Borders are the worst nightmare. Touts by the hundred! One very well dressed, well spoken dude (in neatly ironed, clean blue shirt with St. Joseph Collage badge on pocket) told us to be careful and ignore touts. Helped us with where to go and to which counter. It takes time. Papers had to be filled in twice-they needed originals. Paid US$20 for import of car and US$5 for road tax. Visa not required by SA Citizens. We were through! Very quick and easy.
By magic well dressed dude appeared again. Told us we needed third party insurance (we knew that) Said he would show us the office and took Ian to a room with a broken signboard lying on the floor with an insurance company name on it. The office was empty. Not to worry, he could supply us with the necessary documents. Ian asked the rate, it was $75 for 1 month! Extremely high compared to Namibia, Zambia and Malawi. He couldn’t supply a printed rate sheet but produced a book of 3rd party vouchers. Ian said we’d go elsewhere and walked out in anger with him following and shouting that we’d be arrested without third party. We drove off without the third party! Figured we’d get in in Mbeya, the next large town.
We stopped at the first small town with the biggest banana hands we’d ever seen. Jumped out to photograph – was shouted at – so no photos. We were pissed off. Then to top it all the car wouldn’t start! Mortified and almost in tears. Ian suspected the immobiliser and fiddled with the system. Thank heavens it started. Not a good beginning to our stay in Tanzania – it left a bad taste after the wonderful people we’d encountered in previous countries. We hoped this was an exception.
Passed huge tea plantations and mega big farms, quite different to Malawi. Lots of motorbikes and bicycles. Small villages had greater distances between them. Roofs of houses mainly in tin, not as picturesque as thatch. The results of more wealth – tin roofs and motor bikes!
Arrived in Mbeya without any further incidents, found bank and did the usual forex, sim purchases and supermarket. Unable to exchange left over Malawi money and also couldn’t exchange Rands. Quite difficult to get around in the town, so unlike to what we’re accustomed to.
We ended up at Utengule Coffee estate and lodge where we were to stay and found Gerrit. We’d been recommended to stay here by Brittany and we’d also told Gerrit. We spent another great evening with him at supper in the restaurant, and what great coffee! Camped alongside the gym to get electricity, so much more convenient when we plug in. It was very private and we were perfectly ok.
The next morning said our goodbyes to Gerrit who was off to Lake Tanganyka while we were heading the opposite direction to Iringa. But first we had to buy the 3rd party insurance. Found a legitimate agent and paid R180 for 3 months instead of the R750 for one Month! So be warned of touts at borders!
The 350km trip to Iringa was very slow because of the 50km/h zones and speed humps at all the small villages along the way. We hardly ever travelled at the general speed limit of 80km/h. After a long stretch of driving at 50km/h I sped up to 65, we’d been driving in unpopulated countryside for ages. Suddenly out jumped a traffic cop with a speed gun and stopped us. Ian managed to talk his way out of a fine by being respectful and apologetic. Only got a warning and lecture about the rules of driving in their country.
From then on we kept our eyes peeled for signs and also sudden potholes. The road surface was good overall though but had to be on the look out for busses, lorries, motorbikes, speed humps and oncoming vehicles overtaking!
We were definately in real Africa now where African time ruled!
Enough of that, you’d think we weren’t enjoying ourselves. We drove through amazing forests and passed huge farms of sunflowers, mielies, tea plantations, bananas etc. Scenery absolutely beautiful. The unusually wet season benefitted the landscape.
We finally arrived at our destination, River Valley Lodge and campsite, a few kilos beyond Iringa down a terribly washed away dirt road off the highway. It was well worth it. A beautiful shaded place with stone chalets and thatch roofs. Our campsite was next to a “classroom” where Swahili was taught to visitors. Great! We moved all our cooking things in and used it to cook, eat and just chill out. It also provided us with shelter from the never ending rain each night.
Woke to cold showers the next morning but handled it. Met the owner, Amanda, a British lady who’d been there 10 years, the last two years on her own after her husband had passed away. She was running it on her own as well as a business in Iringa which she shared with her daughter. So you see, women can do it on their own. The day before she had jumped into the flooding river to removed trees that had washed down! Told us where to find everything in Iringa; Neema Crafts, Warthog Adventures and the market in “Indian” street.
Solveig wasn’t feeling well for the first time on our trip but it did not slow her down a bit and we really enjoyed wandering around and getting the feeling of the place. Struggled with data connections and found we were using our airtime at an amazing rate! Returned to camp after an early lunch. I chilled and Solveig had a nap. Only a small supper that night and early to bed.
We’re so far east we’re in a different time zone to SA. An hour ahead. It’s dark here at 6:15pm EAT (5:15 in SA.) Sunrise around 6:15am EAT.
The early night was just what Solveig needed, she awoke feeling fine so we returned to Iringa the next day.
Took a long walk along Indian street. 2 kms each way. Checking out the fabric shops, tailors and small shops selling everything you can imagine.
We bought a few vegetables and fruit from the market and got daring and shared a curry and chapati at a local cult restaurant, Hasty Tasty Too, and survived.
I bought some time on the net at IringaNet next door and for the first time in Tanzania I had a good connection. We sat there for ages while I managed to complete my final blog on Malawi and I was able to post the photos much quicker, while Solveig edited her photographs on her Note 2.
Both the Note 2 and the Note 8 Tab, which I use to write and send our blog, are wonderful devices. The Tab is easier for me to type on as its keyboard is much bigger. Most of the photos we post on FB are taken on our Samsungs, it’s much easier to post directly from them. The blog has a mixture of photos from the Canon cameras and the Samsungs.
After three nights at River Valley we sadly said goodbye to Iringa. For reasons we can’t identify, we both enjoyed our stay there so much. There’s something special about the place.
That day was spent driving to Mikumi village. Another long and slow day of driving although the distance covered wasn’t that much. Our route took us through a beautiful pass of tight turns and treacherous drops.
There must have been at least 10 vehicles that had left the road or broken down. Some of the heavier laden trucks had overturned!
The scenery was magnificent. We then travelled through a long valley absolutely packed full of Baobabs.
We’d never seen so many in one place. In a kloof at the end of the valley we stopped at Crocodile camp which had been advertised every few kilometers. We had to see what it was all about. Owners were overseas and it was being run by barman, manager Lambert and his sister.
We had a drink in the bar which had a Baobab in the middle of it! We couldn’t stay too long though and left after the drinks. We eventually arrived at Tan – Swiss lodge where we camped for the night. Rain again, but luckily we had shelter. We had thought of treating ourselves that night to supper at the restaurant, but luckily after some dreadful coffee and dry cake on our arrival we saved ourselves the ordeal.
We camped alongside two Belgians from the Embassy in Dar es Salaam. They were very negative about Libya. Belgium had closed the Embassy there and brought out all their staff. Since November things had deteriorated to the point of now it’s no longer safe to travel. We also get stories of 4×4 vehicles not being allowed into Egypt as they are being hijacked by Terror groups to use against the government. We’ll have to check the validity of these stories with all the relevant Embassies in Nairobi before we panic……
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