Travel Through Tanzania on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Tanzania on a Harley (3/11/00 - 10/11/00)
Distance 655 km (206690 km to 207355 km)

This is part of the Seventh section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from  Zambia or read our previous visit to Tanzania
 

4/11/00 We had taken a first class cabin, two bunks, basin, table and wardrobe, quite comfortable. The motorcycle was on deck but unfortunately not tied down well and with the rolling boat it lifted off the stand with the brake lever hitting the gunwale and breaking. Still usable but shorter. At the first Tanzanian port waited hundreds of tons of ECHO food aid, maize, for Burundi refugees just north of Kigoma. They loaded a couple of hundred tons of bagged maize using about 40 locals and the ships crane over the next five hours before departing to stop many times during the night at small villages. Boats would come out from the shore with passengers, maize, cotton or dried cassava to be loaded and taken to Kigoma for sale. Our boat travelled surprisingly quickly between stops hugging the Tanzanian coastline and dodging many islands. During the day more stops collected chickens, more maize and passengers, and still more passengers till the boat was teeming. Mangoes or bananas could be bought from small boats as well as meat, fish and even apples. At larger stops scuffles and boat collisions occurred as operators vied for departing passengers. Some how someone kept track of tickets and cargo loadings.

5/11/00 The wind had died, the lake smooth and you could see thunderhead storms forming over the Congo mountains on the far shore. We ate in the dining room, fish and rice, chicken andLoading bags of grain for Burundi rice, beef and rice, the three varieties. However deck class passengers bought from the local boats, the same but at a fraction the price, also fried dough balls or mandazi. We finally arrived in Kigoma around noon and after the departure turmoil of bodies and baggage they craned the motorcycle to an old barge and I needed to ride it up one gangplank and then another to get to terrafirma. All the remaining produce was unloaded by hand and carried up the same gangplanks. The cost, $US 50.00 each for the cabin, well worth it, and another $US 50.00 for the motorcycle. A great trip and a way to see the workings of every day life on the lake without imposing or interfering with the people.

6/11/00 Well customs was closed (Sunday) so we needed to report this morning and with a heavy thunderstorm and changing money at the bank we stayed another day in Kigoma. We could have left town without any paperwork for the motorcycle, thus importing it without any duties. The bank rate was good and we decided to change $US 1000.00 travellers chequesMV Liemba taking on food aid destined for Burundi into cash. This required changing to Tanzanian shillings first then to $US with a loss of 2.5%, which is pretty good and we are running short of cash. But there seem to be few fixed rules in Africa. Yes it is legal to do the change. Yes the bank has the US money but it required an interview with the manager, questions on what we wanted the money for and ultimately the threat of a report on the inconvenience by us to his head office before he agreed to change the money.

7/11/00 Headed out of town with a slight detour to where Stanley met Livingstone with the words "Dr Livingstone I presume?" then 10 hours to travel the 265 km to Kibondo over an atrocious road, particularly as the wet arrived a week ago. One bus travels the route each day, but they backed up to three a few days ago with the passengers sleeping roadside and the buses stuck in the mud till it dried. We were lucky experiencing only one thunderstorm which briefly turned the fertile red volcanic soils into sticky mudLoading and unloading passengers where there is no wharf where we could hardly stand up, the tyres were clogged and we dropped the motorcycle three times. But within half and hour the soil had absorbed the water and traction had returned. Great gouges had been cut by bogged trucks with stones and trees littering the road in a futile attempt to extricate them. A road difficult in the dry, almost impossible in the wet.

8/11/00 Time and distance have no meaning here because the road seems to absorb vehicles, either because of rain or breakdowns. How long is a piece of string you may as well ask when enquiring the time it will take to the next town. Most people have never travelled that far anyway, or they did it on a bus without a speedometer and who cares anyway as they don't have a watch and why hurry through to tomorrow which may not come. To Bukoba on Lake Victoria, 325 km with the first 140 km good dirt. Of course this is all relative to the time of riding and what you have just experienced. Roads are repaired/rebuilt and then no maintenance done for years until it isBusy street scene, wooden scooters, bicycles and walkers almost impossible to travel, when again it may be totally rebuilt if there are funds or a charity or they voted for the right politician. The remaining 185 km was reasonable 30-40 km per hour bouncy, single track, sand clay and rock, where we were unlucky enough to catch rain. The road stayed firm for 20 km by which time the clay had lost all grip and on a slight banked corner the rear drifted and we ended up in the mud on the soft edge of the road. Soon after we dropped the motorcycle again at about 30 km /hr uncontrollably into a soft embankment with both of us being catapulted into the mud and the motorcycle lying on its side buried into the embankment. Unlike falling into sand where you can wash off much of the speed before falling, in the mud you can't brake or steer and must either drop the bike or head in the direction it wants, to keep upright. With road tyres full of clay this is the worst riding we have encountered, more slippery than the ice in Turkey. The rain cleared and we proceeded much slower, falling twice more before clearing the clay section.Slippery red clay after a thunderstorm Despite the rain/road this is some of the best scenery in Africa. Following a ridge between Lake Victoria and a watershed escarpment where bananas shade coffee plants and maize and beans grow beneath both, such is the high fertility of the soils. To look over the islands and still waters of Lake Victoria from above, reinvigorated us after the rains. We finally arrived covered in dried mud to strange looks from hotel reception.

9/11/00 The population density has increased, the people changed and we are a novelty in a more outgoing society again. To ride down a road invites whistles, cheering, arm waving and people with their flycatchers open. To get petrol almost closes the station as it is flooded by onlookers, not that other motorists mind as they are looking also. Our only respite from constant attention is the seclusion of our hotel room or its courtyard. It is here that we can recover in peace from days like yesterday.Luckily the soils will drain quickly, after a short wait Our hotel is an upmarket (for Tanzanian remote areas) place, attracting partners for pleasure, with a large box of condoms available for use in all rooms, a bar and a restaurant. Some of the staff may also be available for pleasure and there is a notice in the room for and extra charge for cleaning any soiled sheets or mattress. We wandered the lake foreshores past fishing boats and fishermen using a bamboo pole line and hook to catch the smaller fish. Past the port and fish drying areas surrounded by small stall sellers.

10/11/00 Kampala, 150 km of dirt with more mud from overnight and yesterday's thunderstorms and 150 km of sealed road at last. The border crossing easy with paperwork done on the Tanzianian side 20 km before the border.
 

Move with us to Uganda or go to our next visit to Tanzania
 

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