Pienaar's Heights

Name ID 2427

See also

Read, David Beating about the Bush
Page Number: 015
Extract Date: 1937 December

Journeys to and from school

My journeys to and from school always seemed to be such adventures that I remember more of the travelling to school than I do of the term-time. Sometimes it was impossible to return home for Christmas as this holiday was at the height of the short rains and the fairly primitive mud roads would be impassable. After my first full year at school in 1937 the roads were thought to be acceptable and we embarked, as usual, on the school bus for Dodoma, with one of the teachers as escort, to spend Christmas with our families. Although the rains had not been heavy, the roads were a morass of mud and potholes and we got as far as Pienaar Heights, about 135 miles from Arusha, before our troubles started. The bus was too heavy, the road too steep, and the mud too slippery for an easy ascent. The bigger boys had to get out and cut brushwood to lay along the wheel tracks and then they had to push while the older girls had to walk. The mud was thick and slimy and clogged our shoes, which made walking and pushing very difficult whilst the road was too narrow for the bus to turn round. With no options to go back or to reverse down the hill, we had to persevere with this Sisyphean task until we reached the top of the hill, pushing in the dark and driving rain with our clothes soaked before we were even half-way on the first leg of our journey. To me the activities of the day had been fun and rewarding, and while most of the others, and the teachers, complained about their cold and soggy state, David How-Brown, Jeff Hollyer and I felt we had had a most worthwhile time. We hoped eagerly that calamities would continue to occur, so as to relieve the boredom of the long and uncomfortable trip with a little adventure. It was on that day, while we were covered in mud, pushing the big bus with all our strength, shouting instructions to the driver, falling flat on our faces in the wet, trying to avoid the spraying mud of the wheels that spun and failed to grip, that a lasting friendship between the three of us was, if you will excuse the pun, cemented.

It was four in the morning by the time we reached Dodoma, and everyone had missed their connecting trains. Those who were going east, like Jeff and David, were told that they could travel on the early morning goods train going to Morogoro, but would have to sit in the Guards van, which delighted them and those travelling to the Lakes would go on at ten the next morning. Only three rooms had been booked at the Railway Hotel for the teacher and those of us going south, and these were given to the girls and small boys, leaving the rest of us to sleep in the hotel lounge. Our companions for the night were a motley crew of sleeping drunkards who had been unable to get home. Our coming in had disturbed them and, waiting until the teacher had gone to bed, they started their party all over again, plying us youngsters with drink. We thought this was a great adventure until daylight came when we had to face our escort, Miss Read.

Extract ID: 4180

See also

Allen, John Richard Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika
Page Number: 39
Extract Date: 1939

Dodoma to Arusha

Driving north from Dodoma was all new country for me. After the first 10 miles out the cultivated areas ceased and the road then passed through broken country, well wooded with 'Miombo' trees (Latin name is Brachystegia, but which one of the 30 different species ????? ). After passing through that five mile belt of forest the landscape changed completely to dry scrub and thorn bush, uninhabited, to the passing motorist. (But 7 years later I was to discover otherwise?). At about 80 miles from Dodoma the large native settlement named Kelema was reached. Here, four or five native dukas (shops) sold a miscellaneous assortment of goods, mainly cloth and local foodstuffs, My only purchase was a hand of bananas to munch on the way. Judging by a few remarks, I gathered some of our vehicles had also stopped there, so the convoy was not wholly ‘in convoy’! So far, on the journey, only two stops had been made to sort out minor mechanical troubles on a couple of vehicles. From Kelema, for the next 30 miles, onwards, the area was thickly populated by the Irangi tribe. The land is fairly hilly and scarred with soil erosion gullies, some measuring hundreds of feet wide. Many 'sand rivers' crossed the road which could be a great hazard to motorists when the normally dry riverbeds are in full spate after a storm. At Kelema there is a very wide one, a quarter of a mile, which I know has claimed many vehicles driven by impatient motorists.

At exactly 100 miles from Dodoma I stopped, in the shade of a large baobab tree, to eat a few biscuits washed down with a bottle of warm 'pop'. Here, a road branched off, almost due west, down a slope for two miles into the small township of Kondoa Irangi. The District HQ for the Kondoa District. On the opposite side of the road there was a small lake with a fair population of wildfowl. By now the time had crept round to about 15.30 hours, so off we went continuing our journey, The countryside for the next 18 miles along the road was rather barren , over-populated, over-grazed, hilly, eroded and the only trees were baobabs. After passing through the Minor Settlement of Kolo, the road began to ascend into the hills known as Pienaar's Heights, so-named after a South African General who, during the 1914/18 war routed the enemy forcing them to retreat to Kondoa and beyond, However, history apart: Half way up the short escarpment was one stationary 'ambulance' or, in reality, a 2 ton Ford V8 lorry converted for passenger carrying, but on this occasion it had a load of medical equipment on board weighing less than a ton. I wondered how the contents in the boxes would survive after being bounced over miles of a 'corrugated' road surface? After struggling with various engine components for over an hour the thing eventualy started but firing on only 7 cylinders. As for the 8th, to hell with it. (my feverish cold taking over!). Off on the road again ascending to an altitude of 6,000 ft. above sea level and with darkness approaching rather quickly. There was a definite chill in the air and, to my sorrow, my British ‘warm' army great¬coat was, by now, in Bereko! There were more stops en route, but we eventually made it to the camp by 9.30 pm. The Mess cook had put aside a plateful of dinner for me, no doubt on Ali's instructions. Some kind soul gave me a stiff whisky. The tent was up and my campbed all ready to flop into. The CO came over to ask where I'd been, so told him! Whereupon, he withdrew. By the time I had swallowed my drink, eaten my dinner, performed my ablutions, my colleagues had retired to their respective nests so I did likewise, under three blankets in this cold spot, We were at an altitude of about 6,500 ft, asl.

Morning came round much too early but the cup of tea brought in by Ali at 6,15 am was most welcome, A busy morning began with breakfast at 7.30 am and a departure for Arusha at 8.30 am, about 130 miles away. My departure time, anybody’s guess! I scrounged as many spanners, screwdrivers etc. I could lay my hands on to deal with that wretched Ford lorry. One point I insisted on, the Bedford lorry, with its driver, would follow me, since I would be driving the 'wreck.', with the inexperienced driver sitting alongside. After cleaning all the fuel pipes, carburettor, the ignition system, petrol pump and anything else I could find, within reason, the engine actually fired on the fourth attempt. Like me, it coughed a lot and then picked up, sometimes on 7 cylinders, sometimes 8!

It was just after 11.00 am when I set forth. After nine miles, or so, the road descended to a much lower altitude and the area was flat apart from a few distant hills. The next minor settlement of note, was a place called Babati, with an extensive African population and about six Asian owned dukas - so I stopped close by to a large 'tin' (corrugated iron) duka and was welcomed in by its Asian owner. I was amazed at the variety of tinned provisions he stocked, also beer and soft drinks galore! So I treated myself to a Coca Cola straight from the fridge and a packet of savory biscuits. I also gave the two drivers shgs.2.00 each to buy themselves a meal as the chances of reaching Arusha in time for their evening meal with the mob was rather remote.

Arusha was still 110 miles away so as soon as possible after that short break, we were off, into a very warm afternoon. The Indian duka-wallah told me the main convoy had gone through about 10 am so, with luck, it should be 'home and dry' by 16,00 hours.

We made good progress for the next 50 miles through an area known as the Mbugwe 'flats' but when the undulating country was reached, more trouble. Being a hot afternoon the engine had been running at a higher temperature than usual but now, crawling up slight inclines in second gear the water boiled which made me suspect either the cylinder head was cracked or a 'blown' cylinder head gasket. Either way, I could do nothing about that, full stop! At the top of the slopes a halt was necessary to allow the engine cool down sufficiently before replenishing the water, which all took time. Bouncing along a flat stretch of road, in the dark, with the wooden bodywork and medical boxes creating a dreadful din there was almost an 'Incident on the Highway'? Unbeknown to me a car following in my wake of dust had been trying to pass but with all the noise I hadn't heard his dual car horns blaring forth. The first indication I got was from a bush on the roadside reflecting a strong light beam so I immediately pulled over to let the car pass. A few yards further along the road the car pulled up and out stepped a European male who beckoned me to stop. He strode over and, when he was a couple of feet away I wound down the window to be greeted with, in an Australian accent, a mouthful of abuse ending with " – you bastard"? Just what I needed! Momentarily, I was taken aback and just when I was about to give him a well directed punch in the face he stepped back realising that he wasn't speaking to an African lorry driver. I saw him later that evening in the hotel but he did not recognise me. Apparently, he was a high ranking official in the Govt. the Director of Lands and Mines! A pity he stepped away at the wrong moment before I could teach him a lesson in manners. However, the CO dealt with him on my behalf,

Extract ID: 5711

See also

Allen, John Richard Down Memory Lane in Tanganyika
Page Number: 92
Extract Date: 1942

More leave. South to Sao Hill

My leave date eventually came round and since I was going to the ancestral home, Sao Hill, 680 miles away in a southerly direction, it was necessary to plan the pick up points for petrol ration coupons en route. To complicate the problem even more I would be traveling over the weekend when Petrol Ration Offices would be closed from 12.30pm Saturday until 08.00am Monday. On the Friday afternoon I called at the Nairobi Office and after explaining to the pleasant young lady behind the desk that I wanted sufficient fuel to reach Kondoa Irangi, 360 miles away. This was to insure against the Arusha Office being closed. So she gave me 16 gallons worth of coupons. I offered to take her out for a dinner on my return but She declined.

Our Sgt. Maurice Tyrant was in luck in more ways than one. Since he was spending his leave in Dodoma his transport worries were over as I had to pass through the town to reach my destination, another 220 miles further on. Also, by giving him a lift instead of taking the usual route by train and bus he gained two extra days holiday, plus saving expenses on food and accomnmodation en route. For my part I was thankful tor his company since it is not advisable to make long car journeys solo in Africa.

It was my intention to leave Nairobi at 7.30am on the Saturday but like all well made plans there is always a hitch, which delayed us for 30 minutes. Time was an important factor since I wanted to reach Arusha by 12.30 pm, a distance of 184 miles. That meant averaging a speed of 41 miles per hour over an indifferent earth road. A tall order. For the first 60 miles the road surface was corrugated and there is only one way to tackle such a surface to avoid rattling the car to pieces - speed! Consequently, after one hour that came to an end and from there onwards the road wasn't too bad and we carried on non-stop, except for a very brief halt at the Customs Post on the Kenya/Tanganyika Border.

And on to Arusha in time to collect some petrol coupons, by which time our dry throats were in need of a gargle. So along to hotel where the cold beer tasted like ¬nectar. Entirely the wrong liquid to drink knowing there is a hot afternoons driving ahead, By the time we had quenched our thirst, partaken of a good lunch followed by coffee and taken fifteen minutes shut eye in a comfortable chair the hour of departure was upon us and I had yet to make a decision whether to spend the night in Kondoa or carry on another 100 miles beyond to Dodoma, From Arusha that would entail a total ot 280 miles or six hours driving. A tiring thought after the morning's rush, Maurice, who is in the Transport Section of the Service Corps was not, in my estimation, a very good driver so that left me to do all the work!

After filling up with petrol, and purchasing a few groceries to top up my 'chop' box - in case of emergency, the hour had moved round to 1430hrs. So, without further delay - off. Glancing sky-wards in our general direction the clouds were rather black and heavy and it was the' rainy' season. After a few more miles the heavens opened and remained 'open' for miles which reduced our speed. An army convoy of about 50 vehicles that he would be along to see her in the very near future - and Dodoma had its fair share of licentious soldiery (to be continued later!). The last 60 miles to Kondoa Irangi - to give the place its full name, took more time than anticipated due to the wet conditions prevailing over a 35 mile section of road commonly known as 'Pienaars Heights", with plenty of bends and hills to contend with. By the time the sun had long disappeared over the horizon, and with no lamp available in the Rest House, we had to grope around with a torch and the car lights shining through the doorway. With regard to beds etc. I was self-contained with campbed, bedding, food and drink. Maurice had no choice, He had a couple of blankets in his kitbag to put on the rickety old iron bedstead and mattress, too dreadful to describe!travelling in the opposite direction had churned-up a few muddy stretches of road. By this time it became obvious that the Kondoa Rest House would be our sleeping quarters for the night. Perhaps just as well because Maurice hadn't informed his wife, an attractive, young, 'white' Seychellois lady, who enjoyed life to the full,

Our greatest priority was a cup of tea so calling on the services of the RH attendant a kettle full of boiling water was soon on the table. With the torchlight becoming dimmer by the minute we didn't waste much time sitting around drinkiing tea. To quell that empty feeling the edibles purchased in Arusha, biscuits, butter, ham and cheese went down very well. And so to bed, rather earlier than usual. Breakfast on that Sunday morning was a repeat of last night's 'dinner'. At 8.30am I plucked up courage to call on the Asst District Officer to enquire about the possibility of petrol coupons, eight gallons worth. He was very pleasant and co-operative, so along to the Boma (District Office) which was not far from the ADO’s house, for the important piece of paper. I now had on board sufficient petrol for the 324 miles to Sao Hill with a drop or three to spare! By the time we arrived at the Dodoma Hotel, 11.00am, I felt the need for a cup of coffee so, after Maurice had unloaded his kit, we went into the so-called hotel lounge where Mrs Maurice just happened to be with six army chaps in tow! Safety in numbers, but the look of surprise on her face was worth being photographed! The menfolk disappeared into thin air.

Maurice had told me she was forever running into debt in spite of collecting practically all his monthly pay in the form of family allowance and he, rather foolishly, was accepting more pay over the table in excess of the amount he had elected to receive, due to the lack of an endorsement in his Pay Book. When the Army Pay Records discovered the anomaly his wife's allowance was cancelled until the over-payments had been paid off. Result - a broken marriage. After his leave he transferred to another unit and I didn't see him again until the mid 1950s. But a few months after their separation - or divorce, the young lady made the headlines rather tragically. Her demise being recorded as murder, a mystery which I do not think was ever solved.

After that digression, back to Dodoma. I left at 11.30am and after an uneventful 222 miles, or 5 hours of driving, I arrived at my destination to enjoy many cups of excellent tea and good food, etc, etc; But I couldn't get away from the army! Every day members of the Forces travelling from Nairobi and South Africa and in the opposite direction would call in at the hotel for refreshments and acommodation. This was all good for trade, but acting as barman, to give the 0M a rest, made a slight hole in my pocket. But it was enjoyable. I visited a few friends and aquaintances to catch up on the local news. Mother had been invited to attend a wedding in Iringa so I had to act as chauffeur. In uniform, and 'gatecrashed' the party, but that was no problem since I knew the bride and her two sisters well enough not to worry about being the uninvited guest and their father couldn't care less. Anyway, a good time was enjoyed by all and the party was still in full swing when 'Mama' and I left at 5.00 pm.

Extract ID: 5714

See also

Tanganyika Guide
Page Number: 058
Extract Date: 1948

Great North Road

The road leaves Arusha township in a direction due west for the first nine miles, thereafter tending southwards in a great curve to the west, until it passes the eastern shores of Lake Manyara, 65 miles from Arusha. Thence the road follows a line due south through Babati and on to Pienaar’s Heights, the whole route being beaconed on each side with magnficent isolated peaks.

Extract ID: 295

See also

Tanganyika Guide
Page Number: 63
Extract Date: 1953

Great North Road

The road leaves Arusha township in a direction due west for the first nine miles, thereafter bending southwards in a great curve to the west, until it passes the eastern shores of Lake Manyara, 65 miles from Arusha. Thence the road follows a line due south through Babati and on to Pienaar's Heights, the whole route being beaconed on each side with magnificent isolated peaks. Over many miles game of every description may be seen, and, owing to the restrictions on shooting, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, gazelle and lion sometimes are to be met with on the road itself. South of Babati, 116 miles from Arusha, much native cultivation is passed, and from here on to Bereku the country is reminiscent of England, the road taking a winding course up the hills through magnificent trees between whose branches impressive panoramas are seen of the Babati area, Hanang Mountain and the Great Rift wall to the north, while to the south and east stretch to the horizon the plains of the Central Province and the Masai steppe.

The road still bears south, and Kondoa is reached at mile 170 from Arusha. From here it proceeds through the Gogo country to Dodoma on the Central Railway, 272 miles from Arusha. Dodoma is an important centre of the Territory's communications. It has a hotel and a first-class aerodrome, with metalled runway, within a mile of the town.

Extract ID: 5542
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