Category: Tanzania

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I’m back in Copenhagen, I’m back in my hood on Vesterbro down town Copenhagen. Today I went back to my ‘office’ – a local restaurant BOBs where it is possible to work all day if you are a member of Sp8ces. Through sp8ces (no I don’t get paid to tell about it) you have access to several working lounges in Denmark and Norway – they make agreements with hotels, restaurants, etc. to use timeslots where their spaces are not occupied. It is a great concept – and cheap.

I’ve spent the last couple of days sleeping, doing absolutely nothing besides catching up on Netflix. It will take time before I have processed all my experiences from my journey. I have travelled many kilometres, met so many people – not only humanists, but also other locals and tourists, seen the most amazing landscapes and met fantastic animals. Earth is an amazing and beautiful place.

I know I’m privileged – I have the possibility to visit places where the usual tourist never goes. I’m glad this journey is a combination of following the usual tourist path and meeting people living their lives in these countries. It adds so much more when you talk to people living there and not just other tourists or people from travel agencies.

My journey has showed me the diversity of the different countries. There is so much prejudice in the western world toward the African continent – yes, it is a continent and not a country. Africa is unfortunately often perceived as a country and treated as such in popular culture and media. Africa is three times larger than Europe and occupies 20% of the land mass on Earth – it is huge.

In eastern and southern Africa where I have been travelling, they have many challenges. I travelled during the rainy season but in most of the countries, if not all, they got lesser rain than they need to avoid drought. Climate changes are already impacting this part of the world. The growing population is also impacting the infrastructure – water supply, electricity and transport.

I’ve been travelling for 10 weeks, visited 8 countries and held 30 interviews with non-believers. During the next 3-4 months all the interviews will be published as podcast episodes through Babelfish and I will continue to write articles for POV International.

At the same time, I will plan the next steps of my journey. Which means I will be pretty busy while in Copenhagen – I also want to see, to hug and talk to my friends and family. Right now it is cold and rainy – I hope spring is coming.

My – now dead – favourite fan

Today I lost one of my most valued travel gadgets. It doesn’t look like much, it’s not expensive but besides my passport and my credit cards it is my most valued gadget – it is a fan bought for 2$ in a Chinese shop in Copenhagen. It has followed me for a long time. It is useful in the plane, the bus, in restaurants, everywhere it might be to hot for you. Unfortunately, it died today. It will be missed, and I need to buy a new one.

It made me think of what things I cannot live without while travelling. I wanted to make a top 10 – or rather it ended up being a top 12 plus extras, since I couldn’t limit it to only 10 things. These are the thing I always pack together with some clothes.

Passport & yellow fewer card: pretty essential if you want to leave your country experiencing the world.

Credit cards: instead of carrying loads of money for your whole trip. Make sure to have different types of credit cards. Some places don’t accept visa card, and some places doesn’t accept master card. It is also a good idea to have a backup card, just in case. I actually travel with 4 credit cards, maybe a bit over the top, but it doesn’t cost me any extra.

top 12 plus extra

Travel insurance: just in case. I have never had the need for it, but I felt pretty good knowing I could get picked up by a helicopter in the middle of the Cambodian jungle and flown to the nearest hospital when I was travelling with my then 12-year old daughter.

I also feel pretty good knowing I can get help if I have an accident while diving with sharks or bungy jumping (still need to visit the 216 meter drop in at Bloukrans Bridge South Africa – take it easy mom – it will not be during this journey 😉).

Money: it’s always good to carry a few dollars. Just in case you experience what I did in Rwanda, and your credit cards getting rejected by the ATM’s, then you have some back up money. Else I will always rely on my mom to transfer money through Western Union.

Sunglasses: no explanation needed

Malaria pills: no need to gamble. The pills are so cheap these days its affordable for almost everybody. If you get malaria and you are not treated in time you either die or will have the disease for the rest of your life. Just get them and remember to take them.

Dehydration relief effervescent tablets: if I travel in countries with high temperatures, I lose my appetite and forget to drink water. If you get dehydrated, you’ll get extremely ill. I always bring the tablets together with my miniature travel pharmacy. I’ve used them several times on this journey just to be sure I was hydrated.

tsetse flies

Mosquito repellent: another essential. You don’t want to have your whole body covered in mosquito bites. Unfortunately, the repellent didn’t help against the tsetse fly in Tarangire National Park in Tanzania. I was bitten from my knees down on both legs – so I had to dig into my travel phamarcy to find the stop-the-itching-cream (which only helped a couple of hours at a time).

sun tan after 1½ month

Sun screen: I must admit – I hate sunscreen. The greasy white stuff you must put on in a thick layer, using half a bottle every time, and it closes your pores which makes you sweat even more. For many years I have only used alcohol-based sun screen, which you only apply once a day. Down here I sometimes have applied twice a day though, the sun is relentless here.

sun burn

I brought factor 50 and 20 and after 1½ month I still got a nice tan and no burns. Expect the one time I just wanted to get a bit tanned on my legs (they never tan, never, never) and sat outside on the ferry from Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam for two hours – bad idea.

Lonely Planet books: Even though you can google everything wherever you travel I like my travel books. And I prefer Lonely Planet – I always buy them. I document my journeys, where I have been when, which route we have been taking, which sites we have seen, where we have stayed. And I keep them in my bookshelf at home. I like to look at them – it’s my travel diary.

Fan: the fan I have already told about – it is essential for me and I will miss it very much.

Church – Dar es Salaam

What I have realised during my journey is how much religion and, in most countries, also tribes influence everything. Which religion you belong to, which tribe you are a part of influences you everyday life, what school you go to, which job you get, who you can do business with, who you marry, who you vote for.

If you belong to the majority religion and/or tribe you will be better off in many countries. This means it is not the best qualified who gets the job og gets elected, it might not even be the best qualified within your tribe – it all depends on connections and where you belong.

It is also well known that corruption is widespread. Some are trying to fight it, but it is difficult to get rid of and changes are slow.

On top of this people are ready to give all their money to the churches instead of paying for their children’s education, they are ready to pray instead or in addition of relying on doctors to cure diseases. Many people are poor, but they are still willing to give their last dime to their priest.

Kigali, Rwanda

I’ve seen many beautiful buildings while travelling but it is churches, schools and public buildings not peoples houses. Many houses are old, worn down and especially rural areas huts. Think about the amount of money the churches receive from people who could be spending them on improving their own lives.

Especially Pentecostal churches (in Danish ‘Pinsebevægelsen’) is growing in numbers, receiving enormous amounts of money from their followers. So, the priests get rich. Some of them have private jets, big mansions, expensive cars – some of them are con artists and people still donate money to them. People are convinced that god will take care of them if they keep praying and believe enough.

Supported by christian missionaries some priests preach people should get many children – even though they cannot support them or pay their education (education is not free in most countries). The churches are also against contraception and family planning – supported by donator countries like the US, who has a policy of not supporting organisations where abortion is included as a possibility when they are advising families.

This means HIV infected and the population is growing in number in countries where contraception’s are not promoted. The infrastructure, educational system and the labour market cannot keep up with the growth of the population – many young people gets a college degree but there are no jobs for them.  Unemployment rates are high amongst the youth, so many would of cause want to travel abroad to find a proper job. And climate changes are not doing anything good either. It seems like being so religious work against solving a lot of the problems here. The African countries have not been christian for a long time – only a few hundred years. I’m wondering if that’s the reason they are so conservative and extremely religious. And maybe their belief will loosen in the coming generations, I don’t know. The question is whether or not it will be in time for them to be able to solve the challenges they face, and where their belief stands in the way of the best solutions.

With more than 120 tribes (& same number of languages) no tribe has majority in Tanzania, the melting pot of migrations. The last tribe migrated to this country less than 200 years ago. Tanzania is even more diverse and complex than the other countries in East Africa – migrations from all over Africa, from India, from Europe, from almost everywhere.

Like the rest of East Africa, Tanzanians are very religious, conservative. The population is equally divided between Christianity, Islam and traditional religions, which means no religion has majority. This makes Tanzania different from the other countries – they had to find a way to live together, co-exist, no matter tribe or religion. They have succeeded in many ways, even though there can be tensions (as an example Zanzibar which is predominantly Muslim would like to be independent). Tanzania is peaceful and you don’t have to worry about security.

Like in the other countries it is difficult to be a non-believer in Tanzania. Family and friends might consider you a devil-worshipper if you openly come out as a non-believer. Like in Kenya Tanzania has a secular constitution including the human rights declaration which protects non-believers even though they might face discrimination in every day life.

There are a small group of freethinkers who try to reach out and find likeminded people in order to build a community. The internet and social media have helped a lot, since almost everybody has access to information online these days. So besides being enthusiastic the freethinkers are optimistic and know things will change slowly, but they will change. Many more non-believers will come out – because they are out there, they just think they are alone. Through the social media they will discover they are not alone in the world, and they will find a place to belong, a community.

Tanzania is also the biggest country – it is 22 times the size of Denmark, 22 (!). It’s huge – with the speed limit being 80 km/hour (down to 50 km/ hour many places) you’ll never manage to visit the whole country. It takes forever to drive from a to b. The traffic police are everywhere, you would be ruined before managing to drive from Arusha to Dar es Salaam.

For a Dane it is difficult to comprehend why they haven’t built highways like in Denmark where the whole country is covered in highways. Our highways have a speed limit of 130 km/ hour which makes it easy to get from one end of our small country to the other in no time. In addition, there is no railways of importance in Tanzania (again in contradiction to Denmark), which means everything must be transported on the same roads – goods, containers, people, schoolkids, cows, goats etc.

Halfway through my journey I have almost adjusted to the African way – which means you must be patient, don’t rush, take you time greeting people in a proper way, a lot of handshakes and talking. It seems like I have adjusted to the hot African weather as well – just arrived in Malawi, it’s 23 degrees & I’m freezing (!).

Halfway through my journey I have visited 4 countries in East Africa – the other half will be spend visiting 4 countries in Southern Africa.

My visit to the cradle of humankind – the Serengeti – made an impact. I think it is an amazing place. I would like to go back some day, and spend at least one week in the Serengeti, sleeping in tents among the wild animals, spending hours looking for them, spending hours staring at them. It’s beautiful, overwhelming, majestic – pictures can never show how it feels to be there.

Goodbye Tanzania & East Africa – hopefully I’ll see you again on the Serengeti – Hakuna Matata

Some facts:

Tanzania (Denmark)

Population:   60 mio. (5.8 mio.)

Area:   945.000 km2 (43.000 km2)

Density: 64/km2 (133/km2)

Life expectancy: 63 years (80 years)

Cradle of humankind

2019-01-21 | Tanzania | No Comments

Ngorongoro Crater

I visited the Ngorongoro crater yesterday not far from the place where scientist have found evidence of continuous presence of human for the last 2 million years – 2 million years! Here where two tectonic plates met and formed the rift valley many millions of years ago is the cradle of humankind. This is where hominoids were born and later developed into homo sapiens.

Watching the huge number of elephants, wilder beasts, zebras, antelopes on the plain grassing while lions and hyenas are watching ready to hunt. The Masai are still living in this area, integrated with the wild life – risking the life of their cattle and themselves. It makes you wonder how life might looked here a million years ago, how did humans survive.

It is appealing to believe that life has been unchanged here for thousands and thousands of years. But this is not the case. The Masai migrated here from Sudan only a few hundred years ago. The plains and the savanna are not untouched by human hand – herders have been living on this land for a long time, their cattle have shaped the landscape, integrated with the wild life.

I live in a country with a history of humans being of only a few thousand years. As Danes we are normally proud of our height, light skin and blue eyes. In reality the first humans in the Nordics – the hunter-gatherers – were short, had dark skin and grey eyes.

The genes for the light skin and blue eyes (a genetic mistake) came from Spain some thousand years ago and migrated to the North. Then 5.000 years ago, the Yamnaya’s from the northern part of Caucasus migrated to the Nordics – they were tall and had light skin. The Scandinavian look then developed – due to migrants, even though we off course all are migrants from the rift valley.

Homo sapiens one of the most successful animals on earth, unless we succeed in destroying the planet making it impossible for us to live here. We have migrated to all corners of the planet where it is possible to live (and in some cases not possible to live).

Climate changes is also visible here – the wet and dry seasons are getting out of balance. It’s raining during the dry season, and not raining in the wet season.

This area – where we were born – will be one of the first area where it will be impossible for humans to live. Humans will be forced to migrate – again – to find a place to survive. Unfortunately, we would have destroyed all the magnificent animals living here… so beautiful to watch.