Tuesday, 30 March 2010


As I am spending my last night in Tanzania, time has come again to draw a few lines of conclusion about the fifth country of the tour. Well, as you have seen on this blog, Tanzania is a beautiful country. It is the Africa you see on National Geographic reportage's. I enjoyed Tanzania and have definitely added the "must come back" mark next to it. Tanzania was a very positive surprise, it gave me a good impression. I think that it has great potential for future development and for anybody interested in a visit, I would recommend not to miss the central part of the country which offers some of the most magnificent landscapes in Africa.

The disparities between rich and poor are big here and it is definitely an issue, just like it is in most African countries. I was impressed to see that the kids we met were are all going to school, all wearing clean uniforms. I was also impressed by the kindness of Tanzanians, especially in the rural areas.
Tanzania suffers from a lack of infrastructures, but roads and buildings are being erected all over the places we went through, and a fair amount of foreign investment seems to be taking place. The touristic region around Arusha are already looking very fast growing.
Over the last 3 days, we have been yo-yoing between highlands plateau situated at an altitude of 1900 meters and large flat valleys lying at about 800 meters bellow that. So, in cycling terms, it means we have gone up and down and up and down, and .... The valleys are hot and humid with plenty of exotic fruit farms as well as rice plantations while the highlands are much colder but also very humid, mostly covered with planted forest made of Pine trees and Eucalyptus trees.

All the riders who had left us in Arusha for holidays in Zanzibar or for climbing Kilimanjaro rejoined us in Iringa. Then we were told that 11 new sectional riders were also joining, so it means that the group is now about 80 people TDA staff and local riders included... So we went from a reduced team of about 40 riders to a super size group of over 70 riders since we left Iringa. This means that the queues for lockers are now worst than ever. The new sectional are much slower than us at loading their lockers. We have 2 and a half month practise whilst these guys are just as efficient as we were in Cairo... The holiday makers who went to Zanzibar for 10 days are all looking brown and fat. It is amazing how quickly they have managed to put some weight back on, whilst the rest of us has lost further weight in this very hard and long 7 days off road section.

This fifth section of TDA is the shortest and easiest of all. It will take us to the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe. It is fully paved and does not have any major difficulties. So I have to say that after what we have gone through so far, the first 3 days of this new section have felt like days off. Good, because my knees are still a problem and I need to take it easy. Well, even if I took it easy, I made it to camp so early that I had time for afternoon naps, a new undiscovered thing for me. We are doing days of 100 to 120 km with around 1000 meters of climbing each day, but it feels so easy after last week.Riding on tar is really so much easier than on corrugated dirt.
Last night at camp I managed to injure myself in the most stupid way. One thing about riding through these regions of Africa is that if you hurt yourself, even a small cut, it takes weeks to heal. Some riders are still wearing plasters from injuries they got over a month ago. So you don't want to have any bruises or skin cuts. That is why I have Ben so careful while riding my bike and have been fortunate not to have any falls so far. Well, last night while we were have our locker 9 meeting, I was using my toilet seat as a chair since the TDA is short of them, especially with the new enlarged group and as I bended forward to get a whisky shot from Tony, my seat collapsed. I managed to save the whiskey, but not my right achille on which the plastic toilet seat top fell with me on it. As I stood up, I saw blood spilling out of the achille and a large piece of skin hanging out of it... What a stupid way to injure myself.... Anyway, I got the TDA nurse to patch it with an antibiotic cream and a large piece of plaster. My problem over the next few days will be to prevent any infection, and it is not really nice as the missing piece of skin is exactly where the back of my cycling shoe comes in contact with the foot.
Tonight was great, we are in Mbewa, the last city before the Malawian border and because we arrived early, it has almost been like a rest day. Ruben, a young and sympathetic German rider had his first race day victory yesterday and celebrated in style tonight by inviting everybody for free beers. Needless to say that we all accepted his offer...
The kids along the road are funny in this region, like everywhere, they all scream "Mzungu, Mzungu" when they see us, but they also try a few words of English they have learn at school. You can see that the paved road immediately has an influence on people. As we rode over 700 km on dirt roads, the kids we met along were shy and rarely engaged verbally with us whilst here along this main road they are totally different. They scream at us and are so much more extroverts. You can see what they are been taught at school as entire villages say "good morning teacher" as we pass, whilst others say "hello madame" or "hello daddy" (he, he... I can explain that one...)
The Muslim influence is also being felt here in the south, many adults answer "Salam" instead of "jumbo"
OK, bedtime for me now, more from Malawi next.... Tomorrow we are descending back to almost sea level... First time since we left Cairo... We are probably going to feel supercharged with so much oxygen in our lungs...

                                             This region of southern Tanzania is producing rice
                               Beautiful pyramide shaped hills are commun in this part of Tanzania
                              Kids fishing in a small stream.. They actualy caugtht a catfish in front
                              of me with this small net
                              This is Wilson, he is one of the hundreds of workers hand digging this
                              1000 km long chanel which will host a fibre optic cable for high speed
                              internet.Wilson gets paid 2000 shillings a day for this job, which is the
                              equivalent of 1 euro...
                                                             Small shops along the road
                                        Today we are climbing back to these highlands plateaux

                                                Gabriele at a coke stop entertaining the local kids
                                   Me and the local kids at one of the many coke stops of the day
                                                                  Hardy smiling as always
                                   As you can see on this photo, it not just coke stops any more,
                                   as we are getting closer to South Africa, things are slowly
                                   improving... Here we even got cold beers, so we were not
                                  shy despite the last 20 km to go and a few hills before camp...

                               The brotherhood of locker 9 in full action at camp celebrating
                               Marcel's birthday....
                                                      Gabriele arriving at todays forest camp

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