Monday, July 4, 2011

Arusha to Kigoma along the road less travelled

After spending up to two weeks in Arusha, we were ready to hit the road although quite lazy after all the down time we had had.  A special thanks must be said to Ake who opened up his home even though he wasn’t there for us to stay.  If you are planning a trip to Tanzania and want to do some adventurous activities such as climb kili, mountain bike or go on a Safari into Ngorogoro or Serengeti be sure to use Summits Africa!! 
We landed up leaving Arusha around midday, a little later than anticipated, and headed towards Karatu.  The landscape was very dry and covered with cattle and Masaai men and women.  We climbed a hill and at the top were amazed by the view over Lake Manyara, with the line of pink on the water where the flamingos were and clusters of dark where the buffalo or wildebeest were grazing.  The pictures don’t truly show the amazing colours of the lake and surrounding area but at least give an idea of the beauty and serenity of that place.

Arusha traffic

Clock Tower, half way mark Cape to Cairo

Lake Manyara

We arrived in Karatu around 3.30pm and decided to stay the night at Happy Days, a camping spot owned by South Africans.  Karatu is the last major town before Ngorogoro gate and has a range of hotels and campsites, and even camping was US$10 the most expensive camping we have paid for to date.  

CASTLE !! thisones for Colin !!

Cisilia, our waitress
In the morning we had a hearty breakfast of chips mayai (an omelette with chips, green pepper and onion) at Bumps Café - aptly named as it was right outside a series of the biggest speed humps along the road!! We then headed towards Mangola, a village at the top of Lake Eyasi.  The great tar road became quite rocky and dusty and being part of the Great Rift Valley had a lot of volcanic red clay.  This meant that all the vegetation on the side of the road was covered in a layer of red dust giving the landscape a serpia tint to it.  At a fork in the road the signs pointed us towards the camping spots around Lake Eyasi.  Our research had shown that a place called Lake Eyasi Bushcamp would be the cheapest and nicest, so as we sat at the fork trying to figure out if we should go left or right, we were approached by a guide in the area.  He handed us a list of activities for the area such as going to see the Bushman or visit other tribes in the area to see how they live and survive off the land.  Prices ranged between US$20-50 and we told him we couldn’t afford it, but he insisted on taking our number to try organise something later on in the day.  As we drove off our phone started ringing and did for most of the day. As we entered the village and took the turn following a sign to lake eyasi bush camp we suddenly realised that we were likely to get very lost here as the roads are confusing with all the pedestrian and cattle tracks that feed off them.  We found the first camp spot, Nyika camp, and although it looked comfortable enough we wanted to see what the bushcamp would be like.  We slowly navigated our way and came across an irrigation trench we needed to cross. While we were trying to figure this out some locals drove over without a problem showing us how soft it actually was.  Next thing the guide we had met arrived with 2 other bikes and insisted again on showing us around.  We stopped in at another place too expensive and then went down to the bushcamp.  Eventually at Lake Eyasi Bushcamp we told them that we would not be paying them for their help, and decided to see what Kisima Ngeda was like instead.  We battled our way through the sand down to the tented camp and hoped they would allow us to set up our own camp for a cheaper price.  Just our luck they had a separate camping area right on Lake Eyasi, exactly what we were looking for.  We set up camp and went exploring before meeting up with the owner to discuss the price.  Again we scored they only charged us TS5000/R25 each instead of the US$10 we were told! Excellent! We asked about the road to Singida, the next stop on our trip, and he suggested while driving to ask the locals how to get to Matala.  So after a hearty meal of spaghetti and tomato and onion we jumped into bed early in preparation for what lay ahead.

Great chips mayai

Karatu town

Number plates broken AGAIN!

View from our camp at lake Eyasi

An early start with a small nibble on muesli we had we set off for the village of Matala.  Again we got lost trying to navigate our way out of the area, at first coming to a village where we were told we would not be able to cross the river, and then to a bridge which was washed away till eventually we found the road out of Mangola.  This involved a large riverbed of soft sand an introduction to what lay ahead for the rest of the day! The road went in and out of small villages and in between these stretches were Masaai camps and lots of livestock with herdsmen.  At one stage we were even driving on the outskirts of Lake Eyasi, a beautiful stretch with lots of different colours and miles and miles of nothing.  Very beautiful.  This route was definitely a real adventure route, and after 80km we got our first puncture – which was quite a feat considering most of the bushes in the area were acacia with large thorns.  After fixing this we decided to look for a place to camp for the night.  We noticed an enclosed ring of trees with a few buildings inside and tried our luck to see if the persons inside would let us stay in their enclosure. Our welcome from Michael was , WOW you are white !! as such was our surprise to see white people out there !!They are missionaries that have been working in Tanzania for the past 7 years.  Thankfully they opened their home to us, gave us a room for the night and even fed us delicious Ugali, spinach and Nyama!  How truly lucky we are to have found them! They told us we had probably done the hardest stretch of the road, and warned us of possible mud to contend with along the upcoming route.  So we went to bed, to have a good nights rest.
The bridge to no where

Our first river crossing lucky it was dry

Onion farming

SAND !!! Nick`s wipe out!!

Repair still ok !

Riding on Lake Eyasi

A smile for the first tyre repair !

The missionaries that put us up for the night - THANK YOU !

Our introduction to the next day was another flat tyre. Unfortunately we had missed that Teeny’s front tyre had 2 holes and not one, so after fixing that up we headed off again towards Matala.  Our water supply was quite minimal at this stage and all we could think of was getting to Matala to get water.  We passed through a couple of villages and after travelling through one saw a car full of missionaries also working out there.  They told us we had just driven through to Matala without realising it, and that we should continue towards Singida stopping at the next village for water.  So off we went, through river crossings, mud and dry riverbeds, along pedestrian and cattle paths and the road when we could find it until we reached Bukundi.  Finally water coupled with a village intrigued by us.  A woman, that we can only name as ‘the crazy lady’ was so surprised that Teeny was a female that she only believed it once she tried to look down her top to check what was beneath! When we started to leave, and she realised we weren’t going to give her money, she did some sort of chant and squiggles in the dirt in front of the bikes which we can only assume was some kind of a curse. We then came up to another river crossing and after weaving through the cows we noticed a log across the road. We were then informed that we had to pay to cross the river, as the locals thought that throwing bags of sand and rocks in the river would help!! They expected TS 2000 / R10 per bike, but we refused and payed only TS 2000 for both, ah the bargaining in Africa.  Pole pole (slowly slowly) we continued on our route until we found a great graded road to take us out of Lake Eyasi valley.  We hit the tar road and decided that instead of backtracking to Singida we would go towards Igugna and hope for a place to stay.  It was starting to get dark, and there were a number of trucks still travelling on the road.  We arrived in Igugna and found Peak Hotel with a very affordable room for the night.  Happy that the next day would be easier down to Tabora, we jumped into bed.

River crossing

mud, mud, mud !!

We handeld it a little better than these guys !!

Bukundi village , stop for water, and the "crazy lady" in the centre !

River crossing , toll road !!!

Shattered !! after another sand crossing !

Peak hotel room
 We found a great spot for breakfast the next morning, chicken soup and chipata.  After a quick easy tar road to Nzega we took the turn onto the dirt road to Tabora, where we pulled over to let down our tyres only to discover that Nick’s back tyre was nearly flat. So with a bit of help from the locals we changed the tube and set off again.  The road was scattered with large potholes that had been filled with very fine sand, making the road a bit more tricky for us on bikes.  After only 10kms, Nick’s back tyre was flat again, so we changed the tube after having thought the valve was dodgy during the last change. Another 5km later and it was flat again! This time from a puncture, so we found the thorn and fixed the tube.  Only 10km down the road and it was flat again, this time leaking from the valve, so we tried to fix the valve with washers and ‘O’ rings. 5km down the road again and it was flat…not funny at this point considering the sun was going down and we still had another 60km to do!  Again we took the tyre off and checked the valve, but it didn’t leak when the tube was outside the tyre, so we put all together again and drove off.  Another 5km and it was flat! It was dark and we were a quite worried considering we had been warned during the day to move along quickly as there are apparently thieves in the area!  We decided to revert back to the original tube, fixed the puncture and set off hoping and praying it would work this time! And it did!! We arrived in Tabora at 10pm, shattered and hoping to find good accommodation as the GPS did not have one place listed to stay.  Luck would have it, we found Wilca Hotel with some help from a local tobacconist. Cheap accommodation with a restaurant onsite – we were sold and decided to stay here for 3 nights to recover from the last couple of days. 

The first of MANY that day !!
Our recovery time was excellent, and we ate good food and slept getting the energy for the next leg of the route to Kigoma.  After stocking up on fuel and water we left on the dirt road hoping that it would be a better stretch than we had already experienced.  We had planned to stay at Urambo, only 80kms down the road, but the road was in great condition and we made good mileage and decided to rather eat in Urambo and push through to the next village.  As we left Urambo we were stopped by a man in a military outfit.  He asked us for our permit to drive from Urambo to Kaliua that we should have apparently got at the Urambo police station.  Quite confused we said we weren’t sure what he was talking about, and pulled out our passports to show him we were allowed to be in Tanzania for 3 months.  Not impressed by this he then told us that it was a problem our vehicles did not have Tanzanian number plates, so we pulled out the Carnets to show that they are South African vehicles and are allowed to be in Tanzania.  Not happy about this he reverted back to his permit story.  By this stage we could tell and smell that he had been drinking, so we continued to pull out all the paper work we could to show him that we had done nothing wrong.  As he was distracted pulling someone else over, Nick managed to get our drivers license back from him, and told him we would go to the Urambo police station to get this ‘permit’ we needed.  He changed his tune quite quickly and told us to proceed – but only after asking for money to go drinking in the town! What a cheek!!   
Kaliua is a small village on the central railway across Tanzania.  It had a funny feel to it, a little threatening, so after finding a guest house we decided to stay in until dinner.  Just down the road we found a little restaurant where our suspicions were confirmed.  As we waited for our food a man came in and demanded money from us.  The waitress then picked up a butchers knife and chased him out of the restaurant.  He then waited outside the restaurant while we ate, and we thought we were going to have to make a dash back to the guesthouse to avoid him! Luckily he had disappeared by the time we had finished, but taking no chances we went straight back to the guest house hoping the morning would come quickly. 

Urambo , for lunch
Our day started with another flat tyre, making our early start not as early as we had hoped.  The road condition seemed to improve more as we travelled across to Kigoma and we were able to cover a lot of ground in short time.  Thick forest on either side of the road meant there wasn’t much to see past the first lines of trees, but it still a really beautiful part of Tanzania.  We reached Malagarasi and stopped to get a few oranges for lunch.  As we were buying these scores of people came running to have a look at the bikes, and although we were surrounded by people we never felt threatened during that stop.  We crossed the Malagarasi river, the only stretch of the road not graded except for the bridge over the water.  A friendly military stop this time, quite amusing because he had an AK47 yet there was no trouble, whereas the man before without a weapon was a nightmare! Suppose we should be thankful its this way! We pushed on, and by this time Teeny was a dustball keeping a much longer following distance in hopes to avoid sneezing some more! The road opened up to what looks like a new highway under construction.  We were happy about this and were able to open up more and get closer and closer to the turn onto tar.  The last 30km into Kigoma were smooth going except for the occasional mountain speed humps which you have to slow down to first gear to pass.  As we came into Kigoma, we got our first glimpse of Lake Tanganyika – its huge!  The campsite where we stayed, Jokobsen Beach, was right on Lake Tanginyika and our reward for the long days ride was a glorious dip in the cool fresh water! Our offroad adventure was all we thought would be and was an amazing trip to do to meet more of the locals and see the less tourist side of Tanzania.

Smoothies to try and make the journey smoother !!

Malagarasi river

TAR ROAD !!!!!!!

Jakobsons beach

Lake Tanganika

Nick was up early the next morning and went fishing at Lake Tanginyika and managed to catch fish which unfortunately jumped off the rock instead of waiting to be breakfast!! We spent the morning relaxing before heading out to find another spot to stay.  As we drove into town we were told to get off the road as the president would be driving past.  How bizzare, considering this happened to us in Malawi too, and yet we live in South Africa all our lives and have never seen the President in real life!!! We are now sitting in a lodge that is the same price that we paid for camping, and we get breakfast in the morning! This should be a good start to our next leg into Burundi!
Morning fishing

High tech lodge

Good bye Tanzania....and Thank you !

1 comment:

  1. I never have the right words to describe how awesome it is to read your blogs. And please don't think cause we not commenting on every one that we not reading them all. I check every day to see if you have an update, even have a shortcut to it, lol.
    Glad to see you both well and still having loads of fun. The pics look amazing!
    Going up to Hluhluwe this weekend, and don't know if you know that Helen was actually born somewhere there by Lake Tanginyika, so I am going to show her this update, I'm sure she will find it very interesting.
    Missing you both a whole bunch!!!! Looking forward to the next update.