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Friday, 8 March 2013

Tanzania 3 & Malawi

Pictures to follow when we have some proper internet

Tanzania 3

Day 33 – 21/2/13
We had a frustrating day trying to follow the evolving and changing situation with the Malawi strike, Lilongwe airport and Kenya airlines. Initially Avril was on a flight on the 22nd, then the airport would not open until the 23rd and finally the definitive statement from Kenya Airlines; they would not fly until the 25th at the earliest.
So, we made a new plan! Avril would fly to Mbeya on Saturday 23rd and Ray and Gabrielle would drive down and meet her there. Then, Avril and Gabrielle would drive down in our Landcruiser and Ray would proceed into Malawi and down the lake by taxi.
In the afternoon Avril & Gabrielle went to the movies with Funmi to see Le Miserables.

Day 34 – 22/2/13
Nightmare day!
Gabrielle & Ray set off to Iringa. The Dar traffic lived up to its reputation and it took more than 2 hours to finally exit the last of the suburbs.
The Tanzam highway has a terrible reputation with overlanders. It is the most policed road we have ever been on. The village speed limit is 50 km/hr and EVERY village has a police trap/stop and the villages probably cover ~ 40% of the road distance.  A lot of the time the speed de-restriction sign is missing or non-existent, making it a matter of guess work as to when you could speed up. We were very observant of the 50 km/hr limit, as were all other drivers.
We were stopped by most of the police road blocks, but managed to talk our way out of all but one. 100 km/hr in a 50 km/hr zone. We had guessed wrongly where a village actually ended – there was no de-restriction sign.  There is no policing outside the towns and some of the driving on the open road was very average. On a few occasions we needed to pull completely off the road to make room for a passing bus.
The drive should have been pleasant and the scenery in places was stunning with some great vistas of an extensive plateau, mountains etc. In addition we passed through the Mukumi National park and managed to get some game viewing in: elephant, giraffe, impala, buffalo, zebra, wildebeest etc.
Then, just before Iringa, immediately after we had stopped at a police road block, a cyclist ran into us. He bounced off the bull bar, bounced off the bonnet and was dragged along until we could stop.
Total disaster. Gabrielle got the police from the road block (less than 200 m away) and fortunately a nurse in a ute/bakkie happened by. The cyclist was reasonably OK and she took him to hospital where he was assessed as having a broken femur, broken teeth and scratches – a very lucky boy.
After measuring the accident scene, we went to the Iringa Police Station and met the Station Chief – Stephen. He was super helpful and made sure we were OK and found us a hotel for the evening. Saiviia Hotel
Everyone: the witnesses, the cyclist’s brother, the traffic officer at the scene, Stephen etc all said it was not our fault and were very concerned for our wellbeing. Still we were both highly traumatised.
Avril was more fortunate in Dar. She had her hair “done”

Ray driving; 499 km; Would have been 9.5 hrs; S 030 24’ 35.2’’ E 0290 20’ 53.1’’

Day 35 – 23/2/13
In the morning Ray and Gabrielle went back to the police station to meet the District Chief. He quickly reviewed the case and sent us on our way. Many thanks to Stephen again for assisting with everything and making a very stressful situation a bit easier.
The drive from Iringa to Mbeya was again very frustrating. This section had lots of road works to compliment the village speed restrictions. 5.5 hrs for the 330 kms.
We met Avril at the Precision Air office and the helpful folks there organised a taxi to the border. $ 70.
Avril had a stressful morning, nearly missing her flight. There were no English announcements at the domestic Dar airport and the plane to leave 15 min early. Avril had gone to the gate to find the steps removed and the plane engines running. After much pleading, they allowed her on the flight.
The drive to the border was much less stressful than the preceding days - through lush hills, fertile valleys and a final descent to the floor of the Rift valley. The area has extensive agriculture, lots of bananas and avocados.
Tanzania formalities were very quickly completed. We did have to pay road tax of $25 as we had exceeded the 7 day grace period.

Tanzania Summary
We had a great time in Tanzania. We found the tourism industry to be professional, helpful and of a high standard. We found it relatively easy to find camping accommodation where needed. The game parks were great and Mafia Island very relaxing
There was little opportunistic begging and on the whole, the people were friendly and tried to assist.
The continual police road blocks were tiring. At a lot of the road blocks the police try to fine you for any excuse. In the majority of cases you can argue your way out of this, but each time takes at least 5 min and over a day this can add up to a frustrating delay.
In general the roads are in good condition, however there are many speed humps, not only in villages but also to slow traffic on sharp bends, steep inclines etc.
The Bradt guide is only just OK. It remains a big challenge to get the prices quoted in the guide. 5/10
Again we used the Reise Knowhow map and found the distances were understated. 4/10


Day 1 – 23/2/13
We had a very simple crossing into Malawi. Yellow fever innoculation certificates were checked and then a wonderful surprise – there is no entry fee!
We quickly hired a car to drive Ray to Chitimba Beach ($ 70).
We did not realise that there was a 1 hr time change in Malawi, so even though we underestimated the travel time we arrived at the Chitimba Beach Camp at ~ 19:00. The owner, Eddy, warmly greeted us and even though the kitchen was officially closed, they made us some wonderful hamburgers for dinner. Oh, and they did have cold beer!
We were surprised by the number of people walking and cycling along the road. Malawi has ~ 17 m people in a, by Australian standards, very small country. So, there are people everywhere and the countryside is all given to agriculture.
The asphalt road was in good condition

Ray then Avril  driving; 359 km; 6 hrs; S 030 24’ 35.2’’ E 0290 20’ 53.1’’

Day 2 – 24/2/13
A relaxing day. Ray needed to do a little work and so the girls took a stroll along the beach. Then we walked into the local hamlet to try and find some vegetables. The only veggies on sale were tomatoes and onions – no greens. We chatted to a roadside food stall man and he volunteered to make us some potato leaves for greens. We were a little unsure but he assured us they would taste great. So we paid our money for later delivery and walked back to the accommodation.
We spent the afternoon at the beach. As promised our potato leaf dish was delivered. They had been cooked with onions and a little tomato and oil and tasted delicious.
Dinner was bratwurst from Denmark, dehydrated potato from the UK (which has improved greatly), salad from Tanzania and potato leaves from Malawi.

Day 3 – 25/2/13
It had rained most of the night but fortunately the morning was clear. The day before we had negotiated for a car to take us to Livingstonia. When it turned up it turned out to be a very small Toyota. We managed to fit in reasonably comfortably. The road is very steep with a large number of hairpin bends and it is in extremely poor condition. The vehicle pushed on heroically and our chauffeur knew the limits and drove very slowly and carefully. At one point on the ascent he asked if there had been any rain in the area – the answer was no. Mmmm. As we got closer to the top the road changed to dirt/clay and there had been rain. Lots of rain! We managed to slip and slide our way through some difficult patches and then got completely bogged. Our driver suggested that we get out and push – which we did for a bit. But the mud was flying everywhere, so we decided to walk. We saw a lot of young males running down the hill; our driver made a phone call and these enterprising lads were on their way to push the vehicle.
The driver then decided that, given the road condition, the vehicle could not proceed any further so we decided to walk the rest of the journey to Livingstonia. This decision turned out to be appropriate as the road deteriorated further. As we walked the clay stuck to our feet and we added a few extra cm to our height. We probably walked ~ 2.5 km to the township and then a couple of extra kms in the town. We visited the small local museum and a church before commencing our descent.
On the way down we visited the impressive local Falls.
Ray thought that fresh veggies were available at one of the lodges in the hills. We i.e. in the car, made our way down a very steep access track to a lodge, only to find that veggies were not available. The vehicle could not make the ascent back to the main road with all of us in it (we are not saying who has put on weight with the 3 great meals a day at the Tanzania lodges!!!) so we got out and walked.
We then tried the Mushroom Farm Lodge and they did not have veggies either. We decided to have  some late lunch there. Whilst we were waiting, Ian and Heather, who we had met in Addis, Nth Kenya and Uganda (x2) showed up. We chatted for a bit and then made our way, slowly, down to the floor of the Rift valley again.
With no veggies available locally, we used tinned and dehydrated veggies for dinner!

Day 4 – 26/2/13
We had organised for the driver who had taken us to Livinstonia to also take Ray to Nkhata Bay – whilst the girls drove in the Landcruiser. Again we had to ascend out of the Rift Valley.  It  rained most of the morning. When we could see it, the scenery along the way was grand; rolling hills covered with various shades of green that the different crops give. We stopped off at Mzuzu to get provisions – meat at the Peoples supermarket and to our great delight, fruit and veggies at a local shop. Our hunt for bread was not so successful. We did manage to find a ”brown” loaf at the bakery recommended in the Bradt guide, but not all the other goodies they reported would be available.
We looked for suitable accommodation in Nkhata Bay. The only place that could take our vehicle was the Njaya Camp. But it appeared to be run down. So, after a negotiation with our driver, we proceeded on to Chintheche and a lodge/camp recommended by Eddy. The lodge has changed its name, so it took some time to find and when we got there we found that camping was available, but there were no rooms for Gabrielle. Apparently the camp had been completely closed and was now being renovated.
So, on we drove to Kande Beach. This was not our preferred option as this site has a reputation as THE place for the overland trucks to party.
We did manage to get a nice camp site and a room for Gabrielle.
Our driver decided that he would like to stay with us and transport us to the next location – and that removed one small worry. The taxi for the day cost $ 100.
We had time for a very quick look at the beach before the rain come down.

Avril  driving; 353 km; 7.5 hrs; S 0110 57’ 03.8’’ E 0340 07’ 21.6’’
Ray by taxi

Day 5 – 27/2/13
With the assistance of earplugs, we survived the party night. Actually the partying was not too bad. The compound and local village dogs were the main cause of sleeplessness. Avril got up in the very early hours to try and quieten the dogs – no success.
We spent a relaxing day at the beach, reading and playing Scrabble – Gabrielle won!
In the late afternoon Ian &  Heather arrived from Mushroom Camp. The road to Livingstonia had been so bad they could not make it to the village. We shared our dinner with them.

Day 6 – 28/2/13
Another relaxing day. Ray had developed a serious rash on his neck, so we went to the village clinic next to the camp. The doctor thought it was a bite and gave him some cortisone cream. Fingers crossed.
Gabrielle won the Scrabble again and managed a word with all 7 letters!
Avril negotiated with a local chap for some fish for dinner.

Day 7 – 1/3/13
Our Chitimba, our taxi driver had stayed the 3 days waiting for us and drove us the next leg. The route was down the flat area beside Lake Malawi. Past Nkotakota, which whilst it has an exotic name and place in history was now “just” another largish town. We did manage to get some fresh bread there.
The route was not all that scenic and was developed for agriculture most of the way. The road was in very good condition. There were a few police road blocks and we were quickly waved through when there was one.
We drove to Salima and did some shopping. Again, the local market did not have a variety of fresh produce, but we could get enough to manage.
We arrived in the mid afternoon at Cool Runnings, a nice grassed camp site at Senga Bay.
At the camp were a group of fellas from RSA who were riding Vespas to Dublin to raise awareness for the Children’s Hospital in Cape Town. We had sundowners with them over looking Lake Malawi.

Avril  driving; 270 km; 5 hrs; S 130 43’ 50.9’’ E 0340 37’ 08.8’’
Ray by taxi. The driver had decided to stay with us the rest of the journey. $ 100

Day 8 – 2/3/13
A day relaxing, swimming etc. To get some exercise, we went for a long walk to a nearby lodge.

Day 9 – 3/3/13
We did some shopping in Salima on the way to Cape Maclear. There was little fruit & veg around, not much variety (lots of tomatoes) and poor quality.
The drive to Cape Maclear was along a high quality road. The route was quite flat and the way continued to be lined with crops – a lot of maize.
We stayed at the Chembe Eagles Nest and when we arrived we met up with Ian & Heather. In the afternoon we went for a swim. The  sunset from the rocks beside the camp ground was spectacular.
Avril  driving; 182 km; 4 hrs; S 140 00’ 44.4’’ E 0340 51’ 03.5’’
Ray by taxi again. $ 120

Day 10 – 4/3/13
Gabrielle & Ray went diving at an Island near Cape Maclear and Avril snorkelled at the same site. As we had not dived for some time, so we did a small refresher course. Then we did  one dive at a site called the Rock Garden and another dive in a more protected cover. The visibility was ~ 6 m and we saw an abundance of the Ciclids that are endemic to the area and which are the  reason for its World Heritage listing.
It was very hot in the afternoon and we rested in the shade. Then, after another beautiful sunset, we had a BBQ for dinner.

Day 11 – 5/3/13
A day of complete laziness!

Day 12 – 6/3/13
With our taxi driver we left Cape Maclear and (probably) for the last time climbed out of the Rift valley. As always the views across the lake and valley floor were stunning. The drive to Lilongwe was through rolling hills and appeared to be quite lush. The whole route was dedicated to agriculture. Again, the road was high quality and for the 1st time there was a heavy police presence monitoring road rules.
We arrived into Lilongwe at the midday rush hour and after a bit of trial and error found Annies Lodge in Area 47.
In the afternoon we went into the Old Town for a snack and looked at the supermarkets.
In the evening, Gabrielle’s last night with us we went to a very nice Italian restaurant, Mama Mias.

Avril  driving; 222 km; 4 hrs; S 0130 57’ 18.4’’ E 0330 46’ 03.4’’

Day 13 – 7/3/13
We had time in the morning for one last scrabble game – Ray won. Then it was off to the airport and a sad farewell to Gabrielle. After dropping her off, we did a bit of shopping (to spend our last Malawi Kwacha and set off for Zambia.
The road was in good condition. The countryside did not appear to be as fertile as other areas in Malawi.
The Malawi formalities were completed very quickly and efficiently.

Malawi Summary
It was great to have Gabrielle with us for this section of the trip. The Malawian roads were generally excellent, with the exception of the Livingstonia road. There was only a minor amount of begging – not enough to be annoying. However, we were mainly in established camp grounds a lot of the time. Our accommodation was generally good.
We are now definitely on the big truck overland route. A lot of the camp sites had these massive vehicles with, generally, folks in their 20s – 30s. The partying was not too excessive, but did cause some sleep deprivation.
The Riese Know How map was OK, again the mileages being a big error. 5/10
The Bradt guide, 2010 edition, was dated (did they really update in the 2010??) with camp grounds closed or not suitable for vehicles etc. In addition, the prices were way out of touch with reality.

1 comment:

  1. Glad you made it on safely! All the best! Stephen (Annies Lodge)