Iringa, Tanzania: (Day 9) Dec-19-2013

I can't believe I've been gone for nearly two weeks--It's gone by quickly.  I could not sleep well last night--I woke up at 3:30.  My efforts to go back to sleep were unsuccessful.  I finally just got out of bed and took a shower at 4:30--with the help of my handy headlamp of course.  Bugs were kinda intense on my walk to the shower-house so I doubled back to grab a shirt--my H&M v-neck if you must know.

There were no lights in the shower-house,or anywhere else on camp for that matter.  I later found out that the electricity was turned off over night until 5:00am when it was then turned back on.  The shower-house was almost completely dark, only lit up by the waning moon.  I saw some moving shadows along the walls and took another step into the bathroom, still not in the shower yet.  I flipped my torch light from the diffuse flood setting to the stronger spotlight setting.  I scanned the shower and it looked devoid of life, mostly.  There was a beetle the size of a silver dollar scurrying along the ground and it freaked the hell out of me.  I shoed it out of the shower--trying to avoid contact with the damn bugger--while taking a leap into the shower while wearing my "Orthoheal" thongs.

The water was cold.  There was nowhere to place my shirt, towel, or soap, and the shower nozzle fell off--as the nozzle fell to the ground so did my hopes in getting any pleasure from this obligatory bathing ritual I must perform--for the sake of everyone else.  There I was in a dingy and dark shower when a recurring thought popped into my head, "Scott, why on Earth do you put yourself through this?  Yes, you are doused in bug spray, have been sweating profusely for 40 of the last 48 hours, and continue to wear clothing that has weathered all of Africa's grime, but it is worth it"?

Expression Used in Africa (see definition below)

T.I.A. - This is Africa
In Africa, there's a saying "TIA" meaning "This Is Africa" - the terms is typically used when tourists from western countries visit Africa and experience power shut downs, old technology etc.

I ended up showering...shockingly the water got colder the longer I showered--it was as though even the heavenly shower gods were preventing me from enjoying my shower.  I've gotten so accustomed to the horrible BO from all the Africans that I didn't even notice the smells in that bathroom.  I brushed my teeth and plugged in my tablet to charge...though it really wouldn't charge for a while as the electricity still hadn't been switched on.

Back in my room I packed by headlamp.  Packed for the 12+hr day of driving and then loaded the truck with my stuff.  Godfrey was up prepping breakfast and lunch--it was ~5:10 at this point.  I took my camera and walked towards the beach for some sunrise pictures.  It was nice being alone for once.  This tour is a bit different than all of the other tours I've taken in that I get very little alone time here.  So much of our time is traveling on the bus and prepping meals together.  It's really the only way to do Africa though.  This is probably the only part of the world where traveling alone is close to impossible (maybe not impossible, but it would surely suck pretty badly).

Sunrise over Lake Malawi, Chitimba, Malawi
Watching the Sunrise Over the Norther Part of Lake Malawi, Chitimba, Malawi 

I had a small bowel of corn flakes and a piece of bread with peanut butter.  I had cut up a banana on the bread and peanut butter, obviously!  We all had to pack our lunches for the day as we weren't much ground to cover today for that luxury.  In addition to traveling 650 km on poorly paved roads we will be going through immigration to leave Malawi and enter Tanzania.  Our clocks move ahead an hour while in Tanzania and Kenya so now I am 8 hours ahead of my friends and family back home in the States.

A Dugout Canoe, Chitimba, Malawi
Tonight we are staying at Kisolanza Farm in Iringa, Tanzania.  We're told there will be no electricity of any sort and to expect the worst from Tanzanian accommodations--welcome to East Africa.  Godfrey warns us that the Maasai won't eat fish, chicken, fruit, or vegetables and that they will only eat beef, goat, and cow blood.  We are eating at a nearby Maasai Restaurant tonight--Sounds awesome, I can't wait!

Right now,we're driving through the rift valley, passing a small fishing village in Northern Malawi.  There are several dozen small paddle boats in the lake just floating there with nobody in them.  I am told the boats are there to dry out the fish.

When we got to the Malawi/Tanzania border we had to get out of the truck to stamp out of the country.  The smell of BO was just as bad as everywhere else in Africa.  Though being in such a confined place just made it more noticeable.  The overall process was unnaturally slow and inefficient.  After I had my passport stamped and was making my way back to the bus I was called back by the women who had stamped my passport.  She thought she had made a mistake, but everything was ok.

Getting into Tanzania was a different story.  There was a mess of cars trying to get in, all in a jumble following what looked like a single file line.  The heat was unbearable and now that we were stopped, which meant no breeze, it was a sauna inside.  Beads of sweat shortly turned into buckets.  We all gave Godfrey our money for visas and our passports.  He had taken all of our documents in to the immigration office to speed up the process, but over an hour passed before we got any word.  Finally we got our passports back and we crossed into Tanzania, but just a bit.  The power is out at the immigration office and they need to photocopy some documents pertaining to our truck so we are waiting for them to start a generator to operate the copy machine.

I am sitting in the back of the bus today and have had the sun on me all morning.  What a great day--the longest day--to be stuck in back.  Everyone is eating snacks (sweet fruit, candy, and sodas) and our garbage is directly behind me--The flies are molesting me.

We are still waiting and it seems like we'll never get there tonight.  We probably still have another 9 hours of driving?  Tabby got pulled over for speeding this morning.  He was going 60 km/h while the speed limit was 50 km/h.  After a short period we stopped for a 10 minute break to pick up some snacks.  Hans suggested that we all pitch in and throw a dollar or two to help pay for the ticket as Nomad wouldn't pay for it and $30 is quite a bit of money for Tabby.  Most of us did and Tabby was very grateful.

We're finally on the road again, 11:40am.  That was way too long of a break!  We were told all of Malawi was also out of power.  10 of us had to use the restrooms so Tabby gave us a few thousand Tanzanian shilling.  Some guy in front of the bathrooms was charging 100 shilling per person.  We paid them 1,000 and he still wanted more.  People here did not speak English, not like in Zambia, Malawi, and Zimbabwe--though that may change as we make our way to larger cities.  They were squat toilets...Fun!

While waiting on the bus I talked with Peter, the Aussie.  He was telling me about the Australia army during world war 1 and the Vietnam War.  It's surprising how little we, Americans, learn about other countries of the world during our formal schooling.  In place of learning about other countries, customs, and nationalities we get to learn about Native Americans about 3 or 4 times over.  Also, why the fuck did we have to relearn the customs of pilgrims during the week of thanksgiving every damn year?

Most people on my tour had learned about The Maasai peoples in school.  We NEVER even discussed Africa.

We stopped after a bit to change our $USD to Tanzanian Shilling.  A guy game on our truck and offered the following rates:  1,500 shilling per $1USD for small bills and 1,580 shilling per $1USD for $50 and $100 bills.  We have to be pretty far behind schedule and I really dont want to have to set up a tent late tonight when it's dark.

Oh, quick note, the guy who was charging us to use the toilets had tried to sell us Tanzanian SIM cards just 15 minutes prior. Lame!

It's 6:00pm and I've been listening to Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux.  A travel writer tells the story of his journey from Cairo to Cape Town, overland.  I like it as his observations are inline with mine, that is, not PC.  I spend 20 minutes trying to swat flies in the back of the truck...something to keep my mind busy.  I nabbed half a dozen.  After being on the road for the last 11 hours I'm beginning to get a bit irritable.

Tanzania seems to have better cell phone coverage, more houses have satellite dishes, and the houses/towns appear to be closer together.  However, the facilities at some of the stops we've made were been miserable--Just filthy!  The road is not horrendous, but it's a rough ride none-the-less.  Also, it's about the width of 1.5 lanes so we have to completely stop and pull over as oncoming traffic approaches.  There are also more cars/trucks on the road.  My initial impression of Tanzania is not too good, but I'm hoping to change that.

I have been really moved by the kindness many Africans have shown.  They appear to be very hard working, even if they work mindlessly and ineffectively.  It's also become apparent that no amount of $ will help the problems Africa endures.  Excuse my frankness but is it a possibility that the Africa we see today is the best, or close to, the best Africa can/will ever be?  I believe it was the Zambian King who publicly condemned the use of condoms.

Dinner in Kisolanza Farm in Iringa, Tanzania 
We arrive at camp around 8:00, 13 hours after leaving camp this morning.  There are no more upgrades available so we pitch our tents.  We have it down to a science and it takes only 5 minutes.  We all left our rain-flies off as the skies look clear--beautiful, actually.  We meet for dinner at the restaurant at the camp site.  There is no electricity anywhere within the lodge--candles light the interior while coal space heaters provide the heat.  The Temperature is actually quite cool, a nice change of pace.  I don't think this will last as Tabby said it's always like this here.  It must be due to our altitude.

Dinner was nothing like I (or the Dutch couple) had expected.  We had sweetish meatballs, baked beans, corn on the cob, and some veggies.  We also had soup and bread. I ordered a beer
Dinner in Kisolanza Farm in Iringa, Tanzania
and a brownie for the road...I am eating that now.

It's sad but Africa has no real culture.  They have only what the whites have given them.  Half of me thinks it's pathetic, but the other half feels so sorry.  I'm torn as to which way to feel.  One thing I know for sure is that Africa would be MUCH better off if they were actively ruled (i.e. colonized) by the western world.  HIV, disease, famine, education, corruption, etc....there are so many reasons in support of colonization.  I think deep down the Africans would support it, at least in part.  The African 'elected' governments are extremely devious and steal foreign aid for there personal use all the f'ing time.

Ok, it's 10:20 and I'm tired.  Tomorrow we get to sleep in till 6:30, breakfast at 7:00.  We have a game drive tomorrow afternoon but I'm not sure if I'm going to go.  The price is still unknown but if it's more than $60 I will have to consider if it's worth it.  I still have 3 days in the Serengeti for game drives coming up.


The Night Sky, Iringa, Tanzania

Chitimba, Malawi: (Day 8) Dec-18-2013

Woke up at 5:40am, spent 20 minutes packing my bags.  I packed using my torch as all power was still off for the night.  Brushed my teeth...also by headlamp.  I felt gross from a nightfall of dancing, sweating, and then sleeping in my own filth.  At dinner, the entire group had been talking about the strong storm we had that night.  They all had said they were woken up and that some of their rooms had water blowing directly in.  Sophie and Noah said that it was the strongest storm they have ever heard and that at one time they thought their cabin was going to collapse and that they were going to die.  I slept through the entire night so I can't comment.

We were on the road by 6:30 and have ~350 km of roads to cover today--about 7 to 8 hours of driving.  We stopped at a market along the way, but were only given 10 minutes to shop.  I could have easily spent an hour there.  I bought one more of the of the things I had gotten before, this time a larger one.  I will have to wrap them up and send them back in a duffel bag as my 2nd piece of checked luggage.

Scenery Through the Rift Valley, Along Chilumba Bay Northern Malawi 

We later stopped at Mzuzu, where the two Costa Rican ladies had to settle the issue with their visas.  We had also stopped at a Shoprite.  I bought a few Coke Lites and a package of oranges for a total of $5 (~2000 kwacha).   On my way back to the truck I was accosted by locals trying to sell me stuff, which has become the norm.  I asked one of them how much 3 bracelets were and he said 1500 kwacha (or about $4).  I told him 1$ USD and he said no.  I walked away, despite his efforts to negotiate, and stepped onto the bus.  From the window he continued to negotiate.  I told him I had 550 kwacha and that's all.  After his numerous efforts to glean more money from me proved fruitless he finally consented.  They also asked for empty bottles.  There is a 25 kwacha deposit they get back for glass bottles but they get nothing for plastic bottles.  They use plastic bottled to hold water they have to pump from wells.   I was happy to give them the empty bottles I had on the bus.  The Fat Fuck...oops, I mean, "FF" was a complete bitch (go figure) when I asked if she had any empties.  She replied, "I already paid my deposit on this".  God forbid this bitch looses out on 25 kwacha (~$0.06 USD) and can't afford to fund her addiction to 7-Up and potato chips...I mean she does go through enough of that just to be classified as a starved pig.  I wish I could just punch her in her snout...
Chitimba Camp, Malawi

OK, DEEP BREATHING......better now, but she's still a FF.

We're back on the road and it 10:30--on our way to Chitimba, Malawi, which is along the northern tip of Lake Malawi.  The lake is ~600 km long.  We arrived at camp just before 2 and it was very hot.  We ate lunch, which was only bread, butter, lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Market Outside Chitimba Camp, Malawi
I took a walk into town to a local market with Sonia, Ann Marie, and Cara.  It was very poor.  They were selling secondhand clothing, afro picks, tobacco, peanuts, and various other products.  It was in a field and all the products were on the ground.  They were also selling hair straightener that was premixed and in a large plastic barrel.  Sonia and Cara were saying how non-profit companies send donated clothing to Africa where corrupt organizations then sell the clothing for a profit.  Apparently that is how much of the donated clothing is distributed here in Africa.
Tobacco and Peanuts, Chitimba Camp, Malawi

On our walk we had children clambering towards us and grabbing our hands.  Many had those large bellies those African children on TV have--they get that from malnutrition.  One of the older boys (maybe 14 year old?) had said his father recently died from AIDs.  This is very common here.  AIDS is the largest killer here.  It's sad as many of the children already have AIDs and probably don't even know it.  You can see the symptoms very clearly.  The ratio of children to adults is unbelievably large.  The adults here don't live long lives and the children are largely unsupervised.  There is so much that the Africans can do to improve their lives, but they just don't do it.  Maybe they are just not intelligent enough to learn?  Cara thinks that most of them just don't have the cranial capacity.  I am tending to believe that to be the case.  AIDS does lead to dementia and malnutrition also has grave effects.  Also, malnutrition during pregnancy seems to have a significant impact here as well.  I can go into detail later, but it's VERY EVIDENT that MONEY is NOT the bottleneck for improvement in conditions in Africa.

Cara and I Walk Back to Camp With Local Children, Chitimba, Malawi
Ad for "Pot" Outside Camp, Chitimba, Malawi
On the way back to the camp site Cara and I decided to try to local cuisine and paid a local $5 to cook up some type of fried fish and chips from the casaba plant.  He delivered it to our camp a few hours later, it was ok.  Thankfully Godfrey cooked up a feast.  He made some type of vanilla-fruit pudding, which was also quite good.  It's 8:45 and YES I am still sweating.  I upgraded to a dorm for the night.  I have 4 beds but I am the only one in my room.  It was only $5.  I still don't have electricity, a fan, bathroom, or shower...but I don't have to pitch and then pack up a tent.

Tomorrow we eat breakfast at 5:30 and then have to pack our own lunch--since we have a long day of driving and will not be stopping for lunch.  Our trip is 650 km and will take all day.  Standards in Eastern Africa (e.g. Kenya & Tanzania) are even more basic so we need to lower our expectations.

The beach was beautiful today at the lodge, but it was a bit windy by the time I got back from the market.  I just walked the shore a bit.  I chatted with Beth, Cara, and Sophie a bit about Colleges in Australia and some of their drinking games.  Everyone else has hit the sack so I'm going to go to bed and sweat while maybe watching a movie?

Our Accommodations in Chitimba, Malawi
My dorm, as well as all the other rooms, have metal--maybe tin--roofs.  Throughout the evening I heard large plantains falling from the nearby trees.  This, coupled with the smacking of branches, made for a very musical evening.  Furthermore, there are monkeys that jump from roof to roof that really makes the noises quite interesting in here.

I'm happy that I have 5 windows that open because the breeze is nice, even though if it is still a sauna in here.

Oh, one thing....Every place here in Malawi has ONE type of beer--Carlsberg.  It seems that they have a brewery and/or bottling operation in Malawi.  How Random?

Enjoying a Carlsberg on the Beach, Chitimba, Malawi