Tanzania - February 2018
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Sunday 18 February 2018
always, the Bridge2Aid (B2A) team met up this afternoon outside Caffè
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
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
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 (www.citylinkhotel.co.tz), 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
am sure that they will be feeling the culture shock and also the temperature
shock as it is 270 C in Arusha today.
- 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.
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
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
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!
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
Wednesday 21 February 2018
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 1½
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
http://nature-reserves.go.tz/fnr/hanang ) 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
better - a picture of a black stork which Liz saw in a field near the
(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.
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.
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..
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
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
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
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.
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
managed to find this great picture of Katesh on market day. The typical
blend of colour and chaos that is rural Tanzania.
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 ½ hour service at 07:00 or 11:00.
they went to the local market where some of the team bought kangas and
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitenge ). They then went to the fruit
market (see below) and bought some avocados which the hotel made into a
salad for their lunch.
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
been contacted by a friend who has been reading the blog on La Gomera in the
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.
second clinic is nearer, they will be able to have a lie-in tomorrow with
breakfast at 07:30.