First new diary for this new website for me. After two years apart Clive and I are back together again. He arrived back in Norfolk not long before the plum harvest. It has been a very busy plum harvest this year after two years of really bad harvests so that was good. It began late and believe it or not is still ongoing as I leave to go on this , our latest motorcycling adventure. The idea was conceived around Clive’s earlier bookings of “houseswaps” in Africa with his place in Portugal. Not all could fit in with me and the plums so we have ended up with a week in someone’s house in Zanzibar. That is our first destination after leaving Cape Town.We hope to reach there in early November.
The bikes began their journey by sea about a month ago on a container vessel.This time round Clive is on a Honda TransAlp and I am on a BMW F650 GS.They have arrived…yesterday. Clive too has departed already to Cape Town via Dubai to see his son and I set off tonight having hopefully tied up a multitude of loose ends here.
Getting the carnet this time round was a far more difficult job than 6 years ago. The carnet is the passport for the bike and is issued by the RAC. Whilst before one nice man had it all under control, this time two people made a mess of it and it cost twice as much. In the end we got there.
I have forgotten what I put in the panniers that went with the bikes and am hoping that I have remembered all the right things. I have one hour before being taken to King’s Lynn station .
If you wish to track progress in a few days here is the link. Should be up and running after the weekend.
Oct 3rd .
We arrived at about teatime last night at lovely Anna and Paul’s who live in Oranjezicht in Cape Town. I was pretty tired, but due to Clive arranging an upgrade to business class on the flight from Dubai ,was less tired than I might have been ! I have never flown business class before. No more to be said!!
Today it has been all out to get the bikes from the agent. First to get the necessary cash to pay…far more than I had imagined ..so trips to cash machine. It was all very efficient as long as we had the money.! Finally got to the warehouse with about an hour and a half to go before closing. Before getting in to the5 warehouse we were stopped (in our taxi van) at the gate. I was in the back of the van whilst Clive and driver were in the front. I had no seat so was sprawled sideways. All apparently had to blow into an alcohol detector before entering. Did not want drunken people on the premises. They did not notice me in the back…in a sober state however!! Inside we had to put on luminous jackets .Once we were with our bikes and the man wanted to go we could take the luminous jackets off! Battery to connect, screen on and mirrors. Find tools, pannier contents all over the place but manage to get the bikes…in good order ,out of their containers and back together with 3 mins to go. Get petrol and off back to Anna’s. Now to relax! Tomorrow to re pack and a bit of exploring. Anna and Paul being fantastic.
Oct 5th Sat
I am sure we will be making comparisons with our visit 6 years ago! Been back to the waterfront shopping centre , looked at the new world cup stadium from afar, and went to the Biscuit factory where they have a food market every Saturday. Whilst you can buy raw food, a lot were ready meal stalls. You could buy bits of food and drink and then sit at communal trestles and tables eating and drinking what you had bought. All very relaxed and fun. We sampled some lovely bits and pieces including tuna biltong.
Anna has driven us around and we have also made our own motorbike shopping trips. At last found a groundsheet for our camping nights.
Tomorrow we set off…hopefully at 9am. We have repacked panniers etc after the shipping and think we are ready. Weather not that great so I have bought another warmish top. Wind is blowing strongly.
Anna and Paul have been very hospitable. Anna ccoking marvellously.Tonight we go out to Panama Jacks in the docks near the Royal yacht club. Its a good spot that has not changed in an old shack. Plenty of wine flows but we went via taxi so all good on that front. Clive does however have one of his moody moments which spoils things.
Oct 6th Sun
Ready to go and off we do by 9am. Clive still moody. But sun is shining and we leave town heading north on the Namibia highway heading for Springbok a long way away. At first its barley, cows and vines in a gently rolling countryside. Then the hills become more and finally all looks rather like a hamada in Morocco. Here though its spring and many bushes have flowers. Pretty. Find good lunch stop off the rather boring main road. Some Afrikaans invited us to sit at their table. Clive still very moody. His mood had not been helped by me wanting to see a town. The main road was by passing everything. So we went into Citrusdal . It was living up to its name and smelt fantastic because all the lemon/orange trees were in flower. Took a road that we thought would loop back to the main road which we could see. It became dirt road and though we were assured that it would join up with the main road, on and on went the dirt. The main road converged but wrong side of a river. Clive was short of petrol.Eventually we joined up after crossing the river on a causeway. Pushed on to Springbok . It is famous for spring flowers and mining for copper and diamonds.Scenery was almost mountainous with lovely rolling hillsides and craggy peaks. Currently nice and green.
Oct 7th Mon
Set off in 4 layers of clothing but soon stripping as the temperature climbs. Scenery becomes desert and by the time we reach the border its 30c. Entering Namibia was pretty easy and they did not want our carnet. In South Africa you did not have to have vehicle insurance. Not currently trying to get it here. Lets see.
Thought we’d try and see Fish River canyon but are now daunted by about 100kms of dirt road with sand and then all the way back. 200kms. Its the sand that would be tricky. We are much better on gravel!! Its a bit tense making, wrists get so tired and concentration huge. Just done a few sandy kms here to our nights stop. We are in our own room in a house all by itself. Its called the White house and is off the main road by about 4kms. Our evening meal is going to be brought over but in the meantime can make tea etc in the kitchen. Family speak mainly Afrikaans. At the moment its just us. Got the tea and a bottle of wine!!.
Having problems loading and inserting photos. Hopefully I will get there…need time .
Oct 8th Tues
The evening meal was delivered in great style, on a tray under its blanket. Masses to eat. Breakfast was also delivered…raw ingredients for us to cook in the morning. Such a lot of trust. We left on our own , leaving the key, tip for the cleaner and money for anything we had taken/bought from the fridge.
Temperature rising as we left for what turned out to be a rather trying ride to Mariental. Leaving Grunau in quite interesting scenery we soon entered a very parched plain that went on as far as the eye could see. Bushes lived and obviously were alive but as far as we were concerned it was a very hot area. Nothing moved except for one animal that Clive saw jumping a fence . No people for miles, hardly a house, very very little traffic. A fence ran along each side, denoting ownership of this desolate spot on earth. Our White house owners apparently owned 15.500 hectares of Namibia! So if everyone owned that much……
We have ridden some few desert areas but this one seemed tough. Perhaps because it was only our third day and it takes a while to get in the rhythm. Perhaps the heat as well…it got to 38c. Incredibly dry heat , so it was not so bad. Perhaps the lack of shade ;also the lack of stopping places. 100 miles between each. It is called great Nama Land.
At the hotel we found there was a tree that some weaver birds were building their nests in. Had fun for a while taking photos of them. Clive not amused.
Oct 9th Wed
Not so hot as we continue across this flat plain. I am getting into the stride and enjoy the freedom to think my thoughts. Lots of thoughts, thinking going this way and that and round and round. The motorbiking on a road like this…little traffic, easy, gives such thoughts such space. It has been such a hectic few weeks before leaving that it is really so wonderful to think in this way. Then I enjoy the changing landscape. It is imperceptibly changing as we near Windhoek. Weaver birds are busy making huge hanging nests, a baboon is beside the road, and then ,further on ,I wave at what seems to be hunched human beings high up on a rock, only to realise that they are some kind of large hairy baboons.
We go through the Tropic of Capricorn. It does not feel tropical but it does get greener and the bushes get larger and we have trees before entering Windhoek. Find a good guest house. Now wondering about the next move, so we go and visit a backpackers place and its travel centre.It was too full up for us to stay but it is good for a drink and some free wifi. Then we head off for a remarkably sophisticated meal round the corner. Windhoek is very relaxed, the people, as in the whole of Namibia so far, are really friendly, and all seems to work well…for the few!
Oct 10th Thurs
It rained a little last night…welcome no doubt. We are now heading to the Atlantic coast and to a place called Swakopmund. Gradually finding time to do a bit of research about Namibia. It is the best run democratic country in Africa. The population is about 2 million. The top 10% share half the country’s wealth. The bottom 10% share 1% of the country’s wealth. What does this say for democracy.? Certainly what we have seen bears this out. Few with cars, shanty towns etc.Is a country like Gaddafi’s Libya better for its population ? Most are now in western clothing, ethnicity seems to be restricted to poorer people.
The road should have become more interesting but no, not really. Onwards through parched countryside becoming more sandy as we approached the coast. First some entertaining warthogs by the roadside. They would rush off if we slowed down to try and take a photo. Managed to get a couple as they ducked under a fence. Secondly an accident. ..lorry and a coach. Not too bad but traffic pretty chaotic as various cars tried to overtake the queue of lorries. We joined in ! The biggest change was the temperature drop from 35c to 15c as we headed down to sea level and were confronted by a lovely sea fret just like we get in Norfolk. This is the Skeleton coast.
This following copy of an email will explain why my Spot gadget has not been working.
On 11 Oct 2013 09:35, “Spot English” <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thank you for contacting SPOT customer care.
We do not have coverage in South Africa and we are temporarily out of service in Namibia. Please, take a look at our coverage mat at http://www.findmespot.com/en/index.php?cid=108. Your device is most likely not faulty. Please, let us know how we may further assist you.
Thank you for being a SPOT customer.
Oct 11th Friday
Like this spot in Swakopmund so today are making just a little trip down the coast to see Walvis bay and then come back for another night here. Its cold, about 16c, its cloudy and it is pure desert tumbling into the sea as we do the 35kms. Strange tourist housing next to the sea. Why would you beach holiday here? Infact its possibly an activity holiday you would take….sea fishing, riding an ATV up and down dunes, sandboarding, jumping off dunes paragliding, 4×4 fun etc. The cooler weather makes these more fun than in 35c heat I guess.
Wavis bay has a shallow lagoon waterfront where lots of Flamingoes like to be. So we had a go at Flamingo photos and then a little look at this small town. Spread out as they all are with several chain stores…..all pretty civilized. Down the road, at the end of town there is a different feel. We went wrong as we left and ended up biking into a black area. All new little box like housing but no white people. We were stared at as we kept going through and it definately felt that we were out of place. Nothing too sinister but just brought home the them and us bit.
Police check as you leave town. On the way in we were stopped. Check Clive out but wave me through once he had passed! !
Part of an old tug boat perched up high within a strange building served as our restaurant for the night…..fish of course.! Tomorrow we head up the Salt road.
Oct 12th Saturday
The plan is to head north to Henties bay, drop off some of our bags in a place to stay and then go further on to see Cape seals at Cross point before heading back to Henties bay. All on the proverbial Salt road. It was fine because the weather was dry. If the weather had been wet then we would have been in trouble. A wet fog would have been bad news here , and that is what they get here. The wet salt surface becomes as slippery as black ice. The salt makes a great surface otherwise, mixed with sand and water. When dry it looks just like tarmac and makes an obvious choice round here…if you don’t ride motorcycles!
The Cave seals at Cross point were great. Bit smelly but fun. Lots of them…biggest colony in Namibia. Officially we were not allowed to ride our motorbikes the last 3kms but we were allowed as long as ” next time we came we did not come on motorbikes”.!! This is the most westerly spot on our present trip. It was a great colony on Cross point, Namibia
Back in Henties bay whilst looking for some food and a bottle of wine we were invited to share a drink with a couple at a bar. It transpires that it was his great uncle that named the bay Henties bay. Tomorrow we start heading to the otherside of Africa.
Oct 13th Sunday
Set off early to do 150 miles of gravel road. There is a sea fret and it is 12c at 8.45am. Very shortly we turn right and head away from the sea. Slowly but slowly the temperature rises as we head inland. The salt road becomes gravel. Its wide , so plenty of room and little traffic. One or two spots give us a bit of problem with sand. Not too bad but some front wheel panic. Stop after 70 miles for tea….its now 28c! Told next section has more sandy patches….she was right…there was a spot in the middle that was quite tricky. Because it was so wide the traffic could go where it liked , which meant that there was no particular set of wheel tracks to follow. Thus it was very difficult to read the road surface. Sandy currugations, dips and deeper gravel all led to a slight lack of confidence in the surface. Now hot, 35c, but we made it without falling off. Quite a few adrenaline moments though.
On the way there were some local women attracting tourists attention doing some bare breasted dancing by the road. Apart from us there were some huge overland trucks going through.!
Still hot we reach tarmac. Due to lack of stopping places we have to head on to Outjo wherr we find a good self catering spot to stay in.
Oct 14th Monday
For motorcyclists its the journey that is as much the holiday as the being there. It has been quite hard here in Namibia where the roads are straight and lacking in any form of life going on by the road. We have seen no villages, hardly a human and few animals as we travel between the far apart towns. Usually the towns have been about 100kms apart. No cafes en route, no petrol stations either. Often the only cafe is by the petrol station. We have been stopping to drink water every once in a while under a tree if we can find one to give us shade.
Namibia is suffering from drought. Very little rain last year (1 inch by the coast) none the year before, normal before that and lots before that. Bushes and trees all look dead though bits of green do show. The whole country looks brown and parched.
Nevertheless the people are very pleasant, smiling, friendly and helpful and for that reason alone you would come again. Locals smile, Afrikaans smile. There are many Afrikaans people here…far more than I had ever thought about. It is a far less security conscience country than South Africa. We have really only seen serious security fencing in Windhoek. In other places there are security people wandering around but not the extremism of south Africa. You obviously do have to watch things. Whilst at the museum here our bikes were guarded.
We have done a fairly short day today and arrived in Tsumeb in time to wander around the museum. It contained sections on local tribes , the first world war and the germans, and the town’s mining history. I did not know that there were automatic machine guns in WW1.Sitting and writing this under a mango tree.
Oct 15th Tuesday
Long and what looked like boring road as we head northeast towards the Caprivi strip. It was pretty dull to start with …hot as well . Then , amazingly we see our first village and then it was non stop wood and grass houses inside their stockades made with wood. Children, people, goats and cows. I guess the soils must support crops and that there was water…it looked just as parched as the rest of Namibia. Sadly some of the local huts looked neglected and one could see the next progression would be little stone dwellings. Seen worse. But how nice to see life. Clive gets impatient…a bit…as I go slower to look and take photos.
Reach Rundu. First place full so on to another which only has one room left. Not great value. Book our first try for tomorrow night and hope to get a cruise along the Okovango river and admire Angola.
Oct 16th Wed
Make our move to lodge number 2 in this town..Rundu….Tambuti lodge, much nicer than night before! Book trip on the river. We leave at 4pm to bike the 14kms plus 4kms on dirt. 14 seemed like 18 and the dirt seemed longer….it had sandy patches!! But made it and had gentle trip on the Okovango river. It was very shallow with a sandy bottom and clear water. We saw one very relaxed crocodile some birds, pigs etc. Also viewed Angola and Angolans who were happily swimming in the river. As the dusk drew in we watched 5 females with loads on their heads calmly walk into the river from Angola and ,though they went up to their necks ,walk across the river and out into Namibia with their loads still on their heads. A porous border. We ourselves had been in Angolan space!! The visa is very hard to get!!
We had completed what we wanted to achieve, when we spotted a sign to a lodge that was in the guide . We had thought it would be too far off the road for us. 2 kms on a sandy track and we can abandon bikes for a boat ride to the lodge. I was so hot by the time I had completed the sandy track…wobbling around in a mere 37.5c. We ended up in a brilliant spot . We have had another animal spotting boat ride, nothing better.! Hippos etc.
The boat ride in to the lodge was almost as good as the one we paid for later. And then when we left we roared past a wnole load of hippos.
Oct 18th Fri
An eventful day. After a good breakfast at the lodge and our boat ride out to our bikes, I dropped my bike in the sandy track. Poor Clive plodded back in the heat…it was about 35c at 9.45am. Up with the bike and onwards ..I made the rest of the track !! Then to the border to get into Zambia. Worst border for bureaucracy to date. Took over an hour and plenty of money. Visa in US dollars ..ok. Road tax…US dollars..ok. Carbon tax charge…in Zambian kwatchas ….not really ok . Had to find money changer outside in 38c heat. Lots of vast hand written ledger writing . Then third party insurance for one month ( only needed a week )at the same cost as a car at a huge cost of 37.5 US dollars….but to be paid in kwachas.! And then as one was trying to get away they wanted 15 kwatchas each for council tax for the vehicles!! We made ..I made …a fuss so much so the lady gave up on us and we rode off.Then we made an error. No signs at a T junction led us to make a fatal mistake and head off the wrong way for 70 miles!! New road, river on the right/expected side, tarmac , no signs…Finally realised, turned round and headed back. But by then Clive was very short of petrol was and that led to even more tension than just short of time. Worked out that he should get close so that I could go on and then come back with fuel. In the event he made it to a petrol station. That his bike had gone 35miles on reserve. I was then very thirsty …the temperature had hit 39.5c. Found a drink stop…now in Zambia little fairly humble drink shops were around…and gulped down a Coca Cola whilst being feted by a fairly drunk lot of young sitting around this little shop. Clive was also thirsty but busy calling our booked spot in Livingstone explaining we would be late . We hardly ever book ahead but on this occasion we had, knowing that Livingstone is a tourist spot.
On we went with 180kms still to do…5pm. Darkness fell at 6.45pm . Nowhere to stay inbetween anyway and impossible to find somewhere in the dark. Not good, going in the dark. Luckily there was enough traffic to keep some animals away but to my amazement as we got near to Livingstone the traffic stopped because elephants were crossing in the dark!! Suddenly saw these dark shapes coming across the road looking ghostly black.
We had had to do 40 miles in the dark….We arrived, very thirsty. ..temp at 7.30pm was still 32c….and stiff! ! The error had cost us 140 miles and 3 hours.
Oct 19th Sat
Decided to have a day here, hopefully rafting down the Zambezi. However that was not to be. The river is very low and the cost was high…over £100 each. We are so glad we have seen the falls before in a January because right now there are no falls on the Zambian side. The river is too low. One or two tiny bits. The only thing open to us was a spray walk/ raft. In the end 5 of us gathered together with our guides. One english man who lives here and a german couple plus us. The german lady was pretty large. We had to walk down a path to the gorge and then clamber over rocks before reaching the raft. She started having problems even going down the path let alone over the rocks. The guides helped her every inch of the way…they were very kind. She should not have been doing it. We cross the gorge in order to see the river flowing from the Zimbabwean side then land again to clamber over rocks to swim in a big pool below a waterfall. She was unable to leave the boat . She was unable to paddle.
We had a good time, enjoyed the swimming etc. Clive shoes…..we had bought some cheap shoes to walk in as we had none that could get wet….were not that great for the job and he slipped twice, cutting his big toe and then banging his shin. Not serious. At the end of the day it was back up the gorge path. We do not know how the german lady did.
Oct 20th Sunday
Quite a bright start as we have almost 300 miles to do to get to Lusaka. The need for so far in one hop is the lack of any where to stay….incuding camping. It is bush or local straw hut villages interspersed with rough towns. Windy day which you would suppose to be cooling but temp reaches 37c. Drivers more erratic here and evidence that vehicles are not so well maintained…breakdowns and parts of tyres by the road side. However there are plenty of humble tea/ drink places and more villages and towns. More people around , more life than in Namibia. Villagers selling their fruits by the roadside , and the ubiquitous charcoal bags and makers. The countryside is black with bush fires…on purpose or not? We see plenty of charcoal kilns. It is not good to look at , all these trees and bushes going this way.
Fuel is expensive…about £1.25p . Eventually we stopped by two little boys selling some fruits and bought some. Round but smallish with a hard leathery skin. Pressing the skin , they opened up and looked like a medlar and tasted like a sweet medlar with the same type of stones. Good, but you do not get much from each!
Got hot and tired but reached our Lusaka backpacker spot to discover that we had stayed here before but then it was called Chachacha backpackers.!
Oct 21st Mon
Low mileage day so messed around before setting off . It must be for over two weeks that we have had temps of over 35c. It makes motorcycling hard work for in our motorcycling clothing we are too hot even going along.!
Road more fun as it has traffic as we head north from Lusaka. Big lorries and lots of taxis darting around. More villages and generally much more going on again. Arrive in Kabwe at an hotel called Tuskers. I have seen 2 other white people in this town .I had to queue for 20 mins for the ATM machine and was the only white person in the queue. Everyone very friendly though in the very busy shopping streets. Things are being sold on the pavement as well as in the Shoprite supermarket which is heaving…everyone is out shopping. By dark however feels better to be in doors .
Oct 22nd Tues
Day starts with Clive getting worked up about nothing! We are heading north to a place called Serenja for the night. Its not that big a place and amazingly we stopped there 6 years ago for a drink. Then it had a sandy street and now it is tarmac. Otherwise not massive change. The locals seem to now live in brick huts with straw roofs as opposed to all “straw “houses. Bricks appear to being made locally and then used for housing and the dreaded charcoal industry ie for charcoal making kilns. Produce selling by the road today included….number one …charcoal, and then tomatoes, onions, peanuts ( which I thought were caterpillars at first), potatoes and some small round dark fruit. All are offered on the road opposite their villages. The charcoal industry is very depressing. Big trees being chopped down. Forest fires being started….sad to see.
The road is good, not so much traffic again and what there is are large lorries mostly .Plenty of breakdowns in the lorry world and the remains of them coming off the road. Breakdowns are fixed on the road with the usual leaves and branches on the tarmac too warn you.
Spend the night in Serenje. I overshot/ missed the turning and took a while before turning back. Clive was in the petrol station. ! Fairly humble spot but copes. Meet up with a South african couple travelling in their landcruiser and eat supper with them and a Zambian government accountant . We had some interesting conversations.!
Oct 23rd Wed
Breakfast with the south africans and then off. Its cooler…26c , and set off with the nice cool air going up my jacket sleeves…its the best way to keep cool. It is a bit greener generally but forest fires abound . Fair stretch to our intended destination of Kapysha hotsprings near Shiwa Negandu. Rain threatens, goes away and then happens. ..the first rain of the season for here. Luckily we are in a shop getting water. Delaying till rain stops we press on hoping that it has not rained on the dirt road. because that would then be super slippery. Pass several more broken down lorries….always seems to be something to do with tyres/wheels. We are in luck…nice dry road. Its 32 kms and we reach the hot springs. Just as we remembered. ..lovely.!!
Oct 24th Thurs
It is expensive to be in chalets here so we…Clive will say I, opted for a lesser room on offer …same standard as the night before but twice the price. Evening meal was good . There is a nice relaxed feel here and especially in the hot spring so opt for two nights here. We go for a little walk to see some “caves” and their cave paintings and then investigate the camping area. I would love to camp but Clive so reluctant. He is aware of this and kindly says he will acquiesce. We had spotted a straw umbrella shaped shelter that we could set up our sleeping quarters under. We have no tent. Just a ground sheet, sleeping bags and my mat…Clive not brought one. Much encouragement and friendliness from fellow campers . One couple lend Clive a mat . Our nearest neighbours are a couple of South Africans who are very chatty. All friendlier than those in the lodge in many ways. Its great warm weather, no mossies, my mosquito net over Clive while I lie in the open under our straw shelter. He says he saw some kind of wild cat like animal slink by in the night . Every time I woke up he was asleep. It was a great under stars.
Mark Harvey , the owner joins us all for supper…not in the campsite! ! Few points re Zambia that he brings up . 86% unemployment. Population gone up by 10m since Independence and the Zambians still have a motivation problem. To me they all look happier than 6 years ago . If a Zambian does well growing a crop, say..his fellow villagers/ neighbours will then steal it from him. What motivation is that to better yourself! !! By the way today was Zambia’s 49th anniversary of their independence from Britain.
Oct 25th Friday
Down the dirt track and off to the border and Tanzania. Quite far for one day but nowhere to stay as far as we know before Mbeya. Road slowly busier with trucks and people and the zambians on their sit up and beg bicycles. This bicycle is the main form of transport for most zambians. They carry charcoal ,water cans and people this way. We saw a family of 4 on one bicycle. As a result they wobble all over the road. The road becomes narrower and potholed. It has deteriorated since we were last here…not better but worse.
We manage some food in a very local spot. Posho with a chicken that must have run a marathon.
The road finally funnels us and the trucks into the border. It is chaos. The queue of lorries means that cars coming and going only have one track. Result is that everyone is out for themselves, driving on any side of the road in their efforts to reach ,or get from the border. Motorcycles obviously good here! Finally get out of Zambia but have endless potential “helpers” in tow. Tanzania is better organised but it takes time and have to buy insurance but it covers all the countries we hope to still visit.
The border took 2 hours and we lost an hour with clock going forward. Thus it was with a bare hour’s daylight that we set off to do about 55 miles. Soon it was dark and the Tanzanian’s stay up! We went along slower and slower keeping an eye on dark figures, etc. Was tricky finding the hotel we had picked out of the book. When we finally found it Clive said we had stayed before . He was right and it was more of a dump than before.
Oct 26th Sat
Exhausted sleep leads to late start but we are not now in any haste. Take life easy out on the Tanzanian road. It is the main road from Dar Es Salaam to Zambia. The volume of trucks has grown enormously since we were here 6 years ago. The road surface has deteriorated . Tricky ruts in the tarmac for a motorcycle. Constant speed bumps and “bars ” in the tarmac. Not masses of traffic but ponderous, overloaded , trucks with worn out tyres. They either crash. …saw the results of a real nasty. .or plain breakdown. More fun, avoiding potholes , watching people and villages. We stop , pretty locally again, and are watched by a small but increasing throng as we drink our fizzy drinks. One or two fascinate me. One male has traditional necklaces round his neck , western clothing, traditional cloth over his shoulder and long stick in his hand. The other has traditional bangles up his arm and western clothing plus stick. A tall traditional man talks to Clive in good english, the others are not so fluent….interesting.
Oct 28th Mon
The last two days we have been heading towards Dar Es Salaam between Makambaco , Iringa and tonight at Morogoro near the Mikumi National Park. The scenery has been pretty, undulating countryside, and we have mostly been up high at about 1700m and thus cooler.
The road has been full of trucks, far fuller than either of us remember from before. Much more trade going on and especially tankers of petrol/oil heading to Zambia. There are police checks all along this road , not especially interested in us but checking buses and lorries all the time. They need to, for the trucks must often be overloaded and the buses too. Tyres are very often worn and so accidents happen . Speed of buses along this road is still a problem. They head headlong for you, sometimes crabbing and often belching black smoke and then up the hills its down to a crawl before they hurtle back down the hill at high speed the other side.The trucks are calmer but crawl up the hills at 5 mph and also down at 5mph. Brakes smell and smoke belches.
We bob along, in and out and round broken down trucks, watching for buses catching us up; over endless sleeping policeman large enough to slow down the lorries; over other man made “rollers” designed to slow you down. There other smaller motorbikes around too, mostly in the villages, of which there are plenty. Life looks quite hard and basic for those in these villages. Bicycles are important, as in Zambia. Houses now mostly of local bricks with corrugated tin roofs. Each village sells what it can by the road….today it has been onion day !! Also tomatoes and white rocks ( Clive says for keeping ants away or prettying their gardens !!)
Road surface goes from good to bad and back again depending on truck traffic. Not potholes but bad ruckling of the surface which needs to be watched on our motorbikes as you can get “taken” along a tarmac rut.!The trucks that make these ruts do have some of the most amazing writing on their bonnets/ fronts….”God is power” “Mishallah” ” Allah is great” etc and the best one says ” Blessing from God, Get Rich or Die TRYN”…that one was on the back!!
The road goes through Mikumi Nat Park so we slow down and spot some zebra, giraffes and various antelope. Baboons , lots, are by the roadside. See also a pair of beautiful birds with irridescent turquoise wings. …quite big.
We try and locate the Princess Plaza Lodge in Morogoro but fail. Morogoro is bigger than the Lonely Planet book implies and we are at a loss till we get a PikiPiki rider to take us to the other choice…the Oasis hotel.
Oct 29th Tues
We head out of Morogoro heading towards the main road which by passes the town. Again have to ask and again a kind Pikipiki rider says “follow me” which we do. Tarmac becomes dirt, dirt becomes narrower and then finally we ride up the side of the main road bank on a dirt footpath and join it. Our bikes are not quite Pikipiki size so that end bit was a little exciting.! This part of town reminded me of Indian streets or other fairly squalid parts of Asia. Lots of people all beavering away to make a living from their very humble spots.
Heading to Dar the road gets busier and busier with trucks and buses. It becomes very busy after the Arusha junction…hard work as it gets hotter. At times the traffic stops, jammed. The trucks have to go through a weighbridge not far from Dar. There is a huge queue the Dar side which is on the carriageway. So ordinary traffic has to squeeze by as we squeeze by the other way. We take to the inside Pikipiki lane and start overtaking lorries on the inside , as they do. Things get worse on the outskirts of Dar where they are road constructing our road big time. Absolute chaos with traffic trying to get through any way it can, against the flow, wrong side or whatever. No rule to the road, up and down pavements, whatever. Motorbikes obviously reign supreme though even we get jammed still at times. Difficult to describe just how amazingly chaotic it is ….no one seems to get angry or worked up though. If they can’t make it up a pavement edge they back out..or try again.
We booked an hotel last night….can we find it!! Very close but oh so far! Hotter and hotter we got but eventually after much asking we got there. Not many street names are on show , the streets were dirt streets as well .
Oct 30th Wed
Spend the day getting ready to get to Zanzibar. Down to the port to see about the ferry. Very expensive and so decide to take only one bike. Hadn’t brought right documents so it was backwards and forwards in the Dar traffic and heat. No easy thing like tickets issued. Apparently we are on the midday ferry but have to turn up at 11am tomorrow morning to collect tickets. Money paid!!
Bit of shopping for a box of wine as Zanzibar very muslim and then back to hotel for complete re pack . We are going on my bike and leaving half our stuff plus Clive’s bike here at the hotel stuffed up a side passageway. Then off for a little walk round the hotel area . It is all dirt streets, full of traders and very reminiscent of India without all the rubbish. Eat very locally on the pavement from a street vendor cooking Dar pizzas, sitting at a
plastic table on plastic chairs, drinking a litttle wine we had brought in a plastic bottle in our own mugs, and watching the world go by. Oct 31st Thurs
Quick last visit to internet cafe and then off on the one bike to the port in the traffic. Eventually we got the tickets and bike pass and then led down to the ferry. Bike had to go through a building where the passengers went which seemed curious as there were cars around. Became evident soon as we realised that this was a passenger ferry and our ” little pikipiki” was going up the passenger gangway and on to the deck.
Not exactly. It was finally manhandled up a steep gangway straight on to the deck. Ofcourse this cost extra money over the exorbitant cost for the bike. It was roped on. Then to our surprise we ended up with the other europeans in the first class, VIP no less, lounge with air conditioning. This comprised a room full of assorted seats seemingly from old coaches and other seating areas.
Off we went and it rolled to start with…no stabilizers here…so Clive got worried re feeling sick. Then it pitched a bit and after improved. No food or drink to buy.
On arrival the poor bike was manhandled down an equally steep gangway but these guys were better. More money though. For $100 each way for the bike alone this seemed a bit much. Very glad we chose to take one bike. We then headed to Jambiani on the east side . Clive had organised this rental ages ago. We passed through good tropical area and then it got drier as we reached this side.
The beach is white sand with turquoise sea. Local boats off shore….very basic with outriggers and dhow sail. The house is in a very local village with houses built of what they call “coral rag” which is old dead coral. There is a coral reef off shore.
Nov 1st Fri
Adjusting to our new surroundings. Very humid and hot. Sea temp like a bath. Clive got stung by a small jellyfish which was not a good start. Jellyfish are seasonal !. Are told we have bedroom tax to pay each day plus guard to pay. !
I do internet …farm Vat to do….in the hotel 7 mins along the beach. Try and get it done and out of the way. In the evening we have been invited by the caretaker to his restaurant 15 mins walk up the beach. He has promised to get us some Cigales. By evening Clive is not feeling too good….tummy upset etc. Anyway we set off, in the dark, along the beach, torch in hand. We see shadowy figures scurry by and lots of stars in the sky but the restaurant ” on the beach…..you will see the sign” seems elusive. Clive not very happy. Keep asking and eventually we have gone too far, missed it. Back track using torch more assiduously and find the sign. Restaurant about 5 mins walk in from the beach. It is pretty humble but the Cigales are very good indeed. Clive manages some and I do justice to the rest. They are a kind of cross between lobsters, crayfish and prawns. A huge flat prawn. I do have photo and I will eventually get it uploaded.
Here are the Cigales, back and front. Easy to upload because the photos were taken with my phone! !
Nov 3rd Sun
Settling in to the area,and with Clive being under the weather, we did not do much yesterday. I took a walk at low tide which was very scenic with lots of the locals out. Women harvesting a kind of seaweed from seaweed farms constructed in the area between high and low water; children splashing about playing and men fishing. As the tide had just turned, the local boats were heading back in, mostly with sail power. They had either been out fishing or taking the likes of us for a snorkel etc nearer to the coral reef. I saw fish being sold/shared out from a boat in the shallows and plenty of men with octopuses all tied up in a bunch. A certain “Captain Chichi”, young man, chatted me up telling me all about the trips he could take me on….I certainly fancied a trip on one of these dugout dhows and a snorkel , so that is what we did this morning. Clive now better so off we went at 10am and had a great time in the rough and ready boat ( made from a hollowed out mango tree), snorkeling and trying to take photos of fishes ( with my ‘tough’ Olympus camera), and then sailing back here. Our young captain was one of 16 children so Clive had his usual ” there are too many people being born “conversation. They do not seem to have heard of family planning.
Nov 4th Mon
The plan was to go to Stone town. We really needed to go as I had run out of money and the only ATM’s or banks on the island are there. However we woke up to the sound of rain and water pouring down. Sky looked like it was not done. Had breakfast. We have to go on the motorbike and neither of us had brought waterproofs over to Zanzibar. Decided to give it a go. Dry here with us but still looked ominous. We did about half an hour and then it started to get abit wet!! Made a couple of stops to shelter. Continued getting wetter but not a complete downpour and so we soldiered on. Legs got wet and feet/ shoes too but it is so warm that it does not feel so wretched. We headed for the best hotel in town where we did a bit of drying out and had a cup of tea picking up on the free wifi at the same time!! Did some sightseeing…rain had stopped but the humidity must have been 99%…. and found an ATM which did not work for me. After a lengthy hot walk in the narrow and filthy streets, while Clive reclined in the smart hotel after offering to go on the bike, I succeed in finding the right kind of ATM. It was lucky we had not gone on the bike….it was all narrow passageways.
Some old merchant buildings done up to be smart hotels but some in disrepair and a whole lot of filthy narrow streeets with endless sellers after you…..not sure we rated Stone town particularly. Fez in Morocco is a great deal nicer. Its probably cheaper here, lots of things for sale including carvings etc which did not look too bad.
Nov 6th Wed
Woke again to rain. Not so much. The palm thatched roof of this house has a purpose made hole in the middle which allows natural light to flood in in the middle. The roof slopes downwards from all sides to this hole. When it rains, the water pours in and ends up in a sunken part of the floor from whence it drains away. The rain poured in and splashed all over the place. We guess the water goes off into a tank to be reused. There are no windows in the building ..just slated wooden frames so the wind can blow through. You can also hear what is going on outside very easily ie the wind, the waves crashing on the shore at high tide and the rain. The tide is big….big change in height and has gradually during the week become high tide in the early morning.
There is a guard who sleeps on a bed on the veranda and another man called Uzzi who wanders in and out of the house without knocking . We have found this a bit much !!! They are both mandatory apparently.
Yesterday I went off fairly early on the motorbike, after the rain, to walk in Joziani forest national park. Guided walk for an hour or so. This the national park with the rare Red Colobus monkey in it. The monkeys were remarkably easy to see as they like eating almond trees and guava trees, nether of which are tall trees. Very enjoyable and saw mahogany trees etc.
Cooked our own fish….good….and tonight went out to the Star fish restaurant along the beach.
Nov 7th Thurs
Packed last night for an 8.30am start to get to Stone town to catch the ferry. Weather looked okay at first so had good last breakfast, paid Uzzi and then looked at sky again. Huh huh….not looking quite so good! It did get us a bit but not as wet as the other day and we made a pretty fast trip to the same Tembo hotel where we had planned to have a tea and dry off before getting to the ferry which was just around the corner. Five mins later it really began to rain…good tropical shower. No problem as we had 3/4 of an hour to spare and we were safe and dry for now. It went on and on. 15 mins after we should have gone the rain stopped. We zoomed along to the port. All went quite well. Boat came along and we paid the porters to load the bike. The rain had begun again so we were feeling quite smug and happy about things. Thats when things started to go less smoothly. The ferry needed to test its engines before we all got on board…..one engine playing up….we could see that..loads of black smoke. So it slipped its berth with my bike strapped to the deck…….bye bye bike!! It did luckily reappear about 20 mins later but with only one engine going. Ferry cancelled . Still raining ,we got the bike off ourselves . Leaving the bike on the small dockside under a roof we went off with an aide to a rival shipping company with better ferries ( you can only learn that after you have been sold the wrong ferry tickets!!) Whilst our original ferry coughed up reimbursement money for us in full, bike reimbursement money was sadly lacking. Too many people had received back handers for the bike. No 2 ferry company wanted more for the bike. One way and another we managed to get tickets for us and the bike on this better ferry by only paying a wee bit extra for the bike. The bonus was that we could ride it up the much wider gangway ourselves so did not have to pay porters either end. The downside was that the ferry did not leave till 4.30pm and we had to hang around on the quay till the bitter end to load the bike up last. All the time it was pouring with rain and the awning roof that we hung around under was only just coping.
It was a long day hanging around playing ferries. The chaotic scene kept us amused..watching all the porters struggling with heavy loads ; and we did escape for 3/4 of an hour to have some food in a cafe called ” Mercurey” after Freddie Mercurey who was born here in Zanzibar town. We were able to walk in and out of departures/arrivals even though officially we had had our tickets and passports stamped and looked at. That is how it is in Africa!!
The fast boat ( Azam line….boats called Kilimanjaro) took us swiftly over to Dar and with a remarkably easy exit from the ferry we went back to our Livingstone hotel and found Clive’s bike and the rest of our stuff happily where we had left it. No rain here….
Nov 8th Fri
Big repack. All 4 of my various panniers/bag/ topbox had to be carried up to our room, repacked and down again. Clive had an easier job as his two panniers and one bag hardly needed touching and remained on his bike.
Set off about 9.30am to make our way out of town along the Morogoro road. An hour later and we had done 9 miles. Traffic a nightmare with lots of interesting contraflow going on! Obviously on our ” pikipikis ” we have an advantage so you can imagine how awful it is. They are doing road works on this road to give it a bus lane so in the long run it should get better!!
Finally reach turn off to Tanga/Arusha. Cafe stop ,and onwards , but I set off and realise I have a puncture. Straight into petrol station and tyre place in the corner. Notice piece of wood in the tyre. This is mended …between us all we have the where with all. Large crowd gathered to look…all the various sellers on this busy junction. Off we go but after slowing down to get around a crashed lorry I can feel the tyre is soft again. Its driveable for a while but slowly worsens. Pause by some pikipikis in the next village and they point out a bike “workshop” shack. Once again crowd soon around us but also everyone helpful. They have not dealt with a tubeless tyre. They identify a nail in the tyre this time. They get it out and Clive then fixes it with my puncture repair kit. They pump it up. Good joint effort. On we go again only to be stopped by a polieman who wants bribing. He asks if we have some lunch for him!! Clive gave him 4 sweets….his precious Werthers originals. We had also been stopped by another corrupt one earlier but wriggled out of it. This day very stop start….
Progress then improves but have to watch police. They are everywhere, primarily to catch speeding buses. The countryside is lovely, green, steeply rolling and mountains around. Basic villages that seem unchanged since we last came. More traffic coming through…. Crops being grown , sweetcorn, fruit trees etc. Large Sisal farms with fields stretching away in to the distance. We were heading to Tanga , Clive’s birthplace in order to find a place to stay. It is not on our real route but a slight diversion. Having got a bit behind we we were pleased to be told that there was a decent hotel on the route in the next town…Korogwe. Clive saw Tanga when we came last time.
Nov 9th Sat
Major excitement as we ate our supper last night. A small bus suddenly did a 180 degree turn infront of the hotel and there was a lot of screaming and shouting. We thought there had been an accident but it seems the driver was being lynched because either he was drunk or, as came back later, he was stressed out. !!
Good spot , the White Parrot hotel. Very helpful. We adjusted Clive’s suspension before setting off. He has been bottoming out big time on the hundred and one sleeping policemen that are across the Tanzanian roads in an effort to slow down the buses and lorries. Some are very sharp and a particular 4 in a row combination are not comfortable !
Very pretty scenery but was a little disappointed not to see even the tip of Mt Kilimanjaro as it was so covered in cloud. This is often the case from this side. Quite a long push to Arusha but it went well. Buses were the usual problem, speeding by and belching black diesel fumes. Road was interesting, going from bad to good to dirt and under construction.
Nov 10th Sun
Arusha seemed a lot more pleasant than Moshi, which we paused in yesterday. Whilst we are near Ngorongoro crater, reading in the book, it costs $200 to enter the park/ crater let alone hire a vehicle for the day. Clive can remember looking into the crater area as a child….for free!!! Its 3 months on the road versus a week doing National safaris and the likes of Ngorongoro !!
Not that ambitious today nor pushed for time so amble to the border and to a hotel we have read about called Namanga River Hotel. Not in Lonely Planet but on jolly tripadvisor. Oh how wifi affects us!! Six years ago we could not have done that.
The border was the usual filthy area and plenty of Masai ladies selling their jewellery sending me bananas. Ended up swapping the earrings I was wearing for some of theirs and paying for a photo of an older Masai lady. Our hotel was about 300 yards from the filth of the border in some amazing old established gardens. Begun by ” muzungas” ( white man) in 1943 apparently. I am sure the border was not what it is now. Also the hotel’s bedrooms seem to have suffered;nevertheless an oasis.
Nov 11th Mon
We are Nairobi headed now we are in Kenya. Immediate changes are
1. houses. Now corrugated tin boxes ( Clive’s description….breeding cells) instead of the red local bricked ones of Tanzania.
2. The people. Tanzanians seemed very friendly but nicely reserved. Kenyans have appeared less reserved straight away. Infact they are rather loud and in your face…
3. Road today fine but now plenty of cars which totally outweigh the number of trucks. This has not been a busy road and there is not much trade ( road anyway) going on between the two countries. The border was not busy as it was between Zambia and Tanzania.
The countryside here looks quite dry but they are awaiting rain. The Masai herd the flocks and cows with their dogs and sticks, dressed in their traditional clothing with cloak over the shoulder. Women look splendid in masses of beaded jewellery and colourful clothing.
We are headed to a place called Jungle junction. Its a stop over for overlanders and if we are to find any tyres then the owner is the man to help. So far we have failed by ourselves and the internet. Clive needs a front tyre and I could do with a back given it is quite worn and has two repairs. We join the traffic of Nairobi but do not need to go anywhere near the centre. We find the place in the end inspite of having the wrong street name!!
Arriving early afternoon we settle down to the free wifi and Chris the german owner soon magics up some tyres. Clive could also do with a back tyre and it is possible his bike could take the same size as mine. We shall see tomorrow.
Nov 12th Tues
A day at Jungle junction (JJs) in Langata, Nairobi. My back tyre is fitted and Clive’s front while we do some shopping at Karen shopping centre. Henry and Louise Wainwright have made contact and we are planning to see them Thursday night . They have suggested taking us to the Mthega club. This is giving me a worry as I have no smart clothes except a top. So end up buying some cheap shoes and then see some indian style ” pantaloons” and buy them !!!….photo later!
This overlanders place is not busy. The overland truck market has been having a very difficult time lately because of the problems with journeying through Syria, Libya, Egypt and Sudan. It has killed off the business. Many are doing what we are doing….a circle round the middle of Africa. We asked in Dar about buying a new bike..it would seem there is a problem with paperwork if you want to take the bike out of the country. You have to have an address or be resident etc. You can buy a new little chinese type bike for under £1000. Shipping costs come to more for a two way trip. But it could be an idea for seeing one country thoroughly…sell it at the end and the cost would be minimal.
Nov 13th Wed
Another day of relaxation and tyres for Clive. A little shopping expedition again to get more money for tyres!!! Jungle junction life goes on….bike fixing, tyre changing, overland truck mending. There are some japanese here backpacking and a south african with wife in a truck. Two bikers arrived last night which livened things up for us as discussions about routes etc. They have come through Libya etc. All very possible again apparently. One brit travelling with a dutch man.
Nov 14th Thurs
Finally left JJ’s and tried to head for a Mega Supermarket that might have Colemans camping cylinders, something that we might need one more of. I lead the way but failed in my map reading memorised in my head from my map on the samsung tab. Skip that idea and head straight into the centre to see statue of Jomo Kenyatta with which we did succeed .
Then off to Thika for a night with Henry and Louise. Arrive , change into our smartest gear and off again in their vehicle to the Muthaiga Club to see….an opera! Cose fan tutte. The audience comprised 99% white people, the performers were 100% black. It was great. Cose fan tutte with a twist or two. Then dinner and back to Thika. Their house was built at the sme time as The Plot but their garden has grown even quicker than ours. …to be expected. They now have lots of lovely birds with all sorts of colours. Many are sunbirds. Tried in vain to get a photo…they move to fast!!
Nov 15th Fri
Lovely breakfast on the open air balcony and then a guided tour of the nutrition farm with Louise. Very interesting, loved looking, so many things that could be pursued here. Selenium, zinc , other essentials that are in plants that I have not heard of. But we had to be off for we were heading for a night in The Ark in Aberdare national park. Took a while to find the office to get our park ticket but once thath was done we then found the Aberdare country club where we abandoned our bikes and climbed aboard a bus to take us into the park to the Ark. From inside the building you watch animals beside a water hole. All sorts of viewing balconies. Birdwatching walk on a raised walkway was disappointing except for Speckled longtailed mouse bird. The place was not full so it was good. Water buffalo, elephants, and warthogs were common. During the afternoon and evening dusk we saw hyena, a leopard, birds ,genets and bushbabies. The whole place is just for animal viewing but we were also fed and watered as well!!
This poor elephant had hurt the botom of his trunk, either by pulling too tough bamboo or on the electric fence round the park. He was coping.
Nov 16th Sat
Woken at 6.30am to have breakfast at 7am and in bus by 8am. Woke to various animals around the building . Back to the country club where we slowly sorted ourselves out again. This old country club which presumably used to be an all white bastion seems to now be full of Indians. They are part of the monied class of Kenya.
Head off to Thompsons Falls ( Nyahuhuru), Clive’s father’s old hotel and where Clive lived for a while. Its still there. You now have to pay to look at the falls….progress! Then on to Nakuru for the night. Very pleasant countryside, green , rolling, dotted trees, lots of bushes , some cultivations and plenty of over grazing with roaming herds of cattle, goats and sheep. People wandering, houses poor, dirty market stalls .
Rain got us today so waterproofs were donned for the first time as we actually had them with us!! It was pretty cold up on the escarpment (14c) but warmed up a bit as we went down to Nakuru. We have crossed the equator twice today.
Nov 17th Sun
Another short hop, this time to Eldoret, heading now to Uganda. Main Nairobi to Kampala road. It has trucks and buses but is a good road with a crawler lane on virtually every hill. Hills there are too. Its a real switch back. At some point we went through the equator again. Plenty of poor trying to sell their wares..now mostly vegetables as we are up high still and it is cooler. We stop and buy some barbequed sweet corn. Surrounded by sellers. Stand and eat our cobs whilst talking to these guys. “I went to college but could not get a job so here I am selling sweetcorn by the road” A rather dismal tale but one that can be heard elsewhere many times over.
Eldoret was full of people…there was a marathon going on. While I was in one hotel looking at the room , Clive engaged in conversation with a tall man who was sponsoring ten runners in this marathon. He then said we should go to another hotel and we ended up on the outskirts of town in Poa Place, something we would never have seen. It had a zoo and swimming pool and a restaurant that was a circular room in the middle of a pond full of noisy frogs .
Road was interesting, pretty scenery, busy and as we neared the border a very long queue of trucks. For us the border was not bad and the Ugandan side efficient. Bikes in without carnet. Will that be a problem when we exit? Visa was a hefty $50.
We have stopped at the first town in Uganda called Mbale. It is very lively, filthy because it has rained and that makes everything look even dirtier, and we seem to be the only whites amongst all the hordes. Our indian run establishment for the night is about as grotty as we go but the bikes should be safe in a large back parking area.
Wifi is not available in hotels it seems and internet cafes are now back on our agenda. It is possible to use wifi in an internet cafe and that would seem the way as their pc’s seem to work like snails. I did much better on my phone connected to wifi than Clive did at the pc.
Emma Plumbe has managed to make a gallery of photos for me. It is not attached to this post right now, but if you go to the home page and go to ‘All the galleries’ , you will find it at the beginning.
Nov 19th Tues
Leave early..7.30am in order to do a long day. The map shows main road with tarmac and then a stretch of main road not tarred. The good bit was bad and the bad bit was tarmac! The bad was either tarmac with potholes, dirt or under construction with gravel or watered red soil. Very varied conditions you could say. Sleeping policeman still a bore but real policeman no trouble. Plenty to look at. Hundreds of children in lots of schools all standing out in their very brightly coloured uniforms…bright red or green or blue and even pink ( even the boys). Not that many had shoes…uniform but no shoes. Another first was seeing ladies on bicycles. Tall ladies on sit up and beg men’s bicycles in their long skirts. Have not seen a single lady on a bicycle in Zambia, Tanzania or Kenya. Even saw a lady driving a pikipiki. People seemed amazed at us. We were stared at as we passed by as though they had not seen anything like it. Not keen on waving…they just seemed more stupefied than unfriendly.
The countryside is pretty, full of traditional huts made from mud bricks and straw roofed. Generally round but square ones too. Small towns had better buildings than Kenya. The traditional hut is on the way out in favour of brick with a tin roof…just as in the rest of the countries we have been through. Subsistence farming and under utilised land in this , what seems to us, well watered and fertile area. So much water that in places we went past countryside they called swamp.
Later in the day we crossed the Nile after it has left Lake Victoria. It did not disappoint as the bridge was over a rapid. Moved on by a soldier for stopping on the bridge to take a photo.! Road then got worse with kamakaze buses and potholes which then became thick gravel for a stretch. Luckily we then turned off and our minor road was great and we whizzed into Masindi. We have been on a non tourist route today but now heading to Murchison falls in the National park.Mbali towards Gulu and then left to Masindi.
Road signs do not exist as in Europe. Most of the time you have to ask. Major junctions do not necessarily have a sign. Streets often do not have names up. When we got to the Mazindi junction last night we had to ask if it was the right junction and because we stopped we were inundated with sellers selling fruits etc. Nearly had me off my bike!
Nov 20th Wed
We are to do 96kms dirt road through the Murchison national park. We get money , water and wine!! Staying at Red Chilli rest camp. It has rained the last three days but not last night and today looks good. We do not want rain on the red soil …it would be like an ice rink.
We are surprised that we will be able to motorbike in a national park that has lions in it. We can but Uganda has silly entrance fees. You pay for you each 24 hours. The bike had one charge. We opt for two days. The road is not bad. We take a detour to see the top of the falls…this road has not had so much traffic since it rained. Bit tricky but well worth the visit. The Nile goes through the narrowest of gorges at this point carrying all the outfall from Lake Victoria. Take photos , try and avoid being bitten by tsetse fly and head back to the road to our rest camp. First thing that greets us are tame warthogs. All those photos with the zoom lens..!!!! See the one I have posted here. ! We are in a game park, no fence…but hell its humid. Our banda only has a fan.
Nov 21st Thurs
Nice spot. As we went back to our little banda ( room) we realised there was some munching going on in the dark….there was a hippo, a big one.! We all took photos in the dark rather hopelessly. .it carried on munching!
Electricity is not reliable. Internet does not exist. Trying to charge things tricky. However I manage a bit of work off line and then we go off on boat ride to Murchison falls. Three hours up river to the falls which includes looking at wildlife. It was good..lots of birds…lots of trying to get it on camera.!! Got this croc….
Good to see falls top and bottom. Why has this very narrow gorge not been eroded by the power of the Nile??
Nov 22nd Friday
Kay’s ( my ex mother in law) 94th birthday. We bid goodbye to the Red Chilli rest camp and its guests…all sorts! This is the furthest north we shall go on this trip and feel rather sad that we shall not hear our hippo munching away in the dark….he/she came again last night.
Back through the park to Masindi…dirt road easier because we know it, but missing the butterflies that we saw on the way in, and then to Hoima. Good dirt road and very pretty countryside. Lots of people walking by the road and every woman with a baby. ! We find an hotel in the back streets recommended by the locals. A bunch of doctors from the UK are staying, helping out in the local hospital for a couple of weeks. Head off to do oil change on my bike. It rains first. … Try internet but dead slow. Clive has long after dinner conversation with one of the doctors about over- population etc. He is also going nuts about mosquitos. I am taking malaria tablets….he is not, because he says they make him feel ill!!
Nov 23rd Sat
Ems Plumbe’s birthday. Another dirt road day. The red dust is beginning to get everywhere. Begin badly by dropping the bike as we set off when I was negotiating a bit of mud! Then as we leave town they are doing road works on the dirt road and things are a wee bit tricky to start with. No more mishaps and on we go. Very rural. We are now on a secondary road. The people are sometimes pretty dirty and poor, especially the children . Do not see any big schools, or schools at all and the children are dressed in dirty, holey oversized t shirts and bare foot. Plenty of activity with people walking, cycling and on pikipikis ( bodabodas here). Many little pikipikis had three people on board ( women sit sideways) or were carry huge loads. Sugarcane, sweetcorn, bananas, papyrus and many other things grow here in this tropical, lush area. Plenty of water…. Less humid though as we finally climb up into the hills towards Fort Portal. Here are big tea plantations…..lots. We hit tarmac for the last bit but then get the dreaded sleeping policemen again. The dirt road seems more friendly! Still, bikes survived a bumpy day and it did not rain…
Still no wifi though can buy card for a hotspot … very limited with max 25mb download. One photo and thats it. Tried internet cafe again and managed, snail like ,to load 5 photos in half an hour. Had indian meal at the hotel during which it rained.
Nov 24th Sun
This is a real musical spot! Went to bed to the noise of many a disco…sat night. Got woken at 3am or so to really loud disco music as they played their last songs. Soon after it was muslim calls to prayer, then some huge birds in a nearby tree did their bit and finally , about 7am it was the christians ..now Sunday…singing their hearts out in a happy clappy way. Crows are cockadoodling and traffic is tooting with those sing song horns. Arise and shine!
We thought we would do a smallish hop but got to that point so easily that decided to carry on to Lake Bunyoni . The road started very well, excellent , and scenery great. Road took us through Queen Elizabeth national park. Then whilst still lovely scenery we crossed lakes Edward and George and then the road became vey potholed. Next move was to take a short cut on a minor road. Rain had threatened all day so far and had rained in places in front of us. Our short cut was dirt and about 35kms long. We began and shortly we came across road construction. This means fresh red soil which is slippery in rain. Anyway Clive put me in front and slowly I made our way, no slips infact. However we had to cross various bits of water which had rocks from road construction in their base. In one bit Clive’s bike bottomed out on a rock which put him off his stride and he slowly lost the bike. Result was wet feet and dented pride. To my surprise I made it. Finally reached tarmac.! Rain still very threatening we keep going to Kabale. Up and down the hills with black clouds everywhere but miraculously we do not get rained on which was very lucky as this tarmac road then had construction with bits of the slippery red soil for us to ride on.
Reached Kabale and then 9kms more to reach the lake. Up hill again, over the crater rim ( for this is a crater lake ), and down the other side , all on sometimes wet dirt. Hotel selection was basic or better. We opted for better this time.!
Nov 25th Mon
The birds nest as the hotel was called, was very nice and had lovely views up the lake. The locals had a little boat that carried people, and market produce, backwards and forwards across it. We took it easy in the morning and admired the scenery and then set off over the crater rim and back down to Kabale before heading for the border and Rwanda.
The border was a pleasant surprise and we were through pretty quickly and nothing to pay! The countryside has been lovely these last two days and Rwanda did not disappoint. Now we are drivng on the right so a little change there for this was a Belgian colony. Secondly they speak more french than english. Thirdly it seems a very hilly/high country. Steep hills and valleys, the road going constantly up and down and round. Great motorbiking. Fourthly there are virtually no sleeping policeman so we have been able to enjoy the sweeping curves on a mostly good road with little traffic. In fact we had the border road almost to ourselves….brand new tarmac, no lines, no policeman and just bicyclists either speeding down the hills or struggling up in big groups. They are fit, no fancy bikes, just ancient sit up and beg ( 3 speed sturmey archer only possibly).
First impression was of a poor country with few cars, some pikipikis and many on bicycles and on foot. However it became evident next day that whilst car ownership is low , housing is a lot better than its neighbours. Tea growing in the high valleys, lots of it. Sugarcane, sweetcorn, bananas etc….all still very tropical and lush. Beautiful scenery.
And so we ended up in Kigali, the captal. Rain threatening yet again and yet again lucky till the end when we had to make a dash for cover along with all the other pikipiki drivers. We have been a novelty the last few days with lots of openmouthed stares from people on the side of the road. This crowd under the roof did not know what to make of us either! Select one of the first hotels that looked decent. Problem was it was only surface decent.
After a little walk in the squalor around the bus station that we had ended up near, Clive announced that he was not feeling that good. Malarial symptoms! He has not been taking his Doxycycline pills as he says they make him feel ill….heart racing etc. So he lies around while I sort a few things out. One is that the bathroom has a leak….water oozing from under the shower tray and flooding the floor. It is mopped up once and then I keep the bucket and cloth for later. Then it was off out into the dark and the bus station area to find a pharmacy. I am handed a 3 day supply of malarial treatment with no questions asked. £3. Back to Clive who is feeling cold but very hot to the touch. We have wifi but it is dead slow and rather hopeless but do manage in the end to look up about malarial symptoms on the internet.
Nov 26th Tues
Clive no worse really after two doses of the 3 day course EXCEPT that he says his chest hurts when he breathes deeply. He did take one doxycycline tablet last night as well as the other stuff. So he lies around while I go off to see the Genocide memorial museum.
The Rwandian genocide that took place in 1994 over a period of 100 days cost the lives of 1 million people and about the same number mutilated, raped, orphaned. At the end 2/3 of the population were displaced. Much foreign aid poured into the country afterwards. There is much positiveness now to pull together. So much so that every last Saturday of the month everyone does 3 hours work for the country. They shut up their businesses and go and clear out ditches, mend roads or whatever.
Clive in the meantime is not worsening. Not feeling too good either but in agreement that we move onwards a bit. This hotel was not that great!! We do about 80 miles to Huye or Butara ( same place). Great road again, green green countryside, but quite cold on this cloudy day…about 18c. ! Locals dressed in anoraks and peruvian like hats. Rain gets us again but just as we reach Huye. Find better hotel and Clive sleeps as we have arrived pretty early not knowing that Rwandan time is one hour behind till we set off this morning.
Nov 27th Wed
Clive doing okay. Chest getting better…definately doxycycline. Going to keep moving, the road is good and not so many miles to the border with Burundi and then on to the capital , Bujumbura. Total about 90 miles.
The road is a great biking road again, sweeping bends , up and down and through the villages. Hoards of children, lots of people walking the verge, lots on the ancient bicycle. Once in Burundi….easy border…. there was a lack of pikipikis. Obviously poorer. The very steep ups and downs on a bicycle with no gears was obviously hard work. Pushing a bicycle up these steep hills with a load of bricks on it is hard work! Some guys had worked it out and hitched rides behind trucks, hanging on with one hand and sitting sideways on the crossbar. This was obviously when they had delivered their load!! Some trucks were going pretty fast, faster than you would cycle. Some had 5 cycles hanging on, in a row. It looked very dangerous. We saw one guy hanging on by himself on the back of a container lorry.
Rwanda was surprisingly together. Houses weren’t bad, streets better organised, lots of industrious people working in the countryside. We were a novelty for sure. They stared open mouthed at us going by. Same in Burundi, but always friendly. We stopped for a drink , huge crowd gathered, but lack of english inhibited real conversation. They speak french!
Usual difficulty in finding the planned hotel when neither street names nor people can help. Locals do not stay in hotels so they do not know where hotels are!! By the time we found suitable spot Clive was knackered. We are going to spend two nights here to allow Clive to gather himself before another push. The future days are tougher for a bit, because they are probably dirt as we try and head down the western side of Tanzania. Not so good if you are feeling poorly.
Nov 28th Thurs
Clive takes last dose of Coartem. We have a day here. Research on internet, upload photos slowly but surely to Dropbox, hopefully update website with photos too. Take a walk with a fairly unaspiring shopping list but mostly fail. Shampoo for Clive, and a biro were impossible. Managed water, mosquito coils and milk!! They do not know what a supermarket is. If they general state of the nation can be judges by its ‘shops’, then health clinics are most numerous followed by pharmacies, optical shops, and hair salons. There are of course little food shops selling a very poor selection. I and Clive have had haircuts. We are both quite shorn! Haven’t had such a short haircut for many a year but it will keep me cooler! The africans in the hairdressers all thought I looked much better.
Everyone very friendly and helpful. Now about to go and oil bike chains.
Nov 29th Fri
This day was quite ambitious anyway without the unforeseen consequences that happened. Pretty trip southwards beside Lake Tanganyika, the world’s longest and also second deepest lake. People hard at work pushing their loaded bicycles this time loaded with Palm oil nuts in huge bunches. It rained on us so we sheltered under a roof with the masses for a while.
Clive seems to be okay but perhaps not telling me all. We make a small navigation error as we near the border of about 10 miles. Costs us about half an hour. Next little quirk was the border formalities which were in a scruffy town on a bad dirt road which was the road to the border. We were told there was also the border proper. So we got our passport stamped here, asked for customs but were told none, so presumed at the border. Onwards to the border on this pretty bad dirt road, 11 miles took 40 mins, to find that the carnet had to be stamped back up the road! We tried to get them to give us a stamp but to no avail. I went back to give Clive a rest. All in all it took me about 1.5 hours. On to the tanzanian side. It went fine but by now it was 6 o clock with one hour to get to the town for the night. We had lost an hour with time change and 2 hours with problems.
Dirt road…we had expected it. Off we went, rain threatening, black clouds ahead. Pretty basic road and 30 miles. We buzzed along as fast as we dared. I could not believe we were not being rained on, so black was it. With probably 20 mins to go to get there the heavens opened. On with waterproofs and on we went. So close and yet so far. We could see the lights of the town in the now near dark, unfortunately below us ,which meant down hill. In pelting rain the fine dry road became a nightmare and on a hill above the town I finally dropped my bike in the mud. In the darkness poor Clive came and helped pick it up but by then I realised I could not do this in these conditions. My bike felt like it was on a slushy ski slope. I had no control of the front wheel which was covered in mud. My legs just not long enough to always hold it up. We crept in neutral, front brake on and feet paddling. Cars tried to come up the hill and struggled. Either side of the road was thick bushes and a ditch so no getting off.! In the end Clive got my bike down one section, then I managed for a bit till another steep bit when Clive helped again. The end result was that I dropped the bike twice, Clive survived, my pannier bar between the panniers got broken, we both got soaking wet and covered in red mud and the 15 min ( 7kms) end to the journey took about 2 hours. I could not have done it without Clive. I came to a standstill on that hill and did not want to move. I just knew I would fall off again.
We got to the town, Kasulu , and in the end , with local help ( for a fee of course) found a satisfactory place and we finally got some food. Clive, suffering from tiredness from his malaria had not had a restful day!! We had so nearly made it before the rain. It had been pretty awful.
Nov 30th Sat
Our room was strewn with drying clothes which had not dried! It had rained again in the early morning for hours . Our new target was 50 miles to a small town…dirt road for the next few days.
As we headed to breakfast we could see that Clive’s bike had fallen over .In the red mud. Pushed over thought Clive by the men who had demanded money for bringing us here. They wanted more than we gave.! We righted it, no damage. Head into town to get my bar welded, refabricated. This created a huge audience round the welder. After second attempt we seem to have something that is working. One pannier sits crooked because something else is bent. For now it works. This kind of job is second nature to the local african who is always fixing up their old cars. One car was propped up on its side ( no workshop let alone a pit or ramp) having something done to its steering.
Hopefully road has dried out a bit.Off we go. It improves as we go along. The town Uvinza, is small, basic. This is our most basic night to date. Currently no electrics. No english spoken of any import. Food…we wait and see. We have our little stove and some tea. We made it before more rain.
Dec 1st Sun
We ended up buying bananas, mangoes and some ‘ caki’ things and ate them sitting out at the front of our guest house. Electricity finally appeared via a generator. The night was very disturbed when a son or boyfriend arived at about 2am and proceeded to talk at the top of his voice for a good while. In the morning he left at 7am in his vehicle…a landcruiser! Mother and father so poor that they refused to hand back change due to us for the room.
Little word re the ‘en suite’ bathroom. First glance showed a basin, squat loo and a shower. In use it was thus…..basin had no taps, no waste and a large hole in it; the shower had no shower head and no water came from the tap; the squat loo worked! Thus to wash or even brush your teeth you hung over the abyss of the squat loo and tipped any waste water from the buckets down it. To actually use the squat was difficult as your knees hit the basin.
Anyway we left a sleeping household…..no one saw us out. We opened the gate and went. 120 miles to do. The dirt road changed from good to bad to good etc, from hard packed mud to sand, up and down. I dropped my poor bike twice in sandy patches. Very annoying. ! Pretty wooded countryside and felt quite remote for a while. Saw baboons. But we got along as we expected and arrived in Mpanda about 3pm. Staying in Baraka guest house. Apparently got hot water….when the electricity comes on!!
Dec 2nd Mon
Electricity came and went. A storm did not help starting to rain as we walked to a restaurant. By the time I ran in to the restaurant it was in darkness but open. Clive came along with my little umbrella doing the job. Candle light dinner sounds so romantic but the food was a bit limited…chicken and chicken. So I got chicken soup which was a piece of chicken with bones and a bit of soup. Clive did not fancy that and managed to get another omelette ( he is always having omelettes). Clive has done very well, tired yes, but after finishing the course of pills feels better. He has been dozing once we reach somewhere.
Today which potentially was a longer day has gone well. We have arrived in Sumbawanga after 6 hours and 150 miles . The chinese are on the job here and there upgrading the road to tarmac. Whilst we only got 10 miles of tarmac we did manage quite some miles on nice level road ready for tarmac. We went through Kativi National park where we saw, right at the start the most astonishing pod of hippo, hundreds of them, wallowing cheek by jowl, in a small filthy amount of water.
We also saw 3 giraffe!! The park road was horribly corrugated. We felt quite remote again in places….few people which is a bit of surprise.
We have done well. It was a gamble taking this route. Yes, the beginning was not too great but the rain played no more havoc with us.
Dec 3rd Tues
We left Sumbawanga with hope for the road to improve as it was obvious that construction was underway. It took about 25 miles but after that there was a gradual improvement until a little bit of tarmac and then some more…and more. Funnily enough we only got on a bit faster , but more comfortably! In each and every village they had already got their speed bumps on the new road. As we neared Tunduma the policemen and their speed guns appeared.
From Tunduma we knew the road was tarmac because we travelled it on the way up. We have now completed the top of our figure of eight that this trip will make on the map. We reach Mbeya and book into a better hotel than before. A little catching up on internet, cleaning of bikes , clothes, and rest for Clive who seems to have done well. Then we are headed for Malawi.
This side of Tanzania was a surprise to me. I had thought it would be dry and flat. Instead it was pretty and hilly. It will eventually be spoilt as the tarmac road heads north and more people and trade arrives. Its called progress.
Dec 5th Thurs
Took a day off yesterday. Bikes got cleaned for the cost of £2 each. Caught up with things and Clive bought some necessary things.
Today it was off south to Malawi and the border. Road to the border was pretty and not busy. Some trucks plodding along. Border went well. Slightly plagued by money changers who tried insisting that kwatchas ( Malawi money) were totally necessary for road tax …we did not fall for it. In the event there was no road tax to pay nor even a visa.
So we are heading down Malawi beside the lake for a bit. Pretty, fairly tropical but flat at the north end of the lake. People friendly and helpful. Plenty of bicycles but no pikipikis. Few cars. Saw a weird sight…looked like a bonfire on the lake surface. Brown coloured smoke plumming up into the air . Could not work it out. Later Mark told us it was lake flies. They swarm over the water, living for 24 hours. The locals like to try and catch them …good protein !!! They are tiny, like ordinary flies.
We get to intended stop town by lunch time doing very well on good road. Didn’t like an expensive lodge so went onwards. Got on so well so thought we would stay in Livingstonia…..up a steep hill for 16kms. Well we set off, it was dirt and very rocky. Seemed to get ever more rocky and steep until we called it a day. Clive was grounding on the rocks and I was pretty appehensive. Turned bikes round ( Clive had to help me) and went back down . Headed backwards to where we had seen a sign for a lodge. Another tricky off road track but we found the Songilo Sanctury lodge. Not cheap but has ambience beside the lake. Swim….the owner ( english) says its okay…..no bilharzia. The owner tells us later that ‘the longway down team ‘came here and stayed for 4 days. This is where Euan MacGregor met up with his wife and Charlie got fed up and went up to Livingstonia where we failed! The owner is a motorcycling geordie from Newcastle. Bit of a surprise…
Dec 6th Fri
Realised at some point that the clock needed to go back an hour. Good supper last night and now breakfast. Chat to Mark and then to bikes where Clive notices he has a back wheel puncture in his tubed tyre. Leaving the guilty nail in we pump it up with my little pump and then its off up the steep incline out of Songlio lodge and back north to village to get it fixed. Its hot . The tyre gets fixed…we watch and others watch us. Some of the locals are sitting around drinking some home made alcohol made out of lemons.
Off we go south again at last. Beside the lake and then in to Mzuzu and then back to the lake heading for a lodge recommendation of Mark’s at Kande Beach. Its down a 3 km sandy track…quite sandy so a fair amount of “paddling” from me. Didn’t drop it! Overland type back packer place with two overland trucks…the most europeans we have seen the entire trip. Have swim in rough water in the lake. A storm has been hovering over the lake all day.
Dec 8th Sun
We took a vaguely enforced day off yesterday as it was pouring with rain till mid morning. We did not have much to do, electricity was off for quite a while so internet on satellite did not work till much later. I did do a bit of catching up then with emails and thus heard about the big storm and tide that has flooded much of the coast. Burnham Overy boathouse shop has had its stock wiped out and the boatyard is a terrible mess with many damaged boats.
So sad news from Norfolk ,…all we had to contend with were lake flies who decided to blitz us last night in clouds. Any light and they were there. Tiny, but non biting, they came through the mosquito net etc. In the morning they were dead in heaps! And the other thing that happened is that Clive got his flipflops stolen. They were cheap but suited Clive and he is fed up. He had left them to dry outside our room. Was it a european?
Today a little rain and then we were off. Negotiate the sand and then head down the lake some more, to Senga Bay, where we have found another strange type place on a beach. Worried about bilharzia so do not swim again. Wifi and internet still scarce. We looked at Sunbird beach resort at the other end of the bay first. Grand old hotel now under new German management. They wanted $170 per room!! Here it is no doubt far less smart but it has charm and character for the far cheaper price than the sterile, “sameyness” of Sunbird.
Here we are staring at a beach with a ruined house at one end and a sunken ship in the water in the middle. There is a rustic small beach bar where we are the only whites. Flocks of birds , a fish eagle and the owners dogs all hang about. At breakfast we are amused by monkeys in the mango tree. The whole set up has an air of laissez faire…the old caravan for rent, the cottages, the camp area, the loo block , the “roundevel” and lastly the boss who was an overweight limping south african lady.
We ate on the beach…was to be t bone steak but they had run out so it was rump. Rather dreading it because on the whole beef is truly tough but this was fine.
Dec 9th Mon
On down south , its hotter than lately. Leave the lake environs and things look drier. They are awaiting the rains here on the whole…land is all tilled and ready to be sown. Makes for a rather brown looking countryside. Roadside was teaming with people walking and cycling. Very few cars indeed. Petrol is expensive..over a £…about 1.20p. That is a lot for here.
Head for Zomba rather than Lilongwe. Reaching Zomba head up to the plateau above and try the sunbird hotel here for prices!!! Same!! Opt for cottage round the corner for 1/10th the cost and 3 bedrooms to ourselves . We flitted like sunbirds between cheap room in Montfort cottage and food and wifi at Sunbird . Worked well.
Dec 10th Tues
Sweet caretaker girl at our cottage unlocked our garage and we flitted back to breakfast at Sunbird before heading off to Blantyre, the old capital. I had identified a cafe to visit a la Lonely Planet guide. Did eventually find it…an upmarket retreat in Mandala house…old! Then it took us about 40 mins to find the right way out of town. No local knew the way! None of them seemed to have ever gone anywhere!! We were pointed in exactly the opposite way to which we wanted. No road signs as ever…
Eventually on the road to Mozambique. Border was okay but our hope for cheaper transit visa was dashed by slightly corrupt immigration officer. Large amount of dollars later we went onwards. Countryside now much drier. Had liked Malawi. Nice friendly calm people, not pushy. Poor, especially up this border road..very basic villages. Mozambique poor too, dry countryside and charcoal sellers everywhere chopping down trees again. Finally reach Tete, just across the great Zambezi river which is now nearing its end in the sea through Mozambique. Had heard that Tete was a hot hole which indeed it was. Got led to an hotel which did the job with the first airconditioning unit we have seen for some time….a testimony to the Mozambique electricity supply. No internet though. …and yet more chicken and chips to eat.
Dec 11th Wed
Putting the date in forms it goes..11.12.13…quite fun!! Another border…we have transited from Malawi through Mozambique via the ” Tete corridor” to Zimbabwe. The road has been good and empty apart from us and trucks. The borders not that busy. Some potholes after leaving Malawi but after that it has been good. People and bicycles in Mozambique but once in Zimbabwe only people and very few bicycles. At first Zimbabwe had some very basic villages but then things improved and houses looked up and so did shops etc. Completely different style with things set back from the road. Houses seem to compose of a small rectangular house with a separate “rondavel” next door. Quite neat and tidy. Petrol has been a problem here but now seems okay . There are signs for petrol coupons. Found a supermarket..limited but reasonable..better than we have seen for some time.
Countryside dry and then slowly greens up as we climb towards Harare. Evidence as far as I am concerned of some affluent estates ( of the past???) particularly as we near Harare. Very nice looking land and countryside. We are worried about finding somewhere to stay. Its getting late; no guide book, so we pull in to a smart looking place and succumb to its charms. Zimbabwe is so far a surprise. What I had imagined to be a country on its knees seems much better off than some of its neighbours. Maybe its just that the infra structure was there and that there are now huge holes in it that we shall discover. Mozambique is poor . Apparently it is not safe in the south right now.
Dec 12th Thurs.
Enjoy our nice spot and then set off into Harare to find Barclays bank. It would seem that very few ..if any , banks can do international visa cards at their ATMs. Barclays does the job. Zimbabwe deals with dollars and rands mostly. It does not have its own money. ZPetrol pumps like dollars and their dial is in dollar price. Hotels deal with dollars and dollars came out of the ATM. The centre of Harare is remarkably organised and calm. Traffic lights….we have not been stopped by traffic lights for weeks. Yes we have seen a few , very few ,but no one was obeying them. Here it is all working and being obeyed.
The hotel manager of last night had said that we must see the Great Zimbabwe ruins. These lie on our route south. Never heard of them…its a ruined city apparently. World heritage site. So off we go, further than planned but will take a day off tomorrow. It rains a bit, rather english weather. Though we know the hoyels will be expensive we try one or two and go for “Ancient city lodge”. It was built in 1996 by a white man called Allen from Harare who invested in lodges just as the economy faltered and tourism in this country decreased by 75%. Some of his lodges were taken from him and some destroyed. This one is quite amazing architecturally. Built around rocks a bit like Sardinia. We are three guests tonight…hardly going to pay the way. Fellow guest is a lone South African driving south.
Still being surprised by this country. No charcoal sellers, all seems organised, police not stopping us , food easy to buy, petrol to be had…. BUT cash from diamonds going straight into MPs pockets..(…in the wikipedia report.) . Scrap merchants would do well picking up the burnt out wrecks of cars from beside the road.
Dec 13th Fri
It dribbles with rain a bit which is disappointing as we want to see these ruins. But it cheers up and by 10.30am we are on our way into Masvingo to buy some provisions before going to the ruins. We are amazed at the price of breakfast everywhere….$20..each!! In that region anyway. The Zimbabweans do not think that expensive. It has to do with our rate of exchange and theirs with the dollar. But they do not seem to have their own currency…. The supermarket ( quite well stocked) gave me change in a mixture of dollars and rand….confusing.
Great Zimbabwe ruins/city was impressive for the walls built without mortar. We wandered around the two parts of the site and climbed the hill to the second part and took in the view. Nice spot. Clive fairly dismissive of the importance of the ruins….World heritage site. …we have better older buildings in UK.
Back to our hotel, play photos, but internet activity is dimmed by power going off. Power is such a problem to all the countries we have been through. This place , main part, was running on a generator till moments ago but that has ceased for now. The generator that powers the rooms had already stopped. Generally things get going before dark. Generally all power stops at the hint of rain…..
Dec 14th Sat
Clive sets off seemingly on a mission, not taking anything in . The road is fine but traffic building a bit. Trucks…well behaved but long with double trailers….buses, again with covered trailer for luggage, some private cars and quite a few pick ups etc. Cows wander, as do plenty of goats and some donkeys. Countryside is wooded and pretty with this lovely flat rock reminiscent to me of Sardinia . Its dry, they need rain. The lake near us last night was very low. People are poor but smiling.
It warms up as we lose altitude. Clive starts looking around and we reach harmony again. I am fascinated by the wrecked cars near the road. They have all been stripped completely of everything, they are just the metal frame…not even the chassis left. Often been torched. Why doesn’t someone do the final bit and salvage the metal as well?
It hits 35c and we stop in Bubi River for a drink in a rather nice motel by the river. The river is big and wide BUT it is quite dried up.! It is a pretty spot though and we decide to stay put. It has a swimming pool…We were going to get into South Africa but have just enough dollars for one more night in Zimbabwe. The border would have been very hot in the middle of the afternoon, instead we will tackle it in the morning.
Have a swim in the pool and the most gorgeous kingfisher swoops in to cool off too! All turquoise with white and a bright red beak.
Dec 15th Sun
Fail to get a photo of the turquoise kingfisher even though it sat beautifully….my camera would not focus properly.!
We leave and head for the border. Hot. Reflect on Zimbabwe…different to many other countries. Very few people walking the roadside ( possibly not so many people, villages further apart); virtually no one on bicycles, (donkey carts sometimes ), no pikipikis at all, and no charcoal sellers….hurrah!! Infact very little going on by the road. Nevertheless I am sure they are poor out there in the countryside. Whites owned each place we stayed in. I have a feeling all is not on display. More than meets the eye. You feel that under the cover of darkness all sorts happen. .the crashed car is stripped clean etc.
The road remains good, animals continue to wander and we see increasing amount of what is Christmas traffic coming the other way. It turns out they are Zimbabweans heading home from South Africa for Christmas in the homeland. They are mostly in overloaded pickups towing even more overloaded trailers. The poor trailers can’t cope always and several have broken axles or wheels . Several have had to be unpacked at the edge of the road. They literally are bringing fridges and the kitchen sink back. The pick ups breakdown too and the police are keenly watching/stopping them all.
The border is hot and the otherside coming in is obviously very busy….we are going the right way. One little lady gate keeper makes us go back because our gatepass has not got our registration right. We drip in the heat…its not our fault!! We had already walked backwards and forwards several times getting the silly stamps on the silly bit of paper.
But finally we get through, and through into South Africa. I have a feeling that we are now going to make it but also sadness that the fun part is now over. South Africa does not have wandering animals and other unpredictable things in the way we have seen. The road will be duller but the towns will be more interesting….hopefully. We have a few days to go yet.
Dec 16th Mon
We left Polokwane and our guesthouse at about 9am and on the recommendation of our host headed for the old road ( R101) that runs beside the N1 but is more scenic. Absolutely….much better.
More Zimbabweans on the northward run with their overloaded trailers…saw several trailers which had given up the ghost, contents sitting by the roadside as wheels or axles were looked at. Most seemed to weak for the job…..Police were also on the look out for them….once they were on the move again. Started to feel sorry for them…..
We do pretty well, weather not too hot, road good and we steam round Pretoria on motorway having joined it just north of the city. Take route towards Krugersdorp. Eventually find B and B at ” Gute_nacht”. Good old couple…she had a motorbike that she learnt to ride at 65 yrs old. Both old soaks with their fags. Regale us with horror stories of South Africa now…muggings, robberies, hold ups etc whilst we eat a take away ordered via a delivery service and eaten in their garden….actually on some decking over their little pool.
Emma has uploaded more photos to the gallery for me. They appear at the end of the cape town to cape town gallery on the All galleries page. Only part of the gallery is at the end of this…..still learning!!
Dec 17th Tues
He, the host , led us off in the morning on his BMW ….took us to the right road and then waved goodbye. Nice couple. Heading eastwards with a strong side wind on our right. Good open farmland as far as the eye could see. Some pretty birds…red and yellow with a huge long black tail, so long it could barely fly against the wind. Also some other bright red birds…
Good road, little traffic, dullish towns and then it becomes drier and more scrubby before we get to Vryburg, our proposed stop for the night. Find “Twiggies” guesthouse, B and B. Again nice couple and another pleasant stay. Food this time was found in a restaurant round the corner. Very american style so we share a huge fillet steak enough for three!!
Dec 18th Wed
Heading for Kimberley today. Should be there around lunchtime. Road fine empty and good. Scrubby, and then good farmland. Huge farms all with irrigation, reservoirs etc. Learn from a farmer having a cup of tea that labour rates are the same for a day as we pay per hour. !
Reach Kimberley, book into the “past its best ” Savoy hotel and head for the Big Hole and museum. Wanted to do an underground mine tour that was in my old Lonely Planet guide but we find that the tour was discontinued about 2 years ago. Shame, for we had planed to stay 2 nights so we could do that. Anyway, today we do the museum and see the big hole. Impressive hole with water in it. A dog fell in a month ago and survived .It was in the hole for 8 days I think, but could get out of the water on to a ledge. Tourists spotted it. It took 48 hours to rescue it!!
Dec 19th Thurs
Have decided to move on as we have seen the main sights. On the good road we again make great progress and reach a town called Britstown. Really only one choice and having arrived early we do get a room. Later we hear they are full. South Africans are now moving around for Christmas.!! No internet , too hicksville. Dull countryside we have crossed..dry,scrub covered ,in need of rain. Occasional farm if it has access to irrigation.
Dec 20th Fri
Leisurely start as we have booked a room for the night in Beaufort West. We booked the last room in a kind of formula 1 . We have been getting anxious about a room because of the Christmas hols.
Another not so interesting ride across pretty dry countryside. There are now hills but the good road keeps going fairly straight. Not too much traffic till we hit the N1 just before Beaufort West. This is a busy intersection stop over town, more busy right now than usual because of Christmas. Good restaurant with internet opposite our hotel so we sit playing and eating outside under a roof with grapes hanging down. It was hot today… reached 39.5c briefly. Lively outside in the night….bikes not that well guarded but under our window. Clive uses chain to lock them together for only the second time. Was it worth bringing….one heavy chain?
Dec 21st Sat
Another relaxed breakfast…bikes okay. Clive says some hooker knocked on the door in the night….! More karoo to cover to day…The Great Karoo….more emptiness for a while until we head down a very nice gorge in the mountains. We have been up at about 1000m and end the night about 700m down. Much prettier. I had no idea that there was such a vast area of nothingness in the middle of South Africa. The odd farm, sheep in the heat ( how do they do it…no shade), a few ostriches, termite mounds that Aardvarks have attacked, and some pretty birds. The odd town to keep you going…scrub and bushes, dried up rivers, no shade apart from the odd tree.
This place, Oudthoorn, is a centre for Ostriches…saw quite few on a farm at the edge of town. Hoped to shop but amazingly on this Saturday before Christmas the shops are shut except for one and a supermarket.
Dec 22nd Sun
Sun beats down as we leave town. Heading inexorably on towards Cape Town. Taking a road called Route 62…its akin to route 66 in America …haha. We are now crossing the Little Karoo. Still dry and scrubby. But the valleys have fruit farms and vines…
Montagu is our nights stop, last hotel on the trip. We opt for a guesthouse called Kingna. Claim to fame, we are in a bedroom slept in by Nelson Mandela… Nice spot. Just up the road, in trees near the Leidam ( a piece of water),a bare 50 metres from our nice guest house, are hundreds of Sacred Ibis. They make a noise arriving and the smell is quite powerful from so many birds. It’s their roosting spot.
Dec 23rd Mon
Our host suggests some wriggles to our route and off we go via Villiersdorp, Franchhoek, Stellenbosch to Somerset West and the home of Doug and Giovanna, whom we met earlier in our trip…Zambia, I think! The valley near Villiersdorp was very lovely, vines and fruit and a pretty backdrop/ scenery.
We arrived in Somerset West and relaxed with a dip in their pool. Lovely evening with them and a final breakfast , out , in ” Chatters”. Thank you.
Dec 24th Tues
The last few miles into Cape town and we find ourselves going past Roeland sq which is where Clive needs to go with his ipad. So before reaching Anna and Paul we stop and call in. Clive’s ipad has seized up after a software update .Poor Clive. He has got his Blackberry…. Being away as we are we are dependent on our gadgets….modern travellers!! The place is open till 1pm. They can do it….
On to Anna and Paul who are there to greet us. Plus the Har dee Dar Ibis in their garden.
Dec 25th Wed
Dec 29th Sun
Anna and Paul were great hosts. We met a number of their good friends on Boxing Day and the next day we took our bikes to the shipping agent….Pioneer freight. I managed to drop my battery terminal nut somewhere in the inards of my bike as I disconnected the battery. Got to remember to bring one when we pick them up in Tilbury at the end of January. So screen off, and mirrors off and they were ready.
We flew out the next day and had a good flight home via Dubai. Reaching Gatwick we then had to lug our awkwad motorcycle pannier luggage from bus ( Gatwick express had signal problems), to train, to tube, to train. I had got some wheels for my pannier/topbox but Clive manfully carried his heavy ones. Sam met us in King’s Lynn.
The bikes, BMW F650GS and Honda 700cc Transalp, did not have any breakdowns.
We had a couple of punctures .
The chains had no problems…we had both brought spares! Heavy!
Only used Clive’s, again heavy, security chain twice.
We covered 10,000 miles on my bike whilst Clive’s recorded about another 500 miles. Speedo discrepancies interesting.!
We spent about £2500 on shipping.
Carnet could almost be dispensed with and was an expensive thing to have had to get.
Our costs…petrol/living etc was about the same as being at home for three months.
We went through 11 different countries, some twice. Zimbabwe was the biggest surprise, on the surface ,not being what we had suspected. Power cuts are a problem in all. Solar power hardly being used. Life for many appeared unchanged in the 7 years since we had last been. Very happy to have seen Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi and Zanzibar…..the instigator of the trip.!
Feb 7th Friday
I finally brought home the motorbikes yesterday from Laindon , near Basidon in Essex. We had become increasingly fed up with how long the shipping had taken. First they did not go on the intended boat , and then having arrived here it has taken several days to release them from customs. The agent was not helpful and charged a small fortune. We will never ever use Dynamic International freight services again. The agents in Cape Town did not pack them in the original crates as requested and so we ended up paying for a large amount of space inside the over large crates. We should have packed them into the crates ourselves. The final line on shipping costs escalated to £4200 for two bikes. It would have been cheaper by air!