. I needed to recover from the 3 days of skimpy rice and bean diet. Bugs by the thousands began to swarm around the lights above us. Mohamed apologized and told us they would turn them off. When they did it drew most of them toward the flickering TV and a candle they’d placed on the table. Very romantic, but not very appetizing. We had to keep picking the flying creatures, termites we think, from our plates.
February 4, 2004
Segera to Tanga
Awe the value of having a TV connection to the world. John Kerry, the Senator from Massachusetts, has won 5 of the 7 states that held primary elections yesterday. The other big news is that the WMD in Iraq probably never existed. I hate to say I told you so BUT-------
The day started with good breakfast in the big outdoor restaurant. We needed fuel and we got some. The included is Continental but we added eggs and sausage. Great and very inexpensive. We are really inside budget for these past 5 days.
As we walked back to the room in the hazy morning sun we came across a huge insect crawling on the sidewalk. The gardener called it a jumbo. It was definitely a centipede and about 8 to 9 inches long. I hope we can get the video of the beast on line for you. It is a sight to behold.
Loaded, we rolled at 9:00 AM, on our way to Pangani and the coast. Up for the first kilometer then down and up and down. The morning was all up and down through little patches of farmland worked by families with hoes and machetes. We think this area looks like Louisiana might have back 100 years ago. Cat thinks the people in the fields almost look like slaves chained to the tiny fields as they turn the red soil by hand.
There are lots of other cyclists on the road, here. Most have panniers of plastic, large yellow containers in which they haul water. Another group, and they often ride in groups and haul large loads of cut grass. On a long pull up, one of them broke from the pack and challenged us. In fact he passed us, standing on the pegs where pedals used to be, in bare feet. He’s probably never heard of Lance Armstrong but for that moment he could have led Lance and the rest of the pack up that hill.
The crossroad turnoff to Pangani and lunch both confronted us in Muheza. The lunch at Hotel Ambassador was pretty good. The place was pretty dreadful. We would have stayed here last night if we’d been able to make the distance. I asked for the toilet and they pointed to a green door across the area behind the Hotel. I had to duck between rows of sheets drying in the sun to get there. It was perhaps the worst toilet I’ve seen or smelled, at least recently. When I got back to our table I recommended that Cat hold it if she was even close to having to go. A nice tree would be preferential. The best of the Ambassador was the rice and beans. We’ve had our share recently but this rice, beans and meat was quite tasty.
Awe yes, then there is the turn off. Cat noticed that the road appeared to be dirt as we rode past. We asked the waitress, she confirmed. Still in disbelief, we asked a couple who drove up out front. They used their best English to tell us that it was dirt and rock and very bumpy. It took us just a few minutes of thought to decide that a muddy rough road wasn’t for us! We’re going to Tanga.
Tanga is north/northeast from here rather than the southeast direction we had planned to take to Pangani. So, it was upward and onward to Tanga. More ups and downs until we reached one hilltop at about 26 kilometers from Tanga. It was hot there, we had just cycled through the banana belt area and were dropping toward the Indian Ocean. Almost instantly the breeze blew softly into our faces, a cooling breeze. At about the same time we picked up a young bike rider, Abdullah. He was soft spoken and spoke no English. His bike was mauve colored and squawked with every turn of the crank. It, along with the clicking of Cat’s broken pedal clip was driving her nuts.
We pulled up to get a drink and let Abdullah move on. He waved as he passed then, as I checked Cat’s pedal he turned and returned. We all left the bus stop together and continued squawking and clicking together. He was a nice guy, we wished that we could communicate with him. Eventually he waved, picked up his pace and left us.
Even though we were on a downhill run we were faced with an uphill wind. Traffic thickened as we neared Tanga. Our LPGB had several suggestions for places to stay. We stopped to quench thirst with Krest Bitter Lemons and get directions. The top of the mid-range Hotel list was Kola Prieto. With a cooler demeanor and fresh info we easily found it. It’s a mid-rise in a pretty mediocre looking neighborhood. A guy came rushing out and invited us in but we declined.
Another look at the book and we choose Hotel Mkonge and asked directions, just around the corner. Then we caught sight of the DHL Office and decided to try to check on our package with a camera from home. There was no way to check without a tracking number. While there we met a guy, Marty, who lives down coast. He’s 7th generation African and has been through several wars and conflicts here. He was a farmer who recently lost his farm in Zimbabwe. You know, Robert Mogobe, the President there has allowed a program of returning land to African natives. The plan is simple, if a white farmer leaves the land the native peoples can claim it. He left his land under threat of death or injury. He’s been living here in Tanzania for 6 months managing a Sisal Estate?
Mkonge is a nice place for 50,000 Shilling ($50 US), which includes breakfast. They won’t let us keep the bikes in our room but locked them in a room just across the hallway. Good shower but it took a long time to get warm water. We reveled in the luxury of a great AC and news from CNN.
Dinner in the Mkonge Dining Room, good food, wine, and a great conversation with Karl, a fellow American from Ohio. He seems to have a lot of irons in the fire. He’s a recruiter for Bowling Green University and places 4 or 5 Tanzanians there on 4-year scholarships. He’s also a farmer, well he has about 3000 acres on a 99-year lease here and does a sort of sharecropper arrangement with local farmers. He says he has tractor, plow and seeder. The farmers take his plowing but prefer to plant by hand, one seed at a time just as they have for centuries.
(A true confession, we thought Marty said he was managing a sizable Estate. Karl filled us in on the rows of plants we’ve been seeing here in the countryside. They’re called Sisal and they make fiber for twine and other fabrics. In fact several Auto manufacturers are researching the use of this natural fiber rather than petroleum based nylons etc. If they do use the more environmentally friendly plants it will be a BOON for Tanga and the surrounding area. Sisal, by the way, originally came from Mexico and is related to the plant from which Tequila is squeezed.)
February 5, 2004
A Day in Tanga
A real lazy beginning, so lazy that we almost missed the included breakfast. They shut it off at 9:30 and we just squeaked under the door. Not bad, some fresh fruit, eggs and sausage (hot dogs).
Our day is to be spent searching for a boat to get us across to Zanzibar. It is a 20-minute walk into town. We stopped first at DHL to get the address of their office in Dar es Salaam. In one of the e-mails last night from Base Camp Charlie we learned that he wasn’t able to find a DHL Office in Dar? The man there, Mr. Maphingo, was great to talk with. He is pretty conservative though. His advice was not to cycle to Kigombe because we could be robbed. Then he backed off by saying that there haven’t been any robberies but there could be. He also advised us not to take a boat, they too are dangerous.
We decided to try to contact Marty, the farmer we met at the DHL office, yesterday. We started out at Click on Line and spent more than 2 hours answering e-mails and got one off to him. Starving, we walked down the street to an India Restaurant and had the last food of the lunch hour. We’re now, 2 for 2. They started hauling tables and chairs inside as we ordered. Pretty good burgers, veggie for Cat and Chicken for me.
Back to the Internet. I waited for a machine, Cat went around the corner. The other place, Internet Cavern, and got a machine. She also ran into Karl, the fellow we met last night. I walked back and began a frustrating hour of trying to get a message written and sent. For some reason their machines didn’t want to work with AOL?
I gave up and went back to Click. Their machine did the trick but it was the same frustrating monster with the sticky space bar that strings words together. No message, yet, from Marty.
Cat made a quick trip to the store for water and wine. We walked back to Mkonge, I typed a little and we sipped wine. No boat deal? No plan for tomorrow?
Dinner in the dining hall, we talked with a couple of guys we’ve seen here and at the Internet Shop. They’re here installing a new Malaria wing at the nearby hospital. The equipment and labor are part of Bill and Linda Gates efforts to fight the worst African disease of all. We remembered seeing an interview about their plans and it’s nice, now, to be witness to the good that it will do.
February 6, 2004
Tanga to Peponi
33 Kilometers or Rough Road
Cat has the itch, she’s ready to go. We still have no plan? Breakfast, even the good fruit and food is starting to feel mundane, it must be time to go. We checked the Internet from the hotel and found a message from Marty, the Zimbabwean we met at the DHL Office. He says that the road is safe, dirt and rock but safe from bandits.
Back in the room we called Nungwi Village Hotel on Zanzibar to see if they had a boat or knew of one. A wasted call, the gal asked a guy then said, “No, we don’t boat”. At $3.00 per minute it was a quick call but minimum 1 minute. The next call was to a closer place, Peponi Holiday Resort. It is near the Sisal Estate that Marty manages and he thought they could find help us find a boat. The guy, Denys, who answered was great. He urged us to come, was sure that we would be able to get a boat and asked if we wanted to camp or stay in one of their Bandas. We chose Banda and conveniences.
The die has been cut, we have a plan and we’re movin’ on. It was 11:00 by the time we were loaded and at the desk, checking out. Yacoub, a fellow I met when we checked in, invited us to call him when we get to Dar es Salaam and have dinner. He is Director of Operations for the National Social Security Fund. They are here, in session in the big meeting room. He is so enthralled with our story that he had their photographer take a picture of the bikes and us with him in between.
As we were departing I caught a glimpse of Karl with a young girl seated in a nearby room. I wanted a picture of him and when I approached he introduced me to Niema, a Tanzanian who is leaving this week on a 4-year scholarship to Bowling Green University, Ohio, USA. She’ll study journalism while there, what a lucky girl is she, what a good guy, is he! What a great program, he says they award 5 scholarships each year
Rollin’ we stopped for water and got directions. The guy who talked with us felt sure that we could find food along the way in a village so with full bottles we moved on. The road through town was busy, cluttered, littered and dusty. We thought that was bad until we reached the end of what the Tanzanians call, “tarmac”. Of course we know that we’d be on dirt but this was tough. They were grading which left only loose dirt and rock. The over laden bikes swerved and slipped. We were finally banished to the pathway along the road that runs in front of the front doors of villager’s homes.
The bike and pedestrian traffic was thick. Cat even collided with a guy carrying 2 big bags of charcoal on his bike. No harm, no fowl. It never got much better. Even after we passed the point where the grading left off the hard dirt had rocks embedded and was so bumpy that we feared breaking spokes or worse, an axle or wheel. Progress was slow.
After picking our way through the stones for 22 kilometers we came upon the first village that our friendly direction giver in Tanga had said would be plentiful. A guy inside yelled out, as we inquired, “No sodas or food, today”? We were getting hungry so hoped that there would be another store. The answer to that question was another shout, “No more until Pangani”. That’s another 30 kilometers and beyond our destination.
A young boy caught us then stuck to us like we were long lost kin. He was polite and well dressed. Eventually I got pieces of his story, he goes to town almost every day and gets milk for his village. A small businessman, he has a plastic ice chest strapped to his bike rack to haul the milk. We thought he was going to stay until we either pulled away from him or into the Hotel. Then, he said, “Me home”, and turned down a country lane.
Cat was getting tired, in fact both of us were suffering some fatigue. Ducking and dodging the rocks has been a big upper body workout. She had just said that she couldn’t see anything that looked like a Hotel when we saw the Peponi sign. Off to the left, down dirt tire tracks and there it was. We leaned the bikes on a tree and went into the office. Denys, (Dennis) and his wife Gilly (Jilly) greeted us and signed us in. Nice folks, they started with a tract of bush here 5 years ago and have carved out a wonderful little beachfront resort.
Denys led us to Banda Zebra, the last place on the white sand sidewalk. It is a two-room hut made of woven palm fronds and sisal poles. The best of it is that there’s a toilet and shower. Hot water at 5:30 PM. The side-by-side twin beds are draped with mosquito netting. It looks primitive yet comfortable.
It had taken us 4 hours to cycle the 30 Ks. Starving, we gulped down some great, pressed sandwiches, chips and Bitter Lemons. Cat unpacked, she wasn’t interested in an ocean swim. I dipped in the Indian Ocean, the water is tepid but refreshing.
We showered then sat out front listening to the surf lap at the sandy shore and sipped a glass of wine. Dinner at 7:30 PM, we were introduced to several of the other guests. Susi is from the US, here to complete her Doctorate Thesis in Anthropology. She lives and studies at Brown University in Rhode Island but is from Portland, Oregon. Her subject is Marriage and Divorce from a woman’s perspective. There’s also a couple, Richard and Gabriella, from Toronto, Canada. She’s a Lawyer, he’s a Marketing Accounts Manager for a beer company. She took 4 months leave, he quit his job and they are here, relaxing and moving around Tanzania. Yorgo is from Greece, he closes his Restaurant during off-season every year and travels. He travels every year and has been on almost every continent. A group of 4 young people were seated nearby, Siri, Jannicke, Adriana and Sigurd. They’re students from Norway, here on a 6 week International Studies program.
Dinner was great, foil fish, rice for me and chips for Cat. The wine was fine as was the conversation. It was after 10:00 PM by the time we got back to our Banda.
February 7, 2004
Lovely Day at Peponi
Cat thought she could hear an insect, bird or cowbell that kept clanking. She slept well, I was shocked when I awoke at 6:00 AM. This was the first complete nights sleep I can remember in modern times? No water or potty stops, just sleep. Was it the sound of surf? The breeze through the coconut trees? Or, were we both just beat by the bumpy road? (There is an oscillating fan in the room and we had it on all night. We began to think that it was the clanking Cat heard.)
Breakfast is included in the 30,000 Shilling ($30) room rate and it was great chopped fruit, bananas, coffee and toast. Enough to easily fill up on. I caught Denys and Gilly as they were leaving for Tanga and an appointment with their accountant. He is pretty sure that we can get a boat to Zanzibar tonight or early in the morning. Mwashondie, the guy that Captains their Dhow will help us arrange the midnight trip. Actually they leave sometime between 1:00 and 4:00 AM. They bring duty free sugar from Zanzibar and we’ll be their illegal alien cargo on the trip over. All right, we’ll be smuggled onto Zanzibar by Pirates. Even though the Island and mainland are one country they almost operate as two. Denys tells us that we should hop on a Dalla-dalla (bus) and zip into Stone Town to get our Passports stamped before cycling on Zanzibar?
Another last minute decision, we went on a snorkeling trip to Sand Island. It was a ride in the Peponi Dhow over and a sail back. We spent 3 hours there. Cat stayed on board while I snorkeled for a short time. The water, though warm, was a little stirred up and cloudy. The reef and coral is fairly plain and the fish small. The kids from Norway, the Greek guy and the Canadians went along, too. We rented the equipment and the boat is $8.00 per hour split up among the passengers. So it’s less than $2.00 an hour for us. We motored out to Sand Island, the crew set up a shade canvas then dropped those snorkeling off at the reef. We stayed out until 1:00 then they sailed the Dhow back in. A nice, relaxing day except that Cat got a little sunburned.
Lunch together then a relaxing afternoon. I typed in the shade of our porch until the battery went dry. Cat futzed with our cloths and things then we walked into Kigombe, the little village just a km or so down coast. It’s pretty African primitive. Mud huts with thatched or corrugated metal roofs. The people were the typically curious, the kids were great fun to banter with. One guy who spoke a little English joined us and helped in the search for bottled water. The only thing available was in small bottles so the trip was just a little exercise and exploration.
Sunset on the Indian Ocean, a glass of wine then dinner with our traveling friends. A pretty laid back place. Mwashondie, the Captain of Peponi’s Dhow came in at 8:30, he had arranged passage on a boat tonight or should we say early tomorrow, departure at 1:00 AM. It is sail only and that troubled Cat. He told us that another with outboard and sail would cross tomorrow night. Cat was having a tough time with the issue, she is really ready to move on but fears being becalmed for hours, waiting for the wind. I made the decision, we stay tonight and go tomorrow.
Edwin, an electrical fence installer was here because a ferry that he needs to take was down today. He is a great African though he was born in England. He and his family have lived through some terrible times in Burundi. When his neighbors two kids, the same ages as his, were killed, they left their home, job and friends behind and sought refuge here in Tanzania.
Bed under a full Tanzanian moon and balmy air full of Indian Ocean breezes.
Sunday, February 8, 2004
Another Lazy Day at Peponi
Breakfast with Yorgo, Richard and Gabriella, Siri, Adriana and Sigurd. Then I hit the typing and Cat hit the beach for a walk. When she finally came back in she had really sunburned the tops of her feet.
Lunch, same crowd, same venue, same good food. During lunch Mwashondie came in and told us that there was a boat leaving at 4:00 this afternoon. That was exciting news. We went down to the beach and met the Captain and 2 of his crew. A language glitch, we think, led to the revelation that they were talking about 4:00 AM tomorrow morning. Oh, and another thing, they had said that the boat had and engine and sail. Now it is just a sail? And, the price, Mwashondie had thought it would be 10,000 Shilling for each of us. When we talked price it had gone to 30,000. We wanted to make sure that they knew we had the bikes and bags. They talked among themselves then asked for an additional 5,000. We didn’t think $5.00 was worth arguing over, especially with guys you’re going to trust your lives to! Mwashondie volunteered to come for us at 3:30 AM. Sounds like we’re set to go!
I went back to typing and Cat spent time packing, adjusting and preparing our loads. She has us ready to go.
A glass of wine at the bar before dinner. As we sipped Marty, our Zimbabwean friend who had recommended Peponi, drove in. We bought him a beer and had a great conversation. I introduced him to Susi, she seemed less than enthusiastic about the meeting but I bet that Marty and his family are her best friends by the time her year is up here.
He has been through a lot of war and a little peace. He loves farming and didn’t leave easily but couldn’t risk his family’s lives. He and his wife called the BBC when several of their neighbors disappeared. Once the report hit the TV and radio waves they found them and got them back. They’d been beaten, one almost lost his life. They have kept the pressure on President Mugabe and still do via e-mail. He is still in love with Zimbabwe. He told us not to fear going there, the people are good, friendly people. He believes they will get their place back, someday.
Marty tells war stories as though life at war is normal. He told of how he and his three pals risked their lives fighting, shooting guns, and riding horses through the countryside like cowboys. He said that he hated to admit it but it was an exciting time in his life. The Wild West style war started when he was only 19 and like so many 19 year olds he and his pals felt invincible, immortal. Cat asked if they are all still alive and he said, “One was killed, one killed himself”. Well, that’s war.
February 9, 2004
Peponi to Dar es Salaam
No Boat, Car and Bus
We were awakened at 3:00 AM by the sound of rain. As it thickened and intensified in volume we turned lights on to see if the woven roof was holding tight. No leaks but the lightening, sound of pounding thunder and water pouring down began to dampen our enthusiasm for a boat trip. I felt that it would pass, just a tropical squall. Cat worried that we’d be stuck in a boat, soaked and miserable for 6 to 12 hours.
We waited for Mwashondie from 3:30 until 4:00 and decided that they either cancelled or have postponed the voyage until later. At 4:10 we killed the lights and crawled back into the mosquito net.
We’d just dozed off at 4:30 when I heard Mwashondie almost whispering outside the door. I went out and talked with him under the porch of our Banda. It was still drizzling but he felt the storm was over and urged us to go. I was worried about getting the bikes down the now muddy road. He had ridden his up the beach and suggested that. I invited him in to see how heavy our bikes are. He lifted Cats front wheel then said, “Road is okay, Hakuna Matata, no problem”.
I let him wait outside while Cat and I talked. I felt we should go but she was hesitant, and fearful. She’s relating this rain to our storms on the California coast. She has sailed in the surging waters of a stormy Pacific Ocean and didn’t want to risk it, here. I did my best to convince her but she dug in her heels and held firm. I went out and told a disappointed Mwashondie that we weren’t going. He made a feeble last effort then shrugged and said, “Lala Salaama”. (Sleep well.)
We didn’t sleep well, we began considering our options. The greatest problem, as usual, money. Down to our last Shillings, we’d thought that we’d find a Hotel that takes Visa at Nungwi, the northern most village on Zanzibar Island. We have enough to pay Denys and Gilly here at Peponi but little more. So, we can’t really sit and wait for better weather to get a boat. Also, setting off for Dar es Salaam on the bikes isn’t feasible either, it would take 4 or 5 days and we’d be broke in just a day, two at the most. It didn’t take Rocket Science understanding to finally make a plan. We’ll take a bus into Dar es Salaam, pick up the camera that Base Camp Charley has sent and, refresh our cash position. With that in place we fell back into fitful sleep. Cat dreamed of heavy seas and a bad boat trip.
At 7:30 AM I walked up to the restaurant, looking for Denys. I found him at the office, he was almost shocked when he saw me. I told him the story and explained our plan. He agreed to keep the bikes safely in his shop and save a room for us when we return. He even suggested that we might get a ride with cousins, Clarence and Annabelle who are heading into Tanga Town this morning.
With the bikes loaded and our small bags packed for bus travel, we went to breakfast. As the other Peponi people drifted in they too were surprised to see that we were still in camp. Denys came in as we ate and confirmed that we had a ride, Clarence and Annabelle were leaving at 9:00. We hustled, pushed the bikes over and stashed them then stood by with our bags.
They have bought a very cute and functional little 4WD Suzuki. We threw our bags into the back. Annabelle sat with Cat in the back seat to allow me legroom. They are here, looking for a piece of land to build a house on. They’ve narrowed the search to the area near Peponi. Amazing, they say you can buy beachfront land for $3,000 per acre. Well you buy a 33-year lease but like Annabelle said, “33 years is longer than we’ll need the place”. And, the real eye opener, you can build a nice little block house with running water and electricity for as little as $15,000. They talk in US Dollars, they lived in Montreal, Canada for many years. He is a Mechanical Engineer.
They dumped reality and moved south to Belize where they built, owned and operated a Restaurant Resort. Cooking was his hobby but the place became almost too successful. Clarence said that when they were serving 60 to 80 dinners most nights it was more like work than fun. They sold last year after a 9-year run and are now looking at semi-retirement.
The Suzuki needed tires and the ones they chose are too large. They scrape the fender wells when we hit bumps and there are plenty of those on this road. We remember many of them from our cycling experience just a couple of days ago. The road, you may recall, is being graded and the rain turned lots of it into muddy tracks.
A bus parked on the road had dumped its passengers. There were people walking away from it, through the mud. As we pulled past a woman came rushing up in a panic. She and her Mother were on the bus and they will miss their flight if they don’t get back to Tanga right away. Clarence and Annabelle took the situation in stride and invited them to jam in and ride with us. The gal ran back to the bus while Clarence backed up. When she emerged from the bus with her Mom they each had a huge backpack. It took some work getting their bags into the back then the daughter crammed herself in and sat on our bags.
The ladies are from Germany and we think they’re very courageous. We dropped them at the bus station then Clarence followed Denys’s directions and eventually we found the Scandinavian Express office. We had enjoyed ourselves so much that we made promises to spend the evening together when we get back to Peponi.
Tickets bought and bags stashed at the station, we walked to Click on Line and spent an hour checking and answering e-mails. There was still a half hour wait for departure when we got back to the station. After learning that our seats were reserved and we’d sit together we just relaxed and waited.
The bus is comfortable though legroom is limited. We brought all our bags aboard and stashed them in the overhead. We had picked up soft drinks and had the sandwiches that Peponi had prepared for our boat trip. We were set and surprised to find that they provide water and soft drinks for passengers. They have snacks aboard, too.
It’s a backtrack at first. The bus stopped at Ambassador Hotel where we had the rice and bean lunch then made the turning front of Segera Highway Motel. From there it all looks similar but is new to us. It was after 6:00 PM by the time we finally got into Dar. We grabbed a taxi, made a quick stop for water and wine at Shop Rite Supermarket. Our choice of Hotel, The Peacock, was made from the Lonely Planet. It is a little expensive but located centrally.
The hotel is very nice. Our room is large enough to have some elbowroom. They have CNN and BBC and they include breakfast. Tired from the lack of sleep last night and the grinding bus ride we just settled in then went down to dinner. The restaurant is just a slight cut above a coffee shop but service and the food were good. It was 9:00 PM by the time we finished and within 20 minutes we were laying in bed watching a movie.
Hooked, we stayed up until almost midnight watching and at times sniffling. The Step Mom is a wonderful story and a real tearjerker. I won’t try to explain the plot but we do recommend that you rent it when you need a good cry.
February 10, 2004
A Business Day in Dar
Showers, CNN, then down for the included breakfast. A nice array of fruit, some sausages and potatoes and, the Chef cooks your eggs to order. Even the coffee was a cut above the powdered stuff. The staff actually acts like they’re happy that you’re here. They almost overdo the service thing but it’s nice to have.
We called DHL to see how we go about picking up our package. Fatma, the nice girl on the other end of the line initially told us that we’d have to come to the airport and it would take about 5 days to get the package released because it contains prescription drugs. They have a panel that has to inspect them? She finally suggested that we come out, make our request and leave our passports. She felt that we might have the package tomorrow. We hate to spend the 20,000 per trip on a Taxi but if you gotta, you gotta?
We are pleasantly surprised at how clean and modern Dar es Salaam is, at least the end of town that we’ve seen. The helpful staff gave us simple directions to CitiBank and Barclays. They are just across from each other so we can give Citi a try first. They have our accounts and should provide a cash machine without service fees. It’s a nice 20-minute walk and the streets are alive with traffic and small shops just getting a start on their day. Unfortunately CitiBank doesn’t have an ATM and won’t advance cash at the counter because they aren’t connected. At least that’s what they told us as they sent us on around the corner to Barclays. The ATM there was more than happy to connect to our account and spew cash into our hands.
There is a DHL Office nearby so we checked there to see if they could help us. They called Fatma and discussed our problem, we want to leave tomorrow and we hate to have to make 2 expensive trips to the airport. She surprised us by saying that if we come out now she thought they could get the package in about 30 minutes? It seems to get better every time we ask. The problem is Customs but there is an Agent there now who will take a look at the package.
It’s 18 kilometers to the Old Airport. Funny, when Fatma was trying to explain how to find them she kept saying Aulde Airport. When I questioned her she asked if I speak English then spelled O L D. I got it.
The driver we found agreed, after a little haggling, to take us out, wait and bring us back in for 16,000 Shilling. He pulled up in front of the old terminal and asked then parked and said he’d wait. We went inside and security called Fatma. She came down and had me sign in but for some reason wouldn’t allow Cat to come along. We walked through a couple more security checks then out on the tarmac and around then up to their office. She told me it would take 30 minutes and suggested that I sit. I didn’t, partly because I was tired of sitting after yesterday’s car and bus rides and I think they hustle along if you stand and watch.
She did the initial work then turned the preparation of papers over to another gal. She finished and had me sign for the package then asked me to sit, again. I stood and watched planes come and go as they passed the paperwork around. After almost an hour Fatma came to me and said, “He wants to see you”. He who? The Customs Agent, a big burly guy in a little glassed in office.
When he told me to sit, I did. No sense starting off on the wrong foot. He asked about the prescription drugs and I explained Cat’s problems. Then he took forever looking at the words, Camera and Battery. He told me that he had to charge duty on the Camera because it is new. I complained and reminded him that it was to replace the one we had broken. I gave him the next to last card we have and explained that we are traveling by bicycle and publishing the story on our web site. He looked at the card, stuffed it in his pocket and continued to look down at the papers. Also, I told him that the Camera can’t be purchase here in Tanzania nor can you get the Mini CDs for it.
He called his Boss and then suggested that I give him a deposit that would be refunded when we leave Tanzania. I questioned how that would work and he hemmed and hawed. I told him that I am on a fixed retirement and like Tanzania, our Social Security isn’t very much. Then, almost abruptly, he grabbed an ink stamp with a long handle and began pounding it on the papers in front of him. He looked over, smiled and said, “I am releasing your package”! I thanked him, grabbed the pile of papers and went back out to the DHL desk.
It took a few more minutes of paperwork then a guy led me out and down to the shipping room. With package in hand I thanked Fatma and her boss who had been kidding me about how strong I must be for my age. Then as a goodbye I invited him to come cycle with me in California when he’s 64. Good for a laugh and a good goodbye.
Cat had been scouting possibilities for flying back to Tanga rather than the grueling bus ride. Cost prohibitive, unfortunately.
Our driver was there and we relaxed as he battled the heavy traffic back toward town. So we had a camera and money now Cards. The business cards that we have been giving out are gone. We saved one as a sample for a printer. Amazing, when we pulled up at the Peacock Cat noticed a printer just next door.
They specialize in weddings business cards etc. A vast array of choices but we are locked in to our design. He took the card and told us he’d have a proof tomorrow afternoon. When he learned that we were leaving in the morning he put a rush on the order and will get it for us this afternoon.
Cat ordered lunch and we ate in the room. I typed and we alternated between CNN and BBC. Awe what a bonus, to have choices.
The proof proved to be great, just a couple of small changes and we had an order. He will have them printed for us when we get back into Dar in 5 or 6 days. They are a good deal, too. Because we ordered 2000 he reduced the price to 150,000 Shilling, less than 7 ½ cents per card. He needed a deposit we dug up 80,000. This will run us a little short of cash but we can go back to Barclays on the way to the bus in the morning.
Back in our room we got hooked on another movie, a message filled drama staring Cuba Gooding Jr. as the first black US Navy Diver. It’s based loosely on a true-life story that begins in the early 1950s just after President Truman declared the US Military integrated. Can’t give you the title, we never saw it, but another recommendation. We felt like it really fit in with the things we are seeing and learning about our fellow human beings here in Africa.
Another late dinner, the movie went on until 8:30 PM. Another good dinner and bottle of wine. A surprise, too, Hienz, the Austrian guy we met at Peponi was there. He doesn’t speak much English but told us his friend, Sapa was shopping. The end of another wonderful day.
Our only disappointment is that the camera only has a 3X Telephoto, that’s only half what our old one had and it was too little at times. Oh well, that’s one of the hazards of doing business from around the globe.
February 11, 2004
The Long Ride Back
The wakeup call failed but we were awake at 6:05AM, our bio alarms sounded off we guess? Bath then breakfast and a good one it is. Sapa came in and completed the surprise of last night. Strange, they took a taxi to their first choice for a Hotel but it was booked. They tried another but it was full too. Then the Taxi Driver suggested, by coincidence, The Peacock.
We had our bags with us so that we could leave directly. Cat paid the bill and the nice Peacock people arranged for a car. The cost was to be 1500 Shilling but we wanted to circle around to Barclay’s Bank and get another 200,000 Shilling. The circle needed to get there was huge, too many one-way streets. In fact he cut through a Service Station once to avoid one. Then, the real disappointment after all the driving, the ATM was out of service.
Okay, off to the Scandinavia Bus Terminal. We’ll be short of cash again, seems like a perpetual problem for us? I got generous and handed the driver 2,500 Shilling. Cat thought it was too much but he did a lot of driving and sitting in traffic. It was 8:15 when he dropped us, Cat took off on the run while I gathered the bags. The gal in the ticket booth calmed us down, we had time and they had seats. When we rushed through the terminal the ticket agent at the door motioned for us to sit down. The bus wasn’t even boarding, yet.
Second disappointment of the day, our bus is an old beat up relic. We came to Dar in a modern, air conditioned coach but will return in something less than style. We both wished that the plane tickets hadn’t been so expensive.
As it turned out, once we started rolling the seats were okay, we grabbed the front rows and clung to them as the others boarded. Plenty of legroom and breeze. The weather was nice, almost cool. The old clunker rolled right along, we only stopped to drop or pick up passengers a few times. We stopped in the middle of nowhere and Gabber, one of the driver’s helpers leaned down and said, “You may urinate here”!
Funny, most of the others got off, too. The guys just stood at the bushes edge, the gals squatted in the tall grass. Would have been a great picture but I dared not. We did get one of our bus and the crew. I also got off the bus at one scale stop. They have to pull in and be weighed for some reason. We’d seen the micro merchants that line up and sell everything from toys to electronic goods to sodas and nuts. I wanted that picture. The bus almost pulled away without me. I had to run and jump aboard.
The old clunker made great time, we were in the streets of Tanga by 1:30 PM. More than an hour faster than the big bus had taken to get to Dar. Gabber tried to help us with directions to the local bus station for the bus to Peponi but his English and our Swahili didn’t match up. A couple of Taxi drivers shadowed us, one was particularly pushy. He shouted, “Come my friend, take my Taxi”. He even drove close and grabbed my arm. I thought we were going to blows but he finally got the message to leave.
I wished that we’d taken a cab, any but his. Cat was adamant about walking. Neither of us knew exactly where we were going or how far it was. A van taxi pulled up and offered us a lift for 150 S. Only 15 cents, but The Cat’s mind was made up. We walked and sweated in the afternoon sun. I feared that we’d walk up just as the bus pulled out and miss it. The last bus to Peponi.
The Bus Station was crowded, teaming with people. Cat mentioned once that we wanted to go to Peponi and we were swarmed with well-intentioned guides. They led us through the maze of buses to the one to Pangani. There were too many to tip and interestingly, none asked?
We boarded and bought tickets at 2:15. This bus looked like it should have ended its days of service at least 20 years ago. We sat across from each other and sweated. Departure time is 3:00. Cat walked across and bought 2 Bitter Lemons and some cold French fries for lunch. We sat and ate until the conductor came and made it clear that we’d have to stay in our assigned seats. He said, “The boat is full, you know what I mean”?
At 3:05 the driver who reminded us of Eddy Murphy, laughed that funny laugh, fired up the old girl and ground the gears into low. Every seat was taken then, just around the corner they stopped and loaded the standing room only folks. It must not be legal to overload in the terminal?
The ride was not that bad. The old bus knows the way and the driver knows the old bus. A guy seated across from us tried to talk but we couldn’t communicate. He had great looking teeth and an infectious smile. I took a couple of pictures out the window and showed them to him. He loved being included, then I pointed the new camera toward him and he smiled that winning smile. When he saw the picture he really smiled then asked in halting English, “I have picture”? He wanted a copy, I opened the camera, let him see the CD then said, “Not possible”. He smiled then shook my hand. There are nice people everywhere, even on old decrepit buses.
The ride was thrill a minute but all in all not that bad and, we were at Peponi in just an hour, a half hour quicker that the ride in with Clarence and Annabelle.
The folks were happy to see us. We got the bikes out of the garage, Cat pushed hers back to Zebra while I re-checked us in. I took a few pictures around the place with the new camera, even got one of Denys and Gilly as well as Clarence and Annabelle. We ordered dinner, a smart idea here, you choose dinner and write down your choice an hour or two before mealtime. It has to make life easier for the cook, with all the languages that pass through Peponi. Cat showered, I typed. We enjoyed a couple glasses of wine while sitting out front of the Banda listening to the Indian Ocean splash against the shore of East Africa.
Dinner, Susi was there so we sat and talked with her and two guys from Austria. There’s a group here in one of those Tour Africa trucks, camping on the grassy area and near the beach. They kept to themselves, played some darts and drank a little. I think they must cook their own meals?
Denys and Kenny stopped by to let us know that Mwashondie told them there was no boat tonight. We resigned ourselves to another day at Peponi. We did consider cycling to Pangani, the village further south to get a boat. Denys and Kenny invited us to come along fishing with them at 6:00 AM. After two days on buses we felt like stretching our legs and, we still may head toward Pangani.
February 12, 2004
A Pirates Cruise to Zanzibar
Anniversary, We Left Home 1 Year, 10 Months Ago, Today
We heard a hushed voice outside the door at 6:00 AM. I thought at first that it was Kenny checking to see if we were going to chase fish with them. The second call and we knew it was Mwashondie, he said, “A boat leaves soon, you want go”?
The scramble was on. I jumped into my shorts and followed him to the beach. We met one of the same guys we’d talked with before. It was tough communicating until one of the Austrian guys from dinner last night helped. His family lived here for several years when he was young and he speaks Swahili. He was able to confirm that it was the same deal, 35,000 for Cat, Pat and the 2 bikes. We shook hands all the way around then I hustled back to help get things together. They wanted us to be back at the beach, ready to go by 7:00 AM.
Gilly had our bill ready and a bag of fruit and two bottles of water for us, too. No breakfast but we do have some cookies to accompany the fruits. As we pushed to the beach we passed some of the Africa Truck people who were shocked to see bikes and bags. They did thumbs up and wished us well. The 3 of us, pushed bikes down the beach toward Kigombe, his was easy, ours really dug in. We struggled, he seemed impatient but waited.
He had us pull up and lean the bikes on a fence and wait. He pointed out the boat lying just off shore. We felt excitement and trepidation at the same time. It looked like it could be an original, maybe several hundred years old. The sun was already hot and we were already dripping with sweat. About 20 young guys gathered round as we waited. They were curious but none spoke enough English to be able to talk. They did get a point across that they would help load the bikes for money. We told them to talk with the Captain because as far as we were concerned it was included in our deal. We don’t know why we were hustled to get there then had to stand and wait?
When the Captain of the boat came out we started to put 2 and 2 together. The guys we had made the deal with were foisting us off on another boat. Suddenly, the Captain of our Dhow started moving toward the water and the 2 original guys lifted Cat’s bike with bags strapped on, carried it out and handed it aboard. Once they had my bike above their heads we waded out with our handlebar bags and plastic sacks of food and cycling shoes. (We wore our walking shoes and sox as we waded.)
Sailing with Smugglers
Bikes and WorldRiders2 on board the Captain turned to me and asked for 5000 Shilling. We watched him slip it into the dealmaker’s hand. So, now we knew. There are Pirates even among Pirates. Yes, we’re Illegal Aliens and we’re going to Zanzibar with smugglers. They are taking us for small dollars because they have a pretty much empty boat on the way over. Once there, they load up and slip a few tons of TAX FREE sugar back across under cover of darkness. I helped set the sail and we were underway at 8:00.
This boat, this Dhow, is an amazing craft. The hull is hand hewn plank, the mast a tree trunk and the sail is attached to a smaller tree. When they began to pull the sail up, using the wooden pulleys, they asked me to help. What a great feeling of history came flowing through the rope and into my hands. These workhorses of the Indians Ocean have been moving people and freight for thousands of years. (I read somewhere that the design is 5000 years old.)
This Dhow like all its early ancestors, has only wind power to propel it. Sailing is dependant on both wind and tides. We caught the tail of the morning tide and the thick wooden hull was soon plowing its way through rolling seas toward Zanzibar. Oh, by the way, they have no emergency equipment aboard. No radio, no lifeboat, not even a life jacket. You want to sail in a Dhow, you take your own chances and pay your own dues. Ah, the life of a Pirate!
We shifted around looking for a seat. They had two bags of rice headed toward Zanzibar along with some tomatoes and greens in a bamboo basket. Cat took a seat on the rice bag, I began to feel a little queasy and found the best spot was amidships and on the deck, flat on my back. (Gilly gave Cat a Dramamine pill, she offered one to me but no, I never get seasick!)
Our Captain, the eldest crewman aboard, smiled and said, “I cook now”. He fired up some charcoal with cotton or kapok soaked in kerosene. The barbeque was fashioned out of an old car wheel. He dipped the pan into the sea, swished it a coupe of times for cleanliness then put it, full of seawater, on the fire. When it was boiling good he threw in several big hands full of rice. As he stirred and it thickened he added half a bottle of olive oil. Then when he felt it was ready, he sat another pan on top the pot and filled that with the coals to keep his creation warm.
Fish Stories on a Pirate Ship
One of the crewmembers pulled out a stick with heavy fishing line wound round it. “Catch fish,” he said as he played the line out behind the Dhow. Then, the First Mate, on the tiller, shouted out, Dolphin. We watched as a school, about 15, of the graceful mammals sped past and played in the bow wake. He urged Cat to get the camera but the moment was past before we could have pulled it out and turned it on. Oh yes, in keeping with many fish stories our fisherman wound his line back in, void of fish. He shrugged like any good fisherman would and said, “No fish”.
As the morning wore on all the crew and I, save the man on the tiller, went to sleep. Cat and the First Mate kept the watch and set the course. Cat was the first to call out, “Land Ho”. That brought all of us up on deck. We could see Zanzibar in the distance.
The Captain broke out the rice and the crew gathered on the round the pot. We watched them began to take hands full then the Captain indicated that we should join them. The rice was very tasty, even to my queasy stomach. They also had delicious mangos, and bananas and added them as garnish. They and the cookies disappeared quicker than you can say “Zanzibar”.
The Island seemed to pull us toward the shore as we finished off the rice and pigeon English/Swahili conversation. The Captain burst forth with a sentence in English, “You pay now”! In our best sign language we made it clear that when we and our bikes were safely high and dry on the beach we’d pay, Hakuna Matata. The Captain smiled, an almost trusting smile as we crunched bow first into the amazing white sands of Zanzibar.
Getting ashore was a chore. Cat jumped out and cut her toe on coral. She also found herself waist deep in the water. Her wallet and Passport were completely submerged. We were bare foot, she struggled, I jumped in and felt the wrath of the rocks. The crew really staggered on the rocks and under the weight of the bikes. There was a time or two when we were sure that they would end up in the briny but they kept their balance and got them both onto the pristine sand.
I didn’t do quite as well, I stumbled and staggered. There is something that has hampered my life recently. I’ve lost my great sense of balance. When I get up in the morning I have a hard time getting my pants and shoes on. I stand on one foot and sort of hop around with one leg in the pants or in a sock. This was similar, I hit the rough rocks and coral and staggered, lurched and almost went face down in the surf. Cat had made her way to shore, dropped her bags and was headed back to help me. I got my free hand down on my knee and held the pose until she got to me. We had made it, the WorldRiders2 team was ashore on Zanzibar.
As we walked up the white sand to the bikes a guy approached and stood watching as I handed our Captain the balance of our bounty. He complained and asked for more. We had already decided to give the crew a tip so I slipped him an additional 5000. He took it, winked and thanked me then wadded the note up and put it into the watching man’s hand. Another Pirate?
We waved goodbye to the crew as they pushed off and hoisted sail. They have a date with a load of sugar. We got the bikes up on their wheels and as we started to push the stranger stood in front of us on the sand and asked to see our Passports. Yes, we’re supposed come in at an Immigration stand and get a Zanzibar stamp. Though the Island and mainland are the same country they don’t always act as one. Denys had recommended that we jump on a Dalla-Dalla (taxi truck) and go immediately to Zanzibar Town to get the stamp. We know what we’ve just done is illegal but we also know that there is no charge for an entry stamp.
He persisted so I asked who is was and he said, “Policeman”, and this time demanded to see our Passports. This time I drew our line in the sand, “If you’re a Policeman let me see your Identification.”
“No identification”, he said as he shook his head, “You show Passport”.
We began to think that he was a fake? Had our Pirates paid a phony? We got braver and just kept pushing. He tried again and we told him that we were going to a Hotel and invited him to accompany us. He stopped and watched us push onward then drifted off up the beach without looking back. We never saw him again.
The first Hotel we came to is Baobab Bungalows. Cat went in to see if they accept Visa Cards while I balanced the bikes on the sand. The more time passed the more impatient I became. Finally I balanced the bikes on each other and went up to use the toilet. The bikes looked so cool, sitting in the sand with aqua water swishing around the wheels that I had to take a picture. This place, Nungwi, Zanzibar, is beautiful beyond belief.
As I waited, impatiently, an Anglo couple, an older guy and nice looking younger woman came down the beach, paused and studied me and the bikes then took the stairs up to the Hotel.
When Cat finally returned we pushed toward the room she had chosen. No Visa and no TV. That’s OK, we were on land. A British couple taking video volunteered to take a pic of us. It’s a good one and a great one to give you an idea of this beauty.
First item on our agenda once we got the bikes secured in our room, lunch. They make pizza in a wood fired oven. It wasn’t the best we’ve ever had but it sure hit the spot this afternoon. We shared a Kilimanjaro beer to wash it down.
The room is pretty plain, concrete floor, shower above toilet but as Cat says, “It’s only for one night”. It did have mosquito nets and a fan. Cat had had it with sun, we are both a little burned from our day aboard the Dhow. I couldn’t be here and not take a swim in the turquoise sea. It was really uplifting, a wakeup call. I had been drowsy and as I dove into the first clean, clear swell it was eye opening. The water is warm then a pocket of cool drifts past then back to warm. So soothing and cooling. I stayed in for almost a half hour.
We lounged and dozed then had a glass of wine. At 7:00 we walked back to the Restaurant that overlooks the sea and enjoyed sunset, good food and a little more wine. It is still amazing to us how the sun comes up at the same time every day and set on schedule, too. In fact we’ve learned that the Swahili have their own system of telling time. The sun rises at 6:00 AM and sets at 7:00 PM. They start timing the day with sunrise thus 7:00 AM would be one hour after sunrise or 1:00 AM and the hours progress from there into the day. It wouldn’t work further north or south because the days grow longer in summer and shorter in winter but it makes perfect sense, here.
The heavens sparkled with stars of the southern hemisphere and lighted the path back to our little bungalow.
February 13, 2004
Nungwi to Zanzibar, Stone Town
Breakfast, a surprise, included and good. Fresh fruit, toast, eggs, juice and powdered coffee. Well that was the only thing that was second rate. The couple I’d seen when we were still on the beach came in and took a table next to us. Curiosity got them and the girl asked where we had come from and where we were going. They were delightful, a Father and Daughter from Norway. We enjoyed talking with them, sharing our experiences and hearing about their trip to escape the cold. She even asked for a photo of her Dad with us.
We pushed down the sand walkways and checked out then cycled north to Nungwi Village. There is supposed to be a shipyard there manufacturing Dhows and we want to see it. The road to the road was rough. The main road was dirt but hard with a fairly good surface. The village is a combination of homes made of coral and cement blocks. Not picturesque but it looks like most people have a pretty good life. Several small grocery shops scattered around. The main street is bumpy dirt.
The boat yard does have a Dhow under construction but its one of the modern hulls to be used for a diving boat. The craftsmen were friendly and allowed us to take pictures but when I turned the camera toward a group of children nearby they raised their voices, in unison, “No photos”.
Backtracking, we stopped at one of the small shops and bought a bottle of water. A young guy latched onto us and invited us to see the Aquarium. Though it sounded interesting because they have some large sea turtles but it was already 10:00 AM so we decided to ride on.
The dirt wasn’t bad but when we hit pavement it was. Lots of potholes and patches of rock and gravel. Finally after about 20 kilometers we found good tarmac, as they say here.
A Taxi Van slowed, passed then pulled over. The Norwegian gal here with her Father got out and shot a couple of pictures as we cycled toward them. She jumped back in and they both waved heartily, as we passed and again when they went by. What nice folks, what an ego boost for us.
Fearing not finding food, we stopped and drank a Bitter Lemon. The girl working at the Service Station suggested that we might get food at a little shop around the corner. They had just started a fire and wouldn’t have anything to eat for an hour or so. A nice guy standing there suggested that we might find a restaurant in about 5 kilometers. We rode onward in the hot sun.
A tiny stand spewing smoke drew us in. They were making French fries and we thought he said, chicken. We ordered chicken and fries. The fries arrived covered with a hot tomato sauce. Cat turned hers back, she is supposed to avoid tomato seed and although this seemed seedless she doesn’t like the taste. I ate the cold fries while she waited for a plate without the sauce. When they arrived they were too hot to handle. We asked about the chicken and he said, “We have no chicken”? Another case of mistaken language?
Sort of filled with potatoes we rolled on down the road to Zanzibar Town. The locals also call it Stone Town. Traffic thickened as we neared town, the number of fully loaded Dalla Dallas quadrupled and they were all crammed full of those Stone Town locals.
We stayed on the Ocean Front Street, through a tunnel, built under a building and around past The Zanzibar Serena Inn. It’s beyond our budget but the money exchange is just across the street. They take Visa and disburse US Dollars. Strange, even though the Dollar is still sinking against the Euro and British Pound Sterling many of the Hotels here only take Dollars?
Shock, we filled out the request form and turned it in. They called for approval but we were denied? God that’s irritating, we seem to have this problem every month. Back out front I walked to The Serena and found that they were way beyond budget. The friendly girl said, “Doubles start at $250 per night but, unfortunately we’re fully booked this weekend”.
Out front a guy said, “I saw you on the road from Nungwi”. I asked if he was driving the Father and Daughter from Norway and he said, “Yes”! Then he offered to help fond a Hotel. I left without telling Cat and followed him to three places. The first two had rooms for tonight only. We hate to move on a day off so he led more and I followed, more. At last we found a decent room at The Shangani. I took the deal and we hustled back. Cat was patiently waiting but when I told her that this is the driver that brought the Norwegians in she questioned the guy. The car he pointed to wasn’t the one they had been in? He had hood winked me, a tick, that’s what they call touts here. The stick to you like a tick. Well, he was helpful but when he held out his hand I had to tell him that we had very little money and I had to call Visa.
He continued to stick like a tick and led us back to the Hotel. Then he asked around about a phone. The Internet place next door to the Shangani has cheap calls to the US but not until the manager comes in. I needed to get to Visa before the Money Exchange closes at 5:00 PM. We pulled the bikes up the stairs and I left Cat with the luggage and check in duty while I went looking for a phone. The Tick found one just across the street but it was 4 times more expensive than the Shangani. Alas, I had to get the problem solved or we’d be penniless for the weekend.
Visa answered almost immediately but by the time we went through the security curtain and were transferred to Security 10 minutes had already fleeted away. The guy informed me that there were some strange charges made on the card and that’s why the put the hold on it. Ye Gads, they were bad charges, some electronic products and flowers sent to an address on Driftwood Way in Oxnard? Now the really bad news, the card is finished. I almost begged him and he agreed to allow me an hour to get cash then call back and they’d cut it off.
I almost sprinted back to the Exchange with the Tick in tow. The guy there acted doubtful but took the form again and made the call. He put it back on the receiver and said, “Sorry but they have declined again”?
Another run back up the three blocks to the phone, another $25 call, more of the security veil then a lady told me that the card was shut off. I explained my conversation with the other guy. Neither she nor I could figure out why he hadn’t lifted the hold? I really begged, it was now 10 minutes before 5:00 PM. She again agreed then my shadow and I sprinted back to the Money Shop, this time I was sweating, sweating bullets! If this trip fails we are in deep doo-doo.
The door was closed and it was still ahead of the five o’clock hour? I pounded, yelled out and pounded some more. Finally the guy who had already given me bad news twice opened and let me in. He was very dubious about my chances but agreed to try one last time. Surprise, we were approved and in moments he was counting out thousands of T. Shillings. Yahoo, we were back in the money, we could pay for our room and meals.
Back outside, my pal clung to the hope that I cold afford to pay him for all his help and his jogging back and forth with me. Still unsure of how we’d get by without the Visa Card I stretched the truth and told him that I only got limited funds. He shook my hand, wished us luck and went after another less dubious tourist who might have money and a bigger streak of generosity.
Wow, we needed to calm down, we needed a glass of wine. This town is 95% Muslim which bodes badly for wine drinkers. The decision was to shower, dress and go to a Restaurant that has wine. Cat found an Italian place in the Lonely Planet and it was nearby. We walked, it was cute and the menu looked great, just one problem, they are Italians but their landlord isn’t and the lease disallows alcohol. The girl was really nice and understanding. She stepped out in to the street and pointed to a building just a few doors away.
The La Fenice has wine and a patio out front with a great view of the sunset. It was just what the Doctor ordered. A Dhow did a glide by in the sinking sun. We had wine and an appetizer, fried avocado. The bugs seemed to be biting our ankles so we moved inside, they fired up the fans and we had a nice dinner.
The walk back to Shangani, under a yellow African moon, was another treat.
February 14, 2004
Around Zanzibar, Stone Town
St. Valentines Day
Our included breakfast was only so-so but it’s served on the roof top deck with a sweeping view. We met Elsie, a nice girl from Dar es Salaam. She works with the Ministry of Finance and is here to attend a music festival. We had a good time talking and she talked us into going to the festival, later this afternoon.
We set off to explore at 10:00 AM. The narrow streets are a treat but confusing. Our plan was to find the Slave Market first but we felt like we were in a maze. A couple, Tim and Sarah, standing on a corner studying a city map told us that they got it at the Beach Tourist Office. When we told them that we were looking for the former Slave market they suggested that we explore together. Then, a surprise, as we introduced ourselves they knew who we were? They’re traveling in truck that was parked at Peponi. They were part of the group that was having drinks and playing darts. They tent camp and cook to save money. She is from Australia, he, England.
Walking and talking was great, the Slave Market, which costs 1000 T. Shilling each, wasn’t. The holding area is just concrete with low ceiling. Oh sure you can see how it would have been terribly uncomfortable but it was just an in and out look. As we rounded the corner, on the way in, a German guy who is also on the truck offered to save us some Shilling by just looking at his pictures. We should have listened to him. Then he reminded us that he and his friend were on the beach as we pushed toward Kigombe. It really is a small world, yea.
Well, we did kind of enjoy the interior of the Church. It was intentionally built on the site of the slave Market. The Alter is directly above the “Whipping Post” where the poor slaves were chained and tortured. It was built after Great Britain outlawed slavery in 1873, just about the same time that the bloody Civil War that split the US over the same issue was drawing to a close.
As we walked we sought Mr. Mitu’s (Me to) Tours to buy tickets for a spice tour. Richard and Gabriella had raved about the tour and Mr. Mitu. Walking, following directions, we stopped and stood looking lost. A guy stepped out of a courtyard and asked, “Are you looking for Mr. Mitu Tours”? We were right in front of their office. A dozen young guys were watching Soccer on a TV above the desk. We had to compete with the sound of the game and the cheers of the boys as we bought. The agent made it clear, several times, that we should only go with their guide and he would be wearing a name badge. He held the badge up, in our face to make sure that we understood. They have had other less scrupulous companies pick up their clients and then charge them again. We paid attention, we didn’t want to get TAKEN to the spice fields.
Actually the market place, full of people, fruit and meat was more interesting than the Slave Market. It is hot and the heat intensifies the smells, some good, some not. Tim and Sarah headed off and we walked toward the waterfront. The Old Dispensary, now the Cultural Center, has a Tourist Office where we got the same Map that we’d followed with them. The Map is good but it’s an even better guide to the City and the Island. There’s also an exhibit of paintings by Zanzibar’s young artists, here. It’s on the first floor, which like in Europe is the second floor of the building. The exhibit was just okay but walking around in the building was a step back in time.
The waterfront is quite beautiful and right at the heart of it lies Mercury’s, a fun bar and restaurant. The name is linked to one of Zanzibar’s most famous native sons, Freddy Mercury (A stage name) the lead singer of the rock group Queen. He was born here but raised in India. Unfortunately he died at only age 45 of Aids related complications.
Elsie, the girl we met at breakfast, was there and holding court at a corner table. The other members of her party seemed to be Musicians. I did a small video of the waterfront and ended it on her. Then I took a still of her wearing Golden Glasses. One of the guys at the table said, “Look, he thinks she’s a musician”. I laughed and told him, “I’m an Elsie groupie”. That brought a hearty laugh to all their lips.
The afternoon was just spent walking, exploring and enjoying Stone Town. Back to the Hotel and AC, we watched CNN, sipped a little wine then made our move to the Music Festival and Food Faire. The place was jammed. It reminded us of the Ventura County Food and Wine Festival, without wine? Well, keep in mind that this is an Islamic enclave. The food and atmosphere were great. We ate enough from two of the vendors to call it dinner. (Susi at Peponi had urged us to try the food at Fodorhani Gardens, so now we knew, this isn’t part of the Music Festival, the food is a nightly event. The Festival is a bonus to the vendors.) The music was local and pretty Middle Eastern sounding. After waiting almost an hour for the second band we listened for less than 10 minutes then walked back to the Shangani.
Tired, we propped up to watch a movie. I drifted off first then got up and brushed. Cat was nodding but did get through to the end of the show and the end of a nice day in a very nice place.
Sunday, February 15, 2004
Spice Tour Zanzibar
Breakfast on the rooftop with Elsie. She’s flying back to Dar this morning. There are two Italian gals here at breakfast that will join us on the Spice Tour. The bus was supposed to pick us up at 9:00 AM. When it did finally pull up, wouldn’t you know, the guide didn’t have a name badge? He assured us that he was with Mr. Mitu and had forgotten it? He pointed out the sign painted on the van, “Mr. Mitu Spice Tours”. We climbed aboard but the Italian gals were still apprehensive. I finally got a point across in pigeon Italian that we’d make sure that they weren’t charged any more money.
2kZan2Moro 001 Livingston House
Our mini bus met another at the Market place that we’d walked through yesterday. The crew bought groceries for the included lunch while we all ran across the street for bottled water. It was 10:30 by the time our 9:00 AM tour actually got underway.
Cloves, Californians and Other Spices
During the drive out of town we talked with a couple from Norway seated ahead of us. As we spoke I caught the conversation across the aisle. Surprise, Erica, the girl talking, is from California. She lives in the SF Bay area but originally came from San Bernardino, near where I went to High School. As we talked two other gals seated nearby spoke up. Tina and Katif are Californians from the Bay Area, too. Then we met Rob and Tammy. He too is Californian from Sacramento, she’s from Milton, Canada. Amazing, 6 Californians on a Spice Tour halfway round the world from home. Oh yes, Tammy from Milton was surprised to hear that we cycled through her hometown and stayed at the Milton Motel 18 months ago.
Our guide, Fiad, was great, his voice and vocal inflections added to the interesting info he dished out. He stopped, walked to each tree, bush and plant, explaining the plant, how it’s grown and how the spice is extracted. We moved about from farm to farm. There were always children at each stop, trying to sell little trinkets or beg for a coin. At one, a young boy was fashioning something out of palm fronds. I took his picture and asked what it was. He couldn’t speak English but got a point across as he finished that it was for Cat. He had fashioned a frog from the leaves and then hung it around her nick with a strand of the same fronds. What a nice gesture, what a nice way to get a little money. I was too generous, as usual.
Lunch was a taste of local foods seasoned with the very spices we’d just seen in the fields. We sat in groups of 4 or 5 and got to know each other a little as we sampled.
Fiad made one more stop, we listened to his lecture and learned how cloves and vanilla are grown and harvested. We love his voice, I hope you can take a look at the video. It is as interesting to listen to as the information he imparts.
We jumped out of the Tour Bus at a crossroads. The others were going to the beach and a Hot Springs, which didn’t sound interesting to us. We caught a Dalla Dalla back to town at 2:30. That was almost as interesting as the tour. We got in and there were only a few other passengers. Then business picked up and we were soon jammed into the front corner of the seat that runs down both sides of the truck bed and across at the cab. Cat felt discomfort and found a nail sticking up through the padding. When we stopped she pointed it out to the conductor who just shrugged his shoulders. Nothing he could do?
Back at the Shangani we walked to the store and bought a bottle of wine. Before dinner we hit the Internet Café next door and were surprised to see Erica again. I told her that I had lived in Fontana, California during my High School years and knew her hometown, San Bernardino, well. Surprise, her Father is a Police Officer with the Fontana force. Geez, this really is a small world, isn’t it?
We dined rooftop at a nearby Hotel. Pretty good food and we met a woman from Norway, here working here restoring old books. What an interesting way to spend ones time and life. She loves old books just like the man we met while cycling into Montreal.
Back to Shangani and bed.
February 16, 2004
Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam by Boat
Light sleep interrupted at 5:15 AM by the Stone Town Mullah’s singsong call to prayer. Neither of us ever really got back to good sleep. We were up early and at the roof top breakfast before 8:00.
Cat went down to pay our bill and confirm that we could stay until 11:30. They have a 10:00 AM checkout policy but the clerk last night agreed that we could relax then leave for the boat. The morning clerk was not so nice. He denied the late checkout and even raised the exchange rate they charge if you pay in Shilling instead of US Dollars. She pressed him he pushed back, she thought he was being a chauvinist jerk!
So, a change of plan, we packed and carried bags down before 10:00 and loaded them on the bikes. Then, we struck out on a quest for US Dollars. We’d show this jerk! Of course, the exchange and fees were worse than those of the jerk. Shopping at 6 exchange places we only found one that even had any US dollars.
We checked the e-mails and as I answered some of them Cat paid our Hotel bill. Surprise, not only was he a jerk, but a generous jerk. After all our searching to save a few nickels he figured the room charge at 12 % less than we were originally quoted. Cat felt that the bonus slightly vindicated the jerk.
Coincidence, Erica, one of the gals from California that we met on the spice tour came in to check her e-mails, too. She was raised in San Bernardino and when I told her that I had lived in Fontana, the smaller town nearby she told us that her Father is a Police Officer there. Small World, after all!
Bikes down the front stairs of Shangani then we pushed through the narrow alleyways. It was hot so we did our best to stay in the shade. Another 20 minutes in the maze until we felt the caress of a sea breeze streaming down one of the walkways. We cycled up the main street along the water and into the Harbor. The guys at the ticket office took our money and assured us that the fare, 40,500 Shillings included the exit tax. The next obstacle was stairs, a dozen steep ones up then a ramp with cross boards designed to keep you from slipping or to make it more difficult to push a bike down. Oh, we had dozens of offers from hopeful Porters but chose to go it alone. One guy even tried to tell us that we had to hire a Porter. That one brought a chuckle from us as we struggled up and over.
The boat was there but no boarding allowed. We stood in the shade and waited until a line formed and the pushing and shoving started. With the bikes in hand we pushed and did a little shoving of our own. The Boarding Officer held his hand up signaling that we had the right of way and we pushed aboard. We lashed the bikes to the stern rail, carried our helmets, handlebar bags and shoes into the cabin. It was cool, great AC, and there was a movie playing. I bought grease balls filled with meat, fish, even a boiled egg. We ate and watched, but couldn’t hear the movie.
The seats were comfortable, the boat skimmed across the water with very little roll. Time flew as we watched the end of movie number one and the beginning of another. The 2 hours passed quickly and we were on shore in Dar by 3:00 PM.
Another push, up a ramp then when we saw the 20 or so stairs to the exit we pushed up the entrance ramp. Several well intended tried to tell us that we were going the wrong direction. However, the guard at the gate just looked at us then looked the other way. We did want to have the exit stamp in our Passport so I watched the equipment while Cat got the stamps at the top of the stair.
It was she, too, that led us through the streets using the Lonely Planet Guide Books map. She was right on and we were there, at the door of the Peacock Hotel in short time. I checked us in, did a little song and dance and the gal gave us a much better rate than we’d paid last week. We were home, at least until we get our new Visa Cards. We can’t leave home without them!
Walking we made our way back to Barclays Bank to begin gathering cash. It looks like w may have to have enough to make take us south for as much as 20 days before we find another Visa or ATM machine. Tired, I suggested that we beat the heat and get some wine by hailing a Taxi. Can you believe it, the same guy who had taken us to the DHL Office pulled up. He knew of a store fairly close by that sells wine and water. He had us loaded up on liquid and back at the Hotel in less than a half hour.
Cat wrote notes of today’s trip while I played catch up on the journal pages. It was nice being back at the Peacock. We got hooked on a movie that went on until almost 8:00. We’re usually too hungry for dinner at 8:00.
Dinner downstairs, we sat next to two young gals and it was obvious, based upon their language, that they were from the US. Can you believe it, Shaheen and Adina are both Californians? We had a great time sharing stories and hearing of their adventures. They are very adventuresome. Shaheen is from Sacramento, Adina lives in San Francisco but was raised in San Diego. We got a photo and wished them well, they’ll be off early in the morning for Arusha. They’re going on Safari, may try their hand at trekking Kili then will drift back and spend time lounging on the beaches of Zanzibar.
Amazing, we go weeks without meeting anyone from the US then in two days we meet 6 Californians. We’re glad to see that us Californians are keeping up our end of World Travel. Travel brings understanding of people and places that has a positive affect for both the traveler and those that they visit.
Another non-cycling travel day. This non-cycling thing is getting to be a habit. We’re both anxious to get back in the saddle. Another dose of the same old, same old news then lights out.
February 17, 2004
A Day of Frustration in Dar es Salaam
Early to bed and late to rise. Well, we did stir at 6:30 AM but it was 7:30 before we move around and got the showers going. Breakfast at almost 9:00, we were almost the last customers of the morning and much of the buffet faire was depleted. The accommodating crew brought sausage and made more coffee for us.
Our main thrust is to get a new Visa Card shipped here. We’re also going to get Visas for Mozambique and Malawi, if required. We started out walking but decided that it would be easier to Taxi there s we aren’t exactly sure where it is. The driver wasn’t sure either but with the use of our LPGB map, we 3 finally figured it out.
Rain that had threatened earlier made good the threat as we walked through the gate of the Mozambique Embassy. It was a quick turn around, the clerk there asked a few questions then suggested that we apply in Malawi since we’d have a much better idea of our timing by then. Just around the corner we stumbled across the Zambian and Malawi Embassies. Once we finally penetrated the security barrier, made difficult due to language differences, the woman at the counter was very helpful. We filled out forms and handed her our Passports and 40,000 T Shilling each. She was going to try to get them out this afternoon. While I waited for her to finalize Cat went upstairs to the Malawi Embassy and confirmed, US citizens aren’t required to have a Visa there.
We walked back out into pouring rain. The place called Meals Internet Café is just around the corner. We dashed and dripped. I called Visa only to learn that they hadn’t even sent the new cards, yet. Gads, I was pissed. I didn’t scream or yell but did get their phone and fax number and a commitment that they’d call us this afternoon. We also tried to check e-mails and failed. Something about enabling cookies, something that the staff there knew nothing about. Just down the street we found Smart Internet and had no problem getting in or getting messages. One of the best things about being there was meeting Masa and Kumi, a young Japanese couple who are traveling around the world, too. They call it a World-Tour Honeymoon. (http://MasaKumi.Travel.to)
Back outside, the weather remained unsettled and it was almost 1:00 PM. Visa promised to call between 1:00 and 2:00. We stepped out and hailed a taxi. Mohamed, re-appeared? Is he shadowing us? We still had to negotiate the fair even though we were starting to feel like family. Once back at Peacock we asked him to come back at 3:00 to take Cat to the Zambian Embassy if the Visas are ready and to Barclays Bank for another visit to the cash machine.
Lunch in the room, I had good chicken and fries. Cat ordered stir-fried vegetables but got something like tomato soup with veggies and a clump of rice. She tried to talk with Room Service but gave up in the midst of the mire of language problems. After calling and confirming Cat went to pick up the Visas, money and essentials from The Shoprite Super Market, I typed.
Good news, Visa did call. More good news, they will have the temporary cards to us by Thursday, they’re coming from Germany. Bad news, the temporary cards can’t be used for cash advance at machines. They say we can go into banks and get cash or they have a number we can call and get an advance via Western Union. I even tried to start the process of getting another Visa Card from CitiBank.
Cat came back in loaded with groceries, our Zambian Visas and money from Barclays Bank. Everything worked as planned except Mohamed, he failed to show so she hailed another driver and he was a good guy, too.
February 18, 2004
Another Waiting Day in Dar
Our included breakfast is becoming a regimen. We did enjoy an attempted conversation with a local guy who has been here each time we have. The Chef is now tuned into our likes and almost starts cooking our eggs before we get to his grill.
Called Robinson, caught him at the airport. He came by the Hotel. We talked and told him of our problem. He jumped right on the help wagon, took the broken spoke and said he’d find someone to cut or modify spokes to work. We made a date to have breakfast in the morning.
Since we’re putting a package together I worked on copying the full files, those with all the pictures on them. They are backups for the mini CDs. I also made a CD for Robinson of the pictures we took while riding in the truck. Because they never see snow here, except when they glance up at Kili, I included some of our ice and snow struggles in Finland.
Dinner is a dress up affair. At least for us it was. The Peacock hosts a traditional African meal weekly. We had a vision of guests wearing traditional clothing and staff dancing to the strains of a group playing traditional music. So, in the spirit of tradition we dug out our Masaai blankets and went native.
Surprise, though the staff is dressed in local costume and the women greet you with deep knee bend bows, guests were not. As for the traditional music, a guy at a computerized keyboard was slugging out Michael Jackson’s, “We are the World”. Well, we were a hit, the staff led a little moment of applause and all eyes turned to the door as we entered. Dinner was upscale versions of the things we find along the road as we travel. Lulu, the Hostess, grabbed Cat and they did a long, slow fast dance together. After dinner we took a turn on the dance floor. Our dance got big applause from the crowd, we hoped it would inspire them to get up and dance but we didn’t stay to find out. It was room, CNN and bed for us.
9/11 and Maasai Men
Moses, the Manager, told us a story that is worth relating. A young Maasai was in New York City on September 11, 2000. When he returned home in a few days the elders, as is their tradition, had him come and tell them what he had seen. He described the horror of the moment as the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers crashed to the ground. The Masaai men decided that they had to help the US to recover from the loss. Based upon their custom they herded 20 cattle into Nairobi and presented them to the US Ambassador. To the Masaai, cattle represent wealth. When a neighbor has a loss this is their way of giving them a hand.
February 19, 2004
Repairs and Preparation
Up early I order to make our 7:30 AM meeting with Robinson. We were down in the lobby at 7:30 then sat, read the newspaper and people watched. I gave up and called him at 8:00 and he said he was on his way. At 8:30 we decided that we’d better get some food while there was some left. We’d just ordered our eggs when Robinson came in. He shook hands then said he’s be right back. I guessed that he had a friend or friends waiting in the lobby. I followed him then invited his friend to join us too. The two of them just ate a little fruit while we loaded up. Cat went up and brought the computer down and we ran the pictures on the CD for them.
Robinson took the lead, he had found a spoke that was only about a ¼ inch longer than ours. He wanted to re-spoke the entire wheel but I favored trying to cut one and if that works, cut some extras for future needs. Cat stayed behind to get the package into the mail. We walked from the Hotel to one of the two shops Cat and I had visited yesterday. They were just as negative as they had been to us. Robinson took me to see his office, and meet his boss. I feel uncomfortable about keeping him from his job. He seemed totally at ease with the situation and was proud to introduce his Boss. In fact the Boss also seemed like he was enthralled with our meeting.
They had a car and driver waiting, we went to the little shop where Robinson had somehow found the close fit spokes. He bought a dozen and we had a young guy working just outside the door, on the sidewalk, replace the broken one. I took a picture of Robinson with the guy before they started the process. When they had the wheel apart he tried the spoke and low, it will work. It won’t have to be cut or rethreaded. It’s a little long but doesn’t protrude far enough, thanks to the double rim structure, to puncture the tire.
On the ride back to the Hotel Robinson told me that he is working on a plan to open his own business. He’s 28 years old, unmarried and anxious to earn. His plan is to perform similar service for a dealer bringing cars in to the Port for shipment to Uganda. I invited him to visit California and stay with us when he does. He is bright and knows how to hustle. I feel that he will succeed, earn and maybe we have inspired him to travel?
Back at the Peacock I asked when we would see him again. He started to say that he’d be here tomorrow but I know that we are close enough to being able to leave that we’ll be pressed so I invited him to dinner and he accepted. He accepted, we shook hands and agreed on 7:00 PM.
I spent an hour putting the wheel back on my bike and replacing the shifter on Cat’s. This is the first time I’ve tried anything this technical and though I had to redo it twice to get it right. I also left a lot of droplets of sweat on the office floor that served as our repair garage.
Halleluiah, just as I got back to the room the new Visa Cards arrived. We opened the envelope and did a little victory dance to celebrate. A test, as Cat was leaving she took the new card down and asked the front desk to charge our bill to it. They were waiting for confirmation so Cat called and asked me to bring our map down when I come so that they can advise us about places to stay as we cycle toward Malawi. The girls made some good suggestions but were unable to get out to Visa.
Cat caught a cab and went on a quest for cycling shorts. I went to the Hotel computers and onto the Internet. While there I let our Consultant friend, Brad know that we had a temporary solution to our spoke problem. I cleaned up the junk mail and read and responded to family and friends.
Cat was successful, she found a pair that would work and a person who would take the padded pants out of her old shorts and sew them into the new. We really are ready to roll.
A glass of wine and we readied for dinner with Robinson. He was a no-show but we did meet Shaheen and Adina. Two girls traveling together who are from California. Shaheen is from Sacramento and Adina, San Francisco. Imagine, 8 of us Californians here, at one time, in this intriguing, interesting place.
February 20, 2004
Dar es Salaam to Chalinze
The Imam’s singsong call to prayer pulled us from our sleep at 5:15 AM. We both thought we were awake for the day so we’d get up, get packed and get going. Wrong, we snoozed until 6:45 then scurried around to get going.
Breakfast, 2 eggs 1 side soft. The chef laughed at the descriptive but it was what the others had called what we know of as “Sunnyside Up”. Lulu stopped to talk and I asked her to do a, “You Must Be Crazy” in Swahili. She and George, the Bellman who is studying to be a Lawyer, stood in the corner of the lobby and complied with my request. Unfortunately the noise there almost drowned out their voices.
We brought the remainder of our bags down then George and I carried the bikes up from storage in the basement. We loaded up in the garage and were finally out the door by 9:20. So much for an early start.
Our first stop was Barclays Bank. We felt that we would be short of cash. We have to survive to the Malawi Border then change money and get to the next bank in Mzuzu. This infusion should be enough though we hate carrying this much.
My rear tire was low on air, we pulled across to the BP Station and a group of guys there got involved in figuring out how the tires could carry such high air pressure. Then they tried to pump to 65 pounds. The valve stem on the pump was leaking so it was a real chore.
We made the turn onto Morogoro Highway at 10:10 and began the ducking and dodging of Matatus, the mini buses. They are like kamikazes, they cut in and out without regard for a couple of cyclists from California. The traffic was heavy and moving slowly. There is a pedestrian and bike path but the surface is rougher than the highway. We finally succumbed and took to the path. Occasionally a car in a hurry would come screaming past on the path, horn blaring. A little slower but a lot safer, we stuck to the path.
Hot and sticky then at 11:30, rain. We stopped at a roadside place for lunch. I went for the Banana stew with meat, rice and beans. Cat doesn’t like the Banana thing so she just had rice and beans. Back on the highway, we caught a kilometer marker, we’ve only come 25 Ks in 2:20 minutes.
We passed through a village that was having Market Day and was full of fully dressed Masaai. The bike lane was actually better and the ups and downs smaller. The rain stopped and the sun bore down. It was especially hot on the uphill pulls. Cat overheated so we pulled up for soft drinks and cold water at 2:30.
Clouds again shaded the sun and we had a few minutes of cool before the downpour. We pulled up in a muddy drive and pushed through the puddles to the porch of a mud house. Another cyclist took refuge with us. There was a woman sorting greens and a man with two children who just smoked and stared at us.
The downpour slowed to a drizzle and we pushed onward. Then came lightening, thunder and another deluge. It’s getting late so we pushed on even though Cat really hates being out when there’s lightening. Finally, in waning light we found the Chalinze Service Station. Sheltered under the big cover, we talked with a young guy, Samuel, who warned us not to go out until the lightening subsides. He didn’t have to tell Cat twice. We asked him about a Hotel? “No”. A sleeping room? “Yes”. The storm passed as darkness settled in.
Samuel insisted that he lead us to the sleeping place on his motorcycle. The New Multi Kibode Inn is a very basic guesthouse. We pulled the bikes up into the lobby/sitting room area. The manager helped us pry the bikes through the door and into the tiny room. It does have a fan and screens on the window. The whole place smells like the communal toilet down the hall. (The Batu is shower and the Choo the squatter toilet.) The rent is 3,000 T Shillings or about $3.00 US. It’s worth about that!
We washed as much of the black dye from our gloves off our hands as we could then went to the sitting room area. (The gloves that we bought in Nairobi were made with the wrong dye and they bleed when we sweat or ride in rain.)
Our cloths were soaked. We asked if we could sit somewhere and the manager insisted that we use the stuffed chairs. We told him that we were soaked, he said, “Hakuna Matata, we put them in the sun tomorrow”. We sat and sipped Tusker beers. They have no food here but sent a guy to a takeaway down the street. We soon had greasy chicken and chips wrapped in an Arabic newspaper. It tasted great when washed down with cold Tuskers.
We took splash bucket baths just to get the mud off and sweat off. Cat’s quads are stiff and sore. We both have burning butts but we also had full stomachs and we’re safe, out of the lightening and rain. It was lights out at 9:15 PM.
February 21, 2004
Chalinze to Morogoro
84 Hilly Kilometers
It was pretty easy to get up and get going this morning. We slept fairly well but the fan whirring to keep the skeeters away kept waking us up. Cat had to use the pee bottle. I, fearing kicking it over, trundled off to the stinky squatter at 5:15 AM after being drawn into the morning by the nasally voice of the local Imam.
No breakfast here. Our total tab for the room, 3 Tuskers and the take away dinner came to 9,600 T Shilling or about $9.50 US. Ah, the power of the shrinking dollar. The Cat and I agreed that our stay and the food were worth every cent of the price. Not a penny more.
Cloudy but dry as we rolled toward the crossroads. The restaurant the guys had mentioned last night was similar to the big thatched roof back at Segera. Service was slow and the food just okay. We had eggs, no meat, toast, a box of juice and coffee. That blew another 3,600 T S. ($3.60)
Traffic did thin some after we passed the turnoff to Dar. The road even widened due to recent construction. However, it did begin to undulate soon after we pulled away. Then rain, drizzle, uncomfortable drizzle. It never got as thick as yesterday, just irritating. The rain let up some but the hills continued to plague us. At 11:30ish, we pulled into a Restaurant. A native style thatched hut place. The owner, Remmy, is a go-getter, a real entrepreneur. He has the little store here and is planning to build a campground near the gate of a small, indigenous owned Game Park. Also, he learned that he could get land under a new Government Development plan. He has been granted 50 hectares and plans to plant trees with nuts that produce an oil that he says will sell for big money.
Our lunch was very slow in being delivered. Fortunately, we enjoyed a great conversation with Remmy. Finally food was delivered and it was good. Well, it was the usual rice, meat and sauce. Our time there was too long though well spent. We finally got back on the road at 2:00 PM.
Remmy had said that the road would have one hill then flat. The hill lasted a long time. We passed through a small village and waved to the Police in their crisp looking white uniforms. As we pedaled up a fairly steep hill, as it began to drizzle again, I noticed that we were being followed. It was déjà vu, all over again. The local Police pulled up to the top of the hill and waited for us. We were in the midst of a beautiful rain forest. They stood and waited s we pulled up then told us that this is a very dangerous area. Bad people with guns wait in the bush and come out to rob. Well, maybe they were being overly cautious, like most Police but we were glad they were there.
The rain thickened, the hill steepened and at the top, they pulled past and honked. Our guarded guides were headed back. Just then we noticed a guy facing the bushes with something in his had. A gun? No, he was just urinating but you know what paranoia can do to your thinking.
We made one stop for a soft drink then pressed onward. The rain reappeared with a vengeance. We pedaled in puddles and were splashed by buses and trucks. Some of the cars and buses came very close at times when the construction had taken the shoulder away, completely. Then we met the construction crew and the road was closed for one-way traffic. That was good for us. While the buses and trucks sat idling we rode on, on the hard packed base for the paving. We stopped at the first Hotel we came upon, it was only 10,000 T Shillings, we decided to ride on and look for the Oasis that is mentioned in our LPGB.
It was 6:30 PM and almost dark when we finally found our way down the bumpy bike path, the muddy street and to the door of Oasis. Slim, a guy who told us that he’s seen us on the road earlier, wanted to know about our trip. A quick shower then dinner next-door at Mamma Pierina’s, pizza and wine. Back at Oasis, we did a little Internet checkin. I met Slim and his friend, Darren from England in the restaurant. They are going to Mikumi National Park tomorrow and invited us to go along.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
A Day Off in Morogoro, a Trip to Mikumi
We awoke at 5:15 AM to the strains of the Imam’s tune, “Call to Prayer”. We feared sleeping through our need to get up at 6:00 to make our date with Slim and Brian. We’re both really tired and our bodies are stiff and sore. Yes, we did doze but I woke with a start at 6:40. We had to hustle, I showered and shaved and was in the breakfast room at 7:00 but they were no shows. I checked with the front desk and learned that they were still here. It’s drizzling rain, when Cat came in we wondered if they had decided to cancel. The answer walked through the door just moments later.
We had our breakfast with them. Cat is eating lightly, the Pizza got her during the middle of the night. By 8:00 we were ready to go. Slim drove through he mud puddles and out to the highway. It was a good preview of our ride tomorrow. Some bad road, under construction, most pretty good but some fairly good rollers that will give us a challenge.
Another eye opening preview, animals along the road. Yes, our road will cross Mikumi National Park. We saw monkeys on the roadway and elephants in the bush. Slim wheeled into Mikumi at 10:00, we pooled money and he went in and bought tickets. Our Guide, Abdallah, sat in the front, Darren joined us in the back. The park is carpeted in beautiful, lush green. Antelope are abundant then we hit the giraffe and zebra area. The elephants here stayed their distance. Some giant storks cavorted on and near the road. It continued to rain and the roads were muddy. They had to drive through several deep and fast running creeks.
Maybe we are just tired or, maybe we have seen the best and the rest is tiring? We were ready to get back on the road within an hour. Sort of like, seen one giraffe or zebra, seen them all. Abdallah thought we might see Lion, they have 300 in the park. Later he suggested that Lions don’t like rain. They have Rhino here, too, but not for us to see, today. We did take a break at a Hippo pool but, no Hippo. They drifted away during a dry year. The best part of that moment was just being able to get out and stretch my stiff and sore legs. We were back on the highway to Morogoro at noon.
The baboons performed another show as we passed. Cat and I have worried that they might be aggressive with us as we pedal past tomorrow. Just a short way further along we came upon slow traffic. We crawled past the twisted remains of a bus that had rolled over, maybe twice, as it careened off the road. People were sitting, dazed looking, in the field. There was a wreath hanging on the front of the bus. It must have taken some lives? We couldn’t help so we did the next best thing, we stopped gawking and drove on.
After a two-hour drive back we had lunch together at Mamma Pierina’s. Darren bought a giraffe carving from a peddler who settled in on the porch as we ate and spread his wares. His hopes were warranted. That’s good, good for Darren and good for the guy and the local economy. We got a picture then Slim and Darren were off to Dar and out of our lives, at least for now. We opted for rest, almost a nap. Neither of us ever actually slept but we did doze in and out. We were tired, physically from the two days of cycling and mentally from the ride and being cramped up.
We lay around, almost dozed, watched CNN then I put the CD of pictures from Zanzibar to Remmy’s Restaurant in the machine. It was 6:00, wine time. We have been trying to get a phone number for Mikumi Lodge Hotel, we saw it near the park gate and think it would be a good target for tomorrow. Cat tried the computers but no luck there either.
Today, both CNN and BBC are reporting a massacre in Uganda. Even though the new Local Militia that was being formed guarded them when we were deciding whether to go or not. So, 183 of the poorest people in the world have been killed today. The 36 Militia trying to guard them were no match for the Lords of something or other. The leader of the Rebel group says that he talks directly to God. Now that is scary!! Oh, another news item, Robert Mugabe was attacked as his group drove through the countryside of Zimbabwe. Marty and Denys both said that they were surprised that he hadn’t been assassinated yet. Well it wasn’t even a close call based on the report but it did happen.
February 23, 2004
Morogoro to Mikuni Park
Packing, preparing to ride, then breakfast. Cat reached the Hotel Kikoboga on the phone. They have Bandas but they had better be fancy ones because the price is way out of our budget. We tried every alternative but to no avail. The Mikuni Lodge Hotel is closed. So, it’s Kikoboga or bust. We had the bikes loaded and rolled onto the street of mud puddles at 9:15 AM. It took more than a half hour to get back to the highway. Traffic was thick and difficult to ride in.
Then there's the main highway and construction extends beyond Morogoro. It’s up and bumpy the first 10 kilometers then ups and downs through pleasant countryside. The Uluguru Mountains dominate the view to the left. On our right is gently rolling, lush green savannah. The ups were a little more up than we thought they were as we drove to Mikumi yesterday. Funny, we blame others for not knowing the terrain but it is tough to judge from the window of a car going 100 km per hour.
A Motorcycle Policeman pulled up from behind and asked where we were going and where we were from. Just curious, he wasn’t making an official stop. He like so many here said, “You must be very tired”, when he learned how far we’ve come on the bikes. Onward, as we entered the next village another Policeman waved for us to stop. He said, “From California”! We were surprised then spotted a motorcycle. It was the same guy without his helmet. I wanted his picture but he told us that it isn’t allowed when on duty? He pointed toward a group of Masaai and said, “Take theirs”. I did.
Soft drinks at 12:00 noon, there was a group of Masaai seated in a covered area. We joined them and tried to make conversation. They were friendly especially a woman seated at the end of the table. Cat couldn’t finish her Sprite so she handed it to the woman. She accepted with a huge smile. I decided to try for a picture of one of the guy’s leg decorations. At first he did the same thing most do, refuse then ask for money. Before he could ask I knelt down and took the shot of his leg. When he looked at the picture he called the others to see. I lifted the camera and asked if I could take a picture of the woman with Cat. She nodded and stepped over near her. It’s a good shot, I think that if we’d taken a little more time the guys might have let us take pics.
Hunger brought us in at Mkata Village. The restaurant was tiny and family operated. It was rice, beans and chicken. We didn’t spend much time digesting as the clouds were gathering.
Sharing the Road With Elephants and Other Beasts of the Jungle
The sign “Entering Mikumi National Park” also carries a warning, “Dangerous Animals next 50 Kilometers”. We’d talked about and worried about the Baboons. Would they give chase? Would they try to bite us? They had been pretty aggressive when cars passed then yesterday. They were our first animal spotting and our fears were unfounded. I had hoped to ride along the road and get pictures of them. When we approached they scattered. By the time we got into camera range they were staring at us from the bush.
Our next exciting moment was compliments of a wart hog family. The 3 of them caught wind of us about the same time we saw them. They turned tail and ran, that funny short legged run, until they were out of sight. Off to the right were giraffe nibbling in the treetops and zebra grazing in the tall grass. This is really the Africa we have been hoping to see and feel as we cycled.
Then came the biggest thrill of all. So big in fact that it had us shaking in our boots. Rounding a corner we came face to face with two adult cow elephants and three calves. They were standing on the shoulder of the road. We stopped, the cow closest to us turned in our direction. Cat had the same look in her eyes that she’d had when we were being chased by the forest fire in Guinea. We decided that we couldn’t stay here all night, it was beginning to sprinkle and we still had about 10 km to pedal.
Let’s make a little noise and see how they react. I held my front brake and let the wheel squeak as I rocked back and forth. The cow nearest us moved toward the road and us. Two tons of wild animal and we hoped that they wouldn’t attack two tired bike riders. My next sound, a loud comment about fear of elephants sent the three calves scrambling toward the bush. The cow on the road stood her ground while the other kept the guard on the brood. Then, just as we were about to decide to turn tail the guard pinned her ears back then spun and crashed through the bush, away from the road. Whew!
The rain thickened, we came to a sign, Kikoboga 3 Kilometers. It was too wet to celebrate but we were glad to be getting in, out of the weather, gathering gloom and wild animal territory. The downpour was a bad ending to an otherwise perfect day. Then, as if to give us a sign of their own, a herd of elephant appeared on our left. They weren’t as close to the road but a big bull Tusker had his eyes on us. The herd moved back toward the bush but he stood his ground and kept up his vigil. We pedaled hard toward the Lodge as he spun and followed the herd.
Park Fees, Park Employees and a Demand for Foreign Currency
We were soaked, Cat was chilled. The people at the gate weren’t very hospitable. The guy at the desk asked for money. When we told him that we were just going to the hotel for the evening he began telling us the fact of life in the jungle. This Park has nothing to do with the Hotel. He insisted that we would have to pay the $15.00 entry fee, each. We argued, he stood his ground. He told us that he was retiring soon and wasn’t going to risk breaking any rules. We asked him to call the Hotel and have them come to help us. Yes, he could call but it would cost 1000 T Shillings. I told him that was a lot but we needed to get their help. He just stood there. I asked if he understood that I wanted him to call. He said, “You must give me the 1000 Shillings”. First things first in his book.
A couple that had been in the Park came out and requested their money back. It had started raining as they entered and in short time their guide made them turn back and drop him at the Lodge. A huge argument ensued and in the end, they lost. In the midst of their melee the guy from the Hotel came in and told us that we would have to pay. Our other argument with them was about taking the bikes to our room. The guy trying to retire again spat out the rules, “No Pedestrians, Bicycles or Motorcycles in the Park”!
A woman was summoned to help end the argument over the return of the couple’s entry fee. She was the boss, she told them that it was an act of God, the rain, and they have no control over that. I broke into my preaching role for a moment but The Cat calmed me down. We argued with her about leaving the bikes and lost. Then Cat threw 30,000 T Shillings on the desk and Mr. Retirement said, “What is this”?
Of course it was our entry fee but he refused it. Not just refused but he pointed at the sign and asked, “Can you read”? The sign said that all foreign visitors have to pay in US dollars. That led to another hubbub. The guy took me aside and offered to change a US $20:00 for us. He also had a $100 but didn’t want to let it go. We decided that it was the Park people’s problem and we’d let them solve it. The woman got into my face a little and told me that she was in England and had to pay to get in places. I asked her if she paid in Tanzanian Shilling or if they would have even accepted T Shilling? She sneered back, “I paid in £ Sterling”, then realized what she had said.
None of that mattered, the guy from the Hotel finally resolved the issue by using his name to sign us in. That allowed them to accept their own money. I think it’s a way for the government to acquire US Dollars?
We off loaded the bags then I put the bikes inside the museum. I took the back wheel off mine and brought it along with the luggage. I have a broken spoke and want to fix it tomorrow. I removed the seats, too, just for safety sake. The woman said, “Don’t spoil you bicycles, they are very safe here”. After what we’d just been through we had little trust in her or the rest of the staff here.
A guy in a red beret drove up and the Hotel guy sort of helped us move our bags into the Rover. There was no room for the Hotel guy so he clung to the back, in the rain as Mr. Red Beret, who didn’t lift a finger to help us, drove slowly down the muddy trail.
Cat sat in the car to keep warm while I checked us in. The guy insisted that we have a welcome juice and order dinner, now. I took the menu to the car and we sorted out choices as I stood in the rain. We unloaded the bags in pouring rain then carried them to our Banda, #4, Twiga. Oh, they did help some but we did most of the work. I asked about hot water and the clerk said that they would start heating it. Then he turned to Cat and asked if we would go to dinner, now? That was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Cat stood shivering and almost shouted, “No, not until I have a warm bath”!
Then I took the two glassed of welcome juice to the room and gulped them down. I was dry in all this wet weather? In retrospect, this may have been my undoing for the next 2 days. This is the only thing that I ate or drank differently from Cat.
This is one of the most expensive places we’ve ever stayed and they act like they are doing us a favor? Okay, it is a long way from nowhere and in the middle of the jungle but this is ridiculous. We had a glass of wine then, when the water was warm enough we showered. We were the only customers in the restaurant. The food was not great but pretty good considering the location. However, for the price it too was a disappointment. The total cost for park fees, room dinner and breakfast is going to be $168.00. Fortunately, they do take T Shilling.
Our bed is huge, there are no windows just drapes. We closed the place up and crawled in.
February 24, 2004
Mikumi Park to Mikumi Town
An Elephant on the Lawn and Elephants on the Road!
I was up several times during the night. The Guff Guff has set in, again. At 6:30 I pulled the drapes back and low, there in the yard area was a Tusker just lazily grazing along. Cat sprang out of the bed to see and we sat on the patio watching nature at it’s best. This is another example of “Rate has its privileges”. There is value to being in the rate place at the right time.
Included breakfast wasn’t any more inspiring nor was the service better than dinner. So much for the Full Board price. The staff was again hovering until we finished so that they could go home? Oh, there was another couple just finishing as we came in but it was obvious that we were the final service of the day.
Once the bags were repacked we carried all of them, ourselves, to the front. It was cool and damp but the rain had passed. The same non-talking guy came and watched as we loaded the bags into the back of his Rover. He drove to the gate and stood watching as we off loaded then drove away. His job was obviously limited to driving only!
Lions on the Road?
I rescued the bikes from their spot among the elephant skulls and stuffed animals that inhabit the tiny museum. Unlocked, I pushed Cat’s out and leaned it then went back and installed the wheel and brought mine out. Mr. About to Retire and totally unfriendly spoke not a word as we worked. A couple with a young daughter pulled up in the back of an open Rover and he dismounted to buy their tickets. He told us that they’d seen us last night looking like drowned rats. In fact he said that they had taken a picture of us and promised to e-mail a copy. They were astounded when we told of the struggle we had endured last night. Then he asked if we’d seen animals on the road. We told him of our standoff with the Elephants and he asked about Lions. “No, we don’t think they come to the road”, we answered. He laughed and said, “We’ve seen them several times on the road. Just recently we saw an entire pride just walking along the highway. Oh my God, we didn’t need to hear that. Robert (not completely sure of his name) and Francoise are Travel Company owners. He’s from England she’s French and their company is located in Italy. (www.HouseofWonders.com) They have a home in Zanzibar. Sounds like a great life!
You Can’t Ride a Bike Through An Elephant Herd?
It was 11:00 AM by the time we got out on the highway. Our plan was just to make it to Mikumi Town today. A short distance but then it’s a long pull to the next place we can find on our map. As we rounded the first curve and slowed for those awful speed bumps a truck pulled up and the driver yelled something at us. We rolled over to him and he said it again but it was in Swahili. Then Cat asked, “Elephant”? He shook his head vigorously up and down, “Elephant on road”!
Oh great, Cat was ready to retreat but we gingerly continued. There they were, on the right but the herd was tails to the road and about 75 meters or 150 feet off in the bush. We pushed pedals like our lives depended on it and maybe they did? We were again treated to fleeting visions of zebra, giraffe, even a few baboons then another herd of the behemoths. As many as a dozen of the big beasts stood off to the right, calmly grazing and watching as we passed. Though we thought that we saw lions under every bush and behind every tree they remained figments of our imaginations. We’re riding at record speed, if we maintain this pace we’ll set a personal best for 25 Ks.
Even the sign that told us we were leaving the park didn’t cause us to drop our guards. How many elephants or lions can read? How many can go anywhere they want to go. You figure it out.
We watched for Genesis Motel because of our great friend. Just before reaching it we passed a place called Tan Swiss Restaurant. Too bad they don’t have a Hotel, it’s a great looking place. Genesis Motel was pretty seedy looking and still a ways out of town. We rode on then saw The Green Park Safari Tour Lodge. The exterior is fairly impressive, the room is almost basic. It does have a toilet and that is an important feature for me today! It’s 20,000 T Shilling but includes a full breakfast. It wasn’t easy but we struggled in spitting down raindrops, around the side of the building then down the winding hallways to our room.
It isn’t really large enough to keep the bikes in but we stacked some furniture and moved a big chair to make them fit. Not a great place but the people are really nice and as Cat says, “It’s only for one night”.
Soup for lunch, bread and soup. I hit the bed and let the fan cool the air. Cat went for a walk. She explored the entire of Mikumi Town from end to end. I snoozed the afternoon away. I left the TV on until it drove me crazy. They have a music video thing going with African groups. I liked that part but they also have a radio station overriding the groups sounds much of the time. Oh yea, it’s a single channel affair so we have to watch what those in the bar choose to watch. They did get BBC for a short time then it was back to the two sounds for the price of one channel?
Dinner again in the dining area. The food is pretty good but S-L-O-W in service. I really didn’t feel that great and was a little cranky. Cat says that’s normal when I’m a bit off. Chicken and chips but then, as fast as it’s going through me it doesn’t matter much. Everything I eat turns to water!
Back in our room, I lay then snoozed. Cat hung out, out front and walked the street again until dark set in. When she came in I asked if she’d seen a Pharmacy. She hadn’t so I suggested that she ask the staff if they could help her get some medicine that would stem the flow. The little guy, who speaks some English, Cyprian, told her that he’d send someone to get medicine from the Doctor. He brought back some pills that he called Fragile. The dosage was written on the newsprint paper, 2 X Daily. I took one right away. I was out for the night. Cat read our guidebook for a while then crawled in.
February 25, 2004
Riding out the African Guff Guff
Though I had slept most of the afternoon yesterday, surprisingly I slept through the night save for the several trips to the brown water toilet. Cat said that she had a tough time sleeping but each time I crawled across she seemed out.
2 more Fragile pills and Breakfast then I came back and lay in some more. The TV is that irritating mix of voices? Like a radio station is horning in on the signal? Cat walked. At 10:30 the girl came to clean the room. I went out front and drank a Sprite, no sign of Cat? I walked down the street to the Internet Restaurant where they have on Internet? Still no sign of her so I went back to the ceiling fan and two voices TV. I dozed a little.
I was ready to send out the search party when Cat came knocking on the door. She had been from one end of this town to the other. I was sure that she had found a computer or was getting a hair cut. Neither, just walking and observing..
The restaurant here was having a problem. We ordered chicken sandwiches. The waitress left then reappeared and told us that they have on bread. We asked if she could get some bread at a store. She left then returned in a few minutes empty handed. “No bread in Mikumi Town? Okay, we’ll have a bowl of rice”. I probably should stick with the rice, anyway. She went to the kitchen then came back and said, “No rice, power out”. The electricity had been out for about an hour earlier but we couldn’t figure out what that had to do with rice? She told us that our only choice was chicken and chapatti. Chapatti, the flat bread, is kind of greasy and not a good idea for me. We decided to walk.
My second trip to the Internet Café. They had rice, we ate rice and meat with casaba leaf. I gave up my casaba, just didn’t taste good. (It’s sort of like spinach and usually I love it.)
Back in the room, I journalized the afternoon away. I have now had 6 fragile pills and feel a little less fragile.
Cat has walked from end to end in Mikumi and says that the Tan Swiss Restaurant looks like a good bet. Well a good bet and a long walk. It is more than 2 kilometers from Green Park Tours and Hotel. We set out and it took a half hour to get there. We had the place to ourselves. They are building 6 rooms behind the restaurant. I went for a look while they prepared our order of soup and pasta. Cute rooms with massive bathrooms. A Swiss Couple own the place but are away at this time. I did come face to face with a guard carrying a big rifle while snooping around.
The walk back was in total darkness. We rarely go out after dark but felt safe here, for some reason. The biggest danger was from bicycles passing at high speed in the darkness. A long walk for a so-so bowl of pasta but better than another traditional meal.
Bed and African TV, lights out at 9:00 PM.
February 26, 2004
Mikumi Town to Comfort Hotel
Anxious to get an early start we climbed out of the crunchy sheets at 6:30 AM and were packed and out for breakfast by 7:15. For some reason service was slow and things didn’t come together well. They forgot toast, that caused a wait. It was 8:30 by the time we got the bikes out front and ready to roll. Then we decided to take a picture with Cyprian, who seemed to run the place. That led to a group photo then requests for several more so that they could look at them. It was fun but burned up another 15 minutes.
Still feeling queasy and weak, we pedaled to the end of town then up the long swooping hill and into the hills, the Southern Highlands. (Undoubtedly named by Dr. Livingston or some of his Brit cohorts.) It does have a similar look and feel to riding the hills of Scotland. A very slow process with no food in any of the tiny villages along the way. Cyprian had suggested that we would find food in Mbunyuni. It was 3:00 Pm by the time we’d fought our way up to the place.
We needed food and pulled into a building that looked fairly nice. It turned out to be a hair Salon. The guy seated on the porch suggested that I sit in a chair there and told Cat she could find soft drinks nearby. I had been dreaming of Bitter Lemons but of course they had none. They had a sort of grape drink for me and orange for Cat. I drank mine and most of hers. Then I also drank 2 Coca Colas trying to re-hydrate. Cat found rice, meat and sauce. It just didn’t taste good to me. I ate a little but it had the consistency and taste of paste?
Cat was nervous and wanted to go on, I needed to rest. Cyprian had also told us that we should sleep at Comfort Hotel and thought it would be about 15 Km beyond Mbunyuni. We asked and the first guy thought it was 30 kilometers. A policeman thought it was 14 then another fellow told us it was 50? Confused and worried we set off at 4:00 down a small hill then into a flat valley. Even in my weakened state we made pretty good time.
We’d cycled 75 kilometers to Mbuyuni so thought it would be an hour, at the most 2 between us and Comfort. WRONG, we kept pedaling into the gathering dusk and asking, asking, asking. Each time we got the same answer, 10 kilometers. We’d go for half an hour then ask and receive the same 10 K answer? It was getting dark and closing in on 7:00 PM, I waved frantically at a truck coming toward us. They slid past us with smoke spewing from the locked wheels, I turned and rode to them. Another ask but this time real hope, he said, “Yes, Comfort Hotel is 2 kilometers”.
Thrilled that we had it made we pedaled on and on and on. We decided that false hope was better than no hope at all? At 7:15 and at least 5 or 6 kilometers after the smell of burning tires and brakes had cleared from our nostrils, we saw a real sign, Hotel, Service Station, etc, 1000 meters. It was none to early, almost too late. The sky was dark enough that we took out our lights. I wore mine on my helmet, Cat waved hers around to be seen by oncoming trucks. It was 7:30 by the time we pulled into the driveway.
Confusion reigned, a guy named Frank ran out and offered to help. We pushed into Comfort at Night that turned out to be a Bar. Cat and Frank went to Reception. I sank down into a chair and ordered a Sprite. The tall leggy girl sort of danced across the floor then leaned over to pour and asked, “You are very tired, yes”? I just shook my head and took the glass. Then she leaned closer and asked, “You buy me a beer”? I’ve never had a Bar Maid ask that one before? I fibbed to avoid more discussion and told her that my wife had the money.
Cat got us checked in then came back and ordered a Tusker. She was anxious to get in and bathe so we started trying to push to the room. Unable to get down the steps with the beer in hand she turned and the Bar Maid said, “You give it tome”? I had told Cat about her question so she snapped back, “No”. Frank held out his hand, she gave the glass to him and he downed it. Suddenly it was obvious, Frank was just a guy hanging around, drinking, not an employee.
Traditional House #1 was large enough to shelter the bikes and us. It’s a little rough around the edges but the beds look comfortable and we need comfort. It was so late that we decided to just to eat in our stinking, sweaty cycling cloths. They had no wine, which was fine for me. Cat had another beer and we ate soup. All the other food was fried, chicken, meat or eggs with chips. I had three bowls she two. Light dinner after a heavy day but nothing else sounded good to either of us. Oh, bread would have been good but they had none?
There is a big screen TV in TR#1 but it only speaks Swahili. We crawled into bed, clicked on the oscillating fan and I watched a drama that was done in English. Hard to understand African English, but English. An interesting story about a guy who lost his job. The entire group of workers was fired because one of them had stolen from the company and wouldn’t confess. It was rich in controversy and thick with traditions. I was hooked and couldn’t turn it off until the end. The end never came, it's a series? Damn, well lights out at 10:30 PM
February 27, 2004
Comfort Hotel to Iringa
38 Kilometers via bike, 40 in Range Rover
Fatigue and Queasy Stomach Ends this Ride, Early!
The Rubber Comes Off the Road, Sorry Terry!
Tired, and a heart rate never got back to normal yet we will press onward. We were slow getting going and breakfast was slow in service. On the way back to TH 1 I met Mr. Anderson, his sister, aunt and uncle. He is the owner of this little city that began 7 years ago as a service station. It is now at least 3 restaurants, a bar and of course the Hotel. He’s proud of his creation and well he should be. He told of seeing us on the highway yesterday and admired our dream. We saluted him for being here. We did tell him that he should have a few signs along the highway as we told of our struggle last night.
It was 9:40 by the time we wheeled out of Comfort and into the hills. Mr. Anderson had warned us of a 9 Km hill but we didn’t take him seriously until we rounded the first corner and saw what lie ahead. It was steep and it was definitely going to be a tough push. We gave up trying to ride within the first half kilometer and pushed. Though it wasn’t as hot as some days have been, the sun bore down on our backs and necks, overheating our already overtired bodies. The push broke down into short slow plodding struggles between patches of shade. We’d stopped and stood at first then stopped, lay the bikes down and sat. It took us 3 hours and 20 minutes to reach the summit. Even then some guys selling roasted ears of corn warned us that there were still two more ups ahead of us.
The first we ground out, at times standing on the pedals. The second ground us to a walk, again. At the top I felt completely fatigued. It was a flat or slightly down ride ahead of us. Cranking slowly along I felt shaky, we had now gone 4 ½ hours since last food. At the top of a small climb I pulled over, laid the bike down and lay on a blanket of grass, staring up at the brilliant blue sky and puffy silver white clouds. I had had it! I couldn’t go on!
Just as we finished our discussion finalizing the decision to take the “Rubber Off the Road”, a car pulled over. It was Hosea and Margaret, a couple we had talked with in Morogoro. They told us we still had 40 Kilometers of ups and downs to Iringa. They were very concerned and even suggested that we try to get the bikes and bags into their small coupe. I sat while Cat talked with them. We had to thank them but it would be impossible. Then, as they tried to figure another solution a Land Rover came toward us, headed toward Iringa. I used a burst of energy to get up and wave them down. They stopped, Raphael jumped out and said, “Yes I think we can get your bikes in the car”. We shook hands and thanked Hosea and Margaret while he opened the rear doors and folded the seats up.
It took a little maneuvering but by taking the bags and wheels off the front we were able to jam everything in the back. Raphael, his wife Natalia and their driver, Amadeus, sat in the front and we shared the back seat with their luggage. We felt very lucky. Raphael was curious about our religion, accepted our Mother Nature theory then told us that his own brother was a non-Catholic Christian yet they get along, even discuss the differences. Our theory is that if you believe and it makes you feel good about your life while not negatively affecting others, GREAT. The problem is that most religions desire or even require spreading the TRUE WORD. Each believes that they are the only ones that know the REAL TRUTH? We didn’t discuss these ideas with him but feel that the world would be much better off if all religious folks kept their beliefs to themselves and allowed others the same freedom.
Natalia, like a good Nurse should, wanted to know everything about my current bout with African Guff Guff. How many days of diarrhea? When was last BM? Do you have stomach ache/ I told her about taking Fragile, which Cyprian back in Mikumi pronounced fra- (long I)- gile. She laughed and said, “I think he meant Flajile”! Well now, that made sense. She asked if I’ve had stomachaches. Boy have I and was I, even as we spoke. She thought it was a side affect. She seemed pleased to hear that I hadn’t gone at all, yet, today.
We stopped for soft drinks in the village where Mr. Anderson had suggested we’d have lunch. It was only about 10 Kilometers from where they had found us on the roadside. We spotted at least 3 small guesthouses and almost made a decision to get out there. Well, we took a vote and the motion lost 2-0. It began to spit rain, that added to our desire to find a good place to rest and recover.
The rain went from spit to drizzle to downpour. Raphael had Amadeus pull across a bridge and stop. He said that the Hotels should be close by, near the Bus Station. To confirm he called out to a young girl sitting in the rain. She came over and pointed to the buildings atop a bluff. He said that the Hotels were up there. Cat was ready to get out and load up but I felt that it would take us an hour or more to climb/push up the hill. So, as we say in sales and it sounds pretty Biblical, “All things are possible, just ask”! I asked, they discussed, Amadeus said something about NGO suggesting that he is with a separate company. What ever the conversation the outcome was a yes, they took us up the steep hill and dropped us in pouring rain at the round about on the edge of town. They left us to unload, on our own, in the downpour. I got a picture of the 3 of them huddled in the cab then they hurried away to get to Raphael’s meetings.
The task of replacing wheels and reloading the bags in pouring rain, the first thing we had to do was grab the bags we’d placed in the gutter because a wave of water filled with litter came rushing down the small flood control channel. As we finished a Scandinavian Bus pulled up. We waved our arms frantically and the co-pilot leaned out the door. We asked where the Bus Station and M R Hotel which is supposed to be nearby. He thought for a minute, said “M ay R ay Hotel, yes follow us”. We could see them or at least the trail of black smoke they emitted for quite a while as we rode in the rain. Lost we pulled into a BP Service Station. The young guy there was as helpful as so many here. He insisted on going to the street and pointing out the way.
Two blocks and we saw the place. Not a moment too soon. I was still feeling weak and fragile. I told Cat that I felt 84 instead of 64. (No offense Earl and Glenys, Cat’s Mom and Dad or Celeste, our adopted Mom who are all in that age group.)
Hard to believe, it was 4:30 PM by the time we got out of our soaked cloths and settled into the latest BBC news. No matter how bad I felt a glass of wine sounded good. We went down to the restaurant only to find that they serve no wine. Probably an Islamic tradition. With the Hotel Director as a guide we walked down the street to a small shop with a fairly large selection of wines. We asked about taking a bottle to dinner and he said that they have no prohibition to it.
A glass in the room then down to dinner. We were the only guests, the only people, in the place. Potato soup and pasta, get well food.
Back in our lair and abed by 9:00 PM.
February 28, 2004
A Day of Healing in Iringa
Dreaming of sleeping in but the reality is, I can’t seem to? Awoken by a passing bus that sounded like it was falling apart at 6:15 AM I forced myself to lie in until 6:45. (The Information Card for Hotel Services offers 9 items of interest for guests. Number 8 is an apology. It says, “Our Hotel is centrally situated. Buses’ horns hooting and religious amplified calls for prayers and bells can be heard all day through, your tolerance is highly appreciated. The management apologies for any inconvenience you might experience from that”.) Cat stirred so I hit the starter button on the TV and we were smothered with the same news that put us to sleep last night. The 2 big stories are from close to home in California. They are preparing for the Oscar awards AND the Mayor of the City of San Francisco is allowing gay couple to legally marry. The California Attorney General filed a petition with the CA Supreme Court but the Court gave the Mayor a week to put his explanation as to why same sex couples should be afforded the same rights as heterosexuals. Interesting, more than 3,000 couples of the same sex have already taken the plunge. One included Rosie O’Donnell, the TV talk show host. The range of placards held by supporters and foes of the issue show the chasm of differences. “Armageddon is coming, pray for these sinners”, and “George Bush, Get Out of Our Bedrooms”.
Cat took the laundry down while I finished dressing. She met a guy, Cuan, from South Africa, here as consultant on a US AID project. He was showing her places to stop on our intended route on a map in the Hotel hallway. We went on to breakfast, he prepared to meet his appointment. We were in the midst of eggs and toast when Cuan opened the door and introduced William, an Irishman who is living here and working on the AID Project. He told us that he’d see us later and help with our routing. What nice guys!
The included breakfast is Continental but I added 2 boiled eggs that sat well on my still shaky stomach. Five people came in and sat near us as they ate. Three of them left and we spoke with the young couple from Holland, Elske and Onno who remained. He is a writer and poet. We traded web-site addresses with us but warned us that his work is seen only in Dutch. They’re here due to her position with The Clinton Foundation Pharm Aid Project. It’s a donor-supported program that assists HIV-AIDS victims. Though they are short of funds part of the recently released US AID funds have been made available to them. (Wonder if President Bush knows about this and how he would handle it?)
I rested and typed a little. Cat scouted the neighborhood looking for hair cutters for both of us. We tried the Internet Shop downstairs but the Server was down. I came back up and relaxed then Cat called from the front to tell me that it was back on line. We have accumulated more than 120 messages. One particularly interesting one for us is from a couple that has read our site and chose Hotel Casa S. Mamede in Lisbon based upon our experience there. They said that they told the man there about how they happened to choose the place, we hoped it was Jose they were talking with. Gosh, how we wish that he’d get an e-mail address.
A walk around the center, we found the Grocery Store and loaded up. Sandwich things for lunch today and some canned meat and fish for the road. We are really tired of rice and meat and I’m totally sick of being sick!
Picnic lunch in the room then, I went back to typing and Cat went exploring, again.
Cat struck out in her quest for a haircut. I lay back and rested for a while. A knock at the door and the young Porter handed me our pile of laundry. It was still wet to the touch as I put it down on the bed. I called the Front Desk and was asking for them to dry it longer or provide hangers so that we could spread it around. When Cat came in she took it down, complained and they put it back into the dryer.
Cat took up position at a computer downstairs. I touched base with her then walked across to Smart Shavers and got my head shaved. Well, I set off to get a trim, cleanup the edges but leave the top and sides longer. The Barbers electric shears only knew one setting, close!
It was 6:00 PM when I joined Cat at the Internet Café, just in time for her time to run out. We decided to have a quiet glass of wine before dinner. I stopped at the Restaurant downstairs for our wine. (They originally told us that they couldn’t put the bottle of wine in their refrigerator then as I typed this afternoon the young waiter called and said he’d be up? He came and picked up the wine to cool it for us? Somebody has reversed the earlier decision? ) Ah, a new twist, when I asked the waiter said, “Yes, I bring to room”. I told him I would take it and save him the trip then he made the true confession. The wine wasn’t in their refrigerator it was somewhere off the Hotel Property.
Also, the laundry was still damp so they rounded up 9 hangers and we now have things dangling from every possible hook or lamp around the room. This is a pin but our cloths, almost all of them, were really dirty, stinky.
Dinner, a walk in the dark to Bottoms Up where they serve a glass of wine with the best dinner in town. We ran into Cuan on the unlit street and he suggested that Bottoms is okay, not great but still the best in town. He also reminded us that William would be here to take him to the bus in the morning and could help us with Hotels and Restaurants along our route to Mbeya.
You walk upstairs then through the bar and pool room to a sparse, cluttered looking dining room. The tables were set in large number configurations. They seated us at a table for 8. There is a group of British Youngsters at the other long table. Cat didn’t want to bother them but I hated the isolated feeling of our big table. I stepped over and asked if we could sit at the open end of their table and they immediately invited us. Though they were busy talking about their experiences we did take a picture as they sang Happy Birthday to one of their members.
A young guy, Gordon, came in late and sat next to me. He explained that they are in a 6-month volunteer program called GAP. They’re all gap students, between semesters thus the name, GAP. They are working in 5 different locations around Tanzania, teaching English language. Gordon is a very bright young man. He is studying Economics and Political Science. Cat asked if he wanted to take Tony Blair’s place, become Prime Minister? Surprisingly he told us that he would like to have Allistare Campbell’s job. (Campbell resigned, an Iraqi War fatality.) Minister of Information we think is the title, sort of like our Presidents Press Secretary. Gordon confessed to not liking Tony Blair and he told us that he is a member of the Third Party and wouldn’t be able to get enough votes to become Prime Minister. A refreshing conversation with a bright and informed young guy!
The streets were virtually deserted as we walked back to M R. I am feeling a little better. We started watching a movie then it was just me and the movie. Cat snoozed off. It’s a strange but interesting film, a guy trying to kill himself by jumping off the Oakland Bay Bridge is saved by a guy who wants to watch. It’s a twisted plot and in the end the jumper assists the one who wanted to watch out of the pain of a terminal illness, via mercy killing. I don’t know the name and didn’t recognize any of the players but I enjoyed the story. Lights out at 11:00 PM
Sunday, February 29, 2004
Shlepping into Leap Year
Return Of The Guff Guff
Twice during the night I felt the calling and made the trips, in time. Between them I decided that I still didn’t feel 100% and would talk with The Cat about another day here, maybe find a Doctor.
Up at 7:00 AM, I wanted to be downstairs before 8:00 to join Cuan and William. Cuan was there, just finishing breakfast, William arrived with his entourage of beautiful children, twins Sarah and Kathryn and son, Harry. We chatted for a while as Cuan went to get his bags. Cat came in, and we switched the conversation to finding a Doctor who might be working today. He knew one, his families Doctor.
The 3 of us jumped into Williams 5 passenger pickup. The kids climbed into the pickup bed that they call the trailer and we were off to Doctor Lushino’s. What a nice guy he is, we sat and discussed my problems then he asked me to give them blood and stool samples. I worried about how much time these Lab items would take. He chuckled and said we can do the work here in about half an hour. The rest is up to how quickly you can provide samples. Blood was simple, they took some right then and there. Stool was a little tougher. They gave me a clear plastic tube with a little spoon attached to the cap.
We left but told the Doctor Lushino that we’d be back, before his planned departure at 2:00 PM. Then William took us to his home where we met Anne, his wife and the Mom. They are a wonderful family and the kids are really well behaved. They have been here in Africa with a short tour in Indonesia, for 8 years. He just started this new job last December and really likes it. They all like life here, it is so much easier than Ireland, especially at this time of year. William says that you never get a drip on your nose because the wind blows them away. They are now planning on living out his 2006 contract, hoping for an extension then perhaps buying a place in Spain, just for the weather.
Reluctantly we left the little Irish family behind and William drove to his office. There he worked with us and his larger scale map to find places to stay over the next 4 or 5 days as we cycle to Mbeya. He even called his friend and fellow worker, Joel and got his opinion on a couple of places. We feel confident that even with the hills that they warn of, we can make it.
I couldn’t believe it but nature called while we were studying the map. I caught the needed sample in the toilet at William's office. William had guests coming for a big Football match on his satellite IV. He dropped us outside Doctor Lushino’s office, we shook hands and promised that we’d see each other again, maybe even in California. I dropped the sample off at the lab and we walked to lunch at a place called Hasty Tasty Too, a sort of fast food place nearby that both William and our Lonely Planet recommended. The fast food was anything but hasty however, very tasty.
Typhoid Fever? Aaarrrggghh!!!
Mrs. Doctor Lushino greeted us as we walked back into the office. She looked at the results of the tests and said, you must see Doctor. We quizzed her and she started spilling the beans. The stool sample was negative but they found something in the blood. More questions while we waited our turn to see Mr. Doctor and she let it all out, “Your test indicates that you have Typhoid Fever”.
Cat gasped, it sounds do devastating. Typhoid killed millions in the good old days. That was it for information until we got into the Doctors office. Okay, they don’t measure the amount of Typhoid in your blood, they account for the anti-bodies your body is producing to kill the bug. We showed him our certificate of inoculation. He told us that I have twice as much anti-body as would be normal after inoculation. Oh, another revelation, Typhoid is also a form of Salmonella.
So, he recommended a course that I appreciate. Since I don’t exhibit many of the symptoms he prescribed Cipro, a strong antibiotic that has positive affect on several organisms that could catch up with us yet then told us not to take it unless symptoms began to show. We discussed another blood test and he again recommended that I have another in 10 days or 2 weeks. He also prescribed Fladazole, a replacement for the Flajile that treated my stomach so badly. It too is just to be used in the event the diarrhea reappears. The bill for all this, 15,000 T Shilling or about $15 US. We wondered how he could afford his Mercedes at these rates?
We walked back to the Hotel then got directions to a Pharmacy. They had both of the needed drugs but they cost more than the consultations and lab tests. Then, The Cat began to feel queasy and had to trot back to the Hotel and our toilet. I spent a frustrating 2 hours trying to get Internet messages sent but the machine just kept kicking me out. A walk around town and into the fishy smelling marketplace was calming. It started to sprinkle as we took pictures of local scenes.
Cat was feeling much better, we enjoyed a glass of wine then walked to the best restaurant in town, again. Bottoms Up was much less crowded but Onno and Elske, the couple from The Netherlands were there. We talked as we waited and waited. Even though they had only 6 other customers they were as slow as last night when the 22 Young Brits were in attendance.
It started to drizzle again as we walked to the restaurant then poured as we waited then finally ate our Pizza. In fact Elske had to have them pull the drapes of the window near her to keep the blowing rain off. Time to get out of there and they chose to walk. Cat followed suit and we continued our lively discussions.
It was 9:30 by the time we got into our room. I typed today’s entry as Cat watched BBC until overtaken by dreamland. At 10:45 PM I doused the fragile lights that had been out for half an hour as we walked back from dinner. (They have a problem in the electricity supply and seem to be in the dark quite often.)
March 1, 2004
Iringa to Mafinga
The call to prayer called us into this day. We had the bags re-packed, were dressed and down for breakfast by 7:15 AM. Our early start plans were thwarted by slow service. Good thing the food is good.
Cat checked us out while I loaded the bikes. She gave the young people at the desk our card. They immediately pulled the WR2 site up on the computer and marveled at the size and scope of our effort. It was 8:30 by the time we finished taking pictures and getting well wished from them.
As we mounted and waved I noticed that my front brakes were broken. The spring that holds the pad off the wheel was broken off. Fearing that we’d have to disable it and ride on without a front wheel brake I asked the Porter if there was a bicycle repair nearby? He led us around the corner to a group of young guys working on bikes, in the mud, on the side of the road. Fat chance, I thought and when I asked the young guy who showed the most interest in us, he said, “We don’t have that part”. Then he, Salum, helped get the bike leaning on the wall there and said, “We make one”.
I noticed a broken spoke lying on the ground, picked it up and was going to suggest it when I saw that he was already bending and shaping one. His first prototype was too short, back to the bending board and he soon had a working model. Installed and tested, he stood back looking pleased and well he should be! He is a sidewalk genius. He also adjusted the rear wheel brake and wanted to take the wobble out of the wheel by adjusting spokes but we were so late that we decided to take the wobble to the road. It was already after 10:00 and we have a way to go.
Up the main street in honking traffic, a slow pull past the big Catholic church, around the “keep left” and we were on the steep, bumpy, winding road that Cat has been fretting about since Amadeus drove us up two days ago. Another of those worthless worries, it was damp and bumpy but the traffic she had feared wasn’t there. We had the road to ourselves most of the way. A couple of stops for pictures of the valley below and it was 10:30 by the time we crossed the bridge and headed for John’s Corner.
Just a short way out of town I spotted a billboard with the message, “The Earth is but one Country & Mankind it’s Citizens”. What a great thought, what a wonderful philosophy.
Another few kilometers and we came upon a truck on it’s side, in the ditch. There was a crew off loading the lumber. I raised the camera to get the picture when a young guy came running and shouting, “No pictures”. I stopped short, handed him our card and told him of our web site. Victor explained that he owns the truck then he reconsidered and posed in front of it. Many of the guys working came to see the picture then demanded that we take one of all them. Funny how things sometimes work out.
Lonely Planet described a Stone-Age site 15 kilometers down the road. Onno and Elske had mentioned it and walked to another stone fortress. I decided that we should try to see Isimila. The sign signaled the turn off and told us it was 1 kilometer. The road is dirt on a dry day but mud, today. Cat wanted to call it off but the further we went the more intent I became. Even the place where we had to ford big mud holes wasn’t going to stop me now.
The site is pretty anti-climatic. A small shack with a few stone tools that we thought may or may not have been 60,000 years old? The guide was nice and explained that the original discovery was made by locals in the early 1950s then Chicago University came and excavated in 1957. Later The University of Illinois, Evanston funded a long study of the site. The LPGB says that it’s an easy bicycle ride from Iringa, they must have ridden on a dry day? The best part of the side trip was meeting Gary and Cathy. They are touring Tanzania in his classic, 1986 Toyota Land Cruiser truck. He’s from Zimbabwe, she England. They invited us to stop at a camp ground about 30 Ks away but we told them we have to try to get on down the road. He did say that we shouldn’t have any problem traveling in Zimbabwe, they have some internal problems that have to be worked out but it shouldn’t effect us. (Another of the varying accounts we are collecting along the way.)
It was pedal then push, as we got further into the hills. A village lunch, the typical rice and beans. Cat isn’t feeling too well so she skipped the beans. We sat on a cement step in the shade and drew the stares of all who gathered. There was a bike parked in front that was dressed up with carved wood and mirrors. I looked it over, took some pictures then a young guy in a Beckham/Manchester shirt walked over and demonstrated the horn and siren. I thought he was the owner and took his picture the owner showed up. You will see both of their pictures because I wanted to show the shirt that has invaded Africa. Beckham left Manchester and now plays soccer with Royal Madrid. The shirts were worthless in the UK but the color alone makes them popular here.
More countryside, more up then through another small village. A we passed a group of young guys next to the road one ran out and began to taunt Cat. He ran along talking and gesturing to the delight of his pals. Then he yelled out “Goodbye” and sort of slapped her on the back. His buddies were laughing, I wasn’t. I turned and cranked directly toward him. He ran and his pals really laughed. He stopped and threw a few karate air punches at me then did a round house kick. I caught his heel just enough to set him off balance. He reeled back then sideways and staged back toward his now roaring audience. We cycled.
More ups and downs, more ups than downs. We stopped at a bus that was in trouble mechanically and asked the driver the distance to Sao Hill. He really didn’t know but ventured a 40 K guess? Cat sighed, we cycled.
It began to drizzle then thickened. For the first time on this Odyssey we pulled out the ponchos. They worked, we stayed pretty dry. With the wind it was a little bit of a handicap being covered but a dry handicap.
At 4:00 Pm we pulled up at a small store and shared a Bitter Lemon. Mathew, the owner, was a talker. He did inform us that John’s Corner was now called Mafinga. He told us that it was a cross roads and John had a shop there during Colonial times. When they ended the locals renamed it Mafinga. That made us happy, not so much that the locals had been able to choose the name but that we now knew we were just 15 kilometers from today’s destination. We drank our B.L. and listened as he wondered at our trip and asked why we didn’t buy two drinks since we are from California and everyone there is RICH! He asked what we get for doing it then when we told him nothing he wanted to know why? To meet nice people like you we said as we started out toward the road. Cat was already there and moving on when he grabbed my handlebar and said, “You come to Africa to see the Monkey People”?
That one stopped me in my tracks. “What did you say”? He repeated, “The Monkey People, that’s what the Germans called us during the first Colonialism Days”. I told him that we believe we’re all the same under our skin and in our minds. He agreed then I quoted the sign “The Earth is One Country and Mankind It’s Citizens”! We shook hands vigorously, the Tanzanian grasp, clasp, grasp shake then I hustled off to catch The Cat.
Mafinga was ours at 5:40 PM. We cycled right through town to the BP Station where William had suggested we would find a nice Guest House. When the station attendant told Cat that the rooms were 4,000 T Shillings we began to doubt William’s word? I asked him if there is a better place and he said, “Yes, this isn’t so nice, go back 1 kilometer to John’s Corner”. We hate to backtrack but it was easy to take his word about this place.
So, William had spoken truth but mistook the stations. John’s Corner Guest House is behind the Total Station. They had choices but the only one that made sense for us was the suite. It is 2 rooms, one stuffed with overstuffed couches and chairs and a TV. The other a large bed and oh yes, we even had 1 ½ baths. We wheeled the bikes in then enjoyed a lukewarm dribble shower.
I went on a wine quest while Cat bathed. They had only one bottle of Drostdy-Hof South African wine but it was the sweeter selection. I asked about a store and the Desk Clerk told me that they would send the bartender. She spoke no English. I wrote down the name, Drostdy-Hof, showed her the bottle they had and then wrote, “White, Grand Cru”. She left, I went back and turned on the TV. It was a re-run of Oscar night. The pre-ceremony event was in full swing. We watched then decided to have dinner in and enjoy the show.
Pasta, and the only bottle of wine, the sweet one, was our choice. The woman bartender had come back empty handed. The Pasta arrived just as the Oscars began. We settled in then suddenly they changed the channel. A movie was just ending and low, it was a thing called Robo Cop 2000. The surprise was that it was the product of Sun Dog Films in Canada. Remember, I met Wayne and his family on my first trip around the world and tried to connect when we were in Toronto? What a surprise.
That was the last pleasant thing about the TV that they charge extra for here. Cat went out and asked them to change back to the Oscars. (We find that many of these small places are only able to have one channel at a time, throughout the rooms.) They told her that the group in the bar had requested the movie.
Okay, we settled into our sweet wine, pasta and the movie. The people at the bar must have been fed up with the movie because just as we got good and hooked on the plot they switched to CNN. Awe, why complain? The news was at least as good as the B Grade Movie!
March 2, 2004
Mafinga to Makambako
Up at 6:30 AM and looking for an early start. As we packed I called an order for breakfast to the desk. They told us it would be 30 minutes. Okay, I went out and asked if they would turn the TV on to CNN so we could see English language news. Sorry, the TV is locked up, we were robbed and they took our TV so we lock it up every night. The Bartender has the key and she comes in about 7:30.
With breakfast being delivered deliver to the table we watched them set up the TV and turn on CNN. Today is Super Tuesday back home, that means that 10 States including California will vote in the Primary Elections. The winner, probably John Kerry, will be the one to face off with George W. and began the mud slinging that American politics seems to be all about.
Out the door, down the muddy road to the highway then a search for bottled water. So much for the early start. It was 9:00 by the time we passed the BP and rolled into uncharted territory. It was more ups and downs, more cool wind a thick cloud cover and the threat of rain. The area is forested and the main industry is logging. Many of the meadows and hillsides reminded us of Oregon.
A crossroad, a small store and a wet step to sit on while we had soft drinks. Cat is feeling bad, yes the Guff Guff has struck and it’s getting her down. I’ve firmed up, so to speak, but it now has her in its nasty grip. I have been a little head achy and wonder if it is the dreaded Typhoid or just allergies. The altitude really seems to get to me as Leon Russell once said in a song.
Continuing ups and downs then lunch, more rice and beans at Zuena’s. She is a bright, English speaking schoolteacher who enhances her income serving the standard lunch faire. I did R&B, Cat stuck to plain rice. I got the camera out to take a picture of the complex. Cat sat quietly, she really is feeling worse as the day wears on. When I raised the camera Zuena asked me not to take her picture. I turned the camera on Cat then showed the group her picture. They all lined up and asked me to take one of them. Zuena did let me shoot one of her as she explained that the u-shaped building was a Club. We thought that some of the doors must be homes but no, “This is a Bar”, she said. Cat had noticed many of the people drinking a white liquid from plastic cups. She thought it might be Bamboo Juice, the alcohol drink. Zuena confirmed and asked if we wanted to try some. We politely declined using the excuse that we still had a long way to cycle. There was that and the fear of more and stronger Guff Guff from the local water and hands that had mixed the brew.
Again, ups and downs then at 4:00 PM we passed a sign proclaiming Makambako. Our celebration was short lived. We continued to pedal through countryside until the village appeared, at last, at 4:40.
It is a dusty cross roads or would be if the air wasn’t so full of moisture. No rain but it has and there are mud puddles throughout the dirt streets that make up Makambako. Cat spotted a sign for the Midtown Guest Lodge but it was down a pretty bad looking dirt lane. We rode back to a sign we’d seen for the “New Paris Guest House”. It too was down a dirt track full of muddy spots. It was squatter toilets and primitive looking. No restaurant either. I walked to two other places close by. They were at least as bad if not worse. We decided to backtrack to Midtown.
What a strange looking place, animals made of concrete lined up out front and on the roof. We struggled through the narrow gate then explored two of the three lobbies. The girl, Grace, who greeted us with an infectious laugh answered yes to all our questions. BBC yes, restaurant yes, wine yes! We were at home.
The bad news of the day, an explosion at a Shiite Celebration in Iraq has killed 150 and wounded 500. This thing just goes on and on. The good news is that the room only cost 7,000 T Shillings ($7.00) and it’s clean. The French wine cost 8,000 but both are well worth it!
A power outage and lukewarm showers. The brown stains in the tub and thick brown water made the lack of light a blessing. A glass of wine and The Cat began to feel better. Their generator kicked in just as we walked out to dinner. The restaurant is a group of huts. Each has 3 or 4 tables. We were alone but not lonely. Chicken soup sounded good but left a little to be desired. A bowl of water that tasted like the chicken had been boiled in it and a chicken leg on the side. The leg was tough, as a friend in the Soviet Union once said, it must have been a Sportsman! We struggled and finally got some small pieces of it into the water. A generous sprinkling of salt and it was at least okay.
Main course, Roasted Chicken and Chips. The chic was from the same sportive family, the chips were good, the wine, GREAT. Dinner came to an astounding 4,600 TS. ($4.60) Grace collected the money and we our like for her increased. I asked about telephone and she laughed then said, “Not here but close by, I will take you”. We had decided to call Joel, William’s co-worker, and ask about a place to stay tomorrow in Chimala.
She led me out the gate, around the corner and into a candlelit stall. The girls there collected 3,000 Shillings and Grace looked at Joel’s phone number she said, “You no my friend, Mr. Masharubu”? She told me that it means Mustache. When Joel answered I asked, “Is this Mr. Masharubu”? He stammered so I asked if he was Joel. He said “Yea” to both then asked where I was calling from. When I told him Midtown he said, “I think you must have met one of my friends there. I told him it was Grace and he said that he didn’t know a Grace?
Back to business, I only got 4 minutes for 3,000. He suggested that the only place in was the Chimala Guest House and told me to mention his name and ask for room #7.
Cat had discovered that they’d lost the BBC signal. Grace told us that it happened often, we think that it went south when the lights went out. Awe well, we’re both tired. It was lights out at 8:30 PM.
March 3, 2004
Makambako to Chimala
A pretty good nights sleep for both. Several wakeups but easy drifts back off. Breakfast was disappointing, the food was only okay at best and we learned that it wasn’t included but then at $7.00 for the room, what did we expect? They had no toast so we ate slightly greasy chapatti. There were 2 Tanzanian businessmen in our bungalow. They were curious about how we compared Africa to California. We told them that the people here have been extremely friendly and we hoped that when they visit CA they receive the same treatment. They both insisted that our ride, though long, would be easy today since it is all down hill to Chimala. We could only hope.
Grace came out smiling, as usual, and told us that she was leaving. She has worked 5 days straight, 24 hours a day and now has a day off. We took a picture with her and the cement monkey that is flipping the finger. She is so full of life. She is young and has only 1 living sister. Her Swahili name is Neema. She left and we went to pack. I could have kicked myself for not having her say, “You Must Be Crazy” in Swahili. Yea, we have it but there is so much background noise it’s hard to hear. And, she is so lively it would have been great.
It was chilly and blustery as we set off. I felt that we could get to the highway by continuing around on the dirt street. Just a short way and someone called out to us from the window of a house. It was Grace, we were so happy and she was too. She rushed out to say another goodbye and I got my wish for our Languages pages.
Must Be Crazy," Swahili
The guys were right, we literally sailed down almost all the way. We were in tall timber and again, the terrain and trees reminded us of Oregon. We arrived in Igawa, and had covered 80 kilometers by noon. Our original plan when we talked with William, was to stop 8 kilometers from here up a dirt road at a nice Guest House then go on to Chimala tomorrow. Though Cat is still Guff Guff weakened we decided to have lunch and jam on down the road.
The only food we found was rice and beans, again. We leaned the bikes out front and ducked into the dim, cool, fly filled room. It was getting hot outside and the cool felt good. We dealt with the flies, I had rice and beans, Cat stuck with rice. I had to walk across the street to find soft drinks. There was an interesting pecking order that surrounded the place. One guy hit another, hard, on the arm for some reason. The guy that got hit then shouted and threatened a woman and her kids. Lots of interaction but all with a sort of angry undertone? The lady that cooked and served took a little BS from her husband who just seemed to sit and complain. As soon as she was satisfied that we were she dropped the top of her dress, nursed her baby and watched to make sure we were eating and enjoying. (Enjoying may be too strong a word for our feeling about the food but the social interaction and her smile were enjoyable.)
The road continued to be more down than up but after about 30 Ks Cat began to fade. The problem was that we had no idea how much further we had to go? I had a broken spoke, we limped in to Chimala, sick lame and wounded. Joel had told us to watch for an Assemblies Missionary, cross the bridge then turn into the guesthouse. It didn’t come a minute too soon.
Nobody speaks English at Chimala Guest House. Cat struggled with them while I stood the guard. The place is minimal but then, so is the price. We took both rooms 7 and 8 that are across the hall from each other. We’ll work on and keep the bike in #8. Yes, they have no wine but they do have slightly cool Kilimanjaro beers. We sipped, Cat who at first swore she’d not bath in the chocolate brown water, was soon in the cool shower. It didn’t look so brown as it rained down and drained into the squatter toilet. Awe, and we want to never forget the odor.
I broke down my wheel and replaced not one but two spokes. Then we discovered that Cat, too, had lost one. It took 3 beers and an hour to get them both back together. I was a greasy mess and ready for the stinky shower.
Cat reconnoitered the roadway into the village for food then returned as I dressed with the news. Nothing looks good but they are cooking beef and chips here. We took seats at a table in the dirt courtyard amongst the locals and watched Mork and Mindy. A gal sat next to us in one of the 3 wheel hand pedal chairs that Genesis wants to get for handicapped people in Moshi. She side glanced at us but never tried to talk. I said something to her but she indicated that she couldn’t understand. We were surprised, we had felt sure that she would ask for food or money.
The moon cast it’s silvery light through the clouds, mosquitoes nibbled at our ankles as we washed the very chewy beef and cold fries down with another Kili.
By 8:15 we were under the mosquito net.
March 4, 2004
Chimala to Mbeya
50 Kilometers on Bike, 25 in Matatu
It was easy, after 10 hours, to get up and movin’. We had the bikes loaded and were pushing out the gate by 8:00 AM. Up, through Chimala and we stopped at a Service Station that had a Café sign. No food but the nice guy pointed back down the hill. We turned then asked another guy, he pointed out a place. It turned out to be a winner. A small, clean café with good food. We fueled up then headed back up the hill.
Cat had suffered another attack of the Guff Guff this morning and her breakfast didn’t set too well. The downhill has now become ups and downs. Around one sweeping corner we encountered a closed lane. They use tree branches as a caution warning of problems ahead in the road. The branches started before we rounded the corner and as we did we could see the problem. A truck and bus had suffered an almost head on collision. The truck had been coming toward us the bus going in our direction. They were both off the left side of the road. It had to have been major injury at least for the truck driver but the bus definitely had sustained fatalities. The driver’s side of the bus was ripped open and seats were dangling out the side. They say that bus travel is one of the greatest dangers in Tanzania. This is the second example we’ve witnessed.
Cat’s bike began to run funny. I noticed that the rear derailleur had broken loose from the frame. When I tried to tighten it the remaining threads stripped. My worst nightmare had just occurred. Our friend, Brad is sending something he calls a “Nutsert” to re-thread but it won’t be here for a couple of weeks.
You can continue to cycle but are limited to just the 3 front gears. With Cat in a weakened mode already it made climbing difficult and caused us to walk on hills that we would otherwise ride, easily. We limped into the next village and began a search for a bolt that will fit through the hole. An Auto Spares Shop looked like a good bet. My vision was a bolt with a head thin enough to clear the chain. They didn’t have any but a young guy, Oliver David, who spoke English, came to our rescue. I explained the problem and he translated to the guy in the shop. We tried all possibilities but none of the bolts he had were thin enough. The Oliver David told me that he had sent a friend to bring a man who could grind it down to fit.
The guy, Said, looked and listened then took a bolt that would pass through the hole in the frame and went back to his shop. Back, we tried to make the fit though he’s ground the bolt head down almost halfway it still wouldn’t clear the chain. He went back and ground off more. I tried to help him when he returned and burned my fingers on the hot bolt. He felt that he’d taken as much off as he could without weakening it too much. It still wouldn’t quite let the chain clear. I was about to give up when Said began searching for a washer. I had the one that the Fireman in Greenland had given us. Said place it on the axel between the gear cluster and the frame and voila, he’d made it work.
We had drawn a big group of bystanders, most of them boys. They crowded around then pushed and shoved jockeying for position as I took pictures. Oliver David and Said joined us for a soft drink while we ate rice and beans. I could only shake Said’s hand and thank him. We were impressed with Oliver David’s abilities to reason and his command of the English language. We urged him to get back to school, learn about computers and position himself for a job with real earning power. We gave him our mailing address and told him that he could stay in our home when he gets rich and comes to California. What a nice young guy, he looked me in the eye and said, “I will try, I want to visit you”.
Another Rubber Off the Road Adventure
The road was now on the upside. We began to crawl up then walk. Again, we were walking hills that normally would be easy rides. Cat was feeling nauseous and overheated. At one point we found shade under a huge tree and she poured water on her head. Off again, up one of the biggest hills and longest walks of the day. At the summit she looked me in the eye and I could tell, she couldn’t go further. We took a seat inside a grass-roofed bus stop. She drank water and we talked. It was still 25 kilometers to Mbeya and she needed rest. So I began trying to flag down a ride. We were across the road from a pumping station. We thought it was water but because of the Security Guards and sign prohibiting photography we decided it must be oil? The Guards were helpful, they tried to stop an empty truck but he raised his hands in a gesture of “sorry” and drove on.
They got a Mini Bus to pull up but we felt it was already overloaded. The driver and conductor were adamant that they could squeeze us in. (Some people call these buses “One Mores” because they can always take one more person.)
Cat objected but I could see us sitting here for the rest of the afternoon. I started stripping the bags off and they loaded them into the rear door with the doors, bags of grain and other packages. Amazing how much they can jam both people and things in.
The Conductor started to pull the woman seated in the front out and give the best seats to us. I insisted that she stay and jus let Cat sit next to her. We both had hands full of plastic bags with our shoes and water bottles in them and our handlebar bags with cameras. I crushed in next to two women and clung to the edge of the tiny seat. The ride seemed like 250 rather than 25. The gal next to me began talking, she told me she was a teacher of Agriculture.
The next big challenge was the Mbeya Bus Station. As we pulled in, the sellers of things and guys who said they were guides surged around us. We were stranded, bikes and bags on the ground. A guy that I thought was the driver came to me and said, “Give me 1000 Shilling”. I did and he disappeared. Then came the Conductor who said, “You must pay 20,000 T Shillings”. I told him that I’d already paid the driver but he pointed to another guy and said, “He is the driver”. I told them that the guy I paid was wearing a Sadaam Hussein shirt. They sent a search party out and drug him back. He reluctantly handed the 1000 back. Then came the shouting match with the Driver and Conductor. When they finally agreed to 10,000 ($10) I conceded. Cat was pretty upset but too weak to fight with them.
We paid then got the bags on the bikes and pushed to a telephone stand. I tried to call Joel but his phone wasn’t in the area. A guy with a Duke University t-shirt muscled in and tried to listen when I made the call. I turned my back and told him it was private. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and as we decided to walk to Hotel Mbeya Peak he shadowed us. Cat finally turned to him and made it clear that we didn’t need ham and wouldn’t pay him. That did it, he spun around and headed back to the shark tank they call a Bus Station.
Peak meant top of the hill. We had to stop and ask several times but finally found what the Lonely Planet called “The Best Hotel in Town”. They had us put the bikes in an area off the kitchen that they considered safe. They also helped us carry the bags up. The room is like a suite but it looks like a Sovietski Hotel like we stayed in, in Russia. Later I read that the Government was patterned after that of Mainland China. Yes, it looked like those Chinese places I’d visited in 1989.
We just settled in and rested. Then dinner in the Hotel Diner. Another disappointment but they did have cold white wine. Cat needed rest, we were back in the room and in bed by 8:30 PM.
March 5, 2004
R and R in Mbeya
Early breakfast, good breakfast. They delivered a fruit plate with a generous slice of Avocado on it. Eggs were perfectly cooked and we smothered them with the Avocado. The only disappointment was when the waiter delivered the check. Eggs etc. are extra, not included. We started to complain that he should have told us but got over it when we realized that we were only talking about $1.50 each. A better deal than any Blue Plate Special!
Internet, Cat got a hair cut. Lunch at a local place. The owner, Kareem, a friend of Cat’s hairdresser, took us under his wing. He was slurring a little, had been in the hospital for a check to see if he had Malaria. We thought he might be prescribing his own medication?
Speaking of medication, Joel has suggested Aga Khan Clinic and I thought I’d get a blood test but I feel okay. Oh, a slight headache but it can’t be Typhoid Fever, can it? As to the rest of the health report, I have been becoming regular and Cat is now doing the Guff Guff thing.
We’d connected with Joel, or Mr. Masharubu, and he came to pick us up at 1:30 PM. He has a driver, Khalid, who took us to his house. We played a little of Acadiana’s music while he ate his lunch. What an interesting guy. Started life in the Missouri Ozarks and has lived most of his adult life in Africa. He was married to an African woman and has two daughters, both in their late 20s. He had to rush to get to the bank, we tagged along. The Bank Manager confirmed that there was no way to get cash on ATM or Visa Card here in Mbeya.
Most interesting to me, he knows almost every R&B, rock and blues song ever written. He plays harmonica, guitar and saxophone. How lucky to be from a musical family! His Sister who lives in LA has written songs that were nominated for Grammies. Oh, he doesn’t talk with her but Cat is sure that once we get home he’ll visit and she will play matchmaker.
Khalid and Joel dropped us off at 4:00 PM. I did picture choices for the journal and got most of them done before he returned at 6:00. We went back to his place, listened to his music and drank a glass of wine. We drank, he doesn’t!
Dinner at Mbeya Hotel Restaurant. It isn’t a Hotel, yet but will be, again, one of these days. They had a band playing pretty bad music. Khalid and Aisha, his girl friend, joined us. We ate and had more wine, they drank and tried to talk. Cat danced with Khalid and Joel danced with Aisha. I wanted to dance but Cat hated the boring beat. I finally did a spin with Aisha. It was like cultural confusion. She didn’t like to touch hands or spin? We struggled for far too long during a far to long song.
It as after 11:00 by the time we said our goodbyes. Sleep came easily.
March 6, 2004
Mbeya to Stockholm Hotel
Late night, slept in a little. Breakfast at 8:00 AM. The BBC news was on but terrible reception in our room. Yesterday breakfast was served in the bar. We went down expecting to see the news as we ate. Wrong, they have moved the dining room back to the room where they were doing the Engagement Party. Disappointed, we went into the bar and sure enough, NEWS. Breakfast at the bar, sure, why not?
Fruit plate with avocado that we used with the eggs, again. As we ate three guys and two teenaged boys drifted in. One stood behind me and said, “What are you doing OLD MAN”?
I spun around and said, “What are you doing OLD BOY”? (I almost said, “Fat Boy” but thought better of it and the war it might have started.) It took him by surprise so he introduced us to his twin sons then had three shots of booze in plastic tubes, mixed with Coke. Wow, what a way to start the day! The other two guys drank beers the boys had soft drinks.
Oh, the NEWS, well the Iraqi Governing Council held a ceremony for the signing of the NEW Constitution but nobody came? The Shiites objected to the draft they had approved two days ago. They now want Islamic Law? Oh George what have you gotten us into? Hopefully they’ll work it out without too much more death and destruction? AND, Martha Stewart was convicted of Obstruction of Justice and False Statements. She could be sentenced to 20 years. What do you bet she’ll get off with months of hard time, if any? Poor girl, risked Billions on a $40,000 deal.
We’ve decided to make the move to The Stockholm Hotel. We were pretty much packed before breakfast so it was carry the bags, load the bikes and pedal. I limped along on the broken spoke as we rolled down past the bustling bus stop. The guy in the DUKE shirt came running to us hoping to convince us he should have a little of our money. I said, “Mr. Duke, what do you want”? He backed up as I took a picture of the bus station then said, “You must pay for taking her photo”. A woman across the street came running, I said, “You’re going to pay me for taking your picture”? Duke spoke enough English to work around the dilemma, I shook the woman’s hand she smiled and we rolled on. In moments we were pushing up, out of Mbeya. It was farther than we thought to The Stockholm but traffic was fairly light.
By 11:00 we finally pulled into The Stockholm. The Desk Clerk, Robert, came rushing out and said, “Masharubu told us you would come”! Cat did the check in duties, I changed out the TWO broken spokes and oiled up my machine. We stashed the bikes under the stairs and hit the showers. Robert had let me use his cell phone to ring once and signal Joel. He called right back and will join us at 1:30.
We were starving and had just decided to go down for lunch when he knocked on our door. They have a garden with little hut seating for groups; We took one, Joel played some blues and oldies while we waited then we ate and laughed and talked. After lunch we went up and put today’s pictures in the computer. Of course he didn’t like his performance on the video, typical artist. He said, “I’ve gotta start practicing again, everyday”!
We looked at some of our pictures and videos. The afternoon flew past between stories and music. Mr. Masharubu, Joel, had to go. We walked him to his car, got a hug and did the “Until we meet again” thing then he drove away. He has two daughters in Oakland and a Sister in Los Angeles so we feel sure that our paths will cross, again. He’s played music with several bands and loves music as much as we do. Yep, we’ll see Mr. Masharubu again!
Dinner, roast chicken and chips. Several people came in and the waiter asked where they were from. Our ears perked up, “Malawi”. They are helping a gal ferry 3 cars
from Dar es Salaam. She is from Germany and importing cars, hopefully for profit.
There was a Tanzanian Army General and his driver who arrived this afternoon as Joel brought us in. He was there, at dinner dressed in a Hawaiian shirt. We talked and got info from the Malawians, he just sat and listened. We thought he might not speak English. The Malawians told us that they were amazed at how few Tanzanians spoke English. Cat told them that we’d always been able to get by. They told us that we’d love Malawi because 90 % there are English speaking.
Sunday, March 7, 2004
Typhoid or Not Typhoid, That Is The Question!
I awoke at 3:00 AM. My right foot was numb? I began to worry about leaving here and being in the countryside for the next 5 days. Why hadn’t I gone to the clinic and taken the blood test yesterday? I have had a dull headache and ringing in my ears but rationalized that it was probably a sinus thing. You know, we are at about 6,000 feet that could be the problem?
I couldn’t sleep and somewhere between 4:00 and 5:00 decided that I should get the test done before we start riding. We both slept soundly until 7:00. Cat was ready and anxious to roll. I suggested that we could get into town, have the test then load up and go. She peaked out the window and gave the weather report, RAIN.
We went down to breakfast and I did the call, ring once and wait for call back from Joel. He called the Aga Khan Health Center then called back and said that they were open, come right in. We finished breakfast, had our coffee in the bar and caught half of the BBC half hour of news. The General and Driver were dressed in camouflage fatigues. Cat asked if they were working here? The General said, “No, we are just visiting. He does speak very good English and told us that he’d heard us talking about Zanzibar last night. He’s from Zanzibar and seems proud to be.
As we searched for Robert, the Desk Clerk, to ask how to catch a Dalla Dalla or taxi into town the General and his Driver walked past. As they strode toward their Land Rover Cat said, “Let’s ask them for a ride”. She caught them as they were3 climbing in, The General looked a little nervous then said, “Yes, sure, come get in”. We were totally unprepared even to the point that only I had a wallet and it only had 25,000 T Shilling inside. Hey, a ride is a ride, we jumped into the back seat.
The General said his name is Nassor? The Driver is Mr. Nikiti? We think? He drives fast and everyone seems to know that they have to get out of the way. As we neared town they took the turn along the road near Joel’s house then stopped at the bottom of the hill and asked us to get out there? They continued up the street toward the center of Mbeya and Aga Khan? We walked.
Aga Khan was shuttered and barred? We rattled the door then asked a guy who sort of said that they open at 3:00 PM. Geez, we began to wonder if there are 2 Aga Khan Clinics? Back to the phone place where we had called Joel yesterday. I did the same ring once then hung up in the hope for call back. He called, we met at the place where we lunched yesterday. I was carrying the left over bananas and wondered why. What if I put them in my pocket and forget. Remember the way I smashed them when I fell outside Arusha? I was about to throw them away when a street urchin came up. I held them out to him. His eyes locked onto mine, he grabbed them, took two steps back still locked on my eyes, then spun and bolted up the street. No Asante, no thank you, but I was happy anyway.
Joel pulled up while Cat was inside buying bottled water. We piled in and he drove to the door, the open door, of the same Aga Khan Clinic that we’d just left? I told him about the guy telling us they open at 3:00. He reminded us that 9:00 AM is 3:00 in Swahili time, remember, the day starts at sun up so 6:00 AM is 0:00, 7:00 is one and so, 9:00 Am is 3:00. (Does that make sense?)
We thanked him and apologized. As we started saying goodbye he said, “Call me when your finished and I’ll drive you back”. We objected not wanting to take him out of his way then he asked, “Did you bring the CD with you”? Of course we hadn’t so he rationalized that he had to drive out for it, anyway.
After a short wait the Lab Technician came in, laughed and joked then told us to take a seat, as he had to use the toilet. I sat and told Cat that I hoped he’d wash his hands before he started to work on me. He motioned me to follow, washed his hands in the lab and broke open a fresh needle. In moments he had a sample and told us to come back in 45 minutes for the results. (The test cost 1,500 Shillings, $1.50)
The telephone place just 2 doors down the street is also an Internet Café. We took a machine and began to cull out the good messages from the junk. Nothing serious but several from Base Camp Charlie. I left Cat at the keyboard and walked back to get the news. Joel was there, looking for us. He and I got the good news, results negative, I don’t have typhoid. We drug Cat away from the computer and headed for Joel’s place.
A group was gathered at a corner. A big guy had a younger, smaller one by the shirtfront and was threatening him. Joel suggested that he might have been caught stealing. I told him that we had seen and heard of vigilante justice and wondered about its value. What if the guy was falsely or mistakenly accusing? What if the guy hated the kid and was out to get him and made an accusation? The bad possibilities are endless and though justice is swift, it makes our ponderously slow Judicial System look pretty good.
Joel had to use the facility and listen to his favorite radio show. He says that’s the beauty of radio, you can do 2 things at once. We sat and enjoyed a collection of Cajun and Zydeco songs. He has some of the art that his daughters have created on his walls. Yes, two daughters both in there 20s, both still studying, both living in Oakland, California! Like most things, Joel sort of plays down their accomplishments but it’s obvious that he’s a proud Papa!
We went on a failed quest for wine then he drove us back to The Stockholm. He had lunch I drank a Bitter Lemon and ate a plate of French fries. We talked life and more music stories. Another goodbye with promises to see each other again and he drove away. The afternoon air is cool and gusting. Happy that I’m not going to have to take the heavy dose of antibiotics, we were sad at the same time that we weren’t on the other side of the cloud enshrouded mountain. Ah well, tomorrow’s another day.
The afternoon was all Journal for me. Cat took a walk to the crossroads. Lots of “Hey Sista” and “Mzungu” calls but nobody came close or tried to physically harass her. Though she was questing for bleach or a brush to clean our water bottles she returned just short of empty handed. She did find a package of cookies. When she found them and picked them up she was inundated with guys trying to get her to buy from them.
There is no bottled wine and the clerk who promised to get us a bottle ended up with a box. At swears that it is the same, I took her word for it and we had a glass in the room while she watched TV and I typed.
Dinner, beefsteak for Cat and pork cutlet for me. We dined alone tonight. James, our waiter, is a treasure. Funny, the Hotel business seems to be either feast or famine. We did the lonely feast tonight. No other guests?
I had taken a picture of Robert earlier. When he brought the consolidated bill up to the room, for Cat, I showed him some of the photos and video on our computer. A risk, yes but he is a really nice young guy. He was almost shocked to see Neema (Grace) in the pictures and really loved the video of her doing “You Must Be Crazy”. They worked together and he claims that he trained her for Hospitality work.
A little more journalizing then Walker, Texas Ranger on TV. Cat snoozed off, I was hooked. The good guys won and it was lights out at 11:00 PM. Tomorrow is another workday for us!
March 8, 2004
Mbeya/Uyole to Tukuyu
Awake at 6:00 AM we turned over and drowsed until 7:00 then got moving. The wind is blowing and the sky’s full of clouds but, no rain. Breakfast at 8:00 and BBC News. General Nassor, yes he’s a Brigadier General, was having his breakfast and allowed us a photo. Though he acts Military stiff he has a soft side that sort of shines through. We had the bags down and were loaded and on the road by 9:00.
It’s all up this morning. Down to the turnoff then gently up at first. Soon we had to shift into second then eventually low gear and crank upward. The carts, those heavy looking wooden things with car wheels were flying down as we did the Pole, Pole. They are great to watch. Cat thinks it would be fun to bring one down the hill, once. The guy up front hangs on the tongue and sort of flees, touching the ground about every ten feet. If he gets into trouble his only braking system is to rare back and let the tail of the wagon drag. They have a tire attached as a skid brake. I think it looks like a dangerous way to make a living.
The scenery is spectacular, mountains blanketed with farm fields of greens and gold. We came from about 1800 meters (5,940 feet) and will top out at about 2100 (7,000 feet). The flora is a constantly changing scene. From open fields to stands of pine and eucalyptus forests.
We stopped at a store and Charles, a fellow who works with the World Bank, chatted with us. He did tell us that we only had one small pull then it would be all down hill to Tukuyu. He was right, we topped out and then swooped down. In fact the grade was so steep that our hands and wrists tired from clasping the brake handles. Charles told us to eat lunch in Kiwira, they have a good Hotel with restaurant. We flew through so fast that we failed to see the place. Oh well, with the time we’re making we’ll be in Tukuyu shortly.
WRONG! The road began to undulate with small ups at first then each seemed to gain. Long slow pulls became long slow pushes. It was 3:00 PM when we finally found the outskirts of town. More ups through Tukuyu. I hit my mirror and it went flying off, then rolled across the street. I stopped and looked for a place to lean the bike when a young girl picked it up, looked both ways then ran across and handed it to me. I shook her hand, she laughed and ran back to her group of friends. I started to pedal when I saw a guy coaching her to ask for money. I rode across and pulled up. She acted almost afraid. When I pulled out my wallet her eyes bulged. When I handed her our card she look disappointed and her friends laughed. I tried to explain that the card could be worth much more than money. If she will use a computer to contact us I would help her with school, maybe even travel to the US? I hope she understood. An older man was sort of translating for her.
Robert at Stockholm has recommended The Landmark Hotel. He was right, it is as nice as his place. The price is 25,000 but their wine is only 8,000. We come put ahead. The staff helped us get the bikes up two flights and to the room. We will not have to de-bag tonight.
First things first, we’re starving. The restaurant was open and ready to serve. We had a couple of language problems but soon had good food on our table. It was 4:00 before we finished our late lunch.
Hot showers then Cat checked out the Internet place across the street. They are open from 8:00 AM until 9:00 PM. We will have a glass of wine, dinner then check messages.
Journal, music TV then dinner. Chef William came through with some great soup and the Macaroni and Cheese he had promised us when we talked at lunch. We were too late and too tired to do check e-mails. A good day cycling and a good day of food. Life is good.
March 9, 2004
Tukuyu to The Malawi Border
Chef William came through with a very good breakfast. BBC news about a US Airplane that has been confiscated by the Zimbabwe Government? Our Government denies any part in what appears to be a mercenary incursion, the plane was full of military hardware and 64 soldier type people? We must keep and eye on this one!
We were loaded and I was pushing and struggling down the 2 sets of stairs and out the door by 9:00 AM. We did have a small trauma, we discovered that we’d taken the key from the Stockholm Hotel. The clerk here wanted 1000 T Shillings per minute for us to call them. We wanted to let them know but not 8 or 10 Dollars worth. He finally told us to just leave it and he’d get it back to them, somehow. We put it in an envelope with a note of apology to Robert.
It was a swoop down then a strong uphill pull out of Tukuyu. Then, as promised, a downhill to end all downhills. Some so steep that our hands ached from holding the brake handles. This may be the most beautiful mountain farming area we’ve seen. Rolling to steep hillsides covered with tea, bananas, corn and stands or pine and eucalyptus trees. Let the pictures speak for themselves. Cat commented that a lot of people in the States and Europe would probably love to live here if they had all the modern conveniences.
The terrain helped us cover the 50 kilometers in fast time. The town, Kelya, is off to the left and the border is straight ahead. We met a girl, Inbar, from Israel who is hitchhiking. She has had no problems and loves Africa. I told her about how we are often questioned about Iraq and George Bush. She said, “Oh yea, they always say, Sharon, Sharon, Sharon, but they don’t seem to blame me for his policies. So, we suppose that it’s that same thing we’ve lived with since starting south through Europe. We don’t like your government but we don’t blame individuals.
Our decision to stop for a soft drink paid off in a dry spot under the awning of a Service Station. We got our sodas and watched the drops turn to a downpour. We could see Inbar, sitting in the rain then lost her as it thickened. When it abated she was gone, on to another African adventure and out of an African wall of water.
The border is similar to most. There are guys running along with us or cycling next to us, all with only one thing on their minds, changing money. We cycled the gauntlet and escaped without insult or injury. Each of them shouted, “Change Money”? We shouted back, “No, no, no”! As we turned into the Immigration Office area one of them shouted, “Thanks for nothing”. I yelled back, “You’re welcome for nothing”.
It was the typical filling out of familiar forms, exit stamps in our Passport and we were off to Malawi. The road was wet and muddy. As we neared the gate we were forced to ride up on the pedestrian walk to avoid a huge puddle of unknown depth. The Tanzanian Soldier swung the gate back and after 50 days our Tanzanian adventure was history.
Looking Back and Looking Forward
This may be the longest journal entry we’ve submitted, in terms of time and number of pages. Our normal effort is to post stories every 30 days. This chapter runs 47 days. We took the time to climb and since this is a Bicycle Adventure we chose to cycle some then submit. It has been exciting, tiring and as always a journey into the unknown each day. If you’re keeping track we rode 1463 kilometers or 907 miles in this episode. That brings our total traveled to 20,925 kilometers or 12,967 miles. WE’RE GETTING THERE.
We’d never even heard of Malawi until we were forced, by the early rainy season, to avoid the coastal route. We’ll miss the ocean but then Lake Malawi is 900 kilometers, 540 miles long and ranges from 80 to 150 kilometers, 50 to 100 miles wide. It should be a sight to behold.
Though the people of Tanzania are very poor compared to the standard of living that we in the US and Europe enjoy, they seem well fed, housed and happy. They are dependant on assistance and we hope, for their sakes, that they learn to grow more diverse crops. Don’t give them handouts, “Teach em’ how to FISH”!
Stay Tuned, There’s Lots More to Come!