Published: April 18th 2006February 13th 2005 Sunday 13th February
Kittens in basket
Kittens and Harriet's feet, with all their Maasai ornaments
I must confess to having had a lousy night. Anja wasn’t too happy either with her ‘trasa’ substitute. Even the comfortable bed seemed lumpy and hot, and Paul’s tossing and turning with his sore legs didn’t help. I was however looking forward to today as we were going to Kibaya, to Harriet’s home and to somewhere completely new. I decided to totally ignore my virus infection, pack myself full of paracetamol and carry on regardless. I just couldn’t afford to be ill just now, with only a few more days to go. I could always be sick when I got back to England, some more days off work wouldn’t be the end of the world.
First things first. I wanted to find our maid and ask her what she knew of ‘trasa’s’ fate. Downstairs the kind receptionist helped us locate her, but she unfortunately couldn’t remember seeing any cloth at all. We looked amongst the newly laundered sheets, all hanging to dry in the hot breeze on a balcony, overlooking the yard. There were mangy looking cats amongst the dustbins down below, but no ‘trasa’. Suddenly the maid did remember possibly throwing away something which she
said had been in our room! We looked through the most disgusting looking bin bag, all of yesterday’s rubbish, not yet taken away. And there it was! This precious piece of cloth, not too badly damaged and amongst a lot of asante sanas (thank you) and laughter the kind maid washed it and hang it up amongst the pillowcases and towels to dry. I went upstairs to get the family together for breakfast and Anja’s delight when I took her to the balcony and showed her ‘trasa’ was touching. The maid was there too and she hugged Anja. What I love so much about Tanzania is that there seems to be laughter everywhere, even when things go wrong.
The black ravens were having a field day with my breakfast sausages, as it was difficult to eat. Why does the appetite go when you’re unwell? Fruit is easy to eat though, and papaya is the best! Sprinkled with lime, juicy and sweet. I also ate mango, which reminded me of the mango trees in ISM by the river. Those mangos were of the stringy variety though, which had you picking fibres from your teeth all day.
We had to say goodbye
to all except for Harriet, as they were going back to Moshi for work and school. It is never pleasant to part, but we knew we’d see each other again in the summer, in Finland. First though we all went together to Slipway Plaza as Harriet wanted to buy some more provisions and Anja wanted to find a special belt which Carita said you could buy there. We were running late, Harriet had wanted to start really early as the drive to Kibaya is long, but now we were approaching noon already. Slipway had a small market where they sold Tinga Tinga art, amongst others signs on which you could add your own text while you waited. I bought two, and then agonized while they were being painted as it took a lot longer than promised. Well, I should have known. I insisted on waiting though and now I’m very pleased about it as we have a charming sign saying Quinn here at home. The stall keepers were enormously friendly, and we did get most of the presents for Scott and Anja’s friends from here.
After a hasty goodbye to everyone we drove away with Harriet at the wheel. The
The old Dodoma road
Not so many years ago the road was this dirt road which was like a washing board, i.e. full of corrugation
car seemed positively enormous now that it was only five of us in it. Harriet took us a back way route out of Dar, a short cut taught to her by Massud, and this was a fantastic way for us to see parts of Dar not often ventured into. The road was dreadful to say the least, non existent in parts, and the 4 wheel drive jumped and bumped through the water filled puddles. People were sitting outside their houses listening to music, talking or working and we felt awful spraying them with the muddy water from our car. The houses are often coloured brightly, and all shops have huge advertising lettering on them, often promoting washing powders, tooth paste or malaria prophylaxes. Harriet was understandably proud that she found her way through this warren, as she had actually never driven it herself before, just been a passenger with Massud at the wheel. But through she went and soon we were heading west, back on the road towards Chalinze and Morogoro.
Goodbye ocean and hello mountains! After Chalinze, where we stopped to fill the car, we continued west and soon came to the wonderful Uluguru Mountains on our left. These
Maize growing everywhere
The main crop is maize and you see it all over the country
are all fairly newly formed, so are still a spectacular shape, very sharp peaks with deep valleys. Morogoro lies by these mountains, and is I understand a great place to live. Where we lived in Mbeya further west in the 70s the mountains there are bigger, higher and barer so I found the Morogoro landscape quite fascinating.
Just before reaching Morogoro we turned straight north-west by a big round-about, taking the Dodoma road. Dodoma is the capital of Tanzania, although in practise Dar uses that function to great deal. I have only once been to Dodoma, and I remember it as a hot and dusty place, in the middle of nowhere. Oddly there were wine yards close by, and we used to drink Dodoma wine frequently although the quality was always a gamble. These farms were often run by Italian missionary priests, and it was very surreal to drive for miles over a dusty plain to suddenly see these black clad figures in a vine yard.
We however would turn straight north after 180 km at a small place called Kongwa, leaving the tarmac and heading towards Kibaya. Before this drive we needed a little soda break and stopped close
to the round-about for this purpose. Harriet found some shade for the car and we found seats outside the bar on a cramped terrace. A girl came and took our order, and it was cool sitting in the shade with a slight breeze fanning our hot faces. There were some people there, old men with beer bottles and some kids running about, but generally very quiet. A hilarious cockerel was chasing two hens, running fearlessly amongst our legs, intent on keeping his harem intact. When we asked for the bill I was reminded again of how in this country paper can be scarce, as it came on a tiny piece of ripped notebook, saying ‘soda 5 = Sh 1500’. We had actually planned to eat at a restaurant Harriet knew, but this was closed, so we went hungry! As soon as the drinks were finished we were on the road again, this time with Paul at the wheel, to give Harriet a break.
The countryside was very green and lush, with quite a lot of kopjes and hills. We only passed small villages now, there were no bigger towns on this road before Dodoma. Houses and small shambas (fields) were
Wattle tree bushes
These yellow flowered shrubs are very common, but very pretty
frequent, most of them typical with corrugated or thatched roofs and rather untidy facades, but with well swept yards. The main plant flowering was what we used to call the wattle bush, a yellow flowered small three, with tiny leaves. It is an attractive plant which we often used as a hedging shrub, but unpruned it will grow quite large.
At one point we came to a diversion, and had to drive for some time on the old Dodoma dirt road which was very dusty, but in reasonable condition. Here we stopped for a ‘wee’ and were immediately surrounded by people and goats.
Before long we came to Kongwa Ranch and here we turned direct north, onto 93 km of dirt road which ended in Kibaya. You could see for miles ahead as the road was perfectly straight and heading upwards as we were gaining elevation slightly. About halfway there we drove through a small village, but were suddenly stopped by a singing and dancing crowd of hundreds of people. Harriet could literally not move and this chanting throng engulfed us like a sea. They waved to us and laughed at us and in a way it was a bit
The mountains are fairly newly formed and as such have odd shapes
frightening as we were the only car there, but Harriet just said keep calm and smile, it’s probably a wedding as everyone is so happy. She herself had never experienced anything as big as this vast crowd; it really was fascinating. It was clear that a lot of pombe (beer) had been consumed, and the merry making would probably go on if not for days then surely through the night. Eventually they passed us and were back on the quiet road again.
It was now beginning to be dusk, and Harriet realized she had to do the last driving in the dark. We wouldn’t see Kibaya today, but would have to wait to the following morning. Harriet was disappointed as I know she wanted us to see the approach to town and to her home, but it couldn’t be helped. She kept saying to us how beautiful the country was around Kibaya, and all we saw was velvety night. At last though we spotted some lights ahead, and it was obvious we were close to a town. Driving through the countryside in Tanzania at dark makes you realize how light polluted Britain for example is. There no true darkness exists, while in Tanzania where electricity is found only in the towns and where there is a vast countryside, you get the pitch-black night for miles and miles. Maybe this is why the stars seem so very close when looking up into the night sky, and why the Milky Way is so dense?
We drove into Kibaya, Harriet navigating confidently between houses and dodging holes on the road and then she stopped in front of a gate, which opened almost immediately to let us in. We piled out into the cold night air and shook hands with her askaris, feeling quite bemused at finally having arrived. Harriet’s Golden Retriever dog, Dessie was barking hysterically from inside, and the delight of her mistress’s homecoming was evident when she was let loose. That her tail didn’t fall off is a wonder, it was wagging so much. It was actually a reunion for us as we had met Dessie in Finland in the summer and Anja especially was thrilled to see her again. When Harriet’s family moved to Tanzania they naturally took Dessie with them and she had taken the change with the characteristic calm of her breed, and was now quite happily an African dog.
Now Harriet’s house really is something out of this world. It is totally unexpected out there in the middle of nowhere, amongst the mud houses and the dirt roads. It sits in a largish enclosed garden, with a massive sausage tree at the bottom. The house was built by a Swedish architect so is naturally made of wood. Although it is not large it gives a spacious impression as the living room is huge and open plan, with white-washed walls and as Harriet has a natural talent for interior design it is one of the calmest and most tastefully decorated houses I’ve ever walked into. A big, elevated veranda faces onto the garden, and it is edged by pots full of roses and other plants. A dining table fits nicely together with a lounging area of canvas chairs, all overlooking the sausage tree. An inbuilt open fireplace/barbeque looks well used and wooden steps lead out into the garden.
We were to use the children’s rooms; Scott and Anja in Carita and Vidar’s room, Paul and I in Ossian’s. We were all sleeping under mosquito nets, which Anja especially loved. The shower was next to the kitchen at the other end of the house, and it was so great to wash off all the dust from the journey, although we had to be sparing with what water we used, as Harriet reminded us that water is indeed a luxury in these parts.
Harriet started making food straight away after her shower. Harriet has all her life found showering an absolute priority, and will find ways of washing even in the most remote parts of the world. I remember seeing her wash in waterfalls, in icy lakes, even pouring water over her from a drinking bottle in hot campsites. The food she was preparing tonight was a quick tomato pasta dish and it was ready by the time we had finished our washing. She has a big deep freezer containing lots of meat, vegetables and bread, and she also makes her own yoghurt which she keeps in the big fridge. When she is in Kibaya she frequently entertains visitors and as such has to cater for a lot of people. She loves it and is the most generous of hosts. As there are not a lot of eating places in Kibaya people fondly call her house ‘Mama Harriet’s restaurant’.
We ate inside as it really was quite chilly outside. We had Benga Blast playing on the CD player and life just felt great. The sounds from outside were loud, the cicadas were probably celebrating Harriet’s homecoming too.
The kitchen became one of Anja’s favourite rooms, because it contained 4 kittens! Harriet’s cat Tira had had a litter 5 weeks ago, and these creatures were just the cutest things ever. Anja took particular liking to the only grey tabby in the litter that she called Ludde. The others were ginger and impossible to differentiate between and according to Anja they ignored the little grey one, so naturally she felt a little sorry for it. She really was in her element, never having seen such small kittens before. They lived mainly in the kitchen, although occasionally they would carefully venture out into the living room on shaky legs, only to be startled by Dessie who would come to sniff at them. They ate mainly dagaa , the dried Lake Victoria fish that you can buy in the market, but were happy with any scraps that were left from dinner.
We didn’t stay up late as we had another early morning tomorrow. My temperature was high unfortunately, and I had a horrible ache in my limbs, but really had no choice but to ignore it. We only had two full days left, and I knew I couldn’t miss a minute of this lovely place and the exciting things Harriet had planned for us.
Day eleven ends in a house that definitely is a much loved and comfortable home.