Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika

Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika

Allen, John Richard


Book ID 981

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Allen, John Richard Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika, 2008
Page Number: 00a

Complete copy of the Memoirs

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Extract ID: 5709

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Allen, John Richard Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika, 2008
Page Number: 00b


Follow the link for the photos to go with the memoir

Extract ID: 5710

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Allen, John Richard Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika, 2008
Page Number: 39
Extract Date: 1939

Dodoma to Arusha

Driving north from Dodoma was all new country for me. After the first 10 miles out the cultivated areas ceased and the road then passed through broken country, well wooded with 'Miombo' trees (Latin name is Brachystegia, but which one of the 30 different species ????? ). After passing through that five mile belt of forest the landscape changed completely to dry scrub and thorn bush, uninhabited, to the passing motorist. (But 7 years later I was to discover otherwise?). At about 80 miles from Dodoma the large native settlement named Kelema was reached. Here, four or five native dukas (shops) sold a miscellaneous assortment of goods, mainly cloth and local foodstuffs, My only purchase was a hand of bananas to munch on the way. Judging by a few remarks, I gathered some of our vehicles had also stopped there, so the convoy was not wholly "in convoy�! So far, on the journey, only two stops had been made to sort out minor mechanical troubles on a couple of vehicles. From Kelema, for the next 30 miles, onwards, the area was thickly populated by the Irangi tribe. The land is fairly hilly and scarred with soil erosion gullies, some measuring hundreds of feet wide. Many 'sand rivers' crossed the road which could be a great hazard to motorists when the normally dry riverbeds are in full spate after a storm. At Kelema there is a very wide one, a quarter of a mile, which I know has claimed many vehicles driven by impatient motorists.

At exactly 100 miles from Dodoma I stopped, in the shade of a large baobab tree, to eat a few biscuits washed down with a bottle of warm 'pop'. Here, a road branched off, almost due west, down a slope for two miles into the small township of Kondoa Irangi. The District HQ for the Kondoa District. On the opposite side of the road there was a small lake with a fair population of wildfowl. By now the time had crept round to about 15.30 hours, so off we went continuing our journey, The countryside for the next 18 miles along the road was rather barren , over-populated, over-grazed, hilly, eroded and the only trees were baobabs. After passing through the Minor Settlement of Kolo, the road began to ascend into the hills known as Pienaar's Heights, so-named after a South African General who, during the 1914/18 war routed the enemy forcing them to retreat to Kondoa and beyond, However, history apart: Half way up the short escarpment was one stationary 'ambulance' or, in reality, a 2 ton Ford V8 lorry converted for passenger carrying, but on this occasion it had a load of medical equipment on board weighing less than a ton. I wondered how the contents in the boxes would survive after being bounced over miles of a 'corrugated' road surface? After struggling with various engine components for over an hour the thing eventualy started but firing on only 7 cylinders. As for the 8th, to hell with it. (my feverish cold taking over!). Off on the road again ascending to an altitude of 6,000 ft. above sea level and with darkness approaching rather quickly. There was a definite chill in the air and, to my sorrow, my British "warm' army great�coat was, by now, in Bereko! There were more stops en route, but we eventually made it to the camp by 9.30 pm. The Mess cook had put aside a plateful of dinner for me, no doubt on Ali's instructions. Some kind soul gave me a stiff whisky. The tent was up and my campbed all ready to flop into. The CO came over to ask where I'd been, so told him! Whereupon, he withdrew. By the time I had swallowed my drink, eaten my dinner, performed my ablutions, my colleagues had retired to their respective nests so I did likewise, under three blankets in this cold spot, We were at an altitude of about 6,500 ft, asl.

Morning came round much too early but the cup of tea brought in by Ali at 6,15 am was most welcome, A busy morning began with breakfast at 7.30 am and a departure for Arusha at 8.30 am, about 130 miles away. My departure time, anybody's guess! I scrounged as many spanners, screwdrivers etc. I could lay my hands on to deal with that wretched Ford lorry. One point I insisted on, the Bedford lorry, with its driver, would follow me, since I would be driving the 'wreck.', with the inexperienced driver sitting alongside. After cleaning all the fuel pipes, carburettor, the ignition system, petrol pump and anything else I could find, within reason, the engine actually fired on the fourth attempt. Like me, it coughed a lot and then picked up, sometimes on 7 cylinders, sometimes 8!

It was just after 11.00 am when I set forth. After nine miles, or so, the road descended to a much lower altitude and the area was flat apart from a few distant hills. The next minor settlement of note, was a place called Babati, with an extensive African population and about six Asian owned dukas - so I stopped close by to a large 'tin' (corrugated iron) duka and was welcomed in by its Asian owner. I was amazed at the variety of tinned provisions he stocked, also beer and soft drinks galore! So I treated myself to a Coca Cola straight from the fridge and a packet of savory biscuits. I also gave the two drivers shgs.2.00 each to buy themselves a meal as the chances of reaching Arusha in time for their evening meal with the mob was rather remote.

Arusha was still 110 miles away so as soon as possible after that short break, we were off, into a very warm afternoon. The Indian duka-wallah told me the main convoy had gone through about 10 am so, with luck, it should be 'home and dry' by 16,00 hours.

We made good progress for the next 50 miles through an area known as the Mbugwe 'flats' but when the undulating country was reached, more trouble. Being a hot afternoon the engine had been running at a higher temperature than usual but now, crawling up slight inclines in second gear the water boiled which made me suspect either the cylinder head was cracked or a 'blown' cylinder head gasket. Either way, I could do nothing about that, full stop! At the top of the slopes a halt was necessary to allow the engine cool down sufficiently before replenishing the water, which all took time. Bouncing along a flat stretch of road, in the dark, with the wooden bodywork and medical boxes creating a dreadful din there was almost an 'Incident on the Highway'? Unbeknown to me a car following in my wake of dust had been trying to pass but with all the noise I hadn't heard his dual car horns blaring forth. The first indication I got was from a bush on the roadside reflecting a strong light beam so I immediately pulled over to let the car pass. A few yards further along the road the car pulled up and out stepped a European male who beckoned me to stop. He strode over and, when he was a couple of feet away I wound down the window to be greeted with, in an Australian accent, a mouthful of abuse ending with" " you bastard"? Just what I needed! Momentarily, I was taken aback and just when I was about to give him a well directed punch in the face he stepped back realising that he wasn't speaking to an African lorry driver. I saw him later that evening in the hotel but he did not recognise me. Apparently, he was a high ranking official in the Govt. the Director of Lands and Mines! A pity he stepped away at the wrong moment before I could teach him a lesson in manners. However, the CO dealt with him on my behalf,

Extract ID: 5711

See also

Allen, John Richard Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika, 2008
Page Number: 41
Extract Date: 1939


Arusha was like a tonic. Warm days, cool nights and living in an hotel, the New Arusha Hotel, where the meals were excellent and ridiculously cheap at shs. 3. 00 per day for breakfast. lunch, tea and dinner! The propietor's good deed towards the 'War Effort'. He also made available for our use (the 7 BNCOs), a large empty room which accommodated all our campbeds and kit. The Army paid for that. Bar sales shot up, no doubt off-setting the cheap meals? At this point another Sgt joined us from the Service Corps, a mechanic, who could carry on where I left off. The 'heap' I drove for 150 miles did, in fact, have a cracked cylinder-head. And the mystery of the missing Transport Officer; he was abandoned in Dodoma suffering from an attack of malaria!

I must digress for a while. Practically all the German nationals in the Territory were collected from here, there and everywhere as soon as war was declared. The number probably totaling 3,000 plus but where they were all interned prior to their evacuation to South Africa I cannot recollect. Their homes, estates, businesses etc, had to be abandoned and were left in the care of a newly formed Department, The Custodian of Enemy Property, thus creating plenty of employment for the older generation. Chaos reigned for a while but gradually sanity was restored. One shining example was in Arusha. The Ford Motor Co's agent was a German firm stocking a vast amount of spare parts dating from the present day back to 1930. With their German masters gone the Asian clerks were a little out of their depth when it came to searching for individual vehicle parts, consequently, one invariably had to go behind the counter, into the parts department, to find the necessary spare part(s) required.

I haven�t mentioned my brother for some considerable time! A month or two before hostilities commenced he went on six months leave to the UK and was therefore 'trapped', not knowing when he would be returning due to the unpredictable state of the shipping movements.

Back to Arusha. The township is situated on the lower slopes of an extinct volcano, Mt. Meru, which is 14,000 plus feet above sea level at the peak. In the European sector are well kept gardens with a profusion of flowers, and a whole variety of vegetables in the kitchen gardens . Plenty of beer in the two hotels. There was also a Chemists shop, most unusual in 'up-country' towns.

Extract ID: 5712

See also

Allen, John Richard Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika, 2008
Page Number: 56
Extract Date: 1940 Oct

On Leave - going south

After we had settled in [M'bagathi Holding Camp, five miles south (?) of Nairobi} the time was ripe for making arrangements for leave, for those so entitled, both European and African. My turn came round about the middle of October.

Two days before departure too Sao Hill, I developed 'German measles' so decided not to report it otherwise off into quarantine I�d go for 21 days! Fortunately, by the time I set off towards the Southern Highlands of Tanganyika I felt slightly better. The journey was rather tedious. I Departed from Nairobi Railway Station at 5.00 pm, or thereabouts, to Voi arriving there 01.00 am and then transferring to the Voi/Moshi train, due in at Moshi at about 4.00 pm. Being a 'Hornby' type railway set-up there were very few facilities, No restaurant car! But at Maktau Station there was a dak-bungalow, or station cafe, where one could buy a cup of tea and a few 'eats". In my case I wanted some breakfast but, having overslept, by the time I was ready the train was about to depart so my next meal looked like being in Moshi much later in the afternoon.

My recollection of events in Moshi is rather vague! I met a family friend, now a captain in one of the KAR Battalion's, who told me to use his army quarter in the cantonment as he was living in the hotel with his wife. After a good night's sleep I was up at 6.30 am preparing for the lorry convoy departing for Mbeya, far to the south at 7.30 am. That day we, there were others like me proceeding on leave, traveled as far as Babati where the convoy pulled off the road for the overnight stop! There was no accommodation whatsoever, nor anything else, which meant sleeping under the stars on 'Mother Earth'. Fortunately, I had my bedding roll with me but no campbed, and was that earth hard! Food? the old standby, bully beef and biscuits, eaten in the flickering light of a small fire. Ablutions and calls to nature left a lot to be desired with us floundering around in the darkness. The convoy Commander could have warned us of what to expect on the journey, not that it would have made much difference. Anyway, I think everyone was mighty pleased to see the dawn. Next stopover, Dodoma. On reaching the Babati Trading Centre a hurried stop to make a few purchases of food and soft drinks to ensure I did not suffer from dehydration during the next 160 hot miles!

The convoy reached the Dodoma Transit Camp about 5.00 pm. Traveling in convoy is an ordeal, mile after mile in a constant cloud of dust, some grey, some red, resulting in a queer application of 'make�up'. The camp consisted of dozens of wooden huts, some large, some small, all equipped with the essentials for comfort, with adjacent 'shower' huts. However, luck was on my side; making my way to the Camp Commandant's office for instructions on where to park myself I met the gentleman concerned. None other than my old friend from the Shinyanga days, 'Hicky", now, Major Hickson- Wood! The first words he muttered were, "Where the bloody hell "have you come from?" rank forgotten, I told him. He insisted I spent the night in his large house and that Kathy would be only too pleased to see me once again. Within an hour I felt much better after having had a good long soak in the bath, most necessary after living in a dust haze for the two past two days. Three more dinner guests came in later, officers off a northbound South African convoy, so, much to Hicky's pleasure, the alcohol flowed rather freely

Next day we were away on the familiar 162 mile journey to Iringa, arriving there just before 6.00 pm. I had sent a telegram to my parents informing them that I would be in Iringa on the evening of 'such an' such' a date, hoping the "0ld Man' would take the hint to come and meet me. Thankfully, he did! Much to my surprise he appeared driving a very smart 1938 model Chevrolet estate car and when I asked who had been bold enough to lend him such a vehicle his reply was short and to the point. "I bought it," said he!

After chasing all round Iringa looking for the lorry my kit was on I eventually tracked it down and then retraced my way back to the hotel for something to wash down the dust in my throat. The Bar was full of young Rhodesians on their way to Nairobi to enlist. One of them, hearing I had just spent eleven months in the 'battle zone' (?) insisted on buying me drinks. After the second pint of beer I thought it advisable to make for home! I Rounded up Pa then away on the last lap of the journey - 61 miles in comfort. A pleasant change after being bounced around in lorries for the past twelve months. Those miles did not take long to cover, one and a half hours.

Extract ID: 5716

See also

Allen, John Richard Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika, 2008
Page Number: 57
Extract Date: 1940 Oct

On Leave - retuning north

There was the question of petrol too, a commodity strictly rationed, However, that did not impose too great a problem! The dear lady behind the desk in the Rationing Office, whom I knew, very kindly allowed me 12 gallons for the holiday, and, since I would be traveling back to Nairobi, passing through Dodoma at an unsociable hour, issued me with coupons for enough fuel to reach Arusha where I could collect more for the final leg to Nairobi.

The few days relaxation soon petered out but it was a change from army routine, although that couldn't be ruled out completely as there was a constant flow of Army personnel calling in at the hotel enroute North or South , whose requirements had to be catered for with the emphasis on food and drink. The latter other than tea or coffee having to be dispensed by me at times. Who's grumbling."

Departure day came along too quickly as there were two jobs I had to complete which would take about four hours. That lot finished I got away soon after 1.00 pm making for Kondoa Irangi, 324 miles away to the north, where there was a Rest House (of sorts) to spend the night? With the intention of driving the 360 miles to Nairobi the following day: But the best made plans go wrong! I reached Dodoma 6.00 pm-ish, filled up the car with petrol and, feeling rather thirsty, went along to the Hickson-Wood house to scrounge a cup of tea. That was where the itinery went wrong? Staying with the H-Ws was a Sao Hill neighbour Esme Creswell, and young son aged 5 - 6 yrs, looking for a lift to Nairobi to join her husband, a Captain in one of the KAR. Battalions stationed there.

With an almost empty car I agreed to take them, with the proviso that they would have to be prepared to travel another 100 miles on to Kondoa and spend the night in an awful four-roomed Government Rest House containing a bed with a terrible mattress, a table and couple of chairs! That information had been passed on to me by someone who knew the place, and I found I was not wrong! Poor Esme was in a bit of a quandary as she didn�t have any bedding, only two cases full of clothes. I had my bedding roll and whilst at home I'd knocked up a 'chop' box and stocked it with the bare necessities of life to last a day or two. So that didn't pose any great problem. Kathy H-W. offered to lend Esme two blankets which were gratefully accepted. After tea and a snack we set off on the two hour drive to Kondoa. After covering something like 25 miles it was all too obvious the young lad suffered from car-sickness! Mopping up operations took time and thereafter I had to adjust my driving accordingly hoping it would prevent further mishaps, but there were two more. So instead of the journey taking two hours it was more like three.

The Rest House was rather grotty, but did boast of a caretaker who managed to provide water, both hot and cold! The building contained four rooms with cement floors. The walls were constructed with sun-dried mud bricks and a corrugated iron roof over the lot. A coat of whitewash, inside and out, would have made a great improvement. However, we had to sort ourselves out. One room contained a bed and mattress, another room a table and three rickety chairs and the other two empty. So, into one of them went the mattress, dumped on the floor for Esme and son with the two borrowed blankets (I often wondered whether they were returned?). My bedding roll went on the bedstead, not quite as hard as the floor, and since I had a pair of pillows the lady was in luck. She had one of them. Lighting was by torchlight! A good lesson in 'How to be uncomfortable on safari'. For supper a Cream Cracker or two washed down with 'pop', and so to bed.

Next morning the caretaker produced a wash basin, a most useful piece of equipment, and better still, hot water for washing ourselves in, which also gave Esme a chance to clean up the young lad after the previous night's ordeal.

The idea of driving through to Nairobi in the one day had to be abandoned due to 'junior' (I cannot remember his name) being such a poor traveler, so there was no violent rush to leave Kondoa as our next night stop would be Arusha, a distance of 175 miles, which, on this occasion, would take about five hours.

We arrived there mid afternoon, clocked in at the hotel, and after a few cups of tea we retired to our respective rooms where I enjoyed a long soak in the bath followed by a useful nap before climbing into a clean uniform etc. and making my way to see what the Bar had to offer. But not before going to a nearby shop to invest in a large Thermos flask! Esme eventually appeared for a 'quickie' before dinner, after having spent most of her time attending to the domestic chores involved when traveling around with a young child. Incidentally, he survived the day's journey without any trouble. Thank heaven.

Nairobi next. 184 miles, which would take five hours. By the time I'd collected my petrol coupons, filled up the tank, and Esme had sent a telegram off to her husband, Richard, saying that she would, hopefully, be at the New Stanley Hotel anytime after 3.00 pm it was 10 am.

The journey to Nairobi was uneventful. A stop enroute to look at a few giraffe browsing happily on the roadside trees and time to devour our sandwiches the Arusha Hotel had prepared for us. The Thermos flask I bought yesterday was duly christened too, and poured a very refreshing cup of tea!

Extract ID: 5713

See also

Allen, John Richard Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika, 2008
Page Number: 92
Extract Date: 1942

More leave. South to Sao Hill

My leave date eventually came round and since I was going to the ancestral home, Sao Hill, 680 miles away in a southerly direction, it was necessary to plan the pick up points for petrol ration coupons en route. To complicate the problem even more I would be traveling over the weekend when Petrol Ration Offices would be closed from 12.30pm Saturday until 08.00am Monday. On the Friday afternoon I called at the Nairobi Office and after explaining to the pleasant young lady behind the desk that I wanted sufficient fuel to reach Kondoa Irangi, 360 miles away. This was to insure against the Arusha Office being closed. So she gave me 16 gallons worth of coupons. I offered to take her out for a dinner on my return but She declined.

Our Sgt. Maurice Tyrant was in luck in more ways than one. Since he was spending his leave in Dodoma his transport worries were over as I had to pass through the town to reach my destination, another 220 miles further on. Also, by giving him a lift instead of taking the usual route by train and bus he gained two extra days holiday, plus saving expenses on food and accomnmodation en route. For my part I was thankful tor his company since it is not advisable to make long car journeys solo in Africa.

It was my intention to leave Nairobi at 7.30am on the Saturday but like all well made plans there is always a hitch, which delayed us for 30 minutes. Time was an important factor since I wanted to reach Arusha by 12.30 pm, a distance of 184 miles. That meant averaging a speed of 41 miles per hour over an indifferent earth road. A tall order. For the first 60 miles the road surface was corrugated and there is only one way to tackle such a surface to avoid rattling the car to pieces - speed! Consequently, after one hour that came to an end and from there onwards the road wasn't too bad and we carried on non-stop, except for a very brief halt at the Customs Post on the Kenya/Tanganyika Border.

And on to Arusha in time to collect some petrol coupons, by which time our dry throats were in need of a gargle. So along to hotel where the cold beer tasted like "nectar. Entirely the wrong liquid to drink knowing there is a hot afternoons driving ahead, By the time we had quenched our thirst, partaken of a good lunch followed by coffee and taken fifteen minutes shut eye in a comfortable chair the hour of departure was upon us and I had yet to make a decision whether to spend the night in Kondoa or carry on another 100 miles beyond to Dodoma, From Arusha that would entail a total ot 280 miles or six hours driving. A tiring thought after the morning's rush, Maurice, who is in the Transport Section of the Service Corps was not, in my estimation, a very good driver so that left me to do all the work!

After filling up with petrol, and purchasing a few groceries to top up my 'chop' box - in case of emergency, the hour had moved round to 1430hrs. So, without further delay - off. Glancing sky-wards in our general direction the clouds were rather black and heavy and it was the' rainy' season. After a few more miles the heavens opened and remained 'open' for miles which reduced our speed. An army convoy of about 50 vehicles that he would be along to see her in the very near future - and Dodoma had its fair share of licentious soldiery (to be continued later!). The last 60 miles to Kondoa Irangi - to give the place its full name, took more time than anticipated due to the wet conditions prevailing over a 35 mile section of road commonly known as 'Pienaars Heights", with plenty of bends and hills to contend with. By the time the sun had long disappeared over the horizon, and with no lamp available in the Rest House, we had to grope around with a torch and the car lights shining through the doorway. With regard to beds etc. I was self-contained with campbed, bedding, food and drink. Maurice had no choice, He had a couple of blankets in his kitbag to put on the rickety old iron bedstead and mattress, too dreadful to describe!travelling in the opposite direction had churned-up a few muddy stretches of road. By this time it became obvious that the Kondoa Rest House would be our sleeping quarters for the night. Perhaps just as well because Maurice hadn't informed his wife, an attractive, young, 'white' Seychellois lady, who enjoyed life to the full,

Our greatest priority was a cup of tea so calling on the services of the RH attendant a kettle full of boiling water was soon on the table. With the torchlight becoming dimmer by the minute we didn't waste much time sitting around drinkiing tea. To quell that empty feeling the edibles purchased in Arusha, biscuits, butter, ham and cheese went down very well. And so to bed, rather earlier than usual. Breakfast on that Sunday morning was a repeat of last night's 'dinner'. At 8.30am I plucked up courage to call on the Asst District Officer to enquire about the possibility of petrol coupons, eight gallons worth. He was very pleasant and co-operative, so along to the Boma (District Office) which was not far from the ADO's house, for the important piece of paper. I now had on board sufficient petrol for the 324 miles to Sao Hill with a drop or three to spare! By the time we arrived at the Dodoma Hotel, 11.00am, I felt the need for a cup of coffee so, after Maurice had unloaded his kit, we went into the so-called hotel lounge where Mrs Maurice just happened to be with six army chaps in tow! Safety in numbers, but the look of surprise on her face was worth being photographed! The menfolk disappeared into thin air.

Maurice had told me she was forever running into debt in spite of collecting practically all his monthly pay in the form of family allowance and he, rather foolishly, was accepting more pay over the table in excess of the amount he had elected to receive, due to the lack of an endorsement in his Pay Book. When the Army Pay Records discovered the anomaly his wife's allowance was cancelled until the over-payments had been paid off. Result - a broken marriage. After his leave he transferred to another unit and I didn't see him again until the mid 1950s. But a few months after their separation - or divorce, the young lady made the headlines rather tragically. Her demise being recorded as murder, a mystery which I do not think was ever solved.

After that digression, back to Dodoma. I left at 11.30am and after an uneventful 222 miles, or 5 hours of driving, I arrived at my destination to enjoy many cups of excellent tea and good food, etc, etc; But I couldn't get away from the army! Every day members of the Forces travelling from Nairobi and South Africa and in the opposite direction would call in at the hotel for refreshments and acommodation. This was all good for trade, but acting as barman, to give the 0M a rest, made a slight hole in my pocket. But it was enjoyable. I visited a few friends and aquaintances to catch up on the local news. Mother had been invited to attend a wedding in Iringa so I had to act as chauffeur. In uniform, and 'gatecrashed' the party, but that was no problem since I knew the bride and her two sisters well enough not to worry about being the uninvited guest and their father couldn't care less. Anyway, a good time was enjoyed by all and the party was still in full swing when 'Mama' and I left at 5.00 pm.

Extract ID: 5714

See also

Allen, John Richard Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika, 2008
Page Number: 94
Extract Date: 1942

More leave - back north to Nairobi

My ten days leave didn't seem to last very long before it was time to think about the return Journey with a couple of passengers with large suitcases, plus my kit. Mother had decided a holiday in Nairobi would be a pleasant change -- if she could find a friend to accompany her. That was soon organised. A lady, Mrs Iris MacGregor, who lived in Mbeya, a town about 200 miles away in a south westerly direction from Sao.

One relief, travelling mid week I wouldn't have to worry about carrying gallons of spare petrol since I could collect the necessary coupons during normal office hours in Iringa and Arusha. Refuelling points were a little distant apart - the longest hop being 185 miles. Except for Nairobi all the other places sold the petrol in sealed 4 gallon tin containers (debis) which were very prone to leakage and also had to be bought in multiples of 4 galls so heaven help you if you miscalculated the amount to top up the tank!

Departing one morning at 9.00am, our first stop was Iringa for the fuel coupons, and a short gossip with the lady who issued them, whom I knew. The two 'passengers' were very pleased to see Dodoma, and the hotel, sometime around 4,30pm after the hot afternoon's Journey. Neither of them were accustomed to tropical heat after living in the Southern Highlands for years. Cups of tea followed by a bath revived them but they still complained about the heat! The next day would be equally as warm to within 50 miles of Arusha. We left the hotel at a respectable hour after breakfast but soon after leaving the town disaster almost hit us. About a mile out there was an iron barrier across the road to stop vehicles to have their loads checked. Something to do with the 'black-market' and grain trade. However, approaching the barrier at 40mph, I applied pressure on the foot brake pedal and, to my surprise, it went all the way down to the floorboards. Without brakes and an iron barrier in the way a quick decision was called. There was only one choice to avoid a pile-up and that was to aim for a narrow gap approx 6ft wide between the barrier and guard hut. So with two deft movements the car was through the gap and back on to the road before the ladies realised what had happened! Fortunately, the barrier attendant was in the hut instead of standing by the barrier unaware of a vehicle in the vicinity until I shot past his front door. Back we went to Dodoma for urgent repairs.

The owner of the garage, a Greek, was very co-operative and soon had a couple of mechanics removing the brake master cylinder, etc, to renew all the hydraulic seals contained therein. After about an hour we were back on the road once again heading towards Arusha. There were no more hitches en-route and we rolled into Arusha soon after 4.30pm to a well earned cup or two of tea. At breakfast the following morning a member of the hotel kitchen staff ambled across to our table to greet mother like a long lost friend, which I suppose she was, he having been our first cook when we settled at Sao Hill way back in 1928, thirteen year's ago. Since he was now the hotel cook I asked him to knock up some decent sandwiches for our lunch at Namanga. We reached Nairobi at about 4.00pm, After dumping my passengers at the Queen's Hotel I carried on to my army abode, returning later with Charlie to dine in comfort with Ma and friend. They enjoyed their week's spree in civilisation but were not looking forward to the return journey by train and bus, the former taking 25 hours and the latter 3 days.

Extract ID: 5715