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Journey to Ngongoro

Fixing the bikes, originally uploaded by Robin Manuell.

Paulo asks me for a thousand shillings so he can borrow a bicycle and I hand it over. His requests are modest and few considering the help he has been to me and he always shares what he buys so I don’t hesitate. He tells me he’ll join Shegera, Constantine and I tomorrow. Laurian has already performed a circumcision this morning and he hands Shegera 5000 shillings for the journey. He has been doing a lot of circumcisions recently. He jokes with me.. it is a very simply operation, no problems, you will be well in a week. I tell him god gave me a foreskin and he tells me yes but god also gave you a mind and in the bush where maybe you can not wash for a long time it is better to be without a foreskin. I will do the operation, no problem he says again, and then your foreskin will be buried in the same place as your mother’s placenta. His laughter is infectious and I laugh along.. Though there is a slightly nervous edge to my laugh!

We head off early to avoid the intense midday sun. After a mile on the metalled road we turn off left onto a road of packed earth and within half an hour we are in the middle of nowhere or so it seems. Bush alternates with shamba, banana trees here, rice there, nothing more than can be achieved by hand and hoe- there are no vehicles here and no tractors or mechanised farm equipment. I am exhilarated by the ride, the sense of movement and the exercise, the view. Cycling demands constant attention to the road, we skim along round potholes and boulders, through dust and sand that slips and slides under our wheels, following the tracks of the cycles that have gone before us. The only other traffic is bicycles and pedestrians and fewer of these as we travel on.

After half an hour we stop by a huddle of bicycle fundi’s is the shade of a tree. Like everything in Tanzania, bicycles need constant attention- a tightening here, a replacement part there. Better to keep the machine maintained than let it break in the middle of nowhere. While we are waiting Paulo catches up with us. I don’t find out till later but he has actually skipped off without telling his parents where he is going- presumably because they would have told him he has work to do at home.

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