Day one: Dating the Early Stone Age site of Isimila

Here’s a diary of James Cole’s recent research trip to Tanzania as part of a project to date the early stone age site of Isimila.  It’s an account of his activities and adventures on the trip with his colleagues Dr Martin Bates (University of Wales, Trinity St David) and Dr Pastory Bushozi (University of Dar es Salaam).

The project is also part of a broader collaboration with Dr John McNabb (University of Southampton) who although was not with us on the trip this time, wrote about our first trip to Tanzania in May.

29th August 2014

We finally arrived in Dar es Salaam last night after a 15 hour trip from Heathrow via Dubai, collected our hire car and set off for Iringa (about 600km away) at 0630 in order to try and avoid the terrible traffic issues that plague Dar es Salaam. We got about 3 hours out of Dar es Salaam when there was a clunking sound and the car came to a screeching halt. The differential (for those who know about cars) had locked and we were stuck on a major road for 6 hours waiting for a replacement vehicle. Thank goodness we were travelling slowly, in between speed bumps, at the point of differential lock otherwise it could have been a very different story to the one written here.

roadside breakdown in Tanzania

Our first breakdown – removing the differential (Photo courtesy of Dr Martin Bates)

The replacement vehicle finally arrived at about 1730 and conscious (and nervous) about the impending drive in the dark on Tanzanian roads we set off as quickly as possible while there was still some day light. Noticing the fuel level was low we pulled into a service station and hour or so down the road. Having checked the registration documentation for the vehicle – which said diesel – we filled up and continued our journey – for about 5 metres… The car shuddered to a halt and a sinking feeling took hold of Martin and I – it was the wrong fuel, the engine had been changed to a petrol one. So we had to find a mechanic to help drain the tank and fix the engine before we could go any further.

breakdown in tanzania

Our second breakdown 2 – removing the diesel (Photo courtesy of Dr Martin Bates)

Fortunately we found an incredible mechanic who was training two young apprentices and together they had everything fixed within 3 hours or so. By this time it was 2130 at night and a thunderstorm had set in so we decided to sleep in the car at the service station and continue our journey in the morning.

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