Sunday, October 18th, Day 14 - Departures are different than arrivals. It's always the same. On arrival people look up curiously from their tasks as I go by, children excitedly stare from behind houses but run when they see me look their way, but there's no big crowds. When I leave though, there's always a crowd that gathers to say goodbye. It's always a little bittersweet, knowing there's a good chance I won't ever see any of them again. I hope to get back to the Hadza next year, but who knows.
In this case we didn't know what time I'd be leaving, as I mentioned I wasn't even quite certain my ride would come. But sure enough I was hanging out with the chairman's family by his
house hut when we heard the sound of engines and saw a plume of dust. A crowd quickly gathered around the little house I'd been staying in to say goodbye. I went around shaking hands thanking them for their hospitality, and those that could speak some English thanked me for coming. I was a bit disappointed some of the young men that had been very involved weren't around, but I think they were hunting at the time, you gotta do whatcha gotta do. After the goodbyes Neema (my translator) and I hopped in the car (again provided and driven by local government officials). We also gave a ride into town to one of the Hadza women, and she brought baobab seeds for us to snack on.
The reason we walked in originally instead of taking this "road" was that this vehicular access route was round-about and very very rugged. Governor Dr Kone (cone-ey) later informed me he had had that route made when he went to visit them, by having young men walk in front of the car with machetes to clear the path.
After several hours of basically off-roading, followed by a few hours on actual roads, by that evening we were back in the regional capitolSingida. This hotel is on the edge of one of the two big lakes that Singida sits between. Last year the lake was full of flamingoes, they don't seem to be about this year, but the wind howls across the lake at night which personally I find pleasant to listen to.
(picture from last year)
Having been here before I knew to call my dinner order in an hour before I wanted it. They said they'd call when it was ready. I called after an hour and a quarter (I was starving) but they said it wasn't ready yet. Finally they called me at an hour an a half and STILL had to wait twenty minutes when I got there, for food that seemed to have cooled off already by the time they brought it. It's weird complete customer service fails like this that are surprisingly common that are really frustrating, because "why???" You can see the lack of physical infrastructure and you know that not many people receive much schooling, but there's subtle deficiencies even in the customer service training one has come to take as god-given.
Called Dr Kone, planning to see him the next day and then move on, but he was actually in Dar Es Salaam, where I was heading next, but he planned to return to Singida the next day. I didn't plan to wait two days for him so that seemed like we just wouldn't get to meet up.
Called my contact on Pemba Island (the least visited of the two major Zanzibar islands) and asked him if he got the email I'd sent a week ago, but he hadn't checked his email in the interim. "Okay, well, anyway, I can be there on Thursday, is it still good for me to visit?" I asked.
"Oh, yes, we will be ready, no problem!" he said. Okay good.
A view out the bus window between Morogoro and Dar Es Salaam
So the next day I had to catch a 6am bus for the ten hour trip to Dar Es Salaam. The bus station was probably only ten minutes away but I arranged with the taxi to pick us up at 5, and it's a good thing I did because he finally rolled up after 5:30.
About halfway to Dar es Salaam I got a new email notification on my phone (how modern eh??), my contact in Pemba had reconsidered, it was NOT a good week to visit Zanzibar, due to the election this coming Sunday. So I was stuck on a ten hour bus ride to somewhere I had no reason to be. After having more than enough time to think about it I decided I could just entertain myself till the next week, so I called him and asked him if next week would be better... he said no probably not.
Really I should be thankful I didn't go. The Zanzibar polling stations ended up ejecting the journalists and independant observors, police clashed with protestors across the island and dispersed them with teargas, and it took more than a week to sort it all out.
Another interesting fact about this election, to quote from wikipedia:
"The government had warned politicians to refrain from engaging in witchcraft, and a deputy minister told parliament that reports linking politicians with the killings of people with albinism could be true as it increases during the election period. A ban on witch doctors was imposed in January 2015, as some of them condone the killings due to superstitious beliefs that the victims' bodies "possess powers that bring luck and prosperity."On arrival at our hotel in Dar I found my lensecap had apparently fallen off in the bus. It was never recovered and I didn't find a store that could sell me a new one for three days. As a consequence all the pictures from here on out suffer from a dirty lense (and my other camera, my phone, was stolen so all its pictures were lost)
Monday, October 19th, Day 15 - On the bright side, Dr Kone ended up spending another day in Dar Es Salaam and made time to meet with me first thing Monday morning ... immediately prior to a meeting he had with the Prime Minister. We had a nice discussion about what could be done for the Hadza people. He really seems like a very nice man. The "regional commissioners" are appointed by the president to govern regions and he's been the governor of Singida for over 11 years now. He doesn't seem much like a politician, I don't think he'd have had the position if he had to campaign for it, he's more of a brilliant and benevolent technocrat. Clearly very smart and competent, yet soft-spoken, and he mentioned that even if he loses his position (a possibility with the election on) he thinks he'll still try to help the Hadza people. Also his first name is Parseko, which I feel would be a great name for a cat.
After that Neema and I strolled about downtown looking for the Ethiopian Air office -- I had originally planned to leave Africa Nov 2nd so I could proceed to a project in Nicaragua, but the government had grabbed up a lot of land there in a hare brained scheme to build a canal in competition to the Panama Canal so there was widespread unrest ... sooo that plan fell through. So my current plan was to postpone my flight out of Africa until Nov 11th and use the extra time to do the project in Zanzibar a little later. In the mean time I'd maybe head up to Uganda where some people from a local development organization had wanted to meet with me.
Neema and I had gone just a block when a woman coming the other way on the sidewalk recognized us and exclaimed "Neema! Kris!" It took me a moment to realize it was the manager of the hotel I'd stayed in in Arusha, more than a week and 700 miles ago! That was fun, especially since she and her hotel were wonderful (I highly recommend you stay in the Mvuli Hotel next time you're in Arusha!).
In the mean time, I was still randomly in Dar Es Salaam with nothing to do. I decided to spend a day there and then head back north. I looked on trip advisor and visiting Mbudya Island just offshore was the highest rated thing, with rave reviews, so I decided to do that! As we stepped out of the hotel, the same taxi driver who had driven me to see Dr Kone was still there, and he was a nice and fairly fair fared fellow so we went with him -- this day was turning out pretty good really, had enjoyed meeting with Dr Kone, and the Mvuli hotel manager, and even this nice taxi driver.
Booked a boat from a hotel near the island, $20 to take us out there and back. Neema didn't know how to swim so she was a bit scared of the water, especially since we had to wade out to get to the little boat. I gave her a ride on my back to the boat. Island was about a mile offshore maybe, took about fifteen minutes to get there.
Island was definitely beautiful. Right where the boat dropped us was a bunch of cabanas and lounge chairs and it appears most visitors just lounge there, but I'm far too restless for that kind of lollygagging. With Neema in tow I went off down the beach looking in the tidepools. There were extensive tidepools and teh water was warm and pleasant to wade in. Neema mainly kept to the shore. The tidepools generally ended in a small sand beach and then steep jagged rocks.
Though it wasn't my original plan, eventually I decided to try to make it all the way around the island. Eventually we had to climb up on the rocks and make our way across diabolically jagged rocks:
And after some extremely arduous travel this way we eventually came to a point where we simply could not continue any further -- the waves crashed on rocks below, and impenetrable foliage extended to the very edge of the jagged clifftop in many places. We had to backtrack back across the treacherous landscape we had just crossed.
And then, when we had made it back to where we had previously walked on the beautiful white sand beach by the tidepools, thats when I realized I had made a terrible terrible boneheaded mistake. I looked up and sure enough an almost-full-moon was high overhead in the waning evening light -- high tide.
We'd started at low tide, and now the tide and come up and covered the tidepools and the beaches. We had to continue the entire way back on top of the jagged rocks. And I eyed the big orange sun getting closer to the horizon nervously.
Progress was so difficult that I kept looking for a path through the middle of the island but there was none. Finally we tried to just bushwack our way right through it, but there were some razor sharp plants and I was just wearing shorts and flip flops. We even became disoriented and lost in the thick forest of the small island's interior. As the light was rapidly turning to twilight I was starting to feel extremely nervous about this. I realized it could take a long time for anyone to find us there, if we didn't get out we'd almost certainly have to spend the night extremely uncomfortably in the brush.
Finally we did make it back to the shore though. If I didn't have Neema and my backpack full of my most valuable possessions such as my laptop (don't trust hotel staff), I'd have just swam around. But I decided I'd had enough of this bushwacking. Neema really didn't want to but we wend down to the water and it was just waist deep at the bottom of hte rocks and now that we were on the side facing the mainland there weren't big waves. I was definitely worried about getting my laptop wet and Neema was prone to shrieking and clutching me in terror when a big swell would come (again recall she doesn't know how to swim, I'd be scared too!). While we were doing this we watched the sun set in an orange haze over the mainland.
Finally we came to the landing place... but no one was there.
Out of sequence picture from earlier in the day inserted here for purposes of suspense :D
And then moments later we heard the hum of an engine and the boat came around from the direction we had just come from -- they had gone around the island looking for us! On the one hand I was kind of like "you mean we could have just sat putt and waited for pickup!!" but I was also a bit proud that we'd made it back without needing rescue.
Our taxi driver had waited around for us despite our being gone for hours, and there was no fee for this because we hadn't asked him to. What a great guy.
That evening I bid Neema adieu and had the driver take her to her home on the outskirts of Dar. He also agreed to come early in the morning to take me to the bus station.
That evening I had some delicious indian curry at the hotel I was in (which was run by and seemed to primarly cater to indians) that badly burned my tongue and left me suffering for rest of the trip. Africa is dangerous!! Also at 11pm I received an email from my contact with Heifer International in the States, with the phone number for their Dar Es Salaam office. You've probably heard of Heifer, and I was thinking it would be really good to talk to them about doing projects with the Hadza People. Unfortunately this email came in really and truly at the 11th hour since it was too late to call that day, I'd leave too early in the morning, and didn't want to delay in Dar another day just for the chance of possibly meeting with them.
I'm still a little irked with Heifer because I'd asked earlier how they train people in Africa to use their gifts of bees, and they told me they have training farms, so I asked if I could visit one and was told they "don't allow visits by members of the public." I like to think I happen to be an expert in the exact field their working in, not a generic "member of the public," but anyway...
Tuesday, October 20th, Day 16 - Taxi driver took me to the bus stop and on arrival there he had arranged for a friend of his to actually guide me in and help me get on the right bus, which was a really welcome help since the place was hectic and there were dozens of busses. Once again, what a great taxi driver. I had his number saved in my phone.... which is gone now. ::sigh::
Dar Es Salaam in the morning light, just outside the bus stop.
And then I was off bound for Moshi a pleasant town on the slopes of Kiliminjaro I have pleasant memories of from last year. But that's a story for another day! (:
[TO BE CONTINUED!]