Day69 Saturday 18th December. 2010

Honey Badger Eco friendly camp was very pleasant. We both are a little surprised that we can’t wild camp out. Thinking we would save a heap of money, we have spent a heap. Feeling that we would not get any peace from the local children and possibly not from the animals either, not so much the big ones but maybe more so from the small bitey things that lurk out there.

The camp site had small grass tent pitches separated by box hedges, hot solar heated showers and quiet. Perfect place to help recover from heat stroke.

I walked up to the road to buy eggs and bread for breakfast and was greeted by the sight of Kilimanjaro looking over the tops of the clouds. I had forgotten how close we were to it! After a four km walk I hag crossed two fields, found two ”shops” and got the necessary food supplies. On the bread front, Kenya and Tanzania are a great disappointment, as all the previous country’s have had their own style, and being bread addicts we were saddened by only finding sweet white bread.

Spent the day sorting out our route and chewing the phat with a South African chap called Steve who was travelling north in a small truck on his own. He carried a small trail bike and a small chain saw, so we had interests in common.

Day71 Monday 20th December

Slow morning packing our gear with the intention of going into Moshi, wandering around, buying nice veg and finding the only shop that sold authentic Tanzanian bread. We finally left around midday, much later than we thought but we were only going eighty clicks up the road,

Arriving in town we found the bank, changed money, and started to walk, the heat was very intensive and soon Diane was really suffering. I failed to find any shop that sold fresh produce, or bread. When I returned with the bike she was very poorly so we rode around for an hour to find the hospital. They wanted thirty thousand Tsh (about twelve GBP), for a doctor’s opinion, so we gave up and decided that a few more days rest at a higher’ cooler altitude would help her situation. Its was finally three pm when we left, a bit late but the distance was not to great to cover. Also it now is still light at seven pm, just, as we are a little further south.

On the road we rode through a fairly intensive rain storm. This would normally depress me big time, but as I could see the sunshine the other side of it, I thought this does not matter as we will soon dry out again. The most unpleasant part of it was the strong side wind and uneven road surface, which felt horribly like a slow puncture to me.

In Arusha, we missed a road sign, so stopped at a gas station to ask directions, the lady said ”yes yes, the road to Ngorongoro is this way”, so I confirmed that it was not the other road ”yes yes, the road to Ngorongoro is this way”. I rode off feeling that it was not the correct road. As the road worsened, and turned north I was convinced that it’s wrong. A mechanic at a truck repair said ‘nope’, you heading to Nairobi. This made me grumpy as I should not have gone by directions that I received from someone I knew did not have a clue what I was asking!!!! Fighting our way through five O’clock traffic, feeling the sweat running down my back and the knives Diane was stabbing into it. (She said that we should stop at a camp site we passed half an hour ago), kept riding to long again, bad habit I can’t kick. We arrived at Maserani Snake Park at half six, tent up and tea cooked as the light failed, close thing.

Day72 Tuesday 21st December

 After paying up for camping I was told that the camp price included admission into the snake vivarium, I guess the two meter skeleton in a glass case on the counter top should have given me a clue.

We walked into town after a fat boy (and girl) breakfast and haggled with the Masai market traders and bought tons of lovely toms, cabbage and other stuff we can’t name, but we’ll eat it any way.

Across the road was a couple of survivor shops. The first one had Tanzanian money numbers with a dollar sign in front of them so we headed to next door which was better priced but had nothing much to look at.. Back at the million dollar shop Diane cleaved the price of a cloth wall-hanging she fancied making into a shoulder bag. Resisting a beer we headed back to write this and make said bag.

Later in the afternoon we drifted around the Masai history museum which was fairly poor, to be too critical, I’d rather walk around the market and take a few pictures, which later we did only to be told ”NO PICTURE” in no uncertain terms by a cross looking woman. Thank goodness I’d asked first. So sorry folks, no close-ups, only the few I had sneaked from a distance.

In the local craft shop we haggled for a set of carved chess pieces which we would have loved but the sales assistant would not come down to planet earth prices.

Back at camp we found the area that housed the reptiles. That was well worth the entrance fee on its own. The giant tortuous did not float my boat but the Nile crocodile that they had put you off any thoughts of wild camping. A little further on we found the snakes in glass boxes, reading their case notes we now were totally sold on the idea of camp sites, because snakes don’t go in camp sites, do they?

During the night we thought we were in for a big storm, thunder rolled around and there was a fair bit of lightning.

Day73 Wednesday 22nd December. Elizabeth’s Birthday

As we packed up the owner of the site came over and told us his friend who lived in Dar-es-Salaam had phoned to tell his of the big storm they had last night, with gale force winds and violent thunder. He said ”well they get that sort of weather there don’t they!” We are heading just up coast of there for Christmas hopefully…

We headed out early for Ngorongoro crater to do our best to share a truck and costs with other folks hopefully. The road was said to be gravel so I was not looking forward to the road up there much. But as happened before it turned out to be not as told, and was fantastic smooth new tar, better than the main road in fact. At Twinga site we asked about, but it seemed that most people left early morning and then moved up into the Serengeti National Park, on a linear trip, and not a circular one as we needed, as they won’t let you into the parks on a bike. The animals are likely to eat you if you brake down or fall off, in a truck you can sit safe and wait for help. Terri, the lady who was in charge of promoting the site told us we should head closer to the crater where we more likely to find others to team up with, and it would be cheaper. Then she winked and said not tell anyone that she had suggested that we leave. Terri then proceeded to invite us back to have a shower and a swim in the pool, even if we did not stay the evening, nice lady. The road up to the crater area was a fantastic climb up with many winding hair clip turns and stunning views out across the savannah. Karato, the last town before the crater, boasted many lodges and camp grounds. Alas none of them had any tours or private individuals with whom we could hook up with. As we have not the funds to pay for our own truck ($500!!) we thought its unlikely that we will get there at all, and would head down to Twinga so we would have less distance to travel the next day, back to the east coast. Also there was a similar chance of pairing up at Twinga as anywhere.

As we rolled in through the gate FOUR trucks with stacks of white people wearing what white people wear in Africa parked in front of our disbelieving eyes. When they left without us (they to are a one way tour), twenty minuets later, we had an invite to Durban, by chap who we think has a KTM shop and repair garage where I can do the next major service. Nice man.

After setting the camp, went out to the village to buy fruit as I was getting withdrawal symptoms. The ”village” was either side of the road and had lots of mangos, red and yellow bananas and papaya, all at stupid tourist price, and a lot of hard selling which turns me off immediately. I like a haggle but these traders just ask daft dosh and wont budge, so as I learnt I Cairo, walk away. I reckon the hard fast, push push push sales technique comes from selling to the buses that stop for ten minutes. That is all the time you have to make your shilling. Fruitless we headed back and cooked tea. Spoke to Elizabeth and Pat in the evening which was nice to hear them.

Day74 Thursday 23rd December

We rode back to Honey Badger consoling ourselves by thinking of the money we had saved and not thinking about the sights we had missed. Found a couple of young lads roasting corn by the roadside which made us an excellent dinner. A few younger lads stood with us in the baking sunshine and looked at the bike and maybe us too, but gave us no hassle, unlike in Ethiopia. Did a huge food shop at Moshi to take to the beach the day after tomorrow. Diane tried to get scissors to cut back my ever-increasing mop of hair but the owner was not at all keen to soil her scissors with my hair.

Day75 Friday 24th December

Hit the road at eight with the intention of beach by tea time.

I mentioned a while ago that Kenya is supposed to have the worst drivers, I think that dubious honour should go to Tanzania. Also for the daftest system of speed humps. Often not marked. And if hit at anything over walking speed on a bike is a problem. However the other traffic often whizzes over it at sixty or seventy kph without a hic-cup.

We had a pleasant journey and bounced our way down the gravel road for the last thirty kms, with the final five hundred metres being my favourite after a long hot day, yep, soft sand. The site is on the beach again with grass roofs to camp under. These are to protect campers from sun, falling coconuts and mangos.

As I write this on Christmas morning its five am in UK, cold, snowy and dark. I’m eating said mangos and a coconut for breakfast with the sun rising over the Indian ocean. It’s really surreal to think of the difference.

Day76 Saturday 25th December

Strangest Christmas morning I have ever had I reckon.. Woke with the sun rising over the ocean and warming the tent too much for me to stay in, so after watching it till the reds and oranges had gone I wrote the last four or five days diary.

At midday, as promised yer man bought to us, on the back of a bicycle’ said 5kg snapper!! I guess it needed the ride as his fins were a tad short for the peddles. We begged a barbecue, and a few hours of the afternoon was spent gutting and preparing the monster fish for the grill. I beheaded, and betailed him, took out the back bone as best I could with a Bowie knife, Diane spiced him up a little, so to speak, and wrapped the fillets in aluminium foil ready for later. In the afternoon I walked to the beach and out to the water’s edge. The tide went out a long way due to the slight incline. The shore line was peppered with small rock pools, if you sat still for a little while the pools came alive with star fish and a myriad of tiny crabs and fish. All of them together would make a fantastic soup. At seven pm, as it got dark the coals were ready and we cooked on Mick and Kate’s grill. Two Dutch girls joined us at nine or so for a taster. A pleasant Christmas evening was had by all.

Day77 Sunday 26th December

Later at around midnight the air was near one hundred percent humidity and in the tent we were wringing with sweat and mozzies. A little later the sky split with lightning and the thunder was so loud I reckon you heard it in the UK. For the next two hours or so we lay listening to the torrential rain and tried not to move as any exertion caused a torrent of sweat to be drained into our sleeping liners. Not pretty I know but in paradise these things happen. Not a great deal of sleep was had and we woke late, the air still ninety-nine per cent water and thunder rumbling far off. We spent boxing day morning washing our bedding, by hand, and Diane cut my hair to within half an inch of my scalp. So now my cranium is ten degrees cooler. Jealous of my pineapple hair style I took of an inch or so of Diane’s Barnet Fair, she reckoned it felt a lot lighter but she has not yet looked in the mirror…

Day79 Monday 27th December

Had a lazy day in and out of the water watching the marine life going about its business.

Day80 Tuesday 28th December

We slept fairly well, the only bug to bear was the ants. They decided to come and see what the new bed arrangement was and were delighted to find human, (well almost), to walk on and make itch. But at least they don’t bite and try to give you malaria… We packed up and had another breakfast and paid our tariff and left at ten, took an hour to ride the dirt road back. This time not managing to find the soft sand that was encountered on the way in, just as well as I can’t ride on it. We struggled to get out of Tanga though, and at a gas station we filled one tank. Diane got some idea where we should be heading for. I would have filled both tanks but the large lady attendant was sending an sms and so managed to pour more fuel than I wanted to waste over the spare front inner tyre and the water container. I dare not let her loose on the other side as in traffic the fuel heats up and expands due to the daft design of running the exhaust behind it without a proper heat shield. The result is at speed (fifty kph) the fuel flies into my face from the over flow, or passers-by in town tell me I have a leak as I attempt to single-handedly dissolve the asphalt in Africa. No wonder there are so many holes in the road, not seen that many KTM’s though.

Saw a truck there still sign written, of a hay and straw hauler from south of the UK. It now sported a water tank on the back and I wondered how it liked this life compared to its old one in chilly England. Very different from the green fields and corn to false banana and coconut trees.

We headed out of town and headed ever south. The road was tar as smooth as Bernie’s plastering and without numerous villages with their humps of speed reducing nastiness we made good time. However by four pm as the fuel light came on we both felt about dead beat. At the gas station I filled up, both tanks and Diane walked off for a smoke. On her return she said ”we could camp out the back of this place”. Up for wild camping and saving money, when ever we can, I said to ask and keep fingers crossed. An hour later our usual tomato, onion and chilli stock was simmering away. We both slept really well, being away from the humidity of the coast and three hundred meters up made a big difference.

Day80 Wednesday 29th December

We decided to take a look at the cultural capital of Tanzania. As Dar-es-Salaam is on the coast I was nervous of the humidity. On the edge of town the traffic was horrendous, and I gave up and fell into a gas station for a drink and food. The longer we sat in the shade (but its still forty one degrees) the less I felt like moving on. Finding some inspiration in our re found ability to camp for free we headed to the local yacht club, leaving the club five seconds after arriving,(members only) we headed for a cheap town hotel. We showered and headed into town via a taxi, due to the heat, to a craft market where you can watch the craftsmen and women at work. At snake camp, near Ngorongoro, we tried to buy chess pieces, so we headed to this craft emporium with high hopes. As we were driven in through the gates we looked at each other and both thought ”its looks a little run down”. Sure enough it had closed about nine months before. So we haggled a cheap ride to the botanical gardens. After biding our cabby fair well we walked through the gates of the gardens. Twenty minutes of strolling around the trees and shrubs we reckoned it was a lovely park, but botanical gardens was a little strong. We enjoyed a pleasant walk back into town and bought fantastic pineapple and mango. Around near the water front a small woman suddenly appeared at my side saying how she would devote her life to me and bear my children, and all I had to do in return was for us to eat at her barbecued meat emporium. When she first heard me say ”no thank you we have eaten already”, she vanished like the morning mist, which we have not seen since that chilly morning in Strasbourg. Fickle things females.

Day81 Thursday 30th December

Headed out of a very humid Dar at sunrise and made Genesis Snake Park (honest) by early afternoon. Passing through Mikumi Nation Park, our first as its on the main road and has no charge for using the road. We saw our second round of animals, first was gazelle and baboons by the truck load. Hippos heads and backs in a pool, then far off three lioness stamping about under a tree. Chuffed to bits we headed for camp. While we set up a couple from Carmarthen talked to us about their new life as teachers in Dar, and how adventurous our life was now. He rode, but had to sell his Fazor for the move, and he had read a bit of the Lonely Planet about backpackers and overlanding. The entry for Wim’s Holland House in Addis said how you ”would be rubbing shoulder to shoulder with hardened road warriors”. He thought it sounded scary, and so did I till I thought of when we were there with the folks off the Waddi Halfa boat. We did not think we were that ”warrior like” when we were there, or even now. More like ”road worriers”!!

Day81 Friday 31st December

We went early back to the hippos to see if they would be out on sun loungers, but they did not look like they had moved at all, still heads and backs up and down, occasionally wiggling the ears and blowing out water, not from their ears though. Back at the village we went into a local craft shop and bought (very rash decision and out of character, an east African board game called Bao. We had looked at them quite a few times before and now blew some hard saved dosh, well we did not get the chess pieces. Makambako was our camp for that night and we got a room in which to stay for two pounds, fifty pence, after a little bargaining in the morning. We needed to wash and asked for a shower, only to find out sooner rather than later, that the whole lodge had no water. Must be one of the most unusual new year eve I have had, (one to follow the surreal Christmas). We had no beer and was asleep by nine thirty, even though the lodge rocked around us.

Day82 Saturday 1st January. 2011

The road building we discovered at Moyale, was carried out by the Chinese and paid for by Europe. Our Chinese road was perfect tar to about half way to the border, where there-forth it alternated with rough holed rock and concrete. (since discovered the Chinese are out and the Japanese are in). I have thought many times as we passed through fantastic, vast areas of wild green and undergrowth, that years ago when the likes of Ted Simon did his first trip in seventy-four, he would have been on a dirt track and fighting all the way with punctures and falling. Now we have excellent roads and can do five hundred km a day with ease, if we wish. I wonder what it will be like it thirty or even fifteen years time?? Cairo to cape in six weeks? Do it in your summer vacation with the family in an R.V. I’m not saying it better now, maybe worse, but its certainty a different trip. A German chap at Jungle Junction said that it was surprising that the road out of Addis Ababa was now tar, he reckoned the old dirt road was perfect and the money could have gone elsewhere. At Iringa when we stopped for fuel a local guy told us of his trip from Iringa to Cairo in ninety-one and how poor the roads were north of Atbara in Sudan. Amazed was he when told that they are now all smooth asphalt. It’s certainly an ever-changing world.

The scenery was fantastic high mountain ranges, but odd for me, completely covered in trees and greenery. The road climbed up and down about a thousand meters as it felt like, the air was cool and sunshine making it a very agreeable twenty-six degrees. Great day to be riding. We stopped for breakfast food at four different villages but found nothing except a thin chicken soup, served by a young man with very bloodshot eyes and a bottle of beer in his hand, (its nine thirty am) he was pissed and I was a tad jealous. (As we have been off the drink since boxing day, and are throughout January. Not for any other reason other than to save money). We headed on undeterred and hungry to Uyole where we found the normal uninspiring sweet white sliced loaf.. As preparations got under-way for the feast a small crowd had gathered to see what the rich white tourists had got to eat. As they watched with mild amusement and growing horror as what we were about to put in our mouths they shuffled off back to their business. We enjoyed our food in solitude. The border crossing was a delight. Empty customs halls and deserted immigration, the staff were smiley and helpful, even the money changers were pleasant. Forty minutes and we were out of Tanzania and into Malawi.