Journey into Africa: Tanzania

Rugby in Africa Trucks

Arriving in Africa is a cocktail of perplexing bureaucratic rituals, queues and vaguely defined payments required to procure visas. It’s at this point it’s advisable to permanently drop into a gear usually reserved for lazy Sunday afternoons.

Eddie my taxi driver was, as Rich had put it, “a man of few words” and aside from managing to picking up a few Swahili phrases, my chaffeured drive was a quiet but sunny one.

It was Friday, and International School Tanginyka was playing host to a day-long rugby tournament, put on by Bhubesi Pride, the expeditionary charity that was established by my university friend Rich three years ago, and to which I am attached as a trustee.

A core function of the charity is to conduct an annual trek working it’s way down 7,000Km from Ethiopia to South Africa, a journey which lasts six months. It is formed of a team of seven coaching staff who deliver a programme of education through sport, introducing mixed touch rugby to around thirty primary and secondary schools in ten countries. Combined with the provision of kit, enabling schools to foster their own coaching talent, and introducing life skills such as discipline and leadership the project has grown in size and credibility year on year, and it was great to finally get the chance to finally get involved in the most practical output of the organisation.

Even in the late Tanzanian evening the sun was still a dry, burning force through the windows of the taxi and again later as I paused pitch side to watch the final minutes of the last of the days matches in Dar es Salaam.

Having successfully sought out Rich, I met the trek team, as well as a number of guests from South African Rugby legends who had been flown up by South Africa Rugby for the event – including ex-players Dale Santon, and national selector Ian “Mac” McIntosh.

While the team finished up at the school, I spent some time with Swai, one of the G4S support staff who provide vehicular assistance during the expedition, and help to sustain the programme once the team have departed. It was my first time in an African city, and great to be able to get a first hand insight into Tanzanian life.

We spent the evening in the bar, but my memories of Dar es Salaam are some of the most bizarrely polar of the whole trip. My first night’s accommodation was in the vacant flat of a local British shipping agent, but before I could move in, we had to claim the keys from him at a big black tie event he was attending in the Kilimanjaro Hyatt hotel.

Rocking up in flip flops and a tee to a formal event might have raised a few eyebrows normally, but this English, ex-pat laden St George’s Day ball was already more bizarre than my attire; as we discovered when the night’s cabaret started. A man dressed in a gold leotard and a black handlebar moustache danced around the stage to in an freaky Freddy Mercury/Madonna tribute performance. It was surreal, but the crowd lapped it up.

When I finally got to the flat, it was a great plush place with a sweeping view over the Indian Ocean and a well stocked fridge, and provided a great first nights sleep and launch pad for the first big drive of the trip the next morning; travelling from Dar es Salaam down to Morogoro, and into Makumi National Park.