Tag Archives: solo travel

Tanzanian Dust on a Trini’s Travelling Shoes

By Chike Pilgrim

Dust covers my shoes as I walk the city center. The city of Arusha, in northern Tanzania, has its share of high rise buildings, and is well paved, complete with concrete sidewalks. But I’ve walked an hour now, in the cool weather, from Njiro, and that part of Arusha is typical of much of eastern Africa, which means that pedestrians like me are battling dust or mud depending on the time of year.

Dust on my shoes and on the lower part of my jeans immediately classify me as a man without a car, and even without a piki-piki, the name for the motorbikes that buzz around the town like so many enormous flies. My dusty appearance may mean some trouble when I step into a more high-end store, until I open my mouth and speak my halting Kiswahili, effectively identifying myself as a foreigner and therefore someone who can most likely afford to buy the store’s items.

A Maasai, in full traditional clothing, strides past me. He may be on some sort of business. He may be headed to the part of the city where Maasai men gather to examine tanzanite, the extremely rare bluish-purple precious stone that Arusha is famous for. He may be on his way to work as a security guard for one of the wealthy United Nations expatriates that operate in Arusha. These “expats” usually work at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, a UN operation that houses many lawyers and technical staff. He may be selling nuts and cigarettes for all I know.

The Maasai have become part of the everyday experience for me, although in the first few months of my stay in Arusha, I was awe-struck every time I saw Maasai. With staffs, swords, ear-piercings, shaved heads and brightly colored Maasai clothing, Maasai seem to me to be defiant time-travelers from a long lost, Africa I romanticized. However cell-phones and cars mark them as regular inhabitants of the 21st century.

Most Maasai seem to walk though, to prefer walking, as I do. I have heard of those that would walk from Arusha to the neighboring city of Nairobi in Kenya during the period of one week – over one hundred and fifty miles. Their sandals, made from the rubber of used car tires, facilitate these treks, as do their physical endurance and how accustomed they have become to the relatively harsh landscape and the cold.

And Arusha gets cold for a Caribbean man like myself; twenty degrees centigrade in the day, falling even to eight and six degrees at night. Freezing really. Although close to the equator, this area is cold because of its elevation, and that is understandable. In addition, the highest free-standing mountain in the world, Mount Kilimanjaro, is quite close to Arusha.

Kili, as she is affectionately called, hides herself in fog most of the time, and I had to take an hour’s drive just to see her. She’s beautiful and breathtaking, but she is not to be underestimated; attempting to climb her can cost you your life. Even the wind that blows down from her is no joke.

A middle-aged Chinese couple and a young European man with a huge beard pass me on the sidewalk, stopping to buy pineapple slices at the side of the road. Their Kiswahili is not bad. In fact, it’s better than mine. Maybe they took lessons before they left their countries. Maybe they live and work here.

My experience here has taught me that judging people based on appearance is misleading, even harmful. My first guess would be that they are tourists though. Arusha does see more than its share of visitors. Some come to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Some come to visit the Serengeti and watch the animal migrations. Some have come to Olduvai Gorge, one of the oldest archaeological sites in the world, made famous by the Leakys. Some have no clear aim, like myself: kizunguzungu, dizzy voyagers who have come to see “Africa” or for whom Arusha is simply another stop on a global sojourn.

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Chike Pilgrim is a writer and historian from Trinidad and Tobago. He’s recently completed an MPhil at the University of the West Indies St. Augustine entitled “Black Helix: The 1970 Black Power Movement in the light of Pan Africanism.” He’s deeply interested in ancient History, particularly that of East Africa and the ‘Middle East’.

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Dream to Reality : A Black Brit Plans An African Roadtrip

The trip I’ve planned traversing the African continent should contain just enough adventure to be considered an appropriate remedy to an extraordinarily long summer break. I’m not complaining, you understand, I just want it to be clear that I’m not skiving off normal life.  On the contrary, I’m trying to live it to the fullest!  In case you’re still undecided on what to do this summer and in need of some inspiration, here’s how I prepared my summer adventure.

What I hope to do:

It’s always best I find to start the adventure with a daydream.  What do you think would be a single awesome thing to be able to say at the end?  Before my epic adventure is complete I’ll have dipped my toes from North to South Africa and from East to West.  I’ll have gotten a little acquainted with some incredible capital cities, taken in awesome landscapes to set my heart a flutter, and then at peace all over again.  I’ll have sampled unimaginable amounts of scrumptious African cuisine, decimated (okay dented, I still have to eat when I get home) my savings in AfroChic, and caught up with some beautiful people I have the honour to call friends.  I’ll also get to see the hometowns they recalled so vividly and lovingly when we were young people in the UK together.

Why Africa?

thingfallapart

Warning: this book will make your life better

Caramel

An awesome film about sisterhood, Beirut and a beauty shop…I’ve been desperate to visit Lebanon ever since.

Where in the world excites your imagination and why?  Is there someplace that you’ve always wanted to go for a really random reason?  Or because of a book you read once?  A scene in a film?  Act on that impulse! Continue reading

A woman who travels : to date or not to date?

Being the foreign chick is not as much fun as one would hope.  For every 10 guys who love your accent, there are 2 that were listening to what you were saying, and only 1 of them understood.  Suitors are far more interested in a foreign conquest than getting to know you.  Which can be tiring when you’re The Foreign Chick that everyone wants a piece of.  Piece.  As in fresh meat.

For the guys that do get to know you, as a person and not a curiosity, if you have different first languages, communication can be difficult if you’re not both bilingual.  Unless one of you doesn’t mind not being properly understood. Continue reading

Dominoes à trois, unbridled generosity, and digérer: 10 Things What I Have Learned After a Year in Martinique, Innit

A map of Martinique

A map of Martinique (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Approximately a year ago today, I left London in a hurry.  Not out of choice, that’s just the way things go sometimes.  There was an exciting new job waiting for me and a 4 week notice period in the old one.  Compared with previous international departures of months (as in 4 or 12!) of advance notice, just under four weeks was kinda fast.  There were a lot of goodbyes.  No shortage of tears.  Sometimes the result of lovely things said.  There were no regrets.  This adventure called Life had spoken quite definitively, it was time to rock and roll onto pastures new.  My longstanding undimmed passionate love affair with the Caribbean had yielded a new fruit:  emigration. Continue reading

Silver Linings: An Unanticipated Stop in Barbados

2013-08-16 18.37.28I am living my dream.  I love my job and my colleagues.  I love my location, I love the life I am building and I’m happy with what I’ve built thus far.

But I’m also slightly under the weather and have been for a while.  En plus, I’ve been on the road a lot in the past few months which has only compounded it/dragged it out.  My own denial in the hope that it would go away so that I could get on with enjoying my life has undoubtedly Not Helped.  Alas, I is but a mere mortal.

Please note, under the weather, really means just that.  I’m not playing down a terminal illness.  It’s just that when you are leading a high-energy lifestyle, a bit poorly can feel like a death sentence. Continue reading

Loving London

English: Roundel on Goodge Street tube station...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, a world lives in you.”

– Frederick Buechner (cited in The Shack)

I carry my friends and family everywhere. Although sometimes it seems like my laptap is my best friend and closest confidante, actually, it’s just the main way that I keep in touch with those I call my heart. My heart is the people who love me. It’s the place that nourished my spirit, birthed my dreams, and inspired my adventures. It’s the kindness and acceptance and piss-taking by people who have made my life better in ways they do and do not know. That make me feel human.

Like Sam, who I always call my brave friend. She is also the white person who makes me feel better about being the black late one all the time as she’s usually later. When we were 15 and studying Latin, we had an evening school trip to see Lysistrata at a central London theatre. We were both late, and the group waited as long as they feasibly could (or so they said), before getting on the train without us. Continue reading

Three Guianas in Thirteen Days: Overlanding in South America

A pirogue, my ride from Guyana to Brazil

A pirogue, my ride from Guyana to Brazil

I am a reluctant air traveller.  Between being concerned about climate change and not enjoying being treated like a criminal every time I go to the airport, I avoid it wherever possible.  Perhaps it’s my coming of age on London transport, but the way I see it, trains, boats and buses tend to depart and arrive from/in city centres, have better and/or amazing views, are cheaper and simply more convenient and relaxing modes of transport.  Obviously over long distances overland travel is much slower, but personally I subscribe to the notion that the journey is the destination; a measured pace makes for plentiful opportunities for immersion and absorption in the travel experience.  Thus it was that I departed St Lucia for a whirlwind view of the South American continent. Continue reading