Thursday, June 2, 2011


Driving out of Malawi we realised just how much we had enjoyed the country and its incredibly friendly people. It was quite sad leaving and we both had said to ourselves that we were going to miss it, particularly after the stories we had heard about Dar es Salaam and that Tanzanian people are less hospitable. The border crossing was very easy with no additional costs and surprisingly friendly police officials. We paid $50 each for a ninety day visa, but no road or carbon tax that we had to pay in other countries. We were warned again by the officials not to change money with the men hanging around the border post, and couldn’t believe one guy trying to sell us a sim card for $5 when they should only be TS1000 / R5. It was a surreal feeling to arrive in Tanzania nearly half way up to Africa and one of the countries that we have both been looking forward to seeing.

The few banana trees scattered in Malawi became plantations covering the rolling hills along the road into Tanzania. This soon changed into massive tea plantations which we only realised were tea plantations when we saw the workers with bags on their backs picking the leaves. We had been told that a guy at the first petrol station would change our Malawian Kwacha into Tanzanian Shillings safely and at a relatively good rate. So we stopped in met a few locals and changed money without feeling threatened of being cheated.

We ventured further into Tanzania and were amazed at how quickly the landscape seems to change around every corner, next thing we know we had climbed 2400m above sea level and were driving through thick mist and a quick drop in temperature. Our first town was Tukuyu where we stopped to put our rain jackets on and get some bread for lunch. Stale bread but semi full bellies and we were off again. The hills carried rolling with luscious green scenery and we turned at the T-junction towards Mbeya, our nights stop. The town was quite busy with bicycles, motorbikes, busses and cars and covered with roadside stalls and hotels. We filled up at the petrol station and while we were there asked a couple of South Africans currently working in Tanzania where we could camp for the night. They suggested Mbeya Hotel, so we went there but for $10 a night decided to revert back to the GPS ‘not recommended’ campsite called ‘Greenview Campsite. A little bit worried about what the facilities were going to be like, we were pleasantly surprised that it was secure with soft grass spots to set up camp. We also got to use a separate room for the toilet and shower which had power points, so we think it is possibly not recommended because the camping showers and toilets were disgusting. Having heard a lot about how good the chip omelettes are in Tanzania we decided to try one for lunch – delicious and eaten with our first Kilimanjaro beer we played cards and watched the sun set over the town.

Lunch in Mbeya , chip omlette and first Kili !
The next morning we met a South African couple that had arrived late during the evening. They had been travelling extensively across Tanzania so we swopped information about camping sites and got a few more warnings about Dar. Our destination for the day was a place called Kisolanze Farm approximately 300km away. The number of trucks on the road is crazy, and it seems that the busses in Africa all drive at kamikaze speeds between all the towns. The roads were pretty good with a couple of tar middle mannetjies. Every town you enter has 4 sets of speed humps forcing you to slow down and look at the shops lining the streets and the items for sale, initially it was massive piles of bananas which quickly changed into tables full of onions and tomatoes. We stopped for lunch at a petrol station which had a restaurant and a tiny shop packed to the brim with foodstuffs and comestics. Lunch comprised of a few doughnuts (without the sugar. We had bought a local sim card while in Mbeya and were in the process of texting home when a journalist approached us to find out where we were headed and what adventure we were doing. He has since compiled a blog with pictures that he took at that stop. Check it out at:

We set off again and it was at this point that it started to feel that autumn was setting in. The trees and shrubs on the side of the road had yellow and light brown leaves while the long dry grass covered the ground. This quickly changed into the Sao Hill Forest Plantation and it was on the other side of this reserve that we found Kisolanze Farm. What a beautiful spot with spread out camp spots. You are able to buy meat and vegetables from the office, so we bought some steak and made some bread to have a meat roll. Unfortunately we had arrived too late and the steak we thought we bought landed up being stewing meat. We struggled to braai it on the wet wood we received but this didn’t bother us because we had a night sky filled with stars and a warm fire to lie by during the chilly night.


Road into Kisolanze

Teeny perfecting her bread making skills !

Our meat feast

The roads improved instantly the next morning having recently been tarred.  Who knows how long they will stay in that condition with the number of trucks travelling across the country!! We were still travelling quite high above sea level until we reached the decent down towards the river.  This extremely curvy road was jam packed with trucks forcing us to travel slowly behind them.  This however was not how the locals do it, and busses overtook on completely blind corners amazingly missing the oncoming traffic.  Bicycles also zoomed past us carrying big yellow canisters full of water, we still can’t figure out how they slowed down if another truck was oncoming as not many of them have brakes and assume that they just use their feet to slow them down when they need to! Baboons also scattered this road and truck drivers again threw out their finished corn cobs out to them.  We bumped into our second group of motorbikers at the bottom of the pass.  They have been travelling from Kuwait and planned to travel through Africa in 2 months as they had to return to work.  An interesting group kitted out to the max with cameras on their helmets and three way radio system between the motorbikes. 
Excelent road and amazing landscape

Slowly winding down the pass behind the trucks

A few of the many baobabs along the sides of the road

woohoo Tanzania !!
We stopped in at a building next to a petrol station for lunch.  An interesting spot that must cater to either the passing busses or workers nearby as they had a buffet lunch available as well as other fresh vegetables and stalls selling ready cooked meals and breads/chips/coolddrinks etc.  After this stop the landscape changed dramatically into what could have been a baobab forest.  Spectacular to see these huge trees scattered everywhere in this large valley, with rolling hills.  We passed a few mining operations and eventually the road became degraded covered with potholes and bumpy patch-up work.  At one stage we passed the section of the road being upgraded.  Instead having to wait at the stop/start road block we (being on motorbikes) were allowed to go straight through .This of course made it quite exciting when the oncoming trucks squeezed us onto the road under construction.  We arrived at Mkumi late in the afternoon and found the recommended Tan Swiss campsite for the night.  The food was quite expensive in the restaurant so we walked into town and ate Nyama and rice at the road shops watching the locals going about their business and truck drivers doing repairs on their battered vehicles.  As it is in Africa most things are very dirty but it was amazing to see how meticulous the owners are about keeping their tables spotlessly clean for potential customers. While we enjoyed our Nyama the restaurant owner slaughtered a chicken only a few meters away from us, he slaughtered the chicken , plucked it, and cleaned it in about 15 minutes flat, we learnt a few lessons for the next chicken we get hold of !!

Local restuarants where we ate

Nyama and rice with spinach

The kitchen

And the incredible sun set
We had heard that we would see game in Mkumi National Park if we drove slow enough, so we woke up early the next morning to see what we could find.  We spotted a lone elephant, buffalo, dozens of Giraffe and tons of buck. Once through Mkumi we focussed on getting into Dar es Salaam before the Friday afternoon traffic got too bad.  The going was good and we spotted another group of bikers taking a break on the side of the road.  We stopped to chat, and Teeny got quite excited to see another female bike rider in the group.  They had been travelling since July 2010 and had left Canada down through North and South America before shipping their motorbikes through to South Africa.  We hope to see them again along the road to hear more about their adventures and perhaps ride a section of the stretch northwards with them.  About 15km before Dar we were hit with a torrential downpour.  Luckily we managed to spot a petrol station and stopped in to wait the rain out and prepare ourselves for the ever increasing traffic loads.  We have heard some incredible stories about Dar from people having their bags cut and items stolen to items being removed from the vehicles in the tight traffic jam.  The biggest scam at the moment is tourists catch unmarked taxis and then are held hostage while money is drawn from different ATMs. They are then robbed of all other possessions and then dropped off in the city sometimes with money for another taxi or for a room for the night.  It may seem strange to get into an unmarked taxi, but apparently in other African countries that is the norm, and so why tourists think it is safe.  Worried about these stories and the fact that Teeny had lost two of her locks for the pannier already we set into town ready for anything.

The canadian and british riders we met
Henry, an overland truck driver, suggested that instead of going through the centre of town we should drive around on the Ocean Road. This was great advise and we managed to get down to the Kingomani Ferry to take us across to the southern beaches where our campsite was located. The traffic was quite busy around this area and we missed the no entry sign down to the ferry. As we got to the bottom a police officer stopped us and told us we “had done something wrong”. Nick chatted to him for a bit before we were set on our way back up the road to look at the sign and find the correct road down to the Ferry. Once that was done we apologised profusely, explained that a bus was parked in the way blocking the sign and that we would not do that again. He eventually smiled and sent us off to catch the Ferry. There are two ferries that operate 24hrs across the harbour entrance. They are packed to the brim on these trips with people, cars, motorbikes and bicycles. Very affordable, we paid TS100 (R0.30) per person and TS100 (R0.30) per bike and after 10min were across to the other side. Mikadi Campsite had been recommended by a number of people, and when we arrived we could see why. Located right on the beach with lovely facilities we downed a coke before ordering some lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent chatting to Claudio and Dave, 2 South African motorbikers on a 4 month trip up through Mozambique into Ethiopia and back. We learnt a few bargaining tricks and tips for the bikes and enjoyed chatting to motorbike travellers for a change.

Free tea/coffee in the morning and Teeny was again convinced that this was paradise – well except for the saltwater showers which is different! We needed to get a few essentials and wanted to explore Dar a bit so we hired a tuk tuk driven by Adam, a very recommended driver/tour guide. Adam is extremely talented at weaving in and out of traffic making finding the smallest spots to squeeze through! This meant that the OMF handles on the side of the bike were well used by the two of us!! The city was pretty quiet with a lot of the shops closed, but we managed to get most of what we wanted before we returned back to Mikadi. That night Lidia and Pleun arrived. They are Dutch couple that have travelled from the Netherlands in their little bakkie. Quite a feat considering everyone says the northern Kenya route is almost impassable for non 4x4 vehicles! We shared some information we had received about travelling Zanzibar cheaper, and they left the next day while we decided to wait one more day to get the cheaper ferry, the Flying Horse. Sunday was spent watching the locals enjoying the fantastic beaches, catching up on our blog and relaxing at Mikadi.

Hot and sweaty on the ferry to southern beaches of Dar

Every space is occupied

Sunrise on the Indian ocean again!

Mikadi beach

Home sweet home !!

Pleun and Lidia, all the way from the Netherlands

Ready for our first Tuk-Tuk ride

The OMF handles were well used !!

Adam and Nick

Sunday on the beach

Mikadi beach, bar area

The result of northen Mozambican roads !

The ferry packed , the top area seats up to 2000 people

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