POV

Global Odyssey: Motorcycle Ride Through East Africa, The Witch Doctor

Our friend Eric Hill has a mission: “To visit all 194 U.N. recognized countries in world record time and film and document the exciting journey to show that awesome exists in EVERY country, especially with the people.” Eric’s journey will be one of full cultural immersion, while simultaneously raising funds and awareness in partnership with a variety of charity organizations. CBK will be reporting on his progress as he moves along. Check in next time for another tale from a great adventure.

Story and photos by Eric Hill - gowitheric.com

Source: Eric Hill www.gowitheric.com

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Courtesy of Eric Hill

With Kilimanjaro conquered Kyle Pettit (my friend and camera man) and I decided to relax with a safari day at Ngorogoro Crater National Park with Kilidove Tours. We got to see some breathtaking landscapes and countless wild animals. I couldn’t believe how close we could get to them. I even touched a wildebeest! I’d taken a safari in Botswana, but never got this close to the critters.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

As we were enjoying the unbelievable African outdoors, we started talking crazy ideas. On the ride back, one of those ideas started to sound like a good idea. Instead of flying over Tanzania to Burundi, why not just buy some motorcycles in Tanzania and ride them through the next four countries, then sell them in Uganda? The idea quickly turned into a decision and when we got back to Arusha that night, we set out to make it happen.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Luckily, the night before we had met some cool locals that invited us to stay with them in their home. Nico, his uncles Winston and Eric and the rest of the family all welcomed us into their home where they all lived and completely enriched our experience there for the few days we spent in Arusha. Plus without them, I don’t think we would have been able to figure out how to get motorcycles in time, and the rest of our East Africa experience would have been completely different.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Nico insisted on letting us have his bed. Kyle and I shared the mattress, which was big enough for two, but the mosquito net we shared was only big enough for one. Every time one of us would roll in our sleep we’d pull the mosquito net off the other. Needless to say, in Uganda during the rainy season, there were plenty of mosquitos that seized the opportunity to annihilate us in our sleep. With so many bug bites already all over my body, it didn’t change much in the way of discomfort.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

In the morning we went out to find motorcycles. We found out buying used bikes is a MUCH more complicated process, so we had to find some new ones from a dealer that would work. We found some pretty quickly. We settled on some little 150cc Chinese bikes called King Lions and crossed our fingers… These were not cross-country bikes. They cost less than two thousand US each, but it still took pretty much all day to figure out how to pull that much cash out from the account back home while the banks were closed in the US. By the time we finally did, it was way to late to get to the next stop in time, so we stayed another day in Arusha.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

That evening, Nico and Winston showed me what it was like to live like a local in Arusha. We saw Winston’s other house in what they said was “the ghetto of Arusha”. It was a poor area, but it really wasn’t scary or super dirty. Everyone seemed to know each other and they were all smiles when they saw that we were visiting. Later Winston took me to a very local pub where instead of beer; they all drank a brew made of fermented banana and sorghum with the consistency of watery oatmeal. Slightly sweet, slightly sour, pretty yeasty… Actually not that bad! They served it by the plastic cup full or by the pitcher, which they drank straight from. Everyone shared all the containers and it all came from a giant 50-gallon plastic drum ladled out by a cup-on-a-stick. So different than any other pub I’d been too!

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

The next morning we woke up early, said farewell to Nico and his family and began our motorcycle journey. Our plan was to head to the Hedzabe tribe, a hunter-gatherer tribe near Lake Eyasi. Our friend George from Kilidove Tours set us up with a contact that was supposedly a friend of the tribesmen, but after driving five hours there (and three hours off the path to Burundi) we found out our contact hadn’t been honest. He was only a “translator” for a tour company that did tours of a semi-authentic Hedzabe village. It was very expensive, he spoke very poor English, we were very disappointed and we were in a very tight situation since we then had no place to stay (This would be a common problem that always worked out in the end along the ride). We had to continue on. We called George and asked if he knew anyone we could stay with in the nearest town a couple hours away called Mto Wa Mbu. It turned out Nova, our safari guide from a couple days earlier, had set up camp there for some tourists. Saved again! What were the chances? I’m glad we had made friends with Nova. He had a tent and food set up for us when we arrived just as a favor, and we were able to get some much needed sleep and get out early the next day towards Burundi again.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

We rode all day, but by no means was it a boring ride. We met some unique local boys along the way that we exchanged some gifts with and found another epic baobab tree. We thought for sure we could get to the Burundi border even with the unplanned stops, but when your bike tops out at only forty-five miles per hour, it slows things down a little. All of our stuff was strapped to our bikes: computers, cameras and the rest. We needed a safe place that we could stay for the night. Nothing came. There was nothing but clusters of huts here and there in an endless savannah for hours. The sun had set and it was getting dark. I knew we needed to find something quickly. I slowed down to let Kyle get next to me.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

I lifted my face mask, “We’re need to find a place before it gets dark,” I yelled. Kyle nodded, eyebrows raised as if to say he understood the obvious. The light continued to fade and we were down to just minutes before complete darkness. I pointed firmly at a group of mud huts in the distance. “There,” I yelled. Kyle nodded again.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

We pulled off and crossed the bumpy dried mud of a cattle trail that led to the huts. About fifteen sets of curious eyes watched us approach. This was the middle of nowhere with nothing around for travellers to stop for. They had tattered clothes, chickens and goats roaming around and traditional huts with no electricity or anything like that. Two dusty muzungus (African for “white person”) on motorcycles with a wad of stuff tied behind us on our seats was a new sight for them I’m sure.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

I pulled down the Arabian scarf I had over my face for a dust shield and took off my helmet. I was sure none of them spoke English.
“Hello,” I said in the most non-threatening tone I could. “Does anyone speak any English?” Amazingly, one of the boys spoke a tiny bit of English! With a few understood words and a lot of hand signals, we explained our situation and asked if we could stay there for the night. He explained he had to get permission from the patriarch of the four-hut village. We walked to another set of huts in the distance where the patriarch was doing some business so we could get the permission we needed.

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

It turned out the man is the local witch doctor! He said we could stay, so we went back and hung out with his wives and children until he returned. Staying with a witch doctor and his family… One of the coolest situations I’ve ever stumbled on. We shared some sweet potatoes and some tea (Made from swamp water I’m sure). Kyle couldn’t finish his tea and had to chuck it in the dark when no one was looking. I figured it was boiled and clean enough, so even though it smelled like an old muddy puddle, I drank it down with my potatoes.

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Courtesy of Eric Hill

 

We started snapping pictures. The camera amazed them. I would take a picture, they would all crowd around to see it then they would burst into laughter and cheer and poke fun at each other for how the other looked in the picture. Then we would do it all over again. The witch doctor showed me the tools of his trade and the one boy that spoke English explained how people from all around come for medicines and “treatments”. I got to hold some of the utensils and learn a little about some of the “treatments” he would perform for the sick. It was fascinating, but it made me thankful I lived in a place with modern medicine.

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Courtesy of Eric Hill

 

Things slowed down and I set up camp using my mosquito net, our two sleeping pads, our two bikes, and a tatted tarp the locals had wadded in a rotting hut they used to use. How did I end up here? It was perfect. As I lay there laughing to myself about how I ended up on the ground next to the hut of a witch doctor in the middle of the African savannah, I drifted off to sleep.

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Courtesy of Eric Hill

 

Courtesy of Eric Hill

Courtesy of Eric Hill

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Courtesy of Eric Hill

Source: Eric Hill www.gowitheric.com

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