Please Allow Me One Autobiographic Indulgence: A week in north-east Tanzania

Day 1 (Arusha — Moshi)

My first mistake was using East African gospel songs as a measurement of time. It was 8:35am on a Saturday morning. The 48-seater bus had ample leg-room and a half dozen televisions above each aisle. The televisions were tucked into and flush with the carpeted overhead compartment, satisfying in that obsessive rectilinear way that mass transportation often is. I heaved my hiking pack into the seat adjacent to mine, and as I did I recognised my taxi driver, Abdallah, seated in front of me. We exchanged a few words in Kiswahili as we waited for the bus to depart.

Day 2 (Moshi — Lake Chala)

After breakfast at the backpackers, TC & I approached the hotel manager and asked to book a taxi to Lake Chala. The price was exorbitant but after the previous day’s misadventure we opted for simplicity. The hotel manager called the taxi driver and greeted him with “Shikamoo,” a Kiswahili greeting generally reserved for older people with some measure of respect. I was immediately at ease at the prospect of a silent, older taxi driver, staring forward with quiet discipline for the full two hour drive to Lake Chala.

Day 3 (Lake Chala — Irente)

Morning came slowly. The cloud overhead was a thin, buttery spread, and reflected pre-dawn light over the landscape. I could hear the sound of acapella harmonies in Swahili, fading in from my right. I found the tent floor and rolled myself upright. I untucked the blanket from beneath myself, pulled it taut with my arms outstretched biblically, and then folded it all forward around myself, pinching it together with one hand. With my free hand, I dislodged one zip and birthed myself from the tent. Constantly adjusting my blanket-cum-cloak, I lighthouse-scanned the sun-singed landscape for the tribal harmony, and identified amongst the shrubbery a group of Tanzanian men jogging.

Day 4 (Irente — Malinde)

I awoke facing the other wall. I switched off my alarm and found my feet on the floor. Faint outlines of dreams came apart at their nodes: White walls, bodies of water, spirit animals. I looked down at my feet and said “Jesus Christ,” as if to shake off the emotional content of faded dreams. I permitted myself a sigh. I felt old, I felt far away. I had another hot shower, packed my strewn contents in to my hiking pack, mounted it gracelessly, and stepped outside.

Day 5 (Malinde — Rangwi)

I stood outside in the cold morning and looked at the sky, a bold equatorial blue. I was wrapped in my blanket, wearing it as a now-familiar cloak. Chande and Chriss were already awake, standing around in that Tanzanian state of rich boredom, a state of doing a kind of something that is very close to doing nothing, not talking to one another or even seeming to be looking around. The only other place I’ve seen this is hungover women in kitchens, who sort of stand around inanimate and swaying lightly, hoping to be compelled towards brewing coffee or not. I say women because I think men tend to rest their palms on something when hungover, either the counter or the fridge, and will say “Jesus Christ,” whilst looking at their feet.

Day 6 (Rangwi — Mtae)

I woke up early. I lay supine, legs an inverted V, and listened to the entirety of Fiona Apple’s “When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks like a King What He Knows Throws the Blows When He Goes to the Fight and He’ll Win the Whole Thing ‘fore He Enters the Ring There’s No Body to Batter When Your Mind Is Your Might so When You Go Solo, You Hold Your Own Hand and Remember That Depth Is the Greatest of Heights and If You Know Where You Stand, Then You Know Where to Land and If You Fall It Won’t Matter, Cuz You’ll Know That You’re Right.”

Day 7 (Mtae — Arusha)

I woke up at 4:30am to the sound of vuvuzela bus horns. I packed my things and made for the 48-seater bus. I sat on the fifth row from the front, on the right, in the aisle seat. I tried to rest my head on the seat in front of me but it was damp. All I had to watch was the small section of road illuminated by the bus’ left headlight, a 4:3 view through the left front window. This was every bit as exciting as it sounds. The bus wound through every single town in the northern Usambaras at a maximum speed of about 30km/h. I ate the few spare Tiffany! biscuits I had left.

I work at the intersection of arts, media & social impact || W:

I work at the intersection of arts, media & social impact || W: