Dar Es Salaam

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:23 pm
Jun 302011
 

We left Kilwa Masoko and headed north to Dar Es Salaam. Thankfully a large section of the horrible road had been graded the previous day, so whilst it was still bad it was nowhere near as bad as it had been on the way in. The crazy buses were still in abundance, and I am sure they would make world class rally drivers as they throw the buses around on the dirt, weaving all over the road trying to get the smoothest path then hammering it around the bends with the rear end eventually following.

Instead of heading straight to camp we decided to head into Dar to get fuel and do some shopping. We found a Shoprite, a large well stocked supermarket chain, which was a welcome change. It was great to be able to wander down the aisles and buy things we had not been able to for some time and at reasonable prices, even meat. After stocking up and fulfilling our westernised, civilised shopping needs we headed across the ferry to camp.

Ferry port to DarWe spent 3 nights at Kipepeo Beach Resort which is just south of Dar Es Salaam, requiring a ferry crossing to go to Dar. The resort is quite nice with a bar and restaurant, free wifi and a grassed camping area, although the camping area could be bigger given the large number of overland trucks that come and go (although they do only seem to stay one night on their way to and from Zanaibar). The showers were once again cold, but it is so warm that the chill is taken off the water by the sun shining on the tanks, so it wasn’t so bad.

When we arrived Natalie and Paul were there whom we had met previously at the camp outside Selous. There was also another couple there that we had met at Cape Maclear, and then Tim and Ania whom we had met at the Riverside Camp at Iringa sent us a text saying they would also be joining us.

The first day we had booked the car in at Toyota to be looked at. We left camp at 7am thinking that would give us plenty of time to be at Toyota early. Wrong assumption! Whilst the total journey was only about 10km, we had to cross using the ferry. It took 2 hours before we were actually on the ferry, which is about 7km from camp, then we had to get through Dar. It took us 2.5 hours to arrive, and when we got there and explained we had booked the car in and what needed to be done we were told there was no way we would get the car back the same day, which is not an option given it is our home! The service area had probably 50 or more cars parked around the place so I’m not surprised they said it would take more than a day. After some discussion with the service manager, who thankfully turned out to be very helpful, our car was taken straight to the workshop and work started on it. Our front left diff lock has not been sending power to the wheel when engaged and has been a bit of a pain when we have been stuck. The service manager looked at it and thought it was an electronic motor and told us it would take 6-8 weeks to get a part, but they would take it apart and have a look. Thankfully it was not electronic and a clip had come loose inside which they were able to fix, so hopefully if we get stuck again it will work properly. The knocking we have had since the start in the front left wheel was also fixed by replacing the bushes on the stabiliser bar. Both repairs were done inexpensively as the labour is cheap, so it was a pretty successful trip.

Tim and Ania had volunteered to come into Dar and pick us up from Toyota so we could both do some errands whilst our car was being serviced, something I think they may have regretted afterwards as it took all day! They also got stuck trying to get on the ferry but they finally made it and we headed to the Milani shopping centre. The traffic was terrible, although it was interesting to see what was going on around us. About 30 mins after we had left Toyota they rang to say they needed the remote for the car (even though they had told us they didn’t need it) so we had to turn around and go back – an hour wasted sitting in traffic. Off we went again through the traffic, finally making it to the shopping centre where we had some lunch and a quick visit to Game and Shoprite before we had to head back to Toyota to make sure we would be back there by 5pm given the traffic.

We spent the following day relaxing in camp and on the beach. I even went swimming in the middle of winter! The water was warm and clear although there were a number of jellyfish around so we really only just paddled in the shallow water as we did not relish the thought of being stung. The nights were pleasantly warm although there were a lot of mosquitoes around. It was quite a nice place to take a few days out from travelling.

Kilwa Masoko & Kilwa Kisiwani

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:50 pm
Jun 272011
 

Thankfully the road out of Selous was not muddy and nowhere near as bad as the road we had taken in. When we hit the main road to Dar Es Salaam, we turned right instead of left to Dar and headed towards Kilwa Masoko. Once again we managed to find a terrible road! They were building a new road, although it has been in progress for at least 18 months, and there is a temporary road beside it. This temporary road was full of dips and bumps and it was not a pleasant ride at all, yet the buses still drove like crazy. We had the pleasure of about 2.5 hours of being thrown around constantly.Great Mosque, Kilwa Kisiwani

Dhow, Kilwa MasakoWe stayed at Kilwa Seaview Resort for 2 nights where we managed to do an enormous lot of laundry before taking a trip across to the island to see the Arab ruins. We spent a couple of hours on the island investigating the ruins of the Great Mosque, smaller mosques and the Sultan’s Palace. The island must have been something in its time as the buildings were quite impressive. 1500 odd people still live on the island in a small village with no electricity and wells for their water.

 

Great Mosque, Kilwa KisiwaniFort, Kilwa KisiwaniKilwa Kisiwani

On the way back we stopped in town to buy some “Chips Mayai” which is a local dish of hot chips with an egg omelette. It wasn’t too bad amd was very cheap, although I am sure it isn’t very good for you! We also tried to buy another local dish made from cooking bananas but there wasn’t any to be had, so we will have to keep an eye out for it somewhere else.

Selous Game Reserve

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:00 pm
Jun 252011
 

The road from Morogoro to Selous Game ReserveAfter a morning game drive in Mikumi National Park we headed towards Selous Game Reserve, which is off the beaten path to say the least. A quick stop in Morogoro for fuel and groceries and then we turned off onto a dirt track. The drive was scenic as it wound through mountains, tropical vegetation and villages, but the road was terrible! It was rough and at times quite muddy, yet the trucks and minibuses still travel a million miles an hour along it. Around lunchtime we arrived at Mikuyuni Village which is a small village with shops lining the side of the steeply inclined road. There were trucks parked on either side of the road loading and unloading things, some parked on the correct side of the road, others were not. The road was very muddy and slippery and it was pure chaos. We slowly crept forward, weaving between the trucks and people. The truck ahead of us started to slide sideways, in the process collecting the corner of the roof of one of the shops making the whole shop shake and move. The driver and his passenger got out and tried to move the truck, obviously without success. It took ages before anyone else helped them, and there were heaps of people around, yet no one was going anywhere until he made it up the hill. Eventually he made it past the shop but then had to stop again near the top of the hill as another truck was seriously stuck in the mud and pushed against the embankment and wasn’t going anywhere in the near future. So there we sat in the middle of the village with trucks, buses, people, mud and chaos all around us and waited. In true African style, no one could figure out how they were going to manoeuvre around each other whilst avoiding the parked and stuck trucks and make it through the mud. Every gap was instantly filled by a vehicle of some description regardless of whether their movement helped our hindered everyone else. Wayne went to see what was happening at the top and tried to convey to them that some of the buses trying to come down would need to reverse if anyone was ever going to get moving again. After some time they seemed to get the message and eventually the truck in front of us could move a few metres, although not enough to clear a path through. We stayed where we were as we did not fancy having to stop halfway up the muddy hill, and sure enough, a bus coming down the hill pulled into the gap between the truck in front of us and ourselves. Fantastic! Where he thought he was going to go, or what we were going to do is beyond me. He wanted us to move to the side into the really sloshy, sloping mud. Yeah right! We reversed and moved slightly to the other side so he could tackle the mud and we could get past him when eventually the truck in front was able to move. Eventually we made it to the top of the hill and through the village, taking more than an hour to travel probably 200 metres. Such is Africa!

Mikuyuni Village on the road from Morogoro to Selous Game ReserveMikuyuni Village on the road from Morogoro to Selous Game ReserveMikuyuni Village on the road from Morogoro to Selous Game Reserve

Our intention was to camp about 50km outside the park, but when we got there no campsite appeared to be around, so we decided to continue on and try to make the park before closing and camp inside. The gates close at 6pm and we did not make it in time, so we tried to see if we could camp at one of the lodges. I tried to get them to let us camp, but no go. They rung another lodge that is being built, but they wanted $US50 per person to camp! No way! So in the end we had to spend our first night in a lodge, costing us $200 with dinner. Dinner was nice, but we weren’t happy about having to spend $200.

Our plan was to get to the gate in the late morning, camp inside the park and then exit the following morning. Turning up at the gate we found out what the cost was and they confirmed that we would need a ranger to stay with us if we wanted to camp. No problem, let’s get it organised. Once again, in true African style, there was no ranger available so we couldn’t camp. So we couldn’t obey their rule because they could not supply a ranger, but they would not lets us camp without one. Not happy Jan! If we had known that we would have been at the gate at 6.30am and spent the entire day there, now though it was 11am and the day was wasted. Initially they wanted to charge us the full rate for entry and the vehicle, which is about $180, however after some discussion and getting them to agree that our plans were affected as a result of their inability to supply a ranger. we agreed on $50 for the car and they would charge us Tanzanian citizen rates (about $6) and allow us to transit the park (we did not want to have to turn around and tackle that road again!). We did see a few animals along the way, but unfortunately Selous did not quite turn out as expected!

After leaving the park we stayed at Selous River Camp where we met a couple from England and spent some time chatting to them. We took a cruise along the river in the afternoon and saw lots of hippo, birds, a couple of small crocodiles and monitor lizards. During the night there is an elephant that comes and eats near where we were camped and sure enough he turned up and ate just a few metres from where we were sleeping which was pretty cool.

 

Monitor Lizard, SelousWhite-fronted Bee-eater, Selous06250672_resize

Mikumi National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 7:03 pm
Jun 232011
 

We left Ruaha and headed back to Iringa, where we stayed at the Riverside Camp. A number of other travellers also turned up and we spent a nice night gathering information for our onward travels and sharing what we knew. I managed to sleep in until 8am, we had fried eggs on toast for breakfast which made a welcome change to cereal and finally we left about 11am, the latest we have ever started the day.

Tan-Swiss Camp in Mikumi was our stop for the next 2 nights. It is just outside the national park, so is very conveniently located. We spent the afternoon relaxing and ate in their restaurant both nights we were there which is a bit of a treat these days.

The road is now the main road from Dar Es Salaam and it has become crazy. There aren’t nearly as many people on the road, but there are loads of suicidal buses and trucks. The number of trucks that have crashed off the road into the ditch or rolled is incredible. There must be so many drivers killed. We try to stay away from them as much as possible and always assume they are not going to do the most logical thing that you’d think they would. Apparently the road has become the main road for goods into Zambia as the railway is no longer running, as well as a major route into Malawi and across to the Congo.

The main road transits through Mikumi National Park, so you can see wildlife along the side of the road. We saw giraffe, impala and baboons just on the side of the road. When we were in Etosha we thought there were a lot of giraffes, but it was nothing compared to how many we saw in Mikumi. There were groups of 30 odd all moving along together, which was an awesome sight. We saw a group of 4 lions lazing in the morning and then we saw, we think, the same group again in the afternoon except there were actually 5 of them and we parked about 3 metres from them and watched them for a while hoping they would get up and move. As we were driving along one of the roads in the thick bush out popped a Serval, then a couple of hundred metres further on another one appeared and then I think a third one crossed the road a short time later. That is the first time we have seen them, and given they are nocturnal and this was at lunchtime we were pretty impressed! Our wildlife sightings also included a huge herd of buffalo, warthogs, impala, an eland, loads of zebra, baboons, jackals, elephants, a bushbuck and hippos.

Mikumi National ParkImpala, Mikumi National ParkWildebeest, Mikumi National Park

Whilst in the park we took some of the less travelled roads. One of them though was a bit of a disaster. Firstly the road started to fall away at the sides due to erosion until there was no longer physically enough room for our tyres to fit so we had to reverse out of there and bypass it. Then the road  started to become more overgrown when I told Wayne there was a huge hole on the left, to which he replied ”is it a wheel rut”.”Yes but it is huge” was my reply, next second our wheels were in it, the car was on a huge sideways tilt with the right wheels barely touching the ground and we were stuck! I had to climb out the driver’s door as I could not open mine, the track was only as wide as the car and there was thick grass taller than the car on either side. By now I was having a slight panic attack as being stuck in a national park, in thick grass when you know there are lions and elephants around is not the most enjoyable experience. We both looked at the car and thought we were going to be there for ages. I tried standing on the right side of the car to get traction on the wheels, but that was no good. We swapped and I got in the driver’s seat and Wayne went to the passenger’s side and using the roof rack (which was below his shoulder height now) he pushed the car over and the wheels got enough traction to get us out – thank goodness! It probably only took us 5 minutes and we were both VERY relieved to be out. We continued on a bit further but the road got worse and then there was a river crossing that had just crumbled and we decided to turn around. Wayne got out and guided me backwards for some distance until I could finally do a 500 million point turn and get the car facing in the right direction and we eventually made it back onto the main drag.

Mikumi National ParkLion, Mikumi National ParkBuffalo, Mikumi National Park

Our last night at Tan-Swiss there was one other person camping, a single guy on a motorbike. He was lighting a fire and was using petrol to do so. The jerry can was standing beside the fire and next thing a spark landed on the still open jerry can, which then exploded. The guy tried to move the jerry can and in doing so got quite a nasty burn on his hand. The fire was now all along the ground heading for some outdoor furniture so he came and grabbed our fire extinguisher to put it out (Wayne was on the roof of the car undoing the tent so had to tell him where to find it). I missed it all though as I was in the loo, I just heard the commotion outside. We got talking to him after dinner and he told us that the police had come through earlier and told him not to worry, they were just going to fire some bullets into the bush as there was a thief in there! He was a very interesting guy as he was a documentary maker who had been up in the Sudan, Ethiopia region for some time filming the wars going on. Some of the stories he told were fascinating yet horrendous. No wonder he had had enough and was heading back to South Africa and getting away from the war.

Iringa & Ruaha National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 7:09 pm
Jun 212011
 

Before leaving Iringa for the National Park we desperately needed to stock up on things. Following the directions given to us at Kisolanza Farm, we found the Iringa Service Station just before the turn off to Iringa, which sells things from the dairy and the bakery. We bought a fresh loaf of bread for the first time in ages, and I visited the dairy just behind the service station (although you can buy things in the service station) and bought FRESH milk and yoghurt. We have not had fresh milk for weeks and weeks, and if you know me you would know that I love my milk. The milk is absolutely delicious!

Next stop was the fruit and vegetable market next to the police station. I have never been so excited by vegetable shopping in my life! The market was FULL of wonderful fresh vegetables, and when you have not been able to buy much at all for weeks it was heaven! The locals were all very friendly and did not hassle you at all, and on top of it they were not trying to pull “white person” prices. For the grand total of $5.20 I bought: a kilo of potatoes, a kilo of rice, an avocado, 2 capsicums, 2 garlic bulbs, 1/2 kilo of tomatoes, 1/2 kilo of onions, a huge handful of chillies, 1/2 kilo of fresh shelled peas, and a large head of broccoli (and the broccoli was $2 of the $5.20). A definite bargain if you ask me!

After a quick trip to a supermarket, where I could finally buy some cheese (another thing I have been trying to buy for weeks), we headed out to Ruaha National Park. The road is OK but not terrific, passing through numerous villages. We saw our first Masai men along the way. When you get closer to the park you will get to a junction where both ways go to the park. We took the left fork, but the road got worse. (On the way back we took the right road, and apart from an initial part which is badly corrugated, the road is much smoother dirt, does not go through any villages and you will not see another person or car the whole way).

Ruaha National ParkArriving at the park gate we went to pay our fees. A simple exercise you would think. First option I tried was to pay in Tanzania Shillings – how stupid of me to assume they would take their own currency?? Next we tried US dollars as that is what they quote their prices in. No they couldn’t possibly accept cash, we must pay with a credit card. As I did not want to use our credit card I told them we didn’t have one and after much discussion he agreed to accept cash if I signed in blood and wrote a letter saying I did not know I had to pay by credit card and I wouldn’t do it again. (Oh and whilst they wouldn’t take payment in shillings, if I paid in $US then the change would be in shillings – only in Africa!)

Finally we made it inside the park. The animals at the moment tend to congregate around the river which is about an hour or so from the gate. We saw heaps of elephants in the river in the afternoon, along with the usual hippos. This morning we saw 5 lions just walking along, which we followed for some time and then another lion lazing in the sun. There was also a giraffe that had been killed the day before (we met some people who saw it and said there were 28 lions feeding on it) that was covered in vultures. Our animal sightings also included giraffes, warthog, kudu, impalas, baboons, zebra, a dik-dik, and a black-backed jackal. The park is quite scenic and there were lots of animals.

Ruaha National ParkRuaha National ParkRuaha National ParkBaboons, Ruaha National ParkVultures on a giraffe kill, Ruaha National ParkRuaha National Park

Our original plan was to stay at Chogela Camp outside of the park, but as it was 25 minutes to the gate and then another hour or so to the river, we decided it was better to spend the $US60 and stay in the park itself rather than going out and coming back in again this morning (park entry is a 24 hour period). The camp is in a great spot, literally on the riverbank, but the facilities are typically basic with cold showers and flush toilets that are cleaner than usual but were still in need of attention. During the night I was woken up by a splashing in the river and when we looked outside there was a hippo eating and sloshing in the mud very close to our tent which was pretty cool.

Ruaha National ParkVultures on a giraffe kill, Ruaha National ParkRuaha National ParkRuaha National ParkImpala, Ruaha National Park

Our campfire cooking skills have definitely improved and we had a most delicious dinner of barbecued sirloin steak with roasted baby potatoes and onions with garlic and rosemary and fresh peas. Excellent!

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