From Mikumi to Kilimahewa

Karibuni. Welcome.

We arrived at Mikumi in the early afternoon and checked into the Tan-Swiss lodge campsite. We set up our tent quickly and I chatted to Josef, the Swiss owner, before going for a relaxing swim in the pool. Josef is from the Muotathal and used to work for Pilatus, a Swiss plane manufacturer before he decided to do something completely different and started setting up his own lodge in Tanzania. He has now been here for 17 years and has set up quite an impressive resort with pool, giftshop and nice and clean facilities. We enjoyed being there.

Now it was time to cook dinner. First, light the campfire. This has become a daily routine and in the meantime our clothing, our tent, our everything smells like a campfire. Wood was provided free of charge at Josef’s lodge. Mark is very picky with his firewood and, while the wood did not meet his unconditional approval, once it was lit properly, we had a good fire going.

Now dinner was about proving to the world that a) two men traveling alone can eat healthy and b) that natural meat beats industrial production. Let’s start with a): We had bought carrots and beans, so we made a vegetable stew. Chuck everything in a pot, add some water, put it on the fire. Add some salt and pepper to the pot and pour two beers into the cooks, then let simmer gently. It was delicious! Turned out though, that what we thought was beans was in fact peas and we just cooked them with the pods. Eating the stew was a bit like eating a fish soup. We continually had to spit out the pods. Tasted great anyway! b) Now to the meat: We cut the chunk we had bought in half, used one piece and put the other one back in the fridge. Mark prepared it with a special “low & slow” technique, using one of his MacGyver setups high above the fire. It is not an exaggeration when we say it tasted delicious. The texture, however, was that of our flip-flop soles! We decided that this meat was better suited to be cooked in a curry. The beef and stew were accompanied by beer and all in all it was another fantastic meal! Our new mission now is to find a cast iron pot. Stay tuned!

We woke up the next morning around 6 to find out our battery was flat. We had accidentally left on the 1000 Lumen lightbar on the rooftop rack and that draws well over 5 Amps. The battery still had enough energy in it to cry for help using the alarm system and wake up the whole camp ground. Practical side effect: The large Overlander with 10 Canadians got going and left soon thereafter, leaving us as the only guests on the site and Josef allowed us to have warm showers in the ladies’ washroom since the water boiler in the men’s washroom was out of order.

A German and a South African with an Austrian passport had a full English breakfast at the Swiss lodge in Tanzania and then we went on the road towards Dar-es-Salaam. Josef predicted it would be a seven-hour drive. It was.

As we got into the Mikumi national park we saw a sign that warned of wild animals and stated fines for running them over with your car. A giraffe apparently is 15.000 USD. We did not expect to see a lot of game and were pleasantly surprised when we literally drove through herds of impala, zebra, elephants, and giraffes.

We stopped and took many pictures. Apparently, the animals, which are normally feeding further north, came down here because the vegetation had become exceptionally lush after the recent rainfalls.

The rest of the drive was a wild mix of colourful fruits and vegetables on display along the roadside, reckless motorcyclists with up to 14 bags of charcoal on the back, making them eligible for a circus act, children walking home from school, and of course: trucks! And then there is the customary village police cop every half hour or so who wants to chat. Only once were we accused of speeding but were able to amicably settle the matter with an on the spot payment. No receipt.

The last 100km leading into Dar-es-Salaam were a test to both driver and machine. The traffic between all those trucks was a nightmare. We turned south just before city centre, followed the road to Kibiti for another 85 km and arrived at Kilimahewa at 17:45.

Kilimahewa is a mission of the Benediktiner order. When we arrived, we saw a large church and several surrounding buildings. We were immediately impressed with the cleanliness of the place. We were greeted and led to Brother Markus. We somehow had expected to meet a priest in his robe, deeply immersed in prayers. Well, think again! Brother Markus is a maker. He has been in Tanzania for 37 years, has built kindergardens, schools, hospitals, carpentry workshops and more. He is on the phone a lot, speaking in Kisuaheli, the local language, and it is obvious to the observer that he has things under control. We were going to see more of what he and his order have accomplished and built in Kilimahewa. But first, brother Markus was an extraordinarily friendly host. He showed us to guestrooms, where we had a nice shower. Refreshing after the eight hours drive. Then we had Leberkäse and beer. Heaven. Bavarian heaven to be precise, on the rooftop (somehow it seems we’re always on the rooftop) of brother Markus’ lodge in Tanzania. It was amazing.

Mark and I were given separate rooms. My roommate that night was a tiny scorpion (ca. 2 cm). I showed Mark the photograph this morning and he is certain that creature was poisonous.

My roommate in Kilimahewa

At 7:30, we had a nice breakfast with Brother Markus. He served white Preßsack (typical German sausage) that a visiting butcher from Germany made when he was here for 3 weeks recently. I said earlier, that Brother Markus struck us as a “maker”. An important element seems to be that he entertains a network of people who a) can get things done or b) are willing to support by contributing the money that is needed to realize the many projects he is working on.

After breakfast we went on a tour through the mission. The purpose driving the Benediktiner order is to provide sustainable help for the local people mainly in the fields of education and health. And they do! We first went to visit the Kindergarten. Around 30 children were playing in the garden and upon seeing us greeted us in English. It was heart-warming to see just how simply positively curious these kids were. They were interested in my camera and I let them take photos of each other – or rather I was taking the photos for them. They seemed to have a lot of fun over it, and I did, too.

Then we went to see the new building of the secondary boarding school that is under development. The project costs around 1 million Euros, all funded through donations. Two dormitories for boys and girls and six classroom buildings were already almost completed, built to an impressively high standard. Everything seemed very well thought through: Building layout, rainwater recovery, electric setup including photovoltaics and own generator, etc. The buildings were built with bricks that are produced in the mission. The window frames, doors, and furniture were built by their own carpentry workshop. And, by the way: Brother Markus also operates a printing workshop further south with 40 staff. Exercise books and school furniture are sold at half price, in order to support education.

The new school in Kilimahewa

Mark and I didn’t really know what to say. We were humbled by this man’s lifetime achievements that were so apparent here both when looking at the buildings as well as when talking to the people.

Then we went to see the hospital. It is managed by Sister Imakulata with 28 staff. We also met Dr. Ronald, who comes from the neighbouring village. The Benediktiner order paid for his education in Dar-es-Salaam and recently, after his return, he started working in the hospital. You could just see how passionate this man was about the opportunity of making a difference to the healthcare in his home region!

When we arrived at the hospital there were a lot of young mothers with their babies, who had come for a screening exam. What a great contribution to the society’s wellbeing in this region!

We looked at pre-natal and post-natal wards. This small village hospital has around 60 deliveries each month. They have a fully equipped surgery suite, too, and they proudly reported about their first C-section recently, saving a young woman and her child’s life.
This hospital also does a substantial amount of trauma work, and they are in the process of getting an X-ray machine. The next ones are 80km north in Dar-es-Salaam or 400km south in Bislindi!
We looked at the lab, where two ladies were busy microscoping drops of urine on glass plates. They also have some smaller automatic analysers and seemed busy with around 100 tests each day.
The pharmacy was an airconditioned room, very well organized and well stocked.
Finally, we looked at the HIV/Aids ward. The Bill Clinton foundation provides support for the medication under the condition that all data is consequently captured and registered. This was the only ward where we saw computers.

Regarding Ultrasound, they have an old GE machine, that doesn’t work anymore and an old Siemens Antares, that is being used. Dr. Ronald was excited about Siemens Healthineers donating a P500 Ultrasound machine to the hospital. Speaking to this young doctor we thought that we could not have found anyone better to receive a donation from Siemens Healthineers. He will appreciate it, will feel an obligation to make the best of it for his patients and will use it to make a difference to healthcare in the region. It felt good to be part of a company that is able to support such a passionate team.

Brother Markus

In the meantime, Prashant from our local dealer Pacific had arrived from Dar-es-Salaam and we discussed handover and training and linked him up with Sister Imakulata. Unfortunately, we couldn’t have the machine there this morning as it was still stuck in customs and will only be cleared early next week. Brother Markus invited us all for lunch and we left Kilimahewa around 13:00 with a good feeling and a full stomach.

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