Friday, November 25, 2011

Bumping on to Alibag

Crumbly old building in Alibag
The next morning, we packed our bags, paid our bill, and went downstairs to load the bikes.  We had covered them with our tarps on our host's advice, and everything looked intact when we pulled off the tarp.  Except for the large caribiner clips that were on our handlebars to clip to our daypacks.  Only one of the four remained.  Not the end of the day, but a bit of an inconvenience.   

We figured out an alternative solution to the carabiners and were on the road out of Mumbai.  Eventually.  Mumbai is a monstrous city, and as I mentioned before, there are no street signs. Traffic congestion is an understatement, and the only road rule is that the larger you are, the more road you can call yours.  The road surface is generally terrible.  It's made of a mishmash of lumpy asphalt, dirt, gravel, cobblestones, bricks, and concrete slabs, all of which have heaved, disintegrated, and basically fallen into an abysmal state.  After several wrong turns and a couple of trips across a bridge, we made our way out, and it only took about an hour and a half that seemed more like a week!

Once we were out of Mumbai, the traffic lightened up somewhat, but the road conditions went from terrible to almost undrivable.  The road was narrow and winding, and in places, the pavement was solid.  But around the next bend or under a canopy of trees, the road surface would change to broken, with potholes, chuckholes, sinkholes, you name it.  And in the few places anyone bothered to attempt a repair, they shoveled large, sharp rocks (not gravel) into the holes and covered them with liquid tar from wood-fired buckets.  Our average speed for the day's drive was 24mph, but there were actually areas where we could only go 5mph.  The few chances I had to look up from the road, the scenery was beautiful.  We drove through coconut plantations, rice paddies, and pretty little villages. 

Something in Alibag
Our destination was Alibag, which was only a hundred miles from Mumbai, but that was the longest 100 miles ever.  We made it there by mid-afternoon, found a hotel, dropped our stuff, and took a walk through the town to check it out.  We found the town beach when the road ran out and strolled on the sand for a bit.  Toward the end of the beach, we noticed a man squatted down at the edge of the water.  As we got a little closer, we realized he had his pants down. Then, we noticed that several more people had joined him in his activity.  It was then we nixed the idea of dipping our toes in the water. 

Instead, we strolled back into town and looked at the interesting architecture, street life, and found some sweets to snack on. That evening, we found another all-vegetarian place with thalis for dinner and ate until we were stuffed, and then retired to our room to collapse for the night.

Hanging in Mumbai

Some impressive waterfront building in Mumbai
The following day, Wednesday, we got up, got out of bed, dragged a comb, er stop that.  We took the train back down to the WIAA office to retrieve our insurance documents from Abdul.  All the train cars were packed to the gills, and the train had started moving, so we jumped on the first one we could actually squeeze into.  It turned out to be a first class car, according to the ticket inspector.  And we had second class tickets.  I can honestly say that the first class car contained the least amount of first class I have ever seen.  As far as we could discern, the only difference was the much greater number of people in the second class car.  He was nice enough not to throw us off between stations and just said to change cars at the next stop.   

We never did see any indication of the class on the outside of the cars.  Actually, that's not exactly true.  There are “Ladies” cars, cars for “cancer patients and late-stage pregnant women,” and those for “handicapped and the elderly.”  I have no idea how they came up with their segregation methods, but at least we knew we didn't belong in any of those cars. 

The Mumbai Gate
Anyway, we made it to the WIAA office to get our insurance papers, and unfortunately, they weren't completed yet.  Abdul assured us they would be done later that afternoon, so we left the office and went to have a look around Mumbai.  We followed a walking tour recommended in Lonely Planet down to the Mumbai Gate and meandered along parks and past beautiful buildings in a mix of Victorian and Art Deco styles.  

Cricket in the Park
We stopped to watch an amateur cricket match in one of the parks, picked up some grilled potato and vegetable sandwiches and fresh sugarcane juice for lunch, and had a lovely time strolling while waiting for our insurance papers to get finished.  Well, they still weren't done by the time we got back, but Abdul promised to email them to us.  We headed back to the train station, where we made our first real running jump to board the moving train.  We absorbed the scenery, while hanging out of the car door (I understand why dogs like it).   

Our return autorickshaw ride to the hotel was painless, and when we got there, found that Abdul sent the insurance docs.  They were incomplete, so we would have to wait for him to resend the entire document the next day.  Awwww.  We went for dinner at a local all-vegetarian restaurant and pigged out on naan, rice, butter paneer masala, and aloo gobi, and washed it all down with fresh lime juice. 

Since we still didn't have insurance paperwork to show in case we needed it, we had to hang out in Mumbai for one more day while we waited for it.  Since we were feeling a bit overwhelmed by the events over the last several days, we decided to just take it easy, play on the computer, eat some food, and get a mobile phone (since they are de rigeur in India.  In all actuality, having one will make life much easier).  So that's all we did. 

We got our phone, went to the same veggie place for masala dosai and sweet lassis for lunch, hung out in the room for much of the afternoon, got our insurance documents in full so we can go tomorrow, and went to McDonald's for a needed dose of familiarity.  The McD trip wasn't exactly like home- the Big Mac has chicken patties, they have a McVeg Burger, and McSpicy Paneer sandwich (which I wish they sold in the states- it was great).  But the fries tasted like home, and the spicy chicken sandwich was good too.

Gettin' Our Wheels Back

our deluxe crate upon delivery
The following is Colin's ride report on clearing customs in Mumbai.  I cannot tell the tale better or shorter, so here it is.  I will add photos when we have faster internet. 

We did not want to get up when the alarm went off but had place to be and people to see, so we dragged ourselves in and out of the shower and were back in an autorickshaw by 8:30.   

The drive to the train station requires one left turn in the 3km ride.  Traffic was very heavy this morning, and our autorickshaw driver turned left early.  Maybe he's taking us on a shortcut?  Or maybe he's leading us down the garden path.  Which one do you think it was?  First we drove past the international terminal at the airport.  Then, we drove past the cargo facility, then past the domestic terminal.  Then, I started yelling at the driver.  Then, he turned right, and we eventually arrived at the train station. 

The ride to the station should cost no more than 30 rupees, but he was trying to charge us over 100 (the autorickshaws in Mumbai have meters, but they're so old, that you don't pay what's on the meter, you refer to a conversion chart.  Even by what was on the meter, it still should have been less than 70 rupees).  I offered him 50, and he refused.  At this point in time, some locals overheard the commotion and signaled for the three police officers who were standing nearby.  The young female officer initially thought that the disagreement was over the meter/chart issue.  I explained to her no, that he took us on an extra long ride.  I pulled out the Lonely Planet and showed her on the map where he had taken us.  She said something to the driver and when he responded with a weak smile, she smacked him in the head.  At this, the senior officer walked over and asked the female officer what was going on (I assume, as they were speaking in Hindi?).  The senior officer instructed our driver to turn off his vehicle, remove the keys, give them to the officer, and to produce his license.  At this point, the female officer apologized for the inconvenience and sent us on our way.  Moral of the story, just take the damn 50 rupees! 

Advertisement in the train station
The real problem with our “detour” was the time it wasted.  Instead of being at the station at 9:00 am, it was nearly 9:30.  We couldn't find an express train at this time, so once again, onto the slow train.  We made it back down to the WIAA shortly after 10:30, but found that the director had not yet signed our clearance letters.  In the meantime, we met with Abdul and arranged for liability insurance.   While we were waiting, we also met two German overland truck drivers whose vehicles were stuck at the seaport for five days and counting due to Carnet problems.  We chatted with them while we waited for our paperwork and after hearing about all of their issues, left feeling nervous about our impending Customs visit.  The other problem was that we would have to return to the WIAA tomorrow to pick up our insurance papers.  Back to the train, back on an autorickshaw, and back to cargo by 1:00 pm. 

Sure enough, we were met by Helper and Big Man (who we both noted were dressed much more nicely today) and they again assisted us with getting a gate pass, and took us to meet Agent.  We met with Agent again in the air-conditioned waiting room next to the Customs office, where he took our documents and passports and sent them off to be photocopied.  While we waited for the copies to return, he began filling out several import documents with our details.  He then mentioned that he was an agent and that if we wanted to use an agent, he charges for his services.  We asked, “how much?” and he replied, “how much do you want to pay?”  “Not much, “ we said.  He said he usually charges 80 USD per bike, which we countered with 40 USD per bike.  He misunderstood and thought we meant 40 USD total. 

All the while, Big Man sat in the corner against the wall with his arms folded across his chest.  Agent countered with 100 USD for both bikes and we then offered 80 USD for both.  The agent said he could not do it for that, but he would finish filling out the papers for us, and we could clear them ourselves.  Confused by the negotiations, Re and I stepped outside to figure out what the scam was.  Intimidated by the amount of paperwork and reports of needing 20 different signatures from the Customs office, we agreed that we would pay the 100 USD for both bikes.  We went back into the waiting room and told the agent we agreed to his price.  He just waved us off and continued filling out the paperwork.  

After the runner returned with our photocopies of our passports and other documents, the agent motioned for me to join him outside.  Once outside, he told me that I could clear customs myself that day and did not really need his assistance.  Further confused by this strange negotiation tactic, I asked him if this was true.  From his response, it became clear that he was not affiliated with Big Man and apparently didn't care for him either.  He said we should tell Big Man that we would pay 80 USD for both bikes and no more, and that if he did not agree, that we would do it ourselves.  Feeling more confused, we found Big Man, who as predicted, refused the offer, and Big Man left.  Agent handed me all the papers he'd filled out and all the photocopies he'd had made, and told me in which room the process would start.  He said he would be in the area all day working on other shipments and if I needed any other help, he would advise us for free.  

Now totally confused, I went into the indicated room, where our documents were perused for completeness and was told to wait, as the next person we needed to see was at lunch.  We returned to the air-conditioned waiting room, where we met another Customs agent named, Danesh.  It turns out Danesh is an avid motorcyclist and recently bought a 2011 Yamaha YZF-R1 (which in India costs nearly 25,000 USD).  He and his friends all ride big sport bikes and are going to take a motorcycle tour of northern Thailand in February.  Maybe we will see them there.  

The inside of our deluxe crate. I am surprised it made it at all.
Once lunchtime was over, we returned to the office, where we sat for a half hour or so while papers were collated, stamped, signed, and reviewed.  Then it was time to get our crate.  We were led to the another office, where we were presented with a bill for demurrage (storage) and then went to the next window where we paid 62 USD for the privilege.  I did note that the demurrage bill had a note at the bottom that the crate was received in a damaged condition.  Oh no.   

We waited an anxious 10 minutes for our crate to be brought to the inspection area and were relieved to find that the damage was limited to a few cracks in the 1/8 inch plywood.  A warehouse helper helped us remove the top and sides from the crate, and the Customs officials told us we could assemble our bikes in the warehouse before they inspect them.  Re and I once again got to work putting on the wheels, fenders, and handlebars.  After the bikes were put right, our engine and chassis numbers were recorded, and then we waited.  And then we waited some more. 

While we were waiting, I ran into Agent again and told him that everything was going well, and we should have our bikes by the end of the day.  I asked him what we should pay him for the work he had done, and he said nothing, that he really didn't do anything.  I reminded him that he'd gotten photocopies made and filled out the import paperwork, and he simply stated, that I should remember that there are good people in the world too.  Wow.  I thanked him profusely for all his help, and he wished us good luck on our journey. 

Since the bikes were nearly empty before they were crated, Re or I was going to walk the km or so to the nearest gas station to fill up one of our jerrycans.  Lucky for us, we mentioned it to a warehouse worker, who informed us that it is against the law in India to fill a jerrycan that is not accompanied by a vehicle.  Huh.  We may be pushing our bikes the km to the gas station.   

I was beginning to get nervous as it was nearing 5:30 pm, and that was when the Customs office closes.  When we asked in the office, they assured us we would get our bikes today and it would be just a few more minutes.  At 5:30, warehouse and office staff started to leave, and soon, it was only us and one remaining Customs official.  So far, we had not paid anything besides the demurrage fee and had not been asked for any baksheesh (bribes).  But now, the Customs official was working overtime, and I expected that we would be asked to pay for the “overtime.”  It was now after 6:00 pm, and our growing pile of paperwork needed the signature of the head of Customs at the airport.  We followed our agent to the next building, upstairs past the armed guards, and into an official looking office.  The director asked us a few questions about our trip, looked over every page of our paperwork, and finally signed on the dotted line.  Paperwork done, we returned to the Customs office, where final photocopies were made and we were directed to our bikes.  We rolled them down the ramp and out into the night.  The Customs officer wished us a good night and left.  We were never asked to pay anything and found the whole process to be confusing but easy.   

We now found ourselves standing next to our potentially fuel-less motorbikes while a crowd gathered around us.  During the last week in Tanzania, Re's battery was getting weak and we had to resort to the kickstarter a couple of times.  Now, it is completely dead.  No problem, we can kickstart it.  I cracked the drain on both carburetor float bowls and was happy to see gas dribbling out of both bikes.  In front of a crowd of 25 or so truck drivers and warehouse workers, I kickstarted Re's bike on the third try.  Her bike was idling low, so I gave the idle screw a quick turn and then started up my bike.  While we put on our gear, my bike stopped running.  I hit the starter button, and the engine spun too freely.  Out of gas.  Crap.  While the crown murmured and laughed, I sent Rebekah off in search of gas.  Hopefully, she has enough to make it to the gas station.  After she left, I started pushing my bike to the exit.  Strangely, no one stopped me to check anything, and I waited for Re outside the cargo facility.   

Once again, a small crowd formed, and people asked me what I was doing.  I was happy to see Re ride through the crowd with sweet, sweet unleaded.   As we've done a hundred times before, we unclipped the funnel and filled up the bikes.  My bike fired up right away, Re's bike took a few more kicks.  But we were off! Before we left the guesthouse that morning, I had marked its GPS position, so it was a simple matter of following the directions back to the hotel. 

Once back at the hotel, we were informed by the manager to remove everything from our bikes and to cover them since the people in the area could be “naughty” he said.  Yay.  We removed the gas cans, all bungee cords, but left the Rok-straps on the bikes.  We then locked both bikes together with our cable locks and covered them with one of our custom bike covers.  A little nervous about the naughtiness of the locals, we headed inside with our gas cans and extra tires.  

Our first ride in Mumbai was fortunately only a couple of miles from the customs facitlity to our hotel.  Traffic in Mumbai is utter chaos.  The streets are basically a lane and a half in each direction, sometimes divided, sometimes not.  There are few if any traffic signals or street signs, and they seem to be largely ignored by the drivers.  Traffic kind of alternates, or more accurately, slips through intersections when it can, wherever it can, whether that means swerving into the oncoming lane or the runoff at the side, or wherever you can fit.  Honking is encouraged (all the trucks say honk please on their tails), so the noise is deafening.  Most of the trucks are diesels, the autorickshaws are two-strokes, and they all belch gritty exhaust fumes.  Riding in Tanzania was a good warmup for this type of riding, but even that pales by comparison.  Thankfully, we made it to the hotel unscathed. 

We Made It!

We made it to India.  Oman Air's flight service was nice, the planes were relatively new and clean, the attendants were attentive, and the food was good.  In all the years we've flown (mainly standby from all my days as an airline employee) I never got to order a special meal.  I would go through all the options for passengers and thought it would be nice to actually look forward to an airplane meal, so I ordered...a Hindu vegetarian meal.  Let's just say it threw off the flight attendant when she brought the meal to a not Indian, probably not Hindu, blonde woman.  She appeared totally confused as she looked from the meal tray to me, to the meal tray, and back to me.  I live to confuddle!  We stopped in Muscat to change planes and wandered around the terminal for an hour and a half, looking at all the wacky duty-free options- 2kg bags of powdered milk, giant tubs of Tang, and laundry detergent, along with the usual Swiss chocolates, perfume, and booze.  On our walk, we found the Dairy Queen (who knew?) and satisfied our need for soft serve and in the form of a Chocolate Xtreme blizzard before boarding our connecting flight. 

We tried rather unsuccessfully to sleep on the connecting plane and landed at 05:30 Monday morning.  We made it through Customs and Immigration without issue and then went to find a place to wait until 9:00, when we could call our hotel to be picked up (they charge an extra day if you arrive before 9:30 and we are cheap).  The only place to wait was outside the arrivals area, so we found a bench, a couple of coffees, and tried to ignore the hotel touts who wanted to whisk us away to their superior accommodations.  Once we called, the car arrived within fifteen minutes, and after a short ride and the documentation of our passports and visas, we were in our room with the lights out for a nap.   

After the pesky alarm woke us, we then headed for air cargo via autorickshaw (aka tuk-tuk in other parts of the world).  We quickly found out that many of the autorickshaw drivers have no idea where they are going and rely on the passenger for directions, which didn't really work for us, since we didn't know where we were going either.  He got us to the airport and from there, we asked directions.  Once we arrived at the cargo facility, we were astounded by the chaos.  Lines of cars, hundreds of people just sort of milling about. 

From my research, I knew we needed a gate pass, but didn't know where or how to get one.  I started heading toward the entry gate and was stopped by a man whom I will refer to as “Helper.”  He didn't speak much English, but he knew what we needed to do.  He took us to the photocopy shop and helped us get copies of our passport photo page, India visa and entry stamp page, and a copy of our air waybill.  With these in hand, we made our way to the gate pass office and, surprisingly quickly, got our gate passes. 

While we were picking up our gate passes, Helper called over another guy, who we will call, “Big Man.”  Big Man escorted us through the security checkpoint and took us directly to the Emirates office.  We followed him up to the second floor and into the Emirates office, where we were given the shipping paperwork.  The fee for the paperwork was 20 USD which we paid and went back downstairs.  From the main room on the main floor, we walked through the door marked “public area” and headed for the Customs window.  At this point in time, Big Man introduced us to someone we will refer to as, “Agent.”  

 We followed Agent and Big Man into a blissfully air-conditioned waiting room, and Agent asked to see our paperwork.  We didn't really know who Agent was at this time, just a well-dressed man who spoke English well and knew what to do.  We also knew from our research that we would need to visit the Western India Automobile Association, which is in central Mumbai and procure a clearance letter before we could continue with the customs process.  Agent confirmed that that was what we needed to do and said if we headed for the WIAA now, we should make it there in time to get our letter today.  Agent then told us to bring back the clearance letter and meet him at the Customs area at 10:30 tomorrow morning.  If we did so, we should have our bikes by 5:30 pm! 

So back out of the cargo facility, where we turned in our gate passes and took an autorickshaw to the train station.  We rode the commuter train down to the Churchgate station and back for the princely sum of 32 cents each.  Since we were on the slow train that stops at every station, it took nearly an hour to get there, and we arrived at the WIAA at around 4:30 pm.

I love taking the train.  Every time you ride, even on the same route, you catch little glimpses of the world as you pass by.  Traffic jams, canals, people working on the rails, people living along the rails, people weaving baskets, doing laundry, you never know what you'll see.  My favorite scene was a school field filled with what looked like middle school band members practicing and a potato sack race in progress. 

 At the WIAA we met Victor, who was in charge of issuing the clearance letters, but he informed us it was too late in the day to issue them, and we would need to return the next day.  It was also too late to get liability insurance, so we'd have to come back the next day, regardless.  Victor told us to return at 10:30 am, which was unfortunately the same time we were supposed to meet Agent.  I guess we won't get our bikes tomorrow after all.  It was after 5:00 pm when we got back on the train to return to the hotel, and the cars were much fuller at this time.   

A veritable feast, delivered to our room!
We took another autorickety-shaw to the hotel from the railway station.  Back at the hotel, we perused the room service menu and ordered a veritable feast to be delivered to our room.  Not knowing how big the portions were, we came up with a list of things we like, and Re asked the manager if that was enough food for two people.  He assured her it was enough food for four people, so Re deleted one of the nine items since we hadn't eaten anything since we got off the plane.  We stuffed ourselves silly and were unable to finish it all.  Even delivered to our room, the entire meal cost less than 8 USD.  Absolutely exhausted, we then went to bed. 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Dar Shipping Saga, Part 2

Saturday morning, we got up early, had breakfast, and rode to the airport, in the rain (another slap in the face from Dar), to be there by 8:00 am. We arrived, rather drenched, and stopped at the guard station at the cargo entrance. He let us pass, and when we got to the cargo building, realized we were the only ones there. Tamim showed up shortly after we did, and we began the bike disassembly process (which we have pretty well mastered now). The entertainment for the morning came in the form of various officials who insisted that the bikes be not only drained of gas but also drained of oil. I didn't want to drain the oil, and both Tamim and Yusuf said it wasn't necessary, so every time an official asked about draining the oil, I just nodded and said yes, I'd drain the petrol. They'd say, no, the oil, and I'd nod my head, yes, and say, the petrol. This happened several times, and they finally just gave up and went away. 

Our crate in progress, before it was torn apart to start over.
When we were just about finished, his craters (two men, a big one, the supervisor, and a smaller one, the guy who actually knew what he was doing) arrived with their building supplies and toolkit.  They had about eight boards, roughly 1” x 7” x 7', two sheets of 1/8” plywood, two used, but complete wooden pallets, one broken pallet (for parts, you know. Like if you're restoring a car, it's good to have a piece of crap car to scavenge parts from), a very small paper sack of new nails, a hammer which had lost its handle and been put on a piece of pipe instead, and a handsaw. I laughed. Tamim and Colin told the craters what size crate we needed, they wrote down the dimensions, and got started. The base of the crate was made of the two intact pallets and a small piece of the broken one, which the man attached together with pieces of wood along the joins. He then added the vertical posts, and Colin went to measure the crate. It was wrong. The dimensions we gave them were the same as those of the beautiful crate we had built in Toronto to ship them to Cape Town. Since cargo rates are based on either the actual or the volumetric weight of the item (and ours was going to be the volumetric weight since they are lightweight for their size) we wanted to keep the dimensions as small as possible. If they had continued building the crate they started on, we would have ended up paying almost two hundred extra bucks for the additional volume. We said no. Tamim came over, measured it himself, yelled at his craters, and made them do it again.

Too big, do it again.
This time, it was even more interesting to watch, as the one man who knew what to do dismantled his work, sawed the side off the pallets to narrow them, then took the blocks out of the sawed off ends and put them back in the new, narrower pallet. While he worked, his “supervisor” (and the one who surely got most of the money in the deal) barked orders and directed the man with his sandaled foot. The supervisor was really lucky that I wasn't the one swinging the hammer, because if I had been, he would have ended up with a broken foot. The carpenter was much more level headed that I am though, and continued to work on the project at hand. 

Once the uprights were attached again, we lifted the bikes into place and cinched them down with the ratchet straps Karim (the supervisor in Cape Town) made us save (thank you, Karim). Then, the plywood started to go on. Unfortunately, they realized that they didn't have enough to cover all sides and the top and went behind one of the outbuildings to apparently, scavenge some appropriate material. They came back with a couple of pieces of much nicer, much stronger plywood and finished the crate. We tossed in our riding gear, which was still wet from our ride to the airport, the jerrycans, and our campstove. Shortly thereafter, some other official came out, gave it the thumbs up, and on went the top. Since Yusuf from Emirates was unavailable that day, his boss, Ali Hamdoun, came to the airport to handle the paperwork. To make the experience at the Dar cargo complex complete, we walked around the side of the building and watched a man, sitting on the sidewalk, type our air waybill and dangerous goods paperwork on a manual typewriter. Eventually the paperwork was completed, the crate was measured and weighed, the bill was paid, and we left our crate in the care of Swissport Cargo.

New Zahir- feeding revolutionaries for half a century!
Since our bikes were now crated, we had to take a taxi back into town and since it was after 2:30, we headed directly for lunch. Since it was early enough in the day, we made a beeline for New Zahir and one more plate of their delicious chicken biryani. New Zahir is a restaurant we found on Mosque Street, across from, wait for it... a big mosque. I'd walked by a few times before stopping in to see their menu. There were always a bunch of Muslim men drinking tea and eating some good-looking food, so we tried it one evening for dinner. The food was great- the flakiest chapatis, delicious biryani, pilau, and grilled chicken. And as a side note, it's been there forever and was frequented by revolutionaries including Che Guevara and Malcolm X back in the day (as Colin says, we weren't there for the politics, we were there for the food). 
Possibly the best chicken biryani on the planet
Later that afternoon, we tracked down Patrick at our usual spot on the 7th floor of the Peacock Hotel for another round of beer and good conversation. Since we were still full from lunch and too much beer, we skipped dinner and instead collapsed into bed early.   Sorry to digress, but in and amongst all the shipping mess, we met Patrick, a white South African gentleman who was born in Tanzania when it was still a crown colony and is now spending an extended time in Dar Es Salaam to see if he likes it enough to try to make it home again. He's a fellow motorcyclist, who rides a Triumph Tiger 800XC, and has led an interesting and varied life. When we met him, he was getting ready to leave for a week in Zanzibar to scope out the job/living possibilities there. He returned after five days (we were still there), and the three of us spent several evenings chatting over beers and peanuts in the rooftop bar at the much nicer hotel next door and dinners at Mamboz. Colin and I were both really happy to have someone interesting to exchange stories with. It was a nice break from the stress of Mr M.

Sunday morning we got up, finished packing, had some breakfast, and chatted with Patrick and Eddie, one of the owners of the hotel. Eddie is also a motorcyclist. He's a first generation Tanzanian (his father emigrated from Yemen), with two brothers and...fifteen sisters. Even I groaned and said how sorry I was for him. He's quite a character as well, with an array of stories of his own. As the eldest son, he's responsible for the entire family since his father died. His father became the largest rice grower in Tanzania, branched out into real estate, and now Eddie and his two brothers have to manage all of it. He takes every opportunity he can to ride out of Dar and told us stories of being chased by machete wielding bandits on motorbikes in the middle of the night, dodging wildlife on the main highways, and even stopping to watch a leopard, illuminated by his headlight, lounge in the middle of the road for a good ten minutes until he felt like getting up. Wow. I am jealous! 

We eventually made our way by taxi to the airport for our flight on Oman Air (very nice, by the way). We got ourselves through security, checked in for the flight, passed our document check for passports and yellow fever certificates (yay, someone actually asked to see them!), through Passport Control (very stern people there), through yet another security check with xray (twice? Really?), and made it to the gate in about an hour and a half. But we made it out of Dar!

Dar Shipping Saga, Part 1

The notorious Mr M
Since the bike shipping saga is a lengthy one, I will attempt to summarize the events of our two weeks in Dar Es Salaam as best I can. After collecting rate and schedule information from air cargo companies and freight forwarders, we decided to go with Mr Msuya's services. Shipping them as ocean freight would be significantly less expensive than by air, and although it would take roughly three weeks for the ship to arrive in Mumbai, that in itself had the advantage of allowing us to assume the role of backpackers in India while we waited for the bikes. We paid our 50% deposit to Mr Msuya, gave him our Carnet papers to start the document process, and got a receipt from him. The rest of the week was spent researching airfares and hotels in Mumbai, plotting our route for our arrival in India and the route we'd take once the bikes arrive. There was a bit of to-ing and fro-ing with Mr Msuya and a lot of waiting for things to happen, but everything seemed to be moving along as smoothly as we expected in this part of the world.

On Friday we returned to the India High Commission and with a great amount of relief, received our visas. From there we rode directly to meet with Mr Msuya (hereafter referred to as Mr M), who wasn't in his office. His assistant called him for us, and Mr M said he would meet us at our hotel the next morning to get copies of our passports and visas. He arrived the next morning, Saturday, and we gave him the papers he needed and arranged to pay the balance of our shipping fees later that afternoon. He wanted to be paid in US dollars, but we only brought a limited amount (of very pretty, uncirculated bills in case of emergency) with us, so we asked if we could pay in Tanzanian shillings. He said yes, but it was at a less than advantageous rate for us. Since that's what we had to do, we withdrew the needed shillings and took them to his office that afternoon. (As an aside, you know there's something wrong with a country where even the citizens don't want to accept their own currency!) Mr M made an addendum to our receipt for the balance of the money, thanked us, and said he would contact us on Monday morning with instructions to “stuff” our bikes into the shipping container on Tuesday, November 8 for the ship's departure on Thursday the 10th. We spent the rest of the weekend cleaning our camping gear and repacking all of our bags.

Monday morning we changed the oil in both bikes and lubed every part that might be affected by the salt air on their journey. And we waited for Mr M to call. Since we hadn't heard anything from him by late afternoon, we called him and were told he didn't have the “stuffing” schedule for tomorrow yet, but he would let us know first thing in the morning. Tuesday morning came and went with not a single telephone call. Just before noon our phone rang in our room and the receptionist said to come downstairs. Colin went down to find a note from Mr M saying that the ship was not going to leave until the 22nd of November and that he would come to our hotel to talk with us personally at 4:30pm. The 22nd?!?!?!? With both of us in a bit of a state since a two week departure delay was completely unacceptable, I sent an email to “my guy” at Emirates to see when they could fly the bikes to Mumbai and quickly received a response that they could do it any time. With that question answered, we waited for Mr M to arrive at 4:30 to cancel our shipment. He never showed. So we walked down to his office, where he was seated at his desk. We told him the delay was not acceptable to us, and he actually tried to convince us that it wasn't even a two week difference (I think simple math is the same worldwide, 7 days in a week, 8 November to the 22 November, 22-8=14 days=2 weeks? but maybe I am incorrect). We advised him that we wanted our documents and our money returned and that we would be shipping by air. At this point, his confidence wavered and he began mumbling about needing to see what he could do since the shipping company already had our documents and, according to him, our money. He said he would call the shipping company and try to get everything back for us, but to come back tomorrow.

We returned to his office the following day, Wednesday, only to receive our Carnets, which are honestly the most important thing we needed (the money would be nice to have, but without our Carnets, we can't move and we don't get our seriously hefty deposit back from the CAA). I noticed that he didn't return our vehicle registrations either. When we pointed this out, he said he would have to send someone to the shipper to try to get those as well. He showed us some “paperwork” with the name Diamond Shipping on it to prove they had already completed the documents needed to ship our bikes and therefore, wouldn't return our money. We offered to go to Diamond Shipping ourselves to speak with them, which was met with a very quick “no, no. I am taking care of it” from Mr M. He then said to come back tomorrow and he would try to talk to the shipping company to get our money back and the rest of our documents. Well, we made yet another trip to his office on Thursday (Mr M wasn't in, but his right hand man, 'Freddie' was there to handle things) and got our registration and our Tanzanian 3rd party insurance paperwork and an offer of $300. No. Nononononononono. Freddie wanted to know why this was not enough. Didn't we agree with Mr M on this amount? If not, then what was our agreement? Well, there wasn't one, because Mr M would not answer a direct question about our refund, just that we would get our money back. Freddie called him on the phone and told us that Mr M was working with the shipping company, Diamond Shipping, to get our money back for us. At this point, we again said we would go to Diamond Shipping to speak with them about contractual obligations and holding money and theft. Freddie said no no no, they are taking care of it, and refused to ever give us the name of a person at Diamond Shipping. He did call Mr M, who said he would come to our hotel at 4:00 to update us. We left the office and left the $300 on the desk. Surprise of surprises, 4:00 came and went with no sign of Mr M. I called and reminded him that he had a meeting with us. He gave no apology or excuse and said he was still working to get our money back. I asked how much money and he would not say. After more direct questions, he finally said we would get $600, but that the shipping company needed to write a check and he would get it “tomorrow afternoon.” Mr M was “tomorrow afternooning” us into apoplexy. I said we would be at his office at 1:00 Friday.

In between all of our dealings with Mr M, I had arranged with Emirates Air Cargo to fly the bikes to Mumbai, hopefully on Friday, November 12. Emirates gave me the name of a forwarder to use who would also arrange for crating. Colin and I rode out to the airport on Thursday morning to meet with Tamim, the forwarder, and Yusuf, from Emirates Air to work out the details. They tentatively booked space for us on Friday's flight with the understanding that we were still trying to resolve our “issues” with our previous shipper. Yusuf just asked that I contact him when we had everything worked out, and if we couldn't do it Friday, they could easily move the booking and crating to Saturday.

Friday morning at about 10:00, we got a call from reception that there was someone waiting downstairs for us. We went down to the lobby, and there was Mr M's sister. She called Mr M on her cell phone and handed it to Colin. Mr M said his sister had our money, he was sorry for making us wait, he was sorry that things didn't work out, he was sorry we were not able to do business, etc, etc. Bleh. Colin handed the woman her phone, and she removed our $600 from her purse. Funnily enough, $500 of it was returned to us in pristine, sequentially numbered $100 bills- JUST LIKE the ones we gave him. Really, what are the chances that you give someone money, they give it to another company who deposit it in a bank, then write a check, and the person to whom the check is written is then given the very same bills they started with? I am forever amazed by the coincidental nature of the world.

Grillin' delicious chicken at Mamboz Corner BBQ
1000 yard stare from Mr M.- Delicious food from Mamboz
Since we were now rid of Mr M for good, Colin rode to the airport to meet with Tamim and give him a deposit on the air shipment. I emailed Yusuf at Emirates that we were ready to confirm for Saturday and started packing everything again, this time to go on the plane. We finally booked our own flights to Mumbai and a hotel for our arrival. That evening we celebrated with another delicious dinner at Mamboz. I neglected to mention that at least half of our dinners were eaten and enjoyed at Mamboz Corner BBQ. They are the #1 rated restaurant on TripAdvisor in Dar Es Salaam, and the rating is well-deserved. Every dish we tried was delicious, the service is excellent, and the owners are super friendly. Oh, and it's cheap to boot!

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Hi everyone!  We are still alive and well and are finally leaving Dar Es Salaam in about three hours time.  The shipping saga is long, convoluted, and still too fresh to write about without our heads steaming, so we will tell that tale once the wounds have scabbed.  We are flying to Mumbai, India and should arrive at about 5:30 tomorrow morning.  Our bikes have already arrived (thank you, Emirates!) and we hope to be reunited with them soon.  Once we're through the customs process, we hope to return to more regular blog updates.  Thanks for your patience!

Friday, November 4, 2011

What is Wrong With These Drivers?!?!

The next morning, we lazily readied to ride to Dar Es Salaam. It's only about 120 miles away, and we knew where we wanted to stay, so we weren't in much of a hurry. We did need to refuel before leaving Morogoro, so we stopped at the station around the corner from our hotel. They apparently had a problem with their single pump and waved us on. 
The view from the road from hell
We continued down the road to another station I had seen on one of our walks. What I apparently didn't notice at this point was the GPS recalculating our route. We made it to the next station and through some sign language got enough petrol to get us to Dar. We turned back onto the road and followed the GPS directions. Since there are so few roads in Africa, I normally don't depend on the GPS, but instead rely on the map. However, when we arrived in Morogoro, we got ourselves completely turned around while searching for the hotel, and I honestly couldn't remember the way back to the highway. So, GPS it was. After a few miles I started getting a little concerned, because I thought I had remembered from my cursory glance at the written directions earlier that morning, that it should have been under two miles back to the highway. My suspicions were confirmed when the road turned to hard-packed dirt. I'm pretty sure I would have remembered riding on a dirt road coming into town. We pulled over, and I took a better look at the route and realized that yes, in fact, the GPS recalculated our route due to our side trip to the petrol station. It appeared that the dirt road would last for about 6.8 miles before rejoining the highway. Re and I discussed it quickly and decided that (in light of my hatred of backtracking) we would continue down the dirt road. The road was very rough and rutted and became more so as we rode on. Our average speed fell to under 20 mph as we picked our way through the rocks and ravines. After about 5 miles, we came upon a crossroads and an odd road feature. It appeared that someone had planted a row of stones across the width of the road. These stones stuck up about 8 inches out of the dirt, but there were a couple of motorcycle size gaps between them. I aimed for one of the gaps that was about 10 inches wide and did not make it. Re however, made it through with no problem. Yay! I did it right! I didn't crash! Finally!!! As I passed between the rocks, I felt a sharp impact, and the bike lurched sideways. After clearing the gap my bike slowed drastically. Well now, this can't be good. Before I even hopped off the bike, I looked down and saw the damage. I'd hit one of the rocks with my rear brake lever and bent it back so far that it was now caught on the footpeg. We hopped off the bikes and looked underneath to see the deep gouge in the rear brake lever. As we were on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, we needed to affect a quick repair. Not wanting to remove the rear brake lever at the time (and not really knowing how to remove it) we did the next best thing and got out the hammer. I pounded on the brake lever, trying at least to free it from the footpeg but was only able to move it about 1 inch. As it was now at least 4 inches farther back than it was supposed to be, it made for a difficult ride. After stowing the tools, we got back on the “road” and made our way to the highway. Back on terra firma, we pulled into the first layby and inspected the bike for any more damage. It seems the lever took all the impact and was just deformed. The good news was that the brake was not binding, the bad news was that I had to ride the next 115 miles with only the very tip of my boot on the footpeg. If I shifted my foot any farther forward, it applied the rear brake. When you're a big man on a little bike, you don't need your riding position to be restricted any more than it already is. 
Colin's relocated brake pedal

Where the pedal should be
Fortunately, I did not remain focused on my brake problem for too long, as traffic today was even worse than the ride to Morogoro. As we frequently took to the hard shoulder to dodge oncoming traffic and to pass slower vehicles in order to prevent being run over from behind, we decided this was good practice for our upcoming rides in India. The closer we got to Dar, the more insane the other drivers became. At one point in time, I was “passed” by a UN Toyota Land Cruiser that came within two inches of my handlebar as he jammed in beside me. As I was already at the edge of the pavement and there was about a 6 inch drop off to the dirt below, I was a little irate. I'm glad to hear that the US will be withholding some funds from UNESCO. To add to the excitement, there were suicidal baboons everywhere. We lived in California for about 18 months many years ago, so I'm fairly comfortable with lane splitting. Re however, never got used to it and doesn't enjoy it. Once we reached the outskirts of Dar, lane splitting was the only way to go. Dalladallas are what the local minibus taxis are called here, and they are many and aggressive. Also, many of the intersections are uncontrolled (or at least people treat them that way). If the traffic signals are working, no one seems to care what color they are, they just go. So we ducked and dodged, weaved and wiggled the next 10 miles into town. 
It seemed to me that the most dangerous drivers on the road here are the bus drivers. I was under the impression that as a bus driver, your number one priority is the safe delivery of your passengers to their destination. I quite apparently, am wrong about this. The bus drivers in Tanzania treat the entire road as their own personal oyster (and everyone else gets shucked), using all the paved surface themselves, regardless of who might also be there. They pass slower traffic in blind, narrow curves, force oncoming vehicles off the road, and basically, blatantly thumb their noses at traffic laws and other drivers, all in the name of keeping to a time schedule. I actually wondered aloud if the Islam Express bus company drivers are just on a mission to deliver their passengers and everyone in their way to meet Allah a little sooner. We managed to arrive safely in Dar Es Salaam and made it to the Jambo Inn Hotel, where we paid for two nights in an air-conditioned, en-suite room. The hotel doesn't have secure parking, but I showed the manager our little, teensy bikes, and asked if there was any way to pull them inside overnight. He allowed us instead, to park them behind their locked side gate at night, which was just perfect (my negotiation skills are improving). We carried our gear upstairs and turned on the AC and the ceiling fan (which has speeds from menacing to murderous, so we turned it back off). I went in to the bathroom to splash some water on my very hot face and had to laugh. I looked like a grease monkey from all the diesel and general road grime that was stuck in the sunscreen and sweat, so I added some soap to the water. After we recovered (and looked somewhat more presentable) we headed downstairs to get some lunch and have a quick walk around the area. Back to the hotel for some more AC and wifi before dinner, and then off to bed for an early night.

We spent the morning looking at the map and trying to plan our time in Dar (and maybe beyond). Not able to locate the shipping port on the map, we walked down Morogoro Road to the water. Lo and behold, it was the port! We walked north along the water, past the docks for the ferries to Zanzibar, and around to another local ferry dock. I was extremely disappointed to see one particular boat in the harbor. We stood and watched one of the Hoegh Autoliner RORO ships back away from the jetty. I had found out that this ship comes to Dar once a month, and eventually makes its way to Mumbai, but couldn't find the schedule. We watched as the one option I knew of sailed away. Well, crap. As we walked back to our hotel, we once again passed the ferries to Zanzibar. This area is full of touts who want to “help” you get a ticket to Zanzibar, or if you're not interested in Zanzibar, they have the safari “just for you.” after repeating no Zanzibar, no safari a few dozen times, one tout asked us, “well then, what do you want?” Figuring it would get him out of our faces, I told him we wanted to ship our motorbikes to India. I almost guffawed when he said, “India? You need to speak to this guy.” He grabbed me by the hand and led me to a tiny office that “unsurprisingly” sold ferry tickets to Zanzibar and to safaris. The tout said something in Swahili to a person in the front office who then led us to the back office and to Mr. Msuya. We were motioned to sit down in his chairs, and he asked us what we wanted. I said we needed to get to India by ship, and he laughed and replied in very good English that there were no passenger ships to India. I explained that we actually wanted to ship our motorbikes to India, fully expecting the same laugh, but instead he said, “we can do that.” Surprised and suspicious, I asked how they would go about doing that, and he proceeded to explain that he works with cargo consolidators who could “stuff” our bikes in a consolidated container and get them to Mumbai. They would simply need our documents and a deposit, and he could get to work. I asked how much this might cost, and he said he figured maybe 300 USD per bike based on the fact that he had shipped a Land Rover some time in the past, and it was around 1200 USD. Intrigued, I said we would think about it and talk with him tomorrow. He said he would check further into prices and the schedule before we met. Re and I left excited but a little nervous at how irregular this seemed. As it was nearly 12 noon and we would have wifi, we headed back to the hotel to try and get some quotes on air cargo rates. Since it was Sunday, we didn't expect to get a response from the airlines but hopefully would hear something on Monday morning before we met with Mr. Msuya again. We also found the location of the India High Commission, as we need to apply for visas tomorrow as well. We spent the rest of the day reading about India and a possible trip to Zanzibar.

The next morning we got up, had breakfast, and got ready to go to the India High Commission to submit visa applications. Before we left the States, we took lovely pictures of each other, and had a bunch of 2” square copies made to go along with visa requests. Unfortunately, in the photos we have, we are both wearing our glasses, and the India High Commission does not accept photos of people wearing glasses. So the first order of business was getting new photos taken. The man at reception directed us to a place right around the corner where we sat, took off our glasses, didn't smile, and got two of the absolute worst pictures ever taken in photographic history. We rode over to the High Commission, signed the book and got two of the last three tickets to request visas for the morning (India has quite a reputation for loving bureaucratic red tape, so we were unsurprised by the limited number of slots and the limited 1.5 hour time in which they even accept applications). Once our number was displayed, we proceeded to the counter, smiled at the nice lady, gave her our applications and paid our money. Since we neither have onward tickets beyond India nor do we have the required two referees in India or in Tanzania to vouch for us, we hope that the additional fee we had to pay to “refer passports” will ensure that when we retrieve our passports on Friday between 4:00 and 4:45 pm (that is the time to pick up passports- remember what I said about their reputation), they will have Indian visas attached within.

Our next order of business was to meet with Mr. Msuya again to get some answers to specific questions we had about shipping the bikes. We rode to his office and parked the bikes out front so he could see what exactly we were trying to ship. Several of the touts whisked us into his office, but alas, Mr. Msuya was not there. Instead, we met with one of his colleagues, who was expecting us. Since we had questions he was unable to answer, he called Mr. Msuya and passed the phone to Colin. From his conversation with Mr. Msuya, Colin gathered that the first ship departure is November 10, and it will take approximately 21 days to get to Mumbai. Colin thanked Mr. Msuya and told him we would consider this and be in contact tomorrow. We rode back to the hotel, flopped in the room, and got online to see if there were any responses to my inquiries about air cargo rates and availability. Qatar Airways replied that they couldn't help because our bikes exceed their maximum height for cargo on their passenger planes. Emirates responded with a rate that worked out to be nearly 4 USD per kg, which would work out to at least 1500 USD to get the bikes to Mumbai. We decided to go tomorrow to speak with Mr. Msuya. Much of the rest of the afternoon we spent looking at air fares and schedules to India and trying to figure out what to do. We took a break from thinking to get some dinner and went to Mamboz Corner BBQ. We had walked by last evening and saw them cooking hundreds of pieces of chicken on giant charcoal grills. It smelled delicious, but we'd already eaten, so tonight we gave them a try. It was delicious! We got the combo plate that included a quarter chicken and three types of beef. We also got an order of the deep-fried fish and shared it all. Everything was delicious, and we vowed to return.

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain and Morogoro

Baobabs and mountains
After three nights in Iringa, we had to move on. We said goodbye to Titho, had hugs all around, and rode onward to Morogoro. We bumped our way back down the same hill we rode up three days before (it was easier going down- gravity helped) and back onto the main road with alllll the other traffic. I do believe that riding in Tanzania is good practice for India. The highway is a two-lane road filled with semi trucks, buses, minibuses, cars, motorbikes, bicycles, and pedestrians. Oh, plus goats and cattle. Everyone but the cows is in a big hurry, and they pass other vehicles in places you cannot believe. The road twisted up and down along a river for many miles, which was probably gorgeous, but it was impossible to look due to the overtaking and the oncoming traffic. It did fortunately, lighten up for a while, and we did get to stop in an area called Baobab Valley to admire the scenery.

Baobabs in bloom
I am in love with baobab trees. They are the massive and incredibly old trees you see pictures of silhouetted against a sunset in posters of Africa. Most of the time you will see one or maybe two of them growing. In this region though, the valley is filled with baobabs, and they cover the hillsides as well. And many of them were in bloom. It was a beautiful sight. 

Buffaloes, not rhinos
Not too long after passing through this area, we saw signs for Mikumi National Park, warning us that we were “prohibited from viewing wildlife from the public road and from photographing them” as well. We laughed and rode along the road, trying not to slow down too noticeably to “ignore” the dozens of zebras, giraffes, elephants, buffaloes, and various antelopes we “didn't view.” I was reminded once again of the Wizard of Oz and the order to “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain,” or the giraffes under the tree right next to the road!  I did stop to take a photo of what I thought might be rhinos.  They were too far away to identify with my bad eyesight, so I acted the scofflaw and pulled out the camera.  When we zoomed in on the picture, we saw they were actually buffaloes.  Oh well, we've seen four of the big five animals in Africa (the big five are lions, leopards, elephants, buffaloes, and rhinos). As we exited the park and neared Morogoro, we rode through small villages and saw Masai herding their cattle and goats. This is the first group we've seen in traditional clothing in Africa. The men wear blue and red plaid, toga-like wraps and white gladiator sandals. It's interesting to see them working, but it's really odd to see one of the men talking on a cellphone while riding a bicycle. 
We made it to Morogoro and started hunting for a hotel. We had the name of a hotel but no map, and my GPS didn't have a detailed map of Morogoro either. Consequently, it took us about an hour to find the Mt Uluguru Hotel, where we stayed for the night. This hotel was the bargain of the trip, with air conditioning, a comfy bed, and breakfast included for around 15 USD. Since this was the first AC we've enjoyed since southern Namibia, we found it hard to leave the room. We did however, pry ourselves away from the cool air for a quick look around town, a visit to the ATM, and to purchase one delicious watermelon. We returned to the hotel for dinner and a cool night's sleep. 
Since Morogoro looked like an interesting town and we couldn't bear to leave the AC, we decided to stay another day. While walking around town yesterday we saw several internet cafes, and since we still need to figure out how and where we are going to ship the bikes to India, we spent a couple hours this morning looking for answers (and finding none). Mombasa is the biggest port in this part of Africa, but we want to ship from Dar Es Salaam if at all possible. Mombasa has a reputation as an especially nasty town, and Kenya has a much higher crime rate than Tanzania. Plus, we would have to pay again for visas and insurance for yet another country, just to ship our bikes. We now have the extra reason to not want to go to Kenya, in that Kenya has invaded Somalia, and Al-Shabab have promised to retaliate in Kenya against westerners. Yay. So our hopes are pinned on Dar. Unfortunately, ADVRider and HUBB have provided no reports of shipping from Dar Es Salaam, and we were unable to find any businesses advertising such services. So we went to lunch. 

One of the things we like to do while traveling is to eat at local establishments. Unfortunately, all of the restaurant menus here are written in Swahili. Not above pantomiming and imitating the sounds of various delicious animals, we found an outdoor cafe that seemed popular with local diners. As we stared cluelessly at the menu on the wall next to the grill, a kind gentleman, who also spoke English, came to our rescue before Re had to start mooing and clucking our order. John, a Tanzanian forester who was working on his Master's degree at the local agricultural school, stepped in to help us order and then joined us for lunch. We enjoyed ugali (the local version of sadza, nsima, or mealie pap), some beef cooked in foil, and a delicious vegetable medley. We spent the lunch chatting about Tanzanian agriculture and forestry and Re's love of baobab trees, which John found particularly humorous. After a nice lunch, we returned to the internet cafe to research hotels in Dar and catch up on the news. Later in the afternoon, we grabbed some more fruit from the local market and headed back to the room for a blast of AC. Later that evening we made our way to one of the swanky local hotels and splurged on a delicious Indian dinner. Stuffed, we waddled back to the hotel, grabbed a beer, and settled in for the night.


Since our butts (and everything else on us) still really hurt from the ride, and since we really didn't have to leave, we decided to stay in Iringa the next day. While we sat on the porch sipping our coffee after breakfast, we met our new best friend, Titho. He's a young man who recently finished high school and works at one of the business in the area of the guesthouse. He tried to teach us some basic Swahili phrases, and we answered his questions about life in the US. (If, in several years, you happen to come over and find a short, smiling African man in our home, that will be Titho. He wants to come to the US after he completes his studies at the university very much, and we invited him to visit us if he gets to the States). 
 We found the internet cafe across the street from our guesthouse and spent much of the afternoon catching up on emails, blogging, and writing ride reports. Before dinner, we chatted some more with Titho and learned about life in Iringa from him. For dinner, we found a different restaurant and each had prawns with vegetables and rice (chips for Colin). We strolled back to the guesthouse for the evening, and I put on my charwoman hat and did some needed laundry. 
Jacaranda trees in Iringa
The next morning, we decided to stay in Iringa for one more day, and spent most of our time uploading photos and our blog and ride reports at the internet cafe. Since our next stop after Africa is India, we needed to do some research on transportation options for ourselves and the bikes before arriving in Dar Es Salaam (from where we plan to depart for the subcontinent). So we also did a bit more poking around on the internet for shipping possibilities and also for places to stay in Dar.


Students waiting for school at Bongo Dox, Tukuyu
We woke up happily shivering (my travel clock has a thermometer- it was 61 degrees Fahrenheit inside the tent), unzipped the tent door, and crawled out of the tent to a wonderfully cool, sunny morning. And the gigantic spider that made itself at home on the outside of the tent rainfly the night before didn't figure out how to work the zipper. It was truly huge, the color of the poo of a mango-eating bird, with a smooth body and furry legs. And when I shined the flashlight on it the night before, it was licking its toes menacingly (I know it was actually cleaning the sensors on its face, but it really looked like it was cleaning in preparation for a meal). I saw it first, showed Colin, and we both got in the tent on the opposite side from the spider. It was gone in the morning.

We knew from speaking with the employees at Bongo campground that the water pressure was too low for a shower, and when they asked us the night before if we would like a bucket of hot water to bathe in the morning, we said no, cold would be fine. Well, since we could actually see our breath, we asked if we might reconsider that decision. They kindly brought a big bucket of nice, warm water, and I took my first dip shower of the trip. It was really very effective and easy (especially with Colin's help pouring the water over my head), and the water was heated over a wood fire, so it smelled good too. Once I finished, they brought another bucket for Colin's ablutions, and I handled pitcher duties for him next. Once we were both clean and smelling of woodsmoke, we waited with Marc and Katie for our breakfast to be delivered. The woman from the village who cooked our dinner the night before offered to bring banana porridge and chapati for the four of us in the morning. That sounded great, so Colin and I packed the bikes and then we had picture time with a bunch of young children who were waiting for school to begin. There was a lot of giggling as many of the little girls, dressed in their ill-fitting, navy and white gingham check uniforms, parroted what I said (the conversation was basically “Hello, hoouwew yeewww?” I replied, “I'm fine, how're you?” Giggle giggle from the girls, “Fine, hoouwew yeewww?” back and forth many times.  And apparently all of them were named something that sounded like Rebekah.  "My name is Rebekah.  What's your name?"  "My name's Beka. What's youwname?" giggle giggle). Breakfast arrived by motorbike, and we sat down while the woman fixed coffee, ladled porridge into our bowls and put fresh chapati, carrots, peppers, and tomatoes on our trays. Along with porridge that plopped into my bowl came a drumstick bone. Huh. When I think porridge, I think raisins, brown sugar, and milk, not chicken. But I tentatively tasted it, was GOOD! Not at all what I expected, but really good. And the coffee had an interesting note of smokiness from the hot water which went well with the sugar and hot milk in it. All in all, it was a surprisingly tasty and filling meal.

After breakfast we put on our gear and got on the bikes to leave. But Colin's wouldn't start. It “hydraulic-ed” again, so he pushed it onto the dirt path, we got out the tools, cleared the cylinder of fuel, and it started right up. I walked back to my bike to start it, and... it did the same thing. So we got the tools back out, pushed it to the dirt path (the Bongo campground had a very nice lawn which we didn't want to spoil) and repeated the process with my bike. Colin believes the problem is positional- that parking the bikes on an uphill grade, with weight on the back and the front wheel in the air, somehow prevents the float needle from closing and allows the carburetor to fill with fuel. Anyway, with both bikes running, we headed down the dirt path to the main road and on our way to Iringa. 

The ride was a beautiful one past many more plantations with mountains in the background everywhere we looked. It was also very hilly, so our progress was sloooowwww. Plus, some civil engineer somewhere introduced the concept of speedbumps as traffic control (they're not just for use in parking lots- who knew?) at the entrance and exit and each crosswalk in every city, town, village, and crossroad in the country. And they aren't the smooth, gently rising ones.  Instead, they're series of at least three jutting, bump bump BUMPS at the town borders, and gigantic WHUMPS at crosswalks. Oh, and whoever gave them this brilliant idea forgot to mention that they ought to be painted. If you're lucky, you notice the small stone at each side of the road where the speedbumps are. If you're not, you don't and are fortunate to keep all teeth in your head and glass in your windshield (at many of them, there are piles of safety glass that has obviously shattered due to the impact). I, tragically, lost my towel (and I am really, really sad about it. It's quite inconvenient since I only had one, and no campgrounds and few guesthouses provide them. Plus, if you have a towel, you present the appearance of having everything and being prepared for anything) to a speedbump and almost lost a spare tire as well. Needless to say, it was slow going to Iringa. We eventually made it to the turnoff for the city, which took us up a very steep hill with more speedbumps placed roughly every 500 feet. After hitting one just wrong, Colin lost the Dromedary water bag from the back of his bike. Fortunately, I was right behind and stopped to pick it up before I or someone else ran over it (which would be another serious tragedy). Once in town, we found a decent place to stay, dropped our gear in the room, and found some dinner across the street at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant with very good food. After a chickpea curry with rice and vegetables for me, and chicken masala for Colin, we went back to the room and went to bed.