Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Long and Dusty Road

Four months was always an ambitious timetable for a trip as long as ours, and with a bit too much fun, and a bit too much customs admin behind us, we were sitting a bit too far north with a bit too little time when we finally set out from Kigali. Anna had already travelled quite a bit in this part of the continent, so we had always been planning to do it fast, and allow ourselves some more time to enjoy Botswana and Namibia.

We spent 10 solid days driving, racking up around 4,000 km, heading through central Tanzania, down lake Malawi and across the Great East Road through Zambia as far as Livingstone. 

Some of the highlights and lowlights are below:

  •  Crossing a proper border between Rwanda and Tanzania, which is a flimsy bridge over a massive torrent of a river with huge rapids (I really don’t like borders which are just a line on a map)
  •  Exploring the less trodden route through some of mining towns of north western Tanzania; hungry after a long day on the road, we wandered into a dusty cafe and I practised my best Swahili "ni kuna chakula” (“Is there food?”), to which a chips omelette was produced – a culinary delight!
  • Masai warrior on a bicycle.  In fact, pretty much anything and anyone on a bicycle - even bicycle taxis which are a great idea

  •  After our horrible day on the road to Iringa (see below), sampling the most incredible steak and fresh vegetables at the Old Farm House Camp – this healed many wounds
  • Finding a posh coffee plantation to camp in Mbeya, where we could swim in the gorgeous pool, and got to camp next to the helipad (they weren’t expecting anyone that day, but said we’d have to move quickly if one appeared!)

  • Winding through the colourful hillside towns of southern Tanzania near the Malawian border, where the locals were very cheerful and beautifully dressed
  • Benefiting from some of our car based misfortunes (see below), to be in Lilongwe at the right time to see Wales overturn the French in Paris, with the big group of fun ex-pats we met in town
  • Being handed a copy of the highway code at the Zambian border, and finding out that all cattle being herded on the road at night (a common sight in Zambia) should have a white light on the front animal, and a red light on the back one – the herder should also wear a high vis jacket.  Sadly never actually saw this in action...
  • Bumping into old friends on the road; a group of 3 lovely couples we’ve met along the way, which we had a great time exchanging stories with
  • The rain of Livingstone stopping in time to enjoy the majesty of Victoria Falls in full flow: Incredible!

Low Lights

  •        Turning out of Tanzania’s uninspiring capital, Dodoma, to find the road I expected to be tar to be horrible bumpy gravel all the way to Iringa (including having to get towed out of some mud along the way) – despite the incredible vast mountainous forests we were seeing out of the window
  •          Discovering a broken wheel bearing at Chitimba on Lake Malawi (potentially caused by the evil road), and having to crawl into Mzuzu to get it fixed (in a bloke's back garden)
  •          Getting locked out of the boot at Kande beach, and not being able to wash until we made a detour to Lilongwe to fix it
  •         The number of overturned trucks on the road in Zambia; the terrible accident that happened there recently seems like it was inevitable

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