We left the comfort of our home from home in Arusha a full five days ago now, and have been gently making our way south.
The ride out from Arusha took us within sight of Kilimanjaro, where we stopped for the obligatory (but not very successful) photo of mountain with bikes in the foreground. Not far from here, we reached a junction where we then turned south, and for quite for a while I was riding with Kilimanjaro in my rear view mirror, conscious of the symbolic relevance of its receding icecap for climate change. I also felt peculiarly aware that the concept was highly unlikely to feature in the minds of the Masai to whom we were waving on the side of the road, despite the fact that it is people like them who will probably bear the brunt of this global phenomenon as it becomes a reality, if they haven’t already.
Putting these thoughts out of my mind was pretty easy when we got close to the border with Malawi. Southern Tanzania much resembles the southern section of Ethiopia, where everything is lush and green, banana trees grow in abundance and where fruit and blossom abound. It must have been this that accounts for the fact that I got my first ever bee-sting on this section of road. The little critter flew right up my right sleeve and, sadly for it, released its poison into my forearm. It was excruciatingly painful, and I pulled Glyn over pretty sharpish to have a look and apply the insect-sting gel that we had with us. You wouldn’t believe it, but the same thing happened the next day, only on the other side of the same arm. The result was a very swollen and itchy arm for a couple of days. At one stage Glyn rolled on the floor with laughter at me because I wondered out loud if my skin could cope with two stings either side – he said he couldn’t contain himself at the mental image that my arm was going to peel like a banana!
The road to Malawi also saw us pass through what is known as Baobab Valley. The area is absolutely brimming with these huge, exotic looking trees, which look like they’ve got root systems for branches, hence the local mythology that they were planted upside down by God in anger. I can’t remember the full tale, but it’s something like that anyway. Well, they were all in leaf, which I don’t think I’ve ever seen before, and a few were even flowering, which Glyn stopped to take a photograph of as we’d neither of us seen this either.
The area was also teeming with baboons, most of which seemed to take fright at the sound of the motorbikes, although a couple looked on nonchalantly, not moving from their roadside perches. One even looked for all the world like an old man, perched on the side of the road as he was, elbows on knees, watching the traffic go this way and that with a look on his face that seemed to suggest he was thinking ‘OK, so what’s new? I’ve seen this all before!’