We arrived back at Safari Lodge late in the evening, exhausted from our last day in Zanzibar and the traumatizing experience of getting lost in Stonetown. Bertus was still there, washed clean by the rain that’s been falling non stop for the last couple of days. Our plan for the next few days is to go up the coast of Tanzania to Tanga and from there head to Moshi (the town at the foot of Kilimanjaro) before we drive to Arusha where our 5 day, 4 night Serengeti safari will begin. I ashamed to say that by this stage I now also refer to our Serengeti trip as going on safari. Me, the one who used to internally laugh at the Khaki-clad tourist visiting Africa to go on safari. Who have I become…?
While that is a good question, I did not have time to internally debate this change because our problem child has once again thrown a tantrum. Woody started with the first turn, Bertus did not start at all. That sinking feeling (that I haven’t felt in a very long time) hit me once again.
Our old routine kicked in quickly. I went to driver’s seat ready to turn the ignition on command while Clayton opened up the engine cap. He fiddled with something here, there, adjusted a few things. Nothing. I caught his eye and I knew we were thinking the same thing – was this the end? Is this where Bertus decided enough is enough?
+- 20 minutes later and still signs of life. Carburetor? Coil? Points? None of them options we wanted to explore. Clayton – for some reason that will only make sense to a male – figured that we just needed to get Bertus moving. Try to get the fuel through the pipes because it looked like the points worked.
Woody came to the rescue and not even 100m down the road Bertus came alive with a roar. Success!…? We said our goodbyes to the staff, hopped into the car and drove off. 500m later Bertus died. Woody came back, tow rope out and off we went. Again. 2km of towing with what sounded like a massive explosion every now and then when Clayton started him up before promptly dying again. After awhile the sounds similar to diarrhea stopped as all the crap came out of the petrol line and we were off!
During this entire not mechanical breakdown (I was in denial and will not admit defeat) it rained. It poured down from the heavens in buckets so much so that I started wondering whether we should be looking for an ark. We passed cars and houses underwater – that we actually saw this is a miracle because Bertus’ wipers leaves much to be desired. Something I asked Clayton about back home and he assured me that it won’t be a problem. It was a problem but a manageable problem – what you don’t see cannot hurt you.
We sailed down the main road, semi blind and hoped that the weather will clear up. It didn’t. A couple of kilometers before Bagamoya, on the main highway between the city and town, the road disappeared. The highway turned into a slippery, muddy bloodbath exactly like those horror African road pictures you see on the internet. We were stoked! As we drove up to the chaos the locals vehemently shook their heads and pointed in the other direction in what I assumed meant do not even try this in a beetle. When we ignored their warnings they accepted that we were crazy and decided to help rather than discourage and directed us to the route what they believe to be the lesser of two evils. We went first with Woody waiting to see what will happen – checking whether we will need help or not.
At this stage in the trip I am convinced that Clayton and Bertus have morphed into one. It is the only way I can explain how he is able to maneuver Bertus through the trickiest terrain. Pass abandoned tuk-tuks, busses and trucks we slipped and slid our way through the mud until our tyres reached solid tarmac. Woody took the more direct route which turned out to be the better of the two options. Never trust the locals.
The further we got from Dar the less it rained. It still drizzled but at least we could see through the windscreen. With our delay this morning we were a bit behind schedule but we made good time once we reached the tarmac. So much so that we decided to take the more direct dirt road to Beach Crab Resort on the Tanzanian coast.
After buying the dodgiest samosas next to the side of the road (we should have known something was wrong when the guys took the money and literally made a run for it) we left the tarmac behind and along with it certainty and peace of mind. It went well… in the beginning. There were a couple of very interesting sections where we again slipped and slid our way through some very dodgy, muddy sections. Because Bertus is a bit lower than your normal 4x4s that drive in those areas, we had to climb out of the track – driving with one wheel on the crown and the other on the more slippery section next to the road.
I would be lying if I said it wasn’t fun when Bertus’ ass slid semi- out of control when Clayton gave it a bit too much petrol in the mud, heading toward a ditch not knowing whether we will hit it or not. It was fun probably because I trusted the Clayton-Bertus hybrid.
Night fell and we were still 50 km away from our destination. 50km in Bertus on a less than favourable road meant at least another 2 hours. In the dark. In the rain. On the flooded, muddy road. I would like to take this opportunity to sincerely apologise to my dad for breaking 3 crucial promises I made before embarking on this trip.
- We will always take the tar road if it is an option (yes, this has been repeatedly broken)
- We won’t drive at night
- We won’t be irresponsible (might have been broken a couple of times before)
Bertus’ lights are about as strong as 10 candles. My cell phone torch has a better light. If we switched off the lights our natural night vision would be better. Safe to say our lights were shit and not ideal for its purpose – driving at night. Which we now had to do.
We drove through sections where there were water channels on both sides of the car. The depth unknown but unimportant because regardless of the depth, sliding into them was not desirable. Via a semi controlled glide, in the pitch black night through what looked like a forest, we made our way to Beach Crab resort. Prayer definitely played a significant role in our safe arrival.