Saturday, July 14, 2012

A visit to Morogoro

From Dar es Salaam we headed to Morogoro, around a 200km drive west. Theoretically this should have been a fairly easy drive but instead it took us many, many hours to get there, firstly because of the traffic getting out of Dar and then due to the 50km speed limit at the many towns along the way.

Tanzanian Police "efficiency"
Something we discovered in Dar is that where there is a policeman directing traffic, there was always a traffic jam and this day was no exception. We also discovered that when entering a town with a 50km zone, slowing down when you see the sign is not enough; you actually need to be doing 50km when you pass the sign, otherwise the police get all happy with their speed guns. We learnt that the hard way. When we asked how a moving vehicle is supposed to get from 100km to 50km instantly, the policeman couldn’t really answer that, but fortunately he was happy with 7,00tsh as our “fine payment”. Another observation; the police in Tanzania are super corrupt!

Anyway, we finally made it to Morogoro before it got dark (after leaving at around midday with only a lunch stop). In Morogoro we were staying with another Aussie volunteer, Fran, who completed training with us back in Melbourne around 2 years ago.

It was great to see Fran and we immediately sat down with beers and swapped stories on our different experiences. Fran who has a great placement at a girls school (more below) was definitely more positive about volunteering than Mike and I were. And I have to say it was actually nice to hear some good things come out of volunteering.

We spent a couple of days exploring Morogoro, a busy town, much larger than we had expected. Fran showed us around, as did some of the girls that work at the school with her, so we were pretty lucky. And looking over the town are the beautiful Uluguru Mountains, very picturesque. Unfortunately I didn’t get many great photos of them, or at least not from the bottom.  

Looking up into the mountains from town
A feast at Fran's house

Over the following days we were kept busy with various activities, the main ones detailed below.

Day walk in the Uluguru Mountains
Partly in preparation for Mount Kilimanjaro and just because they were so beautiful, we decided to take a day walk up into the Uluguru Mountains. Through Fran we were able to set up a walk with her friends, Carl and Coen, heading up to the top for lunch and having a quick look at a camp being set up as a community co-operative.

Waterfalls and green
Looking back at Morogoro on the way up
Lots of climbing required
The walk was lovely, very green, albeit a bit steep and slippery from rain the previous day. On the way up we were fortunate enough to stop at a local school who were running “Roots and Shoots”, a program of the Jane Goodall Institute. The program has been set up to help children learn about environmental, animal and humanitarian issues; in this project the children were growing plants for conservation, nutrition and income generation.

Roots and Shoots: A program of the Jane Goodall Institute
Learning about the many different plants the project is currently growing
We had a great day in the Uluguru Mountains; my only issue was coming down when my shoes gave me serious issues and it became clear that they were not going to be fit for Kilimanjaro :-(

More green
View down the valley from the camp being set up near the top of the mountain

Visiting the Hero Rats & SEGA
One early morning we got up and headed out to the local university where work is being done with “Hero Rats”; these rats are trained for assistance with various programs, including (but not limited to) land-mine detection and TB detection.

We were lucky enough to see the rats in action for both of these purposes. First we headed out to a field (unfortunately it was raining) where we were to see the rats in action for the detection on TNT. Because of the weather we didn’t get to see this, but we did see them in action at the lab, as well as being able to “meet them” close up. They’re actually quite cute for rats :-)

Learning about the hero rats
Training field where the rats learn to detect TNT in the ground
Mike with a new friend
Not sure which one this rat is: Mojo, Blossom or Elvis??
But I do love the names
The rats are used in the detection of land-mines due to their great sense of smell, light weight (as opposed to a dog) and that they are motivated by food. Currently they are being used in countries such as Mozambique and Angola where land-mines pose a huge risk after the end to their respective civil wars.

Training course indoors.......
....check out the jacket, hehe!
As you can see the rats are rewarded with food for their efforts
We also saw the rats in action as they detected positive samples of TB; although the method is not yet accepted by the World Health Organisation, the rats have proven to be quicker and more accurate in the detection of TB than traditional laboratory methods (i.e. Microscope), completing  up to 220 samples per day compared to around 20 by microscope.

TB detection in action. There are 10 samples on the tray for the rat to check.
If the rat scratches, it has  detected a "suspect" sample
For more information on this project please go the Apopo website:

How cute is that face??

 Following our trip to see the “hero rats” we headed out to Fran’s school to have a look around and find out more about the school and the girls who attend it.

The SEGA (Secondary Education for Girls Advancement ) School was every bit as impressive as I thought it would be. The school places high emphasis on sustainability with solar power, rain water tanks and income generation projects. Around two thirds (I think) of the girls board at the school and all would be unlikely to be able to access a secondary education if it wasn’t for the this great project.

Administration building at SEGA: Loving the use of solar energy
Taking a tour of the school
SEGA grounds which are being built on quite rapidly
SEGA Income Generation Project: Chicken rearing and eggs

The day we visited the girls were studying for exams, however we still got lots of welcomes and smiles.

The girls studying hard for their History exam
I have to admit that I felt a tad jealous that Fran had such a great project to be apart of after my own frustrations in Zambia, but mostly I was just happy to see a project that is really working.

At SEGA (L-R): Me, Coen, Carl, Fran and Mike

For more information on SEGA or if you wish to provide support, please go to their website:

Mikumi National Park
Our last major activity was a drive out to Mikumi National Park, one of Tanzania’s smaller parks and only around an hours drive west from Fran’s house.

On the way to the park. I think this means they have lots of giraffe :-)
As we believed that the pass was for 24 hours we thought we’d head out the evening before, see some animals and then re-enter in the morning. As it turned out the 24 hours is valid but only for single entry so we had to wait until the morning to go in (a bit misleading).

We also had a bit of a headache at the gate the following morning when we had to argue to get them to accept Tanzanian Shillings for payment as opposed to US Dollars. We were a bit confused for a while about which country we were in, but managed to convince them to let us pay the local currency (??????) and enter the park.

Inside the park we saw a stack of giraffes including a couple that were play fighting, something we’d never seen. And while we sitting and enjoying a quiet cup of tea we came across Carl and Coen, also driving around the park. Together we decided to explore the northern, less travelled end of the park, something I’d probably not recommend to others. It wasn’t so much the lack of a road that was the problem, more that there wasn’t actually much to see; it’s better to stick to the southern end of the park, closer to the gate.

Giraffe play fighting
Giraffe and zebra, the main stars of the day
Hippo taking it easy in the Hippo Pools
We didn’t see a stack of animals at Mikumi however I don’t think our cause was helped by the fact that they were doing back-burning while we were there.  Not a terribly successful day, however I suspect that we may just have been spoilt in the past :-)

Zebra and back burning in the distance

All in all a very successful trip to Morogoro and it was great being able to catch up with Fran! Thanks again Fran for having us and showing us your town! :-)

1 comment:

  1. Such wonderful memories....Asante SANA dada....Thanks so much for sharing my world here in Morogoro and at SEGA. Safari njema marafiki zangu. Travel safely my friends. xx