Apparently a fan of the explorers now
02.07.2012 - 14.07.2012
I have heard that a fair few times the past couple of weeks. The people in Ilongero are ANGELS compared to where I have been! Obviously just because they knew me there so I wasn't hassled but my gawwwwd it get's tiring elsewhere. I know how celebrities feel - minus the luxury.
Have had a fantastic time seeing some new places, but it was still nice to get back to the calm of the village in time for yesterday as it was the big monthly market day. I am here until next Friday, then more travelling until mid-August…not looking forward to doing it all with my big suitcase! Well planned Nicole... "I'm staying put when I go back so I don't need my backpack". hmmm.
I started off by heading to Tabora, ‘the gateway to the west’. The start of the bus trip from Singida was fine, we picked up some items a traffic cop wanted delivered somewhere along the way including a goat which was thrown in the luggage compartment under the bus. Ever heard a goat scream? They sound like children. Lucky for me – not so much the goat – the road was a bit bumpy and the bus rattly so I couldn’t hear. When I changed bus at Nzega 3 hours in that was the end of the road and it was dirt track from there on. Nzega bus stand is pretty hecsatic, though I got given a cob of maize by a young guy (I didn’t really know what to do with it as it was uncooked) with a proposal to be his 2nd wife, and on the way back through Nzega on the return trip there were plenty of people coming up to my window and stroking my arm when I wasn’t watching. Bit weird. Once again a seat at the back wasn’t ideal but the man next to me was really nice and helped me find a cheap place in Tabora, and along with the taxi driver they would inspect that everything in the room worked and it was secure. We got several flat tyres, about 3 in one go at one point though there was only 1 spare so they just had to switch the tyres around to ‘less important’ places. 15km to Tabora and another flat. Not sure if you’ve ever experienced a really bumpy road that shakes your body so much you start itching, especially your butt. I was FILTHY from the dust, looked like a bad spray tan, when I arrived after the “2 ½ hour” turned 5 hour trip from Nzega but got to see lots of Baobab trees which I always appreciate. My room at the guesthouse had a huge framed poster of Chelsea football club to watch over me. The man working there was like “oh your brothers” about the white ones so I told him my brothers names. I had a day in Tabora, a big, scruffy town where it is difficult to cross the road so I latch onto someone who looks like they know what they’re doing and cross with them. (this was the same in Mwanza, different from dodging donkeys and steers in the village). I think it’s like Asia where you are advised just to cross and walk at an even pace, except here the cars are less likely to go around you. I woke in the morning to the sweet old man from the hostel at my door “sister, sister Nicole” with a bucket of hot water to wash. Very exciting. The place was nice besides being opposite a mosque, though that helped with the early morning wake up for the bus, and when I flushed the toilet the toilet water came up through the bath haha, grose. I tried to arrange for a train to Kigoma but the only one was an overnighter with benches, no seats. No thanks.And not going the day I needed it. But I met a nice girl there who was also getting a ticket and her friend who worked at the station took us ahead of the hundred or so long queue straight into the office. Mzungu express, just the way I like it. She spent the morning showing me around, holding my hand along the way. Then I took a pikipiki to Livingstone’s Tembe, the ‘main attraction of Tabora’. This is where Livingstone stayed in 1872 after being found by Stanley in Ujiji. He also stayed before then and stopped the house being used as a place to keep slaves along the slave trade route to the ocean. One of the men sent to find Livingstone, John William Shaw, came down with Malaria here and remained as Standley went on to Ujiji. When he didn’t recover, he shot himself and there is a cross painted in the corner he did this. Glad I managed to get the guide down to half price by telling him I’m a Tanzanian for now, as there wasn’t much there, a lock of Livinstone’s hair, some letters, certificates of freedom given to slaves and some items similar to what people at the time ‘may have used’…but the trip out was nice and good to get out of the town. And there were some of the beautiful Indian style doors I fell in love with on Zanzibar. I think the main thing going for Tabora is this bakery I stumbled across and supplied me with most of my meals there. I got into an argument with an old man over dinner as all I wanted was peace and quiet. He was so drunk and kept pestering me even after I moved tables 3 times and yelled “I WANT SILENCE, I’M TRYING TO WATCH TV”. Then I heard him tell the waitress I would cover his bill….was not having that! He kept trying to talk to me from a few tables away so I had to yell “YOU'RE TALKING TO YOURSELF NOW” and eventually the owner came over and was like “What the F*%#, what the F is wrong with you” and dragged him away haha. He reappeared later on and again the owner just yelled “F*%#” haha and dragged him out again. Obviously a regular pest. Other than that, Tabora has a fair few hotels, restaurants etc named after South African cities, has lots of lovely mango trees left over from the slave trade days, Sun City ‘casino’ (a bar with a poker machine), and a shop selling delicious frozen strawberry yoghurt.
After 2 nights there I got the ‘Super Vuvuzela Victorian Express’ bus to Kigoma, which was neither super nor express. The seat I had booked had no window at all in the frame and when the conductor told me oh well I told him I’d have his seat instead if it was no big deal. My new seat wasn’t all that much better with the seat top detached from the legs so every bump – and there were many – me and the 2 other people would fly in the air with the seat and land falling down the back of the seat. Not only was it itchy bum again, it was sore! There was no road the entire way (14 hours) sooooo much dust that eventually a man laughed that I am become a black person and the rest of the bus were becoming white people. Same with the previous bus, it rattled so loudly that even at full volume I couldn’t hear my ipod. The man next to me was quite large so it was nice to cosy up to him in the cool morning (for a country with so many big people, they sure make seats and isles NARROW!), but the day got HOT and as the isle piled with people and I had a big butt sticking into my other side it was not so good. When my row would fly in the air over some especially big bumps the whole back of the bus would laugh and I just burst into laughter because it was sooooo bad. I love those moments that cross all language and cultural barriers and everyone is just laughing together. I have figured out a ‘6 steps of acceptance’ program of travelling here. #1 (hours 0-2) – this is not too bad, quite pleasant. #2 (hours 2-4) this is crap, but hey, yeeeehhhh check me out travelling and roughing it #3 (hours 4-6) starting to hurt, bit uncomfortable. This sucks but hey, it’s just how things are #4 (hours 6-10) FML! This is ssssssssssssssssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh*****ttttttttttttttt!! #5 (hours 10-12) when you just start laughing because it is so bad, and just can do nothing but literally laugh out loud and talk outloud to yourself about how bad it is #6 (hours 12-14) Not laughing anymore. This is not funny. Almost there. Really hurting. Close to tears. Face stiff with dirt. Hot. Sweaty. I know 10 days of bucket showers will not have me clean.
Somehow a lady managed to breastfeed through all this, I was scared she was going to lose a nipple!
What a small world though, S was coming from Mwanza up north the same day, we knew we’d be in Kigoma the same day but didn’t know when, and at a stop about 2 hours from Kigoma a bus pulled in and she got out. All the people on her bus had overthrown the driver saying he was driving too slow so were going to have to wait there for 2 hours for a new driver to come from Kigoma so she just got out to look for a new bus. I had my hand waving to her out the window, and she later said she didn’t even see a white hand because it was so dirty. Worked out well as we couldn’t have communicated anyway as she got mugged in Mwanza and had her phone stolen. Talk about adding insult to injury, as the guy grabbed her bag he said “mzungu” then pushed her and she fell into a gutter (and they are about 1m deep here). We haven’t heard so many pointless “mzungu” before. Noone can just say “Hi’, it’s “mzungu, hi”. We’ve had quite a laugh about how ridiculous it is. If I thought I was dirty in Tabora, I had a dirt beard and moustache, filthy hands, dirty clothes, dirty hair, dirty bag, even dirty bra somehow. 2 washes later and was still rubbing off dirt. The guest house in Kigoma was cheeeaaappp it was awesome, about $2.50 each a night for a huge room with 2 double beds and a fan! We were like a family with the people working there by the time we left they were so sweet. Kigoma itself is quite nice, the area is pretty and green and on Lake Tanganyika. It is really just one main road, easier to get around than Tabora and less overwhelming, except with having people ask for things got a little crazy. I think this is because there have been so many aid agencies working in the area for so many years with refugees coming from Rwanda, DRC and Burundi. A bit overwhelming at times as there are a fair few street beggars which there aren’t many in Singida. The villages before entering Kigoma seemed a lot less developed than anywhere else as well, so as frustrating as it can be at the time when people ask for things or as rude as I seem, have tried to keep some compassion in my mind, but it’s exhausting.
We spent half the first day trying to arrange to go to see the chipanzees at either Mahale Mountains national Park or Gombe Stream national Park. This was not easy! No one really knew anything. We ended up at the lakeshore village Kibirizi twice, 1st being told by several people that the booking office is there (it wasn’t) and then returning to try to get on the 2pm boat to Gombe Stream (which doesn’t exist, only a midday one). We thought we were about to get into a police chase when our taxi driver crapped himself when he saw the traffic police up ahead as he hadn’t updated his registration and we couldn’t unlock our doors when we pulled over and he didn’t turn the car off or get out for ages (not nervous travellers at all). The main National Park office told us a boat to Mahale Mountains is $1500, hahahahaha funny. And to Gombe Stream at least $400 so we ended up asking people if they know anyone with a boat but that was still going to be $300. Finally found out we could get a water taxi to Gombe Stream for $2.50 the next day. The Mahale Mountains boat trip would be an overnight 19 hour journey….maybe I’ll return when I can fly in, it’s meant to be an incredible place. In the afternoon we took a dalladalla to Mwamahunga (Jakobsen’s) Beach, though had to walk about 45minutes through a village first and honestly thought we were going to be robbed by children. Ilongero kids are angels in comparison, they ask for money or something then carry on but these ones followed us up the hill and were touching our bags and everything. Kids scare me a little. It was worth it though, the beach is a small cove with several little gazebos and we had it all to ourselves, besides a few monkeys who when I awoke from my nap had stolen my pineapple. The water is crystal clear, looks like an ocean more than a lake, and it was just sooooo nice to be in water and feel like I was at a place of luxury. On the way back we stopped for drinks at a really plush hotel on the lake, feeling a little scrappy rolling in after the beach, and had a few drinks watching the sun set over the lake and the distant Congo Mountains.
Then I went to a disco and had a huge night which did nothing to help my cold and woke up with no voice, a godawful hangover and had to get straight on the boat in the midday sun to Gombe Stream. Wouldn’t usually mind the no voice thing but as chimps share 98% of our DNA the rangers aren’t supposed to let you enter the park if you have even a sniffle or cough as they are so susceptible to our diseases. I definitely couldn’t hide this, so thankfully this is Tanzania and rules are pretty relaxed. The boat trip………oh my god I thought I was going to faint it was soooooo hot, we started off with lots of space around us sitting up the front of the wooden boat with the motto “we trust in….(someone)” painted on the wood below. We leant against a sideways table being transported, to be comfortable. Oh how I would come to hate this table as it blocked any air getting to us. The boat was soon piled with people and goods, it was friggen H.O.T, I had about 10 peoples legs under me as I stood up one time to get a breath and in swooped the feet to stretch out, and I have never sweat so much in my life. I wasn’t sure if I’d wee’d my pants or just sweat. A lot of people in Kigoma speak different languages from each other so will try to communicate in French or English, so I overheard a couple of young guys talking about how dangerous the sun is for the white people and albinos. “have you ever seen a burnt one? It’s very bad”. And discussing there is this special cream for the heat (sunscreen). I wish it was for the heat. Most of the boats are called something religious and have messages such as “we trust in God’ on them, which I was hoping had nothing to do with the journey ahead.
The trip was about 3 hours and I was happy they stayed pretty close to the shore. Arriving at Gombe Stream we headed straight for the beautiful pebble beach to cool down. When we found out the price of meals (only one place to get food there - $10 breakfast and $15 dinner!) us 2 and 2 Japanese girls we did the trek with were stockpiling food like biscuits and bread to store for lunch. At breakfast the next morning a baboon walked up the stairs inside the hotel to the dining area so we all had to jump up and act like monkeys to scare it away. We later heard things being thrown around downstairs in the corridor outside our rooms and they had thrown rubbish everywhere, that or an angry housekeeper. Again thanks to the work permit got a bargain price! The forests of Gombe are beautiful and green and we only walked for about 30mins to find the first chimp a tracker had spotted. He was Titan, up high in one of the palms. We stayed there for a while hoping he would come down, and then Zeusi walked past about 3m from us so we raced through the forest to follow him, who also went up a tree. After a while we moved on and found several chimps lower in the trees, with young ones swinging on branches and vines and playing. I got hit on the back with fruit we had to try to dodge as the chimps through them from high up in the trees. Coming up to the area they were and hearing their screams they sound quite frightening, but not as big as gorillas so although apparently 3 times stronger than people, I wasn’t as scared. The guide did tell us not to look them in the eye, and if one walks up to you and seems threatening he will tell you to find a tree to hug to show your acceptance of the chimpz dominance. We also saw some baboons, red colobus, blue monkeys and red tailed monkey. Lotsa monkeys. Some facts, when a grown up chimp dies, the group will stay with its body for 3 days before moving on. If a baby dies, its Mum will carry its body around until it starts to smell. When on heat, the females know to go to fig trees – or possibly during this time they prefer to eat figs….English explanations were a little dodgy – so that the males know if they don’t want to reproduce yet e.g if too soon after another baby, they ejaculate outside her. Hope they know this is not 100% effective, but good to see they do practice family planning. hmmm what else did I learn…. Oh the chimps like to grab peoples clothes and try to drag them off, or at least suck on them to get the salt from their sweat to taste. You are only supposed to have 45minutes with the chimpanzees for the day, but as we trekked on we came across another part of the group (there are 3 main groups in Gombe Stream) on the ground this time so were allowed to stay and watch them tumbling about doing rolly pollies, eating fruits (very messy eaters) and grooming for almost an extra hour. We stayed here crouched among vines and bush watching them go about their day only a few metres away. At one stage, 2 adults were grooming each other then one of the youngsters came over and tried to join in grooming the adult as well.
They are all so human like, especially how they move their arms. A mum was lying down with a teeny baby clinging to her chest. The kids play. The oldest ones sit there above all the nonsense. One of the young ones came up and curiously touched the leg of the girl next to me, 10cm away. I honestly almost wet my pants with excitement. They are indeed smart things, the forest grows the fruit used to make Amerulo (the delicious creamy alcoholic bev not sure if we have it in oz) and the chimps eat the seed to get a little tipsy. They eventually walked away so we continued our trek through ‘python way’, an area popular with pythons, then an area home to many Black Mamba’s, the only snake I am petrified of as you really don’t stand much of a chance of living….I stuck pretty close to the guide. We passed the feeding station Jane Goodall used to feed the chimps and climbed the steep track to ‘Jane’s Point’ where she would go to hear where the chimps were. We could hear them all screaming out from the forest below, and our guide could call out to them in a really great chimp voice and they would respond. Nice view from up here of Lake Tanganyika too. So Gombe Stream in Tanzania’s smallest National Park, you can only get to by boat, and the site of the longest running study of any wild animal population in the world. Jane Goodall arrived in 1960 to begin her study and stayed 20 years or something. I thought she had died so I got laughed at when I asked who names the chimps now, as it is still her. I got over 500 photos, many of which are blurry – they move more than gorillas..plenty of perfectly focused leaves and blurry monkeys in the background - it was incredible and S and I couldn’t stop looking at each other and exclaiming “THIS IS AWWESOME!”. We went to the beach again in the afternoon, and after walking around a while we came back to near the hotel and the chimps were eating in the scrubby bsuhes along the beach! There were no tress to hug so we got a little nervous and moved on. Amazing place. Got the boat back to Kiberizi the next morning, much more pleasant before the sun is up, and my seat, a plank going across the centre of the boat, was much more open to air. The only thing about this trip was I was sure I was going to be thrown overboard after refusing to share my water and when we thought someone had helped themselves to S’s bottle on her bag, I snapped “ask first”. Then I could hear all the ladies around us saying how we wouldn’t give our water for the children so I snapped it’s not our job, they should have brought some, we need to drink too. The daggers I felt every sip I took oh dear. When she said again how I wouldn’t give it to the kids, I told her I have the flu, does the kid want the flu? No! She whispered to her friends I was scared of getting HIV. Ridiculous. Bullies. S gave in and gave hers to a kid, didn’t even get a thank you from the Mum. Then a man asked me for money for food as he’s hungry. I said sorry, me too and if tomorrow there is no mzungu on the boat what will he do? I feel rude but it’s true, I can give him money for food today but that won’t help him tomorrow and when you just say no they just think you’re selfish. When I left the boat I heard one of the women say “still, she has her water” as I hadn’t finished it. I was ready to fly off the handle! I'm going to blame the heat and seasickness for my rudeness here...is that ok? Boat toilet – bottom of the boat as we saw some kid do. Another whitey on the boat had someone ask him for his mp3 player. Happy to get back to mainland and to our nice little family at the guesthouse.
We got a dalla to Ujiji, not really knowing where we were to go just that we could ask people for “Livingstone” and they would point us the way. Ujiji is one of Africa’s oldest market villages as it had been a main boat port. You will all think I am suddenly a fan of Livingstone but we went to the Livingstone Museum as this is the place where Henry Morton Stanley famously said “Dr Livingstone, I presume.” These places just offer something to do other than walk around another town for the day. But again I thought kids were going to mug us walking down the cobblestone road to get there. Ladies were even asking for S’s kitenge she was wearing. I had to ask them what will she wear? Jeez, they’d literally take the clothes off your back. The guide was really enthusiastic and especially so as I told him what big fans of Livingstone we are. The museum was boring so thank God I got them down from TSH20,000 to TSH2,000 by telling them my book said it’s free so that’s all we brought. Originally the lady working there called the guide to ask what better price he could do and she put me on the phone, but she heard me try to tell him we are Tanzanians to find out the real price and snatched the phone back to tell him we are wazungu. Worth a try. Got a photo in the big mango tree that shaded Livingstone and Stanley’s encounter. Well not THE tree, but when it died in the 1920’s part of it was replanted and that is the tree that is there now. Wow. Haha.
Next destination – Mwanza. Or so I thought. Got on our 5am bus, the ‘Adventure Line’. Buses are enough of an adventure without that being their name so we were a little worried. Once again, no road. Apparently the trip should take about 10 hours to Mwanza, after a few of the usual break downs and flats it was 8:30pm and we were still about 3-4 hours from Mwanza including a ferry trip S freaked out at one stop and just jumped off. To be fair Mum and Dad you would probably have been pleased if this was my decision, as our bus had an armed guard with a massive gun and I have never seen so many huge guns and bullet proof vests as one bus stand along the way had. I later read that as the road is along the Burundi border, it has the odd outburst of banditry. This and that the driver was really flooring it and the bus was on some pretty unnatural feeling sideways angles at some points added to her panic so fair enough, though to have come 15 hours and so close to the end give up seemed a waste. So we got a room at Geita, a nothing town with nothing to offer but as we realised the next day, thousands of bicycles! The room seemed nice but the tv had no channels and the bathroom no water. When waiting to get a bus along the road, I looked down to get something from my bag and when I looked up we were surrounded by 5 or 6 bikes offering to take us to the bus stand on their little padded cushion at the back. Never seen so many bikes as were peddling along this road. We got a bus easily, a nice one, and the trip was really pleasant, crossed part of Lake Victoria by ferry and arrived in Mwanza. Had a walk around town, got a pizza, chinese for dinner (PRAWNS!) and a glass of wine at a nice restaurant on Lake Victoria, Africa’s largest lake and 2nd largest fresh water in the world. A table of American men had to leave early for a flight so they gave us one of their dishes they didn’t get to (from the expensive part of the menu) so that was even better! Freebies! On the Lake is Bismark Rock, a pile of boulders in the water and a major local landmark but I think we’ve got better rocks in Singida. Got a picture anyway though. Mwanza is Tanzania’s 2nd largest city and was a bit overwhelming as it is so busy. Was really hot too, even at night – more so than Kigoma even. We got a bit lost and ended up at the same place a few times and I heard a lady shocked at how many wazungu were about, cos we all look the same and it was actually just us doing laps. I’m sure I could have gone out of my way to see more or go for a boat trip or something but I was happy with the one day and night there and then back to Singida the next day, without even a breakdown. Though my legs and feet had had enough of the long drive days and were so sore and swollen, if that’s anything like pregnancy feet than no thanks! Nice to be back in the colder weather and get some Ilongero beans which I was unable to find just the way I like them anywhere else. Plenty to do this week before leaving, I think G has forgotten as she is talking about things we can do next month.
Hope everyone is well, braving the cold. Too bad about state of origin for NSW, again, oh and Tom and Katie’s separation. Shock.
Lots of love,