Road Trip

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I don’t think we could have got further from home, yet remained within Tanzania’s borders, had we tried; we drove to the far flung southerly tip of the country where it boundaries Mozambique. It was a road trip of note. The kind that leaves you bone shaken and muscle weary – as if you’ve spent days in a MagiMix – the kind that leaves the car, in Africa at least, especially an Africa on the cusp of the Long Rains, mud splattered with an interior scattered with sand and crisp crumbs and sweet wrappers and empty water bottles.  The kind feels like you had an adventure.

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Mikindani is a tiny coastal village almost 600 klms from the capital, Dar es Salaam. Its rich history means that the air is imbued with a tangible feeling of Past, that and salt and humidity and the scent of sea and fish, of course. We walked on broad, empty beaches the colour of butterscotch, flecks of mica in the sand like a dredging of caster sugar in the sunshine. We swam in glassy seas of brittle blue and bottle green and enjoyed some of the best snorkeling ever, just off the shore.  

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We ate too many chips. With everything: fish, prawns, crab and lobster. And drank too much beer. With everything. We watched the water and the waves and the sun and the storms. We drove to the vast Ruvuma river and looked at Mozambique on the other side. Just so we could say we’d done it: seen another country whilst standing in our own.

  

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We struck up a conversation with a group of totos on the bank of the river, which was swiftly being eaten up by the swell born of torrential rain.  

Do you go to school, I asked. 

Yes, they told me. 

How far away? I wanted to know. 

Far, they said: we leave at 6 in the morning and don’t get home until six at night. 

Do you learn English I asked. 

Yes, they giggled. 

What can you say, I asked. 

‘Give me a pen’, they said. 

You can’t say that to visitors, I laughed, try this, ‘Welcome to Tanzania’. 

They did, in untidy unison: welcome to Tanzania.

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We clapped, my three children and I. 

Now this, I said, ‘have a nice trip’.

Have a nice trip. 

They observed me sitting in the driver’s seat of the land cruiser awaiting return of husband who’d gone ahead on foot to explore the shore inaccessible by road now. 

Can you drive that? They asked. 

Yes, I said. And a motorbike I elaborated. And even, I said, merely to see what their reaction would be, an aeroplane. They couldn’t care about my fictitious piloting skills but they were enormously impressed that I could drive a car. As was the middle aged woman quietly observing our interaction. Women can do anything, I said. They looked even more disbelieving. As did our older spectator. 

I took their photograph. They laughed and laughed as they identified themselves on the screen of my camera. I did it three times before finally telling them my camera was tired and needed a rest.  

What do you want to do when you grow up, I asked them. 

To work, said the most outspoken boy in the group, so that I can have money. 

And then they skipped away,distracted, for a large monitor lizard had been spotted in the river and they had grown bored of a white woman who pretended she could drive. 

Give me a pen, they said as they ran off laughing. 

We spent our final night in the old German Boma overlooking the tiny village. It was magnificently aged with splendid proportions and I imagined, as I lay in my bed listening to the last of the rain and the sound of the breeze in the palms outside, the vistas this place must have witnessed in the 105 years it had watched over Mikindani. If there were ghosts, they trod the balconies and corridors and verandahs quietly for we all slept well. 

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It took two days to get home. 1,500 klms. Across plains and plateaus and mountain ranges that looked like egg white whipped horizons.  

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We wondered at how trucks got themselves into the positions they did. We didn’t know whether to be amused or frustrated by roadworks.

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 But we’re back now. I’ve loaded the washing machine four times and am rinsing the sand from umpteen towels and swimming costumes and pairs of shorts.  And the children are rediscovering home in the way kids do when they’ve been away. Holed up in their rooms, emerging now and again to ask for something to eat.  

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9 Responses to “Road Trip”

  1. nuttycow Says:

    It sounds like you had a great trip…Mikindani firmly on the list – looks fun!

  2. R. Sherman Says:

    Glad you’re back safe. It sounds like a fabulous excursion. I laughed at the description of “crisp crumbs” and candy wrappers in the car. We just got back from a 1000 mile road trip to Arizona and if you add in cookie (biscuit) crumbs and soda cans, you’ve got our vehicle in toto.

    Cheers.

  3. Roberta Says:

    You live in a magical place, Mem. I am so glad you take the time to appreciate it.

  4. Penelope Says:

    Sitting here on a rainy English afternoon reading this was just perfect! Your pictures are beautiful. I feel like I’ve just had a little holiday too now, thank you

  5. Potty Mummy Says:

    I sometimes take for granted the fact that being a woman has made so little difference to my life choices (pre-children, of course!). Thanks for reminding me that it’s so often not like that.

  6. Tom Says:

    What a great adventure. If I could I would spend my life exploring places like Mikindani. Getting there is more than half the fun I believe. I’m jealous.

  7. Sheila Says:

    What? You mean you can’t drive? Gasp!

    Very charming story, by the way. Makes me want to be there.

  8. Iota Says:

    I loved the pictures.

  9. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    Thanks everyone; it was – fun.
    I know Roberta, I am – lucky – to have the chance to explore.
    I’m glad Penelope: that it felt like escapism for you.
    PM: oh but it does here – make a difference: here women are told they can’t do anything, even though they do everything.
    Tom – and gettting home, that’s half the fun too!
    Sheila – I can’t fly, though they weren’t remotely impressed that I pretended i could.
    Iota, I’m glad – digital just the best isn’t it.

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