TANZANIA 2016 & 2010
BORDER MALAWI TO DAR ES SALAAM
Our last 4 days in Malawi we spend at Chitimba Camp before crossing into Tanzania 125Km North. The landscape changed and once we crossed the border into Tanzania so did the scenery to coffee, banana, tobacco and rubber plantations. The roads are poor, the traffic horrendous with bus and truck drivers having a death wish and we are sure none of them have children as they do not seem to care about them when speeding through small villages.
Overtaking in curves is normal. Tanzanian roads have two lanes, one for the left side and one for the right side going in either direction, but they seem to be lacking two very important things: the proper rules and etiquette of driving on those roads. At any given moment, you could be driving on what you thought was your side of the road when all of a sudden trucks or busses are flying towards you and you have to either quickly switch lanes, hit the brakes or get off the road so you don’t smack head on. On our drive to Dar Es Salaam we witnessed at least 40 accidents many serious and fatal. Road blocks are numerous, no idea what police achieves except collecting bribes from overloaded and mechanical unsound trucks, busses and their drivers. There are 4 weigh bridges enroute to Dar Es Salaam but most trucks are well and truly overloaded. Bribes and corruption at the road blocks and weighbridges results in very poor road surfaces. Tanzania and Kenya have after China and India the highest fatalities per 10000 vehicles in the world. In particular Truck and Bus drivers seem to live for the moment. They are not future orientated people. They give no thought for their own lives much less other people. They are a wholly selfish and self-centred people. On the way to Dar Es Salaam we planned to visit Mikumi National park and Ruaha National park. But due to time frame and very high cost entering the parks we decided to stay just outside the park. In our case both parks would have cost us 420USD per day to visit and stay overnight!! Cost made up as follows: 300USD for the Truck, 60USD entrance fee for 2 and 60USD camping for 2. As foreigners we could only pay in US currency. We decided to stay at Farmhouse (50km south of Iringa and Tan Swiss) in Mikumi village and paid just 10000 shilling ($7.00AUD) or 5 Euro. (Support the locals) The main road (free) crosses Mikumi and wild dogs, elephants, giraffe, kudu, zebra and many other animals roam the side of the road.
Once we entered Dar Es Salaam it was 4 hours and 40 minutes (for 14km) to arrive at Kipepeo Beach resort. The condition of the roads in commercial and residential areas are very poor, not paved and not maintained. We worked out what the word Dar Es Salaam must mean TRAFIC JAM?? In Swahili. We spend a few days on the beach cleaning up the truck, getting our paperwork in order and fly back home to Australia. We parked our truck and hope it will be still there upon our return. In the mean time we have arrived home and looking forward to our return to Tanzania to continue our around the world adventure end of June.
DAR ES SALAAM TO LAKE TANGANYIKA
Travelling around Northern Tanzania we are getting a little fed up with the exorbitant fees we are being charged due to being a foreign tourist. Our first stop Mount Kilimanjaro. The tallest freestanding mountain in the world and promoted as the roof of Africa. As we bush camped we were told to keep an eye out for leopards and elephants but never saw any. Next Arusha at the foot of Mt Meru, it is also called the safari capital of the Tanzania.
Here we visited the tourism info centre and were advised of the increased cost of the national parks. Hallelujah!! Cost of entering Serengeti or Ngorongoro for a 3-day trip covering both parks (3 days not enough) 1975USD in our truck, (7000KG and over) or 1648USD for a Toyota Landcruiser. New pricing as of July 1, 2016. It had become clear that visiting all the parks was out of the question and other overlanders suggested we move to Kenya as prices were much lower and the Masai Mara is the extension of the Serengeti anyway.
We continued to Panorama campsite just above the cliffs of the Manyara Escarpment, on the edge of the Rift Valley. Lake Manyara National Park is home to the famous tree-climbing lions we are told the only kind of their species in the world. I am told by others this is incorrect? In all the park is very small but teeming with wild life.
Due to this high cost we decided not to visit Lake Tarangire NP as Tarangire is famous for its elephants and leopards. Having seen so many elephants and leopards already we just could not justify the high fees of visiting the park. We moved onto to Karatu and booked into the Kudu Lodge Campsite. A little gem with swimming pool, cosy bar and restaurant and very clean facilities plus WIFI. Quite easy the best campsite in Tanzania so far. It became clear that the cost of visiting Serengeti and Ngorongoro crater for us would be by far too expensive with our own vehicle. Please keep in mind after 12 months of travel we have seen lots and lots of wildlife not just in National Parks but also while bush camping. Instead of driving our own vehicle into the park we decided to hire a vehicle with driver for the day. At a cost of 602USD included in this were entrée fees 140USD, Crater service fee 295USD, fuel and driver plus a lunch box. (Sharing with others would allow you to share the 295 USD Crater fee as this is per vehicle) If you are a Local or East Africa citizen the same would have cost you in your own vehicle (Toyota Landcruiser) 16.50 USD!!! The Ngorongoro crater at 2286 meters is the largest unbroken caldera in the world surrounded by very steep walls rising 600 meters from the crater floor, making it a natural amphitheatre of 19 km in diameter. It is home to around 30000 animals almost 50% being wildebeest and Zebra. The crater has 23 Black rhinos and around 50 lions. Leopards are only seen on the rim of the crater, not in the crater. The scenery is superb, and you are guaranteed to see lions, elephants, wildebeest, zebra, hippo, hyena jackal, ostrich, serval, warthog, bushbuck and hartebeest. At times it seemed the crater floor had more game viewing vehicles than animals. For the money charged, in my book well overrated so overlanders be forewarned have your Animal fix in Southern Africa not in Tanzania! In fact, the wild life in the crater is great but nothing beats the Kruger, Kgalagadi, Chobe and Etosha parks to name a few.
The Serengeti National park is arguably the best know wildlife sanctuary in the world, but it must also be the most expensive to visit we did not visit the park due to the high cost but will visit the Masai Mara what is the extension of the Serengeti.
Enroute to Lake Natron the locals have now set up road blocks and to reach Lake Natron from Mto wa Mbu on around 120KM of poorly maintained roads, the cost for foreigners is now 70USD for 2 people, 2 road blocks are 10USD PP and the last one is just gone up to 15USD. They also tried to get a vehicle fee for foreign number plated cars which we refused to pay. I ask the question if this whole exercise was legal and it appears not. But the argument was if the government can charge foreigners why can’t we as we see no money coming back to our village.
LAKE TANGANYIKA to KENYA BORDER
We have now arrived at Lake Tanganyika in the far west and remote part of Tanzania. 333 km of terrible corrugated roads took us 3 days to arrive but the scenery was superb and travelling off the beaten track seeing real Tanzanian life was worth every bump and hole we fell into. It had to happen: we got a flat tyre. 700KM of rotten roads or no roads, corrugations, rocks, sticks, river crossings and an average speed of just 24KM per hour. Not that easy to change a 130KG tyre and rim. We spent 5 days south of Kigoma on the shore of Lake Tanganyika, the longest and second deepest ,1450 meters deep, (after Lake Baikal in Siberia) fresh water lake in the world. With more than 300 different species living in the lake many are frequently seen worldwide in-home aquariums. Hippo’s and crocodiles are abound, and the bird life is varied. In all a perfect bit of R&R and great way to meet the real locals. Many of the people speak Bantu and trace their origins to areas in the Congo River basin. The lake is bordered by four countries Tanzania, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Burundi, and Zambia, with Tanzania and DRC possessing most of the lake. The water flows into the Congo River system and ultimately into the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Tanganyika accounts for 18% of the world’s available fresh water. The wildebeest migration seems to have come close to the Kenya border hence time to move back north. Next stop Lake Victoria and the Mwanza Yacht club campground. Perfect place right on Lake Victoria and well-priced. Also, the place to repair the tyre. Lake Victoria’s fishing industries and the agricultural land around its shores have made the area an economic centre of Tanzania. Although fishing is a traditional mainstay of the region, coffee and cotton production are increasing the economic importance of the area. Trade with neighbouring Uganda to the east and Kenya to the north means that the ports on Lake Victoria are bustling with growth and economic activity. It was at the Yacht Club that we met up with Vince and Jackie a lovely couple from the UK and we are currently travelling together to the Masai Mara for the Wildebeest Migration.
In short, Tanzania has become very overland and tourist unfriendly, prices and fees to enter National parks have become insane. Campsite are overpriced with nothing to offer. Roads inside the parks are horrendous and not maintained. (where is all this money spend!!!) Ngorongoro Crater is beautiful but at time you will compete more with game vehicles than wildlife. (Just 50 lions in the crater and 10 cheetahs) and at an additional cost of 295USD per vehicle not worth it in my book. The road to Lake Natron now has 3 road blocks (set up by locals) and the cost is 75USD to the lake plus 20USD if your car has a foreign number plate!
Go and visit Botswana, South Africa or Namibia as the wild life experience is much better than in Tanzania and a lot more affordable. Finally, if you really must, visit Kenya which is around 40% cheaper than Tanzania. But you still have the Apartheid issue if you happen to come from outside the East African Countries and pay up to 10 times more. This now appears to snow ball to other countries!
BORDER TO MIKUMI NATIONAL PARK
At our Campsite at 2000 Meters it was pouring rain last night when we arrived and we had to use 4WD to get there. Today we woke up to brilliant sunshine and a clear sky. The landscape changed and once we crossed the border into Tanzania so did the scenery to coffee, banana, tobacco and rubber plantations. Our first stop Mbeya (we needed an ATM to get Tanzanian shillings and we were desperate for fuel) was through a scenic tropical landscape driving at altitudes of up to 2400 meters. We drove past Mount Rungwe, a dormant volcano, which towers 2960 meters above Tukuyu. It only took 10 minutes to get to the first police block, after which we came across a total of 17 for the day! From Mbeya, we followed the Tanzam Highway or as it is also known “THE HELL RUN”. Buses and trucks which over took us must have been doing 140km per hour, while I was struggling at 60-70 km per hour at the maximum.
Despite all the police road blocks, no-one seemed to care about the traffic rules. I think that taking the bus here in Southern Tanzania would be more thrilling than bungy jumping.
The whole day we drove through some of the most beautiful country you can imagine. Most tourists to Tanzania stick to the northern Safari Route (Serengeti-Ngorongoro Crater-Arusha-Mt Kilimanjaro-Zanzibar. To us, the fewer tourists the better and the route we take gives us a much better insight into the real life in a country. We avoid the tourist set-ups like Tjapukai (Australia) or Volendam (Holland). The road surface is tarmac, but it looks like a sandy track as the tar has two-wheel tracks courtesy of the overloaded trucks. This makes driving a challenge. Road works are happening, but no one cares about the red light to stop. (In Africa it is a person with a red or green flag). Once the road is one way, a truck flashes its lights and you had better make sure you get off the road! We were warned about the driving of the truck and bus drivers, but this beats Mozambique and Zambia drivers. By 3pm we had had enough for one day and called in to the Farmhouse and put up camp. The farm grows vegetables, tobacco and flowers (exported to Holland) and they also farm cattle and sheep. The people are Tanzanians and just like everywhere else in Africa, you are made welcome in a very special way. The scenery is stunning; we travelled through Ruaha National park to Udzungwa National park, which is on the western edge of Selous Game reserve. Once you hit the main road the traffic is horrendous. Outright dangerous with busses and trucks driving out of control! There is wildlife everywhere and the monkeys play Russian roulette with cars. Ruaha is Tanzania’s second largest national Park and is named after the river that forms the only source of drinking water in the area. It has a real wilderness feel about it and there are hardly any tourists. Udzungwa has around 50000 Puku antelope, which is around 80% of the world’s antelope population. Late in the afternoon we arrived at our campsite where we met up with Alfredo and Manuela from Italy who are on the way to Mombasa to ship the car back to Italy. We explored through Mikumi National Park. For the cost of 100USD for the car and 20USD per person it was very disappointing and the wild life we saw we could see for around 10USD in South Africa. However, as they say, “If you never never go, you never never know”. We have been warned about the ridiculous prices for tourists in Tanzania so we shouldn`t complain. The villages we passed today were typical African, however since we have been travelling north from Malawi, we have noticed a more Muslim influence. In fact, today we were woken at 4am by the Morning Prayer.
DAR ES SALAAM
Once we arrived in Dar Es Salaam we had to battle the typical African traffic and the last 10km through town took us two hours. Dar Es Salaam is 50% Christian and 50% Muslim and Ramadan started last Saturday so many restaurants are closed during the day. Locals explained to us that Ramadan is a period when people can feel how those poor people, who can`t afford to buy food, feel all year round. Imagine no food and no water from 4am till sunset at around 6.30pm. Once we arrived at the ferry to cross over to the southern beaches, I drove into a one-way street. (Nobody seems to care). But yes, we were stopped by police as we had violated Tanzania`s traffic rules. You are kidding me! I thought to myself. We have just been 2 hours in a traffic jam where people drive over footpaths, completely ignore red lights, drive on the wrong side of the road etc. The police officer said, “The fine is 20,000 shillings”. “But sir, I am a tourist who invests a lot of money in your country and we lost our way.” Then the police officer replied, “Well we could make it 10,000 shillings.” “Sir I am travelling around the world and I have very little money left over.” The police officer looked at me for a moment and then said I would have to wait. “No problem, I have all the time in the world,” I replied. The problem was, we didn`t have all the time in the world and in fact we wanted to get moving so we could cross the river by ferry before dark. A little while later, the police officer came over to me and said he would have to fine me. I asked him if he could look after me and he smiled and said he would give me a warning this time but a fine if he caught me again. I said, “Thank you sir, you have been so kind. “In the meantime, Clary was still stuck in the truck, not knowing what was going on, or if I could leave the police station. Then just as I was leaving, I said, “Oh sir, one more question, could you get me in the queue for the ferry.” He smiled and said yes. This got me to the front of the queue and in no time, we were on the ferry. When we arrived at the campsite, the sun was going down and we found a spot with free internet. (Not before I nearly bogged the truck on the beach). Tomorrow and the next few days we will be trying to get some visas, for Sudan and Syria. The rest of the week will be R&R, embassy visits, organizing a phone card, shopping, plan a car service and book the Ferry to Zanzibar in 2 weeks.
Our vehicle went in service but at 3PM we were told the truck would not be ready at 4pm as promised. It would be ready by tomorrow at 9am. So, we needed to find a hotel. By the time we organized accommodation, organized a taxi to get back to Dar Es Salaam, it was 4pm. Too late for the embassies. So, we relaxed in the bar and enjoyed some luxury. That night, we were invited by the hotel manager to a cocktail party and we met many NGO’s and people out of the banking industry. The hotel manager was aware that we travelled by car and that we were going all the way to Europe and, so we became the point of interest at the party. Anyway, it was a night where we were pampered but as we went to bed we realized that tonight’s experience, as nice as it was, was not the real Tanzania and we will be glad to be back in our Motorhome, hopefully by tomorrow. Staying in town that night allowed us an early morning appointment with Hans Bergwerff at the Dutch Embassy in Dar Es Salaam. We are required to have letters of introduction, verification that our passports are authentic to obtain visas for Sudan-Ethiopia-Saudi Arabia and Syria. What a helpful man. In fact, when he realized that we are driving overland to Europe and that we were going to Zanzibar for a few days, he even offered us the opportunity to leave our Motorhome in a security compound at his house. An offer we gladly accepted. He also organized a trust-worthy driver for us, so we could travel around Dar Es Salaam between the embassies. At 12pm we received the call that the freight forwarder required our Carnet, so we do not have to pay duties for the tyres and shock absorbers. A win! BUT it meant we had to get a cab to the airport (2 hours’ drive in the hectic traffic) for the phenomenal amount of 5 AUD. Petrol is more expensive in Tanzania than Australia, so work that out! The weather is hot and steamy. So, we cancelled our plans again to visit the embassies and got the Carnet delivered instead. From there we went back to the dealer and waited for the truck. Guess what? The Mercedes apprentice used the air gun to do the nuts for the tyres! Yes, you guessed it – he over tightened the nuts and broke a wheel stud. And no wheel stud in Tanzania! Via the Fuso dealer we were told 3 to 4 weeks delivery time. You are kidding me Dar Es Salaam has thousands of Fuso driving around town and no wheel studs! No sir they are all parallel import and we will not service them. Well mate you broke them you fix them! And by now you know the phrase TIA – THIS IS AFRICA. 2 hours later the dealer called me to advise me that the wheel stud is ordered but it will take 3 weeks through the dealer! After being in Africa for 26 weeks we now realize that getting upset does not get you anywhere. As they say in Tanzania: Hakuna Matata (No Worries). In a way, Africa is like dealing with public servants and multinationals in Australia. You must do it yourself and keep laughing so they think you believe them. (Have you heard the saying that we have in Australia? “When public servants die they make sleeping pills out of them”). So, I took matters into my own hands.
Ten minutes later I had organized wheel studs and bolts from South Africa. (Peter Wooley from Ramcom, you are a genius). But even though the dealer broke the studs they needed first approval from around 10 departments to pay for the freight. This time they had to pay and Hakuna Matata did not work. Miraculously they found the wheel studs at a parallel importer. Funny what happens when they must pay! In a few weeks I am told we will do the worst 1500km in Africa! Hence happy the new tyres arrived. We have done 46000 hard km on them and would say we have another 20,000km left on them, but as they say better to be safe than sorry. So, we will use the best as spares and replace all 4 tyres for the second part to Europe. Customs came out to have a look to ensure we used the parts and we replaced the old parts. As all Terrain Warriors did the paperwork and clearly stated replacement parts we did not have to pay any import duties. A quick trip into town is not possible as the 10km trip takes just over 2 hours. Traffic is chaos and you wonder how it is possible with so many police around. No one seems to care, and the footpath, medium strip, and every other bit of surface is being used, resulting in a 2-lane road becoming a 6 or 7 lane road.
And at times we are standing still for 10 minutes due to the roads being completely blocked with cars, trucks and busses on the wrong side of the road trying to find (zig zag) a way through. It is just hilarious. Furthermore, we must compete with horse, cow, donkey carts and pedestrians. The campsite is perfect and from our beach camp you walk straight into the nice blue, warm Indian Ocean. (No crocodiles and no stingers).
We wanted to stay another week, but we are already so far behind and Mombasa is waiting. We have now been in Tanzania for 3 weeks and we have covered just the southern part of Tanzania. In the following few days we will take the Ferry to the Island of Zanzibar.
VISAS IN DAR ES SALAAM
Mr Zappi picked us up at 8.30 this morning and drove us to the 3 embassies that we contacted yesterday. Sudan-Syria-Saudi Arabia. No information was given over the telephone and we had to come out and see the Visa Officer in person. Here is what we required
• Sudan: sign in all details and passport numbers, meet the Visa officer, “Good morning, what can I do for you?” I told him we would like a visa for Sudan. His reply, “Eh, ah, um, yes, once you get to Addis Abeba, you can visit the embassy and you should be able to get one. It should take around 1 to 2 weeks.” “But we were told we could get one here,” I said. “No, you can`t” was his reply.
• Syria: as above but “No you do not need a visa now and you will get a transit visa once you get to the border.” “Are you sure?” I asked. “Yes, we are sure,” said the official.
• Saudi Arabia: as per Sudan, but we are told no transit visas for overland travellers! I told the official that we have heard that people do travel overland. “No sir,” he replied. “This is not correct. You are not allowed in.” I started to challenge him, and he simply said, “Your information is incorrect. You can only fly in.”
Today we are still trying to work out why we had to see the visa officer as this info could have been given over the phone, unless they needed numbers in the visitor`s book.