July 14, 2010 GMT
On To Dodoma

Just as I was leaving the hotel car park in Singida a Tanzanian visitor came to chat about my journey, and it turned out he was another civil engineer building roads.
"We're building a lot of new roads here, where are you going?"
I told him.

"Ah, you have bitumen all the way except for fifteen kilometres before Manyoni. That'll be ready soon. Where are you going from Dodoma?"
That was a handy question, because it would be another decision time there.
There's the 160-mile dirt road south to Iringa, which crosses one mountain range. I'd become doubtful about that since my recent dirt-road experiences and finding that buses take 8 to 10 hours to cover this, and they go a lot faster than me.
Or, the tarmac road, 340 miles via Morogoro, that from my map goes over two bigger mountain ranges so could be more scenic.
"Take the Morogoro road. It goes over the Rubeho mountains twice and round the Uluguru. Between that it crosses Mikumi National Park - you'll see a lot of wildlife there. Bitumen all the way. That Makatapora road is just a lot of hard work."
Yes, that was a handy encounter. He was the first person I'd met who knew about those two roads.

And he was right about the gravel section on the way to Dodoma, the remaining stretch of tarmac still under construction.

This central part of Tanzania was alive with volcanoes millions of years ago, which showered the land with rocks and boulders as well as lava. Consequently massive, strangely shaped boulders dot the landscape, some on their own, many in huge piles and clusters. Somehow or other, most of the largest boulders ended up balanced on their ends on top of piles of stones, or on one single even larger boulder. A strange landscape.
The top of a ridge at Chigongwe a little way before Dodoma gave something of a panorama.

At the top of the ridge towards Dodoma the road skirts round two volcanic rock sentinels. An enormous bolder perches on top of a cone of boulders on the left.

I did a U-turn to go back a few hundred yards to photograph these three mountains of boulders, looking back towards Manyoni.

A short while before this I passed a rider on a little motorbike who was selling a chicken to a lorry driver at the roadside. While I was wandering about on this ridge he went past, but returned a little later freewheeling down the hill towards me. He pointed to his petrol tank and waved that it was empty.
Well, I have an extra tap and length of pipe teed into the pipework on my bike, for filling my cooking stove, so it was easy to pour some petrol into his tank. Whereupon it flowed out again, through the float-chamber overflow pipe!
He was a bit flustered at that but I quickly took a screwdriver and bashed the float chamber with it, trusting that the old trick would work, (to free off the jammed float inside). Which it did.
We poured in another mugful and he tried the starter button which fired the engine straightaway.
He looked pleased now, more for his chickens I think.
It's usual between the villages to see cyclists carrying chickens either in or on a bamboo framework on the back of their bicycles. Sometimes it's a motorbike carrying them. This rider had more than a dozen, tied by the ankles to the back of his bike. They all looked fairly placid, obviously completely unaware of how exciting it is to ride on the back of a motorbike(!) But I guess they don't survive long like that and he has to sell them whilst still alive. For which he needs petrol.
So off he sped to find more customers.

I turned round again towards Dodoma and finished taking some more snaps.




Now in Dodoma, it's the capital of Tanzania in name only I think.
About the size of Caterham. The tarmac road comes in, around a large central roundabout, and out again.
Immediately around the roundabout are the parliament building, some government buildings, the HQ of the main political party, two churches, a mosque, and a few banks.
All the other roads are sand which lead to dozens of hotels (they say it fills up when parliament is in session) and the usual shops, restaurants and food kiosks. They say not to take photographs anywhere.
So Dar es Salaam is certainly Tanzania's first city.
There was no internet working yesterday, so I'll try again now, see what we find.
Then off to Morogoro if all goes well.

Well, am in the internet cafe, at the end of a sandy street the first half of which was a continuous line of mobile phone and top-up shops on both sides. Here in the cafe the fiddler's elbow is working well. Despite being the capital city, and this place seemingly arranged and furnished to attract the government workers, the internet comes and goes, comes and goes. But if you read this I got it posted at last........

PS. In Singida, The Great Plastic Bag Clearout bore fruit, with the help of jettisoning other bits and pieces over the weeks. I have got rid of the two small camera bags that were hung over the seat as additional panniers, carrying mainly tools. I bought those in Khartoum to take the contents of my tank bag which had become a liability rather than an asset. So have achieved a net reduction in luggage, at last.

Posted by Ken Thomas at July 14, 2010 11:08 AM GMT

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