Tanzania, a tough road

You may remember that Poppy turned up a day late, due to a critical job interview, and then her bag turned up two days later. This meant that a run to Kigali in Rwanda was going to be a push and there were no reasonable airports in between to change the plan. As I was doing my normal forward research I found reports that the recent rains had devastated Western Tanzania, a good portion of the road was dirt road not tar, and even on the main highway a significant road bridge at Sitalike was down requiring a 200km detour on dirt roads through the national park. I started to get a bit worried…
We saw a big change from Malawi to Tanzania, fields were better organised and initially roads were better with fewer potholes. On our first day the vice president was visiting, this meant we were forced off the road into a verge for 45min so that his motorcade could pass at 140km unimpeded. Of course this meant that everyone who had been stacked up in the side roads for an hour all piled back onto the main road at once, chaos ensued in all directions and it took about an hour to cover the remaining 8km to the “peace of mind” hotel in Mbeya with our two medics hitchhikers very grateful to get out of the back of the truck.
Western Tanzania is not developed, and very not developed for tourism, this means that we wild camp off the main road for two nights in a row, driving 350km plus per day often on rough dirt roads leaves both of us very brown and very tired, but we make progress, Poppy by now confidently ducking potholes or running along mud ridges on the dirt road very confidently swearing under her breath as we take another hit or diagonally cross another deep trench the water has cut in the road. Never the less we did spot quite a few hippos and alligators as we traversed the National Park
We do manage to reach the lakeside of Lake Tanganyika at Kigoma for an indulgent lunch before the big push to the border of Rwanda, this road had been reported to be very difficult a few months earlier but we caught a break, after about 50k of rough dirt road we popped on to a brand new tar highway and made really great time all the way into Rwanda.
Commentary on the photos below, by the end Poppy was very dusty, very tired, and very experienced in handling the truck is really adverse conditions, but it was for sure an adventure…
The chaos of the border, Poppy does a good job of squeezing Nelson through gridlocked trucks with me walking in front to clear the way
In Tanzania the cultivation is well organised, we see rice paddies, banana and coffee plantations
Western Tanzania is not well developed and is very poor, but the low population and the gentle hills make for a scenic drive
The military force us off the road as the presidential motorcade is coming through, after 45 min they roar past at high speed
Once the motorcade has passed all the traffic is released from the side roads all at once, complete chaos results with trucks, tuctucs and motorbikes all engaged in African wacky races, single lanes become three across, verges are used, contact driving is the norm
Finally we make it to the courtyard of the “peace of mind” hotel in Mbeya, a little safe sanctuary, the boom box music only lasts until 9pm much to our relief
The damage the rains have done in Katavi NP is substantial, the bridge on the main highway was swept away so all the traffic was coming down this type of road
After our first day on the dust roads everything including us is covered with a thin layer of brown dust, Poppy has just wiped her face and is horrified
In the park we see hippos and big alligators from the bridges on the road
First wild camp, we use low ratio 4WD to tuck the car out of sight of the road up a little hill, the population is low here and the few people that see us leave us in peace
Back on the roads there are some remaining water crossings but they are not significant, a few weeks before one of our contacts was stuck for three hours here as a bus and a truck sunk in and blocked the road
Poppy is getting good at handling Nelson off road, she drives this bit of bouncy rough road building her confidence in the trucks capabilities
The second wild camp was lovely, just off the road but well hidden, a herd of cows with really big horns passed by without herders but banging a few pots deterred them, we are digging into our reserves of food as there are no easy places to shop for supplies just little village shops
We make it to the shore of Lake Tanganyika for a lovely lunch,
On the last day we head into the dirt road to the border of Rwanda, we need to cover 370km at this point we are doing 20km per hour at maximum concentration
Trucks coming the other way exercise “might is right” rules, we pull in to let them past, with their additional passengers on top
Suddenly with 200km to go we pop up an embankment onto a shiny new tar road which has just been completed
Poppy is becoming more confident, I am keeping a close eye on her from the car as she buys supplies in a little village
At the end of our mad dash through Tanzania poppy is dusty and exhausted, but it has been a real adventure, which showered and rested she tells me she has enjoyed….

About Gerry Mulligan

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