Friday, June 24, 2011

WOOHOO Spares have arrived !

It was like Christmas yesterday when our spares finally arrived in Arusha after being stuck at customs for almost 2 weeks !  So today we did all the repairs and services we needed to do and tomorrow we hit the road again !! headed for Lake Tanganyika and then north.
A big thank you to Alex MacDonald for helping to organise our spares for us in South Africa, and to Ria and Alan for helping organise the courier for us and all the hard work chasing them up !!
Really appreciate all your help THANK YOU !
Christmass time !!!


Teeny`s new brake hose

You can do it !!!

Like new and ready to ride !

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dar to Arusha

The overnight ferry from Zanzibar was cramped, we thought that being in the VIP section we could have claimed a spot to spread out (as before), but instead the VIP section was a full as the deck below. We managed to get a seat next to a table top and used that as our sleeping area. Teeny has learnt the art of sleeping wherever and she needs to and managed to sleep most of the 11hrs, whereas Nick dosed now and again. We arrived at 6am at Dar port and were greeted by Henry our tuk-tuk driver. Back at Mikadi we decided to spend the day relaxing and organising our gear so that we could get an early start the next morning (Monday) to avoid traffic. We bumped into another two riders who have been travelling down from Nairobi using only the back roads and as little tar as possible on some really well kitted out bikes. An interesting pair who work in Dubai and compete in the Dubai desert run regularly.

Our early morning start was not as early as it should have been however we managed to navigate our way out of Dar missing most of the building traffic. We had heard that Bagamoyo, a town 60km north of Dar, is an interesting fishing village with much history, so we headed along the coastal road through a number of towns keeping a speed of only 50kmph. We arrived and headed to the first sign posted resort, funnily enough it had been closed for the last 8 years because the owner did not pay their taxes. There was a monument in the grounds which explained that that point was where German colonists hung natives opposing the German rule to death … quite something because the old German fort was also just outside the resort site. Figuring we couldn’t get breakfast at this spot, we headed to another resort to find a cheap breakfast. Lucky us…we sat right on the beach looking out on the beautiful clear blue water eating our Spanish omelette and bread with tea/coffee.

Dar city

Bagamoya fishing village

German monument where they used to hang people opposing their rule

The stretch out of Bagamoyo back to the main road heading north was in pretty bad condition, and we had been warned that we would struggle on the motorbikes. Deciding not to heed the warning we took that dirt road and after about 15km of potholes, mud and sand the road cleared into a relatively good dirt road. It went through a few towns and lots of agricultural fields…a really beautiful countryside ride.

We hit the main road at Msata and continued our journey north overwhelmed with just how green and amazing Tanzania is. Fields of coconut trees, bananas, pineapples and sugarcane coupled with mangos, oranges, passions etc for sale on the side of the road…this really seems like the fruit centre of Africa. Although the people on the side of the road are not as friendly as in Malawi, we have felt comfortable to stop wherever we pleased to take pictures and have a break. The T-junction turn off towards Moshi brought a whole different landscape as huge mountains appeared out of the flat terrain. When we arrived at the White Parrot campsite we both felt that the scenery seemed to be getting more amazing the further north we travel. White Parrot Campsite was good and we sipped a beer shandy chatting about everything we had seen that day.

We woke up and had breakfast at the white parrot restaurant which was surprisingly cheap for the basic buffet.  After filling our tanks we decided to check out Irente Farm, a place which produces its own cheese, jams and breads.  60km down the main road and we took the turn off into Lushoto mountains, and travelled along a great tar road weaving our way through the mountains.  Other mountain passes we have ridden usually have the occasional village along the way, however this road seemed to have small towns every 10-15km with lots of shops and even petrol stations!!  From the turn off towards Irente the road changed to fairly good quality red clay.  We passed hut after hut and friendly people shouting ‘Jambo’ at us.  Our first stop was at a place called Irente View Cliff Lodge, a conference style hotel with an amazing view from 1450m above sea level.  As we were searching for the homemade cheese and jam, we left that spot and went to Irente Farm.  Originally the farm was owned by Germans in the 1880’s who planned to grow fields of coffee trees.  Unfortunately they did not realise that the fertile rich soil in the area was only that way from the incredible forests which were on the land.  After only 6-8years of cultivation the fertility had dropped so significantly that they had to change their strategy and started growing quinine, cardamom, rubber and tea.  The farm was then bought by the Lutheran Church who constructed a mental hospital, orphanage and school and used the land to produce all the food required.  Today the farm still grows most of its own produce and is involved in dairy farming, honey production and ecotourism.

White parrot camp site

The area was just too beautiful to stop in and leave, so we decided to camp there for the night and go hiking in the mountains. Having met a few self appointed tour guides wanting our money, we ducked and dived and started on the route through the village ourselves. Before we knew it we had 2 very friendly guys walking with us chatting about life in Tanzania and our life in South Africa. Along the way we saw some locals crushing sugar cane through a primitively homemade crusher which took 6 people to wind the wheel while another fed the stalks through and collected the juice. They then ferment the juice into sugarcane alcohol. Teeny asked to take a picture and in typical African fashion they asked for money, so we noticed behind us another crusher even older and more primitive that had been carved out of trees, and took a picture of that for free! As we continued along the main road through the town we passed a bar selling the alcohol with some drunken locals loitering about…being early in the day we decided not to try any. Our two new friends then directed us through the village on a short cut to another incredible incredible view point right on the edge of the cliff overlooking Mazinde Village. The views of the landscape were breath-taking and we couldn’t believe how the locals live and farm on these mountain slopes of nearly 70°. Apparently some of the locals also cultivate land at the bottom of the mountain and every day trek the nearly 1000m down and up the mountain to tend to their crops.

As we sat and enjoyed the views we noticed the clouds building on the tips of the mountain and decided it was time to head back to camp. Our two new friends took us through another shortcut weaving through the villages being greeted over and over by large groups of children repeating ‘Jambo Mzungu Jambo’. Such a heart-warming experience walking in and amongst the houses and huts getting a true feeling of how these people live on the mountain. Nearly every hut/house had a pen outside which either a cow or a couple of goats used for both their milk produce and meat. We never felt uncomfortable once…ok except when Nick (the last person walking in the group) nearly got charged by a bucking bull that we had all passed quite closely to. We said goodbye to our friends and headed back to Irente farm quite amazed that we hadn’t been asked for anything in return…or so we thought! Next moment we had the one guy running up behind us, funnily the one that hadn’t said much to us during the entire afternoon, asking for “pen or pay”. So we gave him a pen and said ‘asante sane’ (thank you very much).

As the sun set and the evening grew colder we were enticed into a game of hide and seek with two owls in a tree above us hooting away. Unfortunately all our searching and we still couldn’t find the bastards! We enjoyed a hearty meal and headed off to bed with our fleeces ready for the cold night sleep.

Irente Farm lunch...cheese !

Irente farm camp

Local shop stall

Sugar cane crusher

Note the whole mechanism has been carved out of the wood, amazing !

clouds rolling in

Holding area for live stock

cama cama cama cama camilion !!!

Our self appointed tour guides

Bird watching !
We left early the next morning heading further north keeping our eyes peeled to see the mighty Kilimanjaro! The crop grown along this stretch changed to fields of cacti and except for the large mountain range to our right the landscape opened up with conical hills scattering the relatively flat plains. As we rounded one corner (dodging another speedy gonzales bus) we spotted her…the great snow capped Kili peeking out of the clouds. With renewed excitement we pushed on to the next T-junction turn to Moshi.  Having heard about an interesting spot called Lake Chala, instead of turning left to Moshi we went right towards the Kenyan border.  About 10km along this road we turned off onto a red dirt road towards Lake Chala campsite.  The contrast of the red clay soil against the fields of bright yellow sunflowers was amazing! Over the hill and further into the bush we found the entrance to the campsite, and without much explanation on where to go we followed the signposts to the campsite, until we hit a 3 way junction where the signs said either to Camp 1 or Parking or Camp 2.  Figuring the reception would be at the parking area, we followed that road but before we knew it that road had turned into a double track, which then turned into a single track, which then became a hiking path with dense bush on either side. Hmmm think we missed it?  After a 40 point turn we managed to face the direction we had come and went back to the 3 way junction only to spot the lodge hidden in the trees 20m in front of us! Interestingly enough we heard from the owner later that we were lucky we didn’t bump into the Ellies that had been passing in the bush where we took our detour earlier in the day!

The mountains behind were where we stayed

Our first glimpse of Kili

Just us and the open road

I think we going the wrong way !!

Lake chala

Lake Chala campsite is a new establishment under a 3 phase construction period.  It is located on a  200ha farm which borders the extinct volcano now filled with water – ie Lake Chala.  Quite hungry we ordered some food and enjoyed listening to the fish eagles crying in the distance, while watching other beautiful species of birds drink from the bird baths scattered around the campsite.  A definite place to stop for any bird lover!!  While we sat and enjoyed our toasties and a drink our tent, which we had left unpegged to dry, decided to fly off with a large gust of wind.  Lucky for us it was caught by a thorny acacia tree! Woops!  The rest of the afternoon was spent marvelling at Kili in the distance,  absorbing the view over Lake Chala into Kenya and watching the birds and lizards absorbing the last bits of sun. 

Feeling very lazy in the morning, and having time to kill we chilled at the campsite until about midday before getting our bikes ready to head to Arusha.  The first stop along the main road was a town called Moshi.  Immediately we could tell that the northern area seems more developed and catered towards tourism, and passed restaurant after restaurant whose names referred to Mount Kili in some way or another.  As we were driving out of Town Teeny started hooting and waving frantically at Nick excited to have spotted that Mount Kili was out of the clouds!  We stopped alongside the road and marvelled at just how big the mountain looked from this angle topped with snow.  The main road between Moshi and Arusha is very busy, and while we kept looking back at Mount Kili, the traffic overtook us skimming past our panniers.  Just outside Arusha we called a good family friend, Peter Lindstrom, and arranged to meet up in the centre of town at his offices.  Peter and Alette Lindstrom used to live in Sudan at the same time Teeny’s parents were there, and they became close friends taking many family trips throughout Africa.   Their son, Ake Lindstom, also lives in Arusha and apparently Teeny and him used to be very good friends when she was around 4yrs old.  We tried to navigate our way with the GPS, but it did not have the name of the street where his offices are.  But being a relatively small town with good landmarks we were able to find his office quite easily, being just up from the Clocktower – the halfway point between Cape Town and Cairo.  Peter invited us to stay for the night and we followed him home through the village and street stalls up the hill to his amazing house. After some catching up and a hearty meal we jumped into a very comfy bed!

Sitting at the bottom of kilimanjaro...!!

The next afternoon we headed into a Arusha town to meet Doug, Nick’s cousin. He had arranged for us to stay with him at a place called Tanzania Game Tracking Professional Hunters (TGT PH) accommodation. This accommodation is in the heart of the coffee fields opposite the Arusha airport. A great place with well-maintained offices and a recreational area open to the public. We settled in and headed straight to the recreational area for a few catch up drinks. Next thing we had met at least half of the expat community working in Tanzania, and were on our way to the Lively Lady nightclub in Arusha, a small but pumping nightclub filled with fellow Mzungus. We arrived home quite early that morning and spent most of the next day relaxing watching movies and doing washing!

Sunday morning was a real treat for Nick. He was up early with Doug and across to the Arusha airport to take the microlite out for a flight!! From the airport they headed out towards Lake Manyara flying over Masaai Land noticing the land erosion devastation caused by increased livestock in the area. During their flight there was lots of game spotted, including lesser Kudu (which is indigenous to the Masaai Land), a herd of bull elephants, thousands of flamingos in Lake Manyara, buffalo and many more species of game. It was such a beautiful morning for a flight that they could nearly make out Ngororo crater in the distance and the views were absolutely spectacular that Nick couldn’t stop raving about it when he came back! We went to the recreational area for a late lunch before heading through to Ake’s place to catch up with him and prepare for the busy week ahead trying to get our spares which had been couriered from South Africa.


Maasai village

Lake Manyare

millions of flamingoes

Captain Nick !!

Herd of Ele`s

Old KLR just like ours

Drive to TGT through the coffee plantations

Nick and Doug

Johnny`s Bar at TGT rec area

Monday morning we learnt that our courier was still being processed in Dar customs area, and it was unclear when it would be available for us. So we chilled at Ake’s place before going down to Arusha to walk the town while Ake did some work. Arusha is lined with people with business cards trying to sell the safari’s offered by their company’s. They even sit outside competitors doors trying to get steal their business. It is a much calmer city than Dar, and we felt comfortable to walk the streets and pop into shops that looked interesting. That night Ake made us a spread for dinner, not only do we have excellent accommodation with wifi, but we get spoilt with great food too! During the evening Ake arranged for us to meet with a mate of his who has done much off road motor biking through Tanzania. He was a great person to meet and gave us some great ideas for the next leg of our journey across to the west of Tanzania towards lake Tanganyika. That evening we packed up our stuff and headed through to Ilburu Lodge where we were meeting Marius (Kristine’s brother in law ) , who had kindly put us up for a night with him. That evening we had a burger and some drinks and managed to Skype with Kristine’s sister Vanessa. Next morning Mari headed off early to start his safari with his guests, so we slowly made our way to Masarane Snake park, an overland truck stop that we had heard a lot about. This place was originally established by a South African couple as an educational snake park, they have since expanded into a camping stop for travellers with a great bar area and workshop for vehicle repairs. They also do a lot of work with the messia community having established a clinic and museum of messia culture. The snake park has some of the biggest snakes we have ever seen all locally caught ranging from mambers to gaboon adders with a few rehabilitated birds and some crocs. That evening again we realised how small this world actually is, bumping into a few more ex pats from South Africa and chatting to them realised they went to the same school as Nick.

The next morning we did a few repairs on the bikes using the workshop facilities at snake park. Had some lunch and headed back to Ake`s place so that we were closer to Arusha town for Monday morning when we hope that our courier will be ready for collection !

Our spread at Ake`s place

Art at Via Via

Ilboru Lodge

Comfy bed ! thanks Mari and Van

Teeny and Ake

Playing with the animals at snake park

Ma, the owner of snake park in the bar