From the middle of nowhere to Kibondo
26.10.2009 38 °C
After we left the guys at the chimp camp the road continued to be stunning, and sandy.
Really, really beautiful....
Not long before we reached the market town of Uvinza the road was completely blocked by a logging lorry. The whole of the front half had sheared off the axle and the wheels lay several metres away from the rest of the vehicle. Some guys were busy cutting an alternative route through the surrounding bush as it was going to be some time before the lorry could be moved. We really wanted to get a picture but since it was a lorry full of logs in a nature reserve where logging is illegal, and since there were lots of men around with machetes we thought it best to carry on our way and wave inanely.
Downhill towards Uvinza.
The morning after we went through Uvinza was a Saturday. Once we got passed the mossies who were maliciously waiting for us outsied our tent from the evening before we got caught up in the early morning market run to Kasulu.
Everyone was laden with their produce on the way to the market.
The highlight of Kasulu for us was stopping in at a guest house to get some chai tea and chipattas and discovering that at this guest house the chipattas were actually bona fide delicious pancakes. Rob ate about ten!!
We passed a couple of refugee camps after Kasulu. The road runs parallel to the southern border of Burundi. The Tanzanian authorities are in the process of closing down the camps. There are several in this North Western corner of Tanzania and some of them have been there since the'70's. Since a lot of the occupants were born in the camps they must now make the choice between repatriation or claiming Tanzanian citizenship. In the latter case they will be re-located to far off South Eastern Tanzania just above Mozambique since the strong-holds of refugees close to the borders of their original countries contributes to the instability of the surrounding countries and the cross border flow is hard to monitor and control.
One day after a night under a very starry sky in the middle of the bush we came shortly upon a group of three or four armed soldiers on a bridge over a river in a seemingly very remote place. They were very friendly when we greeted them but were very resistant to questions about their posting. Being so close to the Burundi border we assume they were involved in monitoring the flow of people from there. From this point we saw the outline of steep hills in the far distance rising out of the flat bush. I tried to ignore them and banished from my mind the thought we would be huffing up them soon. However they wouldn't be ignored forever and eventually we found ourselves climbing steeply with a steadily growing crowd of children pacing us easily at a very leisurely walk!
But what goes up must come down and we did manage to outpace the very persistent (and very coy, curious) children in the end.
The storm clouds darkened overhead and mid-afternoon the rainy season dramatically announced it's late arrival on the dry dusty roads which turned to slime beneath our tyres. The thought that the end of our epic dirt-road stretch was only a day or two away made the cycling no easier. However the thought of the warm cosy bed we planned to sleep in that night in a guest house in the next town, Kibondo, kept us going. Which was good because there was a set of six or seven hills, each one bigger than the previous which seriously pushed me to contemplate stopping then and there and throwing the tent up in the pouring rain just 7km shy of our destination!!
Not all of the traffic managed to navigate the mud as deftly as us. I don't know how long the driver of this lorry would have waited before sleeping in a bed again if it wasn't for the very convenient JCB just out of the shot on it's way down to pull him out.
As we slipped and slid along in the mud dreaming of crisp white sheets and hot water Rob mused, given the chances of running water AND electricity were slim, which would be preferable; no water or no leccy? In his musings however he didn't anticipate the crisp white sheets would be grey and there would be neither water nor electricity!! On first impressions Kibondo was a big anti-climax – dust bowl turned mud bath!! But we were there, and we managed, and soon we were warm, dry and clean. We decided to take a rest day there and as with so many things our circumstances seemed brighter in the warm light of the morning sun. We wandered around the town popping into various shops re-stocking our supplies and then sheltered in our room from the hot midday sun eating copious amounts of fresh fruit and veg – watermelon, pineapple, bananas and avocado on fresh bread, and then we feasted again in the evening on tomato, onion and pepper sauce splashed liberally on ooodles of hot Italian spaghetti, from Italy, which bizarrely you can find in even the most remote parts of Africa – Italy's contribution to foreign aid perhaps!!??!!