Monthly Archives: February 2016

Red Garden

The first of a series on the colours of our garden.

The most prominent accent colour in garden is red. Whether it is in the flowers or in the birds (Black Headed Gonolek, Red Billed Firefinch or Red Chested Sunbird).

Weekly Photo Challenge : (Tranquil) State of Mind

As I sit here late on a Friday evening listening to music from the latest Ministry of Sound Chilled House Compilation the image coming to mind is one of tranquility. 

So here is my contribution to the Weekly Photo Challenge: State of Mind taken from our recent holiday near Tangaimg_6274 kiasmos-looped

Weekly Photo Challenge: (Dry) Season, (Wet) Season

After a somewhat extended rainy season it finally seems that the dry season is upon us here in Mwanza – the temperatures are on the rise and the ground once sodden is turning to dust. As yet the remaining moisture is keeping the garden plants from withering and the impending long rains, due in March will probably mean they never dry out – this time will come over the long dry spell from May until November.

Here is the garden now as a submission to the WPC:Seasons 
Wet Season

Dry Season

Fishing Village

IMG_2749The village of Kigombe just down the beach at Peponi is reputed to be the oldest in Tanzania. Regardless of that claim there certainly was a large fillet of ships in the bay and each evening just before sunset  a number of villagers  would make their way down to the beach. Laden end with buckets and other containers carrying lamps or ropes they would wade out into the shallow waters heading for their boats.

They would then spent the night on the waters of the Indian Ocean their lamp lit boats strung like pearls across the horizon. IMG_2306

The following morning they return fish ready to sell or take home for food.


Ten years ago I visited a different Fishing Village on the other side of Africa in The Gambia

Weekly Photo Challenge: Seasons (What Seasons?)

A submission to the WPC:Seasons

There are I real seasons here – wet and dry seasons are the nearest we get but there is dry and sunny in the wet and vice versa in the dry, just more of the expected weather.

This week we have taken a break at Peponi on the Indian Ocean Coast of Tanzania, south of Tanga. The weather has been very hot and largely sunny. Here are some pictures of our week in the sun.


Crab Beach

Peponi Beach is full of crabs, all scuttling along and diving down their neat circular holes as soon as danger approaches, all accept the hermit crabs which serenely waddle in their borrowed carapaces.



The Scourge of Tanzania

 We are staying in a beautiful place. The wildlife is amazing, crabs of numerous variety scamper sideways across the beach, waders wade the shallow seas and the sands for Crustacea and palms sway gently in the sea breezes and yet….

…even here the scourge of Tanzania prevails. Plastic!

Bottles litter the beach.

 This is a small fraction of those I picked up in the last 100m of a walk back to Peponi – I could not carry more with ease.

 Many Tanzanians, sadly do not dispose of rubbish wisely – plastics are dropped or purposely swept overboard from boats – there is no regard for the environment here. So a place as isolated as this stretch of coast is blighted.

 In truth it is possible to overlook the litter – there are not great clumps of rubbish. However, dotted along the beach are bottles and bags, lids and tops, sacks and rope all plastic all dumped, only slowly (very very slowly) degrading on the sand.

The previous photo blown up!


The Peponi Bandas and Beachside Camping Complex is located along a stretch of coast between Tanga and Pangani on the Indian Ocean Coast of Tanzania. 

 There are a range of accommodation options ranging from a Banda ($630 pp for a 6 night stay) to a bring your own tent option ($6.50 pppn).

Regardless of the option you have access to the same facilities including a small pool, beach bar and restaurant area and numerous places to relax.
We chose the bring your tent option which has been good value, the tent is pitched under a Banda and provided with a light and an electrical socket. When our air bed sprung a leak the manageress was happy to loan us some bedding from the pre-erected tents (a third option for accommodation). 
The menu is tasty and well prepared. At 13000 TZS it is a lot cheaper than many places in Mwanza, where we live in Tanzania.WIFI is provided free of charge but is purposely limited to a small area is of the complex well away from the beach front so that people are not permanently on their phones which has been quite refreshing. 
 The property leads onto a beach front whilst not the pure white sands of Zanzibar the beach is nonetheless excellent.
 The beach teems with crabs which scurry for their holes, numerous wading birds trawl the beach which has a large tidal range as much of this coast does. There are many varieties of birds in the trees along the coastline too.



 The site is laid out in a landscape of palms and other trees. Bush babies clamber the trees by night and monkeys by day. A large curiosity of Banded Mongooses roam the grassy areas in the afternoons.


 We are really enjoying our stay here and after two solid days of travel it has been good to go no further than a stroll along the beach. 


Moshi, Mountains to Peponi Paradise 

Day two of our travels and after 18 hours on the ‘road’ yesterday a more relaxed morning. We were staying at Rafiki Backpackers where we had stayed one night in the summer on our journey through Moshi on our trip from Lake Victoria to Victoria Falls.

The previous night I was asleep as my head touched the pillow and I woke up refreshed after a solid night’s sleep. A leisurely breakfast and a trip to Nakumat (the lack of a proper supermarket in Mwanza makes this a must if only to pick up some coffee supplies and a Valentine’s present 💝, secretly smuggled out when Anita was unaware!).

Back on the road we headed South East past stunning mountain landscapes (Pare and Usambara Mountains) and on towards Tanga. One day we must return and visit these mountains and see for ourselves this amazing landscape). 

A five hour journey to Tanga and a half an hour on a rough unsurfaced road brought us to our final destination of Peponi Beach along a stretch of coast near Pangani, this to be our home for the week. 


  Pitching the tents in the light for a change and eating a tasty meal complete with a free Valentine’s Day pudding! 

Fatigue set in and after two days of travel we needed to sleep. There was a lovely breeze, but even with the fly sheet open we sweated buckets in the hot night time air. The ocean climate being significantly more humid than we are used to in Mwanza. This and the slowly deflating air bed meant a fitful night’s sleep – we’ll need a puncture repair kit!

Stick In The Muds

Never trust Google Maps!

Our journey to Moshi was certainly an eventful one. Up at 4am for the first leg of our drive to Tanga on the Indian Ocean.

We were heading for an overnight stay in Moshi. We made good progress to just north of Shinyanga when we were directed off to our left for our cut across country.

In fact I had missed the turn initially. I would come to regret not continuing this path and instead turning around at my navigator’s behest. After all on the map it looked the most direct.

Our new road was off Tarmac so a slower path than hitherto, but we had a four wheel drive so we coped.

img_6025After an hour or so we realised that we must have missed another turn as we were up in the hills heading for the Serengeti. There are no road signs on these roads so it is a bit of guesswork.
Reversing we travelled back half an hour or more until we found an obscure turning to our left – we took it!

Initially the road was fine enough we arrived at a village had some breakfast and continued on seeking directions at a junction. The man was a little dubious ‘bad road’ he said – but we had a four wheel drive and the road did not look bad, we really did not want to back track for an hour plus bearing I mind our 12 hour journey was extending as we travelled. This was a big mistake.


Initially we made good progress but the road became more and more off road.img_6034-1

Our recently learned driving skills paid dividends and we made it through a number of mud pools until we didn’t!

Stuck in the Mud! Just the four of us! 

 No other vehicles within miles.

No other people.

In our previous experience we had both more and uktimately a Landrover to drag us out.

What were we going to do now? Here in the middle of nowhere and a long journey ahead.

We tried going forward, we tried going back to no avail. So it was for the second time in a fortnight it was time to get muddy.

We pushed and we pushed with limited success, we tried putting leaves under the wheels, and twigs and branches the car barely budged.

We offered up a few arrow prayers – this was getting sticky!

A man wandered along the ‘road’, Tomasi. He agreed to help.

More pushing, more leaves, no luck.

Anita (supreme Kiswahili speaker as she is) and Tomasi set off to the nearest settlement in search of help – we gathered more sticks, leaves and branches and waited.

A cow herder arrived, then two more, cows in tow! Young boys off 13 years. More stick and twigs.

Then Anita returned having secured the help of a farmer who was ploughing his field by hand with a yoke of four oxen. He just need to finish his job and he’d be there. In less than 10 minutes he was and the oxen were chained to the back of the car (we were reversing out).


Within a few minutes we were free. Reversing to a place we could turn and then heading back the way we’d come to what the farmer promised was a better road.

This involved crossing some fields avoiding the spikes acacia bushes as we were directed by the farmer and Tomasi who asked if we could give him a lift to Inguga our immediate destination.

Our route took us to a track which whilst drier was scarcely a road (though Google insisted it was).image.jpeg

After an hour we were finally back on Tarmac and resuming our journey. In 7 hours we’d travelled just 44 miles it’s gonna be a late arrival in Moshi but at least we saw some interesting rural landscapes and some fabulous bird life to boot.

Most importantly we met some kind and generous Tanzanians who got us out of a hole.

The Unexpected Cuckoo

One of my interests since moving here has been the vast variety of birds we see on a daily basis. Most of them are familiar and repeatedly seen. Others are much more unexpected and unusual. Sitting in the garden last week we spotted an unfamiliar bird. It sat patiently on a branch as I took some pictures.  

dusky long-tailed cuckoo  dusky long-tailed cuckoo  
dusky long-tailed cuckoo 
It wasn’t keen to show it’s chest so a few shots taken through a bush were all I got.

  dusky long-tailed cuckoo 
It turns out this is a Dusky Long Tailed Cuckoo – which is ordinarily found nowhere near here on the other side of the lake in Uganda, making this a rarity. 

Within a few minutes it was on it’s way, much to the relief of the other birds no doubt wary of the cuckoo.

A chance encounter, just a few  minutes long with a bird that has excited the birding community. 


Weekly Photo Challenge: Time (Past in Prague)

A submission to this week’s photo challenge -time.

Ten years ago I celebrated my 40th Birthday in Prague. The weekend started outside the famous Astronomical Clock in the centre of the city. This tourist attraction is an amazing Medieval construction.

Weekly Photo Challenge: (Most of My) Time

 This post is linked to the weekly photo challenge:Time

 This is where I spend most of my time. My waking time at least. This is my classroom – the ICT room known as Babbage. I am Head of ICT here in a faculty consisting of Business and Economics too. 

 Today I have spent a lot of time in this room, having arrived at 6:30am, courtesy of an early morning swimming lesson for my daughter. It gives me an opportunity to put to bed the Reporting Templates for the forthcoming whole school reports. 

As Assessment Co-ordinator my role is to organize the system, so that colleagues can report on their subjects in Years 7-13 across the school. The spreadsheet system is simple enough to fill in but behind the scenes fiendish calculations process the data into reports. I enjoy working on it and I’m pleased with the result it there are glitches to iron out.

The start of school at 7:55am follows with classes in Years 8, 10 and 11. Currently years 12 and 13 are on exams, so a little more time solving glitches on the reports, during my ‘frees’.

Lunch time -and a heavy downpour means I’m not going any further than the Staff Room, two doors down.

I have an after school ‘club’ with my  year 11’s, aiming to give them greater practice and confidence in their practical skills ahead of their exams. This runs until 4:30pm.  

 The clock runs about 45mins slow!
The kids here are brilliant and so much better behaved than in the UK – my job is enjoyable most of the time and certainly working here in Africa has been an amazing experience.

Over 10 hours after my arrival I’m heading home. 

I’m sure many of you work in darker dingier places for longer hours so no pleas for sympathy just a recognition that  we teachers work longer hours than you might imagine. 😉

P.S I still need to mark those A2 and AS exams tonight – at home until late!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant Lizards

Here is a submission to the Weekly Photo Challenge:  Vibrant Lizards

The Agama Lizard is a vibrantly coloured reptile – one species is named after our home town in Tanzania – the Mwanza Flat Headed Agama is bright pink and blue.

One Hour in the Garden

I have often shared the wide variety of bird and animal life here on the Compound in Mwanza but I thought I’d give a flavor of what can be seen in about an hour on the verandah. All the birds below were seen.

  • Red-chested Sunbird
  • Variable Sunbird
  • Black-headed Gonolek
  • White-browed Robin-chat
  • African Firefinch
  • Green-winged Pytilia
  • Purple Grenadier
  • Speckled Mousebird
  • Grey-backed Cameroptera
  • Common Bulbul
  • African Paradise Flycatcher
  • Spectacled Weaver
  • Yellow-billed Black Kite

A number of the photos here were taken between 6pm and 7pm this evening, others are for reference purposes.

Not forgetting

  • Slender Mongoose


Weekly Photo Challenge: Vibrant Skies

Africa offers some amazing sunrises and sunsets. Whether the backdrop is one of the great lakes, the mountains, the rivers or plains, oranges reds and yellows paint the vibrant skies.

Here are some of the many sunsets over the last 18 months. A submission to this week’s challenge.