Landing was just the beginning.
It’s not only Kigoma’s runway that’s not paved; most roads in the region – far from any big city and close to the borders with stricken Burundi and DR Congo – are rough roads.
Driving from village to village, thick clouds of dust swell with every passing vehicle, turning the roadside vegetation orange-brown. We narrowly miss a dog, a goat, and a huge lizard that runs across the road; a bird is less fortunate. One afternoon, in Kigoma town, a man has collapsed in the middle of a main road: he tries to get up, but fails. Malaria? Something else? Just drunk, it turns out.
When I buy my bus ticket for the return journey towards Dar, I get a seat number that’s next to one of two armed guards. My colleagues had been joking all week about what we do when we meet the bandits.
“And those guards are armed?”
“Yes”, says my colleague. “But when it happens, they just throw down their guns anyway. Those guys have really big weapons”.
In the end, “it” didn’t happen. My colleagues drove me as far as “the Tarmac”, as they put it – with a stop on the way to our driver’s family home: he wanted pictures taken with their cattle. (The grandmother, aged 110, had gone to the village. The father, I later found out, had fought in the Tanzanian-Ugandan war, helping to overthrow Idi Amin.)
At The Tarmac, I boarded my bus; only one guard, and a lot of passengers. Before long, the guard got off, leaving the driver and the conductors arguing with a policeman for a long time before we moved on. Two more rows with policemen, an unexpected ferry taking us across Lake Victoria to Mwanza, but otherwise, just a normal, sweaty, dusty day’s travelling, with a 6-year old spilling crumbs on my lap, lads at each bus stop shouting “the mzungu’s eating maize/look at the mzungu!”, and the young guy next to me asking me for a job, asking for my ipod, asking for my phone number, and telling me he’ll miss me.
More pictures of Kigoma travels here