Somewhere near Shinyanga, Tanzania
Since leaving Arusha three days ago there weren't really many
highlights along the way. Nor did I expect any. In the lack of
highlights just let me write about an average day. Like today. No
highlights but nonetheless very cool.
Last night I camped at a beautiful spot around 60km west of Singida
just off a little maintenance track for HV power lines. It was really in
the bush, however the truck traffic on the main thorougfare between
Arusha and Kigali was still audible in the distance. I pitched my tent
within an area of thorny acacia bushes. To make room for tent and bike I
had to clear away a branch or two and these guys really sting you.
Getting up this morning at around 7am, a bit later than usual, one
finger on my right hand was pretty painfully swollen and I could hardly
bend it. Crap, that's where I was stung badly last night by these bloody
acacia thorns. However, after a bit of finger gymnastic it was movable
enough to be usable again. Just hope these thorns are not poisonous. So I
packed up and had a big breakfast of cooked oats and the leftover half
pineapple from last night, still juicy and sweet. It was around 9
o'clock when I started my little Suzuki and negotiated a way along the
maintenance path back to the main road. It was already quite hot and
should become a scorcher of a day again. At around 10am I felt that I
hadn't had a tea yet and started scanning the villages left and right
for these little restaurants. Not much later I passed one, one guy
sitting on a table with one of those typical flasks full of tea. So I
stopped and sat down at his table. Turns out he is the restaurant owner.
He spoke no English but we understood each other well enough that soon
after I had a cup of hot spicey Chai tea and two delicious 'cibati' (=
flat wheat bread) in front of me.
His beautiful girlfriend came along as well and sat down with us. She
spoke really good English and was keen to prove it. So we had a long
chat. Her boyfriend soon went back to work installing new lights in
their little restaurant. But she and myself, we sat there for probably
almost two hours. Just talking.
After that I just went across the road to buy some credit for my
Tanzanian mobile phone. As usual the first attempt to recharge the
account didn't work. So I was assisted by a middleaged guy who also
spoke pretty good English. Half an hour later I felt very educated about
the village's affairs and the way ahead. And had new credit on the
phone. So, as with many others before, we exchanged email addresses and
phone numbers. And he insisted to escort me back to the bike. Where we
chatted for another 10 minutes or so about my little Suzuki and how
massive she was. And then off I went.
Lately I am riding rather slowly, around 70km/h on tarmac. That speed
is in perfect tune with the local traffic and quite relaxing really.
Although the Michelin map showed some of today's road as gravel it was
in fact all recently built tarmac. Easy cruising. There is a lot of
people walking along the road. Or pushing fully loaded bicycles.
However, there is almost no motor traffic apart from a few buses and
trucks. So every person along the road kept turning their head and
following me on the bike with their eyes. Some had a really surprised
expression on their face, as if to say 'WTF is going on???'. Others just
smiled. Some shouted something in Swahili after me. Others even raised
their hand for a friendly greeting. But literally everyone stopped and
turned their head.
Shortly after 1:30pm I reached the town of Nzega, a rather big dot on
the map. Good place for lunch. Don't know why but even after all the
good food earlier this morning I felt hungry again. So I stopped and
ordered one of those delicious pancakes made of chips and eggs fried in a
pan. The guy who cooked them did not understand any English so we
showed a lot with our fingers. I ordered a pancake with one serve of
chips and two eggs. Ordering food I hardly ever get right. So at the end
I got two pancakes. Showing two fingers for having two eggs in my
pancake somehow translated into two meals. But no problem, I had one
packed in a bag for dinner. And ate the other one there and then. While a
couple of kids standing around watching me and a couple of men standing
around the bike and discussing various elements of it. After eating I
took a photo of the kids. Which is always big fun. They just can't stop
laughing seeing their faces on the little camera screen. And soon a big
crowd formed around the camera.
After explaining some bits and pieces of the bike I was ready to set
off again. The usual points of interest are: the highest number shown on
the speedo, the ccm of the engine and the capacity of the fuel tank.
So I kept riding along a beautiful tarmac road. Through endlessly flat
steppe. The landscape was very green because we are now in the 'small'
rain season. Being so close to the equator there are actually two wet
It was a very hot day and after a while I needed some water again. I
promply reached a village with one shop having a big ad for water
painted on their wall. The shop owner spoke English which quickly lead
to a short chat again. About motorcycles, their ccm and fuel tank
capacities and about Tanzania and Australia. People are very proud when I
praise Tanzania but I do so honestly because I like it here. Three kids
sitting against the wall was too good a photo opportunity to miss. So I
asked and took a photo and quickly had a curious crowd chatting and
laughing around my camera screen again. I used the two new water bottles
to fill up the old empty ones which fit much better in the bottle
holders of my panniers than the Tanzanian bottles. And gave the empty
bottles to a lady eagerly waiting to see where I would throw them away.
There is always another use for them and she thanked me with a big
smile. And I rode on.
The landscape got greener and more and more hilly, really stunning.
Just the mix of colours: the blue sky with some white clouds, the green
vegetation, the red bricks of the huts, their golden roof of straw and
some grey boulders randomly strewn across the area.
Next time I stopped around 3:30pm. There was this massive Baobab tree
next to the road. And underneath a couple of old ladies selling mangoes,
They spoke no English whatsoever. But I was still able to purchase a
beautiful mango for just AU$0.10 and to borrow a knife to cut it in
pieces and eat it there and then. We had a lovely chat. They said
something in Swahili to me. I replied with a random sentence in English.
Which triggered a response in Swahili. And so on. A very relaxed way of
having a conversation. All participants wondering what the hell the
other one is talking about. Half an hour later I was on the bike again.
Maybe ten minutes after I found some huge rocks near the road. It's
always a good photo opportunity to climb up there. And so I did. On my
way down I noticed a car having stopped on the same spot. Having a flat
tyre. The two guys in the car, Tanzanians but by their looks of middle
eastern ancestry, spoke fantastic English and were really lovely
fellows. We probably chatted for an hour about our respective lifes and
pasts and plans etc. And about 'The Long Way Down'. Really cool. By then
it was time to find a spot for camping.
When bushcamping, which happens most of the time, I usually start
looking for a place from around 4pm. Usually I find a good spot by 4:30
with some time remaining till sunset at 6pm. That's the time when I sit
down, relax, read a bit, write into my diary, check the bike and eat
something. And observe the area. If no one turns up with any objections
by sunset I pitch the tent. And so it happened today. Still in time to
watch the sunset, the sun turning from yellow to orange to red. And the
rise of the currently full moon, turning from red to orange to yellow.
North of here, in the far distance, there is some lightning. Way better
than watching television. I'm camping just a few hundred meters of the
main road, some 10km east of Shinyanga in a little depression. A
waterhole used by the local cattle owners to let their cows drink. But
not after sunset. So I have the place all to myself.
Done 220km today. Pretty good day really. And tomorrow will be another one.
14/11/2011 More pics...
I had a really good chips-and-eggs pancake for lunch here. And got a surprising second one for take away
The three kids sitting in front of the shop where I bought two water bottles from.
'Together we will go further' - the writing on the big rocks where soon after a car broke down with a flat tyre.
The view from the top of the big rocks.
My camping spot at the water hole.
Totally unrelated but still a cool picture. Mt Kilimanjaro a few days back.
21/11/2011 Mwanza, Tanzania
Holidays in Mwanza, Tanzania
21/11/2011 Mwanza pics
It has been over one week now that I've been
staying in Mwanza. I am stuck in Mwanza, partly by choice, partly by
circumstances. And I love the place.
Mwanza is quite a big city on the shores of
beautiful Lake Victoria. When I came here last Sunday I asked around for
a place to camp and found a fantastic camping ground just out of town.
Right on the lake. On the beach. Just really really cool. So I booked
myself in for two nights, the amount of time I intended to stay in
There were a couple of things on my to do list for
here. Like getting a new rear tyre organised, buying some more prestine
looking US$ for the Congo. Doing the usual internet and banking and
supermarket things. And Mwanza is great for that. I was also keen to get
a tour to the Serengeti from here. Mwanza is much less touristy than
Arusha or Moshi. And therefore cheaper. In fact, I seem to be the only
tourist here. Which is good and bad at the same time. Good, because
there are no touts here following you around and trying to sell you
stuff. None at all, which makes Mwanza an extremely pleasant place to
stay. But it is also bad because there are no tour groups into the
Serengeti which I could join. And they won't let my little Suzuki into
the National Park. Apparently too dangerous to be near the big animals.
So a new strategy was needed. I turned the table on
the tour companies and this time it was me hasseling them. For it was
now me who wanted their business and them who couldn't provide it to me.
Soon they all had my mobile number and would call me as soon as they
see another tourist on the horizon. And I put up little ads on all the
places likely to be visited by tourists. Like supermarkets and
restaurants. And have been crossing fingers since. Which of course
required waiting and patience.
For the first time in this trip there was really a
lot of rain. It's rainy season of course. And it does rain, hell yeah
does it rain here. But only once or twice a day for an hour of a big
Both, the rainy season and the distance of the
camping lodge to Mwanza town made me move closer to the city where I
found a fantastic local guesthouse. For far less than half the price of
camping on the beach. With my own room and my own bed and my own
bathroom. And pay TV! And protection from the rain. And me the only
tourist there. Perfect.
And once you stay in a place for longer you become
familiar with the surroundings. Just opposite the guest house is a big
market where you can buy food for dirt cheap. Consequently I am there
many times a day. For breakfast, lunch and dinner. And in between. I
hope eating Mangoes has no negative side effects because I've been
eating loads of them (for just AU$ 0.10 a piece). And fresh oranges,
avocadoes, bananas, pastries, Chai tea, local bread etc. - just
paradise. And of course everyone on the market knows me by now. As the
And so does the group of young guys on their
motorbikes (-two-wheel-taxies) waiting in front of the guest house. It's
hard to not stand out with my little Suzuki amongst them. But bikies
stick together and so we often share a Chai tea together and I get
introduced to the trade of being a motorbike taxi rider. Thing is that
most of them have no bike licence, the bike is not registered for taxi
business and they actually don't even own the bike. So business often
ends at a Police checkpoint where the profit of the day is paid in
fines. But if business runs well they make TSH20000 (AU$ 12) per day.
Minus petrol. And minus the bike rental fee of TSH6500 per day. And that
is considered good business! However, during the day there is not many
passengers for them. So they give me free sightseeing tours. Sometimes
walking. Sometimes riding on their little chinese bikes. Or on my little
Suzuki which is usually the preferred option. Which is fine with me, I
get to see cool things and they get to look cool amongst their friends
riding with the 'Muzungu' on his huge bike.
Also really awesome are the other guests in the
guesthouse. There is a big group of people from the Congo, businessman
with their sons and wifes and what looks like mums and grandmas. Awesome
for me because I still have a million questions and doubts and worries
about the Congo in my mind. And practising my old French from school we
often sit together over maps in the evenings discussing their wonderful
country. It's surprising how quickly my French skills came back out of
the drawer where they lay dormant for most of the last 15 years. We
discussed the upcoming Congo elections. And our proposed route. Which,
according to them, should be okay. Hopefully they are right.
There is also a group of business men from Uganda
as long term residents in the guesthouse on a business trip. They are
really well educated, well travelled, speak a fantastic English and are
great company. We often discuss the options of me starting a business in
Tanzania, Uganda or Congo and becoming a millionaire within a few
years. Sounds good, hey? One of them also does business in the Congo and
got a lot of really helpful information for me. As much as the Congo
will still be the most challenging part of the trip, I somehow lost my
security fears a bit.
There are also many incredibly funny moments when
the girls who work in the guesthouse try to teach me Swahili. We usually
end up laughing our asses off when I try my new language skills on the
motorbike guys outside and it means very different things to what I
though it would.
So yeah, I stayed in Mwanza day after day. Time
flies fast. Every day developed a completely unforeseen dynamic. By just
me going into the city and letting things happen. And everyday has been
a great day. As I've said, I love this place. There is so much
happening here, life is so colourful. And the whole town is so friendly.
People have an incredicle energy here. Just great.
However, Saturday I earmarked as the day to leave
Mwanza. And on Friday I got a message from another tourist interested in
going to the Serengeti.
Finally it worked! So I met with Pok from HongKong
and we discussed our plans. He has spend many weeks in the country as
volunteer and is now travelling around for a while. And luckily we
immediately agreed on how we want to travel the Serengeti. Now, that
there are two of us the whole Serengeti plan finally became affordable.
However, we would give it a try and wait over the weekend when
restaurants are busy and more people would read my ads and maybe one or
two of them would come along too. So again, I ended up extending my stay
in the guesthouse. And, to be honest, liked the fact to have a reason
to stay. And Pok moved in as well.
So off we shall go into the Serengeti for three
days, starting on Tuesday. It will be the time when the famous
Wildebeast migration arrives there. So it will be good.
This group of motorbike taxi riders would soon become my crowd of friends and local guides in Mwanza
The local rubbish tip and some big storcks looking for anything fishy in there
Mwanza is located beautifully on Lake Victoria in an
area of many hills and rocky outcrops. This pic shows part of the city
from one of those hills.
The town itself is quite big, one of the major
centres in Tanzania. But it has kept an incredibly friendly environment.
Tourists are welcome and will not have to go through the hassles of
Tanzania's other major tourist centres.
The rocky and hilly conditions provide really beautiful real estate.
As usually my little Suzuki draws all the attention
to herself. These guys, motorbike taxi drivers, have never seen a bike
as big and powerful ever before. When I gave them a short demonstration
and let them be my pillion passengers they always got off afterwards,
beaming with a huge smile.
There is an incredible energy in the people here.
25/11/2011 Serengeti National Park
Day 87 - Serengeti National Park
25/11/2011 Serengeti pics
The Serengeti is a place that has fascinated me
since I was a kid. Back then I had a few books of animal photographs.
The typical coffee table style books full of pictures of elephants,
lions etc. And of course there were the documentaries on TV about the
Serengeti, the lifecycles in there, the big migrations of Wildebeasts
and Zebras. And there was me as a kid dreaming about seeing it all one
day. It was so far away and unreachable. And now, 25 years on, I was
staying on the Serengeti's boundary!
Going inside though is neither easy nor cheap. Not
easy because my little Suzuki is not allowed in there. Which is a pity
when you're travelling on a motorbike. And when you're telling your
story on a motorbike forum. So I hope you guys are not getting too bored
about this post not involving my bike. She's actually enjoying her own
little holidays right now. I parked her securely undercover in the
backyard of my guesthouse in Mwanza. So she is protected from the daily
rain. And marvelled upon by many of the guests. She also got fresh oil
and a new oil filter, her chain is clean and shiney for the new layer of
chain lube. There is no heavy luggage or heavy rider to bear for her
suspension. So yeah, I believe she is happy to have a rest here in
It took more than a week to line up a fellow
tourist to share the experience and cost of the Serengeti tour. And
still, it would cost each of us US$555. Considering that renting a house
in Mwanza only costs US$2.50 a month those $555 could have made scores
of local people very happy. But that is just one of the daily dilemmas
in Africa, one of those things you better don't spend too much time
On Tuesday early morning we set off from Mwanza in a
really cool LandCruiser. There was Emanuel, our cook, Gideon, our guide
and driver and us two tourists Pok and me. It took only two hours from
Mwanza and we found ourselves standing under the arc of the entrance
gate into the Serengeti National Park. What a feeling. Through the gate
we could already see the first animals!
It is rainy season right now. Which is why there
are almost no tourists around. But it is also the reason why the
Serengeti is green. The entire landscape, the plains, the mountains, the
trees and riverbanks are covered in all shades of green. From a
yellowish golden green sea of grass covering the endless plains to a
healthy dark green of the Acacia trees scaterred across the landscape.
And in between the animals feasting on the grass. Or feasting on the
animals which are feasting on the grass. So, to keep it short, there are
lots of animals. They are just everywhere. Antelopes, Elephants,
Buffalos and Wildebeasts, Lions, Cheetahs, Ostriches and Secretary
birds, Warthogs, Giraffes, Eagles and Vultures, Baboons and Monkeys,
Crocodiles, Hippos, Hyenas and Zebras. And there is loads of them. Many
of the grass feeding animals, most famously the Wildebeasts, arrived in
the Serengeti just now following their century old migration patterns
and the wet season down from Kenya into Tanzania.
Seeing them all there and seeing them up close in
their own territory is an amazing feeling. And by that time I was very
happy to have joined a tour and they didn't let me in on my little
Suzuki. First of all for the many lions sitting right next to the road. I
guess I wouldn't have stopped a meter away from them to take a photo.
But with the car we did. And we had all the time in the world to just
park there and watch the lions doing their thing.
Another reason why joining a tour is a good idea is
the fact, that the car was equipped with a two way radio. So our guide
could listen to reports from rangers and other guides. Reports of animal
sightings where we could go straight there. So we went down roads I
would never have gone down on the bike. But at the end there was always
something cool to see. And lastly the LandCruiser was perfectly suited
for this sort of trip because you could pop up the roof and stand in the
car. Which gave you an elevated 360 degree view point in the open air
without annoying car windows separating you from your animals.
So all together we had three really cool days out
there. And two nights camping with the sounds of Hyenas and the roaring
of lions around us.
Back in Mwanza we had a big welcome back in the
guest house. Even local people in the guesthouse or around it never had
an opportunity to see the Serengeti or any of it's animals. Locals would
pay only a few dollars for NP entrance fee and camping but it is still
unaffordable. And unreachable if you don't have a car. So ten minutes
after being back I found myself sitting on a little chinese motorbike
taxi in front of the guesthouse. With the entire crowd of motorbike taxi
riders around me. And we were watching our Serengeti photos on the
little screen of my tablet computer. And believe me, there were many
photos. And every single one was watched with interest. Trying to catch a
motorbike taxi then would not have been easy...
So yeah, I'm back in Mwanza, reunited with my
little Suzuki in her holidays. A couple of my motorbike taxi friends
invited me to come to their home and to do some sightseeing on the bike.
Which is really cool for me to do. So I guess I will stay here for a
couple of more days.
Just a few pics from the Srengeti:
The landscape is covered in a beautiful green with animals scattered around everywhere.
There is the big African buffalo watching us with suspicion...
...or the little Warthog...
...or the vulture surveying the area from a tree.
A big number of wildebeast arrived in the park, migrating here from Kenya.
Elephants enjoying the abundance of green leaves.
Lion babies are happily playing with their mum
Hippos enjoying a cool bath.
Most animals just ignore cars. They probably wouldn't ignore motorbikes though.
Lions are cool.
14/12/2011 Mwanza, Bukoba (Tanzania)
This time I must apologise for not posting any
news for such a long time. I have been very lazy. And had some quite
relaxing holidays lately.
14/12/2011 Bukoba pics
I am still in Mwanza. When I first came here almost
four weeks ago I only intended to stay for a few days enjoying Lake
Victoria. But as so often plans change. First it was the daily downpour
which kept me here. Also the task of getting a new rear tyre and waiting
for it to be sent from South Africa. And the longer I stayed the more
familiar I became with the place and the people. Up to a stage where I
really enjoyed staying here.
When you are doing a motorbike journey every day is
different to the day before. You go to different places, meet different
people. Every day. Every day you start from zero again. Which is one of
the most exciting things to do. But it is also tiring. So I often
thought about what it would be like to stay in one place for longer. And
to experience the life there to a much deeper extent. Instead of
starting the new day from scratch you would have the previous day to
build on. And that is what I did in Mwanza. Call it experimenting with
living a Tanzanian life.
And I was really lucky here. Because I was able to
make some good friends and was 'adopted' into a group of motorcycle taxi
riders. Spending as much time with them as I could I soon met their
families, was invited to several homes. There were poor families and
rich families, small homes and big homes. There was a lot of good food.
Some familiar, some not (e.g. fried grasshoppers). And many many
stories. To many to post in here. But all really remarkable.
Let me just focus on one story because it was this
family that I got involved with the most. There is Mr S., one of the
motorbike taxi riders. He sort of stood out within the group because he
spoke pretty good English and was obviously a pretty smart guy. So we
often sat together out on the footpath after his shift just talking
about life in Tanzania, life in Australia etc. He kept mentioning how
much he loved school and that he dropped out of school some years back.
And since then he is doing his taxi job to earn the money for going back
and finish school. But the taxi business is quite tough if you are from
a poor family. At the end of the day most of the money earned was paid
to the owner of the motorcycle or for food to support the family of two
brothers and two sisters. The very little money remaining was safely
kept to be able to pay for school one day. That one day in the far
distant future Mr S. keeps dreaming about.
When you are a traveller like me you obviously live
on a budget. And as much as you would like to help with your money you
just can't help everyone. But then you also spend an incredible amount
of money on certain things. E.g. the Serengeti tour I did. Or to see the
Mountain Gorillas in Rwanda soon. It is an incredible amount of money
for local standards and it gives me a headache to think about what the
same amount of money could do good for some local people here. So I try
not to think about it.
But in fact spending so much time with these people
and their families is an experience I truly enjoyed. Actually much more
than the Serengeti tour. We laughed together, shared stories, ate
together. And I was introduced into the life of a Tanzanian family.
Which is an incredibly interesting thing for me and I loved every minute
I spent with this family. It's been one of the things I wanted to
experience in Africa. So I though in exchange for having such a
memorable time here it's just fair to help getting this guy back into
So we sat together. Together with his friends. His
family. His old teacher. For many evenings and nights. And developed a
good plan for Mr S. to finish his school education. What I found most
amazing then was the level of support we got from his friends. There was
no jealousy, no 'why him and not me' attitude. But lots of real support
and 'thumbs up'. And so the task of getting his school organised kept
me busy for another two exciting weeks.
To get the most out of this opportunity we chose a
school in Bukoba, some 400km away from Mwanza on the shores of Lake
Victoria. Mr S. getting out of Mwanza guarantees that there is no
distraction for him. No family urging him to work for a night to earn
money for food. Or to skip school for work. And Mr S. is really keen to
move to a new place too.
So Sunday last week his old teacher Mr D. and me,
we took off on my little Suzuki towards Bukoba. Sadly if the school
headmaster would see me around we would need to pay a large sum of
corruption money to get Mr S. into his school. Because seeing a white
guy means there is money to be made. So I stayed away from the school
and Mr D. did all the negotiating and organising with the headmaster.
And he was so successful in this that Mr S. had to come to Bukoba within
a few days to attend an examination to be accepted to school. Sending
him money for a ticket over the mobile phone network we picked him up
two days later from Bukoba Port arriving on the ship from Mwanza. With
the biggest smile on his face.
The three of us spent a whole week in Bukoba
getting everything organised. We also found a nice place for Mr S. to
live. A small room in a house up on a hill. Surrounded by banana trees.
And with a small stream nearby to fetch water. Overall Bukoba is a good
place to spend time in. There are beautiful beaches, everything is
really green and fresh. There is a lively market. And friendly people.
Really cool. After everything was organised and there was no more reason
to ask for money I had a look at the school as well, into the
classrooms, reading some excercise books and other material and talking
to the academic master. And I'm pretty happy because it seems to be a
pretty cool school. The whole thing was quite an experience! And Mr S.
is very very happy, I wish you guys could see the big smile on his face.
Now I am back in Mwanza for one week before I
continue on to Rwanda on Sunday to catch up with Martin again. Staying
in Mwanza has been cool. But I can now really feel the urge to get going
again. To get back into 'touring mode' and see new places. The wet
season has finished very abruptly, rain on one day and sunshine the
next. And sunshine ever since. And once I'm on the road again there will
be more things to write about and I shall update this blog more often.
Meanwhile my little Suzuki is back in top shape.
But I still have trouble with finding the new rear tyre. The tyre place
in Pretoria really sucks. Can't count the number of times they promised
me to call me back, to email me back, to have a quote ready. Nothing
ever happened. For weeks and months. Just stupid promises whenever I
called them. So 'stuff them' I thought and I'm getting my tyre now send
by bus from Uganda. Which is not just heaps cheaper but also more
straight forward. Just that I haven't got it yet. But maybe today. Or
tomorrow with the next ship from Kampala. That tyre (Mitas E07) should
then hopefully last all the way to Germany, I read a lot of cool things
about this brand. But even my old Pirelli Scorpion did quite well,
having done 13000km and still 1mm left on it. But it would surely die
when we are in the Congo so I rather replace it now.
Crossing fingers that it all works out...
The MV Victoria sailing daily between Mwanza and Bukoba
One happy student
Senene - fried grasshoppers are a very popular dish in Bukoba
The school in Bukoba which Mr S. will be attending soon.
A typical classroom
The new Catholic cathedral in Bukoba
Bukoba beach at Lake Victoria
26/12/2011 Last days in Mwanza
It has been a very emotional farewell from Tanzania. After exactly two
months in the country and just over four weeks being based in Mwanza. I
again realised how quickly I got attached to the people around me. And
they became good friends with me. But it was time for me to go.
Definitely time to hit the road again. So the night before I left we
went to the pub together. Just to listen to music and have a good time
or a coke (for my muslim friends). And the next day really everyone
turned up to say good bye. The guys from the motorcycle taxi gang, the
people from the guesthouse, the family of my friend who I support to go
back to school. There was a lot of hugging, shaking hands, good wishes
and tears. A farewell not unlike the one when I left Sydney five months
But even before that there were a few exciting last days in Mwanza.
First of all I met a friendly Police officer who kindly told me that
there is a helmet law in Tanzania for motorcyclists. Don't get me wrong,
I usually wear my helmet every single time when riding. Just not this
time because it was only to go to the copy shop maybe 200m away. Sorry,
my mistake. However, I had a nice chat to the officer, had to promise
not ever to ride without helmet again and got away with no fine.
Second thing to happen: there was a delay of my new tyre being delivered
from Uganda. For reasons that only African people will ever understand
and I don't want to go into too much detail here. However, it again
delayed my departure from Mwanza for a few days.
By coincidence, on the day of my originally planned departure though,
there was an accident on the road. On the little brawl that followed one
of my friends from the bike taxi gang got arrested and put in jail in
the local police station. The circumstances are another thing that only
local people might understand but not me. And with this local
understanding some of these friends tried their best to talk to police
and get some information about why he is in jail. Or how to get him out.
But nothing could really clarify the situation or help him. Some
amounts of money mentioned in the process were not very helpful either.
So the next day I offered to see if I can help. And went to the police
station. Where I was promptly allowed to see this guy. And talk to him
through the bars of the prison door. Man, it was a really poor image
that presented itself to me. There are no beds. Just concrete floor.
Totally overcrowded with people. Not sure if there are any toilets
either. It certainly smelled like there are none. And my friend standing
there, obviously having not slept all night and probably not eaten much
either. One police officer explained the situation to me and gave me
the mobile number of the case officer to consult about possible ways
out of this situation. I called her and arranged a meeting one hour
later. Where I expected to be told a large sum of money. But as so
often, everything changed in an instant.
When I went back to the police station an hour later I run into the
officer who caught me the day before without helmet. A really cool guy.
He promptly took over my case. I didn't come anywhere near the actual
case officer. An hour later I walked home together with my friend. No
money asked. I will never forget the moment when my friend came into the
office where I was waiting with the police officer. Barefeet. Smelling
of a mix of old sweat and urine. Seing me sitting there, whispering in
my ear: 'Marco, tonight, you and me, we are going HOME!'. Believe me,
that really really feels cool!
And if you imagine the series of coincidences that lead to his release:
first of all me being there in Mwanza and becoming friends with this
guy. Second me being delayed by waiting for my tyre. Third me being
caught riding without helmet which I usually never do. And finally to be
running into that same friendly police officer again at the police
station that day right in that moment when I expected to meet the case
At the end my friend got away even without any charges, without any
case. If it was not for this series of coincidences, who knows for how
long he would have been stuck in there.
The tyre saga is also not entirely finished yet. At the end I got my
tyre delivered from Uganda. Right size but incorrect brand. Instead of
the MITAS tyre I got a VEE Rubber dirt bike tyre. I already wondered why
they only asked for so little money. However, I am over it and have
neither the time nor the patience to send it back and negotiate and wait
for a new one. So I just strapped it to the back of my bike and started
touring again. My old Pirelly is still okay for a few km and when the
going gets muddy in the Congo the knobbly dirt tyre is probably a good
turn of fortune anyway.
So I am back on the road again. I crossed into Rwanda today in Rusumo. A
very easy and straight forward border crossing. No visa required (on my
German passport), no chaos, no mess, only five minutes to get a
temporary import permit for my little Suzuki and all finished. Very
And Rwanda is beautiful, it's a paradise for motorbike freaks. A picture
of thousands of lush green hills and perfect tarmac roads meandering
their way up and down with many nice corners. And not much traffic at
all. So you can really enjoy your ride. Around every corner another
breath taking view opens into a green valley full of banana trees. And
more green hills all around. Heaps fun to ride. In stark contrast to
Tanzania Rwanda is very densely populated. There is houses and people
everywhere, a continuous stream of people walking along the road side.
As a bit of a surprise however I quickly learned that in Rwanda you
drive on the right hand side of the road. Which is an important thing to
learn, right? After a few rather shocking moments I guess I learned
that lesson now.
Tomorrow I will finally catch up with Martin and his girlfriend Esther
again on the shores of Lake Kivu. I must say I really enjoyed travelling
alone a lot. And had many awesome moments which would not have happened
when travelling with someone else. Really cool experiences. But I am
still looking forward to travel together with Martin again. It will be
good to catch up again and share the rest of this awesome trip. Good fun
to travel with a good friend.