Posted on October 30, 2012

This is Africa #livefrommwanza #GGCBlogNo2

Tuesday 30th October

Jambo! (Swahili for Hello, let us all hope my vocabulary grows from this)

I am writing this blog from the balcony of our hotel (Ryans Bay, Mwanza) as a storm breaks on the horizon.  We arrived here in darkness (darkness falls in just 30 mins in Mwanza) last night so I now have our first glimpse of the surrounding areas.

I have never been to Africa before and other than pictures, have very little preconceived ideas.  I like it this way.  It means that every little experience is completely new, something so rare in our day-to-day lives in London.

In our little group we have David Barker, fellow Director at GGC and chief photographer and Kimberley Finlayson, Commercial Director of FMC, the dental publishing company behind Dentistry Magazine.  Kimberley is here to report back to the company in order that they may further support Bridge2Aid with articles and PR.

We left London Gatwick at 8.10pm on Sunday and arrived in Mwanza at 7.40pm last night – just over 20 hours later.  We flew via Dubai and then Dar Es Salam, the capital city of Tanzania, a slightly longer flight and a little more waiting around between than flying direct to Dar but it meant we saved a few pennies along the way.

On arrival in Dar Es Salam, there was some admin to progress.  We filled in a visa application form, pulled out a $50 note each and placed both in our passports before handing over to an official.  Ten mins later, waiting with another 20 or so people, my name was shouted out by a lovely smiley man who when I approached immediately asked how I was.  And there you have it, my first introduction to Tanzania and I’m immediately at ease, what a lovely welcome!  A few finger prints, a picture and I’m handed back my passport, now with a visa inside and we all proceed to collect our bags, before rechecking in for our final flight to Mwanza with Precision Air, all the while being greeted with beaming smiles by everyone we meet.

The airport is small but comfortable and we find a little bar by our gate and enjoy a ‘Castle’ beer.  I am naturally inquisitive and therefore people watching is something I struggle to keep at bay most of the time but here I am aware of appearing rude and so steel a few casual glances at the people around us; a real contrast of people, women wearing brightly coloured clothes and looking confident and glamourous, and men in groups chatting amongst themselves – as well as a few white faces sitting on computers with a can of coke next to them.

The flight from Dar to Mwanza is just 1 hour and 30 mins and the small jet plane we flew in with Precision Air must have held around 100 people.  We flew during sunset, admiring the green land below us and I was surprised at how flat everything seemed.  The sun set very quickly and before we started our descent, the lights in the aircraft were turned off.  When I say off, I don’t mean leaving a few low level lights on I mean ‘pitch black in the plane off’ – which was pretty interesting!

An easy landing followed by around 10 people being ushered off the flight by men with guns, apparently not an unusual occurrence, these men had been sat directly behind us – wonder what they had done?

When we disembarked the plane we were greeted by Mark Topley, CEO of Bridge2Aid.  So lovely to see a friendly face and he helped us off with our bags and to the car.

Driving the 20 mins from the airport to our hotel in Mwanza, even at 8.10pm we noticed how busy the streets were.  The streets were littered with market stools with little candles lighting up the sellers’ faces.  Mark commented that we were lucky the power was on and streetlights were working, so we could see the pedestrians as they played chicken crossing the road.

Mark also pointed out the only one traffic light in the whole of Mwanza!

We then arrived at our hotel and debriefed on our journey with Mark, while being entertained by a Frog chorus louder than I could explain.  Rather unsettling for someone like me who has an unexplainable fear of frogs!

We then headed to bed and woke early around 6am to a thunder storm, and rain thrashing down on our balcony.

Sitting here now the rain is still coming down, some two hours later as I take in the scenery around us.  We’re on the edge of Lake Victoria, the second largest Lake in the world, some 192 miles long and the view is so serene.  Everything looks very green and lush and I can see some little boats off in the distance on the Lake and some houses on the hill but everything still looks very quiet.  After so many years writing about this place, it’s wonderful to finally be here.  I can’t wait to get started!

We have a busy few days ahead of us so I’ll sign off now and report back later.  In the meantime please continue to follow us on Twitter as we meet the teams later today.

G

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