Morogoro to Dar es Salaam
Simbamwenni Camp (Morogoro) to Chalinze 93km
We packed up our tent once again in the rain. The rain was on its way out, and we breakfasted on bread and honey. At 7 sharp, we headed out fully armed with local knowledge and directions to find a much easier way to the blacktop, although we got very muddy along the way.
Morogoro was crazy for traffic and due to more highway construction, we sportingly dodged traffic and ploughed our way through mud, pollution, and dust. Quite how we got mud and dust is a mystery of physics.
We had moved through savannah, mountains, occasional rainforest, and now we saw the transition to industrial farming. Aloe Vera as far as the eye could see.
This was a day without rhythm through rolling landscape that refused to be one thing or another. We had been going for a wee while when the heavens opened and we took a good old beating from the rain. Bedraggled we arrived in Chalinze and started to look for somewhere to stay.
Chalinze is a really busy traditional road junction trading centre, full of trucks and people selling all sorts of stuff. The noise was incredible and it was difficult to be aware of traffic and pedestrians at the same time. My ears were really busy, but my eyes were busier…unfortunately my nose was also busy, as the rain had obviously diluted stuff that was better left dry.
Nowhere looked inviting, and we looked at a few rooms. We eventually settled on the Rembo guesthouse. It didn't look like much from the outside, but on the inside it was just fine. The rooms were a little small for two touring cyclists and kit, so we hired two rooms – one for the bikes, and one for us. We chained the bikes to the cage the television was in, and settled in. The two rooms came to about MKW 5,000 or about £6GBP.
We decided not to go out to look for food. We had attracted some unwelcome attention already, as we were looking for a billet, and decided we could do without attracting any more. We wedged the door, and cooked up giant portions of pasta on the Trangia in the room.
Security at The Rembo seemed to be very adequately looked after by another giant Masai. With the wedges and the giant, it felt very safe and we were too tired to be kept awake by the noise; we slept well.
Chalinze to Dar es Salaam 111km
Up at 5 again, with no nearby mosque to wake us this morning, we relied on our alarm clock. Knowing the day we had ahead, we breakfasted on a huge portion of Szechuan noodles. It wasn't easy to get through, but fuel is fuel, and chilli is the new caffeine.
Annette has a more sensitive palate than me, so I had an extra few forkfuls.
We set off into an optimistic sun-up, eager to get into the peace and quiet of the countryside after the bustle and clamour of Chalinze. As it happened, it wasn't to be. There was no peace and quiet on today’s menu. The ride started off stressful, with us running out of eyes to watch every direction at the same time, and just continued in the same vein all day pretty much. On a sometimes broken up road, with no shoulder for stretches, and an increasing volume of trucks and buses, this was a dangerous road. The constant vigilance was tiring, and last minute crashes over badly deformed highway onto a broken up shoulder were frequent enough for our increasingly fraying nerves.
The most frequent offenders were speeding coaches, overtaking on blind corners so that you see them very late. Having no time to react before diving off the road, was quite thrilling to say the least. Although we can say without hesitation that this road was somewhat dangerous for us, this is not a good enough reason not to ride it. With visible clothing, concentration and a strong nerve, it is more than do-able. You just need to forget about assertive or fast riding, be patient, and above all; if in doubt…bale out! I jumped of the road a few times.
Annette had complained to a woman about the coaches when she was buying some bananas. The woman had a think, and then said, “I think you will be killed.” Cheers for that muttered Annette. Cheered up no end, bananas in the bag, we set off to our impending death.
About 30km out of Dar, we were unfortunate to hit a major road construction scheme. It was hard, dirty, and dangerous, with all rules of the road suspended in an anarchic rubble strewn festival of unpredictable dangerous driving. Everybody seemed to be competing in a demolition derby, quite happy to risk their lives and vehicles in order to gain three inches advantage on an equally demented neighbour.
Tuk-tuks were the worst, their sheer manoeuvrability making them able to make immediate changes of direction without warning; often right across our path, as we slid about on rubble.
If contemplating travelling this road - by the time you ride it, it will undoubtedly be less exciting, with a wide, boring hard shoulder, little traffic (as it is spread over four lanes), and no doubt a smooth fast surface without exciting rubble and sharp twisted bits of discarded re-bar. How lucky we were to get all this excitement.
Just when I thought I could take no more of this exhilaration, we caught our first glimpse of the Indian Ocean through the skyscrapers of Dar es Salaam. Unfortunately, we were too involved in the job at hand, surviving this stretch of road, to take a photograph.
As we entered Dar, the coaches were filtered off to the bus lanes, and traffic became more frenetic. It was however, more suited to our size and speed. Nevertheless our wits were fully tested by weaving around the traffic, negotiating baffling pedestrian crossings, and navigating to our chosen hotel. Without further ado, we bowled into the city centre and found the Sleep Inn Hotel without too much fuss.
Annette asked for a room low down in the building to help us load bikes and luggage. Luckily they understood perfectly, and gave us a room on the seventh floor. It could have been much worse; there were ten floors!
Of course we were lucky to get in the hotel at all; we were filthy. Annette had a dirt mono-brow that looked like a Frida Kahlo self-portrait painted when she was extremely drunk… and angry! and I looked like Lawrence of Arabia, straight off his camel
We took the bikes apart to get them in the lifts, and after only about seven or eight trips up and down in the lift, we were safely in the rooms, with nearly all of our kit.
We were very tired by now, it had been a long, long day. We washed most of the dirt off, grabbed something to eat, and went to bed.
We had made it to the first major milestone of our trip; Dar es Salaam. We slept the sleep of the dead.