Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sights and Sounds of the Rukwa Rift Valley

VGiSights and Sounds of Rukwa
As we traveled from the main road after 9 hours of driving, we exited the land of paved roads, speed bumps and police stops, and we entered into a very different landscape.
The stretch of paved road from Tunduma to our turn off was great.  There were signs along the road that said that this part of the road was built with help (funds) from Americans!
Another police stop

The nice road from Tunduma
  The road quickly degenerated to a complicated path of dodging ruts, rocks and holes.  As we approached a cement bridge, my eyes grew big as much of the bridge had dissolved away in the rain storms.  The concrete reinforcement wire was openly displayed in massive holes in various places.  Yet, we carried on.
Holey bridge  (not HOLY)

Washed out and rocks and logs inserted

Big ruts

It was obvious that vehicles had passed this way, but only one set of tracks was ahead of us.  There were not very many side roads either.  We crept along at painfully slow speeds at times.  Some times the pain was due to the bumping, jarring or banging of one’s head against the side of the truck as we tried to maneuver through ruts and holes.
(Honestly I didn't get pictures of the worse parts because I was "holding on."
Soon we started down a very steep mountain pass.  The “switchback” turns were sharper than anything I have ever experienced.  Many times we would arrive at the turn and come to a complete stop in order to turn our wheels sharp enough to make the turn successfully.  As we drove at times, we could see the road directly beneath us many meters below.  The rainy season was coming to an end, and the roads had suffered much during the downpours.  There were many places where the road was washed away and a very scary ravine was working its way into the road.  If you get a wheel off in one of those ditches, it may be a very long time before you will be on your way again.  I praise the Lord that we only met a couple of motorcycles on this road, and it was after most of the worst part was past.  If we had met one of the big trucks that come to get rice out of this valley, I don’t know what we would have done, honestly. 
When we made it to the end of the mountain descent, the land changed very much.  It was hotter and very flat.  The road continued to be challenging as mud and ruts were the issue, now.  We continued on for two hours.

Rukwa Rift Valley village life
I asked our passenger whom we picked up by the main road if there were many white people in this area.  He said not at all.  That would explain why we seemed to be getting more than the usual stares and screams, “Wazungu” as children came running to the road and pointed with a multitude of expressions (from smiles to absolute surprise!)
(Some children have heard stories that white people will capture them and eat them!  So some children will absolutely flee in terror!)
The landscape changed many times, and we often found ourselves hedged in by 10 foot tall (or taller!) mtama crops (a very large type of millet) or drying corn.  We passed fields of sesame seed and rice, also.  I am sure there were more houses along the way, but the tall crops concealed them very much.
Another building in the valley
Flat lands
More mud and ruts
we just passed through this mud hole
sesame drying
Finally we stopped (in Kipeta) and were met by anxious and happy meeting organizers (and old friends.)
We were directed to the next village where the guest house is located.  This village is called Kilyamatundu.  Here (where I am currently typing this) there are many more shops and places to buy fuel out of used water bottles.  We haven’t seen a gas station for miles or days!  I think the closest one is four hours away.  Obviously some of the people here sell some of their crops because there are so many stores, someone must have money.  There are many pubs or bars also.  That indicates that people have a little more money here.  I was more than a little concerned when we pulled into the courtyard of the guest house (which is fenced with a gate) and the smell of urine started to burn my eyes.  It smelled so much of rat urine, it reminded me of our challenges the first time we visited Tanzania in 2011.    I was so grateful when we checked the rooms that the smell was outside and not inside the rooms.  It seems that thousands of bats have made the roof their home.  And bats do, what bats do.   Sometimes during the night, the vapors will come through the window into our room.  Honestly it is so strong it burns the eyes from time to time.
Ducks and ditch

The next morning, we drove to the village of Kilangawana.  The drive was very interesting.  There are long puddles, perhaps ditches, filled with water on both side of the road in many places.  There are actually many ducks enjoying theses water refuges.  I really enjoy seeing the baby ducks.  We don’t see many ducks in the country but there are places where they are more common, and this seems to be one of them. 
A couple village children

Someone is in the process of “fixing” some of the road, so there is bypass area that goes through some fields of crops until the drainage culverts are  put in place along the “main road.”  Going through that road was a challenge every time, even after the rains had stopped and much of the mud had dried.  The first time we pass that way a huge truck was stuck in the big mud hole area.  We drove through extremely tall crops of the mtama.  It was pretty, but a bit dangerous (don’t stick your head out the window or you will get whacked.  Actually you can get whacked with your head in the truck also!) 
Our daily route through the mtama fields
Mtama heads almost ready

The big mud hole on the detour

There are cow pulled carts along with pack donkeys here and there. 
Of course there are the village dogs, lots of goats, and lots of chickens all along the way.

Ox (or cow) cart
Donkey helping to carry water

There are chickens and often goats even in the courtyard of the hotel.  There are chickens in the houses.  Our first evening we arrived, we were sitting visiting with the locals in their house.  A hen came in and got down in the corner and her little ones were hiding under her wings (all in the main room of the house.)  Several days later, we saw another hen come out of a room and into the area we were eating our breakfast.  It appeared that her chicks which followed her were brand new.  A couple were still figuring out the "walking thing." 
Baby chicks learning to walk in the house.

Sesame Seed Plants

It is harvest time and many people are going out to the fields to bring in the long awaited harvest.  
Driving to this village each day we have several people getting a ride to the site.  On the way back, we are always full over capacity and more wanting to push in the truck.  I counted 15 in the back one time (and that was with many items in the back that we have to transport each day!
Full load coming from the meetings

We enjoyed the shade of the mango tree under which we taught each day, very much! 
After four days in this village we went the other direction to do meetings in Kipeta.  The village is much closer (or seems to be without all the mud!)  It only takes between 5-10 minutes to travel this direction.  The other trip was a 20 minute trip each way.  We again pass many houses and animals each day.  Children come screaming to the road to wave and greet us as we pass.  The sesame seed harvest is coming in and we see bundles banded together to dry before it is beaten out. 
We have just finished our last night here (I woke up early.)  Last night was the buggiest night we have had so far!  I am so thankful that God kept the bugs away until now!  There were two cockroaches in the sink.  A huge cockroach crawling across the wall just a few minutes ago.  I saw the biggest cockroach looking bug ever in my life yesterday evening.  It was probably 4 inches long and seriously plump.  There have been a large amount of smaller bugs and grasshoppers in our room, and often in our bed as well.  It seems the mosquitoes are louder these last days also.  Fortunately, none of us are terrified of bugs, but I can’t say we exactly enjoy living with them either.  While trying to steady myself over the squat toilet in the middle of the night a couple of nights ago by holding on to the edge of the door, something landed on my hand.  It sort of creeped-me-out a bit.  I don’t know if it was a big spider or what.  Icky.  Those kinds of things wake me up more than I want to be woken up.  Smacking things and picking things off during the night, is not my idea of ideal sleeping conditions. 
One evening we saw lots of lightening on the horizon just before going to bed.  Joshua and I tried to capture some of it with our cameras.  We got a couple of shots.  We were rather tickled about that.
One day there was a bushy tailed rat running around the building where we were doing the health expo.   He was really fast.

Bushy tailed rat
At the same location, there was a thorny tree full of weaver bird nests, also.  I so enjoy watching the birds.So this is a glimpse of the sights, sounds and experiences on this trip.  (But honestly it isn’t over yet!)

Weaver bird next under construction

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