Cycling through Nowhere, Tanzania! (Singida, Tanzania – KM 19,425)

The nomadic peoples living between the northernmost point of Europe and Africa’s southern extremity are the focus of this ongoing bicycle journey. After the Batwa pygmies of East Africa, our sight was now on Tanzania’s pastoralists, the Maasai and Barbaig, as well as the Hadzabe, one of Africa’s last hunter-gatherers tribes, persisting around Lake Eyasi. We would find them all in north-central Tanzania.

The way there could be via Lake Victoria and Tanzania’s second metropolis, Mwanza, but crowds, bilharzia-contaminated water and malarial mosquitoes made us look at the direct T3 with more enthusiasm. This section of road, from the border with Rwanda to here in Singida, offers no great attractions or awe-inspiring landscapes, it doesn’t appear in a guidebook, it has no spectacular history. It is just a longish stretch of varying quality pavement with bush, diamonds and gold reserves, subsistence farming—corn, rice and sunflower—, some colonial railway lines, long-horned Ankole cattle, a few hyenas and elephants. We would soon discover Tanzania’s richest treasure, the Tanzanians, but first let’s go back to Mike and Jenna’s breezy house in Kigali, where this eastward journey began.

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The city center as viewed from Kigali Genocide Memorial, where 250,000 people are buried, killed in a three-month period during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. You walk out of here with a reinforced respect for Rwandans, who have put energy, courage, goodwill and hard work to live in peace and turn their country into a true phoenix risen from ashes. City of Kigali, Republic of Rwanda.

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Lasagna night at Mike and Jenna’s! The couple—him from Ontario, her from British Columbia—met on a pan-Canadian cycle tour eight years ago. Mike did not have to look far for inspiration as his parents—sitting at this table after flying in a few hours prior—had gone on a similar journey way back when. Mike and Jenna fell in love, married and cycled from Vancouver to Ushuaia as their honeymoon! Now parents to two boys, and living in Kigali for one year, they generously open their house to family members visiting from the cold Canadian winter—Jenna’s two sisters from B.C. are also seated at the table—and to cycling vagrants. City of Kigali, Republic of Rwanda.

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With Mike and Jenna, their two boys and Mike’s parents gone on an animal safari in Tanzania—and Jenna’s sisters on a plane to Vancouver—we were , again, left alone in their house, this time in company of Zelda, from Sweden, and Sam, holder of both British and Australian passports. The young duo was on its way to Cape Town, South Africa, after teaming up in Cairo, and were happy for the rest after having health problems. Zelda had scratched mosquito bites on her legs enough to get a blood infection. She looked surprised when I mentioned wearing long pants in the evening. Sam had been experiencing chest pain and projectile vomiting while riding his bike. “How about a blood test and rehydration salts, mate?”, I asked. “I’m alright”, he answered. Ah, to be young! City of Kigali, Republic of Rwanda.

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Strengthening the braze-ons on Pierre’s Troll before leaving the capital. City of Kigali, Republic of Rwanda.

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Who needs a truck? Kirehe District, Republic of Rwanda.

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We crossed the Kagera river at Rusumo Falls thus exiting Rwanda and entering Tanzania. In 1894, German Gustav Adolf von Götzen crossed in reverse, beginning the Rwandan colonial era. More recently, in 1994, the river carried bodies from the genocide into Lake Victoria. Journalists standing on the bridge reported seeing bloated corpses coming down the falls, one or two every minute. Kirehe District, Republic of Rwanda.

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A couple of challenging land puckerings before the road got ironed out. Kagera Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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Tanzanian truck drivers from the Indian Ocean’s coast plough their way to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo. Most services along the way are geared towards these entrepreneurial adventurers. Kagera Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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We probably had not seen a woman on bicycle since Warsaw! At first we thought it was a fluke, but we soon understood that Tanzanian sisters ride for real, often with a load and a child bandaged to their backs. Geita Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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And children ride hard too. A ten-year old boy in his rubber boots, sitting on the top bar of his king size bicycle followed Pierre for seventeen kilometres. Geita Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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Marabou storks walk around, like grumpy old men with their hands stuffed in their pockets, anywhere there is food or garbage. Geita Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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Really, who needs a refrigerated truck? Shinyanga Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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Chameleons have the quickest tongue but they walk dangerously slow. Pierre followed this one, « encouraging » him to hurry by hitting his metal cleats on the pavement behind its tail, until it had finished crossing the road. Shinyanga Region, United Republic of Tanzania

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Lots of informal mobile business happening. Tabora Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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Just walked out of a field puddle onto the cinnamon road and is bringing his catch home. Don’t get me wrong I appreciate an energetic child as much as the next guy, but these Tanzanian kids who greet us, give us the thumbs up and never touch our bikes, never run after us and don’t ask for money are quite refreshing! Tabora Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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Who needs a grader? By now, we are absolutely enamored with the relaxed and polite Tanzanians. « Hello Mr and Mrs! Safari njema! », they say. They inquire about our origin, the destination, shake their heads and wish us luck. In small guesthouses we sleep at along the way, the answer to, « Could we get a bucket of water to bathe? » or « Do you think the power will be back before tomorrow? » is unanimously « Don’t worry », even though we are not the worrying kind. Tabora Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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Roaming Africa in sturdy 4X4s you find missionaries, NGO do-gooders, wildlife officers, tourists on safari hoping for the best and, sometimes, overlanders looking for trouble. The two Swiss we met that day were of the latter category! Tabora Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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For lunch we looked for mama lisha (« feeding ladies ») in hopes of being served rice, beans and kale for less than a USD1, but most days we settled for the omnipresent chipsi mayai, litteraly « chips and eggs », a 3-egg french fries omelet! Tree-rippen avocadoes, mangoes, bananas and guavas completed our highway diet. Tabora Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

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Entering Ngeza, just south of the Serengeti plains, as the sun was dropping behind our rear wheels, we got blinded by reflective jewelery and the immaculate mary-janes. Three young Maasai warriors completed the look with purple tartan shukas, sticks—that have replaced the traditional spears—, shopping bags and cell phones. The next day many were riding their bicycles in the same accoutrement . Getting closer…Tabora Region, United Republic of Tanzania.

Rift Valley days! (Engaresero, Tanzania - KM 19,880)
The Land of a thousand hills! (Kigali, Rwanda - KM18,635)
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