April 29, 2011 GMT
Year 2_Week 8 – 9

April 19th: We seem to have broken Robert’s GPS completely (who’d have thought a piece of marine-standard equipment wouldn’t have liked being washed!), so it was good that Sheila had a back-up one, even though she had no idea how to use it. Fortunately it was a straight road out of Nairobi (Kenya) and into Tanzania.

The border crossing took a couple of hours and we had to buy insurance for the next few countries, so that used up the last of our dollars which may prove to be a worry. We’ve been trying to buy dollars in various countries since we entered Africa, but no bank will sell them to us, I don’t know why. The border crossings are always asking for payment in US dollars, so we really could do with having some.

The Aussie couple had introduced us (via email) to a lady who runs a safari company, and who also had agreed that we could leave our bikes in the safe confines of a school grounds. We arrived at St Jude’s in Arusha and were introduced to lots of the English and Aussie staff and volunteers there – a lovely bunch of people. (www.schoolofstjudes.co.tz)

April 20th: Our safari guide, Peter, turned up in guess what – a Toyota Land Cruiser! We headed off to Tarangire National Park, and were just overwhelmed with the place – giraffe, elephant, warthog, waterbuck, impala, baboons, zebra, and to top it all, Robert, the great white hunter, spotted a lioness. We were just speechless – it was such an odd feeling being yards from all this wildlife, and no safety barriers. Our night-time accommodation was a budget lodge on a campsite so we were in the lap of luxury, with hot running water and good food.

April 21st: Up early and a short journey to the Ngorongoro Crater. The wildlife is mostly stuck in the volcanic crater so it’s all very easy to spot stuff. We saw zebra, buffalo, elephant, wildebeest (yes, herds of them, sweeping majestically), hyena, hippo, ostrich, black rhino and incredibly 2 cheetah and a pride of lions. Nothing can prepare you for seeing these creatures up close – it’s just an amazing feeling, I have no suitable adjectives to describe it.


How cool is she?

April 22nd: Another short journey to Lake Manyare National Park and the last day of our safari. Loads of elephant, giraffe, monkeys and baboons and Robert spotted a cobra. As we drove back to St Jude’s, we were just in awe of what we had seen in these last three days.

We never thought we’d be able to afford a safari, and never thought we’d be able to do one on this trip, because of being on the bikes. I believe bikes are only allowed in certain National Parks, otherwise you’re known as ‘lunch’. But thanks to Gemma and safaris-r-us, we got an incredibly good deal with an amazingly knowledgeable guide and we had yet another sensational experience.

April 23rd: We should have been able to see Mount Kilimanjaro today, but the rain and low cloud conspired against us, so that was a little bit disappointing. But we knew it was there, and knew we’d been past it. We didn’t have our Goretex inners in our riding kit, so after a particularly harsh downpour we rode for a while with damp underwear, until the heat dried everything out. We had planned to try and miss most of the worst of the rainy seasons, but we were forced to get caught sooner or later. The roads in Tanzania are pretty good, but as always full of people but at least they keep their livestock under control here.

April 24th: We had to drive through a National Park today as the road went through it – what a bizarre feeling having to wait for the baboons to cross before you could continue! There were elephants as well, but fortunately not too near the road – wouldn’t fancy explaining that one to the insurance company!
There seems to be less livestock here, and more cultivation – loads of sunflower, maize and sugar cane fields. As I said before, it’s certainly greener than I thought it would be – at some points, you could quite easily be in England.


England or Africa?

The car drivers tend to be a bit clumsy though – we’ve seen loads of accidents where two vehicles have collided head-on on a straight bit of road, or just run off the road altogether. And the trucks and tankers are even worse. And every little incline has a broken-down truck part way up it – usually with a brick behind each wheel, propping up the brakes. There’s no wonder there’s so many accidents – I’m guessing there’s no MOT here.

April 26th: Set off from Uyole at 08:30 only for Robert to realize he’d got a puncture in his front tyre. We pumped it up and set off again, but on the entrance and exit to every village there are a series of about 5 road-humps to negotiate. These were enough to demonstrate that the tyre had gone down again, so we stopped at a small tyre workshop in one of the villages and tried to explain that we needed to swap the inner-tube – we carried a spare so just needed his compressor and to get the bike off the road. The guy was delighted to help and we ended up with quite a crowd round Robert as he worked. He sorted that out, and the guy repaired the punctured tube for us, for a small fee. So we then set off for the border to Malawi. This counts as our best crossing ever – 15 minutes to get out of Tanzania, and 15 minutes to get into Malawi. And no visa fee.


Lovely Lake Malawi

We found a campsite near Chitumba which had everything we needed – food, beer and a lakeside view of Lake Malawi. We probably could have done without the bilharzia and the mosquitos, but you have to take the rough with the smooth. As is often the case in this trip there was nowhere to get cash, so although we would have liked to stay at the camp for a couple of days, we had to move on to find an ATM. We had already used up what little cash we had, and we needed to fill up the bikes.

April 27th: Found another campsite by the lake, further south. And had also found an ATM, so we decided to stay an extra day and do some maintenance on both us and the bikes. We don’t seem to have relaxed since Khartoum – we always seem to be doing stuff. So Sheila took the opportunity to burn nicely in the sun.

Posted by Sheila Oldfield at April 29, 2011 08:07 PM GMT

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