Tarangire National Park

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:08 pm
Jul 072011
 

Tarangire National ParkWe left Marangu without seeing Mt Kilimanjaro, maybe we will see it from Kenya. Our original plan was to visit Arusha National Park and then spend a couple of nights in Arusha. When we arrived at Arusha National Park their EFTPOS machine was not working, which meant we could not pay with our debit or credit cards as they had no manual method to do so. The only way to pay was with $US and as our $US is our visa, crater and emergency money, we decided that this was not an emergency and instead we would head to Tarangire National Park. So after a quick stop for lunch, groceries, money and fuel in Arusha we headed to Tarangire.

Tarangire National Park was not originally on our plan, but we were both very glad we visited as it was fantastic. The park has heaps of animals at this time of year and a variety of landscapes to make it interesting. We camped 2 nights inside the park and heard lions, wildebeest, impala and ostriches. A couple of dik-diks came right into camp and around camp we could see wildebeest, impala, zebra and giraffe.

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There were thousands of wildebeest and zebra and hundreds of elephants. Our animal sightings included lions (about 15), cheetahs, grants gazelles, impalas, warthogs, giraffes, buffalos, black-backed jackal, baboons, ostriches, waterbucks, bushbuck, elands, banded mongoose, dik-diks, a leopard tortoise and heaps of birds.

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Tarangire National ParkOne of the highlights was watching some elephants. We could see a large group heading for the water so we parked our car in their path and waited. They marched down the hill with their ears flapping and bodies swaying, looking like an army going into battle, stopping about 100 metres from us whilst they checked us out. After determining we were no threat they continued on with half of them going around the front of our car and half behind. We could have just about reached out and touched them – very cool. There were about 30 of  them in the herd, including some babies, and we watched them as they drank and played in the mud, having them all to ourselves. We also watched a few groups of elephants as they dug with their trunks in the sand of the dry riverbed to get to the water.

 

Tarangire National ParkTarangire National ParkTarangire National Park

The only negative thing about the park is that there are heaps of tsetse files, although not in the camping area. I have been bitten 3 times by them now, and each time I get a hot, swollen lump 2 days after they bite me. On my ankle they made my whole ankle sore and on my elbow it made my whole arm ache, so I’m not a huge fan of them. Wayne though has no reaction whatsoever except for the little sting when they bite you – definitely not fair, especially as I had long sleeves, long pants, shoes and socks on and they still managed to get me!

At this time of year Tarangire is definitely worth visiting and in our opinion is far better than Lake Manyara which is also close by.

Usambara Mountains

 Posted by Elizabeth at 8:14 pm
Jul 052011
 

We left the coast and headed inland towards the Usambara Mountains and hopefully some relief from the humidity. For the most part the drive was pretty uneventful, passing through villages and most of the journey was on tar. Not long before we turned off to start the climb to Irente we were pulled over by a police officer – Wayne’s first speeding fine. It had to happen at some point during our trip! He was speeding, doing 52 in a 30 zone, but at least the officer was pleasant and polite, we were provided with a receipt, it was all above board and the fine is only 20000 Tsh (about $12). The ludicrous thing though is that they were raking in the money positioned where they were, yet no one seems to worry about the suicidal truck and bus drivers, the unroadworthy vehicles that are everywhere or the 30 people jammed into the back of a ute or hanging out the windows of the overloaded minibuses.

View from our campsite, Irente Cliff View Lodge, Usambara MountainsSo that experience over with, we headed up the mountains to Irente. The road is very scenic, winding its way through the mountains and through the villages. Once again we were glad we had our GPS as the road to the Irente viewpoint was somewhat rough and vague. We stopped off on the way at Irente Farm where we purchased some cheese and passionfruit jam, although the jam fell out of the car when we next stopped and broke so we never got to try it. They also offer camping but did not have the views. Right at the viewpoint we camped at the Irente Cliff Lodge where we parked our car on the edge of the cliff with magnificent views across the valley. There were super hot showers and the staff were friendly.

James from the hotel took us for a walk through the village and to Making sugar cane beer, Irentevarious viewpoints. Everyone was extremely friendly, welcoming us and saying hello. The village clings to the mountainside, burying itself amongst the dense tropical vegetation. There are pathways going off in all directions that somehow seem to connect with each other if you know the way. They make the local beer out of sugar cane and we watched as they demonstrated how they squeeze the juice out of the sugar cane using a manual press. The sugar cane is then left for a week to ferment and then it is ready to drink. The sugar cane juice was sweet, but not as sweet as either of us expected and the beer was a bit like a wine.

Irente, Usambara MountainsIrente, Usambara Mountains

Usambara MountainsToday we definitely took the roads less travelled from Irente, through the Usambara Mountains via Mtae and eventually arriving in Marangu. At times the road was hardly more than a walking track, barely wide enough for the car and clinging to the steep mountainsides. I doubt many cars travel most of the roads we ventured on and who knows when the last one went through! (The Usambara Mountainspicture at left is the road, not a path and the one at right is actually part of the road as you come down the mountain). As we get further north, our Tracks 4 Africa on the GPS has less roads on it, so there are times like today where you arrive at an intersection with 2 or 3 options but the GPS only shows 1 road. Twice we chose the wrong option and had to turn around on a very narrow road, retrace our steps and head on the other road. Especially along these roads, the children in particular were frightened by our car, dashing out of the way and clinging to the embankment.

Usambara MountainsThe drive was slow but definitely worth it. We travelled through lush tropical vegetation with magnificent views, travelling from one village to the next. I am glad though that we did our 4wd course as there is no way we would have been confident to venture along some of the roads otherwise. At times it felt like we were in the wild west, just add a couple of cowboys and horses and you could be on aUsambara Mountains movie set. In typical Tanzanian style, every possible inch that could be was cultivated and put to good use. The mountainsides were covered in terraced gardens, the riverbeds were a patchwork of various crops all making a very picturesque landscape. As usual, everyone stared at us as we passed by, the kids waving and cheering, even the adults would wave back to us or sometimes initiate a wave. I am quite sure they do not see a lot of cars, let alone one with 2 mzungus in it, they probably thought we were quite mad!

Usambara MountainsUsambara MountainsUsambara Mountains

Coffee Tree Camp, MaurangaWe are now at Coffee Tree Camp in Marungu, which is right at the base of Mt Kilimanjaro. It is pretty cold as we are quite high however we are yet to see the mountain as it is covered in cloud as usual. Hopefully in the morning it might lift a bit. The camp is very nice with lush green grass and piping hot showers (thank goodness – it is way too cold for cold showers).

Pangani

 Posted by Elizabeth at 7:37 pm
Jul 032011
 

Leaving Bagomoyo we headed further north along the coast to Pangani where we spent 2 nights at the Peponi Beach Resort. It is hard to believe it is the middle of winter as it was so humid and hot there.

Peponi Beach Resort, PanganiOur campsite was literally on the beach – we were about 5 metres from the water at high tide and thankfully the sea breeze blew through our tent to cool things down at night. There are really hot, clean showers and a restaurant that serves nice, cheap meals. We had a seafood platter for 2 for 28000 Tsh ($19) which included a whole lobster, fish, prawns, calamari, octopus, salad and chips.

We also did a snorkelling trip in their dhow for $12 each. The dhow took us to two snorkelling sites and then to a sand island, that disappears at high tide, for lunch. The snorkelling was pretty good, although some of the reef has died, but the water was warm and clear and it was an excellent day.

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Bagomoyo

 Posted by Elizabeth at 6:11 pm
Jul 012011
 

Before we left the civilisation of Dar Es Salaam we had a few errands to complete. First on the list was to fill our gas bottles which we had not been able to fill since Maun in Botswana. Tracks 4 Africa had a place on it called “Chiku’s Gas Refills of All Major” in the middle of the city, so we headed for there. They were able to fill the bottles for us but it would take an hour so we left the bottles and headed for the book store. (For other travellers, they could fill Cadac gas but could not fill Oryx bottles even though they seemed to sell them). We found a book that covered the animals of East Africa, another success. On the footpath just down from the gas place there were a number of fruit and vegetable sellers so more shopping to be done. One seller had most of the things we needed so I asked him how much his carrots were. His first price was way too expensive so I told him I would not pay Mzungu (white person) prices only Mafrica prices and that I knew how much things cost. He had a bit of a chuckle and we agreed on half his original price and form then on his prices were reasonable. For $5 I bought a kilo each of carrots, onions, tomatoes, potatoes and zucchini (the zucchini though I think was too expensive from another seller but they were fresh and we had not had any for ages). The fruit and vegetables from the roadside sellers are definitely much fresher and cheaper than the supermarkets. Shoprite was our last stop for a final stock up before leaving the city.

Bagomoyo is only a short drive from Dar Es Salaam so it was a pretty easy day. Just south of Bagomoyo are the Kaole Ruins. The ruins consist of a number of graves, a mosque and the site of an old port which is now just mangroves. The ruins at Kilwa are far more impressive and extensive than the Kaole ones, although if you are heading that way they are worth a quick visit.

Kaole Ruins, BagomayoKaole Ruins, BagomayoKaole Ruins, Bagomayo

BagomayoWe drove through the old town which has a number of carved doors like the ones in Stone Town in Zanzibar. There is also a large German Boma or administration offices which is currently under restoration. The village itself is a small fishing village. The Catholic Mission has a museum which is worth having a look through. It provides some history on Bagomoyo such as when it was a major trading port of things such as ivory and slaves; when it was the capital of German East Africa; its role in early exploration, including the port that Livingstone’s body was brought to before being shipped to England; and some tribal history.

Our campsite was at the Travellers Lodge. The lodge itself is quite pleasant with a bar and restaurant and large grassy area to camp on, however at $US12 per person a night surely they could provide more than a dribble of cold water in the shower and some hooks to hang your clothes on? At least the showers and toilets were clean. It was Friday night and I think we had loud music coming from at least 3 different places as we went to bed. Luckily I was really tired so the noise didn’t really bother me. We were both woken at 4.30am though by the call to prayer from the mosque, something I don’t think I will ever get used to even if we do manage to go back to sleep.

BagomayoBagomayo

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.

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