Long distance bus rides in Africa can sometimes be a bit of a lottery, you hear of the most ghastly accidents, but I was told that Dar Express were one of the more reliable operators. Unfortunately the airconditioned 'executive' one was already full by the time I came to book it, so I went on one which could be described as 'well ventilated' as all the windows were open. Nine hours, and half a Harry Potter book later I arrived in Moshi. It wasn't too bad a trip, the road is infinitely better since I last drove along it in 1981 when it was a bone-jarring two-day journey, but the driver could have done with some magical intervention when we came to to the huge speed bumps they put at frequent intervals about the place.
My Brother-in-law, Noel Lindsay-Smith was there to meet me when I arrived. Noel has lived in Tanzania with his wife Nell and their two boys, Jaimey and Harry for the last nine years working for MTC, a large Tea and Coffee growing company. They grow tea in the south of Tanzania and a lot of coffee on the flanks of Kilimanjaro. The two boys both go to the International School in Moshi so they rather conveniently all live just 30 minutes or so out of town. Even better, all our equipment had already been delivered by Teddy Junior Ltd to Noel's warehouse which isn't far from the airport. Before we went up to his house in the coffee plantations we went round to the AMEG Lodge Hotel to meet Mark Jackson who had just arrived from England to help me get everything prepared for the expedition before David and his wife Janelle arrive at the end of the week.
So we've five days to do quite a lot. Get fuel, get oxygen, get a place at the airport, uncrate and rig the microlight, and we need a car. Cars you can't get in Moshi, but you can in Arusha, the other, bigger town in northern Tanzania, and Nell planned to go shopping there on Tuesday. For monday we hired a taxi for the day, which was a little bit more expensive than our Merc in Dar. First stop was the airport to make sure they were aware of the clearances I'd got in Dar. Moshi airport was once a hub of East Africa, but it was eclipsed by Kilimanjaro International thirty years ago, and is now a very quiet place with a small aero club and no scheduled traffic, but it does have a tarmac strip, though Eve had warned me about the potholes.
Of course the few staff there who really just run the meterological office had no idea we were coming but the magic paper I had got in Dar did the trick, though they only half believed it and suggested it was confirmed with the TCAA people at Arusha airport. There's no fuel at Moshi so we had to go there anyway. The biggest problem was hangarage; there's two open ones and a very nice one with doors which would suit us perfectly and was almost empty. It belongs to MAF, an English based charity who I understood were based in Dodoma in central Tanzania. The airport chaps gave us a phone number to call, Hari Shekighenda said send him an email.
Oxygen was a bit more difficult to find, but our driver got us to the TOL depot in the end. Oh no, these have got to be filled in Dar, they said. Of course I've got all the kit to fill our bottles from the ones they have, so this is nonsense really. We were sent to see the boss in town. Unfortunately, Mr Da Silva "I'm a Roman Catholic from Goa" said his boss was still having his siesta, but "can you give me some money to have my teeth fixed? Thats why I'm so thin, I can't eat anything but mince; he will be in the shop at three." He was, too, and after some considerable discussion, things became rather more possible, but too late today. Monday ended up being a busy day, but without actually achieving much.
Tuesday, Mark and I went to Arusha with Nell and Harry. The hire car shop wasn't the sort of place you normally expect to hire cars from, but they did have quite a nice Toyota saloon with an indetermininate mileage for a not unreasonable 40 dollars a day. Nell, peering at the clearance, thought it might be a bit challenging to get it up to their house, but 4WD's were more than twice the price and everything seemed to work on it, so she conceded that Toyotas are quite tough, so we took it. Rather strangely, all we had to do was put down a small deposit and we have to pay the balance upon return.
Next stop was the airport. Arusha is much buisier place with a lot of small twins taking people on Safari. The chap we were told to see by the guys in Moshi was on leave, but Mr Omari who was doing ATC in the tower seemed to know all about our clearance which must be good enough for the people in Moshi.
I don't think the Toyota engineers had 200 litre drums of Avgas in mind when they were designing the back seats of the Crown Super Saloon E so we made sure we didn't drive past the hire car shop on the way out of town. The same as anywhere in Africa, Unusual things can happen on the roads in Tanzania, so I drove the 60 miles or so back to Noel's warehouse in Moshi with particular care to protect our fat passenger in the back seat. Somehow it seemed easier getting it out than it was getting it in. Neither was it such a challenge getting the car up to Noel and Nell's place, the road isn't brilliant, and peters out into a rather steep track for the last bit, but perfectly allright so long as it's dry.
Wednesday; Oxygen day. because MTC are actually in the process of moving to a different location they wanted us out of the warehouse so we started unpacking our kit on the lawn of Noel's office. The crate had obviously been opened at some stage in its travels, but everything was intact. Later on We popped round to see the Oxygen boss, but, "could we not do it later because the truck was in from Dar and there are lots of people about, better after three."
My researches before arriving in Tanzania suggested oxygen was available at over 200 Bar like in UK, so it was a bit of a surprise to find that it was actually only 150 Bar. In Nepal we'd had exactly this same problem, it's because their bottles are bashed around such a lot they don't dare fill them to any greater pressure, but the difference between 150 and 200 means an hour of endurance for us. This was critical for Everest, so we'd taken a special high pressure booster pump with which we could fill our bottles to 200 bar, but it was a rare and difficult beast and weighed 60 Kg. The flight over Kilimanjaro should be a lot shorter so we haven't brought it.
The chaps at the oxygen depot were fascinated to watch how we filled our bottles - I don't think it had ever occurred to them that such a thing was possible. The secret in how not to blow yourself up is to have scrupulously clean equipment, even a trace of mineral oil will cause an explosion in contact with high pressure Oxygen, and have good quality valves which will allow you to transfer gas from one bottle to the other nice and slowly so the one being filled doesn't get too hot.
I've had a reply from Stephan Schramm at MAF; yes, of course you can use the hangar, but you must contact Mr Van Der Hayden or Mr Van der Wer who have rented the hangar. Unfortunately, none of the telephone numbers seem to work, they're both in Holland, apparently.
Today, Thursday, there is still no contact with the Dutchmen, so we carried on preparing the machine on the veranda of Noel's office. We went to meet Michael Braasch who has just returned from holidays in Germany. He's here running the Hai district water project which aims to bring clean water captured from quite high up on Kilimanjaro to thousands of people below. In fact Noel will be one to benefit and a team of 10 men are digging a mile long trench to his house at the moment. Mike also has an interest in Moshi Aero club and kindly offered space in his hangar, though being open on one side it's not as secure as the MAF one, but her has a container in which we can lock everything removable so it looks like we'll move into there tomorrow.