Monthly Archives

January 2016

A Day of Celebration

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Some of my favourite photos from the second day at Irovo. Vitalis called it a day of celebration.

  • Finally, I got a good pic of the ever-shy Vitalis (seated with the kids in their new jerseys). You can see some of the very popular chalkboards and teachers’ resource books being held up behind him
  • The joy of a pencil and new rubber!
  • Olive with Vitalis’s wife, Robina.
  • Vitalis’s father, Bruno, gives Olive a massive bunch of bananas as a thank you for all the goodies. We will never again be potassium deficient.
  • Olive, Vitalis, Robina and their children Baracka and Deborah, with the school supplies safely stored in their home.

Arrival Day

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So much happened on the day of our arrival at Irovo that we thought we’d post a few more pictures to depict a fuller flavour of the day.

If nothing else, we brought a little colour to Irovo!


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Well, we made it. We’d travelled the length of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania, and on to Western Kenya: more than six thousand kilometres. The final day, arriving in Kakamega, was overcast and dull, and the atmosphere took on a strange anti-climax. It often happens with these big trips that the journey becomes an end in itself. Something wants you to carry on.

We looked at each other. We’d done it. We’d survived being caught speeding in every country, charmed our way out of most of the fines, hit no grannies or donkeys on the road, had no iffy encounters with the type of characters the western media would have you believe hung out on every corner, sweated through 38 degree heat and thrashing rain, and finally rolled into town on more than slightly worn Bridgestones. And only two (long) episodes of the squits.

Next morning we called Vitalis and told him we were on our way to the school at Irovo, about 20 kms. away.

Not to put too fine a point on it, the ‘new’ school building is as dilapidated as the last one. But we were immediately impressed by the heroic efforts of the headmaster, teachers, the Mama cooking porridge for the kids’ lunchtime meal, and of course Vitalis, the leading light in an often grey situation. But as he once told me, ‘Sometimes the smallest match can light a darkened room.’

Heroes all.

And finally…

“Music has been both my doorway of perception and the house that I live in. I only hope that it embraces you with the same lusty life force that it graciously offered  me. Thank you very much and remember, if it itches, play it.”

Nice one, Mr Bowie.

Rare find on the Dodoma Road

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This is the first sighting of the ultra rare chair tree of southern Tanzania.

Known to flower only once every millennium, we were privileged to witness this astounding event that many botanists thought was myth and hearsay.

Local witchcraft, they said. Chairs in trees? Next thing, you’ll want me to believe that pigs can sing and there are shopping centres where every vendor sells the same item.


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One thing unites the countries on our travels over the last three weeks or so: drought.

South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania are clearly suffering a huge water crisis that is impacting every aspect of daily life. We can drive hundreds of miles and cross scores of river courses but see very little water. We noticed only one flowing river in the entire Karoo, a vast region in South Africa.

Now, in Tanzania, we see robed herdsmen in the south of the country moving cattle between muddy waterholes in a desperate search for fresh water. And when a bus breaks down between stops, it’s serious.

Perfect weather for nodding chameleons.

Meanwhile we hear that Capetonians are restricted to watering their gardens on alternate days between the hours of 6pm and 9am. Shame, hey.

Life is an express road and overtaking is allowed

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Driving the roads of southern and eastern Africa brings many amusements, or distractions if you prefer. One of which is the unique livery of the taxis. There are no two alike on the continent.

Who needs a Lancashire mini-cab with velour seats, a thick stench of forest green air freshener, and dumb conversation – ‘Busy tonight?’ – when you can ride in a modern rendition of Apocalypse Now, or take a seat in the Man U team bus, or get advice from a motivational guru?

Personally (no surprise here), I think the boda-boda rider has it about right with his tail-light philosophy.

Meanwhile I can’t help feeling that the guy running the V6 Nissan (T640 DDT) can’t quite make up his mind what image he wants to project.

Perhaps he should speak to the African Teacher.

Royal Treatment

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Following two nights at Kapishya Hot Springs, we made a dash for the Zambia–Tanzania border. Two hours of formalities, and we were in.

The differences over the border were striking. African border towns are known for having real life turned up to ten, but Tunduma is in another league. You are instantly hit by the Tanzanian music blaring from every other shop, the colour of the dress, the raised voices (i.e. shouting), the dust and diesel fumes in the air, and the frantic scramble to get to the end of the road first. We loved it.

We headed for a lodge recommended by the people at the hot springs but we missed the turn and ended up in Mbeya, a busy roadside town with dust to spare. Where to spend the night? The pic shows our dilemma.

We got lucky when we chose the Royal Tughimbe (no Trip Advisor reviews), the hotel with the friendliest staff on the planet. Sometimes you can forgive the twice-cooked chicken and limp chips when it is served by the smiliest waitress in Africa who is wearing a pink pinny and matching cap who treats you like a long-lost auntie and uncle.

‘Are you always so happy?’ I asked.

‘Of course. I am happy because you have come to visit.’

The combination of long hours in the air-conditioned car, tiredness, and spending time around coughing and spluttering guests at the hot springs, brought Alan down with man flu.

We asked the manager to direct us to a pharmacy, but that was not good enough. He took us to a boarding school at the other end of town where his wife was matron of the clinic. Alan was examined by a nurse who immediately suspected malaria. Really, he felt such a fraud as he only wanted a day off in bed with the Sunday papers and tea & toast. Then they called a doctor, who prescribed a pocketful of drugs that probably covered every eventuality – except malaria, which, he said, was unlikely.

Then we posed for a photograph and were walked back to the hotel.

Honestly, he only wanted an aspirin.

It even rains in the Garden of Eden

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OK. No wine in this post…

I promised a picture of the water babe, Ms Carroll. This is the best shot I could get before the lens steamed up!

The hot springs at Kapishya Lodge are located in a Garden of Eden in northern Zambia where there are two farms off the Great North Road, created by a British family at the turn of the last century. One features a brick-built mansion (locals call it a castle); the other a lodge.

After a long drive — and passing the 4,000 kms mark — we were relieved to arrive at the farm entrance, a shoddy fence watched over by a couple of families who live on the land. We then realised that the farm lodge was 32 kilometres further on a dirt road. Now that’s what you call a long gravel drive!

The hot springs were a few paces away from our thatched chalet, so we immediately scuffed down there in our flip-flops and eased gently into 40 degree water. Then the heavens clouded over briefly and we were showered in beautiful warm rain. All that was missing was a nice glass of something chilled.