bike rides and geographical oddities

“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.




Filed under culture, living in africa, sports, tanzania

30 responses to “bike rides and geographical oddities

  1. Hey Brett,
    I’ve been following your blog for some time now and have never commented. However, this post made me laugh out loud (especially the OBWAT quote), so I just had to comment. I’m from Nigeria (although I currently live in the States) and this made me think of home. Thanks for the education in Tanzanian culture that accompanies a lot of your posts. Also, God’s Grace to you and your family as you continue the work He has laid out for you there.

    • chinwe, thanks for reading the blog and for commenting today. you are a most welcome visitor. thank you much for your prayers, and — if you don’t mind my asking — what takes you to the U.S.?

      • I was born in the States, when my parents were studying/teaching here. They then moved back to Nigeria, when I was a baby, and I grew up there. I came back to the States for college (Michigan State) and stayed to work. My parents (and most of my extended family) live in Nigeria and it’s home. For now, though, the States is my second home 🙂

        • a real international you are, chinwe. i hope you enjoy the rest of your time in the states — and often get to visit with your family and friends back home. i understand a little, at least, what it’s like to be away from home. i wish that all christians understood that a little better; it seems to improve one’s understanding of what it means to be a Jesus-follower on earth. thanks for reading.

  2. Do they speak Swahili in the village where you stayed? I hope you will write more about what you did there.

    • bilyahilu village is made up of several different people groups, so everyone was speaking swahili (among their other languages) — but all the church meetings were in swahili, which was really nice for me. jason did all of the teaching; i was more along to “learn how” to visit village churches for extended stays. i really enjoyed it and may write more about it later on the blog, but if not i’ll at least send you an email.

  3. That sounds like such a fun cycling adventure and such a great way to see some beautiful sights!

    • it really was nice. that’s the one thing that i for sure enjoy more about cycling than running. you can see so much more in the same amount of time. though i think overall it’s a tie between the two disciplines. and swimming is a really, really, really distant last place.

      • I’m right there with you on the swimming. I like cycling, but I get bored really quick. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe if I were in a new country (or state for that matter) and had a buddy, I would enjoy it more. It is odd that I do not get bored running, though. I’ve never understood why they are so different for me.

        • i do tend to get bored on a road bike if i’m by myself. but a mountain bike on trails is different. i think because you have to concentrate a lot more on where you put your wheels, etc. but it’s also more tiring — in the mind, i mean.

          if i’m doing it alone, i’d much prefer to run. it’s a great time to pray and think and plan things out in my head. but if i’ve got partners, riding on the road is my favorite; it’s fast and you can cover 50 miles in a couple of hours, seeing a whole lot while having conversation. also, you get to take turns leading so the other guy (or girl) can rest while being pulled. and maybe my favorite thing about road riding (in the states) is that we can always stop at some little country store out in the middle of nowhere for a gatorade fill-up and some conversation — sometimes even lunch at a little meat-and-3.

  4. Eagle

    Compared to my hour and 45 minute comutte to work this morning that bike ride and lack of traffic is inviting!! 🙂

  5. Some of George Clooney’s best work is far as I am concerned. Were you able to pick up some Dapper Dan when you stopped to get some water?

    Yours truly,
    pater familias

  6. I can admit I have no idea where that quote is from – I’ll assume a movie, and I watch maybe 7 movies a year, for real. But great story, and good riding!

    • ‘o brother where art thou’ is the movie. i suppose it’s sad that i live in africa and still watch more movies than you.

      oh, and it’s really starting to look like it may be auburn and oregon. high scoring, no doubt.

      • yeehaw!!!! I’m nervous, Oregon has been struggling in the first half lately. Shall we place bets? 🙂

        • i am far from being ready to place any bets. we’ve still got a really big game coming up. but if we indeed should wind up playing one another for the NC, i’m all for coming up with some kind of distance wager.

          oh, and auburn’s also had their fair share of first half struggles. well, theirs and about 7 or 8 other teams’ as well.

    • chrissy, i’m glad you enjoyed the post — even if you do seem to be hiding your enjoyment behind all sorts of punctuation marks. what you’ve written is how i imagine we should write those laughs that we hide during prayers. when i can’t help but snicker a little bit and the laugh kind of comes out my nose even though i’m trying to keep it quiet and be respectful.

  7. Pingback: finishing marathons and winning football games in the name of Christ | aliens and strangers

  8. Lance

    We… thought… you… was… a TOAD!

  9. Jason Miller

    (Blank stare.)

    Do…not…seek…the treasure.

  10. Daniel

    Gopher, Everett?

  11. Pingback: obedience as evidence, love as motivation | aliens and strangers

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