Women carrying bales of thatch for roof repair/construction.
"A day on the road: Iringa to Dodoma, Tanzania."
Mike, John and I parted ways in Iringa. They were heading northeast to Dar Es Salaam, a city I plan to visit on my way to the island of Zanzibar. I was heading northwest, towards Rwanda and the Lake Victoria region. There are two routes leading from Iringa to Dodoma: One is longer, but paved. The other is more direct- but unpaved. I chose the the latter.
Leaving Iringa, I rode through a number of small villages before reaching vast areas of unpopulated Tanzania. The road was in worse condition than I had imagined. Even at 30mph the bike and I were taking a beating. In less than an hour my hands ached and I considered turning around and heading for the pavement. Instead, I continued riding toward distant mountains. The air was clear and pure, a few clouds drifted along in a beautiful blue sky. I rode for many miles without seeing any people, vehicles, villages, etc. After several hours I reached the mountains and began a gentle ascent into the forest. At one point I met an aging bus spewing a thick black cloud of exhaust, it covered me in sand and dust as we passed each other.
Three or four hours into the ride I reached a village. There was a Mosque there, and I noticed most of the women had their faces covered. Tanzania is split nearly 50/50 between Christians and Muslims. People of both religions seem to get along well with each other in this part of the world.
Several miles after exiting this village, I stopped to take a break in the shade of some large trees. The area was so remote I wanted to be within an easy walk to a village in case the bike refused to start. As I brought the bike to a stop, I noticed many baboons scurrying around looking for places to hide as they sized me up. I stood up for a stretch and drank long gulps of water. I surveyed the area and spotted people sitting in the shade watching me, perhaps 200 feet away. There were five or six people, partially obscured by tall grass. There were goats grazing near them. Suddenly a man stood up and looked at me. He leaned over and picked up a stick and began walking towards me. Nothing about him suggested trouble. I watched with curiosity as he drew closer. He wore about his waist a dark red cloth, simply wrapped in place. Draped over his shoulders was an indigo colored scarf. At some 75 feet the man came to a stop, I realized then he was carrying a spear. He gently placed the blunt end of the spear on the dirt, then raised his right foot to rest on the inside of his left leg, just above his knee. His right hand was wrapped around the spear, shoulder high. His left hand rested gently on his chest, the tips of his thumb and index finger just touching his throat. I believe he was simply holding the scarf in place. For over a year I have been stared at in every country along the way. It suddenly occured to me that I was, for the first time on my journey, staring back. With a bottle of water in my left hand, I raised my right hand and showed him my palm as a greeting. He then removed his left hand from his chest and greeted me in a similar fashion. I stowed my water, donned my helmet and mounted up. As I pulled away, the baboons quickly scrambled for cover. The man stood motionless.
For me, this was an incredible encounter between two men. It was a powerful moment for me, and I wondered what he thought of the meeting. Though born on the same planet, we are from very different worlds.
The road on to Dodoma was interesting. I saw many more natives dressed in robes and wearing traditional jewelry. There were no tourist buses here, no craft shops or even gas stations- and no white faces anywhere. This was Africa the way I wanted to see her. Spectacular.
From Dodoma I hope to put the bike (and myself) on a train to Shiyanga. From there I hope to continue northwest into Rwanda. It could get interesting...
Off-loading the bike in Shinyanga, Tanzania.