We used Elvis twice as a guide while mountain biking in Tanzania. The first time was in 2009 when 6 of us (4 cyclists and 2 drivers) drove with two vehicles from South Africa to meet Elvis at Machami gate on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. We liked him and his approach immediately and even on that first day we had exposure to the grandeur of the lower reaches of the mountain, local people and culture, elephants and other animals, and the small roads and tracks where you feel that you are truly on the African savannah as Grants gazelle and wildebeest scuttle across the path in front of you. Later, swollen rivers, mud and tsetse fly would ensure that we experienced adventure as we aimed for Mbeya in the south of the country.
That first trip was exciting and very educational but two of us felt that the idea of a supported trip with vehicles always available if needed, and cooking for yourself from supplies bought at a supermarket prevented us from experiencing the ‘real’ Africa. So we returned two years later with just our bicycles and the equipment we could handle, to be met by Elvis at Kilimanjaro Airport. From there we cycled past Lake Manyara to the boundary of the Serengeti, got a local Land Rover to take us to the other side, and continued to the shores of Lake Victoria. By ferry we went to Mwanza via Ukerewe Island, and from there we cycled again to our final destination – Kigali in Rwanda. We ate what we could buy at local restaurants or homes and sometimes cooked for ourselves. We slept in guest houses or in our own tents. It was great. Everybody was helpful and friendly and we never felt unsafe. But having a guide like Elvis made the whole experience so much more relaxing, as the uncertainty was removed, there was somebody who could negotiate where needed, and that which is difficult for an outsider to notice – traditions, attitudes, etc – was pointed out.
We found Elvis an excellent guide, who went on to become a friend.