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Brenda’s Travel Diary

Monday, 11 Feb 2008

Location: Kahama, Tanzania

MapMonday Feb 11th

Today, our driver picked us up at 6:00am for our journey to Kahama, Tanzania. We did some creative packing to get our five overstuffed suitcases, three backpacks, a case of water, a bag of food and various other bags that wouldn’t fit in the suitcases, all into the car. We had heard that the drive was 450 km and should take around 8 hours. After finally getting the official paperwork done so Athanase could leave the country, we finally got on our way. The route we would be traveling would take us southeast out of Kigali to a border crossing called Rusumu Falls. The drive was very beautiful. Along the way there were the usual hordes of people lining the roads with their brightly coloured clothes and yellow jerry cans. Everything is so green this time of year and in contrast with the red soil, it just made you want to keep taking pictures that I’m sure won’t do the scenery justice.
The border crossing took two hours but we are not sure why. There were a lot of people around and transport trucks parked everywhere, no one seemed to be doing much of anything. Occasionally someone on a bike would cross, but I never once saw one of the trucks move. To cross the border itself, you drive over a bridge that is above the falls. Because of the silt mixed in, the rushing red water looked almost thick. We jumped out to take a few pictures, bought our VISA’s on the Tanzanian side and finally got on our way.
The change in the scenery shortly after leaving Rwanda was quite drastic. We had been driving on and around the many banana-tree-covered hills in Rwanda and now the land flattened out, the vegetation changed and the people disappeared. We came across small herds of big-horned cattle and goats tended by the locals.
Soon after crossing the border, we were stopped by the “Tanzanian Patrol Guys.” Our driver handed him money and he let us go with no problem. Athanase explained that if you don’t pay them, they will walk away with your papers and make you wait a very long time before they will give them back and let you be on your way. Wendy happened to have her World Vision business cards with her so the next four times they stopped us we handed them one. They were impressed enough that, each time, they let us go without paying.
We finally arrived in Kahama and began the hunt for the Marine “Hotel” that Nesphory had reserved for us. After many conflicting directions and some pretty fancy driving, Athanase managed to deliver us to the ‘hotel’ with his muffler still intact. (We had already had a few instances where some of us had to get out of the car so we could drive over bumps and that were on the highway!) We found out that our reservations did not begin until the following night so we asked the manager to phone our World Vision contact and also Nesphory. We had no Tanzanian Shillings but the manager was kind enough to give us a drink ‘on credit’ while we were waiting for someone to arrive. I was very surprised when a man, looking very happy to see us, walked up and introduced himself as Nesphory. I had to think back to all of our correspondence and wonder if I had offended him in any way as I had always assumed I was writing to a ‘her.’
Nesphory informed us that the visit from the Tanzanian Prime Minister had been cancelled as he and members of his cabinet had resigned a few days ago amidst a political scandal linked to corruption. This left the “Rest House” free for us to stay in. As we looked around us, the thought of being in a walled compound, with guards at the gate seemed pretty appealing.
After unloading the vehicle, we looked around our new accommodations. I had stayed here for one night on my last visit to Tanzania but had arrived after dark and didn’t get a chance to see how beautiful the setting was. Inside, the house is rustic to say the least and with the amount of insects crawling and flying, we are grateful for our mosquito netting! The standards of cleanliness are quite different so we wiped out cupboards for our clothes and ignored the mold growing in the bathrooms.
We unloaded and headed back into town with Nesphory to eat at the Marine Hotel and meet up with John. He is one of the four World Vision staff members who would be accompanying us during our stay, along with Nesphory. When we arrived back at the Rest House, Theresia Mahongo, the District Exectutive Director, stopped in to welcome us to Kahama. It was finally time for bed, MJ was brave enough to sleep in her own room but Wendy and I were too nervous and opted for the shared room.