Published: July 16th 2008July 13th 2008
I've never been car sick before, but the 12 hour journey (13.5 if you count the hour and a half waiting for the ferry) to Kigoma certainly brought me close. I woke up at 5 in the morning (that was 10 in the evening on the East Coast) so that I could get some breakfast and finish the last-minute packing. All went fairly smoothly, especially given the fact that there was no running water!
We intended to leave by 6 but were a couple of minutes late. For the fun (and long) trip, we had a 9-person Toyota Land Cruiser. I couldn't figure out how we would all fit until it arrives. It's a good thing we all packed light! Anyway, we were off by 6:15 and made our way to one of the ferries that would take us across the Mwanza Gulf. We arrived at 6:33, 3 minutes after the scheduled departure time. The ferry had already gone. Everything in Tanzania is late except for
the ferry. We got to move to the front of the line and wait the hour and a half until the next ferry at 8:30.
There wasn't much excitement on the ferry except for the lack of a dock. And the continuous playing of the Titanic
theme song. We surmised that either it was a crude joke or someone missed the entire point of the movie. I'm inclined to believe the latter after six weeks in the country.
For an hour and fifteen minutes after debarking the ferry we drove along a bumpy dirt road. As we approached Geita, a "major" town, the road became paved. This only lasted for 45 minutes. Yet this time was enough so as to eat lunch. The cooking staff at SAUT nicely packed us all individual lunches consisting of chipsi (french fries), maandazi (essentially mini-doughnuts without a hole) and keki (cake - mine was marble-ish). It was really good.
From the main road, we turned off onto what-seemed-random dirt roads past extensive cotton fields and tiny villages consisting of several houses and a few stores each. By this point in the journey, signs for Rwanda began to appear. Very quickly, however, there were no signs at all. To me, the roads became consistently more remote. We drove parallel to the border with Burundi and several times could see Burundian hilltops. From our vantage point, it looked just like Tanzania.
At the city of Kibondo we were stopped by the police. Sunday's law required all passengers to wear a seatbelt which not all of us were doing. After a few minutes our driver got out of the vehicle. We could hear the police officers discussing our situation. Then they complained that our car was dusty. Go figure! Twenty minutes after arriving at the checkpoint we left. I'm not sure if the driver paid the fine, bribed the officers, or the charges were dropped, but he never put his seatblet on while we drove for the rest of the trip.
Just as things began to move along again quickly, we ran out of petrol. Not really because we have two gas tanks, but he didn't switch it over in time. After trying to get it to start to no avail, we all got out and began to push. Since we almost went off a bridge, we pushed forward just to push backwards again. We were highly successful! Side result - we ended up dustier than before! But it was fun in a Little Miss Sunshine
sort of way.
We finally arrived in Kigoma just as the sun finished setting, but the two hotels to which we wanted to go were both closed for renovations. The next three were all completely full. Luckily, Angela has a "cousin" in Kigoma who found us an amazing place. The journey was long and tiring, but seeing the chimps will make it all worthwhile.