Flat tire and red bananas – The road to Lake Manyara

February 26, 2013 in Africa, Tanzania

Think I slept no more than maybe 3 hours that night.
The thoughts were just going round and round in my head until I finally managed to fall asleep around 5 in the morning just to get woken up by the alarm clock at 8 since we were supposed to met Emmason and the other CSers at 9 to start the safari.

I had just swung my legs over the edge of the bed frame when I received a text from Emmason asking if we wanted to order our food in advance or eat on the way. I decided that we would eat on the way. Easier then order something you have no control over and then find out that you can eat like 10% of it. In my case with my food allergies it is like this. Better safe then sorry.

I packed together the last of my stuff that I was taking with me and left the rest with Ben who was generous enough to let us leave our heavy bags there for the 4 days we would be gone on the safari. We were gonna spend 4 days and 3 nights away where we would visit Lake Manyara, Ngorongoro Crater, Lake Natron and a Masaai village.

My phone buzzed again with a new text from Emmason announcing that they were late due to heavy traffic from Moshi so we just sat down and waited. It was already 9 in the morning and the sun started to look out between the dark morning clouds to warm up the red soil that most of Tanzania consists off and it took just a few minutes before it was burning a bit on the skin. However the sun worked wonders with drying  the towels that we had used for the morning shower.

After an hour my phone yet again buzzed with Emmason announcing his arrival so we took our backs, locked up Ben´s place as he had left for work and headed off towards the meeting point. A few minutes later a beige colored Toyota Land Cruiser came jumping up the bad road with our guide Rasta behind the wheel smiling as always.

safari in Tanzania at lake manyara

On our way to Lake Manyara

We entered the car and said hello to the two new members on the journey a couple from Munich, Germany that we would spend the next 4 days with in all weathers. Emmason put in a gear and off we jumped on the village dirt road towards the big road to drive the next 3 hours to Lake Manyara in North eastern Tanzania. It would turn out to be a pretty eventful three hours. Mainly due to the roads which were in a bad shape and here and there were detours onto even worse roads while the main road was being repaired.

We stopped at a small gas station to bunker up on water and I bought five 1½ litre bottles for the next coming days. The others did the same before we set off again towards Manyara. We didn’t get far from the gas station before a police man stepped out in the road and waved at Emmason to pull over.

The policeman walked over to the car and looked in through the driver window greeting in Swahili.
We all replied and he asked in English where we were from.
The Germans in the front replied simply “- Germany” while me and Jake said nothing.
The policeman smiled big and replied “Welcome to Tanzania. People and Police here is very friendly. Dont worry it is very safe here, there is no problem”
He addressed Emmason in Swahili again and Emmason jumped out of the car with his documents. First they walked to the back of the car and the policeman was checking all insurances for the car that were glued to the back window of the Land Cruiser. Then they walked away towards the little small desk that the police had put up by the side of the road. It looked pretty funny, a desk in the middle of nowhere by the side of the road.

Tanzania flag in the safari car at lake manyara in tanzania

The flag of United Republic of Tanzania

Emmason came back smiling as usual after a few minutes and declared that the police wanted to have a bribe. Its common practice in Tanzania. The policeman had given him a “fine” for not having a tour company sticker on the side of the door as we apparently were going on a safari no matter if we were friends or not and that the fine was a pink elephant (10.000 shillings = 5 Euro). Emmason refused to pay the fine and told us how it worked with these “fines”. The policemen stop the tour vehicles and demands a “fine” that is quite steep first for what ever reason he comes up with. They know that the tour companies don’t want to waste time by letting the client wait in the car and lose interest or trust in the organizer so they usually pay. If they don’t then the “threats” starts to come that they will have to go to the local police station and file the “fine” if it is not paid on spot.

However the tour people who don’t have clients mostly plays a long and agrees to go to the station as they know that it is all about loosing time, that they actually pay the “fine” to not have their time wasted but if they don’t have any clients they have nothing to lose either. In all cases they don’t even get into the police station before the police let them go as the “fine” is phony and would only end up in the pocket of the policeman. Now it doesn’t sound much, a pink elephant, but imagine manage to get that out of 10 cars a day? That is a lot of money in Tanzania.

In the end Emmason had paid 2000 schillings (1 Euro) and we were off on the road again passing through a hot and desolate landscape where we saw a lot of Masaai moving their herds of cattle or goats across the fields to find more food. I was hanging out of the side window in the back of the car filming the landscape when I suddenly heard a familiar pssst… and then the distinct flap-flap-flap-flap sound. We had a flat tire.

safari in Tanzania at lake manyara with flat tire

Now that is a flat tire

Off to the side and get out one of the spare tires and change it. Meanwhile this was going on some young heard boys came up to us and was standing looking at us. First they begged for money but as we didn’t respond to them and gave them money they went silent and just starred as we started to change the wheel. I felt this was a golden opportunity and took Jake and Marta (The German girl) and asked her to take a picture of me and Jake posing in front of the car. And yes, we got the kids in the picture as well. Looks like a modern version of two white Mzungu explorers in the deep Africa with some “savages” in the background. How colonial of us.

posing infront of the car on the safari at lake manyara in tanzania

Two Mzungu explorers and four native explorers

When the wheel was changed and we had managed to get the car down from the malfunctioning jack lift, the road lay ahead of us once more. We drove all the way to the little town, or not really a town as per say but an area known as Mto wa Mbu, a small settlement and also one of the gateways to the Safari areas. We stopped to eat and Emasson handed in the flat tire to have it fixed at the local garage. As soon as the car stopped we were attacked by a heard of salesmen trying to sell everything from necklaces to T-shirts to bracelets and all the other thing. All of them selling it for a “very good price for you my friend” price. With the lunch in our bellies being the regular rice with beans, spinach and piri-piri, we headed towards Lake Manyara national park.

On the way in I had seen large signs screaming “Try the red banana here!” or “Dont forget the red banana here!” and so on.
What the hell is a red banana?
I asked Emasson what it was and he pulled off the road by a couple of women. Suddenly, as if a start pistol had fired a shot, they were out of their start blocks and ran towards the car from all angles with a huge cluster of bananas in their hands. All trying to be the person who would sell us bananas.
Competition in the banana business was though and fierce here.

Banana sellers at Lake manyara in tanzania

Yellow, red or green?

I had a rainbow of bananas in my face covering the three dominant colors red, yellow or green and as I wanted to try red bananas I bought a huge cluster with probably 10-12 bananas on it for 2000 shillings ( 1 Euro). We all had a banana and entered the national park gates to watch some monkeys.

While eating bananas.