April 14, 2010

Tanzania

I am always amazed by the sudden changes that seem to occur following ‘man-made’ border crossings. The scenery as well as the people seem to have a different flare about them. The people in Tanzania seem to be better off than the Malawians and they dress in bright coloured clothing. The countryside also starts getting very mountainous again which is always great to ride in.


I stopped in Mbeya to get some petrol and take some photos for my colleague Arthur Touw who was born there. Sorry Arthur, but Mbeya does not have much going for it  (I will email the rest of the photos shortly). I also passed a place called Mafinga which I can only assume was named after the Tanzanian flatulence champion ‘Pull Mafinga’ :-) Also not much to ‘write home about’ in Mafinga. Although in Mafinga, I past a lodge called Aunty Tina’s, which I thought was quite a laugh, since I have an aunty called Tina. Aunty Tina, I didn’t realize that you had started a dodgy accommodation chain in Africa? :-)

That night I stayed in a place called the “Old Farmhouse”. The Old Farmhouse is a lodge that is set in a working farm, but is a must visit for travelers that are planning on going this route. The accommodation is truly first class and the staff makes the stay even more enjoyable. Towards the evening I went on the Sunset Walk – I managed to take some great photos of the sunset. Dinner was served in an old traditional mud-hut that has been converted into a restaurant. Very authentic and a truly first class menu. Great evening.

On 9/4 I started the long stretch towards Dar-es-Salaam. The first section of road is very mountainous, but then it hollows out into an area called the Boabab Valley. As you can imagine, the area is covered by millions of HUGE baobab tree’s (in Australia they are called ‘Boab’ trees). This low valley was very hot and my thermometer on my bike read 39 degrees C. Quite unpleasant riding in this heat but I suppose things will get worse in the Sahara.

I managed to take a great photo of a young Masai cattle herdsman. He charged me 500 shillings for the privilege. He was totally bewildered by my motorbike (I should have charged him 500 shillings for looking at the bike.

The next section of road was absolutely amazing. The road enters the Mikumi National Park and it was great riding through a game reserve on a motorbike. I saw a huge herd of elephant, zebra, giraffe, warthogs and various small buck. I managed to take some great photos of my motorbike with elephants in the background.

I also went past a huge thunder shower that was falling about 400m from the road – not a drop of rain fell on me but it made for a great photo. Talk about ‘isolated thunder shower’!



I got to Dar-es-Salaam (meaning ‘Haven of Peace’) later that evening after a long days riding. ‘Haven’ is probably the wrong word to describe Dar. Dar is a huge city that is really dusty, dirty and over-crowded with people in various stages of disease. I unfortunately arrived during peak traffic which was ridiculously congested. Pedestrians, cars, busses and animals seem to do as they please creating huge traffic jams that move nowhere. Drivers sit in their vehicles blowing their hooters and suffocating the streets with their unserviced vehicle’s exhaust fumes. It took me a further two hours to find a hotel (the Starlight Hotel) which was more affordable (only US$39 per night which is cheap for Dar). The hotel had rats the size of small cats running around the outside parking (which in the evening doubles as a restaurant) eating whatever scraps they could get. What a dump.

The next day I left my motorbike at the hotel :-( and took the early ferry to Zanzibar and was happy to get out of Dar. Zanzibar is a beautiful island with a fascinating history. From the 8th century, traders from Persia established settlements in Zanzibar; and by the 12th century, Zanzibar had become a powerful state exporting slaves, gold, ivory and wood, and importing spices, glassware and textiles. In the 16th century it came under Portuguese rule but the Portuguese were soon routed by the Omani Arabs and by the early 19th century the Sultan of Oman relocated his court here from the Persian gulf. In 1862, Zanzibar became independent of Oman and ruled under a British protectorate. It was only in 1963 that Zanzibar became independent and a year later signed a declaration of unity with Tanganyika (today Tanzania) forming a very fragile union. Zanzibar still have their own separate government to the mainland Tanzania, but for all intents and purposes is part of the Tanzanian republic.

Stone Town is fascinating and has some great old buildings and spice and slave tours which are really interesting. Later that day I met up with Nick and Jimmy, two guys in the English Army who were on R&R for two weeks before depolying to Canada for a training camp. Nick and Jimmy had met a German girl called Lydia who lived in Zanzibar and she offered us a lift up north to Nungwi. What a mistake! Lydia turned out to be absolutely bonkers and drove her car like a twit - she travelled at about 120km/h through the smallest, bumpiest streets and on three separate occasions came within inches of wiping out small school children next to the road. It wasnt long until Jimmy screamed at her to slow down, which didnt seem to help - she just got grumpy and drove faster. On one occasion she swerved right off the road to miss a chicken and we very nearly ended up going through someone's hut. To top it all off, she hit a speed bump (or more like a speed mountain) at pace and I think I left an imprint of my face on her car roof! Jeez, what a ride! I was relieved to get out of her car in one piece.

After some great private detective work in Nungwi, I managed to catch up with Olly and Huon (his real name is Colquhoun William Writhit Fleming :-) at the Jambo Brothers backpackers. Needless to say a good couple of beers were shared before we headed out to a beach party for further beers and shooters. Quite a night which resulted in the following day lying on the beach (fighting the flies) and suffering a hangover. Managed to take some great photo’s of the beach and the sunset. Zanzibar is really beautiful and is a must for anyone travelling through this area.



On 12/3 we went back to Stone Town and caught up with Mel for lunch. Mel is great fun – great seeing her again – we have all agreed to meet up in a week or so in Nairobi. Olly, Huon and I then headed back to Dar and back to the dodgy hotel – I was relieved to find my motorbike still all in one piece!!

The next day Olly and Huon left early to catch up with Jonny in Malindi, while I stayed in Dar to try and see if I could find a battery for my satellite phone. No luck though. I also spent a few hours trying to get a refund back from a dodgy ferry ticket dealer who had given Olly and Huon tickets for the wrong ferry (he gave them tickets for the cheaper ‘slow’ ferry that takes 8 hours to cross to Zanzibar, but charged them the price of the ‘fast’ ferry) – at first the ticket dealer refused to give me the refund but after I got a policeman involved I managed to get most of the money back for them.

Later that day I headed to Moshi, a great little town that sits on the foothills of Kilimanjaro. There are no words that can describe Kilimanjaro. The mountain is truly spectacular and seems to protrude out of the relatively flat african savanna and grows well above the clouds to a massive snow-capped height of 5895m. I climbed Kilimanjaro with my mate Marti Firer in 1997 and it was an absolutely amazing experience – the mountain takes five days to climb and the view from the top over the African plains is truly breathtaking. I will never forget seeing the curve of the earth and the lights of Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam which are over 600km away. The temperature was -20degrees C at the top! I will always have this connection with Kilimanjaro and this trip through Africa would not have meant much if I had not had the opportunity to see this lovely mountain again. I arrived in Moshi as the sun was setting over Kilimanjaro and I will never ever forget the beautiful view that awaited me! The base of the mountain was not visible through the clouds, but peering high above the clouds was the ice-capped Uhuru peak. Breathtaking! Truly majestic!

On 15/4 I headed off to Kenya, passing Mount Meru along the way which was covered in cloud – so unfortunately I didn’t get to see it. The road to the Kenyan border is in a very poor state which was quite surprising seeing as it is the lifeline between Tanzania and Kenya.


The Kenyan border post was not that busy and I managed to get through without any problems. I didn’t need to pay for a Kenyan Visa (which was quite surprising as the Lonely Planet guide said that I would have to pay $US 50.00). I did, however, get conned into purchasing a carne extension ($US 20.00) as the carne is only apparently valid for 7 days in Kenya? I found out later that this is not true. Damn.

Jaag maar aan.

9 comments:

Donna said...

Wow, Bok. All sounds like the trip of a lifetime. Keep the beautiful pictures and running commentary going. I'm loving seeing and hearing the stories!!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Bok!! awesome!!! Lots of love Tam

Anonymous said...

Gareth, truly wonderful and most entertaining story. Tina's asks you please keep her lodge business quiet - but yeah b'tween you and I, she has a franchise in some of these remote outposts! Appreciate all your pics and your descriptions - we almost feel part of the ride. Keep it flowing!
Love from all of us,
John & Teens

Anonymous said...

Hi Son

Thought you were going to take the other route, up through Lake Tanganika. Your journey is incredable. Your photo's are amazing.

I wish I could be with you, but I am, in my funny way.

You are having the experiance of a lifetime, we will never forget. This must seem totally different to Aus.

I look forward to your next blog.

Really hope you get a battery for your Satelite Mobile.

Keep in touch

Love Dad

Anonymous said...

1 2 3 blog bokkie, well well Gnorton Colhoun William Writhit Davey you certainly have travelled a long way. Good to read about your trip boet keep going and enjoy.Hope you have a safe passage, cheers Duddles
PS: Bubbles is in town

James said...

Bokkie, nice going mate. Keep it up! Jim

Anonymous said...

Some stunning pics Bok, glad you having such a good time. Awesome being able to follow your trip this way. x Ang

Victorian inn bed and breakfast said...

There are many wild life safaris all over the world in my point of view Tanzanian safari is most prominent. My friend and his family visited there last year and they lots of enjoyed over there. I’d definitely recommend travelers to take a tour towards this place.

Millicent Okeyo said...

Really interesting read, just love your sense of humor....!! Quite something

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