Putt.. Putt… Putting North

Heading North from Dar, the PPE made light work of the well travelled and nicely tarred Dar-Arusha road. Although we had planned on staying further up the Swahili coast at Pangani, we settled on Lushoto, in the Usambara Mountains and were met with sparklingly cool mountain breezes. Not since Swakopmund, on Africa’s West coast had we experienced sub 25 degree temperatures… it was a spectacular change.

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After a visit to the local children’s orphanage and some relaxing mountain walks, we got word of a great little camp site to the North-West at Lake Chala, straddling the Kenyan / Tanzanian border.

Keen to avoid the heavily trafficked border post outside Arusha, we beelined for the small camp. At Chala we were met with a magnificent crater-lake, whose azure waters contrasted stunningly with the dry African savannah surrounding it. Unfortunately, the return of the African heat and insatiable fly population forced our hand, and we pushed on the following day.

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The border post at Holili was just a 5km drive from the turn off to Chala, but word on the street was that a luxuriously tarred road and new border post had recently opened that would cut driving time to Nairobi down to 5hrs. Juxtaposed against a notoriously rough road connecting Holili to the Nairobi-Mombasa highway, we opted for the more luxurious and direct affair, and quickly found ourselves at the small Tarakea border town.

We breezed through immigration with the usual formalities. However, just as we were making our escape, we were accosted by a local customs official who appeared upset that we had neglected to visit his office on our way to the Kenyan border. He revealed that Tanzanian vehicles leaving the country were compelled to leave their original registration papers at the border, and demanded we comply.

Having explained that we had travelled across Southern Africa without ever having to do so, I quickly objected, reasoning that retrieving our proof of ownership of the Purple People Eater at a remote border post 2 months later would be a bad idea. After heated exchanges and a lot of waiting (usually a good strategy when dealing with local bureaucrats), our good friend called the local police mama. Understanding completely our predicament of re-entering Tanzania via a different border, she showed some sympathy, yet concluded that ‘procedures must be followed’ with a shake of the head in a matter-of-fact way.

Meanwhile, the good customs official sensed a possibility that the police mama may in fact be allowing us to pass, undermining his authority. Fearing the worst, he retreated to his office and returned, brandishing a glimmering, never before used, steel chain, and proceeded to secure it to the border gate. His determination that we would not pass was infallible. The gaggle of numerous locals who had turned up to pass judgement on the situation giggled at the customs ‘babu,’ infuriating him further. He resolutely pad-locked the gate. We would not be passing through Tarakea today.

Left with no other option, Christine and I resolved to drive the 80km back to Lake Chala to try the Holili border post. Low and behold, we passed in a blink of an eye, and were subsequently met with over 100km of close to the worst driving conditions we have seen this trip.

Road to Voi.. much worse than it appears!

Road to Voi.. much worse than it appears

Arriving eventually at the town of Voi, we stayed at the luxurious Voi Wildlife Camp bordering East Tsavo national park. We were greeted instantly by the famed ‘red elephants’ (Tsavo elephants use the red mud to protect their skin from parasites) over some sundowners, albeit some distance away. They returned during our dinner, appearing out of nowhere just over Christine’s shoulder. As we feasted on our buffet dinner, a herd of greedy elephants playfully quenched their thirsts at their local watering hole just metres away.

Voi Wildlife Camp Watering Hole

Voi Wildlife Camp Watering Hole

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Red Elephant Drinks

A magnificent end to a rough, rough day!

– Eugene

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A month in Dar.. and counting..

We made a hurried return back to Dar just in time for Christmas.. and lo and behold.. we’re still here. What was meant to be a week in town catching up with friends turned into six. Nevertheless – Christine and I are planning our escape for the end of this week.. and who knows – we might even make it.

Here are a few highlights from our prolonged stay in what has become a running contender for ‘home’:

#1 Alfred and Noodles

Alfred and Noodles

Please love us!

Sim and Carrie were heading up to Turkey and Sudan for a few weeks and, well, wouldn’t we think about house sitting until their return?  After 3 months in our roof tent, we revelled in the luxuries of a solid roof over our heads. We knew it would be difficult leaving so soon, and with this little duo needing a bit of company, we hastily obliged.

#2 Wang Fu Noodles

Delicious!

Delicious Christmas dinner

After weeks of camp cooking, our favourite restaurant in Dar did not disappoint. Yes, we’ve been back more than a few times.

#3 ‘This is Africa’ moments

Self service fuel

Self service fuel

More so than any other place we’ve yet visited, Darwin Award moments are everyday occurrences in Dar es Salaam. We were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic one afternoon, and there appeared a come-one-come-all petrol freebie from this Lake Oil Tanker, with double-bagged plastic bags the container of choice.

#4 Mafia Island

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Whale Shark

Our prolonged stay in Tanzania meant we were just in time for a team trip to Mafia Island. We flew in on a 13-seater Cessna with Leigh, Drew, Jacie, and Dan, to find both an open air terminal and the height of whale shark season awaiting us. Neither would disappoint. After countless trips scouring South East Asia and the East African coast for the majestic whale sharks, we finally, finally, enjoyed a dip with these incredible creatures.

Shy at first, they would quickly dive into deeper water when confronted by the gaggle of arms and legs flailing in front of them. But soon enough, they became comfortable enough for us to approach. It was a special moment to swim side by side the 10m long giants, as they grazed on the abundant plankton. We were awestruck by their languid motion and the ecosystems of marine life travelling alongside. And just when it was time to leave, we found ourselves cornered, encircled by a group of 6 whale sharks as they fed. After this author was dunked unceremoniously underwater by a ‘loved one’ in her vain attempts to dodge oncoming sharks a few too many times, we escaped with our lives, wide eared grins all round.

Mafia Island!

Mafia Airport… in its entirety

Time to hit the road!

– Eugene