Feb 232009
 

NDUNGU, TZ– One of the benefits of taking the local shortcuts is that they often harbor unfathomed adventure. And one of the costs of taking the local shortcuts is that they often harbor unfathomed adventure.

Consider our first shortcut: Some local men digging an ominously large hole recommended that we ride through a nearby grove to carve a few clicks off our route, as well as to avoid the heat and dust of the main road during the noontime scorch. Three hours and 15 tire punctures later–all of which we had to patch, as we were running low on inner tubes–we decided that bushwhacking through a thorn forest wasn’t such a swell idea, after all. The bright side is that I can now fix a flat in my sleep–not to mention in a dehydration-induced delirium.

Upon completing our sojourn in the thorn forest, we decided to make up for lost time by boating across the lake in our path, rather than biking around it. The Maasai on the shore were more than happy to ferry us in their dugout canoes for the low-low price of $10 per person. What they didn’t mention, or maybe didn’t even consider, was that the dugouts were heavily patched, readily rolling tree trunks that could scarcely carry a single very thin Maasai warrior–let alone a hulking mzungu and her kit.

And so they loaded up the first canoe with my bike, panniers, and me. It took all my core muscles to counterbalance the load while remaining perched on the boat’s rim. Within moments, the canoe was one quarter full of water. The captain shouted at me to start bailing.

Meanwhile, back on shore, the 50 Maasai gathered for the free entertainment started laughing. My back was to them, and so I inferred that I was the source of the hilarity. I later learned that David and Jerome had capsized behind me. Disgusted, my captain paddled back to shore, where I fished my gear out of the half-full canoe and waded through the muck back to dry land.
In the end, we cycled around the lake with an entourage of the Maasai, who refused to reimburse the $30 but instead agreed to escort us to our destination. Needless to say, we didn’t take any more shortcuts that day.