11-Mar-2001 -- This is an excerpt of the travel diary of my trip to Tanzania in March 2001 describing how I reached 3°S 37°E.
Finding a Guide
On Sunday after Kilimanjaro my back feels ok, even though I wouldn't consider running or doing any push-ups. I decide to do something about goal number two of my journey; reaching the confluence point 3S 37E. I get the GPS receiver I borrowed from a friend in Sweden out and start experimenting a little. I manage to get it to calibrate itself and the position seems reasonable. It seems to be eating batteries as if it was powering the satellites of the GPS system as well though, so I'll have to be sparing with using it.
I walk around Arusha looking for a trekking company that might be interesting in organising something like this with this short notice and at a reasonable price. I end up at a company located inside the YMCA building. They give me a price suggestion of $ 250, which I reject categorically. After some negotiation we're down to $ 60, which is more in line with what I'm prepared to pay. However, as the person I negotiated with tries to find a car for the venture his boss shows up and blows off the deal. Renting the car (we need a 4WD Land Rover), getting a driver and a guide and adding some profit to that there is no way they can do it for less than $ 120. I leave to go look for another company, but the guide, Benjamin, that almost got to go on my day trip catches up with me, gets a Land Rover and a driver, Spear, and within 15 minutes we're off, the price tag landing at $ 60, including the tip. A friend of Benjamin's, Richard, also tags along.
There And Back Again
We drive according to my directions, heading towards the point between the villages of Tinga Tinga and West Kilimanjaro on increasingly poor roads. After a while we drive exclusively on the 'side roads' that are so common around here. They are dirt roads that run alongside older tarmac roads that have been littered with so many deep potholes, that driving on the tarmac would destroy the axles of any car within a few minutes. After circling around for a while and ending up on a barely distinguishable dirt road next to a field the GPS tells us we're 5.20 miles (8.4 km) from the confluence point, and since we don't think we can get closer with the car, we start walking (since we did pass quite a few dirt roads during our walk I suppose there must have been some way for us to get closer with the car, but we couldn't find that way when we tried).
This walk is a true African safari. We're not in a reserve of any kind, and what I get to see is what most of Tanzania looks like.
On the way to the point we run into Masai with their herds of cows, goats and donkeys. We see monkeys and antelopes and walk by both inhabited and uninhabited houses seemingly spread over the landscape at random. We get to walk through low forest, cross half-dry riverbeds and wade through kilometres of waist high savannah grass (I carefully check for ticks as we get out of it and find no less than 4 of them). During the 3-hour walk there we get 1 hour of pouring rain. I'm ok because I have a raincoat and hiking boots to cope with it. My two guides, however, are dressed for Arusha and get absolutely soaked. Unfortunately we end up walking through some quite deep pools of water, and I managed to get both my shoes filled with water. Also, the many thorn bushes we walk past seem to be designed solely to rip holes in my rain coat, littering it with an infinite amount of tiny holes that slowly let the rain pass through. The end of the rain is a great relief, especially since I can feel my two guides are about to lose their patience.
As we approach the point I start getting a low battery warning from the GPS receiver, and no more than 200 meters from the Confluence it goes dead. I take 200 metre-long steps in the direction the GPS was last pointing, which without a doubt puts me within the 70-metre radius one has to get to the Confluence for it to be a success. For obvious reasons I can't take the standard GPS picture at the Confluence, but I document the views I have from it. It is located quite close to a small hill in savannah landscape with Acacia trees here and there.
The spirit and walking speed of my guides increases significantly as we head back. I tell them we can make a run for it, but after 30 seconds of jogging my back, hurt from the Kilimanjaro trek, forces me to stop. It takes 1.5 hours to get back to the car, walking fast. My original plan for finding the car again had been to use the GPS, but without batteries for it we have to rely on identifying the hills and other landmarks we've walked past on our way here in order to get back. Ten minutes before we reach the car the inevitable tip-talk of any safari or trek starts, even though we agreed on both the price and the tip before we left Arusha. I stick to the total of $ 60 we decided on earlier (of which I have $ 40 to pay still).
On the way back to Arusha we pass by a dramatic traffic accident with a flipped over truck. Spear, our driver, looks really worried and immediately puts on his seat belt. I feel the same urge, but the driver's seat is the only one equipped with a seat belt. 15 minutes before Arusha we get some kind of mechanical problem with the car that has us spend an hour at a repair shop. Meanwhile me, Benjamin and Richard get some bananas and grilled corncobs. The bit of food and the calm while waiting for the mechanics to do their job is very nice. I feel like I've accomplished what I came here for. The rest of my time here I'll just drift with the wind and do whatever comes to my mind.