And so brings Tanzania, welcoming me into East Africa with considerable changes from South and Central Africa right off the hop. Yet another language to learn (Swahili) and another set of cultures to understand in this friendly and peaceful country to the north of Malawi.
I left Malawi on the highest note possible, spending some time in solitude at The Mushroom Farm Lodge situated way up in the mountains with one of the most scenic views I’ve encountered in my life with the owner, Mickie learning how he came to be in Malawi, how he found the location (he rode an Indian 1 speed bicycle up the treacherous Gorode) and his life as a lodge owner 11 years later. He’s at the end of his time in Malawi, wanting to move onto other things, and showed with pride all of his work from the first campsite to the chalets built from cob and their small touches. It’s well off the beaten track and attracts a different set of clientele as opposed to the ones wanting to sit at the beach all day long – more so the wilderness, hiker types who wish to explore the woods and its secrets such as a huge waterfall less than 500 metres away. i sat and wondered if I could put myself in that situation living in isolation greeting new tourists on a daily basis using the time spent to build new projects, come up with new ideas and take a rest.
It’s becoming apparent I am getting burned out from travelling. Since I started this trek a few years back I’ve been keeping meticulous notes on not only the distance, and costs spent that you see in the statistics pages, but also other metrics such as my physical and mental health. I struggle on a daily basis to get even 50km in even after lengthy (1-2 or more days) rest stops. It’s likely a combination of things – food has been scarce as of late from Mozambique into Malawi and now into Tanzania, and the same old diet of Peanut Butter Sandwiches and Jam for snacks, Bananas from the side of the road, Spaghetti or rice with Soya Pieces is starting to wear thin causing a massive reduction in my weight and daily energy levels. I’m congested each morning when I wake up often coughing out considerable amounts of phlegm and becoming a bit short on breath (OK, I started smoking again, goddammit and trying unsuccessfully to shake once again this monkey off my back). Muscles are aching regularly as I struggle up hills – I’m riding blind now as my maps for my computer and GPS no longer tell me the elevation of the areas that I am travelling to, and after 3 days of climbing in Tanzania from 400 metres to a high of 2306 metres – the highest I’ve ever been anywhere in the world have my physical state and mental state starting to show the wear. Worse, my left testicle has been acting up since Malawi, often nagging me at about the 30km mark each day and giving a slight amount of pain for the remainder of the day. Making adjustments to my saddle to tilt it down, and align it to center of the top tube have helped only slightly, and after repeat dosages of Ibuprofen 3 times a day based on advice from my new doctor friends it still isn’t helping. I’m becoming tiresome of the daily conversations that offer no substance other than curiosity from the passer-by’s, and certainly starting to tire of the constant screams and yells of “Mzungu!” and “Give me your money!” from the children, often replying back with a short ‘You get nothing!” and a “You should know better” from the adolescents and adults who try the same trick. When the beggars approach I now respond quickly to them that “I was just about to ask you the same thing if you could give me your phone” or whatever they are asking for and quickly turn on the people who approach saying hello quickly launching into “You know the suffering…” with a “What about the suffering?” often closing the conversation immediately and shoo’ing them away. It’s not what I like to do but tolerance is starting to wear thin at this time and I’m grasping at thin air trying to go at it with a different mindset. I try to look back at previous years where I have struggled from situations but realize this is like nothing else I have experienced and need to come up with alternatives before I become cold and bitter while travelling – I think the mental state is more important than the physical state, if only a small bit ahead – What I really need is to find some momentum again.
Tanzania so far has offered some breathtaking views of valleys with often searing hot temperatures starting at 1pm (I’ve also advanced one hour ahead in time zones) and absolutely freezing temperatures at night in the Southern Highlands. I know it is soon to change as I head north into desert like conditions where once again I need to be fully aware of my surroundings due to the worlds most largest concentration of wild and dangerous animals such as lions, leopards, cheetahs, elephants, and rhinoceros. I’m looking forward to the challenge of finding a safe place to stay each night and need to make sure that I carry enough food and water for days away from civilization – the next leg of my tour is 1100km before approaching northern Tanzania and the large city of Arusha close to Mount Kilimanjaro, in between there are villages of course but any sort of amenities other than rice, maize meal, and roadside fruit will be sparse for the majority of the time save for the capital city of Dodoma and perhaps the town of Iringa. Hard to tell what comes next as the locals aren’t able to give me any advice due to language barriers, and a misunderstanding of how the roads actually are – ‘Flat all the way’ doesn’t actually mean flat, as each time I’ve heard this comment stretching all the way back from Zimbabwe it has involved considerable hills and climbs. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the hills, its just I could do without them and have done my best in the past to avoid climbs that didn’t quite make sense where one wakes up on the side of a mountain and goes to sleep on the side of a mountain.
Glad I got that out – I believe in releasing the pent up frustrations and then moving forward to the future as opposed to carrying around a dark cloud for long periods of time. I rest now in Mbeya splurging for a private room at the Morovian Youth Hostel, a reasonably cheap ($6.50) room with two beds, shared bathroom facilities used for supporting a large church and its other projects. Mbeya is nestled in a valley at 1700 metres, and other than the climb out back up to 2000 metres as I head east it should be reasonable riding as it follows the passenger rail tracks that heads east to Dar Es Salaam on the coast of the Indian Ocean. Even knowing that I travelled 15km downhill to get here is starting to cause some anxiety for my departure in a day or two, but will take it slow early in the morning and try to steer clear of the massive amounts of traffic that are in the vicinity. Gas is no longer in short supply in Tanzania and many people ride motorcycles and huge busses cart people back and forth over the Southern Highlands which I have just crossed for reasonably cheap prices – Water exists, but in small amounts and I’ve taken to getting my supply from waterfalls and streams knowing this can be a game of Russian roulette picking up pathogens and other bacteria along the way – I’ve been writing an article on Water diseases but still have yet to finish it due to not wanting to sit in front of a computer at the end of the day and write, and have since opted to just read for 15 minutes before settling off to deep sleep before waking up for the 3 regular relief breaks as I pelvic thrust outside my tent trying to keep most of my body still wrapped in a sleeping bag.
This is the first country where I’ve seen women at the drinking establishments, often making a big fuss when I arrive in an area to shop at a market and offering a seat next to them to share their drink (Is it Chibuku or something else?) with me, although I’ve abstained not wanting to put myself into any of these situations as I get to learn Tanzania and its culture a bit more. A strong middle eastern vibe is present so far – You can hear it from the music being blasted as one passes the markets, barber shops (there must be 10 of these to one food store), and drinking establishments). Still yet to sample the prominent beers here like Tusker or Kilimanjaro – one day when I’m back on track. The small grocery store I did find in Mbeya offered a different variety of food stuffs that I haven’t seen before, many rows of different spices, pastries and goop – thankfully Tanzanian’s seem to like their pasta, as I’ve now found different types of noodles as opposed to Spaghetti for the first time since South African Supermarkets. I’m going to do my best to get more carbohydrates in me and up my water intake to double the amount (perhaps drinking 3.5 litres a day at present) to see if I can shake whatever is circulating in my system. I know for sure I’ve become infected with Schistosomiasis – a disease that is present in fresh water contaminated with snails that enter through orifices (yup, even that little teeny one) and start to lay eggs inside your body resulting in rashes (which I’ve got all over), itchy skin (yup – that too), fever (perhaps?), diarrhoea (ugh), cough (definitely), and muscle aches (do I ever). I can’t do anything about it however for another 4 weeks as I have to let the eggs grow larger before taking tablets to kill the disease otherwise I risk not eradicating them from my body. This is from swimming in Lake Malawi, and anyone who swims in Lake Malawi becomes infected. There’s likely other things going on in my body and I’ll hit it all with a strong cocktail of drugs when I’m able to be in a place where I have a week to unravel and tie myself back up again. I’d just like to spend half a day sitting on a toilet with a large dose of plants and tinctures in my body aimed at purging everything in its entirety, however this luxury has yet to be afforded as the squatting into a hole doesn’t provide much comfort and the ghastly smells aren’t welcoming in the slightest – no matter how hard I try I still can’t seem to nail the aim part similar to sending a pinball through a secret ramp where it gives bounces around on the bumpers repeatedly sending your score skyrocketing. Cleanup is rather foul.
Sadly I’ve lost internet access on my telephone again, it seems the local provider works on and off using my old Malawi sim card, and I’m leery to spend the $10 for a new Tanzanian SIM w/1GB data plan if it is going to be this erratic in the future – I quite enjoyed being a bit more present with emails, sending out short bursts of news via Twitter and Facebook and importantly having some sort of dialogue open between friends and family from a far. The deeper I go into this fascinating country has shown that I’m in need of a few creature comforts like this to offset some of the madness. Let’s see how I make out in the near future with my attempt to realign my thoughts and ideas and try not to get sucked into the “stay in a rest house every day” which is causing a pretty large hit on my finances, but at this time I feel its necessary to avoid an all out breakdown. I suppose I could always go back to Canada, find a job in computers sitting at a desk everyday and be miserable – so really I should quit my whining and just take it as it is day by day with a smile, forced or not plastered onto my face. Going to spend this next day reading, writing, and *gasp* watching a few movies that I’ve collected on the way. Down periods were expected and I’m currently in one those phases – I’ve risen above similar in the past and just need to get a shred of confidence to start the re-asecent. Send some support in the comments if you can – they boost the spirits tremendously.