“Nyehunge, the geographical oddity. Three hours from everywhere!”
Sunday morning I journeyed by mountain bike from our house in Geita to the small village center of Nyehunge. I started out at 7:45 am, having never been to Nyehunge before and not knowing for sure where it was. But asking for directions while on a bike isn’t so bad.
I was to meet Jason Miller, “super missionary,” there in Nyehunge, where he would arrive by truck from Mwanza. From there we would continue on together another hour to the village of Bilyahilu, where we’d stay until Tuesday. Riding my bike to meet Jason accomplished the following:
- Kept Jason and I from lavishly parking two vehicles in a village where vehicles aren’t generally parked.
- Allowed Christie to still have a mode of transportation in Geita.
- Let me get some non-running distance exercise on a mountain bike and small dirt roads.
- Put me in a situation to see some beautiful Tanzanian countryside.
I started out the direction I should be going, asking along the way how long it would take to reach Nyehunge — I’d figured on 2 1/2 hours. A few folks answered 4 hours, while others shrugged and said 3. Eternally the optimist — and a relatively strong rider (on a bike with gears at least, an unfair advantage for sure) — I decided to go with the 3-hour estimate. I was looking forward to the ride, but not to the several mountains everyone said I’d have to climb.
Two mountains and 45 minutes later, I asked some guys on bikes how far to Nyehunge, and they confidently answered, “If you ride really fast, it’ll be 3 hours.”
I thought, “Okay, I’d better push it a little,” not wanting to be late to meet Jason.
Another 45 minutes into the ride I came to a fork in the road. As I stopped to ask directions, I also inquired as to how long it would take to reach my desired destination. The answer without hesitation: “3 hours.”
At the 2-hour mark of my ride, I stopped to buy water and, as I poured it into my water bottle, again asked how far to Nyehunge. The guy glanced at my “hi-tech” bike and back at me, and said, “On a bike like that, you can probably make it in as little as 3 hours.”
At this point I responded in English and under my breath, “Well, ain’t this place a geographical oddity. Three hours from everywhere!”* I then started out again, this time with even more immediacy.
About 15 minutes passed, and I caught up with some guys who were cycling much faster than anyone else I’d seen that day. I fell into their pack and asked one of the guys how far to Nyehunge. He said, “At this speed, just a 1/2-hour.” Relieved, I followed him all the way to Nyehunge.
Total trip time = 2 hours, 45 minutes.
In Tanzanian culture it’s impolite to give someone bad news. And “I don’t know” is apparently the worst of news. It’s better to act as if you know — and let someone be disappointed in the end — than to not answer a question.
On the return trip yesterday, I was worried about some dark rain clouds moving our way and, so, asked Jason to drop me in Nyamazugo. This route would require only 10ish miles of dirt road, at which point I could enjoy a paved one all the way into Geita. I figured pavement would be easier to ride on when wet — and the trip couldn’t possibly be that much longer. I didn’t bother asking anyone for estimates. My total ride time yesterday was 4 hours. And the mountains were bigger.
* I shouldn’t have to offer a citation for this line — and I won’t. One of the best ever written.