That being said, I'm not a fan of dusty Dar Es Salaam, the chief port and former capital of Tanzania. Its Arabic name means “haven of peace” but it would have to be a candidate for 'most inappropriately named city in the world'. Despite a population estimated at a 'mere' 1.4 million people, the traffic congestion is on a par with a city of 20 million. To be fair, the complete lack of maintenance and anything approximating a motorway, contributes to this but each individual driver seems relentlessly committed to creating their own mini-gridlock (and their own mini trail of mayhem). Dar and the countries roads in general, would be worth a dedicated blog entry, but that's for another day.
Meanwhile, other than the three weeks in Dar buying supplies, and five days convoy drive out to camp, we spend most of our time out bush and it's a great place to be. The first few weeks were spent repairing wet season damage, rewiring the electrical systems at camp, conducting driver training (a mission in itself - perhaps another blog, one day...), inventorying what remained from some wet season mayhem and generally getting set up to go exploring.
- Intestinal parasites
- Respiratory tract infection
- Fungal infection
We've been conducing actual exploration and collecting soil samples now from far and wide for about a month (which is after all the reason we're here) but along the way, we've been riding dirtbikes and mountain bikes, hiking and four-wheel-driving all in the cause. The dirtbikes and mountain bikes actually have a business use - many of our geological targets are only accessible via bicycle trails. To really get in and sample an area, we need to build 4WD tracks and set up a flycamp in the area for a few weeks. Figuring out which bicycle tracks can be converted to a 4WD track (and indeed whether or not the prospective area is er, worth prospecting) means we need to get in to have a look. Hence, we've finally figured out a way to be paid to ride enduro bikes and mountain bikes - without having to actually be good enough to turn pro.
We've done a couple of mammoth trips lately to open up areas including an overnight 4WD camp that needed mountain bikes to get us into the target area the next day. A great excuse for Lynne, Pete and I to go camping in lion and elephant country. OK, perhaps I exaggerate... (so what's new). We didn't see any lions, rhino's or elephants at all and never came closer than 10km to Mahale National Park boundary where the animals allegedly reside. 'Twas still great fun camping in a bamboo thicket by the river then mountain biking the next day. Pete and I have also done a couple of day long dirtbike rides down some of the gnarliest trails we've ridden for a long, long time. Bouncing over logs on the edge of precipices and hauling them, wheels spinning through boot-sucking mud creeks probably doesn't sound like fun to most people... But it does to us :-)
Don't tell the boss, but despite the crazy times, remote supply lines and sometimes near overwhelming frustrations, I still can't quite believe I'm getting paid to do this stuff...