We were at the border so long that I almost forgot what Malawi looked like. This made it slightly difficult to compare the 2 countries but the overwhelming green landscape was a pleasant assault to the senses and a direct contrast to the drought stricken Malawi.
It looked like Tanzanians around the lake actually use the abundant fresh water supply for farming. Everywhere you looked something was being cultivated. Tea, bananas, corn, bananas, sugar cane, bananas. And then a little bit more bananas. People looked healthy, not as friendly as the Warm Heart of Africa, but at least healthy.
Not too far into Tanzania we were flagged down by white-clad, official looking people. White trousers, white shirt, long white coat and white hat – can only be doctors but what they were doing next to the side of the road was unclear. They turned out to be the traffic cops of Tanzania! The infamous cops that we were warned against over and over again were actually very pleasant guys and after checking Clayton’s drivers, asking if they can buy the car (no), they waved us off with a friendly: “Welcome to Tanzania”. I wanted to ask what their secret is to keep their clothes so white but thought it would not go down to well. It will have to stay their secret until I can muster enough courage to ask one of them.
Our first stop was going to be the coffee plantation just outside of Mbeya, 120km away from the border. In addition to being on iOverlander it also came highly recommend by a couple from South Africa who now resides in Tanzania. Along with the high recommendation however came the very high price! $11.50pppn. Absolutely absurd! Who would pay such an amount to camp?! Us – for the remainder of the our stay in Tanzania. However this was our very first night and after paying an average of $7pppn in Malawi, this place will definitely not get away with ripping us off! We were overlanders remember, we know the price of camping…
When the manager did not want to budge on the price, we left. It was after 17:00. Oh!- timezone change. +1 hour on Saffa time so this means that when we get up at 05:00, which we’ve been doing lately, we are ACTUALLY getting up at 04:00 (We kept doing this conversion for the entire time in Tanzania much to Marcia and Matt’s annoyance, patting ourselves on the back every morning. We only applied this conversion to the morning, if we went to bed at 20:00 it was 20:00, not 19:00.)
So it was 17:00, the sun was about to set, the road back from the coffee plantation was a nightmare, there was only 1 other option in the area on iOverlander and heavens know how much that was going to cost us. We also had to navigate through the very confusing town where road rules applied to some but not all and we haven’t quite figured out who is who. It being a border day, we were also tired and irritated and we only had the tiniest bananas the entire afternoon. H-Angry does not even begin to describe it.
We reached the second spot an hour later. Camping on the lawn with showers in a nearby room and the sound of passing traffic as a nice background track for the evening: $10pppn. Lovely… We did eventually manage to get it down to $8pppn.
Tanzanians are very quick in quoting in USD and then converting it back to the local currency with their perceived latest exchange rate. This meant that the duration of our Africa adventure was heavily dependent on Zuma keeping his mouth shut back in South Africa. Not the most reassuring feeling.
We got up at 05:00 (04:00!), took a quick, warm shower, ate breakfast (which is basically instant porridge which I am now thoroughly addicted to) and set in the general north-eastern direction for The Old Kisolanza Farm House ($10pppn) just before Iringa. The plan for the next couple of days was to drive about 200km each day towards Dar es Salaam and then just before Dar, head north to Bagamoya from where we would stay 1 night and take a taxi to the Zanzibar ferry in central Dar the following day. Driving through Dar would be avoided at all cost! (We actually stuck to this plan.. Sort off.)
The road from Mbeya to just before Dar was completely different to the first 120km of Tanzania. While the southern regions had access to the fresh water supply, ‘central’ Tanzania was feeling the effects of the dry season. Still absolutely beautiful and at stages it was hard to believe we weren’t in South Africa! It is only when you drive through towns and villages (that are remarkably less formalized and developed than their South African counterparts) and see the local Masaai in their traditional clothing that you realize this ain’t South Africa anymore! While Clayton drove I played “Where in RSA am I?” which is really not recommended for anyone with a slight inclination to home sickness.
With the beauty came the heat unfortunately and our 3rd day on the road was probably the hottest thus far. It was a suffocating, is-this-ever-going-to-stop and why-do-we-not-have-aircon heat that made your clothes stick to the fake leather seat covers of the car. [Tip: when driving long distances and it is going to be slightly warmish in the car: Don’t wear jeans or anything made from denim, doesn’t matter what length. Trust me, it is not pleasant.] When we arrived at Tan-swiss just before Mikumi NP and saw the pool it was an absolutely no-brainer that we would be camping here ($10pppn). (Never mind that it was only 14:00 and 80km before our intended stopover.)
The A7/A104 is the main link between harbour in Dar and Zambia so there are A LOT of cargo trucks and buses. When I say a lot I mean think of an insane amount and then triple it. The drivers of the buses definitely need a special mention for the absolute fearlessness with which they drive their overloaded, very much un-roadworthy, human-life filled vehicles. The braveness or maybe utter stupidity required to drive at those high speeds around those sharp, blind corners and potholed filled, half constructed roads is incomprehensible to normal, well adjusted, moral human beings.
They do not give a shit about human life and will literally push you off the road if they need to get back in to the right lane when a vehicle bigger than them are approaching from the front at breakneck speed. Size evidently does matter but sometimes you get a suicidal sole that will play chicken and when he eventually realizes that he might not win this time, Clayton had to slam on the the breaks to make sure this idiot has enough space to fit the bus in between us and the car in front. With names like “God’s Grace”, “Blessed by Him”, “By God’s will” and “The blessed one”, I can only assume that they rely heavily on the Man above to get them safely at their destination.
The names also begs the question: Do the passengers chose the bus by its name? Personally I would rather get into “God’s Grace” than the godless “Still Wanted”.