Friday, November 4, 2011

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.

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