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).