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.


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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


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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.


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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).



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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.


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