Sunday, 25 November 2012

That blessed dog

Saturday November 24th

What a day.  Having nearly exhausted the motorised transport options for my weekly trip to Pangani, I decided that today I would actually walk.  I set off about 9:00 am and, as the tide was out, decided to walk along the sands and navigate round the end of the headland.  Already the sun was very hot and, for the first time during my visits to town, I had decided to wear shorts, so I applied a liberal dose of Factor 50 to all surfaces and packed the bottle in my rucksack for regular ‘topping up’.

All went well as I strolled along, once again an isolated figure on acres of sand, until I turned and looked behind me and realised I was not alone.  Behind me was my ever present shadow, Chita, who had decided that I would need company for my stroll.  I turned and pointed back towards the YMCA and shouted ‘rudi’ (return) and she shamefacedly turned around and took three steps back the way she had come, before looking back.  I shouted again and it eventually looked as if she was going back so I turned to continue my journey, only for Chita to turn moments later and continue her pursuit.  This went on for some time, me shouting, her backtracking and then status quo, before I finally reached the Southern end of Mkoma Bay.  I even resorted to throwing a rock, pitched to fall well short I add, but nothing would sway her resolve.   At the end of the bay I found a large cave had been dug out of the limestone cliff by the tidal action and thought of a new plan. 

I retraced my steps and ensured that she too was heading back in the direction of home, before I quickly did an about turn and disappeared into the cave.  ‘Out of sight, out of mind’, I thought, and all I had to do was wait a couple of minutes before she got bored.  That was until I saw a little head appear around the corner of the cave, as if to say, ”What are you doing in there, Babu?”

Our journey continued in a similar form until I reached the end of the next bay and was met by a 100m stretch of pitted limestone that needed all my concentration to avoid turning an ankle with holes in the rock that could easily break a dog’s leg.  Even on here I found time to look back occasionally and, wonder to behold, the coast looked clear.  I eventually cleared the obstacle, rounded the corner, and found myself on sand again – with a shadow behind me.  Whether she had climbed to the top and down the other side, or swum round, or risked life and limb crossing the plateau, I don’t know, but there she was.  If nothing else I am a man who can admit when he is beaten so I went down on my haunches, called her over and fussed her, before we continued our journey, now as man and dog, rather than as prey and stalker.

As we rounded the inlet onto the banks of the Pangani river, we passed the fishermen who were drying their catch of ‘Dagaa’ in the sun.  Dagaa are a small whitebait type fish that are popular in Tanzania and certainly in Dar es Salaam command high prices.  With the sight of all this potential food I thought it better to find some way of controlling Chita, so by dint of pointing and sign language, I managed to find a fisherman who gave me a length of twine.  I offered to pay for this but he insisted that he didn’t want any shillingi, so, with an improvised lead, we continued our way into the town. 

A visit to the stationers, who once again had to be phoned to come down and open up, a little shopping and I was ready to return.  I was going to have my haircut but didn’t think my friendly barber would appreciate dog hair about his establishment, so I stopped to consider my situation.  My original plan had been to walk to Pangani and get a Daladala back, but that was before I had acquired a four legged friend.  There was no way a Daladala would allow a dog on board, so how was I to get home.  The stationer had suggested getting on a PikiPiki and Chita run along behind, but the heat was really up by now and I didn’t think it fair.  In the end we walked.  Not by the beach, as the  tide had now turned, but down the knobbly, dusty road which exposed a fact that I had failed to notice before that the sole of my left trainer had worn very thin.  With frequent stops as Chita dragged me under the shade of a nearby tree to lie and pant furiously, Chita that is, not me, we eventually made it to the Boza turn off and sat under a tree to talk to Joseph and I was able to get some water for Chita.  As I knew from experience that she had been this far before when she followed me to school, I released her from the rope and the pair of us limped home hot and tired.  If I attempt that again a certain dog will be well and truly tied up before I leave.

The day was not over though as I was about to receive the most pleasant surprise of my trip.  I chilled for a couple of hours to get back my energy and then decided that the only way I was going to completely relax was in the ocean, so I changed and went down to the beach.  Imagine my shock when I surfaced from one of my forays to the sea bed to see Cliff ploughing through the waves towards me.  The client that Karim had told Denis about was Cliff and they had driven up the coast to spend the night with me at the YM before returning to Dar tomorrow, so we enjoyed a good evening drinking, eating, and comparing notes about our experiences.  Cliff flies out to Myanmar on Tuesday so it will most likely be many months before we see each other again which made his visit even more special.  Both of us are coming to the end of long separations as I have not seen Chez now for eleven weeks and it has nearly been as long since Jane saw Cliff so in our own way we will leave Tanzania with happiness tinged with a touch of sadness.

I finally turned in, a little later than usual, a little more alcohol than usual, a little more foot weary than usual, but also happier than usual.


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