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Project Upepo

Page history last edited by Kyle Karber 9 years, 5 months ago



Obligatory happy school children pic


Kilimanjaro at sunrise(ish)


Long day traveling back to Arusha and packing for tomorrow's departure...



After a short rain delay we took the dala dala to Marangu, which, like Machame, is at the base of Kilimanjaro. Without looking at a map, I believe Machame is to the southwest of the mountain and Marangu is to the southeast.


The dala dala is the mode of transport that conveys the most Tanzanians to their respective destinations. These high-topped flat-front vans swarm the streets like some distant cousin to the yellow taxis of New York City. Like the taxis, the mini-buses are rudeness personified as they sprint from place to place to maximize their literal and figurative haul for the day. Instead of taxi-cab yellow, the vans are dirty white and often ornamented with stickers that seem like rejects from an alternate universe. The pope from two different angles. That “No Fear” kid logo I remember from elementary school. And there is always a sticker across the top of the windshield, blocking a third of the driver’s view.


It takes two to run the machine. As the driver races from one destination to the next, the second man is stationed by the sliding door.  Not only does he courteously open and close the door for the customer, but he also hangs out of it as the van speeds along, hooting and hollering and whistling at potential customers. Two slaps of the sheet-metal stop the coach. The new rider is just short of shoved into the van and two more bangs from the facilitator set the wheels back in motion, often before he himself has reentered- running alongside like a vagrant to a boxcar. During this brief stop one or two other dala dalas may have passed giving them the choice of prey that lay ahead. No problem because they, too, will soon stop and the deck of cars will be reshuffled.


These pathetically slow naturally aspirated diesel Toyotas and Nissans pull out from their stops as if there were no mirrors and the driver was in a neck brace, bumbling forward and beginning to merge without regard for the traffic whizzing by. Instead, the driver will begin to match speed on the shoulder as the van’s undamped suspension bangs the hollow metal vessel with every pockmark in the dirt. He uses a sort of sonar to know when it is reasonable to merge onto the road; the passing cars honk their horns without fail so the driver can gauge their speed, distance, and urgency of approach. A good example of co-evolution.


These may be the world’s most efficient machines in terms of people-miles-to-the-gallon. Not because the engines are high-tech clean-burning diesel-misers, but because the people are packed in so tightly that a sardine canner would take notes. There are sixteen or so child size seats that are as comfortable as a nun’s paddle, but there are regularly more than twenty people shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee, elbow to gut. Five or six people stand hunched on the thin threshold between the sliding door and the seats, rocking fore and aft with every stop and clambering for a handhold where there are none built to purpose. When someone lodged in the back needs to get out, the passengers rearrange themselves like one of those sliding tile games that make a picture when you have arranged it just so.


It’s cheap: only about a quarter to cross Arusha. People can bring their sack of rice or basket of vegetables (free if it fits in the back hatch, or you have to pay if it takes a seat). I’ve yet to see an accident even though navigating Arusha in a car is like traversing a mosh pit and somehow never touching anyone. People get where they need to go. It defies western logic, but it works.



Mt. Kilimanjaro: Mawenzi peak to the right (16,893 ft) and Kibo peak to the left (19,341 ft)


Kili near sunset



Having family matters tied up, Maggie and I moved from Machame to Moshi in preparation to leave for Marangu early tomorrow morning. Many M.

Pic of the day

Skeptical rooster

Ever wonder what coffee looks like before the poor thing is charred and pulverized and boiled?

This is a coffee “tree”, though it is more the size of a bush. All the ones I have seen have been planted in the generous shade of banana trees.

This is the berry produced by the coffee plant, ripe when dark red…

…and inside the berry is a pair of seeds, not beans! They are covered with a sweet slimy mucilage coating, an intended reward for the animal that would be so kind as to relocate the seeds.

This is what the dried seeds look like, with the one in the foreground peeled of the husk left by the desiccated mucilage

From here the seeds will be roasted to that familiar dark chocolate color, producing the coffee flavor that would otherwise not be present in the green seed

Today was the funeral of Maggie's grandmother who was 91 years old. On this Tanzania trip I've been to two funerals and a wedding. The funeral was nearly a whole day affair and it seemed like half the town showed up. There was lots of singing and it wasn’t as somber as funerals in the states.



An unfortunate death in Maggie's family brought us back to Machame today



Today we went to what I believe to be the world’s largest zoo, Ngorongoro Crater. The animals’ 125 square mile sanctuary is encircled by a 2000 foot tall wall that is the remnant of a collapsed volcano. Actually the animals are free to come and go, but there is a bountiful ecosystem that gives little reason to leave. As such, there are an unbelievable number of animals (~25,000) roaming the caldera floor and one of the densest lion populations in the world (they are also very inbred).


See the scar above her eye? This is Scar's daughter, Scarlett.


Safari pictures page



Zadok installed a solar system at the clinic/government office and a second at a home where children gather to study and be tutored (they call it tuition), while Maggie and I interviewed people. These people were of the Iraqw (pronounced I-rack-uu) tribe and their traditional style of house is half buried and covered with dirt and grass in order to hide from the Maasai tribe. The Maasi believed that all the cattle in the world belonged to them and their warriors were notoriously brave (e.g. the boys are circumcised without anesthetic as young adults and must undergo the procedure in silence without expressions of pain). So, the cows slept in the same house as the people. This was common among all the non-Maasai that we have visited and the custom even persists to this day, though the cows usually have their own house now.


There was a calf living among the people inside this house that was built by the inhabitants' grandparents or great-grandparents (notice the solar d-light charging to the left)


Very few people use this style of house anymore, but I was surprised to find that the extreme darkness remained in the newer houses due to few and small windows.

In addition to the dark, the indoor fire with no ventilation made this a very unpleasant place to be (no flash, camera still makes it look brighter than it actually was)


There was only a steady breeze today, but the permanently wind-blown-shaped trees tell that the wind is often very powerful here


Before leaving Madunga, Danny the driver checked the car over to find the clutch reservoir empty due to a leak in the rubber line. We topped off the fluid and drove back to the town where they fixed the axle, Dongobesh. They somehow patched the line and we were on our way to Karatu. About halfway to our next destination it was clear that the reservoir was dry again as Danny struggled to shift. We limp to Karatu in second and third gear.


It was past 9pm when we got there, but a few calls would bring a mechanic to the roadside where it died from going too slow in third. I went to the hotel, where the car issues were canceled out by my first actual shower of the trip! I have been taking showers with a 5-gallon bucket and a cup due to the lack of running water almost everywhere we have stayed. So I took a nice relaxing shower with hot water provided by the electric heating element built into the showerhead. I’ve used these in Kenya and Malawi before, and never heard of it happening, but I still fear getting electrocuted.


Can you see the exposed wire?


Tomorrow we go on safari to Ngorongoro crater!





The entrance to my temporary home


My own room, complete with carpet


We were supposed to interview people and install some solar systems today then go for a hike in the forest tomorrow, but plans changed and we went hiking today.


George of the Jungle swing! When I attempted to jump down I underestimated the friction coefficient between my butt and the vine, being used to slickly sliding out of the swings to which I am accustomed. I did a forward flip and landed mostly on my back. I quickly rolled over and got up on one knee as I waited for my diaphragm to resume functioning. HHhhnnnnngh. Dead silence from the four others as they, too, were breathlessly waiting to see if I was okay. I used my first lung full or air to ask, "did you get a picture?"

*upon closer inspection of this picture, the camera case and swim shorts that were hanging from my belt may have gotten caught behind the vine...


Yes, we went swimming in it; yes, it was cold



It was a roller coaster ride of a day, in part because we drove up this wild road on the Great Rift Wall (i.e. mountain) into the Great Rift Valley.


But before we did, we drove from Arusha through the vast savanna where the famous Maasai graze their cattle (not much to graze on in the dry season)


We stopped at Magara village at the base of the Great Rift Wall to deliver a solar system purchased for the maternity ward. After exchanging the customary drawn out introductions, we explained how the system worked and how to install it. As we did we heard the first screams of a newborn child inside. After the group paused to reflect on the miracle of life, I was informed that I would name the new child. Shit. That’s a lot of pressure. They stared as I tried to think of a name. Hope? Sunshine? Oh, now they tell me it’s a boy. Those names are cheesy anyways. I couldn’t pull anything good from my extremely limited Swahili knowledge. I finally respond that I would need more time to think of a name.


As we were interviewing people, the Councillor shows up, who ranks above the Village and Ward Chairmen that are already there. We again exchange long drawn out introductions and he seems very pleased with what we are doing. I don’t know when it happened in the Swahili conversation, or who made the decision, but the Councillor then announced that the baby will have my name. Mixed feelings. There was an undeniable pride that I felt, but I also felt terrible for the parents, not to mention the fact that no one has heard of my name and pronouncing it is unnatural to their native tongue. Maybe they were just screwing with me?


The Councillor is to the left of me; he had a great laugh


We continued on from there, up the Great Rift Wall and into the Great Rift Valley towards our destination in Nou. I guess I jinxed the car by previously saying it was in good shape, because at a pee stop we noticed that the rear axle was leaking fluid from a bolt that had broken. I’m not too surprised as the road up the mountain was fairly brutal. The locals tried to help by tightening the other 5 bolts that held the axle, but ended up breaking two more off. We drove to the next town to find a mechanic. It wasn’t exactly an auto shop, but they knew what they were doing- they welded steel to what remained of the bolts (studs actually) in order to have a way to twist them out. They got 2 of the 3 out, but the last one wouldn’t budge. Oh well, with two new bolts and lots of silicone sealant we were on our way.



We arrived at the best place we’ve overnighted so far, Nou forest, which was just above/beyond Madunga village. We set up camp as the sun was setting, and then sat around the campfire. I may have been exaggerating when I previously said that Kabuku could be a setting for King Kong or Jurassic Park; in reality Nou forest would be a great shooting location as the tall dense growth could easily hide a T-rex or a 10-story gorilla. I’ll take pictures in the light tomorrow.



We had today to spend in Arusha before heading to Madunga village tomorrow. We spent it looking for wind turbine parts and materials. We had pretty good success, but stainless hardware may prove hard to get. Surprisingly, the rare earth magnets might not be an issue. There is a Muzungu who lives here and produces wind turbines for sale, likely based on the Piggott design. He gets magnets and epoxy resin somehow and he may be able to help us.


There are quite a few modern high rise buildings in Arusha


And many more currently being built


Checking out the “new” ride before our long journey tomorrow. It is in pretty good shape for having 420,000 km and appears well maintained. Toyota + diesel + maintenance = run forever

Also, you may have noticed from previous pics, but I am a big fan of socks with sandals even if I am giving Americans a bad name abroad. It keeps the dust and grit from sticking to my sweaty feet.



 Posts from 10/7 to 10/15- Travel and first days in Arusha


Posts from 10/16 to 10/18- Kabuku


Posts from 10/19 to 10/24- Machame



Comments (1)

Michael Hannigan said

at 12:25 pm on Oct 13, 2014

Kyle - I am thoroughly enjoying this. You had me nervous with the vegetable stand!

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