isiolo, kenya to mbeya, tanzania.
Isiolo, Kenya to Myeba, Tanzania
‘We’ll have the omelette and the chips’
‘here is your chip omelette’
– conversation with waitress in Mangugu, Tanzania
Currently writing this from Myeba, southern Tanzania where I have finally found some time to update and just as importantly the internet to allow it. From my last time of putting fingers to keyboard we have journeyed from the centre of Kenya and throughout Tanzania. This has entailed rolling hills alongside Mt Kenya, seeing wild animals, passing through isolated villages and eating said hot chip omelettes.
Since my last blog entry was so successful in point form (as judged by me based on ease) I am thinking I will run with it again. I am pretty sure most booker prize recieptants would agree.
Routine – with 90% of days nominated for riding rather than rest we certainly fall into a pattern as ones does for this length of time. Mine is normally up at 6, shower (cold water from bucket although sometimes avoided), stretches to minimize some of the inevitably pain ill face, pack my life back into 4 panniers (bags) and finally breakfast. This meal normally entails waiting around whilst if fortunate you receive an egg with bread which is sometimes toasted if lucky. Then it’s onto the bike to discover what points of difference the day’s journey will offer, it’s always something new. Normally we split the day up to allow coffee/chai/coke/food stops which commonly take place in smaller villages which at times don’t even offer cold drinks… electricity comes before refrigeration. Lunch is normally scheduled for a suitable halfway point and lately has been rice with beans or meat or tomatoes, sometimes as a combination and it always taste delicious, I can see 4 ingredients dinners once home being a treat. The afternoon is either a slower pace to aide digestion or a bit of a dash to beat the fast African setting sun and accompanying hungry wildlife. At this stage our average kilometers per day is 130. Once into a ‘town’ we normally split up to see which establishment offers the best (cheapest) dwelling and has less holes in their mostiquto nets, this is normally made easier by the fact that most place only have the one guest house. I am normally straight to the cold shower whilst I still have some warmth in attempt to remove some of the grease/dirt/sand/sweat that has mysteriously found its way on my during the day. With us all looking our best it’s off to our dinner reservations which involve finding a local who can point to a suitable place after understanding our hand language of putting food into our mouths. By now it’s about 8:30 so it’s straight to bed. With mozzie nets securely fastened and cockroaches moved on I manage to get 3 sometimes 4 pages into a book before passing out. This routine repeats the next day with guarantees that it will all be equally amazing and allow untold boring stories to friends once home. Please note that this routine may vary slightly i.e. we don’t always get coke, sometimes its fanta in its varying flavours and at times we stay up until 8:45 although this is ridiculously late we try to avoid this.
Position – we are currently in southern Tanzania and well into the second half of the journey with more than two months behind us and over 6000kms under our lycra belts. It’s amazing to think we’ve cycled this far, through 5 countries and just as incredible to think that we’ve got so much to go.
Health – Justin has given up the cigarettes which are great so in full support to accomplish this hard task the rest of us have taken up smoking.
Shane has hurt his finger.
I am pretty sure our ‘subtle’ tan lines are permanent.
Accommodation – in central Tanzania we achieved out cheapest yet, $1.20! For this we obtained cold shower, mostiquto nets, clothing hooks (nails) on the wall and the slight catch of sharing a bed with Gavan and Shane, please note it was top to tail to top. On the even cheaper side (free) we got to sleep in the ‘command centre’ of a game reserve, a place which offers ‘hunters’ the opportunity to literally pull the trigger on found game.
Food – from the ‘traditional’ hot chips to the regional cuisine of sweet corn soup and special fried rice (at a shopping centre food court) we have indulged in all that Kenya and Tanzania has to offer which really isn’t that much. Both offers very simply dishes based around rice, meat and delicious hot chips.
Drinks – Chai, sometimes with milk and sometimes without, it really depends on what comes out of the cafes thermos.
As a later in the day alternative there is ‘Konyagi’, a Tanzanian clear spirit that mixes well with literally anything.
People – the most dominant culture throughout the border areas of Kenya/Tanzania have been the Maasai as seen on many documentaries/travel ads jumping high up and down on the spot. It’s been nice to witness a society outside of the ‘cultural village experiences’ going about their everyday life whether this be the young boys on the path to manhood clad in black with painted faces or an elder man in traditional wear along with accompanying spears answering his mobile phone plucked from its pattern matching holder.
Landscape – from the finishing of dirt roads in Kenya which offered barren plains to the recent green clad mountain tops, it’s certainly been amazing to witness the various subtle changes between the two. These changes have involved thick acacia scrub, skirting plateaus and boulder strewn fields. Skirting the two highest mountains in Africa has offered some alternative viewing and in turn has thrown up some hills. Although Ethiopia please taken note as these countries actually divert the roads around the peaks rather than straight over the top.
Weather – after 2 months it has finally rained and coupled with more lighting in a day then I’ve seen collectively for a while. All of this isn’t too surprising considering we’re now in the tropical (malaria) belt. Quite a different experience considering we’ve dealt with heat that you can actually feel burning in Ethiopia or alternatively the opposing cold in Sudan where you struggled to feel your fingers. Besides getting a tad annoyingly wet it also cleans our bikes and therefore diminishes their ‘I’ve been riding in Africa for 2 months’ look that we have tried so hard to maintain.
Roads – we have just completed a 4 day secondary route from central to southern Tanzania which has been amazing. This route took us through several game reserves with attached warnings of lions and other ‘dangerous’ wildlife from the locals, fortunately and unfortunately we only seen monkeys. With the dirt (mud) roads the entire way it minimized the traffic to the point of seeing 10 cars the entire time. With the experienced heavy rain the road at points turned into a series of miniature rivers which emptied into puddles that more closely resembled mini swimming pools. Whilst at first trying to avoid the puddles with no choice one eventually went straight through them with the accompanying joy of a 10yo doing something they’re not meant to do.
At times you would look through the overarching thick green foliage at an ominous dark shape ahead with the wonder of it being more threatening clouds or a mountain under mist and the question of which one would be the preferred option. Breaking up the ‘jungle’ has been tiny villages where if passing through you got little snippets of locals life’s whether it be the kids playing with found objects, families toiling in the corn fields or even the engaging local drunk with each leaving you thinking more of their lives that you don’t see.
This 4 day adventure came to end yesterday with a climaxing 3000m climb, which can be certainly said was high as evident by passing through rain clouds to actually being above them.
Animals – too many… Shane and I did a private 3 day safari within the Serengeti NP and the N’gorrongoro crater where we managed to tick off most of Africa’s wildlife including the hyped ‘big 5’ i.e. elephant herds up close, lions stalking prey (unsuccessfully dammit), too many zebras and wildebeests, hyena families, chilling giraffes etc… All of this amongst some amazing varying landscape from the endless grassed plains to the fertile crater floor and its array of interacting/symbiotic animals. Being away with our heads constantly stuck out the top of a landcruiser for 3 days along with camping in such amazing locations actually felt like a holiday (within a holiday.) As nearly as entertaining was observing at close quarters the other tourists in full khaki outfits literally like they just walked out of a safari fashion store. Considering you were not allowed out of the vehicles I’m not entirely sure of the purpose although this said they might have been commenting on the thong wearing very much un-camouflaged Shane and I.
Nairobi – With it being approximately the halfway mark (and my birthday) we treated ourselves to a nice hotel as judged by the buffet breakfast, the pool and the fact it cost 25 times the amount of the previous nights’ accommodation. With two consecutive rest days it was comforting having somewhere to simply chill, break breakfast serving suggestions or simply be hung-over which fortunately I avoided. Despite only seeing a small part of the city we didn’t see any justified examples for its ‘Nai-robbery’ nickname.
It was certainly great to have my birthday in a bigger city so it offered more than rice and a warm beer or in comparison to a hotel which can be rented by the hour which has happened several times. In preparation for our night our we ventured to a high end fashion retailer (Woolworths) to get appropriate outfits to ensure we meet the assumed dress code at the Australian embassy. This was also due to the fact that our shorts, two t-shirts and thongs we all individually own are now very ‘Africanized’ (read probably need to be thrown out.) The embassy entailed sausages in bread, Coopers and a little bit of disbelief that they actually let us in. Once the ‘local’ beers ran out we left and headed to ‘Carnivores’ a very tacky tourist restaurant that specializes in meat and seemingly over the top birthday sing-a-longs. We finished the night at several bars whilst taking in the numerous compliments on our high end fashion – mine is currently in the cupboard or being worn by a porter from the hotel. The next day whilst attempting to weat out the beer and g&t’s it all hit home when I had to input my age on the exercise bike.
Camera – I have since replaced my broken smaller camera (s95 canon) whilst in Nairobi. Attempts to get it fixed failed and at the eleventh hour and thanks to the canon distributer I bought myself a replacement (s100 canon) as an overpriced birthday present to myself.
As previously mentioned this is the camera I keep within hands reach to capture the everyday shots. Some of quick images have appeared on the blog whilst my other camera is being utilized for the more composed shots i.e. tourist sites, special moments etc… Selected images from both cameras will be uploaded onto the site once home and as with most of the images on my site they will be available for purchase along with any previously posted blog images. At this stage I am thinking that half of the money raised from the African images will go towards a local charity, one that is definitely in Africa, it will aim to support smaller communities much like some of the ones we’ve passed through and ideally will involve bikes. Once home I will formalize this but please let me know if you have any ideas for a suitable charity that fits the criteria or any questions.
That’s me done for another riveting installment involving me, my friends, bicycles and the continent known as Africa… Apologies for the length I obviously had a lot to get off my chest and thanks if you managed to read down this far. From here it’s only a day before we get to the border of Malawi, a country that straddles a lake that you’re apparently not meant to swim in and a place where 70% of its income is derived from tobacco so it’s a good chance smoking will be a lot more of a popular hobby then swimming.
As always thanks for the comments/emails/general thoughts and my apologies that I don’t do this on a more regular basis; too much to see, do and eat. I’m already looking forward to sharing more of my ‘selected’ images that haven’t appeared on the site once home.