374 km, 6151 km from Cape Town
Leaving our lodge we travelled back to Arusha and found the clock tower in the heart of the city which is the symbolic half-way point on the journey from Cape Town to Cairo. Curious locals crowd around the bikes when we stop and we always enjoy telling our story.
Heading north once agin on the A104 we zipped along, a little sad to be leaving Tanzania, a country that has delighted and impressed us .
Namanga, the border crossing was quiet on the Tanzanian side and we found our fixer quickly and were through in under an hour. On the Kenyan side we found the friendliest of immigration officers who beamed their welcomes and after we got our precious carnets stamped and had dodged the persistent Masaai lady curio sellers, we were off.
A new country!
The Kenyan countryside is very similar to the Tanzanian and we stayed on the great north road for awhile and then took a side road that would bring us into the south west of Nairobi. This road turned out to be a welcome and unexpected gravel treat and we were in high spirits by the time we got to the outskirts of the city.
Following the GPS route along a busy and crowded city road we were guided through a lush and affluent area, which we discovered is called Karen after Karen Blixen, as the suburb is on the original coffee farm.
JJ’s is the name on the board at the tall steel gate where we finally found ourselves – Jungle Junction – probably the most well known back-packers in Africa – is an essential place to stop over.
We swiftly pitched our tents on the lawn and accepted the tasty supper on offer and afterwards settled down around the table and shared a few beers with the other bike overlanders, mostly Europeans, who had stopped here on their generally unhurried way south.
The clock tower in Arusha, half way from Cape to Cairo
5777 km from from Cape Town
Our organised guide arrived early in a stretch Land Cruiser and we set off for the onamatipoeacally named Ngorongoro crater. Popular narrative has it, that the place is so named for the sound the rattles make that the Masaai attach to the fore-legs of their beloved cattle.
The journey takes awhile and is scenic and steep as you climb up the edge of part of the Great Rift and now for the first time we encountered tourists, all heading in the same direction because this road leads to Ngorongoro and also on to the great Serengeti.
The twisted and muddy road is thickly surrounded by lush green forest and eventually we got to the the modern and organised park entrance, the car park of which was full of land cruisers like ours packed with chattering Europeans all dressed in designer safari khaki and clutching expensive cameras with half-meter lenses.
Feeling a little subdued by so many people after not having to share much of our journey with anyone but friendly locals we hung around our vehicle while our guide got the paperwork sorted out.
We got going again and ground our way up the edge of this extraordinary piece of geography till we were at the rim and stopped at alookout point. It was misty unfortunately but the promise of the view was evident as the mist swirled revealing the sight below.
The crater is about 20 kms across and 600 m deep and is dotted with small lakes and from that height appeared treeless with tiny dots of animal herds.
Easing down the very steep entrance road which is thickly wooded it was eveident that the crater floor is virtually treeless and the herds seen from above turned out to be Masaai cattle herds which co-exist with herds of wildebeest and zebra.
Once we reached the crater floor proper, the strangeness of this environment is evident. The crater sides are too steep and jungled for the animals to leave and so they all graze peacefully and seemingly oblivous to the tourist vehicles that criss-cross the area.
Without scrub to hide in all the animals are easy to spot.
On the main road to the lake we saw one humped camels. This was a reminder that the Arab influence had been in Tanzania and seemed anachronistic. At the accommodation a small red waxbill was seen, building it’s nest in the palm thatch roof, unafraid of humans. An iridescent blue kingfisher greeted us on arrival under the perfect African sun. Strange sonar like sounds were heard at dinner which proved to be bats in the rafters. Garth’s comment,
120 km, 5777 km from Cape Town
We spent the morning in the town of Arusha which is a very busy place, getting hardware that we had run short of and finding accommadation near Lake Manyara.
Leaving the city and heading west in fine weather, we passed a cyclist, travelling in the same direction who got very excited at the sight of our flags as we passed him and we stopped and chatted.
A lone South African Cairo to Cape Town cyclist – he had been on the road for 52 days and had made very impresive distance, we thought. He was quite emotional at the meeting of fellow countrymen and adventurers.
Getting to our lodge a short distance from Karatu we settled in, again the only guests and planned our sight-seeing for the next day.
A happy meeting with fellow South African Shayne Rookhuyzen on his charity cycle from Cairo to Cape Town
6 km, 5657 km from Cape Town
It rained fiercely all night but dawned fine and warm. Today was a non-riding day and we got to the stuff of laundry and bike and gear maintenance. We needed to go down to the village to get supplies and this three km journey took twenty minutes of sliding and bouncing over the ruined road and the then the steep, muddy return.
It was our intention to try and go see Mount Kilimanjaro which is about 80 kms distant but we were advised that the persistent rain and mist would make it invisible, so we decided to go back to Lake Manyara, which is on the plains and thus likely to be drier.
The slopes of Arusha’s accommodation were full of bird life. Kingfisher, barbets and shrikes were spotted in the overgrown bush. The lush tree life attracts Tanzania’s birds in profusion.
Braai night in Arusha
443 km, 5657 km from Cape Town
The infamous Dodoma Road – well documented by other bike overlanders – was in store today.
It started out moist and drisly for the first 50 kms, which is tarred, and once were onto the gravel road, it started to pour in earnest.
The road is stunning as it carves through thick equatorial forest punctuated by small villages with mud abodes and women in brightly coloured robes.
The downpour lifted and the day turned lovely as we rode this often muddy, sometimes rocky, frequently steep, red-soiled, single-laned marvel of off-tar riding.
After a ten hour ride we hit the tar and we swept past on the eastern side of Lake Manyara with the mighty Mount Meru in the distance. Feeling very good we closed on the outskirts of the town of Arusha just as it was getting dark.
This close to the equator, there is little twilight and we found ourselves night-riding in the traffic that is typical of big African cities, with trucks, cars, taxis, buses, bikes, pedestrians and us, all fighting for there piece of the road.
The rule of the road here is drive on the left – more or less – and go, just go. At an intersection, if you are timid you will certainly see out your days right there.
We fought our way through this lot and after a twenty kilometer urban sprawl arrived at a place where our host was to meet us. Following the car they were in, we turned off the road and first weaved through closely packed shacks and shops and bars untill the path steepened and we climbed and clattered over the washed out remains of the road up to our cottage in a walled compound on the edge of mount Meru national park.
There they were! Giraffe herds and zebra on the side of the main road, necking and swaying with the slopes of Mt. Meru in the back drop. There were more than a dozen, attracted by the flood plain waters and lush vegetation. A warthog scooted away when the bikes stopped to take pictures.
On the other side of the road, Maasai herders in villages with cattle lowing were expertly herded back home for the night. Maasai really seem to care for their animals, not rushing them along but with the patience of generations of herder understanding and a gentle stick wave. The perfect balance of wildlife and indigenous co-existence. The wild and the domestic, man and nature, sacred and profane. Bird life at our lodgings at Arusha was prevalent with bulbuls swooping, hornbills and crested barbets with distinctive call.
Game sighting near lake Manyara
362 km, 5214 km from Cape Town
We left the farm just as it started raining and headed for the hilltop town of Iringa. The towns are getting bigger the closer one gets to Dar Es Salaam.
Iringa is vibrant mix of colonial architecture, half-finished buildings and crowded streets and pavements clogged with people busy with their daily lives.
We fueled up and found an ATM, for cash and turned off the A7 which heads toward the coast and Dar Es Salaam and found ourselves on the spanking new road, the A104, which is in the process of completion and wherever the road gangs are busy, the Chinese road engineers can be seen.
The road was lovely and descended onto the much drier region of central Tanzania.
Here we saw our first Masai cattle herders driving their plump beasts across the plains. The road is empty as the trucks have no business on this road and it is not the main tourist season, so there are very few other vehicles
It stopped raining after and hour or so and one soon dries out in the heat that follows. We crossed the Mtera dam wall and stopped in a dusty village for a Pepsi, which seems to be the dominant brand here, and as always, were greeted with friendly curiosity.
There was a gravel section of the unfinished road closer to Dodoma which we found fun and the sky closed in as it tends to do in the afternoon. We discovered that I had a rear wheel and handily it stopped raining as we got to the business of repairing it. We were far from anywhere but soon had an audience of curious youngsters who once we had tightened the last bolt melted away, satisfied with there afternoons entertainment. We continued to the plains town of Dodoma, still sodden, and chose the first establishment on our very handy and comprehensive accommodation list – the New Dodoma Hotel – a three story colonial edifice that, with it’s comfort, was just what we needed.
Maasai herders were again common along the way, a spectacle with their red or blue checked cloth, stick and long scabbarded knife. They were wearing car tyre sandals, protection against the long acacia thorns. Goats and cattle. The cattle appear to be a breed of Afrikaander, with pronounced hump, their colours widely mottled blacks and whites as a result of intense interbreeding. Trevor rode through an amazing column of marching ants at least 50cm wide which was black right across the road.
Stopping for a coke at a very festive cafe
302 km, 4852 km from Cape Town
Tanzania is a most beautiful country and quite different to Zambia both geographically and socia-economically. The people who seem incredibly numerous are more confident and more mobile – there is a retro looking chromed-up Chinese motor cycle, which are used as taxis and number in the tens of thousands and they are ridden flat out with solo riders, with pillion (usually three up), with cargo – any cargo – fuel in plastic bottles, wood, charcoal, live chickens…
There are also lots of brightly painted buses and plenty of bicycles. So the people are on the move – from town to town, from village to village, they are on the road and as there appears to be no rail transport here or Zambia – everything is transported by truck – so the road north and south is clogged with buses, trucks, tractors, cars and motor cycles, all over-taking each other, between the villages where the speed limit is inderterminate but strictly enforced within the villages
The southern road has not been upgraded and it is hilly here and the tarmac on the up-slope in the southerly direction has got deep depressions caused by years of heavily laden trucks hauling to Zambia – so deep that there is middle-mannetjie of tar and two like-height ridges on either side of the depressions.
The northerly direction lane is fine because the trucks return empty and lighter.
These ridges made for some scary moments in passing slower traffic down a hill because you can suddenly find yourself with a mound, wet in the rain, and endless, that it is difficuilt to cross over and back the left lane. Oncoming traffic here does just that, it comes on regardless!
So we cruised, with rain showers, north through many, many villages to our popular lodgings on a working farm and met up with some friendlytourists from a tour group who had come up from SA through Malawi.
Donkeys, Maasai herders with cattle and goats were prevalent today’s ride. Tanzania appears more populated compared to Zambia. Vervet monkeys were seen in the rain soaked lush bush. More African dogs on the roads. Tanzania appears blessed with bird life. Hornbills, hoopoe, bulbuls, lilac breasted roller, raptors and egrets were spotted. At our bush camp, bird life was excellent. Malachite sunbirds hummed along the paths after nectar from the native flowers. Shrikes, weavers and barbets were everywhere. The bush varies widely from sub-tropical jungle to sandy scrub and baobab. The locals have an interesting way of pegging most baobab trees with wooden pegs, ladder wise, to harvest the cream of tartar pods. We stopped to test out the pegs and it is possible to climb a baobab with them if one is brave enough to hang on.