Cutting Corners - Bagamoyo
We had our baby back, and we were on the road again. Whoop-whoop. Our mission was to go north from Dar es Salaam to Bagamoyo and slowly dance up to Tanga to keep a promise. The Honey Badger was in good form but, Butch reported still veering slightly to the left when braking.
A break from everyday routine is excellent, but being “home” is bliss, and we were thrilled to be back in our truck. There’s nothing quite as comforting as sleeping in your own bed, is there? I couldn't wait to wrap myself up in my Indian cotten sheet. Our girl was going like the wind.
There’s always some stocking up to do, and what a surprise to see the Woolworths sign. But, this time, we were only going for a quick bite to eat; Butch reminded me once I’d tucked into my hamburger and chips, a treat I’d not succumbed to for many months. All thoughts of my Woolworths addiction flew out the window. Anyway, I do prefer shopping at the village markets now.
We flew through the colourful green countryside, hoping to get to our campsite before sunset. Three maps gave us directions, and our ETA would be late afternoon. I crocheted while we listened to our latest Audible book.
The town, with the loveliest name, Bagamoyo – which means "lay down your heart" or, if you were destined for slavery meant "lay down your life", was once an important trading port and the capital of German East Africa. It was the stopover for the slave and ivory caravans who travelled from Lake Tanganyika to Zanzibar.
The town has old historic buildings, which the German Colonial Administration used in the 18th to 19th century. Bagamoyo is a historic coastal town founded at the end of the 18th century, though it is an extension of a much older Swahili settlement, Kaole.
In our excitement, we missed the first turn-off to the Traveller's Lodge campsite on the outskirts of town, and while the GPS suggested we make a U-turn, one of the other map Apps told us to turn left in the village.
The quaint narrow streets and cobblestones lined by historical buildings and an exciting looking B&B the Firefly sparked our interest and fuelled our elation.
Butch slowed down and turned into a very narrow street, turning the steering wheel to the maximum while slowing down even more to miss the cornerstone of the hotel's veranda on the right. I looked up to make sure we didn’t nab the electrical cable looping from one street lamp to the next. All clear.
The truck screeched, protesting the tight corner. Keeping our eyes fixed on the side mirrors, we checked our side clearance when an almighty thump and crash reverberated through the undercarriage. Too late, I shouted, “Stop”, having experienced a similar gut-wrenching screech when our steps were ripped from the truck in the Richtersveld. The truck came to a sudden thumping and shuddering halt. We both took a few seconds to stop bouncing in our seats. Cutting that corner got us into a pickle.
The left rear wheel was wedged into a stormwater gulley, and the truck was sitting on its back axle. The corner electrical light pole looked as if it was preventing the truck from tipping over, a godsend which later proved a setback.
Within minutes we were surrounded by inquisitive neighbours who’d heard the commotion. Discussions started in Swahili as more people gathered to give advice, offer opinions and help.
Butch kept his wits about him while I slinked off to watch from a distance. I was hiding behind a pillar on a narrow balcony. From this vantage point, I could watch the shenanigans unfolding. Not everybody thought a truck in a ditch was amusing. Cars, bikes and bejajs ferrying passengers home from work hooted furiously and gesticulated impatiently to the growing crowd filling the street. This set another ball rolling as explanations were hurled back and forth.
In the meantime, Butch had a gang of men surrounding him, giving their opinion while arguing back and forth when they disagreed with their cohorts. Any reasonable person would’ve been bamboozled by the cacophony of rapid Swahili flying around as the sun set and the remaining street lights flickered on.
Butch, calm as a cucumber, listened, arms folded. This must’ve taken great discipline as he’s not a man who’s often taken advice. The truck had to be lifted out of the sloot. Men peered under the truck, alongside the truck and decided they’d hoist the wheel up and place stones beneath the wheels. Impossible, the fit was too tight, the jack would be too skimpy for the job, the rocks too small, and the truck ridiculously heavy.
Butch unpacked his tools from hatches, the jack was found and tried, but the axle was in a precarious position and too unstable. I feared for the young man’s life who volunteered to crawl under the truck to set up the jack. That idea failed. Thankfully.
Wives, children, husbands, brothers, sisters, and colleagues young and old filled the street as the night set in. If no truck was stuck in the mud, one might’ve thought a carnival was starting up. At last, the village chief of police arrived. He managed to quieten everybody down, and negotiations started about the price of the labour offered.
It was agreed that Butch would employ the help of four guys, who would be paid for their time, advice and elbow grease. No amount of pushing and shoving could get the truck to budge. A Land Cruiser tried to tow her out but to no avail.
Dissatisfied neighbours started bitching about the street light. The Officer assured the squabbling ladies that he’d see to it that we paid for the reparations thereof.
After much head-butting and head-scratching, someone suggested asking the road-building engineers whether the grader couldn’t be hired for the towing. It certainly had the power to do so. We all agreed it was an excellent suggestion.
Half an hour later, we heard the deep growl of a SEM (Chinese) grader slowly making its way down the narrow street.
The SEM operators got to work, ignoring the agitated hullabaloo in the street. They only had one mission: to pull the obstruction from the stormwater ditch. When the tow rope was attached to the tow hitch, they ordered Butch into his driver’s seat and instructed him to prepare for the jank.
The starter alert was the black cloud of billowing exhaust fumes spewed from the machine and the growling rumble of the powerful engine. They were ready for action. Slowly-slowly (pole pole) the wheels of the grader inched backwards and then accelerated as soon as they felt the truck’s traction.
The truck flew out of the ditch in the blink of an eye. Butch had to steer clear of the dozer while narrowly missing a wall, pedestrians and onlookers. The whole exercise was over within seconds.
The crowd of onlookers surged forward, some demanding payment for their efforts while others wanted to know when the street light would be repaired. Knowing his community, the policeman advised us to leave as soon as possible. I agreed.
There is always an opportunist in a crowd. When Butch removed his toolbox, our black cast iron Dutch oven was removed too and placed in the wood box like a dangling carrot. When you’re dirt poor and an irresistible opportunity presents itself, the coast is clear, and everyone’s attention is elsewhere; he must’ve thought an old black pot wouldn’t be missed.
Sadly for him, luckily for us, someone did spot his flighty fingers and confronted the thief. We were in the clear, but all hell broke loose for him. The crowd turned on him in a flash and the tongue-lashing he got brought him to his knees. With a measure of defiance he reluctantly handed the pot to his accusers, who ceremoniously returned it to me.
This was, I think, an example of a kangaroo court. Not pleasant. His shame and humiliation were palpable as he slinked off into the night while his townsfolk booed and shamed him.
At the Traveller's Lodge campsite, we were joined by the dapper police Officer for supper, where we got to know him better and could settle our debts and negotiate a price for the damage caused to the lamppost.
Fortunately, the Honey Badger didn’t suffer severe damage, and the wheel remained intact. We were exhausted but pleased we could go to bed knowing we’d settled scores and grateful the truck had got off lightly.
We agreed we’d lie in late; we needed to recover after our ordeal. I had been looking forward to exploring Bagamoyo. On our bikes, we got and set off, first to make a turn at the ATM, and then we could explore and go for a coffee and lastly make a turn at the harbour to purchase a fresh catch of the day.
Our foray into the village didn’t go well—the after-effects of our traumatic experience the previous day lingered. I lost Butch and went in search of him; he took another turn and went in search of me. A cat chasing its tail. Eventually, he found me. I am embarresed to admit we had a domestic on a corner of a busy street on a Saturday morning in Bagamoyo. I lost my appetite for a morning coffee, but we found fresh fish.
I seem to recall that there was a misunderstanding with the fishmonger, we were quoted a price by the one guy who wasn't the fisherman, renegotiations had to take place. Where did it all go so wrong? Lost in translation. As I understand the cleaner of the fish and the catcher of the fish both needed to be recompensed. Far too complicated especially when one hasn't put the previous day's devilry to bed.
We spent three nights in Bogamoyo. We never did go for a walk, nor did we explore the village. I did walk down to the beach each day to look at the boats, to watch children swim and to enjoy the solitude, the sun and saltiness on my skin. How could I be there, a true Cancerian, and not go down to the water's edge.
But, for the most part, I had some catching up to do, spending most of my days writing, cleaning, cooking, doing the laundry and catching up with all my domestic chores before we set off to fulfil a promise made to a dear friend and to celebrate my birthday.
The campsite, set in parklike surroundings was a forest of indigenous trees, palms, and subtropical shrubbery, filled up while we were there. We met an exciting German couple in their blue vintage truck and a French couple in a rather lovely luxury motorhome, both families with small children. What an experience for those kids. I wish I’d had the chutzpah to do likewise when my children were small.
Although beautiful with access to the beach and very conveniently close to the village the resort is not geared for campers. The owners allow campers, thankfully, but there are no proper facilities e.g. there are no designated ablutions nor a kitchen or scullery for campers. We could make use of a bathroom, which was quite a walk from our campsite. We were later told that the spot where we'd parked was not a campsite either. Hakuna matata.
Today we are hundreds of miles from Bagamoyo; The last week has been traumatic and one for the books. Unfortunately, time to tell my story is not on my side, but do not fear. Without cutting corners, all will be revealed. Last but not least. We have learnt, to our detriment, that we cannot prognosticate possible outcomes with any reasonable degree of certainty.