Sunday, November 15, 2009

On Second Thoughts....

Well not really second thoughts in the usual sense but more of an update on the ‘First Thoughts re Tanzania’.
It’s pissing down rain here today in the way that only tropical rain can completely fill the air with a wall of water. The sound on the tin roof drowns out even the genset and my own internal musings. Yes, even talking to yourself is all but impossible when the rain is heavy enough lol. Meanwhile water runs through the compound in rivers while mud leaps into the air from the force of the rain and splashes high onto the sides of the huts adding to the 60 cm of rustic red/brown at the base of each building from seasons past.

I might actually get some writing done today as Pete has gone off with the guys to Mwese. There are two hired Landcruiser Troop Carriers with drivers that need to get out before the river comes up otherwise it will be several thousand unnecessary dollars in hire fees while the vehicles sit out the wet season here at camp. There is also a Lancruiser VX (a posh 5 door station sedan model) here which doesn't have a snorkel and hence is somewhat limited in how deep a river it can cross. Pete is taking it to Mwese to leave there until needed in a weeks time for his and Tim's exfil. The hire vehicles will head on to Mwanza which is about 850km away. They’re bombed them up with 180 litres of diesel which is enough for at least 1,000 km (given that most of the trip can be done at 80km/h) but one of the drivers in particular had a good whinge that it wouldn't be enough and that he needed cash to buy fuel along the way. You should have seen his expression when he found out that he wasn’t getting any extra money to buy fuel. Pete and I had done the calculations so we just laid it out with him re fuel consumption and distances albeit not without enduring an extended play version of his ‘you’re so cruel’ and ‘you don’t know what you’re talking about’ expression. Frankly he didn't have a leg to stand on - we’d done the homework and he hadn’t… Why he should be so pained is something gentle reader, that I’ll leave for you to think about. A couple of clues: When I drive a Landcruiser over the same roads it uses about 16 l/100km. His vehicle used about 40 litres/100km on one recent trip. Either he is driving everywhere in low range first gear or… well, here’s another clue - a litre of diesel is worth a days wages here (USD$3.00). Does kind of make you wonder where the ‘missing’ 120 or so litres went? In any case, today is his last day so lesson learned but immediate problem resolved.

Pete and Vallerian will be coming back in one of the traybacks which has a snorkel at roof height so it can basically go through water up to almost 1.8m in theory (so long as it's not too fast flowing). As of yesterday the creek was only 70cm but with all this rain, the snorkel might come in handy They've got HF radio back to here in case they need assistance but my job at 1600 is to either put some beer into the freezer if when they arrive or to jump into the other trayback to help extricate them from a bog. With all the rain, the roads are going to be slippery, Z hill will be dicey and the river will be up but my expectation is to be loading the freezer at 1600hrs and not the trayback.

Would have been a good trip to go on with all the rain but it's no fun coming back in a landcruiser trayback with 3 people shoehorned into the cab. Cramped for everyone and the poor bastard in the middle gets their knees remodeled for 3 hours on the radio, diff lock and miscellaneous metal bits under the dash. Three hours of fun - I don't think so. The other option was to take both traybacks but frankly it seemed like a WOFTAM. We'll be heading out down to the lake tomorrow in any case to map out my hike down to the ferry for exfill next year. In theory, I could probably find my way there using the wiley approximation method of navigation (ie. Taking a wiley guess at each intersection) but apart from the fact that others might find it useful next season, mapping it is (a) a good excuse to get out while we can and (b) if I get delayed on the hike by taking a wrong turn down one of the many jungle paths, the ferry only comes once each week so it could be a long delay...

Valerian has got the bicycle Fundi (fundi is now one of my favourite words – it loosely translates as 'technician' or 'expert') here today working on a couple of the bikes that have been sitting with flat tyres for a while. There are also two badly trashed cheap Chinese mountain bikes here that I’d dug out of a shed yesterday. I think it should be possible to build one good bike out of the two wrecks so I asked the fundi if he could maybe get one MTB going but he shook his head with a mournful look as if to say “sorry mate, this is way beyond anything I’ve worked on to date” so I said not to worry about it. The bikes he's fixing the flats on are the traditional local type bikes with no gears and grandmas style wraparound handbrakes (ala 1949 Britain or 2009 Tanzania). He said he'd have a go at the MTB's and apparently there is another fundi here in the sieving team who knows a bit more but basically it looks like if they are going to work at all it will be up to me.

Anyway, more writing to do (actual book writing for a change) and I might even try and upload some photos to facebook or to the blog today, fingers crossed.

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