Finding myself smack dab in the middle of the country of Tanzania taking a bit of a break before dealing with the final 450km to Arusha, Tanzania before a moderately long rest stop – some interesting developments have come up and I’m looking forward to a bit of change, not only to let my body get the rest it needs, but a different way of looking at things and preparing for what’s to come in the countries ahead. Going to try not to make this post a bitch fest like the last one and speak in brief as to where I ended up over the past 11 days. Still struggling – not giving Tanzania and its people the best effort I possibly could, but instead living in my own world and head, more so focusing on getting through the rough patch.
Remember how I thought Mbeya –> Iringa was going to be flat? Not so much, a steady climb on the first day up as I tried to share the road with the many 18 wheeler trucks wanting to get to their destination. It’s an awfully narrow road with and the wind was in my face for what seems like the entire trip to Iringa. On the first day I witnessed one of the minibuses carting people to and from cities whiz past me, and then blam – a poof of dust blocked out vision for a few seconds finally dissipating to show the minibus flipped over in the grass about 40 metres from the roadside! There were 24 people inside the bus which could hold 16 people, and an awful lot of hurt passengers – in fact only women in pretty dresses, some carrying babies. Blood everywhere, and there wasn’t much that I could do other than put on a pair of latex gloves and visit each of the people to see if they were OK, who were still all in shock. A healthy crowd appeared from the other drivers on the road and it was time to move forward. Throughout the trip to Iringa which took 5 days I had the opportunity to stealth-camp in some pretty fantastic spots, even though I’ll say stealth lightly, as 50% of the time I noticed someone in the distance staring at me, to which I stopped caring about being covert and just raised my hand in the air and waved acting like I belonged. No one ever told me to get off the property and I was left alone for all of those nights as I shivered in high elevations with the temperature dropping from the days highs of 25degrees all the way down to 5! Summer sleeping bag just isn’t working out for those conditions, but all has shifted again as the lows are now no less than 15 as I head closer to the equator.
The road to Iringa was fairly white knuckled the entire way often getting honked at from truck drivers to alert me they were coming up alongside me – It’s a pretty annoying sound to break the concentration especially since I decided that for the next little bit I wouldn’t be responding to anyone who yells at me, says hi, waves, or runs after me like I usually do – Instead I’ve been trying to play the music real loud and just ignore it and only speak to people when I have to, like finding groceries (there are shops, but really not much variety – peanut butter is getting me through most of the days although I can’t stand the stuff) and finding water – Out of the 40 some odd million people in Tanzania there is a startling statistic that I read, only 23% percent of urban population has access to clean water, and the remote areas even less! That was proven to me when I went into towns asking for a “tap” or a water pump to which they would point to the bottles of purified water for sale – something that I refuse to get myself into unless its a life or death situation. The boreholes of Southern and Central Africa just don’t exist here and when I do find water it is usually from someone throwing a bucket into a ground and pulling out brown sediment filled sludge that they seem to be ingesting and using for bathing. It’s become incredibly frustrating however when I try to ask the locals for water and they say there is nothing left, only offering a small cup full of water for my bottles – I suppose if I could speak the local language Swahili I could explain to them I don’t really care if the water is bad, I’ll take my chances by filtering it, boiling it and dropping chemicals into it yet I’m at a loss to explain myself any further.
One of the more scenic parts of the ride was climbing into the Sao Hills, where tall trees lined both sides of the road protecting from the suns rays and from the heavy (25km/h steady) winds I’ve been dealing with since leaving Mbeya. Forestry seems to be an important economy in this area and I can only hope there are some sustainable practices being undertaken so that it can continue. Unfortunately I can’t speak of much more about it or some of the other things I’ve seen as I travel through on my forced ‘silence’ ride.
Iringa was an interesting town where I spent 3 days mostly relaxing in a small guesthouse for $7 a night. Pricey, but I needed to have some alone time and as a bonus used it to clean some of my components and go through a major dosage of antibiotics to help cleanse whatever is going on in my body. I’m done the cycle now and still on the fence if it made a difference, but pain in the testicle seems to be dissipating although at the same time I’ve also started ingesting double the dosage of Ibuprofen for the days rides. I was worried about the hill going into Iringa, but after running into another cyclist – Robert from the UK on his way from Dar Es’ Salaam to Walvis Bay Namibia, eased my fears and let me know that I could do it in 15 minutes, and that I did thanks to a nice pedestrian path and just taking it slow. Iringa is a college town and younger people seemed to be everywhere, which helped for the eyes when I was ready for the rest. It wasn’t until I left Iringa and started descending that I was in for a world of pain – Dirt road appeared 20km into the trek to Dodoma and lasted the entire way, with what seems like another 275km as I head over to Arusha. So much for the recovery, I’m back to dealing with jolts and bumps from highly corrugated road, however it seems that there is a massive highway building effort underway and I was able to take a few shortcuts and ride the mostly flat and graded roads without issue – again waving at the construction workers and their Chinese Supervisors like I belonged – it was only once that I was told to get on the other road, this time by a local who appeared to be a bushman from some sort of tribe. Interesting folk, as they walked around with Spears, robes, and all had stretched ear lobes bringing along with them a healthy stench of body odour. It was good to see people everywhere, as well as cattle and goat laying my fears to rest that there would be no lions visiting me at night and potentially snacking on a mzungu.
I arrived in Dodoma and immediately started hunting for a guesthouse for a few days to rest and prepare for the final trek north, this time loading up all of my water bottles and carriers, and planning on leaving with a fully packed pannier of food to change the variety. I’m also going to be carrying a few more pounds as I need to finish off the Clothing for Children delivery somewhere in between Dodoma and Arusha, as I’m about 6 months late in getting the photos of the whole series up – it happens. Dodoma is the capital city and has a healthy amount of shops, restaurants and a positive vibe to it. In June the Parliament is in session so I’m lucky enough to see the roads blocked off by police, flashy cars driving places and extended business hours for most shops it seems – Nestled in between some mountains at first I couldn’t believe that Tanzania would choose to make this its capital city with only dirt roads leading to it, until I came over the bend and saw the sprawling city as it is – for the record there’s a tar road heading directly east to Dar Es’ Salaam (700km?) and from what I understand road construction is underway to the North.
I’m going to try to make a go at getting into Arusha for next Tuesday to go and see a few friends before they leave the country after they have scaled Mount Kilimanjaro, a short distance away from the city, and then looking forward to tearing down the bicycle into small pieces and giving every component a good cleaning and relubrication. I’ve ordered a few parts from Canada and USA and have even arranged for a friend to bring the parts to me in mid July – so if you’d like to send along a postcard or something you can send something to:
13 Milne street,