Tuesday, 3 August 2010

On the run...

It's been an interesting week or so. My trip to Manyara Ranch was great: he new tented camp was pretty empty, so the manager and I managed to head out birding most of the time, taking his largegun with us. It was great to be able to wander at will through the bush and along the river bed during the day, and drive around at night too - mammal highlight being a fantastic leopard we followed as it stalked spring hares and sniffed at Impala for 45mins one night (but there were some pretty huge eles too, always nice on foot...). Avian highlights were my first Tanzanian Painted Snipe and just the huge diversity - 180 species in 3 days and no doubt lots more to find yet. And I found some weavers, so that's a good excuse to return as well. I'm hoping I might just be able to negotiate a campsite for us and friends on the corner of the estate (it is 35,000ha...) so others can enjoy it all too. Though I've not got a big gun so won't be talking you for walks on my own...

Anyway, got back from that and we got stuck into preparations for a party on Sunday afternoon, havong invited about 30 folk for 'high tea' - bread all risen, ingredients at the ready. And then the oven died. Ooops. And the fridge died too, so warm drinks all round... And on Sunday morning the washing machine started leaking too. Great! Still, I banished myself with cake ingredients and newly risen bread to a friend's house to make use of the oven on Sunday afternoon and we were nearly ready when people started to arrive! And a great party was had by all...

Then things got a bit surreal yesterday. I have a small problem with the landrover - nothing new there - so had arranged to take it to the fundi and headed down. Quick look at it - the oil light is coming on when the engine is warm and idle, but not when driving, etc. and the fundi diagnosed a faulty switch. Easy. 10,000TSh later, new switch purchansed and fitted. Same problem. Hmmm... Check new switch and discover it's not the same as the original. Swap with nearby landrover of same vintage and problem seems solved, so an expedition to find an available one was mounted. After 30mins this was not looking so hopeful and Mama B was due out for lunch so I abandoned the car and headed for home in a cab. Getting a call from Mama B just 200m from the house to say that two Immigration officers had arrived and were wanting to see me. So instead of heading home I paid off the cab, hid around the corner and called the lawyers. "What's going on?" I ask, "No idea," I'm told, "but don't go home!". So sneaking off to the nearby lodge I call Mama B and tell her to tell them I'll be late back, whilst we plan activities... And happily, they leave, saying I'm to go to the office as soon as I'm back. So I then head back to the house, happily bumping into friends who spotted my lurking suspiciously on my phone in the shrubbery near the lodge and offered help. So they look after the kids, whilst Mama B goes off for her lunch and I head down to the lawyer's office to scheme and plot, before heading to the immigration office, picking my car up en route. (Which, after about 1km of being fine, starts the old "oil light on when idle" nonsense again. So not the switch then. Answers on the back of a postcard please!) Get to immigration and have the usual shouts, threats and general misinformation from the usual guy: apparently he'd sent people to arrest me for still being in the country and I'm a wanted man again. (Hurrah!) In fact, the conversation was a classic. Opening lines:

"Hello Mr B"
"Hello, how are you?"
"We were around at your house this morning and were told you were fixing your car."
"Yes, that's right. And I came here now because you were asking to see me."
"What are you doing these days"
"Well, today, I'm fixing my car"
"Why's that?"
"It's not working properly: it's a landrover."
"Hmmm... Fixing your car... Very suspicious..."

Really, it's true and you couldn't make it up! Etc., etc.

Anyway, much shouting later - his point being, it seems, that he thinks I was supposed to leave the country, despite the fact he wouldn't stamp our passports... and the usual guy decided to haul us off to the head of immigration in Arusha to confirm with him that he'd be arresting me again (interestingly, something that as we've seen before, he has total authority to do on his own, so he was obviously more worried this time than before!). So off he went for a discussion with the big boss. And then, 20mins later he sneaks out and says we can go, but please come back tomorrow...

Which is good, because it gave us time to call the head of immigration in Dar and get him to call them off. So today instead of turning up at immigration as asked, a call came to him from as high as they come to say the case is no longer his problem, and leave me alone... But only at about 4 this afternoon, so I spent the day hiding first in the lodge (I thought I should have been playing the part, sitting proped up by the poolside bar with a panama hat and the whole Graham Greene outfit, but actually just had my laptop and lots of data to enter...) and then at useful friend's house, to avoid being home if we'd had another unfriendly call... Life on the run, huh? Still, the end result being I'm told to come with the lawyers again tomorrow morning with the local team now aware that the bigger issue is no longer in their hands and that the head office is watching what they do very closely. Given that that is true, it seems likely to be a waste of everyone's time again (like the whole of yesterday...), but there you go...

Exciting times once again!


  1. Wow Quite a busy 24 hours. Glad to see you for real, and keep us posted!
    Love to allXXX

  2. Goodness you two manage to make a terrifying situation sound like an exciting adventure.
    Praying for you all constantly.

  3. Hello there, I'm afraid I haven't actually read the blog as I only have another five minutes in this internet cafe and wanted to wish Victoria a belated happy birthday. In my defence, I'm in the middle of a four week holiday in Georgia and have not come into contact with very much internet. Nor do I expect to do so again until I get back to Britain (16th August - will e-mail. Promise).

    Hope it was a good birthday and perhaps see you sometime. Although possibly not in Tanzania as I have no A/L left this year.

  4. Me again - an unexpected extra ten minutes gave me time to read the blog. Sounds like a really frustrating situation - sorry to hear it's still going on. Hope they leave you alone now.


  5. What a time you are having. Hope they leave you in peace now.

  6. I reckon Mr. B is related to that chap Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) in the ipcress file. Apparently so do some others...vital information on clutch sizes and beak pointiness is at stake.