Archive for the ‘Tanzania’ Category

Last leg of Tanzania … the road the Tunduma, where tarmac starts again all the way to the Malawi border.

Again, as usual on this trip .. up early, packed everything, had some scrambled egg on toast and Africafe instant coffee in the restaurant of the country club.

I set off, but the road is all tarmac … can’t be .. or they just didn’t know what I meant when I asked them if the road was bad. About 20 miles later, I stopped next to a group of locals, but they directed me back to town and another road … which, yes, is gravel. I think my GPS got a little confused.

The road was not that bad … I can see it had rained, maybe the day before and then it can be nasty, I’m sure .. but today it was good ! The first 120km or so was great fun, some good fast sections, enjoying it, but then the last 70/60 km to Tunduma was just horrible .. rocky and stoney, bike feels like it is rattling to bits.

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First section was beautiful, if a little corrugated

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You got to see my ugly smug at some point

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I reached Tunduma in one piece and immediately set of for Mbeya … only about 100km from the Malawi border. It is good to get an early start every morning … gives you loads of time and by around lunctime you have covered some good distance.

As I was riding into Mbeya … there was something brewing in the air … it was pitch black clouds, wind like hell, sometimes it felt I had to ride at a 45 degree angle. I could see heavy rain hanging over the mountains surrounding Mbeya, so I diverted to the nearest hotel/restaurant that my GPS could find. It just happened to be on the same road .. it’s a place called ICC (IFSI Community Center). It is set on massive grounds … and very decent, they have a hotel, guest house and restaurant. I decided I will try their fish and chips while I wait for the rain to pass. Very interesting .. not sure what fish, but it was good, maybe a little thin on meat.

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Fish and Chips at the ICC (IFSI Community Center)

I also took this photo of an ancient telephone exchange I think that is in their lobby … and they still use it till this day, perfect working condition.

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The old telephone exchange they still use at ICC

Ironically enough, it never rained. The strong winds must have blown it the other way … so I set off to the Utengule Coffee Lodge (http://gpslog.cc/-8.8852,33.3205), a place I found on the internet. It is run by a British lady and her husband .. very welcoming, great bar and restaurant staff that looks after your every need. A little pricey … think my room was $80, but had a great stay. Off to Malawi tomorrow !!

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Photos of Utengule Coffee Lodge

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Down Tanzania – Part 2

Posted: November 13, 2010 in General, Tanzania
Tags: , , ,

Up very early, mainly because he hippos are so damn noisy … cold shower, sharing it with loads of mosquitos, but better than no shower 🙂

It is a cloudy day … with a constant drissle. I thought I will wait a while for the rain to stop, but it didn’t, so I decided to pack up everything and go .. not getting anywhere by sitting around. I need to get to Sumbawanga and early if I can.

Straight out of the gates, I turn left and left again … this road takes me straight through the Katavi National Park .. not even 200m on this road and I already spotted a herd of elephants to my left. Later on, some buffalo, baboons and loads of giraffe. Loving it …

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Giraffe next to the road through Katavia National Park

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Some buffalo ..

Or so I thought, soon the seemingly good road turned a little slippery at some patches. You just don’t know where these patches are … This made me very weary of the road, so I stood up in the pegs and concentrated hard on the road ahead of me, making it hard to spot wildlife.

With a constant wipe of the visor, so I can see where I am going … I carried on. It even got a little worse, potholes, which at least you could spot easily as they are filled with water and then corrugation .. my favorite ! It soon became hard work .. very hard.

I came to one section where even trucks got stuck in the mud, I had to wait for them to sort themselves out, passed them, just to discover that there is almost no road on the other side … the trucks have practically made a big “mushy” mud section of the road. Luckily, I knew lots of truckers were nearby if I get stuck. I made it through though ..

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Dirty from the mud ..

Today, I also had my first proper fall since I started this trip. They are busy with road works, so they make you divert to very dusty, sandy single laned roads on the side. Trucks in Tanzania know that they are bigger then you, so they won’t move, forcing me to one side of the road where I hit a massive sandy section and down I went. At least the truck stopped, the guys got off and helped me pick up the bike again. Bike and I are fine though, just a fall in the sand.

I eventually reached Sumbawanga (http://gpslog.cc/-7.9588,31.6290) around lunctime, so I went to the local country club for some lunch. I asked around and everyone told me the road to Tunduma (where tarmac starts again) is very bad and with rain on the horizon, I decided to sleep over at the country club for the evening rather than trying to make it all the way in one day … great little place, great food as well.

I also struggled a little to find petrol in town … I don’t think they want to sell … as they do have, but after a chat to the guys in the office, they agreed to sell me 10 liters on one condition, they want to have a ride on my bike … Like that is gonna happen, luckily they still gave me the petrol 🙂

Tomorrow, I am off to Tunduma .. last 200 or so kilometers before I get tarmac and then I plan to go to Mbeya.

I have divided this road down Tanzania into 3 parts, first day would be to Mpanda, second day to Sumbawanga and the last day before I cross the border into Malawi would be to Mbeya.

The first day is from Kigoma, down a very small and unmarked road to Uvinza and then down the B8 to Mpanda. The road the Uvinza was beautiful … flat red hard packed roads … awesome, sometimes cruising at 100kph, was just loving it !

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On the way to Uvinza

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Beautiful road … hard and fast gravel track

Then turning the right onto the B8, south towards Mpanda was just as good. Lindsay and Delilah was traveling slightly slower due to some problem with Delilahs bike … think the pannier frame was loose and rattling all over the place, so I went ahead on my own.

Brilliant roads, but hard work … all different terrain, hard pack fast gravel tracks, rocky roads, sandy roads … good fun.

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Some of the sandy bits to Mpanda

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Beautiful scenery on this road ..

I eventually reached Mpanda with little fuel left, but the GPS said there is a petrol station in Mpanda … the bad thing then is, when you get there and they say “no petrol” … what the hell now, will never reach the next town. I had a words with the manager in the office and said I only need about 10 liters after which he said “wait” … they started taking the pump apart and then slowly they could pump some petrol. There was petrol, I think they were just too lazy to fix the pump itself.

Filled up and ready, I waited for Lindsay and Delilah, soon becoming a tourist attraction … attracting all the locals 🙂 … almost 2 hours later, still no sign. Damn, did one of them fall .. maybe broken leg or arm .. maybe even worse. Sent a SMS message, no reply. I waiting about another 15 minutes, so I decided to phone. Delilah did have a few falls in the sand, she is ok thought, but the bike, especially that pannier frame has seen better days. They said they are 19km from Mpanda so I decided to ride back up north hoping to see them very soon.

Found them eventually, we returned to Mpanda for them to get some petrol. They decided to stay in Mpanda and maybe organize a truck to take the bike to Tunduma .. the first town where you get tarmac again. With the sun setting fast and a camp site about 35km away, I left them there to reach the camp site before sunset while they stayed the night in Mpanda.

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Camping at River Side camp … with my beers in a cooler box.

The camp site was a complete dump …. run down and no one in sight. So I came to a camp next door called River side camp. The only one here, but it’s decent .. toilet and cold shower. The only downside, it stink of Hippo crap. When I say hippos, I mean hippos .. and lots and lots of them, only about 10 meters from my tent. They look like big rocks in the water.

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It’s all hippos …. no, not rocks, Hippos, 10m away from my tent

The local guy also offered me “bush meat” and chips … for … wait for it … $80, crazy … maybe he said 18 .. not sure, but still, no bush meat for me, he promised it is not baboon, but you never know. I just ordered 3 beers instead which came in a nice cooler box with ice 🙂

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Tomorrow part 2 … one I am looking forward to as I am just above Katavi National Park, so tomorrow I ride through the park … there could potentially be lions next to the road, you never know. Looking forward to it … good night !

We arrived in Kigoma a few days ago and whallah … Visa ATM machine 🙂 Lindsay said we should maybe go to the port first to find out how much a ferry would be, then we know how much money to get, so off we went …

At the ferry port, we found out there is no ferry, but sometimes there are other cargo boats going up and down the Lake which might be able to take us. They said we should come back tomorrow again to find out if there are any boats going …

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Waiting at the ferry/marine port

We went back to the bank, I drew some much needed cash, then we set off for a place called the Hilltop Hotel. Very nice place, but pricey, room for double are $90pp and single $75, if I remember correctly. They also do not allow you to camp on the grounds. We decided to have lunch instead and then off to a beach camp site. Lunch was good, I had a full 3 course, Soup, Salad for starters, Chicken curry for main and Banana custards for desert.

Someone also told us that the owners of this Hilltop Hotel have their own boat and should be able to take us and the bikes to Zambia .. we went to see the manager and after a few phone calls, they came up with a lovely sum of $6500 to take us to Mpulungu, Zambia. He must be out of his mind !!! We kindly refused the offer and off we went.

We set off to a camp site a few kilometers away, called Jacobsen Guest House and Camp … nicely tucked away and what a beautiful little place. We were the only ones there … they provide lanterns and firewood for you at night … very lovely hosts from Norway … great setting, right on the beach, our own private beach to ourselves.

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Camping at Jacobsen Guest House, Kigoma, Tanzania

The water is so clear, you can walk in with water under your chin and still see your feet.

The next day, we packed up all our gear and headed back to the port. Lindsay then found out, there is a boat running to Congo and then we can catch another boat from there down to Zambia. I was not very keen on that idea. They also told him, there is a boat running the next day to Zambia, a cargo ship, so we might have to sleep on the deck somewhere, but they are willing to take us for about $50 each. So with this in mind, we went back to Jacobsen to spent another night, waiting for the boat the next day.

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Some photos of our private beach

Later that day, a South African couple arrived at the camp site with a massive Mercedes overland truck. They are retired and spending some time travelling .. very nice. They told me that they are also taking that B8 – Western route down Tanzania … so I then decided on my own that I am riding down Tanzania, screw the boats and ferries. If anything really bad happens to me, at least I know that this couple in their big truck will be a few days behind me.

This morning Lindsay said they are leaving at about noon … assuming to the port to catch the boat to Zambia, so I told him, they can go, I am going to ride after which he replied they are also riding … they’ve apparently decided that yesterday already ? We go no real communication going on anymore 🙂

My plan was to leave early tomorrow morning, just incase the roads are really bad, so I can reach the first town Mpanda about 350km away. I now assume they have decided the same … as they seem to stay another night as well .. haven’t packed up yet.

I left the campsite (adrift) in Jinja quite early the next morning, knowing that I have about 500km ahead of me to get to Kabele, just north of the Rwandan border.

I sat off and mistakingly, but maybe unavoidable, the GPS routed me straight through the Uganda capital, Kampala … what a mess. From now on I will make a point to miss all major cities and or capitals on my journey if possible.

Anyway, through Kampala and off I went .. the road wasn’t the best, roadworks in the middle of nowhere with no signs, the road just disappears all of a sudden and this went on for quite some time, maybe the majority of the 500km. The worse thing was hitting thunderstorms around 100km before Kabele and going through the mountain passes, the temperature dropped to around 15c. I couldn’t see anything, I was wet and cold and maybe a little irresponsible, I sped up just to make it to my destination, dodging potholes as much as I could in the pouring rain.

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Veiw from the restaurant at Lake Bunyonyi Overland Resort

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I arrived at Lake Bunyonyi at a place ironicly called Lake Bunyonyi Overland Resort. Very nice place .. cold and wet I decided to take a bungalow instead of pitching my tent … all I wanted was a hot shower, food and straight to bed I went .. I think around 19h30.

Beautiful sunshine the next day, so I hanged all my wet clothes from the thunderstorms the night before to dry out. I got word from Lindsay and Delilah that they are heading my way. When they arrived, we decided to stay one more night at Lake Bunyonyi, but I pitched my tent the second night as it was considerably cheaper.

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In an attempt to get them dry again …

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Our tents next to the lake

The next morning, we had breakfast and headed to the Rwandan border. I was amazed at how developed Rwanda was … especially the capital Kigali. We reached Kigali around lunch time, so we stopped, had some lunch at a very nice coffee shop … some bickering in the camp with no one able to make up their minds were to go next, we just headed straight out of Rwanda again .. all in one day. Did not see much of Rwanda, which is a shame as it looked awesome, maybe one day I will go back 🙂

We reached the Rwanda – Tanzania border just before sunset … which none of us really like .. never nice to reach a place so late at night. Immigration done, passports stamped, we walked over to customs to get our Carnets (Motorcycle “passports”) stamped and to our disappointment, they were closed already … maybe 5 minutes too late. Lindsay asked if they could phone the customs official to just stamp our carnets so we can get on our way, but no luck … they just refused. We couldn’t go anywhere.

Stuck in “no mans land” between two countries was probably not something I would have imagined on this trip. I love the idea of going into a new country, but I hate borders … and some how all the dodgy people hang around borders and now we were forced to camp there until the next morning so we can get our carnets stamped. No facilities, no toilets, nothing … I should have taken a photo.

Next morning we found out that the customs official actually lived directly opposite the border post, but I assume being a clock watcher, 7pm he was out of there.

Carnets stamped, we headed into Tanzania … not sure if we should go down the western route, the B8 or head east towards Dar Es Salaam and then go down towards Malawi. One thing I didn’t have, was money ! With only $5, 50EUR and very little Tanzanian shillings, we headed for the first town Kibondo, but found out I couldn’t use my visa card to draw money or exchange euro anywhere in town. Stuck again !! Luckily Lindsay had some cash, so I could get around 6 liters of petrol, which should hopefully last me to the next town where there is supposedly a bank which accepts Visa cards. This town was Kasulu which was down the B8 (western route) …. maybe our minds were made up for us … western Tanzanian road down to Malawi it is then.

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Beginning of the B8 route going south in Tanzania

I was actually quite glad as that western route was the way I wanted to go from the start. Some of it you actually ride through a National Park .. with potential lions and other wild animals next to the road … was looking forward to it. The others were not so keen on this road … they probably didn’t say much, but I could see it.

As we reached Kasulu, I found out it was the same bank which doesn’t accept Visa, dammit ! … Tracks4Africa (GPS maps) have it sometimes so wrong … Luckily they agreed to change the euros for me. While I was waiting in the bank for countless papers they have to fill in just to exchange some money, a massive thunderstorm was brewing outside. Money in hand, we quickly headed for the Kasulu Motel just outside the town in pouring rain and yet again, soaking wet.

That evening the discussion came up about the possibility of taking a ferry from Kigoma in Tanzania to Mpulungu in Zambia, skipping the whole western route. Like I said, not my first choice, I came to ride my bike in Africa, not spend time on ferries. Slightly to my relief, we found out that the ferry does not run this week, maybe only in 2 weeks time, so that meant we had to take continue down the B8. I think by this time we realized that what we wanted out of this trip is slightly different from each other.

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At Kusulu Motel, Tanzania

Anyway, still wanting to try their luck … we are off to Kigoma tomorrow to try and find out if there is a ferry or maybe if they can organize one .. at least I can get some cash in Kigoma as they promised me there will be a bank which accepts Visa cards 🙂