• Some Stats: Mwanza-Muscat Part 18 April 10th, 2016

    Before I head off on another adventure I thought it would be interesting to post some statistics from my recent tour, alongside a few comments and reflections:

    Duration of tour: 238 days

    Total distance cycled: 10,375 km

    Total distance on unpaved roads: 2071 km. In northern Kenya and South Sudan I had no other option but to ride on dirt tracks. In other countries – Uganda, Ethiopia and Oman for example, I sometimes chose to take dirt tracks as a more adventurous/quieter alternative to the paved roads.

    Climbing away from Jebel Shams

    Number of non-cycling days: 106. I spent 3 weeks working in Tanzania (not in the original plan when I planned the trip) and took long rest stops in Kampala and Addis Ababa. Fortunately I was not bound by time constraints, so had the luxury to tour slowly and take as many rest days as I liked.

    Mean daily distance cycled: 78 km. People often ask how far I cycle each day. My reply is an average of 80-100km. On this particular tour I did plenty of short days.

    Longest day: 144 km in eastern Ethiopia. I was riding until late hoping to find somewhere to camp – never easy in Ethiopia as so much of the roadside was cultivated and populated. I ended up in a cheap Guest House.

    Highest altitude cycled: 3300m in eastern Ethiopia.

    Cost of visas: £410. Visas in Africa are almost always paid in US $ and the cost of mine as the trip progressed goes as follows: Kenya – $50 (3-month on arrival), Uganda – $100 (3-month on arrival), South Sudan – $100 (applied and paid for in Uganda), Ethiopia visa extension for 3 months$150. (I already had an original visa for Ethiopia that I had bought in London – £60 for a 6-month multiple entry – this needed extending when I was in Ethiopia as it was already 4 months old when I entered the country) Somaliland – $70 (1-month visa bought in Ethiopia), Oman $50 (1-month on arrival which I extended by another 1 month for an additional $50).

    Total cost of tour (including visas): £2450. When I left Tanzania for the final time I emptied my local bank account and changed all the remaining Tanzanian shillings into US $ ($2200 worth to be precise). Carrying more cash than necessary is never really recommended, but this kept me going for some months before I relied on my UK debit card to make cash withdrawals. I expected Oman would be the most costly country to tour through, but I camped almost every night during my time here. This meant daily costs were kept to a minimum, particularly as I wasn’t drinking alcohol and tourist attractions were very cheap.

    Mean cost per day: £10.29. By camping or staying in simple lodgings, eating local food and avoiding expensive tourist activities, my daily costs were relatively modest on this tour.

    Total spent on accommodation: £637.50. Most nights in Africa I stayed in local lodgings, ranging in price from bed-bug ridden £1 Guest Houses in Ethiopia, to more comfortable rooms costing £8-12+ (the highest I paid was £18 in Kenya). During the 3 weeks I worked in Tanzania accommodation was paid for. I was also invited as a guest in several places and used the Warmshowers website when there were hosts on my route.

    Number of nights spent in tent: 59. Most of my camping was done in Oman where I slept in the tent on 41 nights. Only on 1 of these 59 nights was I in a campsite where I paid to sleep (Murchinson Falls National Park in Uganda). I mostly wild camped in Oman because camping here was so safe, easy and scenic. Accommodation in Oman, when it did exist, was also relatively expensive (typically £30 upwards).

    Camping on Mughsal beach

    Total number of beers consumed: 361. This number is about 90% accurate; the 10% uncertainty owing to the days when I drank too many beers to remember. Bottled beer is easily available throughout East Africa. I consumed more beers in Ethiopia than anywhere else, which is partly because the bottles were generally smaller (often 330ml instead of 500ml like Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda) and also because they were so easily available. Beer in Ethiopia was also cheaper than anywhere else (around £0.30 for a bottle) and the hardship of my days cycling here usually demanded I drink at least 2 every night.

    Harar beer

    Mean number of beers consumed per day before arriving in Somaliland: 2.2. Once I left Ethiopia and continued through Somaliland and Oman I went without a drop of alcohol for well over 2 months.

    Number of punctures: (2 in Tanzania 4 in Uganda, 1 in Ethiopia, 1 in Oman).

    Hardest country to cycle through: Ethiopia (by far). Almost every day presented a battle with people (mostly children) who took great delight in chasing and taunting me from the roadside.

    Easiest country to cycle through: Oman. Safe, friendly, easy to camp, scenic, great roads (some can be steep!) – the list could go on. A fantastic winter cycle-touring destination.

    Most pleasant surprise: Being able to cycle freely in Somaliland without an armed escort, which I’d heard might be necessary.

    Country I would most like to return to: South Sudan. For reasons that puzzled me a little at the time, I was deported from the country on a remote road that felt as adventurous as anywhere else I’ve toured on the continent. Several months after leaving I read of another foreign cyclist who was robbed and left badly beaten at the roadside. Looking back, perhaps my desire for adventure had been sensibly curtailed by the police who found me. South Sudan was, and remains, far less secure than most of the other places I toured on this journey, but I’d seen so little of a country that looked like it had so much more to offer.

    Picked up by the Police

    Highlight of the tour: Spending 4 days at sea crossing from Somaliland to Oman with a crew of 15 Indians and a cargo of 500 cows. This was a timeless journey; detached from so many of the World’s problems one is witness to when on terra firma with an Internet connection.

    Sitting with some crew

  • Old roads and new: Mbeya-Mwanza Part 3 March 18th, 2015

    The tarmac stopped at the Tanzanian border. On the Burundian side the road was under construction. A man wearing a wide-rimmed straw hat was sat in the seat of a road grading machine. I waved at him as I slowly climbed up the steep slope that cut into the green hillside. Either he didn’t see me or pretended not to. I’m sure my bicycle must have been in his vision. I would have asked him many questions given the opportunity, but doubt he’d have understood them, unless I spoke Chinese.

    This was my second visit to Burundi and I was happy to be back. The African mainland’s second most densely populated country is a great place to cycle, so it’s a pity the country isn’t bigger.

    The photos in this final blog post cover the remainder of my journey through Burundi, Rwanda, a day in Uganda and then back to Mwanza in Tanzania. Lots more mountains, smiles, some great scenery and the usual great cycling.

    Chinese road construction

    Another new road in the making. Heading north from the Burundian/Tanzanian border to the town of Makamba, where the tarmac starts again.

    Burundian beer

    Now here’s a beer that’s worth drinking. It might not be African by name, but it’s brewed in Burundi and tastes great.

    Mission beside Lake Tanganyika

    One of the few flat roads in Burundi runs along the shores of Lake Tanganyika.

    North to Bujumbura

    Heading north to Bujumbura. I cycled this road in the opposite direction 18 months ago.

    Sunset over Lake Tanganyika

    Sunset over Lake Tanganyika. The sky wasn’t clear enough to see the DRC on the other side.

    Burundian curiosity

    It’s hard not to draw a crowd when stopping on the roadside in Burundi. Few people travel here and people are curious to get a closer look.

    Bujumbura Coffee factory

    The mountains in Burundi produce some great coffee. By the end of my trip my panniers contained about 4kg of coffee from Malawi, Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda. This photo was taken in Bujumbura. I stayed 2 nights and parted ways with Anselm here, who stayed on longer.

    Bicycle cargo

    Bicycles in Burundi are commonly loaded with all sorts of cargo. This is on the road north from Bujumbura to the Rwandan border post near Bugarama.

    House on wheels

    At least 100kg of bricks loaded up here. I discreetly took a picture from behind as I feared photographing from the side or front might cause this poor chap to loose his balance!

    An aged saddle

    An aged saddle with some serious character.

    Weld job on Surly front rack

    During the 7 week tour the brackets on both sides of the Surly front rack broke. It wasn’t hard to find a welder, but the welds broke on several occasions. I have new brackets back in the UK.

    Burundi Map

    Painted up on the wall of a bar. An outline of one of Africa’s smallest and most densely populated countries

    Lake Kivu

    On my first day in Rwanda I briefly passed Lake Kivu.

    Tea Plantation

    Tea plantations on the road east from Cyangugu at about 1700m in altitude.

    Above the morning mist in Nyungwe Forest

    Climbing up through the cool mountain air to 2600m in altitude, Nyungwe Forest remains a rare reminder of what so much of Equatorial Africa must have looked like before man started to deforest it.

    Big day of climbing

    Anything over 1500m of accumulated climbing in a day on a fully loaded bicycle constitutes a challenging one. Day 1 in Rwanda and typically it’s all up and down – mostly up.

    Morning sunlight in Nyungwe Forest

    Morning sunlight in Nyungwe Forest. This was the view from outside my tent, which was pitched on a rare flat space of land, fortunately invisible from the roadside. I had been told it was illegal to camp within the National Park. Had I been seen by Park Rangers I would have been fined and asked to move. The reality was there was no-where else to sleep.

    The Congo and Nile River watershed

    Some interesting African Geography I didn’t know. This was taken in Nyungwe Forest.

    Local bike

    Plenty of local wooden bikes like this on the road in Rwanda. Great for downhills, less so for up.

    Local bike

    Roadside spectators

    Children are everywhere in Rwanda – something that could be said about a lot of sub-Saharan African countries. Here however the population density is so high that stopping on the roadside is almost always associated with a collection of young faces.

    Project Rwanda: Coffee Bike

    I saw a lot of these ‘cargo bikes’ in Rwanda. I think they were designed with the idea of transporting coffee, but any load will do.

    French couple on tour

    They told me their names twice and I still forget. They were headed south towards Burundi – their English as poor as my French, of which I seem to have forgotten lots since west and Central African days on The Big Africa Cycle. When the crowd of kids got too much we bid each other bon voyage.

    Waterfall in Rwanda

    I don’t remember the name of the Waterfall – in fact I almost missed it on the road north from Kigali to Uganda. Fortunately it was only a few hundred metres from the road and easy to reach.

    Terraced slopes north from Byumba

    After climbing north from Kigali on the RN3 – one of Rwanda’s super clean paved roads, you reach a small junction town called Byumba with a lovely view north towards Uganda.

    Rwandan school student

    I was as much impressed by this Rwandan boy’s English as I was his motorcycle side-mirror.

    Kabale at dawn

    I am rarely awake and on the road at sunrise, but during the final days of this tour I was on a mission to reach Bukoba in Tanzania in time for work. And so it was that I pedalled out of Kabale shortly before dawn – a good reminder that this is the best time of the day in Africa.

    Katoro: Ugandan breakfast

    Ugandans consume more bananas per head than any other nationality in the World apparently. Katogo is a common breakfast – plantain, beans – and usually offal, the latter fortunately absent here. Great energy for the road.

    Roasted meat and phone charging

    Just one of those random signs that make you laugh and stop.

    Camping above the Kagera River

    Another special camp spot, of which there were many on this tour. The Kagera River is, for want of argument, the source of the Nile. Its headwaters drain from Rwanda and the river itself flows into Lake Victoria. This whole area on the Uganda/Tanzania border had a remoteness to it. My tent was pitched a hundred metres or so above the river, soothingly audible as I fell asleep early after 135km that day, mostly on a dirt track.

    Re-entry to Tanzania

    This was interesting. My GPS and map was telling me I was now on the border of Uganda and Tanzania, but there was no immigration post nor anyone in sight, just a rusted sign showing the distances to various towns ahead. Fortunately I have a Tanzanian residency permit, so wasn’t fussed that my passport wouldn’t be getting a re-enty stamp into Tanzania. Likewise I was never stamped out of Uganda, having paid $50 for a visa when I was only there 36 hours.

    Back in Tanzania I spent the first week dressed in shirt and trousers to attend a training workshop for Secondary School teachers. The plan after this had been to take a ferry from Bukoba back to Mwanza, but it was out of service and so I cycled the remaining 450km.

    Fish soup, chapati and chai

    Breakfast in a village cafe beside Lake Victoria. Fish soup, chapati and spiced tea.

    Young girl and her mother

    On the road from Bukoba to Mwanza.

    School transport

    It’s very common to see 3 or more people on a bicycle taxi in rural Africa.

    Petelol Station

    Rural Africa has lots of makeshift constructions like this selling fuel by the litre in plastic bottles. This however is the first Petelol Station I have seen.

    Timber being transported

    I wouldn’t want to be turning a sharp corner on this bicycle.

    Charcoal transport

    Charcoal is probably the most common source of fuel for cooking in Tanzania. Sacks such as these are transported from rural to urban areas, very frequently on the backs of bicycles.

  • Rift Valley roads: Mwanza-Arusha August 29th, 2014

    South from Mwanza the tarred road heads into central Tanzania. It’s not a popular destination for visitors as there are no immediate tourist attractions such as national parks, natural wonders, or places given much attention in a guidebook. A lot of Tanzania is like this, as is Africa for that matter, particularly when you see things from a saddle.

    There is however one feature of central Tanzania that this two week tour was focused on. It’s the earth’s most significant visible feature from outer space. It’s also very visible, although perhaps less so, when flying over it between Mwanza and Dar-es-Salaam. This of course is Africa’s Great Rift Valley – the eastern branch of which cuts right through the country.

    On a clear day from a plane it’s easy to see Mount Kilimanjaro and nearby Mount Meru to the north. The pilots rarely mention this, nor do they tell passengers when the plane is flying directly over dramatic escarpments, other extinct volcanoes as well as dazzling white soda lakes.

    Africa's Rift Valley

    The two branches of Africa’s Great Rift Valley.

    Logistically the tour had one hiccup: returning to Mwanza by bicycle was going to be problematic. The Serengeti National Park and Ngorogoro Conservation area cover a vast area of northern Tanzania, but are inaccessible by bicycle. This meant that unless I cycled back the way I came, which was south of the park and clearly not desirable, the only remaining option was to continue north into Kenya before dropping back into Tanzania. Time didn’t allow for this. And so somewhat reluctantly I decided that a bus from Arusha, Tanzania’s third largest town, would provide the easiest option to return to Mwanza.

    In total I cycled just over 900km, with 150km or so on dirt tracks. I’ll let the photos and the captions tell the rest of the story.

    Ready for the road

     No front panniers required for this tour. I packed a tent but didn’t use it. Tanzania is one of the easiest countries in Africa to find affordable accommodation. That said, packing a tent is a reassuring backup. Total load for this tour about 16-17kg.

    Water hole in the dry season

    June and July are typically dry in Tanzania. This means water sources are scarce. Long journeys, particularly in rural areas, are often necessary for both people and livestock. Bicycles strapped with jerry-cans are frequently used to transport water, which is far from clean. Drinking water in Tanzania is best bought in bottles, which is fortunately widely available.

    Goat soup and chapati

    Meat soup (beef/goat/chicken) is a popular breakfast in Tanzania, served with a bowl of lemon and chilli. Chapatis are always available and make a good accompaniment.  Total cost about £0.80.

    Makongoro soup

    Menus in small roadside cafes are rare. On the second day after leaving Mwanza I found out what Makongoro is.

    Cow hoof soup

    Makongoro are cow hooves served in a soup. A little too hearty for my liking, but evidently quite popular. I skipped the soup and stuck to chapatis and tea.

    Peter Shop

    Well I had to stop and have a drink. There are lots of small villages along major roads in Tanzania. Most don’t appear on any map, but reassuringly bottled water and fizzy drinks (usually warm) are available.

    Mr Riverpool mobile shop

    Small mobile phone booths selling calling credit are very popular in Tanzania (there are no contracts here). It was the name of the shop that caught my attention here. Tanzanians have great problems in distinguishing L and R as they sound very similar.

    Accommodation in Shinyanga

    On my second night out of Mwanza I stayed in the small town of Shinyanga. Curious to know what Heavy Tea was I decided to check-in here. The next morning I was served a boiled egg and a cup of black tea. Meat soup would have been much more preferable. Rooms in Guesthouses/lodges in most of Tanzania can be found for between £2-£10 per night.

    Leaving Shinyanga

    Baobab trees provide the most scenic aspect of the semi-arid landscape between Mwanza and Singida. Unlike other trees in Tanzania and Africa, which are most often cut down and used for firewood, Baobabs are considered sacred. They are also providers of fruit, soap, rope, oil and various medicines. Some trees are large enough to be many hundreds of years old and each one seems to have its own special character.

     The altitude ranges from 1100m-1400m above sea level in this part of Tanzania, so days can be hot and dry, but it’s never that hot. There is also none of the coastal humidity. There is however one problem: wind. I had been told that Singida and the area around it is windy all year round. As luck would have it I ended up with an awful headwind for two consecutive days.

    Uncut gemstones

    Tanzania contains a lot of gemstones, but unfortunately I know very little about them. On one afternoon in a quiet village I was shown uncut rubies and another stone. None of them looked that impressive, but there could have been a small fortune sitting in this hand.

    Ruby on the map

    Apparently the uncut rubies came from the area shown on this map of Tanzania (approx 50km west of Singida), so if you happen to be passing through and know more than me, you now know where to go.

    Heading towards Mt Hanang

    Heading north from Singida the landscape became more interesting as I cycled towards Mt Hanang (Tanzania’s 4th highest mountain – 3417m).

    Looking north to Mt Hanang

    For most of the day the mountain-top was covered in clouds, but late afternoon I got a great view of this extinct volcano.

    Climbing the Malbadow escarpment

    Climbing the Malbadow escarpment with Mt Hanang behind me (an ascent from 1500-2100m) provided the best scenery of the tour. This was a detour from the main road and although the climb itself was paved, the rest of the road northwards to Karatu was on a dusty track. This photo was one of the few I took with the Nikon D90 SLR. The rest were shot with the phone’s camera – poorer quality but far easier.

    Enemy on the road

    Enemy on the road! Speeding buses are bad enough on paved roads. On dirt tracks they seem to go no slower and leave clouds of dust in their wake. Flying stones are also a hazard so it’s always best to look away as they pass by.

    High road to Karatu

    Fortunately the dirt track was mostly free of speeding buses as I headed towards Karatu.

    Tripe for breakfast!

    Food options tend to become more limited once dirt tracks replace tarmac. For breakfast one morning I was served a bowl of tripe soup. It qualifies as meat, but I wasn’t that desperate so made do with bananas and chapatis.

    Self-catering for dinner

    Although I never used the tent, it was a worthwhile decision to bring the multi-fuel stove as well as a single pot, frying pan and a coffee mug that contains its own plunger (great piece of equipment for making decent coffee). Food in Tanzania becomes monotonous quite quickly, particularly in the evening when options are limited to chips and grilled meat. With the multi-fuel stove I cooked-up pasta in my room on several evenings.

    250g of beef for £0.50

    Meat is easy to buy in Tanzania, although the hygiene of places selling it is often questionable. At least when you buy your own meat you can make sure you get the cut you want, rather than lots of bone and fat, and also make sure you cook it well before eating! This 250g of  beef (no idea which part of the cow) cost £0.50.

    Descent to Lake Manyara

    A cyclist’s favourite sign post. About to descend from 1500 metres to 1000 metres in 5-6km. The safari vehicle pictured to the right is a familiar sight on the road connecting Ngorogoro Conservation Area and Arusha. It came as quite a shock to see so many foreign faces behind the window of these vehicles.

    View over Lake Manyara

    It wasn’t the clearest of days, but the descent to Lake Manyara and the accompanying rift valley scenery was another highlight of the tour. Fortunately someone hanging around and trying to sell Masaai jewellery was kind enough to take my picture.

    Masaai encounter

    Masaai villages, or rather model masaai villages, line the road outside Lake Manyara National Park. I assume that as part of a safari package there is an option to stop off and visit one of these villages. Highly voyeuristic and unappealing if you ask me, but they seem to be popular. These young men had walked from one such village to greet me on the roadside. The tallest and oldest spoke reasonable English. ‘Lets chat on WhatsApp?’ he suggested as he spotted my smartphone before showing me his. No idea how he was charging it as these villages have no power supply.

    Giraffe on roadside

    An unexpected sight the day before arriving in Arusha. Most large animals in Africa are contained within National Parks, but National Parks have no fences. This lone Giraffe didn’t seem the least bothered by my presence a few metres away on he road as he/she munched away on some Acacia leaves.

    Serengeti from the bottle

    Tanzania has about half a dozen beers, similarly priced at around £0.80 a bottle. Hard to choose a favourite, so I switch from one to the other every few months and prefer to drink from the bottle – beer stays colder that way. After 920km it felt good to arrive in Arusha and enjoy a few cold ones – truth is I’d been enjoying them on most evenings.

    Bus station food sellers

    It took 9 days to cycle to Arusha and 12 uncomfortable hours on a speeding bus to return. I don’t travel frequently enough on such death-traps to know that the seats over the rear wheels are the worst to book (the only ones available to book the day before). Tanzanian road authorities ensure numerous speed bumps exist in every village en-route. This made the journey particularly unpleasant as the driver never slowed down sufficiently. My bicycle was directly below me, jammed miraculously into a tight space by some idiot who unsuccessfully attempted to solicit the equivalent of an extra seat fare out of me for transporting the bicycle. The passengers sat more or less in silence, until we reached the outskirts of Mwanza and they realised they were probably going to survive. I had more or less cycled the exact same way we returned, so the only point of interest was watching people run to the bus in an attempt to sell food and drink through the window whenever we entered a bus station.

    All in all I was happy to arrive unscathed, and relieved to discover that other than some scuffed handlebar tape, my bicycle was intact too. If nothing else it was a reminder that buses in Africa are the worst forms of transport. Give me a train or a boat any day, but preferably a bicycle.

  • Tanzania for two years June 7th, 2013

    Mwanza doesn’t seem like a bad place to live for two years. Back in January of this year, days before flying out of the UK, I applied for a job with the British Council in Tanzania. A friend who knew I was returning there brought the job to my attention.

    On paper I was qualified for the post, but I imagined lots of people with far greater experience than me were applying. Besides, I wasn’t particularly serious about taking up a teacher-training job when my focus was to continue with the book I’d started. With that in mind I filled out the online application, obviously extolling how relevant two-and-a-half years cycling through Africa was to working in a government teacher training college. My hopes of hearing back weren’t very high.

    A month or so later I received news inviting me for an interview. The British Council in Dar es Salaam was only a short distance away from where I was in Zanzibar. It seemed logical that a ferry back to the mainland and a face-to-face interview would follow. Instead several more weeks passed before a recruitment consultant in Manchester telephoned me.

    The writing progressed slowly out there, as it had been since I started the book, but I prevented myself from getting stressed. Zanzibar wasn’t the environment to worry about a deadline I never really had. As the days and weeks went by I enjoyed the experience of becoming familiar with my surroundings, rather than the more often scenario of preparing to leave. There were always new faces, both local and foreign, including a number of trans-African cyclists showing up. I enjoyed the heat, the simplicity of my days, but most of all the fact that I was back in Africa. I wanted to stay rather than return.

    Other than half a dozen talks lined up I had no real desire to go back to the UK. The book wasn’t going to be finished in those three months away, and self-promoting myself as a means to gain more public speaking engagements had little appeal. Ultimately I feared finding myself far away from where I really wanted to be, which was Africa.

    And so this job, which brought with it the opportunity to spend two years in Tanzania, with some semblance of structure and stability, needless to say regular income, took on greater appeal. My hopes and future began to be pinned on being offered a contract. Yes the open road and all the many places I still wanted to cycle were in my mind, but I had no big trip lined up. Writing the book was proving time-consuming and I needed something more.

    I wanted familiarity with my surroundings – the opportunity to make connections and be part of a community, even if I was an outsider, for a little while. The last time I had something resembling this was when I lived in Japan. That was eight years ago. I also felt that if could get myself comfortably settled I might be able to continue with the book.

    Every day following what felt like a ramble of a one-hour interview, where I envisaged boxes being crossed rather than ticked at the other end, I checked my inbox. It was more than a week later before that email finally came. ‘The British Council are delighted to offer you a two-year contract in Tanzania’ were the words I quickly lifted off the screen. I breathed a deep sigh of relief. I was delighted and surprised.

    A list of 34 teacher-training colleges across the country was soon emailed to me and I was asked if I had a preference. The town names were familiar, but online information about the colleges was scarce. Most appeared to be located many miles from the small towns within which they were listed. I envisaged it taking hours to get anywhere from some remote and unremarkable place. Two years seemed like a long time to live somewhere like that.

    One teaching college soon caught my attention when I discovered it was just 8km from Mwanza, the country’s second biggest city. On the shores of Lake Victoria, the location looked appealing. There was an airport with cheap flights back to Dar es Salaam, a ferry connection across the lake and even a railway line running south. There would be none of the coastal humidity up at an altitude of 1100m, and travelling to places like Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi wouldn’t be that difficult. The city even boasted a few squash courts.

    It was only when I returned to Tanzania following a ten-day stay in the UK that I got the second bit of news I wanted. Yes I would be going to Mwanza. Butimba Teacher Training College would be my new work place. As for the other British Council teachers (there were 11 who began their contract in May with me) some seemed content with their placements whereas others had little or no preference.

    What I knew about the job was as follows. After disastrous national exam results last year, in which most Secondary school students failed, Tanzania’s Ministry of Education recognized the need to improve the quality of English language teaching in Tanzania. English here is the country’s second language following Kiswahili, but it’s used as the language of instruction in Secondary and Tertiary education. One reason many students fail their exams is because a number of teachers lack the linguistic fluency and skills necessary to teach in English.

    The truth is I’ve never taught teachers before. I arrived in Mwanza several weeks ago, but haven’t started classes yet. The college, which is comprised of 55 tutors, (those I will instruct) and over 1000 prospective secondary school teachers, is closed until July. Hopefully the course-books provided by the British Council will be at the college then.

    After staying in hotels (both in Dar and Mwanza) that boasted several more stars than the type I’m accustomed to in Africa, I moved into a house two weeks ago. This is also a step up in terms of the quality of accommodation I’m familiar with.

    My bicycle naturally naturally came with me. It takes me 25 minutes to reach college, about 10km away. That’s less than half the time it would take by dala dala, the ubiquitous death trap of a mini-bus that plies the roads of Tanzania.

    With all this free time in June I ought to recommence with the writing. That at least would be one option, but when days of leave are limited I’ve chosen to get back on the saddle. A ferry across Lake Victoria from Mwanza has brought me to Bukoba. From here I am cycling into Rwanda and south to Burundi, a country I haven’t been to before. It’s the dry season and the skies are blue. Without front panniers my load weighs half what I’m normally used to, which will be a big help considering the terrain.

    I have my camera, so hope to post some pictures up here when I’m back. Should you find yourself in Mwanza do get in contact. There’s some great cycling around the town.