Day 42 –
L: Turn the light off……..That is what I woke up to. The sun was hitting the lake at such an angle that it beamed all the way up the 700 metres or so and shone into the gap at the front of the tent we stayed in. Amazing. What a shot.
I was wide awake and feeling a bit stiff as the bed was really hard. I snuggled back into the duvets as it got a bit cold, but we knew that we had a long day, so we got up and got ready to leave. Steve stoked the donkey after his brrrr shower so by the time I got there it was super warm.
Bye bye Mushroom Farm and all the people we met there. Matthew and his friend Matt, who we advised on their proposed trip into South Africa and then we met another Belgium couple – Jan and Els, who shared our dinner table. So nice to chat to others and swop stories.
There were also 5 guys traveling together from Tanzania so we discussed some of the campsites that we had heard about. I had heard from Marilyn (at Steps campsite) about The Old Farmhouse in Iringa and when I asked the one chap, Mark, he said that his aunt, Nikki owned it and that it is great – what a small world!! So it was an interesting evening over Groundnut Stew……..
Off we went back down the 20 bends this morning, reminding me of an advert filmed in Cape Town many years ago with BMW taking the Mickey out of Mercedes Benz saying that their car handles the “Benz” better than the Mercs on Chapmans Peak.
S: Back onto the M1 north along the shore of Lake Malawi, pretty as a picture. Taking care not to exceed the 50km/hour speed limit through the settlements while the taxis and trucks roar past us…..We started on the road to the border post at Kyela. I always feel tense on the border-crossing days as you are vulnerable to corruption and it is often a lot of wasted time, but today, it was Les who let the officials get under her skin. One lady official on the Malawian side took our passports and simply ignored us while catering to her fellow country men and woman and kept us waiting, unnecessarily.
We stopped to spend the last of our Kwachas on diesel and as we were waiting to get back onto the road a black official looking Mercedes came screaming past us at break-neck speed and almost collided with another car that had just turned in before him. He stopped to moan at the driver of the car and then sped off again. Not for long though until he was forced to stop for his passenger who was “sick” of his driving. We were stuck behind a truck on the road for ages and the official hung far back, careful not to upset his passenger again.
We had the many money-changers hassle us and a very insistent insurance broker who took a bicycle taxi to follow us to the other side of the border when he realised we were not about to pile him in our “back-seat”, which of course, we don’t have any more.
The Tanzania side of the border was a pleasure, all the officials were charming and the offices were clean and newly painted. They also advised us not to change money with the corrupt money-changers. We paid our US$25 for Road Tax, had our passports stamped and the Carnet updated and we were through. L: At the last gate, while Steve was in the little office with the car papers, I had several guys annoying me wanting to sell us insurance and change our Kwachas to Shillings. Poor little insurance guy had to take a taxi back to the Malawian side with no sale.
L: Ok, so that was fairly painless.
Tanzania…….our 5th country. It is so green with banana plantations everywhere and avocado pears, yum! The strange practice of grain being laid out along the side of the roads, looking like sand, for the taxis to drive over and people to walk over with their bare feet, ugh, makes you never want to touch a piece of bread again.
Some of the tar, we call, wavy tar. It looks like molten lava that never set before all the traffic started driving on it so it has sunken in on the road, but then the sides are so much higher. It is peculiar.
And then we had a few little boys, here and there, who make a strange gesture with their one arm above their head and their hand turned backwards, huh? A while later, with the window open, we figured it out “Snorkel”!! Ha ha, they have obviously realised that most of the 4×4’s passing through have a snorkel for dust or water-crossings, oh my word, boys and their love of cars. Kids here mostly see Toyotas so they often stare at our car as it is unusual for them.
Well, it is back to the watching for the speed limits through all the little settlements with me reminding Steve of every change. I don’t think that we had done more than 20 or 30 kms when a really large police man stepped in front of us with his hand held up to stop us. You have got to be joking!! He held up the radar gun (used to measure speed) and said something about 56 kms in a 50 zone. Steve was flabbergasted and mentioned that he was watching on the GPS and was doing under 50kms/hour. “Oh no”, said I, “I don’t let him exceed the speed limit!” He was so shocked that he waved us through……….
Corruption rears its head. There is no way that he was using the radar gun to record our speed and we are not even sure that it was in working order, looked a bit long in the tooth…….we took the wind out of his sails.
We had tried to stop to stretch our legs or have a cuppa (from our flask) or something, but each time that we tried, we had these hordes of people just run to the car. It is really frustrating and a little scary so we carried on, non-stop. There is nowhere for a bathroom-break either and not a single garage shop or restaurant, but finally we found one and were so happy. We sat down to order something to eat and drink, but Steve quizzed the waitress once again, about using a card or USD, as we had not drawn shillings yet and finally realised that they were not able to help us. So we got back into the car again, but at least got to use the bathroom. A first for me, standing up!! in a different type of bathroom.
On we went, completing an exhausting drive of 278 kms in total for the day, made so much longer by people, bicycles, taxis, now motorcycle-taxis, trucks and real bad roads. Back up to 2 300 metres above sea-level where it got really misty and cold in the Mbeya Range and now at 1 400 m so it has been a real up and down day behind the trucks. Now we have little tuk-tuk taxis and also men pulling barrows loaded with produce and the occasional passenger.
Finally, in the town of Mbeya we were able to draw shillings and fill up the now empty fuel tank. We had been advised not to use the service stations in the first little settlements as their fuel had been contaminated…….We decided to avoid the mayhem of the shops and not look for Tanzanian airtime and a SIM card until tomorrow and arrived, happily at Utengule Hotel and campsite on the coffee farm.
It is hard to call this a campsite. The hotel is set in the most beautiful grounds with a swimming pool and lush gardens. We were taken down to the bottom terrace, past the helicopter pad and crumbling tennis court to where there are a few old rooms and told to park under the tree in the alley way. The bathrooms are really old and shabby and dirty. Mary, the receptionist sent the cleaning lady, but, alas, it would need a team of cleaners and painters and this for USD10 per person plus a mandatory tourism fee for the Tanzanian Government of USD1,5 per person.
We parked the car and called Nicole and Heather to chat briefly and let them know that we were now in Tanzania. It is lovely to hear their voices every so often. We miss them so much and have now been away for 6 weeks.
S: We had looked over the restaurant’s menu and decided that after a really tiresome, bone-rattling day of driving that we would relax on the stoep (patio) with coffee and some dinner. We had ordered and while waiting, Lesley was enjoying watching and photographing the many birds, a Variable sunbird and a few mouse-birds to name a few.
We are in another time zone now so we added an hour to our time.
L: Our large coffee pot arrived and we each managed 3 cups of the delicious brew. It was a lovely treat. Steve had the sweet and sour pork which he really enjoyed and I had the lasagne which was ok, but a bit overcooked when reheated.
We were treated to another stunning sunset from the grounds of the hotel.
S: We decided to settle the supper bill and pay the camp fees all in one and be done. While Mary was preparing the bills for us, the Manager came in, ignored us, and told her to come and welcome the new guests.
L: One of the new guests then just muscled his way in between Steve and I and thumped his bags down next to us. Mary, hastily, ushered us to the lounge where she would continue with our bill after she had attended to the new people…….Well, I never. Really?
While we were sitting in the lounge, fuming, the guest came through and I told him, very nicely, that he had just barged in between my husband and I and pushed us out while he was attended to. He was a bit shocked, but apologised. A man with him was so apologetic and we then got chatting…….Manus is from Kimberley in South Africa and after learning about our trip and that we are going up to Lake Victoria, invited us to come and stay in his home at the lake, oh wow, what a lovely offer. We discussed places that he suggested and got some tips on the area.
S: We set up camp and sat outside catching up on the blog when Manus came to say hello. He caught us up on current events as we don’t get all the news. He mentioned that he knew what the condition of these bathrooms were and told us to come and use his room to shower. Thanks, but no, we couldn’t do that! What a nice chap.
L: Well, the shower is hot and it drains. No further comment.
Off to rest our weary heads………
Day 43 – Tuk Tuk, pink chickens and long horns
L: We knew that it was going to be a long day on the road so we were up and ready to get going fairly early. While waiting for Steve to finish showering, I bumped into Paola, the manageress while I was taking photographs. She asked how I was doing so I did not hold back…..and she came down to see what I meant about the state of the bathrooms. She could not apologise enough and was very gracious about it. Paola sent us on our way with a bag of their delicious coffee, thank you so much. It will be lovely to stay there when everything is up-graded. She and Matteo have taken over, 3 months ago, and have the job of fixing everything.
L: I thought that I was seeing things and made Steve turn around so that I could photograph a “pink” chicken. Don’t ask, because I can’t explain, but it was bright pink. The baby chicks were normal, which is even stranger. There was also a really long-horned cow that fascinated us.
S: We arrived in town, Mbeya, to find the Voda-Shop for a Tanzanian SIM card and airtime, which I did and later Lesley had her first experience at a market in this country and managed to get 12 avos for only TSH5 500 which is under R3 an avo!!
On the way out we had to endure the Mbeya traffic, which was chaos!! We were flagged down by a guy in his car on the side of the road. Tom, from Hout Bay in Cape Town leaned in for a chat……He is here to do some civil engineering and invited us to call him when we reach Dar-Es-Salaam.
S: Today our destination was The Old Farmhouse, or Kisolanza Farm as it is marked on Tracks4Africa, which is just after the town of Mafinga. The road is in very bad condition and narrow so that any overtaking maneuver is a risky business especially when we are only travelling at 80 to 90 km/h and the trucks crawl up the hills at 20 and then speed up to 100 on the downhills. The road is rarely straight so the opportunities are few and just when you think you can take a chance the speed limit drops to 50km/h as you enter a town and there are many. The roads are littered with traffic police with radar guns and I was caught speeding along a stretch of road where no board was displayed, but was apparently a built up area and I should have known about it. Go figure! So the challenge here is to figure out when the minimum speed limit kicks in.
As far as any other road rules are concerned in Tanzania, they do not exist. They are so blatantly ignored it is beyond a joke and just staying alive on these roads is a mission. Overtaking on a white line, on a blind rise and a blind corner is the norm. The worst offenders are the busses and as the road is so narrow the misses are close. I have experienced two buses overtaking us and three long trucks on a blind rise and blind corner at the same time and doing at least double our speed.
The new mode of taxi in the rural areas now are motorbikes and there are hundreds of them all over the place. There are also motorbikes with the rear replaced with a load bin and also what looks like a lawn mower front and a load bin on the back. I do not know if the last one is licensed, but they do run on the main road.
Apart from the traffic police doing speed trapping there are a lot of police stops, but most of the time we are waved through.
After a long and stressful introduction to Tanzanian road mania we rolled into the Old Farmhouse camp site.
L: What a relief to relax and be off those roads.
Kisolanza is lovely, set in the bush, but with great bathrooms and hot showers. We were able to get some fresh farm produce so I set about making a potjie of the veg and adding couscous while Steve braaied our beef fillet. It was delicious and I realised that I had not had much meat in the last week after being ill. I had been able to eat the chicken that we bought in Zambia as when I cooked it for Steve I noticed how how white it was, therefore no Oxytetracycline.
Off to bed. Night folks!!