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Africa Tour August 2011 - August 2012
Tanzania

27/10/2011

Day 54 - Tanzania, on the road to Dar Es Salaam


We have been making good progress through Tanzania in the last couple of days. Although there is not too much to write about. However, Tanzania is a cool place. Cool for it's very own reasons. We are travelling on the main road between Mbeya and Dar Es Salaam. And this road is just awesome. It's perfect tarmac, wide and smooth and actually looks brand new. Along the way we visited a few sights of interest. Such as a fallen meteorite, the Kimani Falls, a canyon, an excavation site for stoneage tools or an old war memorial built by the Germans when they were the big guys down here.
I am really surprised how developed Tanzania is compared to our last few countries. The markets are just buzzing with everything you can think of. I-phone accessories, car parts, computer parts etc. Food and drinks are really cheap and plenty which makes Tanzania paradise for me. There is countless brands of petrol stations and fuel is cheap and available in every small town along this main road. I am sure away from this main connection to Dar things will be different. But who knows.
We are on the way to Dar to pick up Martin's girlfriend who will come along for three months. She is happy to buy one of those locally available Chinese bikes to be able to ride with us. Which is really cool. We don't know each other yet but I hope our team of three will get along well.
We plan to go our own ways for a few weeks anyway which is good in many ways. Martin is really keen to visit Kenya and Uganda and come back down to Rwanda to start our Congo adventure. I can't explain why but Kenya doesn't attract me at all. I know what you guys will say, that Kenya is beautiful and wildlife is plenty etc. But somehow I am at a stage where I feel like having a break from sightseeing and try a bit of African life. So instead of going the Kenya loop I will give it a try and stay in a Tanzanian village somewhere I dont know where yet. Stay there for more than just a night and see what's happening. And if I can be useful helping out in a school or a hospital or something. Which would be awesome. One of those things when I don't know what will happen yet. But also when I feel confident that something really cool will work itself out. And if Kenya doesn't raise much interest in me, why not giving it a go to stay in Tanzania a bit longer. I am also sure that Martin and his girlfriend will appreciate some privatesphere for a few weeks. Even if Martin insists otherwise.
So our plan for the nearer future is to look for a nice camping spot on one of Dar's beautiful beaches. Do some of the chores in the city such as getting visas, getting some US$ in preparation for the Congo, some more Malaria prevention pills etc. I also need to organise a new rear tyre somehow. A guy in Mbozi told me about an Aussie expat living in Mwanza who does have a motorbike workshop and can get hold of tyres. So I'll try to get hold of him. By then my good old Pirelli Scorpions will have around 10000km on them. And even though there is maybe another one or two thousand km left on them it should be easier to replace them with good quality tyres on this side of the Congo rather than in West Africa. And if I'm lucky the new ones might make it all the way to Germany.
Once Martin's girlfriend arrives in Dar we'll get her a bike and go to Zanzibar together for a while. And then find our own ways to be reunited again later in Rwanda.

Our journey through the Congo still keeps our minds busy. We met an English guy on a bicycle who crossed the Congo in two months riding the Kinshasa to Lubumbashi route. His stories are surprisingly positive. Lacking all the usual checkpoints or bribes or hold ups. I hope the same will apply to our chosen route from Bukavu to Bangui. We might need some fingers crossed for that one...


27/10/2011 Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Unfortunately that one bloody computer virus that killed my memory stick in Mbeya also deleted some pics before I was able to upload them. But no worries, there's a few pics from the road to Dar Es Salaam here.

We made it happily to Dar where we found a beautiful campground. Full with overlanders and right next to the beach it is a lovely spot to await the arrival of Martin's girlfriend this Saturday.
Dar is a good place to stop and get things done. There is lots of embassies (just handed in my CAR visa application), there is motorbikeshops catering for big overseas bikes too. There is lots of good fresh food. And generally a good vibe throughout the place. Just the traffic, man, what a chaos. No idea how we got around here but somehow it works. Lane splitting (there are no lanes anyway), over the footpath and along the footpath, on the median and down the gutters we went. Same as the other million motorbikes. Good fun but man, I probably aged three years in three days riding here.

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The road to Kimani Falls

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...the road is getting steeper

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Kimani Falls

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My little Suzuki enjoying the company of some typical local 125ccm bikes

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A canyon along the road to Dar Es Salaam


01/11/2011 More bike pics

We are still in Dar Es Salaam where the internet speed is amazing. So I can't miss that chance to upload some more pictures.
Sice the HUBB is a bike forum let's start with some bike pictures.

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That's the beautiful new road between Mbeya and Dar Es Salaam. It's a fantastic piece of tarmac, wide and smooth and lined with many huts and shops to escape the heat with a cold Pepsi.

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There are many many other bikes around. Most of them are used for transport of goods and people or both around the little towns. You hardly see them in between towns.

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A little dirt road through the Pulu forest just south west of Dar Es Salaam. Dirt roads without sand are still my favourite places to ride.

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Our latest family member: a 150ccm chinese made motorbike of the mighty brand 'T-Better'. It is a pretty common brand in Tanzania and there is a choice of a 125ccm version and a 150ccm version. We bought our 'T-Better' for Esther, Martin's girlfriend who will join us till end early February. For nearly exactly AU$1000 brand new the T-Better has some really cool features. Such as a remote control, alarm including the engine disabler, a 13 litre tank to reach as far as 450km and additional headlights to see better in the dark. Other things are completely missing such as an oil filter. So the oil needs to be changed 'once a week' according to the shop assistant. There is only room for one litre of oil anyway. Locals use these bikes fully loaded to fly along those same bumby roads that we often struggle through on our heavy bikes. And with a maximum speed of 85km/h the T-Better is indeed better than you think. Should be fine for three months at least. So we hope.


01/11/2011 More camping pics

Let's follow up with some pictures of our other favourite activity - camping. Here in Dar Es Salaam we stay on a beautiful campground right at the beach half an hour walk south of the city. Apart from here we always bushcamp. Bushcamping usually gets us some amazing places to sleep and has not ever been a problem so far. Friendly locals don't mind us and are often happy that tourists come to stay. So it is easy to meet local people and to be able to be part of a tiny bit of their life for an evening or so. Although this way it is hard to meet other overlanders.

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We found this spot a couple of meters off the main road near Mogorogoro.

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Here we camped right on the beach some 30km south of Dar Es Salaam. It was on the grounds of an Isalmic Centre. It is an amazing scenery and you can imagine how the warm humid salty air, the sound of the ocean and the prayer of the muezzin from the lottle mosque behind us adds to the picture.

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This picture was taken right from our Dar Es Salaam base - the Mikadi Beach Camp in Kigamboni. It is in walking distance from Dar city and still surprisingly quite. There is a school next door and every afternoon the beach is filled with young people for a few hours before they go home. There is music and an energy I have never seen in western people. There is dancing on the beach, there is acrobatics, there is heaps action in the water, people singing, people laughing and having a good time with their many friends. The water is some 28 degrees warm and you can stay in there forever without being cold. The boat in the background has been built by hand in Zanzibar for one of the other guests in the campground. He plans to use it for low key tourist cruises. Funnily enough he also came here from Namibia on an Africa Twin.


01/11/2011 Dar Es Salaam pics

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Not unlike Sydney Dar is located around a beautiful natural harbour. However, it has all been built up over time so the impression is rather not as natural as it is in Sydney. Also there is no bridge between the city centre North of the harbour and the suburbs South of it. There is only a ferry service, two massive ferries carrying people and their cars and bikes and other belongings across. These ferries are a masterpiece of chaos, kids playing hanging from underneath the ferries car ramps, there is people everywhere on board. Every little space in between cars and bikes is used for someone to stand. And once the gate is opening a huge flood of everything and everyone overwhelms the landing and the little road coming from it.

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Dar Es Salaam city centre as seen from the harbour.

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The fish market is right next to the harbour ferry landing on the city side. The big modern tower is the Port Authority overseeing the mix of containerships, little fishing boats and ferries within the harbour.


01/11/2011 Zanzibar

And the last few pictures for today have been taken on Zanzibar. Zanzibar is a beautiful island not too far off the coast from Dar Es Salaam. Being the old capital of an islamic empire and the the seat of the Sultan of Oman for a while there is a lot of rich history on the island's main settlement - Stone Town. It's incredibly complicated to take our motorbikes across so we rather left them in Dar and used public minibus taxis in Zanzibar instead.

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Stone Town

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Stone Town

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Esther, Martin's girlsfriend and Martin. We enjoyed a nice cold Kilimanjaro Lager here on a little beach in Zanzibar.

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Sunset over a beach in Bububu.

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Sunset at Fuji Beach in Bububu.


08/11/2011 The Masai Steppe, Tanzania

Day 66, near Naberera, Tanzania

Right now, while I am typing this, I am sitting on red soil under a acacia tree in the pale light of the half moon. This acacia tree is one of many around me in this huge flat landscape. I am deep in Masai territory. And while I am typing this, there is not a soul around me, as far as I can see or hear.
Three days ago we started from Dar Es Salaam, going different ways for a month. Martin and his girlfriend Esther will be on their way north along the coast to Mombasa. I chose instead to head inland. From Dar Es Salaam to Morogoro and from there North into an area declared as 'Masai Steppe' on my Michelin map.
I don't mind being on my own for a while. Although it is without doubt more fun with company, I find when travelling on my own I can connect to people better, am more open to them. And after all it is still the people of Africa who fascinate me the most.
The Michelin map says that around 170km along the Morogoro - Dodoma road there is a turnoff onto a gravel road heading north, reaching the town of Kibaya after 132km with the opportunity to buy fuel, then another 156km to Nabarera and another 120km back to the main road between Moshi and Arusha. So far so good. So just before the turnoff I made sure the tank is full, all water bottles are filled completely and there is enough food in the panniers.
At the turnoff there is the usual Police checkpoint. The friendly officer asks where I am going. "To Kibaya". "For what purpose?". Why do they always ask this question? I don't know. Is curiosity purpose enough? I tell him that I would just transit through to the tourist area of Arusha and he lets me go. But not without a warning that the road ahead would be "rough".
And rough it is indeed. If for nothing else but the corrugation. There is nowhere to get around it, these corrugations span the entire width of the rocky road. There is lots of loose gravel too. And the occasional rock surfacing here and there on the road. But nothing my little Suzuki and I can't handle safely after all our training.
At first there are still many villages. And I stop a few times to fill up the water bottles to cope with the heat. And to eat something. It's really cool, you don't need to order anything in these little restaurants. You just go in and sit down. There is the usual ritual that someone will come with a cup of water to rinse over your hands into a bowl. There is always a lot of dust to wash from my hands. Then someone will just bring you food. Whatever there is available. Usually rice with some sort of meat and some sort of green vegies. Standard price for a full plate TSH1500 (=AU$ 0.90). The one-meal-menu. I like eating and am always hungry. So this is just paradise for me.
However, these villages are getting more and more rare on the way North. Until I reach Kibaya. Which to my surprise appears 15km earlier than the Michelin map predicted. And where the only petrol station is out of fuel. Well, if the remaining distances on the map are correct I should be able to make it to Moshi on this tank. A big thumps up to the Safari Tank here.
After Kibaya there is nothing. So much nothingness, it reminds me back to the vast empty spaces of the Westaustralian outback nearly three months ago. It is a huge flat steppe. In some areas covered with a thick shrub of dry leafless thorny bushes, way too dense to penetrate. In these areas the road is usually hard and the surface rocky white gravel. Other areas of the steppe are more open, there is red soil and there are big green acacia trees scattered across the flat landscape. When the bush is open like this you can see some huge basalt rocks in the distance in the North and in the East. The road here is usually red, soft and sandy with two tyre tracks and a mound of soft sand in the middle. But all relatively comfy to ride through. And then there are these bulldust holes. All of a sudden there is a 200mm drop down from either of the usual road surfaces. And you find yourself in a big hole full of superfine red dust. The 'hole' is some 100-200m long and covers the entire width of the road and beyond. So you dig yourself through some 300mm deep dust. It's basically like water, you just sink in and there is good grip on the material below. But man, the dust clouds you leave behind are amazing. Big red mushroom clouds like little nuclear explosions. And you come up the little step on the other end covered in red dust down to your undies.
Roaming this land are massive herds of cattle. They must average 50-100 animals. And are usually controlled by one or two Masai, often children I would guess maybe 10 years old. Many of these animals wear bells so you can hear them as a loud choir of 'Ding Dong' from the distance.
Masai people are of impressive appearance. They are usually very tall and skinny. Dressed in sheets which always have a lot of red colour in them. And they carry a stick as tall as themselves. The Masai's whole life has to do with cattle. And I find it impressive every time one of these herds of big cows crosses the road in front of me and one man with a stick easily parts the huge sea of cattle to let me through. Usually accompanied with a hand raised to chest height to greet me.
I find the Masai culture utterly fascinating and so I'm happy to find a village along the way, not shown on my map. It consists of a few grey rendered brick buildings with iron sheeted roofs. The wind howls in between them and whips up little dust clouds. An ancient Land Rover is parked in front of one building. Masais are scattered around the village like big red spots, sheltering from the wind by covering their heads with the big red sheets. Out of each sheet reaches one hand with a long bright wooden stick.
Fortunately Masai are just as curious as I am. And so the presence of a 'Muzungu' (white man) on a 'Piki Piki' (motorcycle) soon draws a crowd around me. Two of them speak English which makes communication so much easier for us. While we are talking the rest of the crowd sticks with my little Suzuki. They are very touchy and everything on the bike is being touched, almost like a big pussy cat that needs to be petted. Fingers move around the stickers, the levers, the buttons, the tank and the warm motorblock. At no time are there fewer than 5 hands on the bike. But nothing is moved, no button being pushed. Particular interest is diverted towards the Pacsafe steel meshes around my panniers.
I'm in no hurry and so give everyone plenty opportunity to further investigate the surface of my little Suzuki while I am learning my first few words and sentences in Masai language. Whenever I try my new words on someone of the bike crowd it leads to big laughter. Which has to do with the very unusual pronounciation of the language which I guess needs a lot of practice to get right. What is obvious is that the Masai culture involves a lot of respect for their people. There is different words for 'hello', depending on who is addressed. Someone older or someone younger or someone of a higher rank in the hirarchy. The chief usually earns the highest respect, he is the only one allowed to carry a smaller (half meter long) carved black wooden stick as a symbol of his rank. Whereas everyone else has these long bright sticks up to 2m long. Which are used to control the cattle. And as weapon. At the end of our conversation I am presented with a beautiful short black carved stick, the symbol of a leader, as a gift for me. Not sure if it fits into Masai rules that a 'Muzungu' carries this symbolic gift I hesitate. But everyone else is smiling and insisting and so I accept. But I guess I better don't show it round too much while I'm here.
The road is rough enough to make it a slow journey. Also the km on the Michelin map are not correct. The distance between Kibaya and Naberera was a lot longer than shown and there was the big town of Okezimet just 30km or so south of Naberera, not shown on the map at all. People here agree that the distance to Moshi is around 90km longer than the map says. So I might struggle with my fuel tomorrow. But should still be able to just make it to Moshi. If I don't get lost.

On my way to Naberera on a good stretch of road I overtook another guy on a tiny little local 125cc Suzuki. He soon overtook me on a bad stretch of road again when I was riding rather carefully feeling sorry for my little Suzuki's shocks and suspension. We kept playing that game for a while, always smiling and honking when overtaking each other. Till the next village when I stopped to fill up the water bottles and to buy some bisquits for breakfast. The going is so slow here that I will need to spend a forth day on this road tomorrow. Bisquits are the closest thing to breakfast available in local 'grocery' huts.
Shortly after that village I find my companion standing beside his Suzuki on the side of the road. Suzuki riders have to stick together and so I stopped to see if he was alright. His bike has stopped and couldn't be started again. He suspected the problem to be caused by the spark plug. But had no tools to remove and check it. So my tools came in handy and yes, the two poles on the sparkplug did actually touch. No gap - no spark. Easy fix and in no time the little two stroke was running again.
The rider himself was dressed in normal pants and shirts, on his way home from work as a doctor. Interestingly he too is Masai (pants and shirt are merely a work uniform), very educated as a doctor and English speaking. So his tribe elected him chief. Which means on his pants he carries a short black wooden stick, the symbol of chiefdom. At that moment I was glad I had mine hidden. In appreciation of me stopping and helping he invited me into his house in Naberera. Where I met his wife and his 7 children. Each coming first to their father and then to me lowering their head in respect and expecting me to touch their head as greeting. After the greeting wife and kids disappear again to let the two 'men in the house' do their business. Which meant an introduction into Masai life and culture for me. While we were drinking our Cokes and Fantas the chief showed me photos and explained the structure of society and answered all my eager questions. It was really cool to sit and chat with him there. Concluding our meeting he tried to help me by drawing a map, much more detailed than the Michelin map for the rest of my journey to Moshi. There is many more villages and turnoffs than the Michelin map would suggest. All drawn up on a page in my little notepad did lead to a sheet of paper full of scribbles, impossible to make any sense of. Turnoffs to the left were drawn to the right and labelled as 'left' and vice versa. Names of villages were heaps too long for the little page and ended up covering everything. So I guess it's just a matter of luck for me to find my way to Moshi within the remaining fuel range.
Ah yeah, and apparently this section of the road will be much rougher than any section before...


08/11/2011

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The road through the Masai Steppe - long and straight and dusty.

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The surface quality of that road varies a lot, from smooth to rocky to sandy to dusty. But rarely to any extreme condition. So it's good fun to ride along slowly and enjoy the scenery.

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It looks bad but actually isn't. The dust in these sections of road is so fine that the bike simply sinks in to some more solid ground where the tyres have good grip. So you just ride through it like through water. However, riding through these sections generates huge dust clouds and you need to be through quickly before the dust cloud catches up with you. I had that happen a few times with tail wind. And seriously, I've never been so dirty in my life!

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I even enjoyed the sandy sections of the road. The sand was not too deep and there was usually a bit of hard high ground in between the tyre tracks.

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Every now and then a big herd of cattle roamed the otherwise empty landscape. Usually accompanied by two Masai people.

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A Masai village. It's a pity the photo cannot show the strong wind blowing in between the small huts and the smell of dust in the air, the chatter in Masai language or the sound of cow bells. It was a somewhat eery feeling to be there.

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These Masai showed big interest in my huge 'Piki Piki' (motorbike), everything on it had to be touched and felt. Resulting in many Masai with very dirty fingers and a clean little Suzuki.

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These were the white rocky sections of the road, often with nasty corrogation and loose gravel. They mainly let through dense bushland of thorny dry vegetation.

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The more open areas featured sandy roads and red colours and taller green Acacia trees.

08/11/2011

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Still in the Masai Steppe. Cool bird's nests started to appear hanging from the trees.

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It got more interesting further North near the town of Nabarera. Previously far distant rock outcrops got closer to the road and big Baobab trees got added to the mix.

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Also the 'dust holes' in the road became bigger the further North I travelled.

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The reward waiting at the end of the road. After more than 400km through the Masai Steppe Mt. Kilimanjaro showed it's snow capped peak in the evening sun.

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A photo I just had to show - my little Suzuki with Mt. Kilimanjaro in the background. The mountain itself is usually only visible in the early morning hours or just before sunset. During the day it is entirely covered in big white clouds.

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There is a beautiful 250km road going right around Mt Kilimanjaro which I travelled counterclockwise this Sunday. Mostly good tarmac or well maintained gravel it winds it's way through many corners up to an elevation of 2100m near the Kenyan border and back down on the mountains western slopes. Despite the proximity to Mt Kilimanjaro the mountain was never visible. It's been replaced by a massive column of white clouds on the left of the road all 250km long. This was the first anniversary of little Suzuki becoming MY little Suzuki. So I am glad we found an appropriate route to celebrate.

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Just when I though it couldn't get any better I found this - the Kibo Safari Camp. It was Sunday and the last group of tourists had just left the camp. All the staff were keen to get out of the camp and back to their families when I arrived. So without much bother they let me stay in a hut for a night for free and quickly left. The Safari tourists usually pay $300 per night here. Three caretakers were left behind with me. So the four of us had a great evening in an empty camp, finishing off most of the leftover drinks from the tourists and enjoying amazing views over the vast Tanzanian and Kenyan steppe National Parks.


14/11/2011 School of St Jude, Arusha, Tanzania

After finishing with the beautiful ring road around Mt Kilimanjaro I headed straight to Arusha, the major town in northern Tanzania. There is one major reason why I wanted to stop over in Arusha, that's the 'School of St Jude'. Maybe a year or two back I watched a documentary on Australian ABC television about the story of this school. I still remember how impressed I was back then. The more so I was now excited to see the school for real. So yesterday morning I made my way down to the town of Moshone and really found the School of St Jude there.

Let me tell you a bit about the concept of the school first. It all started just over 10 years ago with one Australian woman dreaming about making a difference. And so, with the help of friends and their donations she was able to buy a small piece of land in Tanzania and built a tiny school on it. The school should be there to support the brightest little minds in impoverished communities, kids who's parents would not be able to afford the school fees or who would only spend a couple of years at a cheap school and never reach their full potential. The school started with three kids back then, three kids and one local teacher.
10 years later there are now 1500 kids and several hundred local staff on two campuses. Still following the same old concepts. Every year up to 150 kids from the local area are chosen to start with grade one in the St Judes primary school. Kids to be accepted have to meet two conditions: they have to be smart and they have to come from a poor family. Their poor background will be checked by home visits of school staff, some visits as surprise for the family and also by talking to neighbours and other community members. The potential of the kid will be assessed by a simple test, similar to an IQ test. If the little one is accepted they will be able to enjoy some of the best education in the country for free. No school fees will ever have to be paid, all learning material is provided for free. So is the school uniform. And also the pickup and drop of with the school's own buses (all donated). And the boarding. And four nutritious meals every day. End even medical requirements.
When I visited the school I saw libraries stacked with donated books. Computer cabinets full of donated computers, all connected to the internet. And laboratories, sports grounds, clean comfy boarding houses. And all that is based on the initiative of one woman from country New South Wales and her ability to excite others with her dream and to raise funds. From three kids to 1500 in ten years. All financed by donations only. Not bad, hey? Teachers are all locally sourced and paid, every non-tanzanian staff is not paid and helps as a volunteer only.
I was very impressed not just by the big clean and modern school campus. But just as much by the clever concept to help communities by supporting their smartest kids. And the most impressive thing for me still is, that one woman alone had done this. I never met her but she surely has a lot to be very proud of.
Volunteers are only accepted with at least a one year commitment. So unfortunately it wasn't for me. Otherwise I would still be there for a few weeks.

Africa is a strange place. By now I can fully understand people saying it can make or break you. I find myself often in between. Africa extends your range of emotions to unknown limits. And often you go through the whole range within a very short timeframe. I remember many times when I was just ready to keep riding, riding straight home, riding fast and long as to get home sooner. It's those days when every perfect dirt road ends in deep sand. Days when you just keep dropping your bike for stupid reasons. Or days when every step you make you are followed by an army of touts and there is not one quite second. Or when inefficient procedures make you want to cry and keep you stuck for half a day. Or vital stuff breaks or gets lost. But it's hardly ever a full day like this. Because when you feel down the most, ready to fly home the next day, something will come along and pick you up. And make you want to stay. Something simple like a woman walking along the road within her group of donkeys smiling and greeting you with a friendly 'Jambo'. Or the little kid who, with wide eyes and small hands exlores your bike full of wonder. Or the friendly guy in one of the road stalls giving his best to make the best possible Chai tea for you and is proud as when you praise his efforts. There is stories of rain and sunshine, annoying mosquitoes and beautiful sunsets, chaotic cities and wide empty plains. It's mostly the people who cheer you up again and again and make you say 'it's all worthwile'. So suddenly you realise that yes, the traffic is a hopeless mess but what a proud achievement it is to have negotiated a way through. And you find yourself smiling when you're stuck in a group of donkeys on the road because it's actually a cool feeling to be there. And yes, the road is all sand and sand sucks but the landscape around you makes you feel all warm inside. And so I guess it is this wide range of emotions which make us travel, make us explore places like Africa. Because at the end it's emotions which turn into memories and provide us with the fuel to live of for many years to come. And emotions of that magnitude are hard to come by when you stay at home.

Since the day I am travelling alone I find these emotions come along much more intense. The positive and the negative ones.
So I can only imagine what this Australian woman did go through on her way of growing the School of St Jude out of nothing. With her own hard work.

School of St Jude > home


14/11/2011 A typical day

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 seasons.
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...

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I had a really good chips-and-eggs pancake for lunch here. And got a surprising second one for take away

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The three kids sitting in front of the shop where I bought two water bottles from.

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'Together we will go further' - the writing on the big rocks where soon after a car broke down with a flat tyre.

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The view from the top of the big rocks.

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My camping spot at the water hole.

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Totally unrelated but still a cool picture. Mt Kilimanjaro a few days back.


21/11/2011 Mwanza, Tanzania

Holidays in Mwanza, Tanzania

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 Mwanza.
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 thunderstorm.
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 'Muzungu'.
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.

21/11/2011 Mwanza pics

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This group of motorbike taxi riders would soon become my crowd of friends and local guides in Mwanza

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The local rubbish tip and some big storcks looking for anything fishy in there

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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.

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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.

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The rocky and hilly conditions provide really beautiful real estate.

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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.

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There is an incredible energy in the people here.

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Lake Victoria

25/11/2011 Serengeti National Park

Day 87 - Serengeti National Park

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 Mwanza.
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 thinking about.
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.

25/11/2011 Serengeti pics

Just a few pics from the Srengeti:

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The landscape is covered in a beautiful green with animals scattered around everywhere.

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There is the big African buffalo watching us with suspicion...

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...or the little Warthog...

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...or the vulture surveying the area from a tree.

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A big number of wildebeast arrived in the park, migrating here from Kenya.

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Elephants enjoying the abundance of green leaves.

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Lion babies are happily playing with their mum

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Hippos enjoying a cool bath.

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Most animals just ignore cars. They probably wouldn't ignore motorbikes though.

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Lazy leopard

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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.
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 school.
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. Promised!
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...


14/12/2011 Bukoba pics

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The MV Victoria sailing daily between Mwanza and Bukoba

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One happy student

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Senene - fried grasshoppers are a very popular dish in Bukoba

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The school in Bukoba which Mr S. will be attending soon.

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A typical classroom

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The new Catholic cathedral in Bukoba

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Bukoba beach at Lake Victoria


26/12/2011 Last days in Mwanza

Leaving Tanzania

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 and a 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 ago.

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 officer.
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 happy!
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.


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