Fruit Bats in Dar, Ballet in Baga

9 Jan

‘Hatari’ is, I think, the Swahili word for ‘danger’. After skirting the heaving Dar – Bagamoyo highway for a couple of km, a cyclist and I lifted our bikes up onto a smooth and clear path with shared relief. As we cycled along side by side and going pretty fast, breathing in the heavy traffic fumes, he said ‘something-something-hatari’, pointing at the rumbling dual carriageway. I kept my eyes forward, ‘Hatari sana’ (very dangerous) I agreed. He smiled and nodded back, just before he crashed smack into a concrete pylon.

Most of Friday was spent cycling along this road (the cyclist was fine by the way). The trucks and lorries on the outskirts of the capital made for a good 20km of smoggy traffic jams. After about 50km I was relieved to have the road to myself through empty bushland before finishing the 70km to sleepy old Bagamoyo.

I had come to Bagamoyo to meet Matson, an artist and a friend of Zacharia’s, and to see the highly regarded art college. Matson and Zacharia were top students at this college, which actively seeks young talent in Tanzania, and were recently picked for a sponsored 3 month tour of East Africa with musical instruments, art materials, a jeep and some bicyles. In the Bagamoyo Art Market, Matson and I fashioned a small tie-dye drawstring bag designed primarily to cover the (sorry Mitch) corny custom inscription on the frame – The African Dream.

A German girl I had met briefly back in Stone Town, Zanzibar, in true couch surfer style offered a spare bed if I came to Bagamoyo. On arrival, Kat arranged for me to stay in a house with some of her colleagues, a small group of about 10, who are organising a resettlement of some 300 locals, whose land will soon become a massive sugar cane plantation.

Kat and London actor O.T and I spent the second evening in East Africa’s answer to Bristol at a reggae gig in the arts college. A modern and breezy theatre with a dance floor. Now, it’s a cliche, but I’ll say it. Africans can dance. On the right of the dancefloor, the rastas. Jiving and hands up in the air. On the left, the theatre or dance students. Flipping out in well rehearsed tandem with ballet jumps and spins-cum-mountain gorilla slaps and jerks-cum-blues brothers shuffles, these guys were awesome to watch. We hapless whites were happy enough doing just that.

I slept in late, endlessly pressing the ‘snooze’ button like Bagamoyo itself. Time to leave the dusty streets and shy wooden shacks behind and return to Dar es Salaam’s scrambling streets.

Like it’s new owner, the bike had a flat tyre. I temporarily solved these dualistic depressions with similar solutions. First I did as many press ups as possible and then pumped up the tyre to bursting. And with this the bike and I were good to bounce back on the bus to Dar es Salaam.

When the bus arrived in Dar I replaced the inner tube in a car park and paid 1000TSh (40p) to pile into a crowded bar and watch the FA Cup Manchester derby. A combination of having two working wheels, eating half a chicken and watching Man U beat City 3-2 and all was well in my rather simple world again.

I cycled the remaining 10km to the city centre in the dusk below masses of fruit bats and felt a rush to be back in the thick of ‘hatari sana’  Dar es Salaam.

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One Response to “Fruit Bats in Dar, Ballet in Baga”

  1. Lynn Bosch January 10, 2012 at 10:15 am #

    Hi Jack, Clare and I love reading about your exploits. We think you are incredibly brave! It’s amazing what you are doing.
    Thinking of you. xx

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