In Darkest Africa

This article was published in 2007, in Newsletter 74.

Tanzanian roadside bike repair station
Image as described adjacent

Last summer I travelled to remote Southern Tanzania for a couple of weeks to help with a local charitable link with a small town in the area. I’d been there some ten years earlier and had been impressed by the vast number of bikes and the ‘roadside repair stations’ that exist every few hundred metres in the towns and every few kilometres even on the unpaved roads between.

This time I took a few simple bike tools to ‘trade’. The job of these mechanics is more difficult now, not just because of the general economic situation (you now get over 2500 Tanzanian shillings for a UK pound), but because the ubiquitous ‘Chinese’ single speed black bike is being replaced by ‘mountain’ bikes with a huge variety of components

There are few tourists (just try buying a postcard), and poor people are suspicious of people with cameras, but by offering my simple tools as a donation, and showing the pictures on my digital camera I soon became friends with one group despite the almost total lack of any common language.

Jim Chisholm