Westward ho

We take a bus from the heart of the Serengeti westwards to Lake Victoria. We pass trees hung with beehives, like bongo-drum fruit, Masai herding cows, small mud hut villages and people planting crops from bananas to rice. Lake Victoria shimmers under a seeting sun. It’s the largest in Africa, second largest in the world, and crowned with architectural boulder formations that remind us of Hampi in India. We overnight in Mwanza, a pleasant low-key town that’s the second largest city in the country, and try to find out which bus to get the next day to the Rwandan border.

In the end, this proves impossible as everyone has conflicting information, so we travel along the long tarmac road (joy) south to Kahama, pausing while someone loads and then unloads an entire kingsize bed plus matress into the small overcrowded bus. There are no rules against overcrowding buses or dalla-dallas (minivans) in Tanzania. The more people that the greedy companies can stuff in the better. They are driven dangerously and poorly maintained. While we drive along uncomfortably, we hear from a fellow passenger of another bus a few kilometres south of us near Dodoma, which catches fire, killing the majoriity onboard. Twenty badly injured people are thought to survive, and our passenger frantically phones his friends (on that bus) to hear if they survived. He can’t get through.

Delay follows delay and it becomes clear that we won’t make it across the border tonight. we decide to overnight near the border at Benaco and cross the next day. We pass a UNHCR refugee camp for Rwandans and know that we’re nearby. As darkness falls, glow-worms twinkle in the verges and we stop for the night.

In the morning, we cross the border at Rusumo Falls, a torrent of water gushing under the border-bridge that we walk across, monkeys playing in the trees and eagles flying in the mist hung air. We switch to French and try to get transport to Kigali. Impossible, we are told. Today is the monthly community action day – a national holiday in when all Rwandans work on community projects such as road maintenance, drainage clearance and other good works – so no vehicles are allowed on the roads at all before midday/before 11 am/for the next 16 hours, depending on who we speak to. We have breakfast listening to some terrible French pop music over the radio, wait and wait some more.

One thought

  1. TO gaia vince. Enjoyed your article on medibots in new scientist 21 nov 2009. Have tried wanderinggaia website.
    Wonderful work. Real grassrroots stuff.
    I am 79 years old and I am impressed.
    I shall tell my eleven grandchildren about your work.
    Jim Russack
    Dignams Creek

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