Day 11: Iringa to ... well, IRINGA!

The day started on a rather pleasant note: woke up near the river, a hearty breakfast, good company from some Swahili-learning volunteers and the nice British pensioner who nostalgically pondered with us about his own crazy, good ol' scooter-days... There are many activities on offer at the camp -- from horse riding, to river walks or swimming in its current -- but the road is calling us. A 2 km manoeuvre on the off-road track back to the highway and we hit the asphalt again. The road is idyllic today -- at least the first 15 km.
Once we hit the bottom of the steep mountain climb ahead of us, heaven turns hell. The road, with its sharp and narrow bends overlooking a gorgeous mountain cliff is so well used by overloaded trucks that it takes all our concentration to manoeuvre around the potholes within it. But the views are stunning and reach far over dense and lush green hills. As we roll down the other side of the hill we drive straight into a storm -- but it's short and sweet and we dry off just as we touch the beautiful valley full of baobabs opening up in front of us. We are in between trucks now and feel the current of those coming towards us. The next hill, next bent and the bursting sound... the back wheel goes off in a slalom and comes to a stop. Luckily we manage to get off the current of traffic behind us and park safely on the side of the road. There it is: a hole the size of a penny coin in our back tyre. Mechanics told us we would manage to fix most of our holes with the tyre repair kit we took along. Put patch on the needle, press in the needle, apply rubber cement all over, twist and turn, and pull it out. The moment we inflate the tyre, all the foam comes out, and out AGAIN. And the hole is still there. Doesn't it look even bigger now??? We try it again, this time with a double-patch. But it seems the hole is just too big for the kit. There is nothing we can do; we've got to get help. Alberto stops an oncoming pick-up truck. The guy hesitates leaving me behind while Alberto accompanies him to the next backpacker's spot just a few miles down the road. "Ma'am, I've been constructing roads around here and it's not safe. You're in the middle of a national park and lions may come..." I urge them on. Better not to waste time. But I move the scooter closer to nearby baobab tree. Will I manage to climb up if a lioness pays a visit? The most nerve-racking 30 minutes of my life begin... But if there are so many baboons around here... wouldn't the lion go for them first??? Alberto comes back, but no luck there. We are forced to try stop one of the on-coming vehicles. Given that we are only 40 km outside Iringa, we figure it's best to go back and try to sort out the tyre in town. After several attempts, one truck agrees to take us on. For not-too-small a fee, of course. We tie the scooter to the back, climb into the front and off we are. But not so fast! Not sure what else the truck is carrying, but 15 km an hour across the mountain is all we manage. It takes us 8 hours to reach Iringa. And all that in the midst of the intoxicating smell of a trucker's nest. We're glad though we're back in town, at least for the night. But the trucker refuses to bring us into the town centre which is a few more kilometres up a steep hill which he says his vehicle won't manage. We refuse to leave the truck. That was not part of the deal, we say. We have agreed to pay for the trip ALL THE WAY into town. A half-hour bargaining session follows. Nobody cares it's past midnight by now. Other men eagerly join the heated debate. Finally the men agree to organise a mini-van taxi (or daladala as they are called around here) for us. Seats are taken out and we fiddle the scooter inside. Who would have thought! The two-wheeler seems so tiny and vulnerable inside! We make it to the M.R. Hotel in town. Not particularly cozy and the staff not overwhelmingly welcome... but it's clean... and it's a bed. Will our adventure continue from here?

The Riverside Camp

When the road was still perfect...

The stone advertising board

Are we there yet...?

And there goes the pretty road...

Oh my...

Driving into the storm... how we like it!

The Baobab Valley

And the tyre bursts...

Hmm... what now?

The 15 km/h transport back to Iringa...

Who said a scooter cannot fit within a mini-van taxi?

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