Latest from the blog

20.04.2011 - Mali – Home

Our time in Africa was short now; in a few months we would be back in Europe, back in the UK, back home. Read more..

Tanzania and Malawi

August 31st, 2010

We left Arusha in North Eastern Tanzania and drove towards the foot of Kili, intending to bush camp and view the mountain in the morn. However, the entirety of the Kili countryside has been given over to agriculture.

At every turning, the fields of corn and other cereals stretched before us. Whilst be may be lax with certain morals, we can’t countenance driving straight through someone’s crops, so we kept going, looking for a clearing away from crops and houses.

It was getting late and darkness had closed in with its customary swiftness; sunlight one minute, blazing red dusk the next, then sudden darkness.

After searching every small track for more than an hour, we took a gamble, hoping to ask for a spot to camp in a random resort carpark. Following signs for somewhere called ‘Tudor Village’, we came upon a large compound of half-finished houses and a breezeblock gateway, looming large out of the velvet night.

Upon asking the guard whether it would be possible to camp, he gestured us to wait in the corner, whilst he asked “the co-ordinator and the volunteers”. Perplexed, we perused him thorough the darkness, finding ourselves outside a modern building, adjacent to a lively tent, from which came forth the unmistakable sounds of Northerners.

It turned out, we had stumbled upon an orphanage, staffed by over 20 volunteers, predominantly from Leeds University. Small world eh? Its was about to get smaller. One of the volunteers, correctly identifying our strong, intelligent, sexy Southern accents, asked from where we hailed. Investigation revealed that she lived in Chalfont St Giles, the next village along from where Carl lives!

The chaps at the orphanage, Light in Africa, were brilliantly welcoming, inviting us to stay and welcoming us to breakfast in the morning. We left early and headed into the foothills, hoping to get some snaps of our lofty nemesis, but Kili refused to play ball, hiding in the high clouds.

Just as we were about to call off the search and begin the long drive to Dar es Salaam, the clouds parted and we caught a fleeting glimpse of the snowcapped summit through the swirl. At least we can say we saw a fraction of her, even if we didn’t get on top of her and plant a flag. A fairly damp ending to a disappointing few days in and around kili, one of our primary aims had not been achieved and we felt irritated, frustrated and most definitely that there was unfinished business here.

Leaving Kili behind,, we got our heads down and made good distance towards the coast until the engine cut out without warning at 55 mph on the main road. We got the engine running again, albeit very roughly and quickly realised we had a fuel problem. Tracing the fuel starvation back we found ourselves at the connection to the tank and as soon as we took it apart we found a lump of silicone in there which must have fallen into the tank when it was removed in Nairobi. We got moving again, our downbeat moods helped through having overcome the challenge which had presented itself.

 An overnight bushcamp overlooking the Tanzanian interior later, we found ourselves with a dying engine once again. A quick check of the fuel filter confirmed it was the same problem so we picked some more crap out of the fuel line, amazed that we had gone nearly 2000miles since removing the tank without a single problem and now we had had the same thing twice in 24hours! We continued on and rolled into Dar es Salaam later that afternoon.

Suggested by Tracks4Africa and by our friend Rhiaan, we drove over to Kipepeo Beach Resort, using the magnificent Dar ferry en-route. Although we were looking forward to seeing the sea again, for the first time since Egypt, we weren’t prepared for the seventh heaven that presented itself as we pulled up.   

A topaz blue sea stretched out before us, the waves washing up gently onto a white scimitar beach curling away down the bay. Palm trees to one side, the bar to t’other. In short, paradise. And all for $10 dollars a night.

We squeezed the Landy in between the vast Overlanding trucks already ensconced within the compound and walked over, keen to cast a look over some of the more globally renowned companies trucks. As well as Acacia and Intrepid, we also spied a Dragoman truck. Chatting to the driver, a very nice young chap called Nick, we got a sense of what these large stage-managed trips were like. In all, they seem a great way to see more of a country than resort holidays.

Whilst they are commonly sneered at by independent overlanders for having many more luxuries and comforts, being so much more affordable than independent travel they clearly have their place with tourists.

After an afternoon of lapping up the sun on the beach we got ourselves organised and tried to shoot over to Zanzibar to meet out German friend Jan, who we last saw in Nairobi.

Unfortunately, we missed our appointment with him at the full moon party in the North of the Island, due to ferry-related issues. Nevertheless, we made a fresh attempt to get over to Zanzibar and met a blurry Jan the following morning. We wandered the narrow streets, looking for a hotel with space for a couple of nights during Ramadan, fitting right in with the hoards of backpackers.

We spent a very hot couple of days in Zanzibar eating fresh fish, touring a spice farm, visiting the museum (school is cool kids) and checking out the significant historical landmarks, notably David Livingstone’s house, Freddy Mercury’s bar and the last remnant ruins of the East African slave market.

Unfortunately our time was over all too soon and we headed back to the mainland, arriving a few hours later and a fair degree lighter, as Carl had thrown up consistently during the two hour crossing; Tom subsequently describing it as a “perfect calm”, Carl however preferring ”perfect storm”.

Back on the main land we toured the Dar Es Salaam fish market, which is regularly restocked by the pallet load from the docking point just 20 metres down the harbour. Within 2 minutes of the fishermen returning in their small wooden boats, fish would be on a table in the market ready for sale. Doesn’t get much fresher than that!

We argued down the price of a couple of large mackerel and a kilo of prawns. One of the inevitable helpers in an African market explained that if we just wandered over the road, the chaps there would clean, prepare and cook the food for pennies in just a few minutes.

Saving the mackerel for later we investigated the cooking shed, using the prawns as guinea pigs, if you’ll excuse the pun, and found ourselves in this wonderfully moody scene with open fires all around and all manner of items being fried left, right and centre. Have a look at the photos, a truly surreal sight as hot and fierce as a furnace, in the middle of which stood the cooks, frying whatsoever was in the bags thrown at them!

Later that evening, after a risky late night dash to get charcoal (some of our friends had been robbed at knifepoint a few weeks prior), we put the mackerel on a grill and cooked it on the beach, beers in hand. Simply magical.

The night before we hoped to leave, Jan arrived at our campsite complaining of problems with the carburettors on his bike and saying he needed to rebuild them in the morning. As this meant we couldn’t leave first thing we decided that we would strip one of the rear hubs which had been leaking a little oil for some time now.

We came to the conclusion that the culprit was tucked in behind the stub axle and took all the bolts of to remove this but the bugger was fixed solid, 13 years of UK weather had caused a Spice Girls moment, where two become one. Jan pointed us in the direction of his Tanzanian friend Geoffrey on the other side of town as we thought he may have a blowtorch to separate the two parts so we could change the seal.

Thus it was that we left the Kipepeo paradise and followed Jan across town where Geoffrey welcomed us into his compound. A well educated and quietly spoken engineer, he suggested his mechanic friend have a look at removing the stubborn stub axle.

Meantime, Tom, Jan and Geoffrey toured town looking for a new seal whilst Carl stripped everything down again. Eventually the stub axle came off following an ancient mating ritual involving a litre of WD-40, a club hammer and a man with a better swing than Tiger Woods.

Frustratingly, the correct seal could not be found in town, so we repaired to Geoffrey’s and aimed to grab the seal in the morning from downtown, then refit, rebuild and get on the road in the direction of Malawi.

By 10 am the following morning we had the seal and by 11 everything was refitted, ready to rock and roll. There was still time for Jan to try and get himself arrested before lunch (for parking illegally outside the supermarket, and then shouting at officials), after which we hit the road. Finally, we were out of the speed bump city and racked up just over 100 miles before the day was out, finding a bush camp just before dark.

 Another day in the car followed and, despite an early start and many hours at the wheel, unfortunately we couldn’t make the border, so bought some beers and Konyagi (the local cane spirit) sachets in a local shop and headed out to search for somewhere to camp. Eventually we found the perfect place, a couple of kms away from the main road, then 50 metres off of a smaller track, surrounded by 8 foot high grass.

In the morning we said goodbyes to Jan, who was turning right to head for Mozambique, whilst we turned left and drove to Malawi.

 Whilst Tom did the paperwork, Carl did the far more important job of finding out the weekend’s football scores from the lingering “changer-money” touts. It turned out Arsenal had won, with ‘Taaw Wakat’ (Theo Walcott) scoring the opener.

By mid afternoon we had shuffled through numerous police checkpoints (who simply ask “Where are you going?” before letting you through) and found ourselves camping by the shore of Lake Malawi. First glimpses of Malawi reminded us of Ethiopia, with kids demanding pens and sweets, obvious poverty and densely populated.

We had an impromptu game of football on the slightly stony beach with a few local kids and a passing Rasta-man, which left us with cuts all over our feet, but we all had a lot o fun.

Back in the car again the following day, we headed further south following the lake and by mid afternoon arrived at Njaya lodge, in Nkharta bay. Upon the recommendation of a couple of friendly travellers in Addis (thanks Rachel and Sebastian), we negotiated the terrible road to the lodge which was 2.5 km out of town.

Tom went to reception to investigate and returned with two very cold beers and a friendly looking Englishman called Jason, who promptly asked us if we had come through Morzine in the French Alps on our way through Europe.

It turned out Jason was good a mate of our friend Paul Lake, who lives in Morzine, where Carl had spent the previous four summers mountain biking. Amazed at the coincidence we called for more beers (this was absolutely necessary) and chatted away, discovering that Jason also knew Paul and Alex of Riders Retreat and Aalx design, the kind chaps who look after our website and designed our logo respectively!

Jason had newly arrived, aiming to spend a few years as part of the management team at the lodge alongside the ever-smiling Dixon and Gilbert (great guys), and was currently building a beach bar 50m down from the lodge, to make this serene lakeside retreat that bit more comfortable.

 As if managing a busy lodge wasn’t enough these guys also had to deal with the many touts all over the bay who would demand commission for the slightest thing or squeeze their way into hotel grounds to try to promote themselves directly to the tourists.

 After a fresh fish lunch we took up positions in the available hammocks and read our books through the sunset, enjoying our ‘half-day off’.

After saying goodbye and heartfelt best wishes to the lovely guys at the lodge ( to any overlanders planning on visiting the bay, make the effort to go to the lodge as it’s well worth it!) we hit the road again and by 10 am had already passed 4 checkpoints – a good indicator that we were making good time.

Our plan was to reach Lilongwe in time to stop at the Mozambique embassy, in order to inquire about visas. Our route down to Joburg needs to be slick, as we have an appointment to meet Carl’s girlfriend Tash on the 13th of September! Luckily, visas should be sorted tomorrow, then its off south again.


1&2: Bushcamp in Tanz

3 to 7: The furnace like fish frying shed in Dar es Salaam

8 to 11: The view from Zanzibar

12 to 14: Jan joins us for a Spice tour on Zanzibar

15 & 16: Leaving Dar

17 to 19: Jan joins us on the road to Malawi, before heading to Mozambique

20: The offending half shaft removed, the faulty seal is exposed

  • Riders Retreat - mountain bike holidays in Morzine
  • Land Rover Experience
  • Watling Tyres
  • Draper Tools
  • Brit Part
  • hel
  • Koni
  • aalx designs
  • Bradt Travel Guids
  • Map Vivo
  • Antares - engineering with answers
  • EBC Brakes
  • Sentry Safes
  • Twisted Performance
  • X Eng
  • challenger 4x4
  • Goodwinch
  • K and N
  • Kenlowe
  • Waeco
  • Polybush
  • MM 4x4 Land Rover
  • Keith Gott
  • comma
  • Stigs stainless fastners
  • Tracmat
  • Alli Sport
  • BOSCH - invendted for life
  • Allparts - number 1 in car parts
  • Proppa
  • Goodyear 4x4
  • Aaron Radiator
  • Sign a rama
  • better Prepared
  • Devon 4x4
  • foley specialist vehicles
  • Labcraft LED lighting
  • Mammouth Premium
  • Plastor
  • Exmoor Trim
  • Terrafirma
  • sound reduction systems
  • aquarius
  • Master Lock
  • P and O Ferries
  • Dixon Bate
  • hibiscus
  • Ring Automotive
  • Roverland