Road Trip: Day 5

Road Trip Day 5

Iringa to Dodoma along the short cut

354 Klm; hours in car (including P stops; T stop; punctures …) 8


This was new territory for me; a road I hadn’t done. Husband said, ‘you’ll enjoy it; it’s a beautiful drive’.

We sank quickly from the cool heights of green-swathed Iringa, down an escarpment and into the Mtera valley, an amphitheatre framed by the Rubeho Mountains to the east, the Fufu escarpment to the north, a vast valley gouged to accommodate the passage of the Great Ruaha river which begins its journey in the Poroto Mountains and which has been halted on its way here by the Mtera Dam.

The land here is crack dry, toasted oat-sandy and cinnamon-pink soil. But the views are long and unimpeded and blue, blue. Masai and their stoic herds inhabit this arid bowl; the plains are threaded with their tread and criss-crossed by dry river beds.

The water, when we come upon it, is startling for its breadth and welcome. Nothing would thrive – or even survive – down here without it; not even the goats on their diet of thorns and plastic Marlboro bags which are ubiquitous and tossed by the wind so that they hang as unlikely blue bush blooms miles from any discernible civilisation.

Tolkien-esque Baobab stand erect and everywhere. Their roots as branches now if fables are to be believed: the Baobab was a dissatisfied tree and complained bitterly to Mungu that it wanted this colour flower or that; that it disliked the scent of its blossom, that it wished its fruit were sweeter. Mungu got sickandtired of listening to Baobab moan and up-ended him to muffle his complaints. Baobab is mute now, his silent roots waving a protest. A moaner or not, I love the Baobab for its quintessential Africaness, for its resilience, for the hundred-year history it has witnessed but cannot divulge.

We drink tea at the edge of the dam which is busy with fishermen, their graceful little dugouts adorn the shores.

We drink it again to refresh ourselves after another puncture, our fourth in a week. Fifteen years ago we drove to the Cape and back, a 10 000 mile round trip ‘and not a single flat tyre’ I remind Husband.

We cross the dam wall. The Taking of Photographs in this Area is Strictly Forbidden says the sign. I register the rules with the recklessness of a teenager at school. Why, I wonder, are pictures disallowed? But I hide my camera anyway.

The water level is much lower than last time observes Husband, which explains the far-from-the-bank canoes that we spot later. ‘And the power cuts’ observes Husband sagely: the Mtera hosts one of the country’s biggest hydro-electric schemes.

This valley was a gift. A hiatus of happy loneliness and healthy dislocation that straddles two bustling towns: high, cool Iringa in the south and pretending-to-be-the-capital-city Dodoma in the centre of the country: it’s pivotal geography the only reason for it’s lofty title.  The Italian missionaries who moved there thought the climate so like the one back home that they planted grapes and made wine. When I moved to Tanzania more than two decades ago my grandfather – who had lived here in the fifties – urged me to try a bottle of Dodoma Red when I arrived. I did. It was dreadful. Undrinkable. Paint-stripper. I told my Grandad who benignly noted, ‘oh, so it’s hasn’t changed then’.

I learn well and have given the wine a wide berth since. It was a cold beer on our dusk arrival, to slake our thirst and wash the dust from our throats.

Home tomorrow.

2 Responses to “Road Trip: Day 5”

  1. Elaine Says:

    enjoying this series and your views of blue. By the way, did you know that the term for those wayward bags caught in trees is ‘witches’ knickers’?

  2. reluctantmemsahib Says:

    i didn’t Elaine! Witches knickers! that’s great. thanks!

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