I saw a video today of someone doing a guided park tour on a motorbike and it reminded me of my trip to Iringa – The stone city, Tanzania. Beautiful place! The reason the video brought back memories of this adventure is because I did something similar, went for a self guided tour game drive in the Ruaha national park against the advice of the park rangers. The only difference was that I was driving. Quite an experience. During the tour, I saw two species of antelopes, the lesser kudu and roan, and some buffalos. I also saw many animals around the waterholes. But this is not the crazy part, it was when we were leaving the park. I decided to drive the approximately 120 Km back to Iringa town. Halfway into the journey, I realized I had forgotten my driving license back in my hotel room. That is the problem of carrying a fat Kenyan driving license that can’t fit in your wallet. So, I was wondering how I’d drive past the frequent adhoc Tanzanian police checks on the highway towards Malawi. As fate would have it, I met the cops. But for some reason they didn’t ask me for my license. Perhaps it was because I nodded my head to everything they said, considering I didn’t understand more than half of what they were saying because of my very little knowledge of Swahili even though I had been trying to learn the language for four years. Yeah I know, I am that slow! But most importantly, I kept nodding because I didn’t want to give myself away by speaking with a foreign accent.
But before the park safari drive, I was taken by my local friends to see the stone sites at Iringa. Of particular interest to me was the Gangilonga Rock, the ‘talking rock’. They say the Hehe chief, chief of the Wahehe people at the time would meet the senior Hehe tribesmen on this rock to mediate how to fight the Germans.
We took a walk from the Ruaha University, where I was meeting my friends to the Gangilonga rock. From the top of the rock, you can see the whole town and was even more beautiful towards sunset.
I also made a visit to the Isimila stone age site. Quite a scenic one with a lovely reddish earth tint. Many archaeological finds of tools used by hominids and fossils dating back 70,000 to years old were discovered at the site. The area used to be a lake but it has now, with the help of erosion turned into a big canyon with more erosion resistant rocks standing as tall as 30m.
And then there was the experience of flying from Dar Es Salaam to Iringa in a 6 man commercial plane. It was my first time flying in a very small commercial aircraft. Though it wasn’t as scary as I had imagined or hadn’t, it felt like a taxi except it was flying in the air and it seemed to me that the pilot knew many of his passengers.
It must be the frequency he flies the route and the small number of regulars who fly rather than travel by road from Iringa to Dar Es Salaam. Interestingly, I had only booked a one-way flight from Dar Es Salaam to Iringa, so on my last day in Iringa, I was running around the town like a madman with my friends to book a seat on the plane when we got a call of an available seat on the small plane leaving the next day. The story is I was on a waiting list because when we went to book earlier in the week, the day I was scheduled to leave, the seats were all sold out.
In reminiscing about this experience, another flight story comes to mind. My scary flight to Khartoum, but that is for another post.