Tanzania – Police Station – Malawi

15 Jan

Someone nicked my camera from my room last night. Almost certainly during the exact time I was writing about how the day had gone ‘swimmingly’. I just had to go through my bags for the tenth time before I put this down in writing. Yep. Definitely nicked.
It must have been the staff at DM Motel. After offering a large (50,000TSh) reward and getting nowhere with the manager, I went to the police station and braced myself for a morning of beaurocracy, retarded questions and more beaurocracy.
Here’s a short snippet of the 90 minute interview/statement I had to make re: the theft of the camera with the D.I., as he wrote the statement in English.
(After 30 minutes of questions about subjects such as how I got here, what my tribe is, where Dad used to work etc.)
– Which touristic places did you visit when you were in Kenya?

– Many touristic places

– (writes this down) Many. Touristic. Places. Can you name 2?

– Yes. Mombasa and Diani (spell them out as he writes them down). Are these important questions?

– Yes. They are important for… clues. Now which touristic places did you visit in Tanzania?

– I really have to get going on my bicycle to Malawi.

– Ok so I think we have enough clues about your holiday. So, you’re saying your camera was stolen.

– Yes.

– But you still have the battery and charger?

– (Look down at the battery and charger between us on the desk) Yes.

– So, you’re saying the battery and charger were not stolen?

– (Double check the battery and charger are still there) Yes.

The D.I. and his colleague played ‘good cop bad cop’ with me at one point. They thought it was likely that I took a ‘girl’ i.e. prostitute back to my room, and she took the camera. These definitely weren’t the stupidest questions I’d been asked, and I felt lucky to have a good alibi in the 50-odd y/o local primary school teacher who escorted me around town at 10pm to help me look for phone credit. There was no credit to be found, so he then escorted me back to the car park of the motel. I got a couple of funny looks when I told them this, so I also showed them an unsent message on my mobile correlating to the one time I went out to look for more credit.
There were a few moments while sitting in various rooms in the police station when, unfortunately, I thought ‘that would make a great picture’. The Chief of Tuhuru Police’s office was interesting. The whole wall facing the desk was covered in a handpainted grid with important crimes listed down the left in ominous dripping paint. Just below ‘MURDER’ and ‘RAPE’ was ‘WITCH CRAFT’. Behind his desk was a big poster encouraging us to eat ‘Iodated Salt’ with annotated illustrations of what eating the salt can prevent. My favourite was Dwarfism/Cretin.
While I sat waiting for who-knows-what in this office, the officers went to the motel and dragged all of the staff and guests in for questioning. The Chief retook a few of my details on a little piece of scrap paper. I guess out of sheer boredom. His handwriting was like a 5 yr old’s, it was best to look the other way as I spelled everything out again.
So, after 3.5 hours at the station, and now sitting awkwardly among the accused, I thought it was high time I got my police report and get going to Malawi. Optimistic thinking. Of course the man with the key to the reports cupboard is 100kms away in Mbeya. Another hour passes and I’m given a letter to take to Kyela police station, 25km from the border. They can give me a report.
It was 2.30pm and I was still determined to get to Malawi, knowing that there’s a 45km ride after the border to the first town. I took the bus to Kyela police station, grabbed the report (500TSh), took a pee in the prisoner’s loo and got shirty with a young policeman who was desperate to ask smug questions but was too dumb to pull it off.


4pm. Ignoring a suspected case of the sniffles, I pushed fast past landscapes that have to be photographed to be believed, got my free Malawian visa, and changed Tanzanian Shillings for Malawian Kwatcha with the tricky boys on the border. The rate I got was good in the end (1MK per 10TSh).

It had been a long day already, now a 45km blast through flat new ground before shower, dinner, bed. As I reply to Malawians of all ages excitedly shouted ‘hello’ and ‘give me money’, I ride the tarmac cutting through massive flat rice paddy and farming land which stretches out on all sides almost as far as the eye can see, then solid cliffs and scarps form a pale blue wall right around.
Fuelled by bananas and sweet buns I reach Karonga by 8. It’s pitch black. Through asking a friendly expensive hotel receptionist I find a really dirt cheap hostel with a ‘bad man’ (as the kid who’s Dad owns the place described him) insisting on helping me move in as much as possible. I was warned not to answer the door if anyone knocks, I flicked some bed bugs off the bed, washed a bit from a tin of water in a grimy dark concrete room and then at 9pm retreated to a much nicer, more expensive Guesthouse in a better-lit area.
The local restaurant only had ugali for dinner. About 3kgs of tasteless jelly-like maize. Might have to moonwalk the f*** out of here tomorrow morning. There’s better places down south.


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