Western Tanzania and the Serengeti

I left Kigali and struggled over hills and through throngs of people to the Tanzanian border. There are a lot of people in Rwanda. I was dogged every mile, with other cyclists riding around me, kids running alongside, people shouting, bonjour! 500 times a day, which was just slightly less annoying than “how are you?” 500 times a day. I even had to put in my ipod in an attempt to escape the people and drown out the salutations. Am I antisocial or what?

Then at Tanzanian immigration I got ripped off, I think. My guide book says Americans are required to buy a visa. A single entry visa costs $50. But when I got there the immigration official told me Americans need a multiple entry visa, which costs $100. I had never heard of such a thing and was sceptical. I protested, saying that can’t be true. I don’t want a multi entry visa, only a single entry for $50. He did not hesitate. He threw my passport back across the desk and said in an irritable tone, ” well go back to Rwanda then,” With no choice, I had to fork over the $100. I was seething.

At first Tanzania was great. Nice paved roads, little traffic, great weather, no people. Then it all changed. Dirt roads, rain, people, and steep hills. I was moving so slowly I got frustrated and had to resort to a cramped, noisy, uncomfortable bus ride for a few hours. But that’s better than an exhausting, sweaty uncomfortable four day bike ride up muddy hills.

Here are some pix from Western Tanzania.


A poor man’s checkers.


The usual crowds of people staring at me when I stopped for lunch. Imagine trying to eat lunch and this group is just standing there, staring at you. Would you too get annoyed or is just me? I am getting more comfortable telling people, “go away! Leave me alone!


I stopped for a rest by this school. Soon, dozens of kids ran over to take a look.


A couple kids I saw in one small town. I liked the colorful dress on the girl and the boy just seemed forlorn.

Typical sight on the Tanzania back roads.


At one point I had to take a ferry across a part of Lake Victoria. Near the city of Mwanza I saw these interesting rocks. I liked the shapes and shadows.


I stopped for lunch in a small village and this woman sat nearby scarfing a bowl of chicken feet. I lost my appetite.


Kids playing in a tree.


Serengeti National Park

I was not allowed to ride my bike inside Serengeti National Park. This is too bad, it would have been great. But they claim it is dangerous. Hmmm. I really can’t see a lion attacking me. Elephants yes, but I can avoid them. Same with cape buffalo. So where’s the danger? Anyway I have pepper spray. That should stop a lion shouldn’t it?

As it was I had to hitch a ride with some people who were passing through the park. It only cost $40, which was a  lot less that the $400 a tour company was asking. That’s the problem with these parks. They are just so darn expensive. When you add up the vehicle cost, park fees, and accommodation, you could easily shell out $200-$300 per day. Too much for my meager budget.

Having said that, Serengeti was phenomenal. I have never seen so much wildlife in one place. In the space if a few hours we saw the following: wildebeest, cape buffalo, lions, elephants, zebra, antelope, gazelle, crocodiles, hippos, ostriches, giraffes, warthogs, baboons, monkeys and assorted other big birds. It was incredible and worth a trip back when I have more money and no bike.

Here a re few pix I took.

An eland? Not sure.


Giraffe, zebra and ?

There were thousands of wildebeest loafing around.


A lioness. Her old man was laying behind some rocks. I decided not to climb up closer for  a photo.


Big bad hippo. One of dozens lounging in this river.


Crocodiles waiting for an easy meal.


There were thousands of Thompsons gazelle.


I also got bit by a tse tse fly (no photo).

One year and counting

I passed another milestone a few weeks back. On April 21 it was 365 days since I pedaled away from my sister’s house in the Tokyo suburb of Setagaya-ku and headed west along the Tamagawa River. My goals that day were pretty modest: To get to a town 50 km away, not get lost, and learn the Japanese characters for “hotel.” I managed to achieve that.

That’s the way you have to approach long distance cycling. I was not thinking, ” oh in a year I want to be in Rwanda.” It seems so far as to almost be discouraging. But if you just focus on the next small distance, it seems doable. Add them up, and after a year you have gone a long way.

What’s next? I am headed southeast to the coastal island of Zanzibar. But first I have to negotiate an ominous sounding place called the “Maasai Steppe.” Here is my route.


3 thoughts on “Western Tanzania and the Serengeti

  1. DAD May 6, 2009 / 11:07 pm

    Dont count on pepper spray against the lion. It may only irritate the animal and make it angry. Then what???

  2. Capt. Don Kilpela Sr. May 7, 2009 / 2:46 pm

    There could be a lot of behaviors worse than watching you eat your lunch. Does “taking you lunch” come to mind?

    Great post, Kevin, and congratulations on the year’s ride from Japan. Soon you will be coming up to the two-year anniversary of your start in Uraguay.

    Phindi, a young African-American girl who lived with Miranda all the way through high school and remained friends ever since, dropped in to see us. With her was her mother from South Africa, who was here on vacation and also her sister from California. They were very interested in your blog and copied the URL so they could read more about your trip and impressions of Africa. In some way they are going to try to contact you when you get to Johannesburg so that you can have a contact there. Hope it works out. Kevin, you are our international ambassador.

    Incidentally, last weeks “New Yorker Magazine” featured a major essay about Rwanda. I haven’t yet read it but will soon. I will save it for you.

  3. JoJo May 24, 2009 / 12:54 pm

    Kev babe,
    It’s Sunday the 24th and just getting back on the blog. Beautiful day in the U.P., sunny and not snowing…
    How thrilling it must be to see a lion in her natural habitat, without steel bars around her. Man. It’s a sight I hope to see one day. Love the pics of the children. I know you’re sick of it, but it seems i would just love to run up and hug them all. I love their garb…one kid in ripped clothing standing next to a girl in a very fancy dress…and then mixed in – a middle aged man. interesting. take care.

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