Fish Market, Stone Town, Tanzania

Race To Dar Es Salaam

| Tanzania

With only three days before Dad flys into Dar Es Salaam, I had to tear myself away from the awe-inspiring company at Jungle Junction and hit the road south. Packing everything up, I wave goodbye and navigate my way through the congested Nairobi traffic.  I planned a route with would take me around the city rather than through it, knowing this would be the last time I would have to plot my route out on a paper map. My Dad has just confirmed he has packed a GPS into his luggage!

My fears of getting lost when leaving Nairobi were squashed, I had done a lot of getting lost while kicking around in Nairobi. But when I finally left the Nairobi fringe, that’s when the usual navigation mistakes appear. Looking down at the blurred road, I could see that my shadow wasn’t where it should be, that meant I was heading directly south! Pulling over just after an intersection, I pull out my map and under my breath I mutter “I’m so glad this is going to be the last time!’ As I looked about, the people were trying hard to ignore me. This was strange, I wasn’t used to it after Ethiopia! My map confirms that I’m not heading to the border but directly south into Maasai country. It’s a pity I’m in such rush. This would have been an interesting side trip!

Turning my bike around, I noticed a rusty, twisted sign that I still can make out the words on. This was indeed my turn off! Laughing, I turn down the road but not before realising that there was no actual sign in the direction I had just been coming in. When you’re in a rush to get somewhere, you for once would like the roads to be beautifully asphalted. This wasn’t the case at all on this little link road that I decided to take just to avoid the Nairobi traffic. It was full of pot holes that just kept on getting larger and larger until it eventually turned into one dirt road with a few asphalt patches. Arriving at the main road was a relief, boring as it was it led me straight to the border between Kenya and Tanzania. Kilometres beforehand, the rain had started and not just any rain but a massive down pour, the start of the wet season!

I parked the bike at the Kenyan side of the border and ran dripping into the immigration office.  Water dripped off my jacket as I filled out the immigration card. The wind had picked up and scattered the forms all around the office, where people stomped all over them rendering them useless. I was finger printed, and then stamped out of Kenya. Dashing into the customs office, I handed over my carnet de passage. While passing a comment “do you guys want to swap, I work here and you ride to Dar Es Salaam?’, the officer takes one look at it and smugly asks “where is your road tax?’.  Road tax I wonder? No one asked for road tax when I entered Kenya.

Pulling a fast one, because road tax means money and I don’t like parting with money if I don’t have to, I replied “I crossed the border with two other Dutch guys (this of course wasn’t the lie) they left Nairobi a few days ago and must have taken it with them!” The officer looks at this dripping, helpless, stupid girl, pulls out the massive stamp and let it crash down on my carnet leaving a smudgy customs mark. “Thanks a lot, have a great day” I say, leaving as fast as possible before they change their mind and make me pay for road tax.  Stuffing all my paper work into my backpack, I cross unchecked into Tanzania. Repeating all the paper work, I was left to head into the heart of Tanzania.

The rain got heavier and heavier until I couldn’t see the road. I couldn’t even see a meter or two beyond my front wheel. Coming upon two red tail lights, I slowed down with enough distance so I wouldn’t get muddy tyre spray and decided to follow him for the entire downpour.  Fifty kilometres later the rain subsided and the clouds cleared leaving behind a crisp landscape bogged down with water. Maasai people wandered out into the road and waved heartily as I past. I so wanted to stop but I knew if I did and took one single photo I would be hassled for money. Riding on, I arrived into a village called Moshi. Moshi is a small town which tourists use to kick off their Mount Kilimanjaro trek. I headed straight for a recommended camp site just out of the town.

I had been hearing a noise all day, and with a few riding tests I came to the conclusion it was coming from my chain. Before I set up my tent I took a closer look at it. I wish I hadn’t. I  could see that several rollers that shield the pins which keep the two sides of the chain together were only holding on by a small piece of metal. Quickly calculating in my mind how many kilometres I had left until I arrive at Dar Es Salaam, I worked out I just couldn’t risk it.

In the morning, I pulled out my chain and with the help of a nurse from Denver, Colorado, we worked to put my new chain on. This is normally an easy task, but I hadn’t cut my chain down to the right length. This is something I really should have done at Jungle Junction where there were all the proper tools! Borrowing a foot long grinder, I got one of the Maasai Guards to cut the chain. I was too weak to even pick the grinder up let alone use it! I was back on the road before lunch with a brand new quiet chain. 

Everything was cruising along smoothly. I past Mount Kilimanjaro without seeing it, as it was covered in clouds (maybe on the way back?). I passed rows and rows, field after field of massive spiky plants that looked to me as if it would grow giant pineapples but I later discovered was a sisal plant!

Sisal Plantation

While passing one of the never ending fields, I was pulled over by a police man with a speed gun in his hand – really, I was speeding? I was only going 80km/hr! He waved me over to park my bike on the side of the road. I turned my machine off. Apparently I was doing exactly 80km/hr in a 20km/hr zone. Looking around me, I just didn’t believe him. There were two buildings that looked like sisal workers lunch houses. I turned around to check there was a sign that actually said 20km//hr or was he pulling my leg? It turned out he was right and I was wrong. I rode back to the police officer at 20km/hr to get a feel of what I should have been travelling at.

While standing there, trying to get the fine down from 30,000 TSH ($18 USD) to nothing, I notice a few people speeding past us. I pointed a couple out to the police officer, who explained to me, they can start speeding up from here onwards (not where the sign clearly indicates open speed limit). When I saw a police truck roar past with the occupants waving out the window, I put my helmet on, turned the key and stood up to kick start the bike while saying “sorry brother, but if you are letting all these people pass without stopping them, I think you are just pulling my leg” and drove off, leaving him standing there stunned in the middle of the road.

 I sweated out the next 50km hoping no one was going to chase me down. I even caught up to and passed the police truck which had passed me while I was been questioned on the side of the road. No one stopped me, so I kept on going, until I was 100km away from Dar Es Salaam and it was now too dark to continue.  I gave up trying to negotiate with the only two guesthouses in the village over the price, and  went to the police station. “Is it ok if I pitch my tent around the back of your station?” After the chief was asked I was assigned a place to pitch my tent. With my tent pitched I walked across the street to get dinner. Just as I polished off my chicken bones, a lady who I was sitting next to took my plate and tried to find any scrape of meat left on the bones, but she was out of luck. Sorry lady, but I was hungry! I returned to my tent and fell asleep with the sounds of guns been cleaned and cocked and the national anthem every time a new shift came on. Ah what sweet dreams came about after that!