Our time traveling through Tanzania was a bit different than what most tourists do. Due to costs, we didn't go on any safaris and we didn't hike up Mount Kilimanjaro or snorkel around Zanzibar. But what we did see and do in Tanzania was truly memorable, unique, and special, not because of lions and elephants, but because of the people we met along the way.
It started with Simon in Arusha who gave us advice on some incredible roads that we took in the north and east of Tanzania. Along these roads, we got to meet the nomadic Maasai people, test our skills on a treacherous mountain pass into the clouds, and finally we camped on the beach listening to the waves crash along the warm coast of the Indian Ocean.
But throughout these adventures, we noticed that the bike kept dying randomly. This problem first started in Malawi, but it had seemed to go away until it reared its ugly head again in northern Tanzania. It was an electrical problem, that we knew. Somewhere there was a short happening that was causing the bike to suddenly shut off out of nowhere. But finding that electrical short amidst the tangle of wires that makes up our KTM 1190 was a truly daunting task.
And then we were told about Sam in Moshi, Tanzania. No, there aren't any KTM dealerships in Tanzania, but Sam was the closest thing to one that we were going to find.
His real name is Samatarxavier (coolest name ever!) and he owns agarage in Moshi that repairs vehicles as well as gives motorcycle tours of the incredible surrounding area and wildlife parks. And I think he was sent from heaven because in less than 15 minutes he had diagnosed and fixed this motorcycle problem that had been plaguing us for more than a month! Like we'd suspected, it was a wire that was sometimes bumping into the chassis of the bike and shorting out the system. Sam was certainly a godsent, and we are so grateful for him and his team.
After fixing the bike, we stayed a couple more weeks in Arusha at our favorite little hotel so that Tim could finalize his newest book and publish it. If you haven't already heard about it, it's called 2Up and Overloaded and is a hilarious and beautifully written account of our trip from out home in Chicago down through every country in Central America.
The book launch was a huge success, and every day we get people writing to us saying how much they've enjoyed it, which I can't even express how much that has touched us.
We eventually had to leave the “good" internet of Arusha. Ok, it was good for African standards which means that there was internet 60% of the time. The other 40% was when the electricity went out, or they hadn't charged up their plan, or the boss was out of town and forgot to, or - and imagine this - because it was raining! But we finished what we needed to do online, and headed off to have one last adventure in Tanzania before entering Rwanda.
Simon once again had a good road in mind for us to travel on, and unlike all his other difficult-but-rewarding suggestions, this one was paved. We were to travel along the western edge of Lake Victoria before dipping back down to get to the Rwandan border.
And it was just as Simon had described: a perfectly tarred road hugging the green cliffs that overlooked Lake Victoria like a stunning blue expanse of sea speckled in islands. The islands appeared like the humps of whales cresting out of the water, and at a remote cliffside picnic spot, we could hear children below laughing as they splashed in the refreshing water. The weather was perfect, the wind coming off the lake was pleasant and quiet like a whisper, and the twitter of birds flying through the soft pine tree branches filled the place with a meditative music.
This was one of my favorite spots that we've come across in all of Africa.
The next day's plan was to get from Lake Victoria to the Rwandan border, and we thought that would be easy. But the road we had decided on was made of red clay, which isn't bad by itself, but considering the daily rains, can turn into a slippery slush pit very quickly.
We spent hours on this road praying for the skies to stay clear, but the clouds just became thicker and thicker. Until finally the wrath of the weather gods came plummeting down on us and we were mired in some serious mud.
Luckily we were close to our destination, but when we pulled into the town of Nyakasanza, thunder was still roiling above us, garbage and tree branches were floating down the street in rivers, and everyone in the town was hiding under any shelter they could find. There wasn't even anyone at the hotel that we had pulled into, and we had to wait another half hour standing under the bucketing rain before someone showed up.
At last, we were shown a room where we lugged all our dripping belongings and tried our best to lay our clothes in places where they could dry. It's times like these that I start to think that being at home would be better than being on a motorcycle traveling the world. But then of course, something amazing always happens.
The sun had just set when we heard a knock on our hotel room door and someone in an American accent said, “Tim?" We opened the door to find Leo, a Cuban/American motorcycle friend who we had met back in Namibia, standing there with a big smile on his face saying, “I pulled in, saw your bike, and asked the guy at the front which room the motorcycle people were staying in."
We were so delighted to see him, we could barely contain ourselves.
Leo had been through some serious adventures in Africa, the type of which I'm glad we have not encountered. He broke his ankle, then once it healed well enough to get on the bike again, he lost his top case in Zimbabwe which had his carnet, passport, phone, computer, even sentimental items... the list is horrific. He spent months away from his bike on a temporary passport trying to get some of his life back together so that he could continue his journey. Finally he was able to obtain new versions of enough items to get him to Tanzania, and as fate would have it, to our very same hotel!
Saying goodbye to all the good people we met in Tanzania was difficult, but we're very thankful to now be traveling with a familiar face. The three of us have decided to cross into Rwanda together and explore some of this fascinating country as a team, which I will tell you all about in my next blog post.
So stay tuned...
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