Tanzania – baobabs, crazy drivers and traps to be aware of

To complete Tanzanian part perhaps one would need to sing ode to the beauty of the nature and make a scary film about mad drivers constantly on the edge, especially seeing so many accidents on the road.

Mbeya – Iringa: the drivers in trouble

Įvažiavus į Tanzaniją. | Just after entering Tanzania.

In Malawi and Zambia we all got used to people and environment, it all felt so familiar and clear. Let it be people asked us for things, but generally they were friendly and the countries were really pleasant to hitch through. Tanzania is a new big country, where people don’t speak English. But drivers are friendly and they immediately prepare seat for you despite the fact you are not intending to pay them.

The nature perhaps best observed from the bike seat, slowly, watching baobabs, valleys, Masai shepherds walking the goats.


We come closer to Mbeya, and all of a sudden instead of a wet night (rainy season is coming) we found ourselves in the family, who randomly invited us to their home. First hot shower, fish dinner and first stories about Tanzanian economical progress and the most inspirational president, who made Tanzania so united with no tribal fights unlike in Kenya.

Next morning we up again on our feet on the road. The policemen stop trucks regularly, and every driver has got a small bribe prepared, and it feels like they pay road tolls. But maybe once this bribe was not big enough, so the policemen were not happy we are far too many in the cabin. ‘We arresting the driver. But he says he is only helping you. Is that right?’ It seems that not getting money from us meant the driver is not obliged to pay to policemen too. Fine, we are moving further.

Prie baznycios. | A night by the church.

The sun is getting down, so its a high time to find a place to sleep. Oh there is a church up on the hill, we might find a good place there.
– Could we pitch a tent for a night?
– Are you Christians?
– Catholics.
– Oh, we are Lutherans, you better go down the hill, there is a catholic church.
– But we don’t see the difference.
– You don’t see the difference? surprised guy look at us.
Well, we indeed don’t see the difference whether to sleep or hitch the Muslims, Buddhists or others.
-Do you write stories about your journey?
– Yes, we do.
-Ok then.
They found a place for us to pitch a tent facing the hills, but didn’t forget to ask to mention them. We mention them.

Fleeing the police and truck safari

Young truck drivers quickly showed us to get in despite the fact only company not money that we can offer. They are going to Morogoro, so we can just sit down on the sleeping part of the cabin and relax. But for the next half an hour only. We look around. Its interesting whether the officers will say anything about that their truck have got no side mirrors. OK, there is one, that shows the front wheel. But policemen take no notice of that.


But for the following traffic officer our drivers decide not to stop. Oh, the police gets mad and starts following the car. The drivers would not even think to stop on that occasion. Rather how to get around the blocking cop car. And if not another police in front, the chasing part would still go on. The officers surely got mad. Both parties are unhappy, and the officers even want to hear a word or two from us about the event. But the money is almighty, and wash any sin committed. We just move on, hoping no more mad driving exercises will be in the past.

A driver yesterday warned us not to walk (as sometimes we walk for miles just to enjoy the sight until we hitch a car) as soon we approach the Mikumi park. ‘Lions there are lions there, so don’t walk’. The road goes only 50km through the park, but we already managed to see elephants, giraffes and zebras. We even didn’t need to pay for extremely expensive safaris, and besides you can have this illusion, that humans and animals can cohabit right by side.

Morogoro. Santa and Kevin :qualities versus needs

Santa is a Latvian friend from the older times. To hear from her about African life is interesting. Traveling here we found ourselves quite frustrated at times, just being constantly observed. But how people can cope living constantly here.

Misionieriai: Santa iš Latvijos ir Kevinas iš Barbadoso. | Missionairs: Santa from Latvia and Kevin form Barbados.

Santa came here a year and a half ago. At first she only thought its going to be a temporary voluntary work in the village. But by meeting a Kevin, missionary from Barbados, it changed the course of her life, and she is back again here. But now for uncertain period of time.

Living in Tanzania can be lovely and exotic. The sun shines all year round, and that is massive thing in comparison with a short Baltic summer. There is a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Skype. Šnekant su tėvais. | Skype. While talking to parents.

But Africa can have its difficult moments too. People live here in communities, which can be a very positive thing, but at times can be tiresome, when you need your own space. When you constantly here, oh mazungu does this, mazungu does that, you start feeling you want to disappear. It perhaps can be compared a little with superstars, who are constantly observed and have no personal space in public places.

When you are a white person here, people often expect you to give, support, find money for them. So sometimes you don’t know whether the acquaintance will lead to the friendship or it will end ‘can you pay for my studies at university?’ We start thinking that it might be the culture differences. If one person prospers in Africa, he helps his entire family. But how to combine those differences of those cultures.

Gatvės vaizdas. | While in the streets.

We start talking more about giving. Kevin and Santa are missionaries so their work definitely involves a part of managing money and sharing knowledge. So how to give by not harming the person. Kevin says that looking not at the needs but the the qualities of the people should be encouraged and pursued. Sometimes the western people bring heaps of colorful gifts and then kids simply start feeling unhappy anymore, they don’t want to learn or even make their own toys. Alistair Humphreys after his trip through Africa concluded that kids do not need much, only food, shelter, education, love and laughter. They would not feel any happier with massive gifts.

Santa recollects, that some western organisation provided Masai with solar batteries, so they would not need using charcoal. After some time after having paid a visit, Masai still using charcoal. Why? Well, to use solar batteries they need to cook outside, but then they would never have any food left as the bypassers would come and expect food given, a cultural thing. Or a writer Theroux in his book Dark Star Safari tells, that even the local doctors do not work anymore locally, as the western specialists can work here for free being financed by the organisation at home. So giving seems again to be a harmful rather than positive after all.

Sesau plantacija. Augalai naudojami virvėms ir krepšiams daryti. | Sesau plantation. The plant leaves are used to make ropes and baskets.

As authors Cobart and Fikkert* say, that if we only going to heal the symptoms instead of getting the right diagnosis. We often project our ideas onto others thinking that we know better how to do things. Like western people feel they have better knowledge, they can better manage things, and that they can buy anything. But all this only means paternalism, when you feel that you are higher than the others.

Dar es Salaam – a trap we got not into

We got completely exhausted after the unsuccessful hunt for Sudanese and Egyptian visa. We finally thought to sit down and have some food. And all of a sudden there is a guy nicely dressed ready to show us there is a cheap good place. He joins us, but has no intention of having food with us. Eventually his friend joins us too. Apparently they are taxi drivers and are more than happy to help us with visas, as they know some Ethiopian ambassador in some suburban part. ‘There is no Ethiopian embassy in this capital, so how on earth he will find any mysterious ambassadors. ˜Oh no no, thanks we are ok. We will call you if you will change our minds’. We had to be strict to ask to be left alone. Who on earth would get into such a strange trap. But apparently people do. It is why we hate touristic places, as people at times can be so tricky. We go to see the Indian Ocean instead and have some relax time.

Tanzanijos idilė. | Idilic view.

From Morogoro to Arusha – the hell on the road

Christopher and Emanuel, two brothers winked at us to get in. From Morogoro to Arusha is around eight hundred kilometres, so we prepared at least couple days to get there, but these guys wanted to get there that day before dark. ‘We agreed with my brother I’m going between 120 and 140kmh. The roads are not too wide and straight, and he is on 160kmh already. ˜If Japanese have made the speedometer with 180kmh, we should test it’. He is already finishing the second whiskey bottle, so the atmosphere is getting intense. And you see the accidents on the road constantly. A close -to-hit nearly an accident situation, and we fail the fear exam. We got out of the car. You can only imagine how we enjoyed the sturdy walk and much slower ride to Arusha.

Dabar lietingasis sezonas tad ir pievos žydi. | Now is the rainy season so everything is lush green.

Kilimanjaro was all in clouds, so despite the fact that we were so close to it, we just could imagine the snowy cap and its noble appearance. The last night in Tanzania in Namanga in a peaceful yard of the church, and we are ready to tackle yet another country. Kenya is in front of us.

*Steve Corbert ir Brian Fikkert: when helping hurts. How to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor and yourself.

Malawi – white and black world. To give money to Africa or not to give

They say people ask for money in Africa. In Zambia kids and grown ups looked at us with curiosity. They might have not had a clear idea what on earth we are doing by just traveling, but never asked for anything.

Tolumoje tolumoje Malavio ežeras. | In the far far distance Lake Malawi.

Arriving to the one of the least developed countries in the world, we perhaps had to expect something different to happen. But not as soon, not even before entering Malawi. The official who sorts out the documents at the border calls his boss to inquire about this or that, something he should have known himself. But for him it perhaps was the job of the year, so he started somewhat painfully mew that Easter is coming and we might want to help him with something. ‘Religion doesn’t allow us’. Well, if it doesn’t then yeah.. The last time we have been asked so openly to contribute personally to policemen coffee break, it was in Kirghistan, when they caught us after sitting on the grass in the middle of the city.

Sveciuose pas Grifina. | Visiting Grifin.

Hundred meters later the money begging marathon begins. ‘Give me my money’ the kid screams, surrounded by another six. The world famous cyclist around the world A. Humphreys while on his ride through Ethiopia after having experienced something similar made jokes that he might be old fashion, but good morning it is still the polite way to greet each other. We ask why they need that money. The answers from here on start to vary. The shepherd wants coca cola, kids desperately need biscuits, a guy needs a new roof, a school would be happy to receive some scholarships, and a happy fisherman would be so much happier somewhere in Europe. Even in cold Lithuania we guess. We are walking white ATM machines, who could deliver some cash here and there. To make Malawi happy. Or is not? We shall try to sum up our impressions rightly and peel one layer after another down till the core. Why Malawi is still sick, and does he need medicine, or would he be able to recover itself. We will share not only our observations but give some other people’s accounts too.

Griffin – we need business opportunities

After being picked up on the way towards Malawi lake from Lilongwe, Griffin has been the first one to get deep down into conversation what Malawi problem is after all.

Kaimas kalnuose. | Village in the mountains.

Griffin works for Go!Malawi organisation funded by USA and offering scholarships to talented young people. He was telling us ‘when we came to the region we had a hard time working with the community. We offered them education opportunities instead of just doling out cash like previous Scottish people did. So we are the bad ones. It has been hard to bring them to understanding we have other options for them’. Malawi has been getting donations for entire of his independent existence, and the situation did not improve. So you just start wondering what is the problem. It seems that the government is happy not to have educated intelligent people. The gray population should rather be uniformed, peaceful and nice, but oblivious to the situation. People end up not working as they do not see any need for that. Why to work if the western organisation or government will come and sort all the problems. ‘We need business opportunities like they do in Mozambique or Ethiopia, but not donations. Some charity organisations get the money but spend 75% of the budget on administration, and only the rest goes to community. Like the previous administrator instead of spending Go! Malawi money for the orphanage is in the parliament now, as the money served well to make a nice political campaign and get a good car’ Griffin tells.

Evelina & Edna

You would think, that if people do not want to work maybe they don’t need money. But they want to get rich, so then witchcraft comes in hand. The go to the witches and are ready to do what he or she orders them to: to sleep with their children or parents, dig out the dead ones or mutilate an albino. Instead of working hard some powers should come and help. So either western world or witchcraft. But what about their own dignity and the joy of the work, however socialist it might sound.

Džiovinamas tabakas, viena iš kelių pagrindinių pajamų šaltinių. | Drying the tobaco leaves. It is one of the few local people money incomes.

Griffin offers us to stay for a day in one of the organisations tiny houses, and we can rest our eyes down the hills and Malawi lake in the distance. A day later we decide to continue our journey by walking the unpopular no tarmac path knowing the fact that the cars will be a rare thing to witness. Walking through the villages might give us a better feeling of how really people live.

Our Malawian day to day life

Eighty percent of Malawians live in the village, so the country being so cute in size, even the bushes were densely populated with small communities, clay houses and hay roofs. You only need to step away from tarmac road and you will find yourself fully submerged in the rural life.

Arbatos ir bulkos užkąst į kaimo arbatinę. | Tea and bread break to the small tea house by the road.

We walk in to the tea room in one of those small communities. The cement house with some shelves holding loaves of bread and plastic cups and plates. The owner soon pours us Chombe sweet tea and breaks the best part of the white bread. We are utterly relaxed and happy as if we have drank the best latte or eat the fancy cake somewhere in the big city coffee shop. The people under the shed look inside in as they curious but pretend to continue their table (or better to say bench) games. Some kids are looking at us from afar. We continue our journey buying some local bananas or tomatoes on the road and passing one of those well fenced pubs where locals go to drink some beer.

We stop at the tobacco leave dry sheds. The women sit around sorting the leaves, and the guy hangs them out in the shed. Tabacco here is the green god, the most exported good to outside world. Unfortunately, locals complain, the Europe and States do not smoke as much, so they loose the business.

Vaikai vaikai vaikai.. | Kids kids kids...

If one kid spies that azungu passing the village he would run screaming on the top of his lungs and we can see now how the tribes ages ago might have been able to communicate. The echo waves through the village, so now kids coming out of bushes, houses, corners and nowhere, and then it all starts. Whats your name, can you give me money, We are not talking about couple kids, we talk about crowds and crowds. We might not sound very loving here, but couple days later we are exhausted from the attention and after hearing another azungu our mind just goes blank. In the evening they help us mount our tent, our personal house they might have never seen before. Once we even employed a local teacher and a policeman to mount it up. ‘Kids will disappear after dark’ he reassures us as they would follow every step of our unpacking and stay there as long as it gets dark. From the early morning they right here to observe our morning routine. Lets just say that community life means no privacy and space, but then there is some charm enveloped in that too.

We continue our journey. The previous days the walk down the hills got on us pretty hard. We looked rather like robots not oiled for some time, so every time we rose on our feet we looked rather old, and elderly village men were overtaking us and waving youthfully back. Ok, we have heavy loads on our back, so we don’t feel so down. Or at least that is how we try to cheer ourselves up. The midday sun is aggressive, so by the end of the refreshing sunset you feel a bit exhausted.

Kalnuose. | In the mountains.

During one of the frequent breaks to stop under the tree and have a rest, a guy cycles by and he (as hundreds of others) wants to know who we are and all that stuff. We are walking. Oh, sorisorisori he moans. How can I help you. He ends up cycling home, bringing a bowl of peanuts and giving it us. Oh that is a surprise. After all this being a cash sack we were looked at differently. He didn’t show his teeth so we could chip in with some cash to fix them, he did not ask to put a roof, to bring to Europe or to get him a passport. In fact he was the noble one to offer what he has. ‘I’d like to stay with you longer but im off to the funeral’.

Indeed the road seemed to get packed with people. Women were carrying plates wrapped in colourful patterned scarves on their heads, and men walked separately in small packs. We soon came across a household where all the villagers gathered as one of their community members passed away. So the yard was filled with steaming pots of sima (maize porridge) and vegetables, and meat perhaps as they only eat meat during the festivity time. We sat not far from the house where men and women were singing songs. Being a silent witness of the rural life was one of the best (not the easiest) experiences. You come to a point where you actually feel you are in a different reality, and you are not going to get out of there.

Smalsios moterys nešančios skalbinius. Neįtikėtina kiek ir ko jos gali panešti ant savo galvų - nuo maišo apelsinų iki ilgų ilgų lentų namui. | Women carying the washed clothes. It is increadible how much they can carry on their heads.

Those days of walk made us into soft cripples, and when we heard the car sound from afar, we decided it is the time to hitch. Father Fernando, Spanish missionary who stayed in Africa longer part of his life than back in Europe, not only gave us a lift. We also stayed in his place, had meals together and had a chat what is the situation in Kenya, as he has been living there for those twenty years, hence being fresh in Malawi. ‘What are the issues out there’ we inquire. ‘AIDS is huge as everywhere else, and thanks to myths the situation is not improving as rapidly as one might wish. But sexual and moral education seem to help people understand more about themselves’. Father gives us the contacts of where he used to live in Kenya, sister Grace gives us a huge hug, and the next day we set off to the road. North alongside the lake of Malawi. We keep on walking when the road is empty, and jump on the back of the truck to move those couple or twenty kilometres. But we feel moving.

Clarissa – Peace Corp volunteer: ‘There are two solutions to save Malawi’

Malavio Ezeras | Lake Malawi

‘Are you walking to fund raise money?’ asks Bob Marley’s copy all smiling and happy. ‘Ah, nah, we are traveling on our own, just to travel. We are a bit of egoists we guess’. ‘Oh no, those who do the walking do little good for the country’ made a comment Klarissa, a Peace Corps volunteer living here in this country for nearly two years. She has been finding it hard to start with as the male health specialist at first would not even thought to take her as some sort of good asset to a team. Women here are of lower species. After all this time she has spent here, she feels she could helped like fifty people only. Living as a part of community helped her to be supported psychologically, as the others working purely with projects were often down to achieve fast results.
‘We have heard and read that some authors and journalists are against the all sorts of organisations who only can do more harm than good. Is that the case, according to your observation and experience?’ She could see many of those organisations building all sort of houses and leaving them empty, and so the meant-to-be school going

So what would the solution for Africa be then? Clarissa has two options in mind. Either stop donations entirely, and surely it will lead into quite a big disaster for a while. But then people would wake up and start doing things on their own. Or change the education system. For the government is so useful now to have a society which is calm and peaceful, but not understanding where the problem lies. Also, to show it’s handy to show the donor countries, how poor people are and how needy is the country in money. So the vicious circle never ends. And like fifty years ago people keep on saying how poor is the Africa. But the land is fertile, and things are possible to grow and do.

Crock from Zimbabwe: ‘If you lived there you would think like I do’

Mus kelyje pavežėjęs Zimbabvės baltasis rodo savo vaikams kaip gimsta guma. | A man from Zimbabwe that gave us a lift showing his two kids how the rubber is born.

‘Jump in, Ill give you a ride to Nkhata bay’. Further than that. That day we made it even more North, to Nyika plateau with Crock and his two boys. We managed to visit rubber factory on the way, see the hot springs (locals have not had made it into business yet), and splendid views of Northern Malawi – mountains and valleys.
Crock has come from Zimbabwe, where he was born and raised. Now he has come with his kids to visit Malawi, as the situation in Zimbabwe is getting rough. Just some years ago his family was thrown out of their land. ‘We bought the land, we didn’t steal or anything, we took mortgages to build things and gain profit. But Mugabe let the people simply come and destroy all we had. So one day they just had to leave, and everything that has been left behind, was destroyed – houses, machinery’. They had 1000 cows and 3000 ostriches. Then they had to start from the scratch, but it seems the new business seems to be threaten once again. Mugabe totally wants to get rid of whites. ‘I guess every white would start feeling something similar if they arrived there and went through the same thing’.
Talking about these painful issues Crock came up with the idea to visit rubber factory somewhere away from the road. Amazing, we have just seen how the rubber trees been cut and white liquid accumulates in cups, and now we see the entire process of the rubber been in the acid water looking like fetta cheese, then going through the drying time in some smoky rooms.

Džiovinama guma. | Drying the rubber.

One really good thing what Crock us taught about was the Bilharzia, some bacteria can be found in Malawi lake. We swam in the lake twice so we better take the pills against it. According to him, there are sort of worms that can get into the organism through your under nails, and can make lot s of harm. He had the problem himself. So we quickly dropped in to the local pharmacy to get the number of pills (according to your weight) and do it all in once in few week time to avoid the danger. Apparently the bacteria is caused by locals pissing in the water. Nice one.

We said goodbye to Crock just at the turn to Livingstonia. Nyika plateau has its splendour, but that means that the banks of lake will be touristy. We find a school nearby, and so the usual business asking whether we can stay in the yard. The headmaster seems a very intelligent person, even knowing that Lithuania used to be a part of USSR as he learned that in the primary school. The deputy was a nice guy too, but we guess we fall into the same trap. We are white so eventually we will be asked for contacts in Europe or dollars for kids scholarships. Whether we are interesting? Not really, as we are not carrying cash with us. We are invited for a dinner, and thats a lovely thing. But knowing that this is made with a special intention just brings us back a nostalgia for Asian times, where people used to host us with no intention of getting something back from it.

Fredd and Happy: don’t give us money

‘This is the first time I’m taking a white person for free. I can allow myself to do it’ says a driver Fred. After having asked a usual question of how is Malawi, they start a discussion about how a kwacha (Malawian money) is getting more and more devalued, and so economy goes down. So whats the solution, we ask for Malawi to get up from the ditch and finally be independent in their process of development. ‘Don’t give us money’ we just looked between ourselves and nodded the heads. It seems more intelligent people realize what is the problem. ‘It’s in our heads now, that we don’t need work because why would you need work if a white person will come and give us something’. The education would help. The final stroke of conclusion stuck in our minds.

Kalnais link Tanzanijos. | Over the mountains towards Tanzania.

Malawi involved heavily in all possible ways. We walked the roads less travelled and saw people’s lives from very close. Sometimes we got into sincere and honest discussions about how Malawi could go beyond the donations, and often we were seen as a way to get more prospered. We started with an official and kids asking for money, and finished the part with some local people saying that whites should not give the money. Despite all facts discussed above we have noticed that Malawians are happy people… Will they get happier by having more things in the form of prosperity, we don’t know. I guess we will fall back into the same old discussion what is happiness after all.

Dictophone #26 – Zambia and Malawi

Zambia-Malawi by Itervitae on Mixcloud

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