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Tanzania 2

Travel Journal

01.12.2006, Shimoni (Mwazaro Beach Mangrove Lodge) – Tanga, Tanzania, 120 km (part 2)

The Tanzanian border post of Horohoro (that is the name, honestly) was a dirty and lost place, just as we had expected it to be. We re-entered without any discussions. We just had some problems getting rid of a 5USD note (sporting good old Abe Lincoln) for the road tax:

Matronly mama at customs office pushing back our 5 USD note: “We do not accept these notes in Tanzania.”
Jens: “Uhu, it is a legal 5 dollar note. What is the problem with it?”
Matronly mama: “We do not accept with this picture.” (pointing at Abe)
Jens (irritated): “Well, he was a good guy, you know!”
Matronly mama: “Give me other bill!”
Jens (giving up): “All right, all right.”

Some things are just beyond us and we have given up on trying to understand them. It is not worth the sweat.
Back on the road, the tarmac ended and we bounced and hoppled along the 80 km to Tanga. The scenery is quite pleasant with small villages and large palm trees, but we were slowly tiring of bad roads and the idea that from Tanga on there will be tarmac all the way to Capetown was making us sing. Of course this is only in theory (not considering floods, road works or intentioned detours). We entered Tanga in the afternoon and it was the same sleepy place like it was when we came here 1.5 months ago. We did some basic shopping (Tanga has a nice veggie and fruit market) and got some cash. We settled ourselves at the Kiboko Camp, run by a Swiss guy from the Berner Oberland. He basically runs a restaurant, but he also offers camping and some very nice and clean ablutions. We had dinner at the restaurant, but we realized that our stomachs were not able to bear large portions of food anymore and so more than half of the dishes went back to the kitchen uneaten. We retreated to our roof tent and listened to unripe mangos falling on Tembo – we had parked under a huge mango tree, and the fruit bats made the mangos drop like stones from the tree. Other than that we had a very quiet night – Tanga is a very sleepy place :-)

02.12.2006, Tanga, Tanzania – Peponi Resort, Tanzania, 45 km

Initially we wanted to drive from Tanga directly southward towards Malawi. However, being so close to the lovely Peponi Resort just 30 km south from Tanga … well, we gave in and decided to spend some days there before we would REALLY start going again. It was just too tempting.
So after a short trip back into town for Land Rover spare parts and an extension cable so our “Engel” could run on power we headed towards Pangani. Jens got a new shock absorber for Tembo’s steering and the correct screws and nuts for the rear propeller shaft. As it turned out, the material that was used before (and was mounted since we got the car!) were common metric screws and nuts that you could get at any hardware store. The original ones are inch and specially designed to fit the vehicle … we’ll see how much of that stuff is there to come.
Since the heavy rains supposedly had roughed up the dirt road to Peponi, we decided to take the shortcut we had used the last time. It is basically just a narrow pad that winds through the countryside towards to coast. It is one of our favourite African roads, free of corrugations and with plenty of red earth and palm trees. Highly recommend. For those of you who want to try it, here are the GPS coordinates: from the Tanga–Korogwe Highway in Pongwe at S05 07.464 E38 58.587; enter Tanga–Pangani Road at S05 13.590 E39 02.259.
The rain had also given the shortcut a hard time, but the remaining 10 km on the normal Tanga-Pangani road were much worse. So we just took it very slowly and reached Peponi in time for a toasted sandwich. There was only one other couple camping and so we basically had the site to ourselves. It was as beautiful and peaceful as we had remembered it and we were glad we had taken the extra time for a second visit. In the evening we had an excellent dinner (pili-pili prawns and veggie curry) at the restaurant and booked ourselves on the dhow snorkelling trip to sand island for the next day.
The dodgy but cheap extension cable we had bought in Tanga of course did not work, but that was somehow expected :-), the Peponi Resort provided us with a working cable and so our fridge could run on power and spare the battery.

03.12.–06.12.2006, Peponi Resort, Tanzania, 0 km

It had rained that night, but in the morning it was clearing up and so our dhow trip was on. We rented some fins and one pair of goggles (remember, we only took one pair of snorkelling goggles with us) and then started our march out to the dhow. The trip always starts at low tide and so roughly 1km over rock pools, coral and slick had to managed before one reaches the “Pepi”. We were warned that it might be difficult with flip-flops, but we did not want to rent other shoes. Ha, one could do everything with flip-flops! Well, not quite. While we were stumbling over the rock pools, digging out our flip-flops every two meters, trying to avoid sea urchins, I heard my mum praising the advantages of teeva sandals. Finally we made it to the “Pepi” and were soon joined by Ralf, a German travelling Tanzania for 5 weeks. We had the dhow just for the 3 of us and we enjoyed it. Soon the motor was stopped and the traditional dhow sail was set and we briskly moved towards the outer reef and sand island. Sand island turned out to be exactly that – an island of pure white coral sand, no tree, no bush, nothing. Very exclusive. But first we did some snorkelling. It was nice but nothing spectacular. One can tell that the reef is not protected and we saw many fishing dhows around us. However, we enjoyed being in and on the water – what a nice change from a loud diesel motor. After the snorkelling, we sailed over to sand island and enjoyed the very tropical and robinsonesque atmosphere. The water around the island was in perfect turquoise and swimming was just wonderful. It was hard to leave this place again. Once back at the Peponi Beach we were glad that we could just hop from the boat onto the beach – no more climbing over rock pools.

The rest of the time, we simply enjoyed the atmosphere, went for early morning swims and took it easy. Jens did some work on Tembo. He replaced the propeller shaft screws, that had fallen off in Tiwi Beach and while doing so realized that the rear cross-joint of the propeller shaft was loose. Probably from missing and wrong screws for the past 17.000 km. A quick check in the manual told us that indeed this shouldn’t be loose and that – of course – this can only be done in a garage with special tools. So we decided to stop for one more night in Tanga and get this fixed. Because with a broken propeller shaft, we really would be in deep trouble. Jens also replaced the steering shock absorber hoping that this will finally stop Tembo’s steering from shaking – finally. And it turned out later that it did!

While we were at Peponi we discussed our current state of travel weariness and Jens was already in thoughts back at work. One thing, that we realized now that we were on the trip, is that we are both not made for endless months of travelling like that. Don’t get me wrong, we love every minute of it … but sometimes we would love to be part of something again, not always just a visitor and observer. Anyways, we were talking a lot about future plans and probably we will be coming home a bit earlier than planned.

But first of all we had to solve more pressing things, such as finding out were we would stay in Malawi and the rest of Tanzania. Luckily the “Capricorn Beach Cottages” next to Peponi offer internet access and so we were able to check some Malawi locations. Unfortunately our laptop had cancelled all willingness to go online and even an Indian computer specialist couldn’t solve the problem. If it stays like that, there will be no more website updates. Hmpf!

The last two nights we were joined by three Swiss travelling in an old Mercedes bus with one dog and two cats. They were also on their way south, but had to wait for their new carnet to arrive … not a bad place to wait …

At night we enjoyed the stunning full moon and fought the oppressive heat in our tent. I think the last time it was that hot at night must have been somewhere in Sudan.

07.12.2006, Peponi Resort, Tanzania – Tanga, Tanzania, 47 km

Today we were off back to Tanga to give Tembo his treat and to get the gas bottle refilled. We said good-bye to the Swiss and took our favourite shortcut back to Tanga. The LAL Garage was recommended to us by the owners of Peponi, who also drive Land Rover (one of the first Series I!!). We found the garage easily and – as always in Africa – were taken care of immediately. Apart from the cross-joints, Jens wanted to get all the lubricants/oils changed everywhere, i.e. engine, swivels, gear boxes, diffs. Over lunch everyone stopped working for an hour (how very German) and we had our lunch break at the garage over the pit, waiting for the guys to return. The Indian owner had warned us some minutes before. We had two cold chapattis and enjoyed the complete emptiness and silence of the usually very busy and large garage. Odd.
That done we drove on the Tanga “downtown” to do some supply stocking. We were back on home turf. Tanga was sleepy as ever and I basically had to force my whish to buy some tomatoes onto the stall vendors. That usually never happens in Africa :-) Again it was a problem to get bread and milk, until I managed to hunt down a mama with some bread on our way to Kiboko Camp. She also was more than reluctant to sell me the bread. Oh, and we bought real “Bombay Sapphire Gin”, we simply couldn’t resist. Unfortunately it was not possible to have our gas bottle refilled. We were told that the only chance would be in Dar Es Salaam.
Back at Kiboko we sat up our camp at the usual spot and were greeted by the Swiss “Mr. Kiboko”. He welcomed us back, sold us some milk and some really yummo cheese that almost tastes like real parmesan – made in Tanga! What a delight to find something like that in Africa.

That night we had grilled snapper and garlic prawns. The last seafood before hitting Lake Malawi.

08.12.2006, Tanga, Tanzania – Melala Mzuri Camp (east of Mikumi NP), Tanzania, 394 km

Finally the day had come. We were to leave this region, no more turning back possible after that. Capetown is the next big goal. I had dreaded that drive for a long time because until Chalinze we had to drive a stretch we already drove twice with Antje and Jens (once down and once back up). We both remembered that stretch of road as boring and packed with speeding busses. Luckily it turned out to be not as bad – well, the busses were – and in the grubby junction town of Chalinze we turned right towards Morogoro and entered new unknown soil. Jiiha. It felt great to be back on the road. The drive was pleasant and the scenery around Morogoro and towards Mikumi National Park was lovely.
We stopped for the night at the community run Melala Mzuri Campsite just 5 km east of Mikumi N.P. The campsite is basically a bush camp outside a village, but the setting is quite wild and we sat up camp right in front of a large Baobab tree. John from the village came to greet us. The price was 3.000 TSh per person, but there was no running water … we had to smile. It is always like that. But since the money goes to the village community, we didn’t mind paying. We had a quick dinner and retreated early into our roof tent since there were heavy thunderstorms going on around us (although the sky above us was clear and full of stars). And sure enough, only minutes after we had crawled into the tent, the rain started: first a few drops and than the sky opened up and the rain came down in torrents, heavy thunder rolling next to us. Luckily the rain came down straight and so the roof tent stayed dry and we snuggled up cosily.

09.12.2006, Melala Mzuri Camp (east of Mikumi NP), Tanzania – Baobab Valley Camp, Tanzania, 134 km

The rain had continued the entire night, but the next morning we were greeted with a lovely sunrise and almost blue skies. After a coffee and a chat with John we started the engine and continued our drive.
Shortly after the campsite we entered the Mikumi N.P., the road leading right through the park. We kept our eyes open for animals, but we only saw the odd impala, baboons and a herd of elephant in the distance – and one very dead hyena. So far we had only seen dead hyenas on this trip … Actually we were surprised not see more dead animals along the road through the park: the trucks and long haul busses do not stick to the speed limit of 70 kph, in contrary, they drive like mad people and take all the speed bumps at 120 kph. We however had to take every single speed bump (and there are plenty, let me assure you) at 5 kph, the car groaning in protest, while being overtaken on a speed bump by a bus going 120 kph. Hm … The scenery however was stunning with views into big plains and mountains rising on the horizon. After the city of Mikumi (west of the park) the road turned into one of the nicest and most scenic roads of the entire trip. Winding up into rolling hills and than back down hugging the Great Ruaha River, the road leads through lush vegetation, the air smelling of wood and spices.
Right in the middle of that we reached our destination for today: the Baobab Valley Camp – we were not especially keen on driving on a Saturday and the Tanzanian Independence Day for that matter, because of the police looking for holiday/ weekend bribes.
At Baobab Camp we sat up camp under … tatatata … a large Baobab tree. The camp is just in progress of being turned from an ordinary campsite into a campsite and lodge. It is not yet finished, but will be great once done. The bandas, bar and restaurant are directly set on the Great Ruaha River, there are great ablutions and even a pool is planned. The lodge manager is Jamie, a young Scottish guy who was told that the lodge was done and he would get there to start training the staff and get things going. The place is far from ready though and he is a bit frustrated about that. Especially since there is no mobile phone reception and he has not own means of transport, so every time there is a problem (like every day) he needs to flag down a dala-dala or a truck to go to the next village to make a phone call.
Anyway our camping spot under the baobab tree was pleasant and we enjoyed the day lazing at the already sort-of opened bar overlooking the river.
A Scottish friend of Jamie came to visit him with her Tanzanian friend the same day and so Jamie invited us to join them for dinner. He is a trained chef and so we were treated with a delicious dinner, consisting of fried okra, a sun-dried tomato salad, a potato-eggplant salad and pasta with tomato sauce – enhanced by our Tanga-Parmesan-Cheese. Yum! We had some Armarula for desert and spent the evening telling Africa stories. At 10 pm the generator was turned off and we were swept away by the sudden utter silence and the sparkling stars. What a perfect evening. Many, many thanks for that Jamie.

10.12.2006, Baobab Valley Camp, Tanzania – Old Farmhouse (Iringa), Tanzania, 179 km

The next morning we said good-bye to Jamie and his friends and moved on southward. Jamie handed us a freshly baked bread for the road. Perfect! Once the camp is done we will definitely come back and have a look at it.
The drive continued to be very scenic as the road propelled itself upwards onto the southern high plateau of Tanzania. We passed the sprawling town of Iringa and stopped for the night at the Old Farmhouse, a working farm and campsite some 60 km south-west of Iringa. We had just set up camp and had a late lunch when a heavy rainstorm came down on us and drenched everything in seconds. This went on for roughly an hour. During that time we discussed whether we should set up our ground tent (Goldie Hawn) and if, where, since the water was flowing freely over the campsite.

These are the things one spends time with when overlanding through Africa: which tent and where? Will it rain again or was this it for the day?

The rain slowly ceased, we sat up Goldie Hawn – just in case – and then David (the camp manager) came to pick us up for dinner. He led us to the restaurant and we were pleasantly surprised: the restaurant had a wonderful atmosphere set within the remains of an old farmhouse and was done with love for detail. AND THE FOOD WAS EXCELLENT! Jens had a huge T-Bone steak and I had veggies and grilled cheese – all local produce. We were joined by three South Africans. They live in London, but are on their way from Nairobi to South Africa with their motorbikes. We basically started talking the moment they came in and we did not stop during the course of the dinner. We exchanged travel stories and had a great time. We finished off the evening in the small rondavel bar. The night stayed dry and so we slept in Moulin Rouge.

11.12.2006, Old Farmhouse (Iringa), Tanzania, 0 km

We had planned to stay an extra night at the Old Farmhouse to have look around the farm and basically to take it easy, before heading for Malawi. But when we woke up, the sky was grey and we didn’t really feel like staying. Hm. After a second of reflection, we decided to get up, pack our things and leave. The day before we had bought 10 farm eggs (actually for dinner, which we then cancelled because of the rain) and since we did not dare to drive these eggs around with us, the eggs were due for breakfast. We made a huge Spanish omelette and enjoyed some fresh farm bread rolls with them. While having breakfast, the sun came out and the day actually promised to be quite lovely. What to do? Should we stay? Since we had stuff that needed some drying, we decided to stay.
A loud humming announced our South African friends. They were all packed up, in proper biking gear and ready to go. They had a look at Tembo (“She looks like she is in perfect shape!” “You have got great tyres, no wonder you hadn’t had a flat yet!”) and we had a look at the bikes (“Wow, no wonder the people in the villages think you are from out of space!”). We exchanged addresses and then they were off. Apparently on the wrong road. Just as we had stopped waving, we heard the sound of the engines again and one by one they re-appeared and turned down the correct path this time.
After all the waving we contacted David and he agreed to show us the farm. The weather was pleasant and we were looking forward to a hike. David was the perfect tour guide, full of enthusiasm and facts about the farm. We had a look at the new flower project, the bushes for malaria medicine, the tobacco plantation, the water reservoir and the cattle grounds. Most of the work done on the farm is done by man-power, it looks tough, but on the other hand it provides jobs for up to 500 people from the surrounding villages. After a two-hour tour we were happily tired and thanked David for his time – we were not charged for this excursion, how very uncommon in Africa.
In the afternoon, we had the usual rainstorm, and in the evening we had dinner again at the restaurant. It was as good as the day before. Unfortunately a league of brown beetles had decided to join us for dinner and so we spent 50% of the time fishing the beetles out of our food, wine and my hair.

12.12.2006, Old Farmhouse (Iringa), Tanzania – Tukuyu, Tanzania, 378 km

Our last full day in Tanzania. We were planning on stopping for the night in Mbeya, a town roughly 100km north of the Malawi border. However we reached Mbeya after an uneventful drive around noon and decided to keep on driving towards the town of Tukuyu, just 50km north of the border. We climbed some final hills before the street started sloping down towards Lake Malawi. The villages were surrounded by huge banana plantations and in the villages all that was sold on the market were bananas. Not for me, thank you.

Along the entire way we saw many children working in the fields – more than usual – at least to our feeling. Most of them were working together with grown-ups, however many were also alone or with even younger siblings fighting the thick African soil. Were these AIDS orphans? Since whole generations of parents are dying of AIDS, many children are left with the responsibility of running a household and taking care of their siblings. The thought is highly depressing and seeing those kids in the fields even more. I always hoped the parents were just behind the house, so that I just couldn’t see them.

According to the “Lonely Planet”, also lovingly called the “Lonely Liar”, there was a community campsite just 3 km north of Tukuyu – “clearly signposted”. We reached Tukuyu from the north and did not see one sign. We drove through Tukuyu, turned and drove back out. No sign. What to do? Experience told us that asking locals was completely useless. However, it was getting late. We stopped and turned once more and just at that moment a big yellow Unimog came our way. Impossible, these were Janey and Tom. We had met them in Kipepeo Camp in Dar Es Salaam. They had bought the campsite in Lilongwe and were now on their way down towards their new home. Oh joy. Funny how a meeting like that can lighten one’s spirits immediately. They were on their way towards the border and so we decided to follow them. Screw Tukuyu. Just as we were leaving Tukuyu we saw the signposted turn-off for the campsite – it was 3km south of Tukuyu, not north. Details. We decided to try the campsite. The Mog was much faster then we were and so we let them drive on, hoping they would not wait for us somewhere.
We bumped 7 km down a dirt road through tea and banana plantations and small villages. After the 7 km we had supposedly reached the “Lutengano Morovian Center” and hence our campsite. It was a bit odd, to say the least. The place looked like a communist kolchose, there was some cattle, kids were running around, but no one felt like greeting us or helping us. It is always like that in Africa: if you don’t want the attention, they are always around you in a mob. Once you need help and attention, absolutely no one appears. We finally dug out a mama who spoke some words of English and who unlocked the toilets in the school building for us. All right, so we will stay here. Odd place for our last night in Tanzania, but somehow very African and very real :-) The weather looked threatening and our surroundings a bit dodgy, so we decided to try to sleep in the back of the car that night. Jens had always wanted to try that. The usual kids flocked around us for a while, but since they did not speak a word of English and we did not speak enough Kiswahili, they trotted off eventually. We had an early and quick “Ready-made pasta dish – just add water” and built our bed in the back of the car. We had to move all our bags to the front, than we added our inflatable mattresses and our pillows and it actually looked very comfy. Jens stretched out next to “Engelchen” and I had to use it as pillow. With our height we both couldn’t stretch our legs properly. For the first time the mosquito nets I had added to the side windows came in handy, however, since we are talking about a British manufactured car, there were enough gaps and holes for the mosquitoes to enter the car. BUT my nets were doing dandy!
Well, it definitely wasn’t our most comfortable night – but it worked.

13.12.2006, Tukuyu, Tanzania – Sangilo Sanctuary, Malawi, 175 km (part 1)

We woke with stiff legs the next morning and Jens did not look too happy. I had actually managed to sleep ok. The place around us was still very quiet. We had a quick coffee, packed out stuff and then hunted for someone we could pay :-) A finally found a little old lady and shoved the money at her. What a strange place. Till today, I am not sure where we had slept, what the people were doing there and why they offered camping … Anyway, country number eight was waiting for us and after two month we were to leave Kenya and Tanzania behind us. The drive towards Malawi was very scenic, with the northern tip of the lake reflecting the morning sun. We stopped for a last tank refill at an Oilcom filling station just before the border. Luckily there were also two money changers around and so we could do our black market transaction in peace and quiet and not amidst a pile of people at the border. Driving through exactly that pile of people a few minutes later we headed directly to the Tanzanian customs building, set aside and fenced off from the main village. Very nice. The formalities were quickly done and we had our exit stamps in our passports and drove on the Malawi border post.

Summary Tanzania #2:

our second time in Tanzania we were on our own and not with our organizer and translator Antje. That was when we realized, that compared to Kenya, just very few people knew how to speak proper English. The further south we came, the worse the English got. This wasn’t really a big problem, it just slowed things down. We had enjoyed Tanga and the beaches south of Tanga as we had the first time. Not spoiled by mass tourism – lovely. The area from Morogoro southwards towards the Malawi border was one of the nicest areas of our entire trip. Highly recommended – very scenic. Many overlanders don’t take their time and cut down this area to two days of heavy driving. I wouldn’t do that, there is too much to miss. However, for some inexplicable reason Tanzania did not warm our hearts such as Kenya did. Maybe it was the feeling that they sometime deliberately not understood our broken Kiswahili or that the prices for a soda went up by 100% compared to what the locals paid. However this is just a subconscious feeling. In total Tanzania is a beautiful and diverse country and there are many place we haven’t seen yet.

Costs: Tanzania is expensive. Period. Almost everything is. Especially when you combine the characteristics #1 white (muzungu), #2 foreigner and #3 with a foreign car (for national parks). Camping cost an average of 5 USD, park entries between 30-50 USD, same for the car. 1 liter of Diesel cost 0,77 Euros. Imported cheese costs up to 11 Euros so does a box of cornflakes. Local products from the local markets however are cheap and available everywhere. One has to discuss the price every single time though.

Driving: see Tanzania #1

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hm, should we wait or just pull into the mud?/ Hm, sollen wir warten oder einfach links vorbei durch den Matsch fahren? 
Quality shopping in Tanga - well, maybe we shouldn't have bought an extension cable here ... but it was cheap!/ Qualitätseinkauf in Tanga - vielleicht hätten wir hier kein Verlängerungskabel kaufen sollen ... aber es war billig! 
Back at Pepnoi Beach!/ Zurück am Peponi Beach! 
where are the fish?/ Wo sind die Fische?  
Sand Island & Pepi 
Getting spare parts in Tanga/ Ersatzteilkauf in Tanga  
On new grounds to Morogoro/ Auf neuen Wegen nach Morogoro 
The Great Ruaha River at the Baobab Valley Camp ... where are the crocs?/ Am Great Ruaha Fluss beim Baobab Valley Camp ... wo sind die Krokodile? 
under the baobab tree ... /unter dem Baobab Baum ... 
Farmer's breakfast with 8 eggs and fresh bread rolls!/ Bauernfrühstück mit 8 Eiern und frischen Brötchen 
Afternoon rain .../ Nachmittagsregen ... 
working on the flower project at the "Old Farmhouse"/ Mühevolle Handarbeit beim "Blumenprojekt" des "Old Farmhouse" 

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Kiboko Restaurant and Camping, Tanga, S05 03.893 E39 06.936
Peponi Beach Resort, 30km south of Tanga, S05 17.210 E39 03.985
Kiboko Restaurant and Camping, Tanga, S05 03.893 E39 06.936
Melala Mzuri Campsite, east of Mikumi NP, S06 58.332 E37 16.881 (turn-off from road)
Baobab Valley Camp, S07 31.348 E36 35.995
Old Farmhouse (Iringa), S08 08.746 E35 24.767
Lutengano Morovian Center, 3km south of Tukuyu, S09 17.495 E33 39.030 (turn-off from road), S09 20.637 E33 37.637 (campsite)

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