Monday, 12 November 2012

And finally the bike

Sunday November 11th

After my aborted trip to the stationers yesterday I decided that, as I will be in Dar es Salaam next Saturday, another visit to Pangani was on the cards to get my pictures printed.  Possibly with the elation of yesterday’s 4X4 experience still flowing through my body, I decided, for the first time in nine weeks, to actually cycle there.  At just over 5km the distance is not prohibitive and the question might be asked, “Why have you waited so long?”  The answer is twofold, one the heat and two the road. The heat is self explanatory but possible the road needs a little explanation.  I feel sure I have already mentioned that the camber on the road is fierce. To get to the middle of the road from the edge is a climb in itself and this is not helped by the fact that the Daladalas tend to drive right on the edge, at what feels from inside to be a precarious angle, and thus wear away the slope even more.  On my regular ride to school the majority is on paths, first through the woods and then across the field and when I do eventually hit the road, the scarcity of traffic, on what is a side road, means that I can ride down the middle.  On my very first ride back from Pangani though, not knowing about the path across the field, I rode on the road, slipped down the camber and ended up with torn trousers, a torn leg and a general respect for the other cyclists who do this regularly.  Anyway, I am more confident now and have also seen more opportunities for going ‘off road’, so I set off on the ride to Pangani.

The journey as far as the Boza turning was almost identical to my daily trek but instead of turning to cut the corner, I rode past the houses at the bottom, which, regular readers might remember, belong to Joseph (he with the bricks and daughter ready for boarding school).  I then joined the main road for a couple of kilometres, until a footpath appeared which I gladly took as my teeth were rattling by now with the roughness of the road.  The ride in was uneventful, except when I saw one of my friends from Boza on his way home.  This is the very muscular young man I photographed early in my blog and you only need to look at his load and know where he was going to realise that he doesn’t need a gym to tone up.  I had also seen him last week pushing a big wheel barrow load of bricks down from Boza so I would imagine his average day covers most of the major muscle groups.

And yes those are tree trunks, not cardboard cut-outs

I eventually rousted the stationary shop owner who came down and opened his shop for me.  This is a task in itself as it involves removing two giant padlocks and then entering the shop from the house next door to undo three big bolts that fasten a metal bar all the way across the front.  I asked about this, and the mesh across most shops, and his answer was, “There are many thieves in Pangani.”  Thankfully during my daytime walks, this is not my experience, but I expect it’s the same the world over, where there is poverty, for some the only way they see of getting out of it is by stealing what they need or can sell.  

I collected my prints, including the one of my young interpreters from last week, only to find that they were at the Mosque for a lesson on the Koran. Their grandmother appeared though and as usual my simple offering of an A6 photograph printed on normal card was received as if I had emptied my wallet into her hands.  She went of happily chuckling to herself and I got on my way.

A stop at a shop for some biscuits as a treat with my coffee and it was back up the road.  I would imagine that at a steady pace, allowing for a couple of hills that required me to walk, the journey should last about 35 minutes but today it took nearly an hour longer.  No crashes; no flat tyres; I just happened to see my friend Joseph as I passed his house and he came out with his brother Simba to talk to me.

Simba, who is one year younger than me, and Joseph
I asked about the school at Tanga, but he was delighted to tell me that his daughter had passed an entry examination to attend a boarding school in Dodoma, the capital city and that he had already been there to look at the school.  It is run by the nuns and he tells me that it is reported to be one of the best schools in Tanzania.  He was certainly delighted to tell me his news.  We stood for some time discussing what the future held for him and for Tanzania in general and it was a fascinating experience to hear his views.   I suppose disillusionment with politicians is a discussion point the world over, but he certainly seemed to have a stronger case than you would find in the UK.

I finally got away, returned home and was glad to be able to cool off in the ocean.  That and a shower set me up for what had now become an invitation to dinner, so a very pleasant evening was spent recounting the tales of my weeks in Tanzania for the benefit of Thabit and Martha. And so very happily but very wearily, to bed


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