Posts By Country




April 11th, 2010 | Africa

Tanzania…in Daylight this time…!!

Parked out side Room 5, Club Marina... Ready to ride to Iringa...

Breakfast was a forgettable affair, but as it was included in the price, I decided to get my stomach filled for the long day ahead… I planned to ride non-stop (ha-ha !!) to Iringa, over 500 kms to the north-east of Karonga…  The fried eggs had been in the pan about ten minutes longer than they should have been, and the pile of potato slices that accompanied them were “glassy”… Two cups of strong coffee were required to wash it all down…

While I was eating, a juvenile Fish Eagle landed on the wall just outside the window of the” restaurant”… It sat there, cocking it’s head from side to side… The waitress explained that after cleaning the fish for the guests,  the entrails and heads were left outside for this particular bird, which had been visiting them for the past few weeks… After a short while, it flew off do some “proper” hunting…

The 45 kms to the Songue border passed swiftly…. A bit too swiftly… I came around a bend in the road and almost ran into the police barrier spanning the road… The policeman on duty came galloping over (from where he had been dozing…) and admonished me with a shake of his forefinger…

“You were speeding!!”  he shouted, “Why are you traveling so fast ? This is a 50km zone!”

“So sorry, Oaf-icer, I will slow down in future, I promise,” I replied with my fingers crossed (immediately negating the promise!)…

“Next time I will fine you, and if you had broken the poles (made of bamboo, by the way!) you would have to pay for them!” (or go chop down a few more, perhaps?)

Mobile General Dealer, Malawi...

I passed one of those traveling salesman, Malawi style… He had this big board on his back, and walks from village to village, selling a large range of “stuff” from material and sewing kits, to hair brushes and batteries… He put his “stand” out when I asked him what he was selling, and explained how he had to wait for his wares to come by bus, and how many miles he had to walk each day to make a living… It’s a tough job, make no mistake, and the prices he charges are so low, I cannot see how he makes a living doing this… I gave him a packet of sweets in sympathy, which made his eyes light up and spread a large smile across his dial…

In the last few kilometres before the border, rice is the crop you will most see grown here… Large paddy fields line both side of the road, and are mostly under water… The mosquitoes here must be a real bother !!

I stopped the bike as a bunch of children rushed up to talk to me… I was ready for them, and before they could open their mouths, I said,

“I want a pen…!” That stopped them in their tracks, as every time a bunch of them cam up to me, that was the first thing out of their mouths…

“We have no pen,” they chorused….

“Then give me one dollar..!” was my next line, holding out my hand to them…. They burst out laughing, and never asked for a thing while I took a few photos of the rice fields… I had their number, and they knew it…!!

Rice fields stretch into the distance outside Ipongo, Northern Malawi

Rain showers point the way to Tanzania... A wet farewell to Malawi...

As if to punish me for teasing little children, the weather Gods let loose with a short sharp shower, just before the border… I gritted my teeth and powered through the rain, the drops that hit my cheeks through the open visor stinging like a hundred hornets…

The border crossing was a bit of a nightmare… The Malawi side was under construction, building materials and new furniture piled up together in front of the immigration desk… A busload of returning Tanzanians were chased out of the customs offices, as their driver had already made representation on their behalf, and no doubt paid a small “fee”… This caused a bit of congestion, as people trying to get inside were forced back by the fleeing Tanzanians… But despite this, I was through to “the other side” after about half and hour…

On the Tanzanian side, it was a different matter… I rode across the bridge over the Songwe River, dodging money changers who literally stood in front of the bike in order to get me to stop… I had my helmet flipped up, and by the little smile on my lips, and the glint in my eyes, they knew better than to stand in front of the Big Fella for too long… I assumed that they knew full well, that the nearest hospital was in Mbeya, 115 kms away…

The sign has not been painted since we last crossed...

A busload of folk were queuing at immigration when I pulled up, and after what seemed an age, I finally had my passport stamped, the Carnet inspected at Customs, stamped and handed back with a smile, and then I retired to the shade of the building to decide which 3rd Party Insurance salesman to favour… Not a difficult process, as I was only approached by one !! A far cry from the half dozen that accosted me the last time we passed through here…

Mr. Nyoni, the Insurance Sales Executive...

Mr. Nyoni was courteous, helpful, and I damn sure hope he was truthful, when he convinced me to buy a $150.00 “package” which covered 3rd party insurance in the next dozen countries I would be riding through… Time will tell… It was that or pay the $50.00 for a few days in Tanzania only…

We bargained for a while and settled on $125.00… The discount was in exchange for mentioning his company and his services here in the posting… Mr. Nyoni’s little office is situated about 100 metres outside the final border control gate, on the left hand side of the road… While small, 3 metres by 2 metres at the most, it is comfortable, had a fan going full blast, a photocopier and all the other little bits and pieces required to run a successful insurance office….by Tanzanian standards…!!! If any of you passing through this border post want a relatively hassle free experience sorting out your insurance, this is the guy to use…. The Gypsy Biker keeps his promises…unless his fingers are crossed when he makes them, of course…!!

Despite leaving Karonga at 8.00am, thinking that I had bags of time to make today’s ride, it was now 11.00am, and I had traveled the enormous distance of 45 kms in the past three hours…!! I got on the bike, and “gave it horns” for the next 100 odd kilometers, all the way to Mbeya, passing the huge Tea Plantations that this region is well known for. High speed in Tanzania is not recommended if you want to keep your suspension intact… Before each village, you will come across a diabolical set of speed humps, about 6 inches high, and arranged in sets of six… Bone jarring stuff, even at low speeds… Then in the centre of the village is one HUGE hump, maybe a foot high, which should you hit at anything faster than 20km/h, you WILL find yourself “arse over kettle” in the middle of the road… If you managed to get over this one without falling off, you will then have to go through another set of the smaller speed humps, before exiting the village… After the 20th village, both the Big Fella and I were shaking our heads in agitation…

Tanzania, Rain, Big Fella... Can't separate them, Dudes !!

The road between the villages twists and winds up towards Mbeya, going from 600 metres above sea level, to over 2200 metres above sea level… It was pretty cold at the very top of the long winding pass, and the clouds that hovered above it, occasionally dumped rain on me, as I passed below… I had to slow down, as the road surface was constantly wet here, before easing down into Mbeya. This large town, which lay in a long valley running east to west, was in brilliant sunshine…! Strange set of weather conditions over such a short distance, but I enjoyed the ride down to the t-junction of the main roads leading to Dar-es-Salaam and Malawi, and turned left for Makambako, 150 kms to the north east…

At the speeds these buses ride, it is not surprising that a few of them end up in ditches...

The wind and the heat quickly dried my damp kit and before long, we were passing Iguruzi Village, where I passed a crane that had blocked half the road in its efforts to lift a bus out of the roadside ditch… I hoped that the passengers had not been injured, and that the driver lay somewhere under the bus, groaning in the agony of as many broken bones as possible… These buses travel at speeds in excess of 120 km/h, dodging potholes with scant regard for oncoming traffic… I was almost run down by a bus that cruised up behind me and attempted to overtake into the path of an advancing truck…

On another occasion, one overtook a slow moving pick-up truck, and forced me off the road and onto the gravel, in an attempt to avoid hitting the bus head-on… I had to stop the bike and sit there for a while to get back my composure…and check to see if I had bitten a hole in the seat…  Luckily for all concerned, firearms are not allowed into Tanzania…

I arrived in Mkambako at 1.00pm and despite wanting to get moving, I spent an hour there, chatting to Philip the petrol attendant, who had never left this little town since his birth 64 years previously… I shared the last of my biscuits with him, drank a Fanta, and then got going, having noticed a large patch of cloud over the highway ahead of me… Would I arrive wet and bedraggled in Iringa, just as I had two years ago?

All smiles as I munch biscuits in Makambako...and in broad daylight this time...

Here’s a video clip of Allan kitting up during our last stop in Makambako, Tanzania…

Allan prepares for rain… Makambako 2008

Eucalyptus forests near Sao Hill, Tanzania...

The 165 kms to Iringa were made in a mad dash, to avoid the rain that threatened from time to time, but never actually materialized, apart from a few showers… I remembered the long hard ride in the dark that Allan and I had, and seeing all the potholes in this section, wondered how on earth we had not come off our bikes, in the darkness and the pouring rain… The Big Guy upstairs was definitely looking down on us that night… For more on this ride, see “Into Tanzania!” on my East African ride…

I rode past the hamlets of Makungu, Mdandu and into the timber area around the town of Sao Hill. There must be a paper mill around there somewhere, as Eucalyptus was by far the most common species planted here, with a bit of Patula Pine thrown in to keep the bush millers happy…

A short while later, I passed Mafinga (idly wondering if there was a place called Matoe as well…) and rolled on into Ifunda, where an outdoor butcher had a hind quarter hanging from a tree, and was slicing off large chunks to sell to the passing buses and truck drivers… Although a cloud of flies obscured the butchers head, I assumed that he still had all his Mafingas…

Iringa lies on the crest of the escarpment...above the road to Dar...

I found myself on the outskirts of Iringa sooner that I had anticipated, and when I refueled, I could see why… ! My fuel consumption had dropped from an average of 17 km/l to closer to 14…!!! Speed will do that sort of thing…!!This was the very same service station that we had struggled into at 9.00pm on the night of the 12th of February 2008 ! We could not find the entrance to the road which led up to the town above, so bad was the visibility in the poring rain…

The Danish government is paying for the extensive road-works taking place on the entrance to town… You know the one Allan…where I stalled in the rain…!! There is only one lane open up the steep hill into town… Chaos personified !! Luckily I arrived in broad daylight this time !!

I made my way to the M.R. Hotel, where Allan and I had stayed on our way to Dar-es-Salaam. There had been a change in management, but the “No beer in the rooms” rule still applied…!! This time, I got a room with a balcony, and a TV. (Which I haven’t switched on as yet…) I had a cold shower and then ate a dinner of Pepper Steak and chips for R40.00 ! This was inclusive of a Fanta Pineapple… “Spur” and “Steers” take note….

Beautiful vista from my hotel room window...

The Gypsy Biker gets to work, cluttering up the room in his usual fashion...

I was the only one in the four table restaurant and practiced a bit of my Swahili on the waiter… After three minutes, there wasn’t much more to say, so I finished my meal in silence… Although I did mumble to myself in Afrikaans from time to time, just to confuse him as much as he had confused me…

© GBWT 2010

2 comments to Tanzania…in Daylight this time…!!

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>