Book ID 606
Lutengano, lute wa Of Menacing Buses and Lorries, 2002 Feb
I was reading this travel guidebook, written by a mzungu, which brings up the salient features of the Tanzanian section of the Great North Road ; the road from Cape Town to Cairo. One of the most salient features is the unprecedented concentration of pubs, bottle stores and bars along the highway from Arusha to Mbeya town, near the Tanzanian border with Zambia.
The guidebook goes on to point out that the concentration of these joints does not in any way reflect the wealth of the community along the route. Rather it is a telling sign of the serious boozing habits of most of those who drive on that highway. The book therefore warns you to be very careful with other drivers on that road, as most of them would naturally be under the influence of alcohol.
I had this in mind when I embarked on my trip to my home village, Ilembula, in Njombe district, which happens to straddle the same highway, a few kilometres after Makambako. Driving my contraption, which at one time, actually more than 20 years ago, was a Mercedes Benz car, I went through what I would call as a hell raising experience.
I left Arusha at about 10 am. No sooner had I reached Tengeru than I began getting harassed by huge buses and lorries traveling from Arusha to all sorts of places, i.e. Dar es Salaam, Morogoro, Iringa, Mbeya, Tanga etc. Between Tengeru and Himo I was overtaken by hundreds of these buses. One thing common to all of them was that they were all flying very low. They were going at speeds of an aircraft, in this case, an aircraft that is flying on a tarmac road. This, added to their thunderous honking, made my driving miserable.
On reaching Same town, I began getting harassed by buses and lorries coming from the opposite direction. These were from Dar es Salaam, Tanga, Morogoro and later, Iringa and Mbeya. It was as if they were in a rally, in this case a buses and lorries rally. I became so nervous that I requested my colleague, an experienced driver, to take over a few kilometres from Same town.
To cool my nerves I ordered for some canned Heineken beer. I could now understand the importance and necessity of the many pubs along the highway.
We had a brief stopover at Segera, where there is a modern restaurant offering buffet lunch. I enjoyed the lunch there and bought some more canned beer from the stalls on the other side of the road; the restaurant is an alcohol-free zone. I was not amused to find out later, after leaving Segera that the canned beer had long expired. Please fellow traveler; take note of that!
From there we drove down the very smooth Segera-Chalinze road. I was awe-struck by the Chinese-funded massive water project currently being implemented at Wami, a few kilometres from Chalinze. It surely will go a long way in improving the lives and health of Coast region residents.
From Chalinze it was a smooth ride to Morogoro. I was now used to menace by the huge lorries and buses, this time plying between Dar es Salaam and Morogoro, Dodoma, Iringa, Mbeya, Njombe and Songea.
It was early evening when we arrived in Morogoro town and checked in at The Oasis Hotel. Being typical Arushans we enquired from the hotel staff as to where we could get some mouth-watering nyama choma. We soon found out and a few minutes later we walked into the Palm Garden Bar, run by one Kambarage, an academician from the nearby Sokoine Agricultural University College. He must be a member of the Faculty of Veterinary. The nyama choma was very tender and delicious.