Heading south, at last
Kenya to Tanzania to Malawi
Finally - I've left Nairobi, Kenya and have crossed into Tanzania!
Unfortunately, my body is VERY out of bike-riding condition, having not ridden for about a month. Today, I have struggled to ride 320kms!
I was late leaving Jungle Junction yesterday, finally getting away about 1.30pm, having spent a lot of time browsing the web forums etc, not knowing when next I'd get a chance to do so.
Chris had told me of a "short cut" down to the road to Tanzania. Yeah, well, I should NEVER listen to other people, should I??? This short cut took me at least three times as long as it would have taken had I gone through Langata and onto the highway as normal. For those who've read my report on Masai Mara, Take 1, you will have noted my references to the Road from Hell, and how terrible it was. Well, forget all that!! The shortcut was way, way worse than that Road from Hell!
It was 32km long, and it took me well over one and a half hours to travel it. It was appalling!!! And for some strange reason, there was a police checkpoint half way along it. Very rarely did I see another vehicle, and mostly they were small motorcycles. I was getting thrown around all over the place, although I was trying to take it as easy as possible to save the bike from being damaged.
Once onto the main highway south, it was a little better, and I was able to move along a bit faster, until the thunderstorm arrived and drenched the countryside. I spied a campground just on dusk, so pulled in, only to find they had ensuite rooms for $15, so I took one, to save putting up the tent in the rain. I had a quick snack in the "restaurant" and went to bed, as there was no electricity available.
Setting off in the morning, I had only 9km to travel to the Tanzanian border crossing at Namanga. Like any border crossing, it had "helpers" everywhere, but I waved them off and did everything myself. For some reason, I got slugged $50 penalty by the Kenyan people, as apparently I should have done something pertaining to the bike within 7 days of arriving in Kenya. Couldn't understand what he meant, but paid it, and got an official receipt, so it must have been real, not a shonky. And the guys at the airport hadn't stamped the carnet in the right place, so officially, the bike wasn't actually in the country. Got it all sorted and toddled up the road to the Tanzanian side, where things went quickly, even though I had to get a visa there, for $30. Here I also changed some money into TZS, the local currency at the Forex Bureau, rather than the blackmarketeers hanging around.
The road was reasonable condition, so riding was easy. The countryside was quite dry, with undulating hills occasionally. I stopped along the way at a roadside veggie stall, and bought some onions, capsicums, carrots and tomatoes, ready to make up a nice dinner. These veggie stalls are interesting. There is no visible habitation but there are attended stalls along the road, selling veggies. Where do they grow them? Where do they get the water for them from? It's got me stumped. Then again, it's a bit like the pedestrians on the road. No habitation anywhere, but people are walking or cycling along
I pulled in to the Elephant Motel & Camping site in the township of Same. Put the tent up, watched by lots of resident Vervet monkeys.
The little buggars came to visit my camp and were quite quick once I got out my eating gear, one managing to grab a bag of ziplock bags out of the open pannier when my back was turned away from the bike. Unfortunately, it didn't choke - just dropped them individually down to the ground, once it realised they were empty, from its perch in a nearby tree. Cooked up a nice veggie stirfry with the fresh veggies I'd bought along the way.
Back on the road early next morning, in pleasant weather conditions most of the way. Unfortunately, the road conditions weren't all that good, so it was relatively slow going most of the way, usually about 80-90kph..
Eventually, just coming on to dusk, I pulled in to a motel in Morongoro, as there were no camping grounds anywhere around. Basic ensuite, but not too bad, and only cost 30,000TZS, about $30, including brekky. Unfortunately, the power blacked out about 6pm, so it was a very early night after a short read by headlamp.
After refuelling in the town next morning, I set off for another day's slow riding. I'm getting rather used to this slower pace, and am only doing about 350km a day, if that!
Later in the morning, it was a bit disconcerting to come to a road sign saying: "Warning, wild animals for the next 50klm". It was the Mkumi National Park. Oh well, I thought, it'll just be a few zebra, giraffe and antelope, I suppose. Nothing to worry about here. So off I go at the posted 70kph. Soon I spot a lone giraffe. Then a couple zebra, then some impala. Hmmmm, are they rocks up there ahead? Nope, they are elephants, almost on the roadside! Both sides. That may explain why there was a keeper with a gun sitting in an old wrecked car a couple hundred metres away.
The road surface left a LOT to be desired, so I didn't get all that much chance to gawp around looking for animals, however, I did see some more elephants and lots of baboons along the road sides.
I refuelled again in Iringa, as there were long stretches between towns having fuel, and it was a good excuse to stop and have a cuppa, as it was getting quite hot.
I thought I'd check out The Old Farm House campground for the night, as it was about 60km away from Iringa, making it more than enough kms for the day. Turned off the highway onto a dirt road - Yaarrrk! It was pretty rutted and bumpy with some sand, but eventually after a km or so of this, I arrived at the campground. I pitched the tent in a nice cosy little spot, bought some fresh farm eggs from the reception desk and cooked up a nice veggie omelet for dinner.
While chatting with the owner at the reception desk, I mentioned about riding through the National Park, and the animals I'd seen. "And lots of the lions, and leopards, too, I suppose?" Nicola said. Whhhhhaaaatttt! There were lions there? Yes, she says, they're usually lying on the road! OMG!! Nope, didn't see any, thankfully! But as Nicola said, I would have had the speed to get away, if needs be. Gulp!!
When putting up the tent, I found there'd been a hitch-hiker. A bit hard to tell his size, but he was about 2.5-3 inches long through the body.
Below: They had cottages/cabins, too, but a bit exxy for me.
Below: And I had my personal thatched shelter close by the tent -
After traversing the dirt road out to the highway again successfully, I pointed the bike west, and rode, and rode. Mid-afternoon, I made it to Mbeya, a large-ish town/city at the crossroads of the major transit routes from Malawi and through Tanzania. The hotel I chose from the GPS didn't look much chop, so I went to the one a couple doors up. It was barely OK, but didn't have internet. The host pointed me across the road, to the Golden Hotel. Off I went. Yes, they had vacancies, at 40,000TZS including brekky. Sounds good - internet! Yea! Interestingly, there was a whole computer in each room!!! The receptionist said I wouldn't be able to use my laptop, just their computer, as it was on a LAN system. Yeah, right!! I soon plugged the laptop into their cable and had a fine old time!! It was a newish hotel, only 5 years old, and relatively pleasant, although the power went off for quite a while, so the generator outside my window was put to good use. Uggh!
Brekky was quite OK, so it was rather early when I'd packed and got on the road to Malawi. I refuelled at Tukuyu, the last town in Tanzania. The border crossing from Tanzania into Malawi soon appeared, the rush of "helpers" were waved away and I was quickly through and into Malawi.
I called it a day when I got to a major town, Mzuzu, as I'd not been able to legally change any money at the border, so needed an ATM. Pulled into the Mphasto Motel and secured a room, but didn't have enough cash, so had to go over and up the road a ways to the closest ATM. Caused a bit of a stir when I rode down a one-way street the wrong way. Oh well, it wasn't signposted one-way, was it, so how should I know it was the wrong way?
Ended up staying here for 2 nights, for some reason. Can't remember why! Perhaps I was stuffed, as usual? I seem to remember I did a of sleeping here, as I needed it. Anyway it was quite pleasant, and they had a restaurant on site for meals.
So I set off south again, along the Lake Malawi, although I saw it only rarely, as the road was a fair distance from it, usually.
Eventually, mid-afternoon, I pulled into the Total servo near Salima for fuel, as servos were few and far between. Nope, no fuel available!! Nowhere, in the whole district! I had enough petrol for about 150km at a pinch, which wasn't enough to get me to Balaka which probably wouldn't have fuel, or to Blantyre, where there MIGHT be fuel. Check caravan parks on the GPS. Hmmmm, looks like I'd better go out to Senge Bay, about 28km away, on the shores of Lake Malawi.
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