To Zambia

 Posted by Elizabeth at 2:18 pm
Aug 192011

As we were no longer going to Uganda and Rwanda we needed to get to Zambia and continue on from where we would have been. That meant we had 3 long days of driving and 2 border crossings ahead of us. We left Tiwi Beach and headed for the Kenya/Tanzania border, crossing quickly and without any hassles.

Back in Tanzania the road instantly turned to dirt, the first part of which was OK, getting a bit worse as you got closer to Tanga, taking about 90 minutes from the border to Tanga. From Tanga on it was good tar. We managed to make it to Mikumi and stopped over once again at Tan Swiss knowing we could eat in their restaurant.

From Mikumi we headed for Mbeya. Once again we encountered the Tanzanian police. We were pulled over by a very arrogant officer who advised us we were doing 52km/h in a 50 zone. There was no way – we had just come to a complete stop behind a turning truck and our car will not get to 52 in 150 metres! We told him that the speed on his radar was not from our car (and as if their guns are calibrated well enough to pick you up 2 km over the limit). He then tried to tell Wayne it was an offence to drive in bare feet – yeah right. Wayne just kept telling him he was not paying a fine. Wayne had to get out to go and talk to him and after about 5 minutes the guy told him that if it was not the speed of our car to leave, so of course we did! We spent the night about 20km south of Mbeya at the ICC Mission for about $6. They will let you park on the grass and give you a room key for the shower and toilet.

From Mbeya we headed for the Zambian border. Once again the police were out in force. This time we were doing 67 in a 50 zone. Wayne kept asking where the 50km sign was as there was none. There was one arrogant officer again who just kept telling him he had to pay a fine and another reasonable guy who Wayne spoke to. Eventually Wayne was told that every village is a 50km zone whether there is a sign or not – makes it pretty hard when there are houses almost the entire length of the road to the border. Do we do 50km/h the whole way just in case? As it turned out we didn’t have 20,000 Tsh for the fine anyway as we spent the last of our money on diesel. Once we explained this we were given the option of paying without a receipt, surprise surprise. In the end we gave them 10,000 Tsh as we wanted to get going as we had a long day ahead of us. It is so frustrating though when you see so many unroadworthy vehicles being driven at ridiculous speeds. No one wears a seatbelt, half their lights don’t work, nobody obeys road markings or signs, yet it is more important to raise money by sitting with a radar than it is to make the roads safe. Oh well, this is Africa!

Next was the most confusing border crossing we have encountered yet. Leaving Tanzania was fine, but getting into Zambia was ridiculous. It went something like this:

  • Complete Tanzania departure form and get exit stamp in passport
  • Go to Tanzania customs office, find the guy in his office as there is no one at the counter and get him to complete our carnet.
  • Leave Tanzania and drive to Zambian side.
  • Go to immigration, complete entry form and pay $US50 each for a visa. All straightforward.
  • Now the fun part with the car begins.
  • Go to the exit gate and have the carnet completed but not stamped ((imagine completing it AND stamping it at the same place!)
  • Walk back to the building beside immigration and find the office where the guy will ask you to hand him the stamp (as he is so busy) so he can stamp the carnet. Tear off the slip yourself and hand it back to him.
  • Go to another office beside immigration (all of which are unmarked) and fight your way to the front of the 30 odd truck drivers that are also waiting in there, to be told he is busy counting up yesterday’s money and to come back when he is finished.
  • Go back when he has finished, hand over carnet and be told you need to pay 200,000 Kw for carbon tax and it has to be paid in Zambia Kwatcha which we have none of. 
  • Find a moneychanger and argue about the exchange rate as they try to rip you off (the few other times we have changed money at a border the rate has been more than fair and we have not had to bargain with them). Finally get them to agree to a fair rate and change money.
  • Return with the kwatcha and pay the carbon tax. You will be provided a receipt and your carnet returned.
  • Try and find the office (a shipping container past immigration) in order to pay road tax $US30 (which had to be paid in $US). Once again fight your way to the front of the queue, which is worse than the other queue. You must know which border you are leaving Zambia from as it is recorded on the receipt. Get your receipt.
  • After about 2 hours of running around you finally drive to the exit gate where they will check your receipts and carnet.
  • Finally you are in Zambia!

The first part of the road south is a mixture of good tar where you can do 100km/h but with huge potholes and road edges crumbling away thrown in just to make it interesting. There are heaps of trucks, once again travelling at speed, so it is a road requiring concentration, lots of braking and swerving around holes. Needless to say we saw several truck accidents along the way.

Kapishya Hot SpringsBy mid afternoon we reached Kapishya Hot Springs where we are staying for 2 nights. It is a lovely campsite beside the river as well as having a crystal clear 40C hot spring that has no sulphur in it. We even washed our hair in it this morning. They have excellent, really hot showers, flush loos and heaps of free firewood.

Having made it to Zambia we are now back into our more leisurely mode of travel thank goodness!

To the Kenyan Coast

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:03 pm
Aug 152011

Finally we left Nairobi for the last time and headed for the coast. We had originally planned to try and make the coast the same day, however we left Nairobi later than expected, so instead we stopped at the Red Elephant Safari Lodge at Voi on the edge of Tsavo National Park. It is a lodge that allows campers in a spot near the pool, supplying a room key for the shower and toilet. It was a pleasant enough spot to stop over for the night and as a bonus we spent some time sitting at the national park fence and managed to see some waterbuck, giraffe, zebra, elephant and impala without having to pay a national park fee.

Gede RuinsLeaving Voi we headed for Mombasa and then up the north coast to the Gede Ruins. The ruins are from the Arab trading days with a palace, mosques and houses. Only the bottom parts of the walls are left in most places but it is an interesting place to have a wander through if you are passing by. From there we headed to Malindi where we were hoping to spend the night, unfortunately though all the campsites have been replaced by more lucrative hotels. Instead we headed back south, through Mombasa and down to Tiwi Beach where we spent the next 3 nights at Twiga Lodge. Our campsite was literally on the edge of the beach with some trees to provide shade. The locals come by each day allowing you to buy fruit, veges, fish, prawns, newspapers and the usual tourist things such as sarongs, baskets and necklaces, they did not hassle you though and moved on if you told them no thank you. We bought some fruit and one guy went and got a fresh loaf of bread for us for very little extra than we would have paid anyway. The camp has a restaurant with cheap meals and drinks. The showers are cold, but it was warm enough that they weren’t an issue. All in all it was a very relaxing and pleasant place to stay and an absolute bargain at only $US3 each per day.

Twiga Lodge, Tiwi BeachTwiga Lodge, Tiwi Beach

Nairobi …..again

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:42 pm
Aug 112011

Once again we are back in Nairobi and Jungle Junction and once again we have the pleasure of visiting Toyota. We arrived on our appointment day to be told they had it booked in for the day before – they had failed to update the appointment when we rang them before we left for Egypt to change the day. Finally they agreed to look at it today. When you book your car in they just do not want to hear what is wrong with it no matter how hard you try to tell them, so we proceeded to tell them the issues we were having (no power, heaps of smoke etc) to be told they could not look at the fuel system. What???? This is Toyota, the car is a Toyota, but they can’t look at the fuel system???? Maybe if it was the gearbox and required a specialist, but the fuel system? They told us we would need to go across the road to another place, so not impressed we took the car across the road and thankfully were met by people who were incredibly helpful, understood that we needed our car back today and said it should only take a few hours. They could do our service as well. Thank goodness! They even fixed our external light for us which had decided to stop working. It only cost $120 for them to fix the problem with the injectors and service it (we did supply parts), a definite bargain compared to home.

So finally our car is happy again and we don’t have to worry that we won’t make it up a hill. We are heading off to Mombasa and the coast tomorrow and finally leaving Nairobi for the last time.

Aberdare National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 7:20 pm
Jul 292011

Aberdare National ParkWe were undecided whether to head to Lake Nakuru (knowing it would cost us at least $210) and was quite a drive from Samburu, or head towards Lake Naivasha, knowing we needed to be back in Nairobi by midday Saturday.  In the end we changed our mind completely and ended up at Aberdare National Park for the night and then headed to Lake Naivasha the next day.Eastern black-and-white colobus, Aberdare National Park

Aberdare National Park is a stark contrast to the parks we have been in recently. It is quite mountainous and covered in thick, lush vegetation, making animal spotting pretty difficult. In fact, the only way you really see any of them is if they run out on the road in front of you seeing as open areas are few and far between. Whilst we didn’t see too many animals, it was a pleasant change and we still managed to see buffalo, heaps of warthogs, bushbuck, defassa waterbuck, baboons, giant forest hog, elephants and black-and-white faced colobus monkeys. The elephants are pretty amazing as they climb the steep mountainsides eating the whole time. I’m not sure how they manage to keep their balance.

We headed across through the park and down to Lake Naivasha where we spent the afternoon relaxing.

Buffalo, Aberdare National ParkBushbuck, Aberdare National ParkGiant Forest Hog, Aberdare National Park

Our car has decided to become very sick. It is struggling to make it up even the smallest hill and will not rev past 2000 revs no matter how hard you try, making the hills on the way to Samburu and through Aberdare quite a slow, tedious journey. It is blowing white smoke when climbing the hills and has no power whatsoever, not that it had a lot in the beginning. It is again booked in at Toyota in Nairobi for some TLC and hopefully a full recovery!

Samburu National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:33 pm
Jul 272011

Samburu National ParkAfter spending yet another couple of nights at Jungle Junction in Nairobi, and meeting up again with Jean and Malcolm who were still there awaiting their departure north, we decided to head north to Samburu National Park. The park is definitely worth the visit due to the different animals you will see there, but the entry fees are ridiculous. It cost us $US70 per person, yet if we were a non resident on an organised tour then it would only be $US40 – how does that logic work?? We tried to get them to only charge us the tour rate but needless to say we weren’t successful. At least this time the car was only 300Ksh ($3).

We had not decided if we would camp or not, and seeing as it was our wedding anniversary we decided to check out a couple of the lodges. The first wanted $US560 for a tent in the dirt and wouldn’t budge. We then tried Samburu Lodge who originally wanted $US440 but we ended up paying $US286 after pleading poor and telling them it was our anniversary. We had a lovely large banda with a fantastic hot shower with full water pressure, the food was plentiful and quite nice and the lodge itself was pleasant – they even feed the crocodiles right next to the bar each night. Our park fees only allowed us to stay until 5pm so mid afternoon we thought we had better check out where we were going to stay as it was too far to drive anywhere else. We negotiated at the park gate to let us go out and check out a community camp a couple of kilometres away and then either come back in and stay until 6.30pm, or, if we stayed in the park again, to only charge us $70 rather than the full rate as we needed to leave first thing in the morning to get to our next destination. The community camp was OK, but I didn’t feel quite comfortable enough as we were about as far north in Kenya as you can go and still be “safe” and the camp was pretty much in the village. We decided to head back to Samburu Lodge and see what deal we could strike. They offered the same rate as the previous night so we took it. Long story, but we ended up with a smaller, although still nice room, we had no water in the shower either at night or again in the morning (they did try to fix it and the whole camp had an issue) and then in the morning when we tried to collect our lunch boxes we were told they would be 40 minutes but we had to be out of the park by 9am and did not have time to wait. Not happy! The manager was quite understanding though and tried to appease us. In the end we paid less than the local rate – $US150 which was pretty good.

Beisa Oryx, Samburu National ParkSamburu National ParkReticulated giraffes, Samburu National Park

Leopard, Samburu National ParkSamburu had some new animals for us, namely the Gerenuk, Grevy’s Zebra, Reticulated Giraffe and the Beisa Oryx which made it worth the trip. We also saw elephants, lions, dik-diks, impala, buffalo, baboons, vervet monkeys, hare, crocodiles, black-backed jackal, mongooses, waterbucks, warthogs, grant’s gazelles, squirrels and a leopard tortoise. The highlight though was finding a leopard sitting on a fallen tree trunk about 10 metres from the road, elevated just above the bushes with no branches or leaves obstructing him AND we had him all to ourselves for about 10 minutes. A tour van then turned up, sent out the call on the radio and within minutes every vehicle in the park was crowded around him stuck in a traffic jam on a track that was only wide enough for one vehicle at a time. Needless to say we moved off shortly after they arrived and had the rest of the park to ourselves.

Leopard, Samburu National ParkReticulated giraffes, Samburu National ParkSamburu National ParkGerenuk, Samburu National Park

Grevy's zebra, Samburu National ParkVulturine guineafowl, Samburu National ParkSamburu National Park

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