Friday, November 4, 2011


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.

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