Tanzania - February 2018






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Sunday 18 February 2018


As always, the Bridge2Aid (B2A) team met up this afternoon outside Caff Nero in Terminal 4 at Heathrow. There were a number of first-timers, as well as seasoned 'returners'. Liz is shown here with Kiaran and Judy; between them the 'Three Amigas' have over FIFTY trips to Tanzania under their belt.

The team, as usual, comprises both dentists and nurses and all were eagerly looking forward to the challenges ahead.

Compared with last year, when they had 4 separate flights to reach their final destination, the journey this year is remarkably easy. They pushed back at 17:21 on Kenyan Airways Flight 101 to Nairobi. The flight is about 8 1/2 hours and from there it is a short hop to Kilimanjaro Airport where they will be met by minibuses organised by the charity.

I have already had feedback from a former B2A volunteer, who is reading this blog in 'darkest' Lincolnshire but, within minutes, that was beaten by a reader in South Africa. Do let me know where you a reading the blog.



Monday 19 February 2018


They landed in Nairobi 4 minutes early at 04:52 local time (01;52 GMT). Liz was on the very back row with a spare seat next to her, which was lucky. They now have a 2 1/2 hours wait for the next flight, KQ 434 at 07:35.

They have now landed at Kilimanjaro Airport, so named (what a surprise!) because it is very near to Africa's highest mountain. Liz took this photo of it as they flew over a few years ago. This is where I met Liz two years ago (no, not for the first time!) with the words "Mrs, Stringer, I presume". After a quick stopover, the plane carries on to Zanzibar but they will disembark (I refuse to use that horrid word 'deplane') and drive the 47 miles to the City Link Hotel in Arusha (, where they will spend the first night. Arusha is the main hub for people who are going on safari and is quite unlike any other small Tanzanian town. Indeed, the website proudly announces that there is 'hot and cold water is available throughout'.

I am sure that they will be feeling the culture shock and also the temperature shock as it is 270 C in Arusha today.

OH DEAR - Liz has just 'phoned me from the hotel in Arusha to say that NONE of the baggage from the inbound from London was transferred onto the second plane at Nairobi. This means that, when they arrived at Kilimanjaro, no baggage came out. This has affected not just them but families who were on the same flight. They have had to fill in copious forms and at this point have no idea when their luggage will arrive. There are two more planes to Kilimanjaro today, one that lands at 17:50 and another at 23:50. The luggage then has to make its way to their hotel in Arusha. Needless to say, they are very tired and the hotel is not as good as the website shows (quelle surprise!). All of their equipment, scrubs, etc. are in the luggage and they can only wait and see what happens. The local B2A staff are trying to find out what has happened and to get the luggage to them as soon as possible. At least Liz has her malaria tablets in her hand luggage, which is a relief.

I see that the B2A website has published a photo (see below) of the team at Kilimanjaro Airport; needless to say, there is not much sign of any luggage, apart from one of the team who flew independently and arrived courtesy of Precision Air.

I got an email from Liz at 16:00 (19:00 out there). They still have no news about their bags. For those who are on their first B2A trip this is a real 'baptism by fire' to the vagaries of travelling to and in the Dark Continent. I bet that David Livingstone's baggage never went astray! I always think that there is a strong argument, from both a security and peace of mind perspective, for each passenger to have to check that their baggage goes up the ramp onto the plane.




Tuesday 20 February 2018


When I spoke with Liz on the 'phone yesterday evening, she sounded very down as there was still no sign of the baggage. They had not had any power in the hotel until the evening and there was just a dribble of cold water out of the shower.

I have just come down to my PC at 04:30 (07:30 out there) to see if there is any update and, as I have been sat here, there was an incoming email from Liz to say that THE LUGGAGE ARRIVED at 23:00 last night, long after she had gone to bed. Fortunately, some of them were still down in the bar and they had to wake up everyone else to go down and sign release forms. The luggage arrived with an official from the airport but no explanation was given. To be fair, though, it was not the fault of anyone at the airport in Tanzania; the blame lies with someone back in Nairobi and I am sure that they will never find out exactly what happened. The pilot of the plane must have thought that it was lighter than usual!

This morning they have their 'orientation' session in the hotel in Arusha; this is where they set out the 'rules' for the trip and tell the newcomers what they can expect, etc. They then split into two teams and drive to the towns where they will be based for the next 10 days or so. More later with maps, etc.



On the map above you can see the location of Kilimanjaro Airport and Arusha, where they spent last night. At about 13:00 Liz's team set off at about in a minibus down to Katesh, where they will be based. En route they pass through Babati, where her team was based in 2014. The journey is about 150 miles (240 km) and, due to the state of the roads, will take about 4 hours. When I met Liz in 2016, at the end of her trip, we went to Lake Manyara National Park (shown), which is highly recommended. The other team is based in a 'hostel' in a town called Terrat which I cannot even locate and which does not seem to be the same as the 'Terat' shown on the map.


In Katesh they are staying in the Summit Hotel (see pictures below), about which I have been able to discover very little, other than it is a useful base for birdwatchers and people wanting to climb the nearby 3,240m high Mount Hanang, Tanzania's second highest mountain. B2A, in their briefing, describe it as ' a basic hotel but clean and secure'. I am not anticipating that it will have WIFI and so any update will be by 'phone call or text. Lonely Planet describes it as the 'best lodging in Katesh' but I am not sure that there is much competition!



The geographically-minded amongst you may have looked at a map and asked yourselves "Why did they not simply fly to the new capital of Tanzania, Dodoma, which is only 4 hours away from Katesh by road?" Indeed, that may well have been a far more simple journey, but for one small flaw; there are no international flights to Dodoma. Getting there would have involved flying to Dar es Salaam (the former capital and now the commercial capital) and then flying to Dodoma on a small regional airline called Auric Air. By the way, there are no direct flights from London to Dar either !

Liz 'phoned me at about 18:30 local time to say that they had just arrived. The hotel is off the main road and is quite quaint and should be very quiet at night, which is not always the case where they are based. They could see Lake Manyara on their way and stopped off at Babati to re-fuel. They also passed through the village where the clinic is located that they will be using in their second week.

There is no sign of any WIFI at the hotel and so Liz's updates may well be by text or quick 'phone call.


Wednesday 21 February 2018


Image result for mount hanang

I neglected to mention yesterday that, to Liz's great surprise, the Summit Hotel has sit-down loos and not the hole-in-the-ground type that they have had in some hotels in previous years..

For the next three days their daily 'commute' will be about 1 hours (55 km) along a murram (compacted earth) road to the clinic in the village of Basutu. Whilst I have not been able to find the exact location of the village there is a village called Basotu which looks to be the right sort of distance away. This will involve skirting around the southern flanks of Mount Hanang, which, from the picture, would seem to be an extinct volcano. Liz said that the landscape around is very green and fertile, often the case in volcanic areas.

Looking around the internet (see ) it would seem that Mount Hanang is a national park that is home to a variety of wildlife, including leopards. I can't see them climbing the mountain on their day off at the weekend!


Liz 'phoned this evening as she could not get texts to send. Before they set off to the clinic they went to the hospital in Katesh, where they were welcomed by the Regional Medical Officer who said that everyone was extremely grateful for their visit.

It took about an hour to get to the clinic and they passed a lake en route which has hippos. They saw herds of goats, cattle and donkeys and even a few pigs. The predominant crops are sunflowers and maize. Liz, ever the birdwatcher, saw some lovebirds, which are really cute.


The clinic actually has a working strip light (must be a generator) but, as usual, no running water. The area has NEVER had any dentist turn up or anyone with dental skills and so they have been extremely busy. They saw 83 patients and gave numbers to another 80 who will be at the front of the queue tomorrow. They had to send 45 people away and tell them to try their luck tomorrow. Whilst this must be heart-breaking one must never forget that the whole aim of the trip is to train the local GPs to be able to offer basic dentistry themselves. One patient had had toothache for ten years and had resorted to taking his own teeth out !

Liz has been training a Clinical Officer called Simon, who seemed to catch on quickly.

The hotel is really cosy and the food is good, which is good news.



Thursday 22 February 2018


IImage result for katesh tanzania managed to find a picture of some lovebirds which Liz took on her trip 5 years ago. I have also found a photo of the main road through Katesh, where their hotel is located, a typical African main street.

I see that B2A have posted some updates on their own site. You can access vide clips by clicking on the links below:

Kiaran is the leader of the Katesh team.

Whilst the clinic video is of the other team, you can get an idea of how they are reliant on hand-held torches to be able to see anything clearly.


Liz spent today training Canute (they do adopt some amazing British names!). He has 4 children and has a little farm with 30 cattle (echoes of Omed Ramotswe in No 1 Ladies Detective Agency). His wife runs the village pharmacy. The Clinical Officers come from villages in the area where they each have a clinic. Apparently they are being put up at the hospital in Katesh and are sleeping on beds in the surgery bays.

They saw 114 patients today and had to send 66 away to come back tomorrow - which they all definitely will; many will have walked for hours just to get to the clinic. One of the patients today was the local district official who just took a number like everyone else. As when they were based at Babati, a few years ago, they are seeing a lot of patients with fluorosis as the water supply has high levels of fluorine. Fluorosis results in mottled teeth The people mostly come from two tribes, the Maasai and the Ng'ati (?)i, the latter having facial scars caused by knife cuts as part of a rite of passage. They also have had their lower front incisors removed (don't ask how ?) in order to prevent issues if they get lockjaw (tetanus).

The lake Liz described appears to be an extensive area of seasonal flooding and is clearly visible on the satellite option on Google maps. Liz saw a pied crow, a black-headed heron, a white stork and (probably) some red-headed weaver birds.



Friday 23 February 2018


PictureImage result for black storkApologies to the squeamish; I have a picture of what fluorosis looks like. This patient is actually from the Arusha area of Tanzania but I am sure that the problem will be similar.

Ah, that's better -  a picture of a black stork which Liz saw in a field near the lake yesterday.

Some photos (below) of patients at the clinics. Note the height of the Maasai guy; I thought that the visor was supposed to be worn by the dentist !

They treated 137 patients today, which is a huger number. They had to send another 102 patients away to come back tomorrow, which is their last day at Basotu. The good news, though, is that one of the Clinical Officers they are training is based at that clinic and so, for the first time, there will be someone who will be able to do something to ease the suffering. One patients today had been in pain for FIFTEEN years and had resorted to putting battery acid on her tooth in the hope of burning out the root. She had walked for SEVEN hours to get to the clinic.

They saw lots of schoolgirls today and were told an interesting fact. Between the age of 15 and 18 all schoolgirls have to have to go to the clinic every 6 months to have a pregnancy test. If they are found to be pregnant they can no longer attend the school but are given an HIV test.

Another fact that Liz learned is that, at age 5, each Maasai boy is given a few goats to look after. If they do well, they go on to become a herder; otherwise they are assigned other tasks.


                                        View image on Twitter                       View image on Twitter


One of the dentists, a friend of Kiaran's from California, is a bit of a juggler and entertained the children at lunchtime. The team have been befriended by two local dogs, whom they have named Stanley and Susan. Liz saw a red bishop today, a bright red finch (right) and there is s superb starling nesting in a tree outside the clinic (see photo, left, which I took two years ago).

They have made some investigations about what to do on their day off (Sunday) and decided NOT to do the 10-hour trek up Mount Hanang. Instead they hope to go to Lake Balangida, which, apparently, has flocks of flamingos..


Saturday 24 February 2018


Image result for basotu tanzaniaLiz told me that the lake that the lake that they pass is called Lake Basotu and I have managed to find a picture of it which shows that it is a very shallow, seasonal lake.

I have also found a photo of the Basotu Health Clinic which B2A provided in their briefing pack.

One of the blog readers has been in touch from a village in darkest Nottinghamshire; I must admit that I was not even aware that the horseless carriage had arrived there, let alone the internet !

I also found (below) a photo of a murram road near Basotu with a baobab tree and Mount Hanang in the background. This is the sort of road that they have been driving along to/from the clinic. Bridge2Aid have posted a new photo-montage of the Katesh team:

and a photo of a mother and child, with the child clearly suffering from a very swollen face (see below)

They saw 132 patients today, including one ten year-old boy who had fallen and broken a front tooth. Liz said that, if this had happened in the UK, she would have been able to save it easily but that she felt awful as there really was no option but to extract it. When Liz 'phone she had left a few of the others in the bar, drinking a local spirit called Konyagi, the effects of which, according to various sources that I have looked up, can be quite interesting. Just as well that they have a rest day tomorrow after seeing no fewer than 466 patients at this clinic

They are hoping to walk to the local market, although one of the Tanzanian B2A staff has brought some home-made quilts with him to sell. We have one in our spare bedroom and they are very colourful. On the subject of material, a patient came in today wearing a shirt made from almost the same material as the animal scrubs that Liz wears, which she had made up from material that she bought a couple of years ago.

Today's birds included a field of yellow-billed storks. They have also seen a number of carts, drawn by 4 donkeys, carrying water butts. A lot of the local herdsmen also bring their hers down to lake Basuto to drink. One other thing that she reported seeing is something like a barrel, stuck in a tree, which is, apparently, something that the locals do to encourage bees to nest (see below).



       Image result for tanzania hives trees


Sunday 25 February 2018


I managed to find this great picture of Katesh on market day. The typical blend of colour and chaos that is rural Tanzania.

I have read that most people who climb Mt Hanang (which is, as I had surmised, an extinct volcano) spend the first night in a tented camp and then reach the summit on the second day. If only they didn't have a clinic to attend or they might have met the semi-nomadic Barabaig people (see photo) who graze their herds around the mountain.

Liz 'phoned to say that they had decided not to go to church as they did not have the stamina for a 3 hour service at 07:00 or 11:00.

Instead they went to the local market where some of the team bought kangas and kitenges (see and ). They then went to the fruit market (see below) and bought some avocados which the hotel made into a salad for their lunch.

Later they walked about 2 km up the road towards the Mt Hanang national park and saw a red-chested cuckoo and a purple grenadier (see below), neither of which I have ever seen. The latter is particularly pretty. As they are knackered from the clinic and at 5000 ft altitude, they decided not to go any further.

I have been contacted by a friend who has been reading the blog on La Gomera in the Canary Islands.

Dinner will be the Tanzanian delicacy of chipsi mayai (chip omelette), after which they plan to settle in for the evening with yet more games of Five Crowns, a card game that is new to Liz.

As the second clinic is nearer, they will be able to have a lie-in tomorrow with breakfast at 07:30.


Image result for red-chested cuckoo Image result for purple grenadier


Monday 26 February 2018


Their second clinic is much easier to get to. It is in the village of Endasak, which is just 20 km north-east of Katesh, back along the tarmac road they came along from Arusha. The clinic itself looks quite new (see left) and it will be interesting to see if it has electricity and running water.

People have been asking me about the weather (well, nobody actually, but I thought you might be interested). Due to the altitude it is a bit cooler at 250 C and not as humid as it has been in other clinics. I have warned Liz that, according to the forecasts, the temperature will struggle to get above 10 C on Friday when she lands back at Heathrow. There may also be snow on the ground!

Bridge2Aid have published a photo (below) of people queuing outside one of the clinics. I think that this may have been taken where the other team is based but it gives you an idea of the scene that faces them each morning.

As the snow swirls around our garden, I see that it is a sunny 270 in Endasak today!


Not much of an update, today, I'm afraid as communications were poor and the telephone call was hopelessly intermittent. All that I managed to determine was that they saw 80 patients at the second clinic which is a really nice building with a water tap outside.


Tuesday 27 February 2018


Image result for arushaFirst of all, my apologies to everyone for the slight deception yesterday. I have now been authorised to say that communications were NOT poor. The reality is that, at some stage yesterday morning, the Katesh team got a call that one of the leaders of the other team, based in Simanjiro, had been taken ill and was returning to Arusha for tests. They decided that Liz, who knows the other lady well, would make her way to Arusha post-haste. The reason, therefore, that there has been no update on the Katesh team is that Liz is no longer there. She quickly downed tools, went back to Katesh to collect her baggage, and then took a 4 hour taxi ride to Arusha. She has spent today at the hospital with her friend who has had various tests and scans. Whilst all looks OK, they have to go back to the hospital tomorrow for more blood-tests before the doctor will clear her for flying home. They had thought about coming home earlier but will now probably await the arrival of the two teams back at the City Hotel in Arusha on Thursday evening, when they will have a Thank You meal together. They then have to set off on the journey home at about 04:30 on Friday.

Both of them are exhausted and I would ask you to spare a thought for them. Left is a photo of jacaranda trees in Arusha to cheer everyone up!



Wednesday 28 February 2018


Image result for arushaWell, according to the BBC website, the weather today in Arusha is light rain and breezy, with a temperature of 190 C. Whilst that probably seems cool to them, it's positively balmy compared with  -30C in Knebworth.

Another picture of Arusha for today. By the way that's Mt Meru, and not Kilimanjaro, in the background of yesterday's photo. Will provide an update when I hear from Liz.


Had a long half-hour WhatsApp call with Liz today. She was able to see the snow in the back garden and to say hello to our dog, who was most intrigued by it all. They saw the doctor again today and all is now set for them to return with the rest of the team on Friday, UK weather permitting.

They are going to take it easy tomorrow and await the arrival of the two teams from their remote bases.


Thursday 1 March 2018


Image result for black and white colobus tanzaniaLiz 'phoned this afternoon to say that the two of them had been out for a drive to the Arusha National Park, where they had seen some black and white colobus monkeys (left).

The two teams were just about to arrive. The team that Liz had had to leave was about 15 minutes away; I imagine that it will be strange for Liz to see them again, knowing that she missed most of the second week and the giving of the certificates to the successful Clinical Officers.

The normal routine is that they have a big meal together. This time they will have to get to bed early as they will have to be up at about 03:30 tomorrow morning for the journey home.


Friday 2 March 2018


Kenya Airways B787-8Liz sent me texts from Kilimanjaro airport and Nairobi airport when she was actually on each plane.

Flight KQ 100 took off from Nairobi on time at 09:41 local time (06:41 in the UK) and is due to land at Heathrow at 15:20 this afternoon. Hopefully their luggage is on the plane as well !

Plane touched down a few minutes early but, as is usual at Heathrow, it took forever for their baggage to come through .... but at least it did !

Just as well that I did not take the car as it was snowing as we left by tube. Arrived at King's Cross just in time for the train to Knebworth..... which was cancelled!

Now home to heavy snow.


Thanks to everyone for following my adventures and for your kind thoughts and comments.

All of the Clinical Officers in Hanang passed their examination at the end and the team saw 863 patients in total. Here is a photo of them all on the last day.