A woman and her Landrover, it is a beautiful thing.
During my years in Serengeti I became a fierce devotee of Landrovers. I spent between 5 and 13 hours a day in one, even sleeping on top in a roof tent during camping trips. They got me across some pretty dodgy terrain and broke down only rarely. Therefore it was with great delight that I got behind the wheel of The Serengeti Cheetah Project’s newest Landrover. It has a lot of sexy accessories (roll bar, bull bar, screen over the radiator to catch grass seeds, a sleeping platform in the back, nice tires, winch, roof rack). There is a great smug satisfaction in driving through Arusha in a handsome Landrover with Serengeti Cheetah Project emblazoned on the side. I always imagined that tourists were intrigued and jealous of me, though in reality they probably just wondered who the stuck up wanker in the sunglasses was...
Traffic in Arusha is a special thing. Cars, buses, vans, massive trucks, scads of pedestrians, bicycles carrying massive loads, hand pulled carts, tons of motorcycles, dogs, all sharing a few roads. Pretty much anything goes when driving in Arusha. Want to pull out of your parking spot and in doing so block two lanes of traffic on the main road through town? No problem. Want to overtake a truck on a hill in the dark? Child’s play. Want to drive your motorcycle between two cars maneuvering around a cart piled 15 feet with grass? Go right ahead. It helps to realize that the two lane road can accommodate at least 3 lanes of traffic, four, if one of them is a bike or motorcycle. But it does require constant and unswerving attention, the recognition that people will pass you on both sides, and a good set of brakes. It should cause chaos, but it doesn’t, basically because the driving is logical rather than rules based. The car in front of you stops to cross traffic with a right turn? You don’t have to wait for them, you can just swerve around and keep on your merry way. Red light at night and no one is coming? Run it. Need to cross traffic but no one will let you through? When there is a teensy gap, wave energetically at the on coming driver and force your way through.
The Landrover is a trusty steed through all of this, the only drawback being its rather large turning radius and the small parking lots of Arusha. But nothing that a willingness to stop traffic with a 6 point turn doesn’t sort out.
The Journey Jan 27-28 2014
The last few days in the US were spent getting my house ready to be empty for multiple months, which meant a deeper cleaning than it had had since I moved in. Since I am not one of the world’s most enthusiastic or skilled cleaners, this took a while. 15 minutes before I was set to leave I remembered that the fridge needed to be wiped down, so frantically took a sponge to it, and in doing so discovered that there was a lone pepper in the vegetable drawer. I had been so proud of myself, systematically knocking off the green salsa and the cabbage, and plowing my way through an avocado, three eggs, and two bread rolls as my last meal. Then to be foiled at the last minute by a pepper Eating down the fridge was not a rousing success.
The trip to DC to Tanzania had a number of highlights, the chief being on the flight from DC to Detroit. I had entered the unthinking and slightly drooly state I get into on flights without an entertainment system, when I it penetrated my fog that we seemed to have been circling over Detroit for a while. And pretty soon the pilot came on and announced in calm voice that the landing flaps had not lowered and so they had been circling while troubleshooting the problem.
“But we have fixed the problem and should be able to land safely here shortly”
I was in the window seat and as we touched down I saw that there were 2 fire engines and 4 ambulances waiting for us on the runway. Just in case. As I stood shivering in the 10 degree weather waiting for the large carry ons to be delivered to the jetway (oddly enough my 25 pounds of electronics did not fit in the tiny overhead bins) I figured it was a small price to pay for not ending in fiery crash.
While waiting in the extremely long line to get through security at the gate at Schipol airport (Which wins my Best Airport in the World prize, there is a museum in the terminal where you can look at Dutch Masters paintings) an elderly man a ways behind me in line collapsed.
But after that things went perfectly smoothly, both my luggage and I made it to Kilimanjaro airport and then to the guesthouse in Arusha.
Jan 30 2014
Arusha is a sprawling town near the base of Mt Meru. It is the base of the majority of Tanzania’s tourist industry, and the jumping off point for safaris heading to the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, Tarangire, and Manyara National Parks. It is also where Tanzania National Parks and the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute have offices, and therefore is where researchers spend time waiting for permits, organizing supplies and enjoying the sometimes bizzare facets of western culture (gelato and cupcakes) that pop up when there is a large ex-pat community.
One cannot simply arrive in Arusha and head out to the field. Permits need to be arranged, supplies purchased, logistical tangles smoothed out. In my case I need to get permission to stay in Serengeti and Ngorongoro, buy new solar batteries for the house in Serengeti, get the car serviced, and try to find a new fridge. These sort of things were the reason it took me until 2011 to want to come back after leaving in 2007. But my first morning in Arusha I am so happy to be back that it all seems like an exciting and doable challenge rather than the wearisome drudgery that it can become after a few years in the field.
My valient steed.
The line between being cool and being a conceited wanker is very very thin
Me and 9 months of luggage in the snows of Virginia.