Welcome to our road trip blog. 7 weeks, 9730km, 4 countries and a huge list of new places and experiences. Thanks to Lizzie for organising all the great places to stay and being a fantastic travelling partner.
Thursday 22nd Nov 2012 – Harare to Imire
Rezi behaves like an experienced traveller at Harare airport, waltz’s through to arrivals like he’s done it a 100 times before, even accompanies me to the toilet. Strangely he wasn’t mistaken for a sniffer dog. Lizzie arrives safely, on time but exhausted. Exiting Harare we are surrounded by dark clouds which bring rain & lightening, the temperature drop is delightful. En route we get stuck behind a large truck with no reg plates and full of army. Two men sit on the cab, one waves a massive (5ft long, although I’m not a fisherman) gun around. We feel that we’re back in Zaire & are dubious about overtaking, obviously been watching too much Sky news coverage of Goma. Imire Game Ranch is idyllic, Rezi makes friend with Sanga, a 6 month female blond lab. Two dogs with Eastern Highland river names do laps around the lawn. However Moo the pig isn’t met with the same enthusiasm and has to be persuaded back into Kate’s garden with the help of some wild figs. Kate, the owner’s daughter, has just returned from the UK where she was catering for Ferrari. Consequently she knows Clive Moore, ‘Six degrees of seperation’! Not here in Zim, one degree more like. After an awesome dinner including fillet steak and sticky toffee pudding we retire to our own double rooms. I like being on holiday with a travel writer.
Fri 23rd Nov 2012
Imire conservation area, wow, great staff, awesome food, fab game drive & fed Rhino on my birthday. Lizzie helped a young Ozzie traveller with bus info from her book, why they don’t sell guide books in the country of origin is beyond me. Overnight in the Vumba at a friend’s place. No hassles at all getting Rezi into Moz but tad confused why the Moz custom man thought the fridge was a radio, I thought radio’s that size went out about 5 decades ago. Was joined at our plantation coffee stop by hunters with a selection of cane rats that were bigger than Rezi! Decided to pack up and move on before they tried to add him to the pot as well. Long drive to Vilanculos, duiker & chickens also offer along the way. An overtired Rezi decided to go for a 6 month male blue healer and then a fully grown male Ridgeback. It was an interesting entrance into the bar, which was packed full of rugby watchers! Great to see Johnno & Headless, Kerry & Berit though. Crab curry. Happy.
25 & 26 Nov 2012. Vilanculos
Rezi’s first ever beach walk, he chased birds, ran through the ocean, did god knows how many kms and absolutely loved it, watching him was worth all the stress and worried over the last 2 weeks. Great day, catching up with friends from Maun, Maputo, Sydney and Germany. Food, coffee, gossip. Stayed the night at Kerry & Dave’s beach bush camp, fish braii & sitting around the fire chatting. Great night in tent listening to the rain.
Back to town to wave J&H of on posh launch to larny lodge. I managed to get stuck in sand up to diff outside Donana Hotel quite spectacularly, 4×4! Bloody women drivers. Coffee & chocolate cake Kilimanjaro Cafe, odd choice of name for Vilanculos! Lizzie’s birthday dinner at Casa Rex, Kerry ordered Carrot & Pineapple cake which divine. “how old are you now?” Famous Zim birthday song, for you non Zimbos out there.
27 & 28 Nov 2012 – The great drive north, Vilanculos to Caia, Nampula & Ihle de Mozambique.
Big days, not helped by all the 60k speed limit sections and a couple of 70k sections of bad potholes. Discovered Rezi loves garlic calamari left-overs, bought him Boerwors from the ‘posh’ shop, Mel commented quite matter of factly ‘see you’ve already found the best dog food in town’. Pass the Pungwe at Gorongoza, it was flowing red & reminded me of our Gairezi canoe trip. Road side bush meat, kids playing in storm channels, bush buck eating new shoots near forest.
Great cabins at Catapu, 30km south of Caia, 1st person I see is a friend from yoga, the bird society of Zim are here for 4 days. Morning crossing of 2.3km long Zambezi bridge, disappointingly unspectacular scenery in rain. Peri-peri chicken, basic room and awesome granite rock scenary at farm guesthouse 15kms out of Nampula on dirt road to Malawi.
29/ 30th Nov 2012 – Ihla de Moz.
Wow, what an amazing place. Formerly the Mozambique capital, it’s now a World Heritage site & boasts the oldest European building in the southern hemisphere, a church built in 1522, and an imposing fort, which the Dutch couldn’t seize even after a month of trying. It is virtually void of tourists, has fantastic beaches, great coffee and awesome food, prawns for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We stayed in a 3 roomed casa in an old 18th century building next to the ocean, which isn’t hard given that the island is only 600 meters at its widest point and just 3 kms long. The upgrading of old buildings reminded me of Havana. This is definitely the place to invest at the moment. Having explored the streets, historical sites, beaches and coffee shops we crossed back over the 3.5km single lane bridge & headed up the coast to Chocas Mar to chill next to the beach in a great self catering place overlooking the Mussuril Bay and Ilha.
During the hour long am beach walk Rezi discovered crabs, I found great big shells in the rock pools and the only other people on the pristine beach were half a dozen fishermen heading out for the day. This place is definitely on my go back to list.
1 & 2nd Dec 2012.
Easy 4 hour drive to Pemba, which I was initially rather disappointed with but after time the place grew on me. I didn’t realise it was going to be so big and touristy, not that there were a lot of tourists, but after Choca Mar! Expensive accommodation, apparently due to over demand from oil & gas companies, and constantly being warned about theft. We ended up staying at the crazy, overly attentive Italians place, dogs being my main deciding factor here, Rezi loved the 2 year old female JR & 5 month old puppy & the AC helped the girls. Shopped in road side stalls, Lizzie found all 6 of her wish list items, I didn’t, so ended up buying peanuts! Internet seems nonexistent in town, as does the ability to use a debit card. We caught up with a slim & trim Dutch Pete, which was great, can’t remember the last time we saw each other. Lots of laughs, coffee & brain picking. Made the decision to leave for TZ today.
2nd & 3rd Dec 2012.
Left the 5 star Pemba Beach Lodge, which also didn’t have internet, Lizzie needs to send her book stuff off, & headed north for the trip into the great unknown. Pete was spot on with his 4 & ½ hours to Mudea. Needed some 4×4 on short cut road but otherwise all good. Got into town in Dark and stayed in roadside guest house, basic, clean, water out of a bucket, bloody expensive for what it was, but nowhere else to stay. Had bizarre mime conversation with guest house check in man. He was squatting, pretending to poo and pointing to Rezi, I think I got him to understand that Rezi was house trained. Boringly we opted for chicken & rice rather than cows head at dinner. Early start for border, which took only 4 & ½ hours instead of 6. Roads were much better than expected; no 4×4 required at all but it would be a totally different story if it had rained. Drove through beautiful forestry concessions, saw crested guinea fowls, & a man riding motorbike pillion listening to a great big radio. The new Unity bridge was impressive, not sure about the massive elephant tusks at either end though. Good to be back in an English speaking country although our Portuguese was getting better. It seemed that we had the slowest Customs man ever, (not counting the 36 hours on the Zaire border that time) but it was 41 degrees, & we were through both sides in 1 & ½ hours, so all good. Stopped at Masasi for money, fuel and ending up staying at road side lodge for half the price of the one in Moz, with twice the amenities, water, AC & fan, we’re very happy. Fish Masala dinner, Lizzie happily ensconced watching footie with coffee, I’m collapsed in AC room with Rezi. So far so good in TZ. Don’t mention the debit card!
4th to 6th Dec 2012
Southern Tanz beaches – Morning walk through outskirts of Masasi town with Rezi, we get lots of strange looks, smiles and laughs, not many Mzungus in town, let alone one walking a small black & white dog (not a village special) on a lead. Arriving at Mtwara, TZ’s most southerly coastal town, Lizzie starts her site inspections. We follow a man carrying a laptop (Lizzie still needs to send that email) into what looks like a restaurant & bump into our 1st Muzungu in TZ since arriving 24 hours ago, Andy Nargy’s in work overalls & in a business meeting. He was more than a little shocked to see us, I didn’t realise you could say the F word that much in such a short space of time, we make plans to catch up later. We check into ‘10 Degrees South’, a small lodge in a traditional house in the Swahili village of Mikindani. It is on the beach, we swim in its protected bay and chill at the bar. Awesome prawn curry dinner, accompanied by Andy (whom I haven’t seen since 98) & Isobel (marine conservationist), fab evening catching up over a few beers.
Half days drive to Kilwa where we spend a couple of nights in 2 separate lodges. I love Kilwa. It’s a small, traditional village with protected bay and more interesting individuals. Mike was born in Sheffield (UK town of steel for you Full Monty fans), Iringa educated, lived in most parts of TZ as a child, and also in Bournemouth, just down the road from Mum, so we sit overlooking the ocean talking about Tescos!. Betty (Marine biologist Dr, or something else equally impressive, & dive master) & Alfredo, are Italians who run Kimbilio lodge. The baked fish and vegetable dinner rates as one of the 3 best on the trip so far. Rezi joins their 3 female dogs for beach walks and play, he also discovers crabs, the chasing of which makes me cry with laughter. Along the coast Lizzie has a bizarre conversation with an old Swahili lady regarding directions. Neither can understand the other but we find our destination. Lizzie’s so engrossed in the conversation that she doesn’t see the Machete on her head. I drive into town to get my phone sorted and am helped by 2 guys who are less technologically useless than me. Now have data bundle on my phone (airtime bought from man in small wooden hut near market with a credit card type machine that instantly puts credit on my phone, this is way to advance for a Zim chick like me) and can use phone as modem with laptop, who would have thought. One of my phone helpers turns out to be our guide the next day and the other the lodge manager of the place we are staying! Very small town.
We take a dhow trip to Kilwa Kisiwani island (3 by 5km), which is a World Heritage site due to it’s 13th century ruined city of the Shirazi people.
7th to 9th Dec 2012
Selous Game Reserve. Last night & this mornings rain lowers the temperature beautifully, it also converts the Kilwa to Dar detours into muddy, slippery single vehicle tracks. Whilst stationary we get side swiped by a bright green bus, only minimal damage but scary sounds & luminous paint on the wheel arch, etc. Surprised it hasn’t happened before over the years given the quality of the TZ drivers. The road into Selous was also interesting, thankfully the black cotton isn’t that wet yet. Lizzie has organised 3 comp nights at Selous Mbega camp (Mangaby & Colobus), Selous Great Water Lodge (great roast duck dinner and SA Cab Sav) & finally Jimbiza lodge (fab tent, a bed each for Lizzie, Rezi & I & lovely pool). Do a 6 hour game drive in the park, see good game and lots of birds. We may have got a little lost on our 80km game drive in the park as there are no signs at all, as nearly everyone flies in, consequently the man at the gate was quite surprised to actually see us at 6.30pm, when the gate closes. My little car was absolutely fantastic. We also did a Rufuji River afternoon & evening boat cruise, which was pleasant, and a morning forest walk. I’ve done a few walks in my time but was interested to learn, that if you hollow out elephant poo, light it, and sit naked over the top of it, the smoke will cure a prolapsed rectum! We drop of Patrick the guide, who imparted such usefull knowledge to us, off at his house in Mloka and his mother-in-law is fascinated with our bums, poking them with long, old, skinny fingers and laughing but we have no idea why.
10th Dec 2012– Dar es Salaam.
The road out of the Selous has dried and is much worse than when it was wet and slippery. We make Dar mid afternoon and stop at Kipepeo, South Beach, Dar to catch up with Erna & Dale. Have good goss over coffee and conclude that we hadn’t actually ever met each other before, just knew each other through stories. Lizzie however knows both of them very well. We take the ferry to town and eventually get through Dar traffic, which is close to being as bad as JBG, to Suzanne’s house. Have a great evening catching up with her, Paul Jules and the kids. Rezi has great fun with the children and gets tired out by Bella, a very energetic and very large 1 year old ridgeback cross. In the morning Suzanne takes us to Oyster bay, we top up with supplies, have awesome chocolate & carrot cake & coffee. The roads south out of Dar to Chilinzi are shocking, much worse than 16 years ago. I get a ticket for overtaking a few trucks on a double solid white line but manage to talk myself out of the speeding ticket as well. Lizzie and I now even as she was doing 59 (shock, horror) in a 50! Naughty girl. Driving through Mikumi (at bloody 70) Rezi sees his first ele, barking from the car doesn’t deter them from eating on the side of the road. We get to Hondo Hondo at the Udzangwa Mountains Nat Park just on dark. Great dinner, lovely tent, awesome showers, sleep like a log.
11 & 12 Dec 2012 – Udzangwa Mountains –
After checking out the weather, Lizzie decides to stay at camp, I go walking up to the Sanje River with Petra, a Romanian, working for a French bank, in Nigeria, who is visiting her Romanian friend who lives in Dar, whom she met in Ghana! We had great conversations about Nigeria & Zim and everything in-between.
The falls were stunning, we swam in the pools at the top and bottom, attempted a photo shoot for her friend, who’s a professional photographer, and gossiped for another couple of hours! There’s longer walks in the park, which would be awesome, something for the mountain club of Zim. We spend a 2nd night here, the first time we stay in one place for 2 nights since leaving Zim 3 weeks ago, bliss.
13 to 22 Dec 2012 – Ruaha & Iringa.
After 2 nights at Udzangwa we also had 2 nights in Iringa, god how spoilt can 2 chicks get. After 5 years of driving past the turn of I eventually make it up the hill. Small town, great climate, bit of a happening place, sort of a very scaled down Arusha, lots of service industry stuff for the par, great chocolate cake J. Ruaha was beautiful, remote, green, empty of tourists, luxurious and much, much more. We spent 3 nights at 3 very different lodges, saw great game, birds, met more interesting characters and generally had a awesome time.
My car (I really should give it a name), which has been a rock throughout the 6000+kms had its first oopsy. That plastic thing that keeps the windscreen clipped in had disappeared somewhere en route, which meant we could push the windscreen out 4 inches on the passenger side. But the problem was solved by one of those workshop fundis who excel at ‘making a plan’ in the bush. Sadly on day 3 the corrugations were too much for the over tightened windscreen and it cracked. After loosening the screws on the improvised brackets, and borrowing some duck tape from some Malawians we met on the road it was good for another 120kms. It’s now parked up in Iringa awaiting a possible new windscreen.
I decided to go via Dodoma to Arusha for Xmas, it’s the better road option! The 250km of dirt / road works was interesting, the views dropping of the escarpment were beautiful, on a par with Tank Nek. The 650km of tar was interspersed with loads of 50km sections with wicked speed bumps, which my short wheel base car hated. Arusha has grown a bit since 96 and I didn’t recognise anything on the dark drive in. I eventually meet up with Lea & James at 8.30 at night and head to their place. It’s great to see Lizzie again, James mum & brother are there and we sneak Rezi into the house as the Rottweiler introduction is planned for the morning. Lea & I needn’t have worried, the 3 dogs get on great, Max the old man, falls in love with Rezi, follows him everywhere, kisses him constantly, toooo cute. We head out for last minute food shopping. At the veggie farm shop Lea casually asks if they have brussel sprouts, because being Australian she hates them. The Dutch owner looks around and whispers, I can slip you have a kilo. Lizzie whispers to me that we’re talking veg, not class A drugs aren’t we? We have Xmas dinner on Xmas eve and a selection of friends come round for leftovers on the 25th. Boxing day finds us having lunch at a fantastic restaurant with an eccentric Belgian chef on the 27th, lots of courses with the appropriate wines to much. Another great lunch on the 27th, definitely not the Arusha that I remember. I have 4 fab days with great friends. Thanks guys.
15 – New Year
The drive back to Iringa is the most beautiful of the trip. I leave in the dark and drive into a full moon setting straight in front of me. Behind me the sky is a burnt orange as it waits for the sun to come over the hills. I go up to 17,500 meters, back down to 5oo and up again Iringa, the views are amazing. I’ve already got my police fine for a broken windscreen so assume that they can’t give me another one, correctly as it turns out. The other side of the windscreen decides it wants to exit from the car and I drive the last 30km of corrugations into Iringa with my arm out the window holding it in place! The Iringa Toyota guys are great, fix the windscreen, blow out the air filter and even find a new fuel filter, the car runs soooo much better now. I have a great NY in Iringa I dance the night away, thanks girls for a fun evening.
Everyone goes back to work and I’m ready to head back to Zim. After a LOT of procrastinating over which way to go back I’m eventually persuaded to take the Malawi option and to have a couple of nights at Kande, which I am now very grateful for. 3 nights back on the beach, nice. I haven’t been to Kande in 10 years and it was great to see everyone there, even Phil Parker was around. I swam out to the island and had a bit of a reflective moment and realised that I’ve lived more years on African soil than in the UK. I spent the evenings having dinner at Dave & Lisa’s place, caught up with Johnny Phoenix, got the sketch pad out for the 1st time since leaving home, played stick with the dog in the lake and chilled in the hammock. It was probably the most relaxing day of the trip.
On a wet Saturday morning I started heading south to Zim at 5.30am, arriving at the Dedza border at 10 & Tete at 1pm, I decide to push on through to Harare. Rezi did his normal ‘bi-hourly stick the head out the window thing’ on Enterprise Road and obviously recognised the Harare smell, he was so excited. By Churchill road he was jumping up and down on my lap. After 13 hours we get home, we are both very happy to be back, even if there isn’t any water and my favourite tree has fallen over in a storm.
9730km, 4 countries and a huge list of new places and experiences. Thanks to Lizzie for being a fantastic travel partner & organising awesome places to stay in Tanzania. And to all the friends that we caught up with on the way, some of which we hadn’t seen for over a decade, you made the trip for us. Jxx
Thanks to Vanessa and family for the great Sunday lunch the following day, it’s always good to have something lovely to come home to.