Wednesday, August 8, 2012

The Road to Tanga

About every six to eight weeks we make a trip to Tanga.  Our primary reason for this is to visit an ATM machine to stock up on shillings for the next month or two.  The closest ATM we can access is in the town of Korogwe two hours away.  Tanga, only one more hour of driving is also the closest place with a “supermarket”, about the size of a large Wawa.  So, at the end of July, we found ourselves in need of money and headed down the mountain from Lushoto to Mombo.

Mombo is a small town on the highway which connects Tanga in the east with Moshi and Arusha to the west.  The road is one lane each way, tarmac, and in some places so loaded with potholes that you can’t avoid them.  The speed limit is 80 kpm outside of towns and reduces to 50 or 30 kpm depending on the size of town or village you are going through.  One of the most noticeable things when entering a town or nearing a railroad crossing are the speed bumps.  First you bounce over two sets of three raised lines in the tarmac, maybe four or five inches high.  Then you come to the big speed bump, maybe a foot high.  So, if you are not paying attention all of the time, these can really rattle your teeth.

As the road continues to the east, the altitude gets lower and the temperature gets higher.  Leaving home we are usually in sweaters or jackets. We begin peeling off layers the further east we go.  Along the way, we pass through large sisal plantations.  Sisal used to be the main export of Tanzania.  It is used primarily in rope making.  With the advent of plastic ropes, sales dropped.  Now, with the emphasis on reducing petroleum based products, the exports are rising again.  

As we get closer to the coast, the road winds through miles and miles of orange and coconut groves.  In the wetter areas, there are rice paddies.  This trip we saw women working shoulder-high in the rice. 

Some of the traffic we see on the road can make the trip amusing.  Here there are very large busses, which is the main means of travel for people.  A bus from Lushoto to Tanga can take about six hours instead of three hours by car.  Another form of travel is the dala dala.  These are vans outfitted with seats for sixteen people.  Often, they carry twenty or more, along with the occasional chicken.  Our friend Ezra came to visit us in a dala dala and held someone’s baby for the trip.  

Dala dalas are usually brightly painted and have slogans painted on them.  Some of the ones we have seen are:  In God We Trust, 007 - The Man with the Golden Gun,  Bob Marley’s name and picture,  Rayban, and my all time favorite “Home Sweat Home”, no, this is not a typo.  Many have Bible quotes like “Whatever is excellent” or or express love and thanks to Mungu (God) and Allah.  

Some of the other things we have seen are:

A flock of small yellow birds flying along side us for about a half a mile.
Three baboons on the side of the road before Mombo.
Children playing soccer with a ball made of many tightly wound plastic bags.
A cart full of coconuts pulled by three donkeys.
A woman driving a motorcycle just outside Tanga, with her skirt flying around her.
A beautiful bird called a Black-winged Red Bishop (look it up on is amazing)
Women washing laundry in a small stream by the road.
Women collecting water at the town pump and carrying 5 gallon buckets home on their heads.

Every trip is an adventure.


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  2. Hi Susan and Tom,
    I caught up on your blog today and was enthralled, as usual. Thanks for these wonderful glimpses into your life and mission. ~Nancy