Dar Es Salaam to Iringa, Tanzania
Day 36: 2 September 2002 9:00 pm
Natasha and Jason drop the bombshell that they are deserting the truck. Our distraught tour leader wails ‘This is the first time I’ve ever lost people from one of my tours!’
At 6:00am, the time that the truck was meant to leave, Natasha and Jason
slip quietly out of the hut behind our tent and inform us that they are
jumping truck and have asked our tour leader for the remainder of their
kitty money to be refunded. Immediately, Tom wanted to join them but I
was more cautious. It was far too early in the morning to make that kind of
decision and our tour leader had reacted badly to the news. I’m a stubborn
old cow, thinking about the money we had paid for the trip and Tom saying
that if we left the truck we would no longer visit the Okavango Delta or
Namibia after I had set my heart on a balloon ride over the dunes. I also
felt that it would be a personal failure if I admitted defeat and left.
Natasha and Jason climbed aboard the truck for one last time to say goodbye
to the stunned truck mates.
I admired Natasha and Jason for leaving the truck, to have the ability to
set their own itinerary down to Cape Town and the freedom to do whatever
they pleased. I just don’t know why I didn’t want to join them, after all I
had complained, whinged and endured enough on this trip. Here was freedom
within my grasp and I hadn’t snatched at it, annoying Tom intensely.
So, we were back to square one again within the group – the ‘outsiders’.
They had been the only other couple that didn’t always go to the bar for the
18-30 club style drinking, felt restricted by all the controls that were
inflicted on them and did not conform to the rest of the group. I could
empathise with them and knew that it would now feel lonely on the truck with
fifteen other people that had no idea how we felt.
Another day, another rough road. Thirteen hours on the truck is enough to
make me scream and wish I had gone with them. The vast distances have to be
covered and our tour leader said it would be nice to reach the camp site in
Iringa in daylight as our tour leader has only ever seen it in the dark.
Encouraging words for the journey.
Our route took us through Mikumi National Park where we had a chance
sighting of a herd of pygmy elephants grazing in a gully. The Southern
Highlands are distinguished by a valley of impressive baobab trees, known as
the ‘upside-down tree’ due to it root-like branches devoid of leaves. Some
trees live up to 4000 years, only gaining most of their height during the
first 270 years. We passed Iringa as daylight was fading but it was another
50 km until we reached the farmhouse camp site, to pitch our tent in the
cold, damp darkness.
Tom wanted to discuss when we would jump truck ourselves – he had decided
on Lilongwe or Harare, taking a Baz Bus down to Cape Town. I had concerns
about the Baz Bus – would we be exchanging one necessary evil for another.
Tom is trying to convince me otherwise, but I feel pressured into
making a decision.
It was freezing so we consoled ourselves with hot chocolate made at the
farmhouse bar (that our tour leader had described as ‘to die for’ and
‘steaming hot’) only to be disappointed to receive a luke-warm, watery
mixture masquerading as hot chocolate. I’d finished it in five minutes flat
and wanted a proper hot drink.
Tom chatted to a Zimbabwean that had moved to South Africa many years
ago. He painted an amazing picture of Zimbabwe and South Africa – how
ridiculously cheap it was, how easy and inexpensive to hire a car, how we
could camp at superb facilities in the National Parks and Tom was
completely sold. He was ready to pack his bag in an instant, jump on the
first bus to South Africa and hire a car (even though there was the slight
problem that neither of us had brought our driving licenses). It did sound
brilliant but I could not commit to it yet.
Beth is leaving in Victoria Falls due to a combination of factors; mainly
she needs to return to England for the start of her third university year,
otherwise the university are threatening to chuck her off her course. The
other reason is that she is squabbling more with Roberta; before this trip
they had never argued as they had been best friends in small doses. She
appreciated the lack of privacy, drudgery of chores, hanging around waiting
for people and clash of personalities gradually wear you down. We all
thanked our lucky stars that we were not on the Aussie vet truck.
At dinner, the next couple of days in Malawi were outlined to us. In
Chitimba, there is a chance to hike up to Livingstonia, which can take 5-8
hours, depending on fitness levels. Roberta is understandably concerned
about whether the altitude will affect her asthma. The alternative is a
walk to the local school with our tour leader to visit the principal. That
was enough for Roberta, who exclaimed that she was promised a cheese and
dairy farm on the last walk we did, but got "more children than cows". She
said that she would "rather crawl on the her hands and knees up the
escarpment than be subjected to any more children". Give her a chaff grinder
and a herd of cows anytime and she’d be happy.
Back to truck rations (some things never change) and I supplemented the
meagre food with my own secret stash of bananas and ate tomatoes and raw
onions for lunch.
Positives: Good luck to Natasha and Jason for having the guts to go it alone.
Negatives: Back on the truck for 13 hours – what more can I say?
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