When we left Dar Es Salaam for the second time, we picked up more people to join our tour. We also had two long days of driving ahead of us to reach Malawi. We started early in the morning and prepared ourselves for the long trek to Iringa (our overnight stop before Malawi).
It’s amazing the things you can and cannot accomplish during a 14 hour drive. There are always creative ways of passing the time: short cat naps, reading, eating, staring blankly out the window, rounds of card games like UNO and Asshole. Sandy even taught us all how to crochet beanies and I made almost a full pink one before I ran out of yarn. Which was okay, because it gave a place for my ponytail to stick through. Surprisingly, my little toque turned out alright, and it was a wonderfully relaxing way to pass a couple hours.
Mostly, the long bus rides are filled with finding unique and comfortable ways to sleep. Upright, head on the table, on the floor, unconscious on the person next to you, or some very unusual positions that Emily devised.
Our drive to Iringa was painful. A couple hours stopped in morning rush hour getting out of Dar, a broken truck and 500km on a mediocre highway. In the end though, we pulled up to our lovely little campsite and set up our tents.
The campsite had two very adorable bars at it. One was a candlelit mud building that had mini fireplaces scattered between low cushioned couches. The other was a large circular bamboo hut with large hay stacks for lounging on. After dinner, we sat around a fire pit outside the hay bar drinking beers and telling stories. Bedtime was pretty early at midnight, and wake up call seemed to come too fast.
At 4:30am most of us were woken by the rattling of our truck. HOW is it morning already?! Duncan, our cook, was probably getting organized for our breakfast, but my alarm wasn’t set until quarter past 5 so I wasn’t about to budge. I rolled over and snuggled back into my sleeping bag until my terrible iPhone alarm went off 45 minutes later.
By the time I dragged my sorry ass to breakfast, I could tell something was wrong. Worried, quiet faces surrounded the truck and our guide was yelling at a security guard. The truck had been broken into.
Three girls had their expensive cameras stolen, our guide’s wallet had been ransacked, and the big safe, which held all our local payments, and a total of over $16000US dollars had two of it’s three locks broken. Thank god. The men must have left in a hurry; their crowbar and tools had been left behind haphazardly on the table, not everyone’s things had been stolen, and the campsite’s cat had been killed…
We waited for hours for the police to come. And with the police, the entire town of Iringa came by to see what had happened. The older couple that owned the campsite was there too. They looked devastated. Three weeks earlier there had been another robbery and a man was shot. To fix the problem, they hired more armed security guards. There were about 7 armed guards the night we were there and our truck was the only thing to look after. This was the campsite’s last chance. When the word got out that our truck had been robbed, the rest of the tour groups going through Iringa passed it. The camp would be shut down after us, and all the time and money the couple had put into the campsite would be useless. It was kind of sad.
We were now two hours behind schedule on our 450km drive for the day. When we finally started moving, it was only to head down the highway to the police station to fill out more reports.
It was amazing that the process took so long. Robberies in African campsites seems to be fairly common. A couple people on our tour, who had started earlier in Uganda, had their tents ransacked by some armed men. Everyone was asleep inside their tents, when the men came around, unzipping the front door, reaching in, and stealing all their valuables. One girl woke up to the sound of someone moving around, and saw a man standing over her. She screamed until the rest of the campsite woke up and the men ran off.
Another hour at the police station and we finally hit the long road to the Malawi border. It was a late arrival that night, but we set up our tents and prepared for a two nights stay in one location (a luxury for sure).