At the end of the last installment, we had just stopped for a photo op at the Equator, a couple of hours from our first border crossing, into Tanzania. Next to the acquisition of the Interpol certificate, the border crossings were the things we worried about the most.
Much as the Interpol office was different from a government office in a more developed country, the border crossing was a bit less spiffy than one might expect. Well, here, see for yourself:
There were two parts to each border crossing. Getting out of the country we were leaving and getting into the one we were entering. Everyone makes it easy to leave. It’s pretty much “don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” then a little of the stamp and flip and you’re done.
K and I took turns so that one of us could stay with the car at all times. Let me take a moment to say – I felt safe for most of our African adventure. Most of the people we met were helpful and welcoming. Border crossings were another beast altogether, however. Like port towns, they seemed to attract the down-and-outest of the down and out, the desperatest of the desperate. So, leaving the car unattended was not an option.
But, anyway, as it turns out, everyone is happy to send you out of their country, but they’re a bit more strict about letting you, and more importantly, your car, in. Fortunately, just as all border crossings come supplied with an assortment of currency exchange con artists, vendors of dubious fruit, aggressive panhandlers and (I assume) prostitutes, they also come supplied with a cadre of enterprising gentlemen who, for a reasonable fee, will shepherd you through the bureaucracy.
Our paperwork shepherd was Michael, who hopped into the backseat and directed us to the car transfer area. K went off with winsome Michael while I was left with a dolorous man who planted himself just outside my window and regaled me with a series of incomprehensible moans for the next 30 minutes.
When Michael and K returned, Michael advised that my new friend was well known at the border crossing, and while harmless, was not right in the head. He suggested I pay him no mind, which seemed mean, but I knew from experience that engaging with beggars can go very badly, so I waited until the engine was running, then rolled the window down enough to hand him some money right as we pulled away.
Finally we were in Tanzania, with about 5 hours to spare before nightfall. According to our map, the next town with lodging would be Biharumulo. From the looks of things, we believed we could get there before dark. Along the way we stopped to check out Lake Victoria:
Most of this part of the drive was on paved roads, but closer to Biharamulo we came to a stretch that was well graded, but surfaced in red dirt. There were signs that construction was going on, so I think it was being graded in preparation for being paved.
It was along here that we saw our first wildlife – shy baboons who peeked at us from the foliage by the side of the road, but ran every time we tried to photograph them. As the sun hovered near the horizon we started to see transport trucks parked by the side of the road with their crews camped alongside, starting fires and settling in for the night – we realized we needed to get to town quickly or we would be camping alongside them.