Distance: 190 km / 118 mi
Elevation: 1,550 m / 5,085 ft
We have been so incredibly lucky with the weather in East Africa. The long rains officially started in April – when we were in Uganda. Yet thanks to good ‘ol climate change, we’ve only been caught in a handful of twenty-minute showers, drying shortly after in the sun. All good things must come to an end, however, and our luck ran dry this week…
Our cycle through the valley of the East and West Usambara Mountains stayed relatively dry (and beautiful, if you’re thinking of heading that way). Even to Tanga on the coast, we stayed dry and mud-free. Then, out of nowhere, the heavens opened and it’s rained pretty much ever since. That was four days of this particular week – and it’s still raining now.
Heavy rains coupled with dirt roads made for some tough riding. Everything was wet. And muddy. And slippy. I even came off my bike for the ninth time of the trip, as I tried to navigate my bike down what was essentially a muddy slip-n-slide. We kinda give up in the end and embraced being gross – it was actually quite fun. I guess because as adults we’re not typically ‘allowed’ to get muddy. And, once you’ve put wet clothes back on, you get over the initial icky, coldness very quickly. Same with shoes and socks.
We’d planned to spend a day off the bikes in Tanga, but we pushed on instead to Pangani, as we’d read the beaches were better there. And they were. So we spent a day off boozing on a drizzly beach before heading back to the highway to Dar es Salaam.
You might be wondering why we headed back to the highway when there’s a lovely coastline we could have followed all the way to Dar es Salaam? Short answer is money. On the maps below you can see our ideal route on the left, and the route we actually took on the right. In 2005 the area you can see highlighted a darker green along the coast became a national park – Saadani National Park – which tourists now have to pay $30 plus tax, per 24-hours, to enter. I think I mentioned the other week that everything costs money in Tanzania… That’s just money we’d rather spend on Zanzibar, so we skipped it. And with no other roads going around the park, we had no choice but to jump back on the T2 highway after a very quick glimpse of the Indian Ocean.
Random change of subject, but let’s talk about electrics for a moment. You don’t need to be an electrician to understand basic safety regarding electricity – don’t stick your fingers in the plug socket, don’t touch light switches with wet hands, don’t touch bare cables, don’t use electronics in the shower. Lots of don’ts you’re taught as a kid. Well throughout the trip we’ve seen things that would make our mothers nervous. On the streets on Nepal, cables are one big knot; it’s a wonder the masts don’t fall down. In India shower heads are electric…with bare cables visible. In Tanzania we recently spotted a plug socket with a metal prong sticking out of it. We’ve obviously stayed clear of anything that looks like it would kill us, so don’t worry Mam/Mum. It was pretty hard to avoid such issues in our hotel in Pangani the other night though…
Tanzania use the British three-prong plug, but we still use our travel plug as it has four USB ports. After we’d checked into the hotel, we got to our usual route of plugging in all electronics we use – Garmin, battery packs, speaker etc. Half an hour later or so, the travel plug started popping and smoking, before the room lights went out and the ceiling fan stopped. We reached for the nearest plastic thing – an IKEA food clip – and flicked the socket switch off. Dan’s been so careful not to lose that plug the whole trip, now it’s dead. It took the hit so our gadgets survived. We told the owner the electricity was off and went out for dinner (beer).
On our return (from the pub) the electrics were still off. We told the owner who started fiddling about with some switches in the corridor. Bizarrely the light switch in the corridor now turned our ceiling fan on – but still no light in our room (we were doing all of this by candle light now). A fan is more important than a light in this heat, so we were ready to settle for that until… the lightbulb in the corridor, link to the switch that was now controlling our fan, exploded and set on fire. Yup there was now an electrical fire in our hotel. Since you can’t throw water on an electrical fire, there wasn’t an awful lot we could do in the immediate panic. Thankfully the light burned off the wall and fell onto the floor, so then we could throw water over it, leaving us with no fan, no light and a slight worry that the whole place may burn down during the night (it didn’t).
Before I go, just something from last week… I did have to reset my iPhone, which is difficult when there’s no WiFi and iffy 3G signal. Also it didn’t actually fix my iMessages. Randomly my phone has thought it was my brother for a long time, despite Adam and I never having shared phones or logins. In my contact list on my newly reset iPhone it still labelled Adam as ‘Me’. So I delete him and it worked – my iMessage activated. If any techy people out there know why that happened, let me know, as my laptop still thinks my phone is Adam when I’m transferring files from phone to Mac via AirDrop. Weird.
We’re about three days from the capital, where we’ll catch a ferry to Zanzibar. We can already taste the Piña colada*.
*We’ve never drank Piña coladas. It just sounds like something you’d drink on a tropical island like Zanzibar. I guess we’ll see.
EAST AFRICA CHILDREN’S PROJECT
There’s still time to donate, if you haven’t already. Looking for a reason to donate?
East Africa Children’s Project is run by volunteers, so 100% of your donation goes towards a good cause.
We’ve seen first-hand just how grateful students and teachers are to East Africa Children’s Project for their help.
Educating kids is vital to improving, not only their lives, but ultimately the wider society of the country.
It’s currently on a really random figure and makes us both uneasy. It needs to be rounded up. Dan likes whole even numbers and I like whole odd numbers, so someone please one of us.