Last monday Christofer and Jonas met up again after a week spent in different parts of Tanzania. Christofer spent his week on Zanzibar and in Dar es Salaam, hanging out with some dolphins and also some guys from Australia and Israel. Jonas spent his week climbing Kilimanjaro, also with some guys from Israel, and a lot of local porters. He reached Uhuru peak last saturday!
After meeting up again we spent one last night in Arusha, and then we were on our way. The first day we cycled 100 kilometers. It was great to be back on the road again, and the massive tail wind and smooth tarmac made the day great. That night we camped behind some palm trees in the bush. A quiet place to sleep, but in the morning we had to pay the price – one flat tire each. Tanzania is full of biker-unfriendly bushes with gigant thornes that love to pierce through our Schwalbe tires. But after twenty minutes we were on our way again. Also this day could we enjoy a nice tail wind, and after about 60 km we where in Babati for lunch. We had the classic Tanzanian dish – chips mayai, which is basically chips, eggs and salt fried together. Delicious and so cheap! Wherever you go in Tanzania a chips mayai is always 2000 shillings (8 swedish kronor). Also: a litre of water is always 1000 shillings, and 300ml coke is always 600 shillings. Seems like the prices are set by the government. Or does anyone have a better explanation? Perhaps it is Coca Cola that set the prices here, cause wherever you look you are sure to see a Coke sign. Everyone who’s been to Tanzania knows what we are talking about. It seems as they own this country.
In the evening we were somewhere between Dareda and Endasak when we saw two guys in their early twenties sitting next to the road. We stopped and asked if we could sleep somewhere. They spoke excellent English (unlike most of the Tanzanian population), and said we could sleep behind a church, right next to one of the guys houses. We spent the evening talking about hyenas, crops, animals, education and much more. We were even invited into their house where the mother had made us tea. Even though most people here don’t have much of anything they’re always very generous to guests, and it sure is a pleasure to be a tourist in the bush. In the morning we said goodbye and were on our way again.
We were headed towards Singida, but the once very flat Tanzania were now full of uphills which made us tired. We thought about taking a gravel road to Singida, but where too pleased with the tarmac, so we took the highway. At around 5:30, about 20 kilometers east of Singida, we reached the summit of a massive uphill when we saw what looked like a good place to pitch our tent. Just to be sure that it was OK, we asked a guy sitting next to the road. He didn’t speak a word of English, but with a lot of body language and pointing at the tent he finally understood. But instead of letting us wild camp he yelled at some teenagers who came and took us to their farm. It was a classic Tanzanian farm. Three or four houses surrounded by a self made fence (made from bushes). Inside the farm there were dogs, hens, cows and a lot of kids running around. We shook hands with all the grown ups (no one spoke English) and sat down on some chairs that were brought out from their houses. We shared some ground nuts with all of them (perhaps 7-8 adults and 10-15 kids) and looked at our map which was pretty fascinating to them. After a while we pitched our tent outside one of the houses, which of course also was very fascinating to them, and especially the kids. In the evening we were invited into the main house where we were given some kind of fish soup and ugale,which is a dough-like porridge made from maize flour and water. We had to eat alone, while our host ate outside on the ground. This is very common. The guests are given the best they have, and they settle for the rest. We are pretty sure they only had ugale, and we were given the expensive fish soup. In the morning we gave the oldest man some money and a vegetable (which he gave to his wife), and then we were on our way. That was probably one of the most interesting nights on our trip so far.
We cycled to Singida, bought some yoghurt and bread, cycled 10km more and sat down next to a fence and enjoyed it in silence. After Singida we said goodbye to the tarmac road and hit gravel. It was a fairly good gravel road at the start, but quickly got worse. Christofer got two flats before we hit tarmac again, about 80km later. By then we were really really tired. We sat down in a ditch, had a coke and relaxed for a bit. When we had regain some energy we cycle 5km to the city Misigiri where we checked in to a guest house. At the guesthouse we had shower from a bucket full of cold water, but was so worth it! Dirty, tired, hungry – after a cold shower we were ourselves again. After dusk we went out in the small town and found a place that sold us chips mayai and a cold Safari beer. At 8pm we were back at the guest house and fell asleep in our twin bed.
The following morning (must have been saturday) we cycled down to the city Igunga where we had chips mayai again and also bought a Tanzanian sim card, which took us a couple of hours. After this we hit gravel road again. We cycled towards Mbutu, and on our way there we found three kids who knew the best tracks through the gravel road, so we cycled behind them for an hour or so. This was great, but what we didn’t realize was that they weren’t going the way we were supposed to go 🙂 Instead of going north west, we were going north east. However, this didn’t bother us that much. We knew how to get back on track, and furthermore, we had found the perfect spot for wild camping – alone on the savanna with a beautiful sunset right in front of us. We drank water, had some peanut butter sandwiches and then fell asleep in our tent.
The following morning we had a plan. Go west along a gravel road to find our way back to the road that we should be on. We cycled for about two kilometers, and then the road ended. All that was ahead of us was sand and crops. Stubborn as we are, we never thought about turning back, even though the sand was impossible to bike on. So we jumped of our bikes and started to push them to west. We knew the road should be somewhere 10 km ahead of us. On our way we met some farmers, and we asked them where the city Igurub was. But of course no one spoke English, so we just continued to push. We crossed a couple of cotton fields, dry river beds, more sand, more fields, before we finally found a small track that took us to a small gravel road. The road forked into several roads all the time, so every 10 minutes we had to stop and ask “Where is Igurub??” And sometimes people pointed us in the right direction and sometimes they just laughed and said something in Swahili. However, after about four hours we had finally found Igurub! We celebrated with a coke and bought some groceries for lunch. We even bought a couple of lollipops to cheer us up, cause it sure was a tough morning.
Even though gravel roads are really hard and tiring to bike on, they’re always worth it. It is on the gravel road you see the best scenery, meet the most interesting people, and nothing makes you happier than when you finally see tarmac again! So see, without having to curse and sweat on a gravel road all day you’ll never get the great feeling when you spot the smooth tarmac in the horizon.
After Igurub the gravel road got better, but still Christofer managed to get two more flats. In the evening we reached the town Ukenyenge where we saw a place that seemed to sell some kind of food. We stopped and bought some. The food was called Kasawa, which is some kind of fried vegetable. It was very good. Especially after that day, and especially because they cost 100 shillings each (40 swedish ore). We had plenty + a coke. While sitting there we started to talk to a man who spoke English, and he invited us to stay at his house during the night. His name was Massanja. We cycled to his farm. He had cows, goats, dogs and hens. Again we shook hands with all the adults. They had a few houses, and one of them was just being constructed – this would be our home for the night. We put our bikes in the house, and after a while Massanja brought us two buckets of water for us to wash our dirty bodies. After getting cleaned up we went for a walk in the village, cause we had to notify the village chairman of our presence. This is apparently custom when you bring visitors to the village. And a guess is that this help keep crime at a low. It seems as everyone knows everyone, even though this village consisted of 350 adults and god knows how many kids. In the evening we were given rice, beans and the best – warm milk for dinner. It tasted great, especially the milk, that we hadn’t had for a long time. After dinner we fell asleep on a mattress in one of the unfinished rooms.
In the morning we had a kind of freshly baked rice bun for breakfast before we hit the road again. After 20km we were finally riding on tarmac again! And we got the tail wind pushing us north towards Mwanza. The happiness of riding on tarmac and the tailwind made us bike 140km that day before we set camp in the bush next to the road. Up until now the roads through Tanzania had been used most by animals and cyclists. A lot of locals cycles with merchandises between the villages. Their bikes are usually loaded with sugar, bananas or big buckets of water, and sometimes they try to race us along the road, which is a lot of fun. However, getting closer to the city Mwanza meant that the traffic increased. More trucks with petrol or cotton, more buses and more motorcycles were passing us now than ever.
After cycling 800km in 7 days we were starting to get tired, and we were happy Mwanza was only 35km away. In the evening we read books for hours before the sun finally set and we could fall asleep in our tent.
In the morning we had mango and banana for breakfast, biked 15km, then had breakfast again. This time at a cafe that served us tea, a bun and another Tanzanian classic – chapati, a flat bread that is sold all over Tanzania. A thing to say about Tanzanian cafes and restaurants is that they always “force” you to wash your hands with water before you eat. Either there is a bucket of water at the entrance that you can use, and sometimes they come over to your table and pour water over your hands. Sometimes it’s super hot and sometimes cold, but it feels good that they care for the hygiene. Of course, after washing our hands with water we always drown our hands in hand sanitizer to kill all the germs! After our second breakfast we biked the final 20km to Mwanza where we found a cheap guest house where we’ll spend two nights.
From Mwanza we’ll take a night ferry to Bukoba, but the ferry doesn’t leave until thursday evening, so we’ll have two days of rest here in Mwanza – a rest that is more than welcome.