21 – 30 December 2009 Dar es Salam – Livingstone

After we left Makindi Beach, we felt the need for a decent night’s rest with no sand in the bed, no mossies feeding off us and above all – air conditioning, so avoiding the presidential palace, we headed for the comfort of the Southern Sun hotel for one night.

The following morning, heading out of the city, we were flagged down by a policewoman who kissed JCs hand whilst wishing him Happy New Year and holding the other hand out for a “Christmas Gift”. For the princely sum of $1 she warned us of the radar controls on the road ahead.

We saw a truck with a live goat tied to the top – he must be going to be away for Christmas.  Along the road JC did some bartering, getting 12 bottles of water for one pound fifty, a large rush mat for one pound seventy five – the poor guy only wanted four and it must have taken his wife ages to make and three large pineapples for only a pound – I’ll have to watch him in Tesco’s when we get back – it could get a bit embarrassing if he tries to barter there!

We made our way to Pangani and the Peponi Beach resort – www.peponiresort.com.   Rob and Anna and Roland and Tamara were already there.  We arrived quite late and had to get the tent up as darkness fell.  Always his mother’s son, JC had been thinking of a creative way to get air in but still keep the mossies out.  The fixed nets in the tent are quite thick and don’t let a lot of air in. So in the dark, using a head torch and a great deal of ingenuity to fix them we finally got our separate lightweight impregnated mosquito nets fastened to the inner frame of the tent enabling us to open all flaps.  Did a great job of keeping off the mossies but the temperature and the humidity still stopped us sleeping.

Howevere, it was great to see the others again. Peponi Beach Resort is a fantastic place and it was full.  There were 70 of us sharing the Christmas Eve buffet.  With Christmas music playing and decorations hanging up it was almost like home, that is except for the turkey, the log fire, old friends, family and of course champagne!!!  A good time was had by all.


Christmas Eve 2009..........................     Anna and Rob getting romantic.....     well if they can so can we.......             JC and Rob..................

Our young friends invited us to a fish barbecue on Christmas Day – we all shared in the preparation which seemed to take forever – bit like being at home – then we enjoyed a piece of Christmas Cake baked by CMC and carried 10,000 miles from Routh – very tasty.  With small Christmas reminders from home and greetings from family and friends we had a good day.


Christmas Day at Peponi ..       Thanks for the memories from home....    JC cuts open his present from Rob & Anna - any clues Kaye????


Roland and our lunch...        Peponi in the early morning.....             Our neighbour decided to pass on the hot tent........

We decided to leave the others to the beach and on Boxing Day we headed South looking for some cooler weather in the mountains.  Big thanks to all who shared in our Christmas and especially to Anna, Rob, Roland, Tamara, Quintin, Julie and our hosts Dennis and Jane at Peponi – we hope that our paths will cross again sometime in the future!

As you know, whilst I have been looking for the BIG 5, JC has been playing “spot the Scania”, especially the ones that still have the UK company names on them.  You can therefore imagine his absolute delight when he spotted a BLUE & YELLOW truck in the distance – could it be a Coxy’s motor????  Yes it was – L10TJH no logos but still has the extra lights on the cab roof and the bump in the stack done by JD or was it Johnny Sellers?  He said he would have recognised her anywhere and after a quick U turn, raced passed her, flagged the driver down, explained who he was, before posing for photographs!!  I wonder what the driver thought when he saw the large, grey-haired, grinning white man flagging him down!!  What a turn up for the books that was.


Could it be a Coxy??????????                                            Meet the "new" Coxy's men..................

JC was on a high, that is until about an hour later when a policeman flagged us down, asked us for our first aid kit, fire extinguisher, warning triangle etc and when we produced them all he simply asked us for money.  Himself was becoming increasingly annoyed, especially when he refused our first offer.  It ended up costing us $10 for absolutely nothing – a donation to the Police Christmas fund and a wish for a safe journey.  We had the last laugh though because, as he gleefully took the money and handed us back our documents, he inadvertently handed over his police notebook at the same time which we drove off with and JC slung in a bush a couple of kms later!!  Sounds petty but it really does get on your nerves.  I think it is worse here than it was in South America. 

Things went downhill again when the back end started knocking.  Turned out that we had lost a bolt from one of the shock absorbers and we had to get something done quickly before it got worse.  With no fancy Toyota garages or even an ordinary workshop around, we were wondering where to go when old eagle eyes spotted a couple of trucks with their bodies tipped up, surrounded by some open 20ft boxes in the middle of a sea of mud.  He drove straight in – the boxes were in fact small workshops and within minutes we had a new bolt, other shocks checked, paid five pounds and were on our way!!

However, the day got better and as we drove alongside of Mikumi National Park we finally saw elephants, zebras and some sort of gazelle – wonderful.  The elephants crossed the road just in front of us and amazing sight – beats cattle, sheep or camels any day!  Meanwhile, whilst I was photographing the animals, JC as usual was carefully watching the road, especially the huge speed bumps put in to slow people down and avoid accidents with the wildlife.  Like I said they were HUGE and at one of them someone else had obviously lost the washers from his shock absorbers so – yes you guessed it – JC jumped out and put them in the back of the vehicle “just in case”.


Could we finally see something.......                            Yes! ..........................................


and more...................................................................................................................

That night we stayed at Tan Swiss Motel www.tan-swiss.com – great place – we camped for just $5 per head, were given a room to shower in when we arrived and the friendly staff produced a good dinner including real Swiss style Roesti! 

After an early morning downpour, we packed up, had breakfast and headed off into the misty Udzungwa Mountains, hoping to see more animals.  No such luck!  We drove in rain most of the day passing throught the small villages which were quieter than normal, as it was Sunday.  Some people were just going on about their business as usual whilst others in their Sunday best were going to and from church. 

We have decided against going to Malawi to visit the Lake for two reasons.  Neither of us are snorkelers which is the main activity at the lake and the due the road to the famous North and South Luanga National Parks are often impassable in this the rainy season with many of the lodges simply closing down between November and February.  So we had taken the Northern route into Zambia hoping to reach Livingstone and Victoria Falls for New Years Eve – three days of long driving. 


It's gonna rain.............................................................................................................

Our first overnight stop was in Mbeya, where we drove around trying to find Karibuni Camp – we went through a truck stop several times into dodgy looking back streets and, when we finally found it, decided it was definitely not for us – the street outside was full of rubbish and there were several shady looking characters all to happy to show us the way in!!  Instead we were welcomed in at the Mbeya Golden City Hotel www.mbeyagoldencityhotel.com, where for a very reasonable rate we had a great room with a huge shower, secure parking, breakfast and even a computer with good, free internet access. 

The weather was definitely getting cooler and in the morning it was only 17C.  As we headed for the border with Zambia – Gloria threw a wobbler and the nav had to get back to work again – she has had too much time gazing out of the window!!

Anyone following us – a few tips on this border crossing at Tunduma:

Make sure that you fill up with fuel there is not fuel on the road between Tunduma and Mpika.

Visa cost $50 per person – must be paid in dollars.

Road Tax $30 – must be paid in dollars.

Carbon Tax 200,000ZKS = $43 approx but can only be paid in ZKS.

There is an exchange office where you will get a good rate and be sure that you get legal currency.  There are many money changers around at both sides of the border and lots of fake notes changing hands – this is obvious by them offering you rates over and above the daily bank rate – don’t be fooled or intimidated – they will all crowd around you at the same time. 

It was quite an easy border – took us about an hour.  One of the main bonuses was the beautiful customs lady.  JC had the whole place in uproar when he told her that she was the “prettiest customs person he had ever seen”!!  It was the only time he had ever seen a customs person smile so broadly in all his life.

Once through the border there is a Barclays Bank with ATM on the left hand side.

In Zambia, distances between major towns are huge, although there is little traffic on the roads, there is a lack of fuel and when we asked a friendly police officer what the road would be like to Lusaka he showed us a stretch on the map of over 400kms which he described as “desperate”.  He wasn’t wrong, although it is a tar road, most of it is covered in very deep potholes and you have to pick your way through the best way you can – glad JC was driving and not me.  Some children along the way were trying to earn money from passing vehicles by filling in the holes, but it was a thankless job really, no one was stopping for them and once the rain came down their hard work was all washed away.  Despite the lack of traffic, there were still youngsters just sitting at the side of the road trying to sell the usual mangoes, potatoes and tomatoes but along here they were also selling GIANT mushrooms.  We decided that if they were edible you could feed at least two with just one of them but, if they were “Magic Mushrooms,” the trip could last forever!!


The "desperate road".......................................................                            From giant mushrooms to charcoal - you can get is all along the road......

When learned that Hull City had lost to Manchester United as we filled up with diesel.  Everyone over here seems to be a Manchester United supporter so they had a good laugh at us!!  Shortly after becoming a millionaire – I drew 1,000,000ZKS from an ATM – about $145!! We had the policeman’s pantomime again – it doesn’t seem to change whichever African country you are in.  When, as usual, all was in order with our vehicle and documents, is one asked us for “A Souvenir from England” . When we gave him a 50p piece and told him it was worth at least a tenner we realized that what he was really looking for was a Souvenir from the USA – its easier to change dollars!!!

We had gained an hour in the time difference when we entered Zambia so decided to carry on for a couple of hours more before stopping for the night, when we came upon a young brother and sister whose vehicle had broken down – fan belt problem.  They had slept the previous night in the car and finally managed to get a replacement belt but were having problems with their limited tools.  With JC and his toolkit we managed to get them started and with their engine running we were on our way again.  However, this had put us behind schedule for our overnight stop and we were running in the dark peering into the night looking for potholes or somewhere to stay.  Ahead of us we saw a scattering of small buildings and another police check!! Preparing ourselves to refuse yet another request for a Christmas Gift we saw that alongside the barrier was obviously a stopover place for trucks.  We asked the police if we could camp there and after some discussion they parked us where they could keep an eye on us.  As they stood around watching in amazement as we erected the tent, they promised us that they would be there all night and would ensure we were safe.  We have, however, learned here that it is rare to get anything for free and when the more senior policeman took an obvious fancy to JC’s head torch we knew that would be our “camping fee” for the night!!

The small restaurant and bar was filled with men playing pool, the music blared out and a group of women and children waited patiently to sell their tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms and onions to passing truckers or overland buses.   We tried the bar but no beer and we weren’t adventurous enough to try the food which looked like some kind of fried insect but we invited the owner back to “our place” for a cold beer.  He was very happy to chat and wanted to know all about our trip – I guess it’s not often that he gets “guests” from England on his forecourt with police protection!!! The check point was fairly busy and as we chatted first came the Zambian Vice President with his “heavy mob” speeding through with all lights flashing then we saw the young pair we had helped earlier – they had made it and were very pleased to see us and thank us properly.


We didn't stay here.......  but we had police protection here.................             Giving a little helping hand along the way..........

We finally turned in for the night, weary after 700kms driving and slept, despite, the music blaring, the trucks revving up, the overnight buses pulling in, the constant chatter of the veggie sellers and the freight trains passing so close to us we sometimes felt that they were coming right through the tent.  Some of you will wonder why on earth we do this kind of thing and put ourselves into these situations. Sometimes I do wonder that too but if I had flown in on an aeroplane, been chauffeured to my safari lodge, gone on safari, seen the Big 5 and then reversed the process, would I truly have experienced Africa or would I have ever met some of the simple, kind people who were so pleased to meet us that night.

Filling up with fuel the next morning we got tied up with the VP and his convoy again.  Sadly for us they had got to the filling station just minutes before us so we had to wait whilst they had priority and keep our cameras well hidden!!

There are fewer people per sq km in Zambia than in any other African country, so we had expected that we would be safe from prying eyes when we stopped for breakfast in a lay by.  From nowhere, through the tall grass came four small boys.  They simply sat about 10 metres away from us and watched.  It must have been strange for them to see any vehicle, but to see one that opens up and you fill the kettle from a tap and then boil it one the stove on the back door seemed to have them totally gobsmacked!!  I offered them some bread and honey, they didn’t speak, simply cupped their hands together and smiled at me in acceptance.  As we packed up they disappeared into the bush as quickly as they had arrived. With large scale unemployment, the HIV pandemic and an average life expectancy of on thirty three years, I wonder what will become of these children.

Further South on the road we experienced the first large scale farming that we have seen since leaving Kenya and many more white Zambians.

Gloria was definitely not working properly and although we had not problem with the route, the biggest benefit of the GPS and Tracks 4 Africa were the hotel and fuel listings.  We were struggling again to find some accommodation either inside or outside of the small towns so JC decided we would “jab on” to Livingstone.  We did 900kms, the majority of it on good tar but the last 25 kms on another rubbish Zambian road with many diversions, getting us into Livingston at 9pm, where we quickly found an hotel, a beer and, exhausted, fell into bed.

That was enough of the long driving days for a while.  JC is in his element as you know but it’s no good for me, I like to be doing things – so after checking out of our small hotel, we went in search of better lodgings for the New Year Celebrations and to visit yet another thing on my “bucket list” – Victoria Falls.

When Livingstone first saw the falls, in 1855, he wrote in his journal “ on sights as beautiful as this, angels in their flight must have gazed”.  He wasn’t wrong – it was absolutely breathtaking even in what the locals tell us is a “dry” time apparently.  We stood in awe as the “Smoke that Thunders”, as the locals know it, roared over the top and erupted from the gorge below us.  As we crossed the bridge to get closer to the Zimbabwe side, the noise was deafening and we were glad of our water proof clothing and strong boots on the slippery footpaths.  Another great day!


Around the "Smoke that Thunders"....................................................................



The bridge across to Zimbabwe.....             Dr Livingstone I presume!!!!!!

We found a hotel on the way back and are now looking forward to a three day rest from the road.  Toyota has been at CHHANA SERVICE STATION for most the afternoon for engine oil and filter change and a good check over. They have done an excellent job getting her ready for the rest of the trip, she’s running like a dream – JCs words not mine!  I know it is hard to keep JC away from her but the huge swimming pool with the swim up bar might be a bit of a help.

Sorry not so many pictures – we know you like them,  but its a long long road to here from Pangani – almost 3000 kms  with not a lot of change in the scenery along the way!

There’s a special party here on New Year’s Eve – but you will have to wait for the next update to read about that. Looks like there’s plenty of FIZZ here Karen!!