Mbeya, Iringa, Ruaha National Park, Mikumi, Dar es Salaam, Kilwa Masoko, Dar es Salaam/Mahaba Beach, Lushoto, West Kilimanjaro, Arusha, Tarangire National Park, Arusha, Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti National Park, Ndutu, Ngorongoro Crater, Karatu, Arusha National Park, Pangani, Stone Town, Pangani, Arusha, Babati, Mwanza.
KM’s driven : 6387km
Total liters of fuel : 955lt (of which 200lt for driving through Rwanda)
Fuel consumption : 7,2km per litre
Average diesel price : 1820TSH
Nights Camping : 36 nights
Nights B&B/Hotel : 15 nights
Fines : 1 (of course again for speeding)
Bribes : 0
Theft : 1 attempt (while staying with friends in Arusha; fortunately we woke up and nothing was taken)
Highlight : Visiting the Serengeti with Judith’s family and seeing leopard cups
Pangani and Stone Town
Our taxi driver was right on time and we left for a long journey from Arusha to Pangani through the Usamburu mountain range. A route we had already driven, but fortunately a scenic route. We finally saw Mount Kilimanjaro in its full beauty (although the best side is from Kenya). Talking about Kenya, we almost drove into it… just before the border post, we realize that our GPS had stopped beeping to us (or had we put it in silent mode…). Unfortunately, there was no shortcut available through the mountains and we had to drive the 15km back to the junction.
When we finally arrived at the junction towards Tanga, we were pleasantly surprised by the change of scenery. A good road winds through the rolling hills with nice views on each side with the mountain range in the back. We had learned during our stay at Simba Farm, that we should not take the road towards Pangani and moved onward to a small town 15km before Tanga before turning into a small road through the pineapple and sisal (looking like pineapple, but much larger plants and the fibre is used to make ropes) fields. Once arrived at Peponi beach resort, we learned that the rest of the family had already arrived and settled in their banda’s (little thatched huts).
As it was Christmas day, the resort had planned a large English style buffet for everyone that wanted to join. The Christmas crackers were a nice touch and the buffet, including typical English dishes such as ham and turkey as well as local fish and veggies, was really good.
The next day, the relaxing started… the day after we had our first kite surfing lesson. After the first day kiting on the training kite, we were relieved; we expected it to be much more difficult. The next couple of days the wind had taken a holiday too and we just relaxed at the resort hoping each day it would pick up again. One morning, we visited Pangani, that started as a German settlement next to the Pangani river. There are some old buildings left and the US Governor program has funded some restorations. The harbour building is brand new and only opened a few months ago, but the day we were there, there was very little activity.
After celebrating the New Year, the wind had returned from holiday and we had some more kite (surfing) lessons. Empowered by the advise of several other travellers (if not all other travellers), we decided to alter our plan and added a four day trip to Stone Town, Zanzibar to the itinerary.
Stone Town, Zanzibar
Having cancelled the boat ride to Zanzibar already some weeks ago (after having read some horror stories of rides up to 9 hours long and worse), we bought 5 one-way tickets from the Pangani airport airstrip to Stone town airport. Since there is a ferry crossing before we could get to the airstrip, we planned for some extra time… After all, this is Africa J. When we got to the ferry, we could however drive on immediately and we arrived at the airstrip hour and a half early. How lucky we were that the airstrip has a VIP-lounge! After about 2 hours waiting under the large shadowy tree (it still is Africa…) and Joop having walked the runway up and down at least twice, the airplane finally arrived and brought us to Zanzibar in less than 30 minutes.
At the airport, we said goodbye to Judith’s family who would stay at a resort at the east side of the island and we were brought to our hotel in the heart of old Stone town. It turned out that we were very close to the Zanzibar Coffee House, ran by the coffee plantation in Mbeya where we had stayed five weeks earlier, so we decided to have a small bite there to make up for a missed lunch and to bridge the gap till dinner. The hotel manager offered to have one of her staff bring us to the Coffee House. Her offering it, without any hint from our side either meant she did not think highly of us or that it would not be easy to find. On our way from the taxi stand to the hotel we were reminded of the Moroccan King Cities and their Medina; Stone town is also like a maze at first glance... (esspecially with the horrific tourist shops selling the same cheap (Chinese?) imported junk everywhere). As we were more interested in a bite than an adventure, we decided to welcome the help and less than a minute later we were sipping a nice coffee while waiting for our Zanzibari pizza.
Our hotel turned out to have the highest roof terrace restaurant in Stone Town. We were encouraged to come up to the roof at six o’clock for a drink during sunset before enjoying the traditional Swahili (pre-wedding ceremony) three-course dinner the Swahili way, sitting on cushions.
The views from the terrace gave us some orientation for the next day when we walked through the old city. With the map in hand we crossed the old town from the old slave market and monument, to the fish and fruit markets towards the Forodhani gardens for a small lunch. After lunch we visit the old fort and the House of Wonders museum (first building with electricity and an elevator in Zanzibar).
Having seen most of the old city the previous day, we spent the next day debating on the next destination and sorting out the visa’s requirements for the countries after Kenya. The next day, Judith’s family joined us in Stone Town. After a short walk through the old town, we had lunch on the rooftop and visited the Sultan’s Palace museum. After a sunset drinks at another roof terrace and diner at the House of Spices, they headed back for their resort.
After another rich breakfast on our own balcony overlooking the old town, we headed for the quarters close to the Hyatt. After some sightseeing, we once again used the Hyatt’s perfect internet connection during lunch afterwards we went to the airport for our flight to Tanga and the Peponi beach resort to collect our car.
Driving south of Serengeti towards Rwanda
Sick and tired of the Kite schools planning and communication skills, we left the next morning for Rwanda, via Mwanza at Lake Victoria. We broke this 1700km stretch in Arusha (Snake park), Babati and Mwanza.
At the snake park campsite was also a small Maasai museum and a reptile farm. We spent some time wandering around and where most surprized by the picture of what a python can actually do...in the Amazon a worker from a oil rift while sleeping was eaten by a python...after colleagues reported him missing, a search party found the python. They cut open the snake and found the man inside. Babati is nothing more than a small village next to Lake Babati, however the drive was very scenic through the surrounding hills.
In Mwanza, we stayed at the Yacht club with a perfect view of Ryan’s Bay, but very poor ablutions…so poor that Judith even washed her hair using our own outdoor shower ! Other than being a large African town, Mwanza has not too much more to offer than nice lake views and some stunning rock formations. But it did have some god supermarkets and we could buy some gas canisters (the only place in Tanzania we could find them). After two nights, we headed for Rwanda using the shortcut via the Kikongo-Busisi ferry. This turned out to be a perfect choice. When we arrived at the ferry, it was ready to go and we were squeezed on it with three others late arrivers. A mare 45 minutes later, we continued for two hours over a smooth tar road via Geita to Bwanga where we decided to take the shortcut to the main road again. Wilfred was very pleased as he was allowed 60km/h through the villages, a much better pace with our truck than 50km/h (which is just in between 3rd and 4th gear). This road is now 50% tarred, 25% prepared for tar and the last 25% doable gravel, however still unpleasant with our truck, let alone with a saloon car.
Once on the main road, we were surprised that the road was again smooth tar as we had read this would be a horrific stretch till the border with truly deep and wide potholes that are impossible to miss as if a bombardment had taken place the day before. It being just after three, we already started planning to cross the border a day early…little did we know. After twenty-five kilometres we reached ‘the warzone’. This road immediately made it into the top three of worst roads ever. Luckily it is ‘only’ a stretch of about fifty kilometres (taking almost two hours) and we still arrived at the border before five. Not really liking the places we could have stayed on the Tanzanian side, we fueled up the front and back tanks (to save us $25ct the litre, a nice meal if you can carry about 200 litres of diesel).
Second passport approved!
We got a reply from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that our second passport was approved, so we drove (yet again) to Dar es Salaam for a second visit to the Dutch Embassy. We completed all the paperwork and the waiting started. With this positive outcome, our initial plan remains in place; after Tanzania, cross to Rwanda, and move clockwise to Uganda, Kenya and then into Ethiopia, Sudan to cross the red sea with a ferry into Saudi Arabia.
To complete our stay in Dar, we visited the National Museum. We wandered through the ‘history room’ and ethnographic collection for insights into Tanzania’s past and its mosaic of cultures, including the Shirazi civilisation of Kilwa, the Zanzibar slave trade, and the German and British colonial periods. But despite recent renovations, the museum still has much work to do on appropriate displays and the curation of a coherent narrative. Having been told the ‘original’ door of the Kilwa Kisiwawi fort was in the Museum, we concluded that this was the door we found in the first room without narrative.
Some of the rooms of the museum are still empty and/or are being used for temporary exhibitions like the cartoon section on current African-‘Western’ relations and the room that displayed several contemporary art pieces made by local artists. The natural history section was really nice especially the explanation of the game and predators and how they evolved since the prehistoric era.
In the courtyard of the museum is a small collection of cars, including the Rolls Royce used first by the British colonial government and later by Julius Nyerere (the first president of Tanzania).
As our business in Dar was done we made our way towards Arusha, where we need to be December 17th.
Usambara mountains and Irente Farm
From Dar we drove towards the Usambara Mountain range. Although not too many kilometers, it still took about 6 hours to get to our destination due to all the speed humps in the (little) villages we passed (and the high number of ‘end 50-signs’ that is missing at the end of several villages). Once passed Mombo the road winds inland and the landscape changed into rolling hills and wide fields of pineapples plants (that had just been harvested).
Once in the Usambara mountains a really scenic winding road brought us deep in the mountain range passing several waterfalls close to the village of Lushoto. Before we reach the Irente farm we are treated with a refreshing rain shower. By the time we got to the farm, it had cooled down to a nice 26 degrees Celsius.
The next day was a nice cloudy, windy day, perfect for doing the laundry. However, by the time we had it all hanging, it started raining… By the time we had all washing lines under our awing, it really started poring, but luckily the wind had disappeared and it came straight down. In the end we ended up hanging the semi dry cloths in the truck for the night…no need for curtains anymore…
Waking up the next morning Wilfred was not feeling well, a headache, no appetite, and painful muscle aches on his chest. Since we had been traveling in countries with malaria carrying mosquito’s for a couple of months, we choose to be on the save side and went for a malaria test at the nearby Montessori Sisters who are running a clinic. It turned out a very positive experience; after filling all personal details on a small piece of paper from a cashier and waiting for about 10 minutes, Wilfred’s blood was taken and brought to the lab. After an African ‘15 minutes’ that lasted for 45 minutes or so the diagnose came back negative… Luckily it was not malaria. In hindsight we concluded it was likely a heat stroke from reading the full morning under the ‘lightly clouded’ sky without sunscreen and the heavy duty of laundry J. We left the clinic feeling relieved, but on advice of the doctor with another set of antibiotics… After contact with the KLM health service, Wilfred decided not to take them unless he got a fever. The next day all was back to normal and we headed for Simba farm on the west side of Kilimanjaro.
West Kilimanjaro and Tarangire National Park
Simba farm is the last overnight stop before we go to Arusha and meet up with Judith’s family who are coming to Tanzania for Christmas. The farm is Dutch owned and renowned for it’s excellent food, fresh vegies and a nice collection of wines (we haven’t drunk a glass of wine since Zomba Plateau in Malawi… so we were looking forward to a nice dinner with a good glass of wine ;-).
The past days it had rained every day… and also during our stay it remained cloudy. We did a short hike on the farmland to try to shoot the famous snow covered peak of Mount Kilimanjaro (with a height of 5600m, the highest freestanding -old volcano- of the African continent). Wilfred was really disappointed that he was not able to see the peak during the two days. Luckily we would pass it again on our way from Arusha to the coast after the Serengeti safari…
Tarangire National Park
Having still another day to spare, we decided to visit Tarangire National Park, which was excluded from itinerary of our safari trip with Judith’s family due to it’s in accessibility in the rainy season and most of the animal moving Northward during this time. As it had not rained a lot, we decided to take our chance and visit it.
We booked ourselves into a nice lodge overlooking the nearby lake. On arrival we are warmly welcomed with a glass of fresh juice and a wet towel to wipe of the dust after the long drive… Looking at the small towels afterwards, it turned out a very necessary gesture (we wondered how they will ever get them clean again). Our luxury tent gave room to the biggest bed we had seen in six months… almost twice the size of the matrass in the car.
The next day we went on game drive in the national park with a packed lunch. Entering at the recently opened gate south of the park just ten minutes from the lodge. Tarangire NP has the second-highest concentration of wildlife of any Tanzanian national park (after Serengeti) and reportedly has the largest concentration of elephants in the world. After our game drive we definitely agree we haven’t seen this many elephants anywhere else, not even at the Chobe Riverfront. The Tarangire ecosystem, with the park as its heart and soul, also has more than 700 resident lions, and sightings are very common. What sustains them are large herds of zebras, wildebeest, giraffes, buffaloes and other herbivores. We however only saw one lioness… With more than 450 bird species, some say that Tarangire is the best birdwatching destination in Tanzania and we indeed came across some birds we hadn’t seen before. The nicest sighting of the day were vultures feeding of a freshly killed impala and it looked to us as if they had chased away the leopard or cheetah that had actually killed it.
In the evening we tried the local gin named Konyagi, with some tonic. It was okay-ish but definitely not as nice as Saphire Bombay G&T. The next day we left the lodge after a late and lazy breakfast for Arusha, our home for the next 4 days.
Arusha is the starting point of many safari’s to the Serengeti, the Ngorogoro crater and the surrounding National parks. As mentioned, we met a Canadian couple in Kilwa Masoko who invited us to stay with them in Arusha… As they don’t really have an address, we encountered a slight gps powered navigation challenge as it sent us up into Meru mountain through all sorts of small backstreets… When we were close as possible to the coordinates they had sent, we gave them a call. Still not entirely sure if was the right street, we were relieved to see them walking up behind us. After crossing the gate and the beautiful garden of landlord, we find our selves in their private ‘compound’ with nice 4 room house. Our quarters are a nice bedroom with our own bathroom across the hall.
After getting settled, we leave together for one of the most popular restaurants of Arusha; Khan’s BBQ. A spare parts auto shop during the day (really?) and a BBQ restaurant at night. The tables are on both sides of a busy street. We ordered a mixed grill and a fresh juice (asking for alcohol, would have gotten us in trouble was mentioned on the wall…). The tandoori chicken was very tasty and for three of us we had to pay less than $20,-.
In the night of December 16th Judith’s family arrived at Kilimanjaro Airport and the next morning we met them at their lodge in Arusha. As they arrived very late (4.00AM) at the lodge we spent the first day relaxing and having a rather long lunch at the Blue Heron in a nice garden setting.
Eight days safari of the Northern circuit
For the five of us we booked a private safari tour taking us to most of the highlights on the Northern safari circuit; Lake Manyara National Park, Serengeti, Ndutu, Ngorongoro Conservation area and crater and as a bonus, we added Arusha National Park for a walking safari and game drive. Our driver and guide, Emmanuel picked us up at the lodge at sharp 8.00AM with his 7 seater Toyota Landcruiser and we headed towards the Lake Manyara area.
During the safari our own truck is safely stored at the secured compound of the tour operator, it did however feel weird leaving our ‘home’ of the last six months behind.
Village tour and Lake Manyare National Park
Before going into Lake Manyara National Park, we did a cycling tour visiting the local tribes and their trades…we learned about banana and rice farming as well as woodcarving. At the last stop we get acquainted with the local food during an incredible lunch.
The first game drive for Judith’s family turns out to be rather good one ! We come across olive baboons, impala, bushbucks, waterbucks, elephants, zebra’s, wildebeest, (cape) buffalo’s, vervet and blue monkey and even a pair of sadlebill storks. The first two of the big five were covered…
Having been up since 6am, we were all glad to arrive at the lodge at sunset. We were all at the first floor of the two-story banda’s and had an incredible view over the Manyara Lake, park and escarpment.
The next day we headed for a long trip to the central part of the Serengeti. On the way we learned that Serengeti translates to ‘endless plain’, but should actually be spelled ‘Sirengeti’ in Swahili. We arrived at the lodge close to three for a delicious lunch and headed back out for our late afternoon game drive. As we drove from the lodge, Boudewijn excitedly asked to stop the car after a bare 500 meter… “What are those ears”, he asked… We immediately noticed it was a family of bat-eared foxes and were quite excited our selves as we had only seen them in the distance and never got a good picture due to the poor light ! The remainder of the drive we came across, several herds of elephants (one even crossing the road just metres from our car), a small croc, close to 40 maribu storks, plenty of zebras, wildebeests and giraffes, but also 9 lions and our first leopard up in a tree very close to the road… As we started to head back to the lodge, we came across another leopard that actually walked up to us and crossed the road just 50 centimetres from our car as if we were not even there. After two drives we had now covered four of the big five.
The following day, our goal was to find ‘the migration’… Emmanuel had been asking all his friends and colleagues if they had found it, but so far no one had. The feeling everyone had was that due to the very limited rain, they had actually moved into the private (hunting) game reserve next to the park. Never the less we headed in the direction where they were the most likely to be found. On our way, we stopped at a rocky area where lions and leopards are frequently spotted… We were not disappointed. A mother leopard decided to raise her two cubs on the rocks and we found them posing and playing in the early morning sun. After a couple of minutes enjoying the spectacle, we decided to continue our drive to find the migration. After about an hour and a half in which we saw various animals, we came a cross a seriously larger herd than we had ever seen before and we got hopeful… after another half hour we found another one and while we were watching it we heard from the other guides, that this is the largest one still in the area. Although not millions, we still guestimate that this hurt came close to a thousand wildebeest and zebras. Emmanuel called it ‘leftovers’ of the migration. On our way back, we came across four cars parked next to the road looking at a bushy ridge with binoculars… When we heard they had spotted a black rhino some minutes ago, we decided to stay a while as well. Unfortunately it did not come out any more and we headed back to the camp for a late lunch. The late afternoon, we headed out once more in a different direction hoping to spot a cheetah. We did not however, but did come a cross several lions, three leopards (one sunbathing on and rock and mother with a one year old resting in a tree), two large and very noisy owls and to all our surprise Emmanuel’s most favourite cat, the serval, a graciously moving mid sized cat with a beautiful pattern (compared to the lion/leopards and the regular house cat).
The next morning, we head to Ndutu in south Serengeti for what should have been the location where the migration would be under ‘normal’ circumstances and the home to several cheetahs and plenty of lions. Knowing the migration is not there; we focused the drive on the cheetah and drive through the ‘lake beds’ (according to Emmanuel they are not river beds…). While searching, we got treated to a hugh male lion with beautiful manes that did not seemed to mind us driving up to about 1 metre !? (personally we felt were too close and invasive, but it did give us beautiful shots of its mature scarred face).
After a few minutes we headed to higher grounds where we find a large plain that provides a perfect hunting ground for cheetahs. As we drove out of the bushes, we immediately noticed five other cars circled around a tree… When we get closer, we also noticed a cheetah lying dead still minding its own business. After a few shots however, it suddenly stands up and started moving across the plain intensely looking to each side…it was clearly looking for a meal. For about a kilometre, we followed along interested to see a him in full action. As there was not a single antelope around, he went to rest under another tree… likely hoping that all cars would leave it alone quite soon as the sun had started setting.
After a good nights rest, we headed back into the direction of the main gate bringing us close to the Ngorongoro crater. We enjoyed a good lunch outside of the park at a Dutch ran restaurant and lodge that runs an orphanage and primary school in parallel. After lunch we went to our lodge and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, preparing for a very early rise to be one of the first to enter the Ngorongoro crater.
The crater has the highest density of animals within its about to 325 square kilometre rim of 600 to 800 metres high. After descending, we were immediately treated with plenty of zebras, wildebeests and buffalos, but also with about seven hyena’s of which we thought they were nocturnal…little did we know. We kept seeing them across the day and learned that there were more than four hundred of them living in the crater and keeping it clean of all the kills that the hundred lions leave behind. The crater also houses a high number of crested cranes and we came across over twenty pairs. The main goal of going into the crater was (and for many is) to see the black rhino. As in all the other nation parks in Africa, they keep quite how many there are and the rangers that watch them closely will never tell you where they are either… Knowing that their favourite living environments are the thicket and swamp, some of us are a little disappointed that we did not start there… Emanuel had however kept close contact with his colleagues and none of them had yet seen a rhino the whole morning. The new mammal that we did see for the first time was the golden backed jackal. A bit disappointed that we were not able to close of the big five, we did need to hurry back to the gate (one is only allowed 6 hours per day in the crater…). With five minutes to spare, we continue further east towards Arusha National Park where we would spend the next two nights close to the gate.
Arusha National Park
This park is one Tanzania’s smallest, only 552square kilometres including the surrounding mountains (without the mountains only 150 square kilometres) It is one of most beautiful and topographically varied northern circuit parks. It’s dominated by Mount Meru, an almost perfect cone with a spectacular crater and many small saltwater crater lakes.
The last day of safari existed of a game walk followed by a drive looking for the black and white Colobus monkey. During our walk we learned we will not come across these monkeys during the walk as they live in the area that is not open for walks. While walking for a couple of metres, the guide mentioned we are going to be lucky… it turned out he had noticed several giraffes in the back of the field we were heading for. It even got better; while getting higher up to the field, we notice large herd of buffalos.
On our walk we got as close as 10-15 metres from the giraffe and more than 50-75 metres from the buffalos. On our last game drive we saw bushbuck, a flock of greater and lesser flamingo’s, (many, many) giraffes, warthogs and last but not least the black and white Colobus monkeys with their distinctive long white hairs.
This was the last day of our safari and we will head to Pangani on the east coat of Tanzania to relax at the beach and learn kite surfing.
Tanzania, officially the United Republic of Tanzania (Swahili: Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a large country in Eastern Africa within the African Great Lakes region. Parts of the country are in Southern Africa. It is bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north; Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the west; Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique to the south; and by the Indian Ocean to the east. Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest mountain, is in north-eastern Tanzania.
Tanzania's population of 51,82 million is diverse, composed of several ethnic, linguistic and religious groups. Tanzania is a presidential constitutional republic, and since 1996, its official capital city has been Dodoma, where the President's Office, the National Assembly, and some government ministries are located. Dar es Salaam, the former capital, retains most government offices and is the country's largest city, principal port, and leading commercial centre.
European colonialism began in mainland Tanzania during the late 19th century when Germany formed German East Africa, which gave way to British rule following World War I. The mainland was governed as Tanganyika, with the Zanzibar Archipelago remaining a separate colonial jurisdiction. Following their respective independence in 1961 and 1963, the two entities merged in April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanzania.
In 1967, Nyerere's first presidency took a turn to the left after the Arusha Declaration, which codified a commitment to socialism as well as Pan-Africanism. After the declaration, banks and many large industries were nationalised.
Tanzania was also aligned with China, which from 1970 to 1975 financed and helped build the 1,860-kilometre-long TAZARA Railway from Dar es Salaam to Zambia. Nonetheless, from the late 1970s, Tanzania's economy took a turn for the worse, in the context of an international economic crisis affecting both developed and developing economies.
From the mid-1980s, the regime financed itself by borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and underwent some reforms. Since then, Tanzania's gross domestic product per capita has grown and poverty has been reduced, according to a report by the World Bank.
In 1992, the Constitution of Tanzania was amended to allow multiple political parties. In Tanzania's first multi-party elections, held in 1995, the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi won 186 of the 232 elected seats in the National Assembly, and Benjamin Mkapa was elected as president.
Since 2015 John Pombe Joseph Magufuli (born 29 October 1959) is the President of Tanzania. As he began his term as President, Magufuli made international headlines for his austerity and impatience with corruption and waste. He cancelled Independence Day celebrations, traditionally a time for the government to spend big on a public display of nationalism. In its place he declared the day should be spent on street-cleaning to improve sanitation (in which he himself participated) and arresting the spread of the cholera outbreak. But next to that he also cut the English language from being taught in school (and he himself barely speaks any English), passed a rule that no foreign vehicles are allowed to drive in national parks, but tourist need to visit using an Tanzanian Tour operator (meaning that many overlanders do not visit parks anymore). So one can debate whether or not he actually does good for the country…many people we have met so far, complain about the new president, especially that his new measures will have an huge impact on tourism in Tanzania and not for the better… Another recent ruling to add 18% of VAT on all tourist activities, was not appreciated by the industry, that had to inform their customers, or had to take their loss. When asked at the announcement, he clearly stated he only wants the high-end tourists to come to Tanzania and no more backpackers. We guess we can conclude it is working…
Border crossing and Myeba
The exit on the Malawi border didn’t take us more than 15 minutes or so…it was a little bit different on the Tanzanian side, but still smooth for Africa. The only thing that really took time was the fact that we needed to pay our road tax/ temporary import permit for our truck for Tanzania. They used to accept USD at the border…like they still did for our visa, however for the TIP we needed to pay in TSH and off course we needed to change our money for a really poor exchange rate at the border post (as the ATM was not working and the bank closed)! So we ended up paying almost 10% more than the actual price. All in all it took about 1,5 hours and we are driving into Tanzania.
We planned our first stop at Utengule Coffee lodge, about 15km north of Myeba (the regional capital) 150km drive from the border. As we thought we still had half a tank left in the back (±60lt), we were not too worried… after switching on the pump however, the needle only went up 2 mm; the equivalent of about 30km… Expecting that –like in Malawi - no credit cards are accepted at the fuel stations… As a result, we stood in line an hour to get money from the ATM. Go figure, it is the end of month again and everyone had received his or her salary J. After filling up we continued our drive to Utengule Coffee lodge…we told each other at the beginning of our trip that we would never ever drive in the dark, due to the high number of accidents that occur during the evening/night. But we arrive in the dark at 20.30 at the campsite…or is it a helipad where we are allowed to camp.
We also really wanted to do a coffee tour on the farm, but the next morning the assistant manager has meeting and could not do a tour with us, so we ended up relaxing at the campsite, playing a couple of games of BAO. The next morning we planned the coffee tour at 9.00AM, but as it is Africa they forgot to mention that we needed to report to the office at the coffee farm… and hence arriving 15-20 minutes late and naturally, we feel bad about this.
The assistant manager is from Zimbabwe and speaks very good English. He explained about all the steps from the nursery to the roasting of the coffee beans as well as the different varieties of coffee they grow (Arabica, Robusta and Liberia). When we arrived at the ‘quality division basin’ that divides the high quality beans (sinkers) from the lower quality beans (floaters), Judith got stung in her nose by a wasp (or was it a bee?). Immediately tears got to her eyes and she started hyperventilating…Wilfred rushed to the car to get her medication as she often has an allergic reaction to stings of insects. After taking her medication and breathing normally again (after 30 minutes or so) we were lucky enough to continue the coffee tour. Learning more on the different grades of coffee, roasting our own batch and concluding the tour with a nice cappuccino. We liked the coffee varieties so much we purchased three different blends that we can enjoy on the rest of our trip.
Ruaha National Park
After two nights at the coffee lodge we drove towards Iringa for our visit to Ruaha national park. Our stopover is at the old farm campsite, a lovely place with lot’s of shade and the possibility to buy fresh vegetables, straight from the farm…we even got some Brussels’s sprouts (Wilfred favourite J).
From there we visited Ruaha National Park, the largest national park of Tanzania, almost the same size as Denmark. As you need to pay all the fee by credit card Wilfred paid (for the first time since our trip) the park fees and is blown away by the price he needed to pay…almost $190,- dollars for entry and a campsite in the park.
The name of the park is derived from the Great Ruaha River, which flows along its south-eastern margin and is the focus area for game-viewing. The park is currently facing a significant environmental challenge from the progressive drying up of the Great Ruaha River. The river used to flow all year round, but since 1993 there have been increasingly long and exceptionally dry ‘dry seasons’ in which it has dried up, leaving just some ponds of water. Different hypotheses have been advanced to account for this, and one view is that it is caused by the expansion of irrigation schemes for rice cultivation and growth of livestock keeping in the Usangu wetland, which feeds the Great Ruaha River. At the gate we read that this wetland is very likely going to be bought and added to the National park in order to restore the balance in the park again…
Luckily, we were still allowed to drive our own truck into the park despite the new legislation that foreign registered vehicles cannot enter national parks anymore (of which we did not know at the time of going to the park). After entering the park, we decided to make it a long game drive and drove towards an area called ‘small Serengeti’. We were rewarded with stunning scenery through out the park and a (very) close encounter with 14 lions ! Many of them younger than two years. Next to that we saw hippo’s, crocodiles, impala’s with calves, lesser kudu, a couple of spotted hyena’s, black backed jackals and much more.
For accommodation we ended up getting a room at the rest house, as the bathroom was okay-ish clean…and not extremely dirty like at the campsite and banda’s. We did spend the night sleeping in our own truck as the room was very hot and a nice wind outside kept us nice and cool in our bed. After dinner we were watching a series on the laptop when all of a sudden Wilfred noticed something in the corner of his eye… , at not more than 7 metres, a spotted hyena walked calmly passed us… Not knowing how many were out there, we decided to watch the last part in the truck.
Mikumi National Park and South of Dar es Salaam
Mikumi National Park
Our next stop was around Mikumi National Park and Selous Game reserve, however we learned at the lodge where we were staying that it was no longer allowed to drive with our own vehicle in the park. Making visits to these parks very expensive (as you need to either pay the park fees and book a tour with a tour operator or stay at one of the luxury camps inside the park (for at least $300 per person !)). We decided not to visit the parks as we are going on a 9 day safari to the Serengeti and some other parks around it in two weeks. Lucky for us, the main road to Dar es Salaam goes right through the Mikumi national park and the remaining water supply for the animals is relatively close to the main gate and hence close to the road. While passing through the park (at a maximum speed varying from 30-50km/h, we still saw a lot of animals, such as buffalo’s, impala’s, giraffe, warthogs and -of course- many baboons.
South of Dar es Salaam
The 300km drive to Dar es Salaam is beautiful, almost 50km through the national park, followed by a 100km mountain pass and lastly through the valley of baobabs. Along the road there were many stalls selling fruit and/or vegetables and since it is mango season we wanted to buy a couple of them. The first two of stops in a town were unsuccessful as they only wanted to sell to us at really high “muzungu” (white people) prices (of course we do not mind to pay more, but we also do not like to been seen as fools J). Changing our tactic, we decided to try our luck outside of the villages at smaller stalls. We approached an older lady, that seemed to be alone at her stall, but somehow we still ended up with more than ten people around our truck trying to sell us something. Wilfred clearly stated that he only wanted to buy mangos and only from the lady we approached. After buying the mango’s (us and the lady being happy with the sale) we drove away and some of the salesmen were very aggressively bonking on our truck (!?).
The drive was very scenic, but Wilfred could not enjoy it to the fullest as he needed to be very alert for busses… The bus drivers in Tanzania really seem to have a death wish; overtaking at (double) white lines, in blind curves or even when traffic (including trucks or other busses) is close by. The closer we got to Dar es Salaam, the more annoyed he got with them…they seem to overtake just for the sake of it…clearly not leading to anything ! The 15km drive through Dar took us, unfortunately, more than two hours due to regular congestion.
Our campsite is at the south side of Dar and since April of this year you have two options to cross the river; the ferry or the brand new suspension bridge. We opted for the bridge and interestingly this led us right through harbour’s industrial area with where the major petroleum companies are located. The road is filled with potholes, some even more than 30cm deep, and many fuel trucks, waiting to be filled are parked, on both sides. When we finally get to the end of the industrial area, a brand new ‘fly-over’ like crossing brings us to the 6 lane bridge… With us about 5 other cars use the bridge to get to the other side. The bridge is clearly ready for the future, unfortunately the roads to it are not. At the other end we were even welcomed by a very poor dirt road that connects the bridge to one of the old single lane roads. We finally arrived at the campsite around 6.30PM and found a nice place right on the beach. That night we ate fresh seafood made Swahili style and drank (spicy) masala tea made from freshly ground ginger, black pepper and other spices.
The main reason for staying in Dar is not to visit it, but to apply (again) for a second passport at the embassy. We had tried in the Netherlands, but this was refused since legislation said only business travellers were allowed to have a second passport. However legislation was changed in the beginning of November and now everyone can apply for a second passport, if they can prove the necessity (did our complaining help?). At first the second passport was a precaution to be able to apply for the different visa’s (many times you need to wait several days), while being able to identify ourselves while travelling. However since Ethiopia changed their application process following the ‘State of Emergency’, we now really need the second passport as it needs to be send to the Ethiopian embassy in Brussels allowing us to travel through Tanzania and Kenya. Apply for the passport is unfortunately not as easy as we hoped. We needed to send a lot of information to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (having an airline ticket is the best way as it show more than intent, but since we travel by car we hope our detailed travel plan, including pictures of it made 7 month ago will suffice). Advised by the embassy, we did not yet apply (and pay the €130,-), but first send the info by email. We are now waiting for an answer whether or not it will be granted. If not, we do have a couple of options, but not really one we look forward to;
- ship the truck from Mombasa to Oman (which seems to be very expensive);
- drive back to Windhoek, Namibia;
- or one of us flies back to the Netherlands and applies for the visa there. Hopefully we will know in a couple of day’s time…
Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kisiwani
Whilst waiting to hear from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we visited Kilwa Masoko, a region renowned for its world heritage site Kilwa Kisiwani and in the past for it excellent fishing options. Many of the largest fish recorded in the ‘Guinness book of records’ were caught in the Kilwa region. Unfortunately, since a couple of years there is an increase in ‘dynamite fishing’ destroying not only the balance for sustainable fishing of most species, but killing its coral environment as well.
At a restaurant we met two young Canadian journalists (that did a special on dynamite fishing a couple of months ago who were staying at a friend’s lodge. Their friend took over the lodge just 6 weeks ago and the lodge is not yet open for guests as they are changing a lot of things. We were still looking for a campsite and decided to have a look at the place…and we had two options: camping for $20 per night or staying in one of their open plan banda’s for $30 per night…we didn’t have to think long and took a banda !
The next day we did a tour of the Kliwa Kisiwani (meaning Kilwa on the island), which was once East Africa’s most important trading centre. At its height, Kilwa’s influence extended north past the Zanzibar Archipelago and south as far as Sofala on the central Mozambican coast. While these glory days are now well in the past, the ruins of the settlement are one the most significant groups of Swahili buildings on the East African coast. Although the first settlements in the area date to around 9th century BC, Kilwa remained a relatively undistinguished place until the early 13th century. Kilwa came to control Sofala and to dominate its lucrative gold trade, and before long it had become the most powerful trade centre along the Swahili coast. In the late 15th century, Kilwa’s fortunes began to turn. Sofala freed itself from the island’s dominance, and in the early 16th century Kilwa came under the control of the Portuguese. It wasn’t until more than 200 years later that Kilwa regained its independence and once again became a significant trading centre, this time as an entrepôt for slaves being shipped from the mainland to the islands of Mauritius, Réunion and Comoros. In the 1780s, Kilwa came under the control of the Sultan of Oman. By the mid-19th century, the local ruler had succumbed to the Sultan of Zanzibar, the focus of regional trade shifted to Kilwa Kivinje on the mainland, and the island town entered a decline from which it never recovered. Nowadays the island has a population of about 1000 people, mostly fishermen and their families. The ruins are a short distance from the mainland and after a 15 minutes boat ride (always Judith’s favourite part of a tour J) we got to the island. Our guide led us past the main ruins on the island; the Kilwa fort, tombs of Kilwa sultans, the Great Mosque, a large palace (Husuni Kubwa) and finally the smaller palace (Husuni Ndogo).
The Kilwa fort was built in the early 19th century by the Omani Arabs, on the site of a Portuguese fort dating from the early 16th century, close by are the ruins of the beautiful Great Mosque, with its columns and graceful vaulted roofing. Some sections of the mosque date to the late 13th century, although most are from additions made to the building in the 15th century. In its day, this was the largest mosque on the East African coast. After a short walk of about 2km from the Great Mosque is Husuni Kubwa, once a massive complex of buildings covering almost a hectare and, together with nearby Husuni Ndogo, the oldest of Kilwa’s ruins. The Husuni Ndogo complex, which is estimated to date from the 12th century or earlier, is set on a hill another 2km walk. It must have once had great views over the bay and mangrove below. Since it turned to high tide our captain was able to pick us up at the small palace, so we didn’t have to walk back to the main beach, close to the fort.
Earlier that day we asked Hassan, the manager of the lodge, if he could buy us some nice fresh seafood. Expecting that we had to cook ourselves we were pleasantly surprised that the (large) kingfish was already baking in the oven. It is too much for the four us and we shared the food with the staff of the lodge.
After dinner we helped the Canadian couple with a ‘sinterklaasgedicht’ for their Dutch friends.
North of Dar es Salaam
After two nights we drove back to Dar es Salaam, as we are expecting to get an answer from Foreign Affairs beginning of the week and want to apply as soon as possible. Even though we don’t have proper seats in the back we gave the journalists a lift to Dar (which they experienced it as much more comfortable than the bus). In return, they invited us to stay with them in Arusha as they knew we were still looking for a place to stay. After dropping them of at the Hyatt hotel and drinking a cup of coffee, we continued to a campsite 30km north of Dar es Salaam in a small fishing town, right on the beach. We spent the next couple of days working on the photo albums, updating our blog, eating fresh fish and simply relaxing on the beach awaiting an answer from Foreign Affairs.