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Camel World  

Halid Motors
PO Box 70391
Mandela Highway
Dar es Salaam

+255 (0)741 351192
+255 (0)744 290538



Travel Diary - 2003
5 January | Senegal
22 January |Gambia
18 January |Guinea
9 February | Mali
22 February | Burkina Faso
3 March | Ghana
19 March | Togo
20 March | Benin
25 March | Niger
12 April | Chad
15 April | Cameroon
16 April | Nigeria
30 April | Congo
24 May | RDC
31 May | Angola
5 June | Namibia
27 June | South Africa
30 August | Lesotho
10 September | Swaziland
9 October | Botswana
17 October | Namibia
19 October |
29 October | Malawi
4 November |Mozambique
16 November | Tanzania
12 December | Rwanda
16 December | RDC
18 December | Uganda
24 December | Kenya

Travel Diary - 2004
9 January | Ethiopia
6 February | Sudan
21 February | Saudi Arabia
23 February | Jordan
3 March | Syria
5 March | Turkey
12 March | Greece
21 March | ...And Home


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17 months, 43 countries, and 2 vehicles


Welcome to Mtwara

Crossing into Tanzania was pretty straightforward after we'd actually managed to climb the steep and sandy bank onto terra firma. The border itself was about 3km from the ferry, and the only fee was a $5 fuel levy for the car.

We followed Kazimoto into Mtwara where our first priority was to find our venue for the rugby - first we tried the Southern cross which is billed as the posh hotel in town. This was unfortunately under construction, and had no DSTV, but the manager, Uwe Nielsen, invited us to camp for free, and for the rugby he directed us to the Finn Club - some sort of expat Scandinavian place complete with saunas (you have no idea how hot it is here right now).

So in the end we managed to watch England triumph over France with a cold been in hand - bliss.

Uwe has turned out to be the perfect host - he's delighted to have a few white faces around, and we've even got free use of his spare room. An added bonus is that local internet is $1 and hour, and it's fast. If only we could change our Mozambique Meticas into Tanzanian Shillings...

17 November 2003

So now we are sorting ourselves out for the run up to Dar es Salaam. This morning my rear diff went haywire as I came round a right hand bend, and I lost power to all wheels. I played around with unwinding the diff, and switching the lock on and off, but in the end I limped back to the hotel with diff lock on, and then headed for the local garage.

By the time I'd got there a few clunks from the diff meant that whatever had come unstuck must have fallen back into place, and I'm now able to use the normal range without diff lock - I had the diff oil changed as a precaution, and we'll see what the run to Dar throws at us.

The Road to Dar - 63,612km

I'd heard all sorts of stories about the coast road that runs North to Dar es Salaam - it's apparently impassable in the big rains - and is by all accounts a hard drive. Frankly, it was a doddle - we'd decided to break the journey at Kilwa where there are some interesting ruins - which meant that we were able to take things easy.

The road itself is a mixture of the good and the bad, with a great tarmac run into Kilwa itself. The hassle started when we tried to get over to the island where the ruins are - permits that were until recently free now cost $2 - then there's the compulsory guide (negotiable), the touts, the extortionate boat fees (it's near impossible to get onto the public boat) - basically it's the usual crap getting out of control - we very nearly turned tail and left. The better way to do it would be to hire a fisherman a long way from the port and do it all privately - assuming you've got the Swahili...

The ruins are quite impressive once you get there - the locals are friendly, and our local guide works on tips, and gave us a great tour, which included watching the locals beat a wild cat of some sort to death - all very exciting stuff.

The following day we continued North, with the road improving steadily, arriving in Dar early enough to drive around the city centre, find the Land Rover garage, book the car in for a service (no more diff problems), and then drive around to Kipepeo Beach where there's a beautiful camp site.

Old Zanzibar

The next morning we set out with a couple of groupies that we'd met at Kipepeo, and American and a Tanzanian. After waiting far too long for a ferry across to Dar city I left the Camel at the garage with a vague promise that I'd pick it up eventually, then we rushed off to the port where we missed the midday ferry after Stephanie, the American decided to pick a quarrel with the purser (see - Swahili can be useful). The next, more expensive boat deposited us in Stone Town in early evening.

Ports aren't always the nicest of places - Stone Town particularly so - and between avoiding touts, taxi driving touts, and pickpockets we arrived sweaty and tired at the Haven. The four of us headed out to the food market where of course we bumped in to Laura and Penny, who both Jayson and I had already travelled with.

Then Saturday arrived - the World Cup final - and for once I managed to find a bar with a good crowd; the rest is history...

Sunday started with a good wander along the maze of streets in Stone Town. We arrived near the port and decided to buy the night boat tickets. The idea was for Jayson and I to catch the night boat to Pemba for Idd - the end of Ramadan, as well as a spot of diving. The problem was that the boats weren't running to schedule because of Idd - and as I had to get back before Friday to pick up my car I decided at very short notice to hop on the 4pm Zanair flight, leaving Jayson to catch a later boat...

The flight was quite an adventure in itself - it was a 12 seater - I was first on and told to move right to the front. "What - the co-pilots seat?" I joked. And that's how I got to fly a commercial plane... well almost - it certainly made for good views.

Pemba - it's a small world

Pemba is far less developed than Zanzibar - less hassle means more relaxation, and as usual more friendly people. October and Michael, who I'd met in Livingstone, work at Swahili Divers, which is a sort of combined backpackers and dive base. It's a very relaxed operation (in a good way), and the logistics of getting everybody to and from dive sites is well sorted out. I managed to get a pretty good discount based on my instructor qualifications, which is lucky as it isn't the cheapest place to dive - but the good news is that it's well worth it - great reefs, fish, viz, and a good lunch thrown in. A couple of days was just enough to wet my appetite - but then of course I managed to get an ear infection which meant that I was at least able to explore the Island with Tim Stead and some of the other guys.

Tim Stead.... now there's a funny story. I'm on the dive boat and notice a guy that I hadn't spoken to is reading a book about the French Airmail Service in the twenties and thirties. Unless you are French it's a pretty obscure book - I can't even remember the title, but I'd last seen the book in Mauritania, also by coincidence at one of the North African bases from where the Author had flown. We get chatting, and this bloke explains how he'd visited said town in Mauritania. So as travel bores are want to do we waffle a bit about the places and pistes we both know and have suffered. I ask him when he was last there - and bugger me if it wasn't at the same time as I passed through. Then he starts talking about his Land Rover V8 with clutch problems and the penny drops. Tim and I had spend weeks talking via email about places to get work done in West Africa, and had even met once as he arrived and I left the Zebra bar in Senegal, he'd even driven Paul Dutson's truck in a sort of vehicle exchange, but I finally get to meet him properly on a small island off the coast of East Africa... A very small world indeed.

Idd was an appropriately bizarre occasion - the entire island seemed to travel by dalla dalla to an incongruous fairground complete with decaying rides and a Ferris wheel resplendent in three light bulbs (the whole affair is dark and gloomy unlike any fair in the first world). Once there it's party time - with discos (no lights either) many stalls all selling the same food (seen that in Switzerland too), and of course the opportunity to defy death by riding the Ferris wheel...

I really enjoyed Pemba - it's so different form Zanzibar proper - and it's lack of commercialism is appealing. It's also what I'd call dirty jungle - that's to say there are areas that are full of bugs and nasties - one of which unfortunately seemed to be the the bathroom as Swahili Divers - and it was possibly there that a certain mosquito chose to dine one fateful night....

All to soon it's time to fly back to Dar via Zanzibar, though at least I get the front seats for both legs... Then it's off to CMC Land Rover for the Camel - which as I drive out groans in protest at the state of the rapidly expiring diff. I'm pretty surprised that they hadn't bothered to test drive the car - and I'm pretty suspicious about what they'd done to turn an intermittent problem into a regular and complete failure of the diff, but at least the car is drivable, so I have my roof tent for the weekend at Kipepeo beach.

I join the queue for the ferry, and in one of those almost dependable coincidences another Camel Trophy Disco pulls up behind me. Just when i need a good Land Rover mechanic I meet Robin Bryant who lives close to Kipepeo beach, and invites me over for Sunday lunch with his wife, Julia.

It's over lunch that I find out about Athumani ( an anagram of antihuman, I note) who runs a garage that comes highly recommended. Monday morning reveals a sheared half shaft ( a symptom more likely that the problem itself - the diff is probably locking up at speed. The half shaft is specific to the Detroit diff lock, so it's time for a new set of shafts and a new diff, and by the end of the day, and $300 poorer, I drive off with one less worry in the world.

The following morning I have a whole new worry - aching joints, a flu like feeling and dodgy guts. Off to the local clinic where I discover that I've got a parasite count of three per however many blood cells, which means early stage malaria. I'm given Malaxin, which is a new one on me, and retire to the hammock for the day. I now no longer have to listen enviously to the stories of all those other travellers who have had malaria without riposte; finally Africa is in my blood.

By day two I'm feeling much better, and head in to town to unravel the mystery of Rwanda visas (free at the border). I feel a little cheated - no feverish brow and all that. Perhaps I should go back to the clinic and ask for an exchange. Ebola perhaps?

And so we get to day three where I'm back on the official burger diet, where I've manage to repair the MP3 playing ability of the car stereo, and where I'm pretty much ready for the road to Arusha...


We set off hoping to beat the traffic. No such luck. The 'we' if you are curious is because I'm giving Stephanie and Celine, the groupies I mentioned earlier a lift home to Arusha. Arusha is a long day's drive from Dar, and after we'd had to wait an hour for a ferry it made sense to break the journey at Lushoto.  The road up into the mountains is a marvel of German engineering, and swiftly takes you up into the highlands where you follow valleys that are straight out of the Swiss alps, even complete with the log cabins. It's good to feel cool air again, and as the mountain pass unfolds, and we climb ever higher the temperature drops still further.

At dusk we arrived at Lawns Guest House where after dining on the world's smallest ever sandwich (TS1500) I slept soundly, wrapped in my duvet for the first time since SA.

In the morning we followed a track up to the President's retreat - actually a hotel in the making, where you can pretty much see forever, and as an added bonus the vervet monkeys are practically tame. After arguing with our guide who expected a Kilimanjaro-type tip for his hours 'work' (he actually walked away from our very fair offer - about half a days pay for anybody else) it was on to Arusha.

I spent the next couple of days camping in Stephanie's yard. watching a succession of Massai drop by for tea, and generally getting a feel for the town. Stephanie lives with a bunch of other expats, but it's very much in the community, rather than by exclusion as is normally the case. This is pretty unusual, but then the people in the house all either work with the Massai, except for Gemma, who is married to one. That meant that I actually got to meet the extremely proud and elegant Massai for real, before heading off the the Serengeti to meet the tourist-tarnished equivalent.

Ngorongoro and beyond

Possibly the toughest moment in an African trip must the that instant when you reach into your wallet and pull out fist-fulls of dollars to get you into a Tanzanian park. I know I was crying. What really hurts, though, is that this money doesn't go to the local communities or to the parks themselves - it just disappears as far as you and I are concerned, So having paid $75 for the honour of driving on some of the worst roads in any African park to  get to the crater, and then on to Olduvai gorge of Leakey fame, you expect something pretty special. Yes, the crater is pretty good. As good as Kruger at least. And the gorge is something that you can't really pass by if you have even a passing interest in anthropology or archaeology. but on a value for money basis it scores a 2/10. And that's just warming up.

After changing the ripped tyre that the roads had destroyed, and making running repairs to those bits of the car that were getting shaken off by the appalling surface, I continued on, leaving the Ngorongoro conservancy area and entered the Serengeti Park itself. $30 for the car, $30 for me, and $20 for the camp site. I get to bitch about this with some equally pissed off Dutch guys who are heading the same way. At least the roads were marginally better to Seronera where despite the poor signposting I eventually managed to find the campsite. It's a couple of bandas, for cooking, a shower block with no water, and long drop toilets. A little while later two guys turn up to check that I'd paid. After an hour or so a landcruiser ($50,000) pulls up and a lady sends me out to the car in the rain for my paperwork again. I point out that having paid $20 to camp maybe I'd have been happier if there were facilities like, say, running water (it's pissing down, but she misses the irony). I suppose I should have been thankful for the long-drop - as campsites go it was one of the most basic as well as being the most expensive so far.

And that's pretty much it. The next morning we drove West on roads that were corrugated and potholed despite the softening effect of the rain. You'd think they'd have enough in the bank to grade them. There was a lot of game, pretty much all of it hoofed, and the highlight was probably the dead hippo that was feeding a flock of vultures (do they flock?). Not bad, but it's nothing you can't find in any most other game parks in Africa.

So what's so great about the Serengeti? We'll I suppose the government thinks it's great that all these tourist pay them money that they can spend on anything except for the park itself. And another thing is that it's pretty quiet, kind of like Northern Kruger. An frankly unless it either gets a lot cheaper or a lot better it's going to stay that way.

Sod eco-tourism if that's what they call it - go to Kruger, save yourself a fortune, enjoy actual real facilities. Next time I'll be taking the road around. Hell, next time I'll be somewhere else.

10 December 2003 - Speke bay Lodge, Serengeti

Well, that's the Serengeti. After living out of my food box for the last few days it's been great to have a real meal, and a cold beer on the shore of Lake Victoria. Shame it's pissing down, but at least my tent has been keeping the rain out... Tomorrow it's off to Mwanza to sort out my tyres, hopefully post this update, and then make a beeline for Rwanda.