Dilly-Dally No 3 to Mwanza

Trip Start Jun 08, 2005
Trip End Aug 18, 2005

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

This entry includes the whole trip from Ngara to Mwanza [via Kahama and Shinyanga]. As evidenced here, it can be done in a day, a long day yes, but a day nonetheless. Therefore Kigali to Mwanza [and vice versa I assume] can be done in 2 days. No guarantees though.

Day the Thirty-seventh - in which we spend the long long day on various types of transport and finally get to Mwanza.


Got up at 5am to pack in the dark. Getting out involved a certain amount of fumbling with locks and avoiding holes, but soon we were walking across the dark deserted town to where the minibus left.

In what was possibly the best move in the history of man, we nabbed the front 2 seats next to the driver. Not only did we then get a view but we avoided all the squishing that was going on behind us. They packed the dalla-dalla to almost bursting point. The shoving they used to get our bags in under the seats made the whole bus shake. Something gave way and they managed to get Stef's bag in. We later found it was the Ethiopian coffee pot, lovingly carried from Addis. It wasn't just cracked, it was completely shattered.

We set off before dawn, soon hitting a pretty good road and getting up speed. We nicknamed dalla-dallas 'dilly-dallys' but the main reason only came later on in Malawi when they seemed to take forever to traverse a relatively small country. The name works though.

The sun lit the horizon up spectacularly behind the passing trees.

We passed school kids walking by the roadside, barefoot and arms crossed over their chests to keep warm. My feet, only covered by sandals, remained frozen numb for the whole journey.

Hairy moment of the day [trip?] came when we sped toward a man with a few cows with huge horns. As we got closer the cow made a break for it rearing from the hard shoulder and onto the road. It was a big animal and we were going far to fast to stop. Suddenly we regretted sitting in the front. The man tried desperately to bring the cow back, tugging on the rope, and at the last second managed to pull its head back. Eeek!

We got to Kahama at about 10am. On enquiring about getting to Mwanza we were told there was no bus to Mwanza. Brilliant. Instead we could get a bus to Shinyanga and then another on from there. Having heard this before, we were a little cynical, but again, Shinyanga was in the right sort of direction.

During the hour wait we re-learnt how to ask for the bathroom in Swahili [our method mainly involves saying, "Choo?" in a hopeful and slightly desperate manner whilst holding our hands out in askance. The proper phrase is, "Iko wapi choo?" with the choo pronounced cho to rhyme with know]. We also bought chips to eat, fries chips, not crisps chips. Chip frying seemed to be the main vocation in the area. We ate them sat on low benches made by nailing a plank of wood to some struts. We took it in turns to forget the cardinal rule - make sure it's balanced at the other end before sitting down. The bench would tip up, the victim would utter a squawk of surprise [despite having done the same thing about 5 minutes earlier] and everyone around would laugh. We started to gather a crowd as it became a spectator sport. There may have even been betting involved - who would tip up next, and whether the guy would reach a higher pitch than the girl, no doubt.

When the bus arrived we joined the mad scramble for seats. This second stage was on a bigger bus, so ironically involved less squishing. It's fairly dry in this area, the countryside is dotted with baobab trees.

This stretch of road wasn't so good, so the going was slower. At Shinyanga we finally located a bus going to Mwanza. Unfortunately, it was almost completely empty so we had to wait for 2 hours while the sun was at its highest, beating down on us. It was miserable.

When we got going it was along a potholed road. We were in a large-ish bus, so we had to go slow and gently [or not so gently] roll into and out of each crater pothole.

We kept ourselves amused with a chicken I befriended. Actually Stef wasn't impressed, but I thought it was nice of me to share my seat. As we travelled along, one or other of us would occasionally jump and look down under the seat at our feet. Something was scrabbling around on the floor and every now and again it'd run across our feet or knock against our heels. Turned out to be a loose chicken. It had its leg tied together so it was face down on the baking hot floor. I could feel the heat through my sandals so I couldn't imagine how miserable the poor bugger was. I grabbed it and sat it on the seat between us. It objected to begin with but then obviously realised what an upgrade it was and settled down to pant. When the guy who owned the chickens came to get off we turned over the stow-away. He seemed rather amused.

The sun was going down as we started to see the large rock piles that are scattered around Lake Victoria at Mwanza.

It was dark and 8pm by the time we actually got there. We wandered around trying to find a hotel. The Christmas Tree [??] had no rooms so we returned to the streets. Turned out we walked down the street that you shouldn't walk down in the dark. Ooops. But, if someone stopped us Stef could just throw his bag at them and as they staggered under the weight, we could jump on them. No problem.

Found a room at the Ramada Hotel, thanks to some guy showing us the way down an alley or four. Nice enough room, but no water. So back to the bucket. Initially we thought it was the bucket that was dirty, but it's the water. The filter on our contraption is having to work overtime.

Dinner was good and tasty - went to the Sizzler grill place. Meeeat!

And then it was back to sleep. I was a little cold - sounds silly at sea level near the equator, but Lake Victoria is at about 1000m. Another thing which disturbed us slightly was the horns from the ferries moving about on the lake. But long day = exhaustion, so we were soon fast asleep.
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