On 25 February 2012 we reluctantly left our posh hotel bliss in Nairobi and rode 164kms to the border town of Marsabi. Being quite a long day’s ride we intended to leave early and aim to cross the border that day but we ended up getting going between 10am-11am as Wade, who had a few weeks earlier, sadly broken his camera, found a last minute replacement (that morning) which we raced out to grab. We also met up with Patrick who through friends of friends, kindly allowed us to bombard his PO Box in Nairobi with spare parts for our bikes and gift/care packages from home. Patrick and his wife Erica’s generosity (to us complete strangers) was largely typical of the amazing generosity we’ve come to encounter throughout this journey and it was really nice to be able to meet them.
Speaking of people: for the last few days we’ve ridden on the edge of the Massai Steppe and have seen an abundance of traditional Massai tribal folk in their traditional robes/gowns, jewellery, ear rings and very used and presumably sharp spears and daggers. I’ve wanted to snap a photo of these beautiful people (even the guys, in all their gear, look stunning) but not being sure what their reaction will be (their spears are definitely NOT accessories), i’ve opted to err on the side of caution.
Sleeping in Marsabit on 26 February 2012, we awoke and crossed the border into Tanzania the following morning in a world-record time of less than 20 minutes. I’m not so sure it was an exercise of efficiency as much as it was just a more relaxed approach to border security on account of the reduced threat between the two nations. No complaints from me though.
The ride from Marsabit to Arusha was about 115kms and despite being what’s come to be a short distance was actually quite difficult owing largely to a strong headwind and a gradual climb past Tanzania’s Mt Meru (which is effectively the same size as Mt Kenya (i.e. almost 5kms above sea level!!). Quite embarrassingly, for about ½ of the day we all thought that that Mt Meru was the amazing Mt Kilimanjaro until Gavan applied some basic logic and explained that we’d all just taken dozens of photos of the wrong mountain. This reminded me of a similar incident I had when I went to visit Uluru in Australia. I was warned not to be one of those silly tourists who sees Mt Cook in the distance and presumes that’s Uluru. Despite being armed with this inside information, I still managed to find myself taking self portraits with Mt Cook in the background. Sucker.
So we finally arrived in to Arusha in the evening of 26 Feb and did all of the normal things one does when they enter a new country: change currency, buy local SIM, see what soft drink delicacies are on offer etc etc. Speaking of currency, Tanzania’s is by far the most ridiculous. A can of soft drink costs almost 2,000 Tanzanian Shillings so we found ourselves withdrawing hundreds of thousands of shillings from ATM’s just for a few day’s use. Carrying around a brick of money which is roughly equivalent to $100AUD makes you feel quite rich.
So Shane and Wade have gone off on what sounds like an amazing 3 day Safari into the Serengeti while Gavan and I have opted for a 1 day “Safari” into the Tarangiri National Park which is today. I’m not sure how we’re going to fill the balance of time off in Arusha (we have 3 days off in total) but i’m sure we’ll find something to do. This place is full of Western people and has, by far, the biggest concentration of non-African people that we’ve come across on this whole trip. This sees the general services, food quality, supermarket content and begging all increase dramatically.
Gavan & I caught a taxi yesterday (youtube clip below) and while being driven got the name of a Tazanian hiphop artist being played by the driver (Professor Jay for you music aficionados at home). Once being dropped off, I went to look for a CD of Professor Jay. I bumped into a local DJ (named Peace) who assured me that he knew where to get it. It was only 3 minutes away. Everything in Arusha is only 3 minutes away. 35 minutes later, I was being led through a maze of backstreets going from music store to music store. I cracked it and told him if he was taking me somewhere to roll me, that we should just have it out there in the street. He laughed, called me a paranoid mazungo (mazungo is ‘white person’) and kept escorting me in the search for Professor Jay. I ended up ditching Peace and returned back to my hotel. In a completely unrelated incident, I asked another local guy, Richard, if he knew where to get something else I was looking for (to finalise my safari costume) and he said he’d find it and would call me when he did. I stupidly gave him my mobile number. The next thing, Peace, Richard and a few other local people i’d never met, were calling my phone hounding me to buy their wares. I even walked out my hotel and found Peace perched outside waiting for me (I didn’t tell him where I was staying) with 2 Professor Jay CDs. Therein commenced 20 annoying minutes of haggling as Peace wanted the equivalent of $25AUD for the CDs (which is an extraordinary amount of money and a blatant rip off). I try not to get too annoyed at this kind of behaviour as the locals are quite obviously doing it tough here and see us affluent white people as a meal ticket, which I frankly don’t blame them for.
Gavan & I managed to bump into the two people we’d be sharing our day-trip into the Tarangiri National Park with. They’re an Australian couple from Melbourne Australia who are hitch hiking from Cape Town north to Cairo. I thought what we were doing was mad- I take my hat off to these two for a brave and very unique trip. I don’t know too many (any??) couples who would do this kind of holiday (rather than spending weeks kicking around some tropical beach in S/E Asia). We went out for dinner and drinks with them last night (in torrential rain like I’ never seen before, which I hope was an isolated incident) and had a great night and got some great information on the route ahead, which they’d just completed. They’re great people and it was a real pleasure to have been able to spend some time with other Melbournians. I hope to catch up for a beer and hear about the balance of their journey once we’re all back home.
I’ll keep it at that- i’ll upload some photos of mine & Gavan’s small safari shortly.