Mikumi to East of Pingo to Dar es Salaam

I left Camp Bastian late nearly 10am, I was using power to cook Potatoes I had purchased at Iringa, and cook some more Pearl Barley. I only had 240km to get to my target of a wild camping spot about 95km west of Dar es Salaam. The road was OK, but not as good as previously. The first 50km went through a national park, and I saw Zebra and Cape Buffalo. I plugged on, went through a town that had a Puma service station. They were willing to take a credit card but I had to pre-purchase an amount of fuel so they could be sure it worked. I got 30 litres, should have tried for 40l.

After stopping for lunch I started looking for a stop where I could do an oil change. I had been meaning to do this for weeks, I needed a quiet off-road spot. I found a turn-off that was the old road, and was great. I got out all the gear, and started work when a young Masaai cattle hearder turned up. He watched me for ages. He even helped me undo the oil container top. We had zero communication, I don’t even know if he spoke Swahili. Oil change done I continued on, with it getting to around 5pm and me needing to find the wild camp. I found it, only to find it was having a building built on it. I went further on, found a track, then followed it to another track, under some powerlines, until I sort of was not so visible.  In the end though I put myself next to a walking track used by all sorts of people, but they didn’t use it much during the night, and no-one complained. The T1 highway was really noisy though. I was camped at least 100m of the road, but the noise was ever present, and continued to some extent all night.

Next morning I got going quickly, because all sorts of people were walking along the track I had parked next too. It was tough drive into Dar es Salaam. Many, many trucks, lots of overtaking, and then once I got into town, the traffic was extremely heavy. Dae es Salaam has 6 million people.  I aimed for a supermarket in the posh part of town that sold western food. I loaded up. I  went out to the car and got caught by the parking meter girl. She wanted 2,000 shillings (which seemed expensive) , I gave here 10,000 TSH and she said she would be back with change. Ten minutes later I go and find her to get the change. Then she comes back and tries to tell me the parking is 5,600 TSH, and I can pay online. At this stage I am pissed off and I know this is a scam. I say to her lets go into the supermarket and ask them how much parking is, to this she backs down. I then drive to another supermarket Shoppers plaza, which is the biggest supermarket I have been to since South Africa. I manage to get more Pearl Barley that I have been looking for everywhere. I then drive to the campsite Mikadi Beach, which is the other side of the harbour, so its a bit of a detour to get there. Its a pretty nice campsite, and they will store my vehicle when I go to Zanzibar.

Don’t hit anything!
Roadside Zebra
Police road stop
The is standard warning of a broken down vehicle in Africa. Every vehicle is required to have warning triangles, I have 3, but most trucks have none, so they put out branches on the road before and after the broken down truck.
This was a very happy police woman doing a roadside stop, she high fived me!
The Masai header who watched me doing my oil change
All set up for the oil change
Driving into the Puma to get diesel
Roadside offerings for sale
Sellers trying to sell to the truckies as they go past
The never ending speed humps
First traffic lights in 7 weeks.
Camped at Mikadi Beach


Unyamwanga to Kisolanza to Mikumi

The long haul to Dar es Salaam

It was cold cold cold in the morning it was 12C! Unyamwanga is at 1300m. I even tried to start the diesel heater, but alas it would not start and I couldn’t bother to stuff around with it. I had a quiet night even though I was close to the village. I headed back to the main road, and then stated to climb. It was overcast, cold, I was wearing gloves while driving (no heater), and eventually I got to 2300m, where there were pine trees growing.

I had set a target of The Old Farmhouse at Kisolanza, which was 295km away. I had read, and been told, horror stories by other overlanders about how corrupt the Tanzanian Police were. The many stories of them faking your speed on a speed camera and trying to get a bribe out of you. All the village speeds are 50kmh, and there is no lee-way, the Police will fine you if you get to 51kmh. So every Village I am slowing down to 45kmh as soon as I see the sign. I would stay at that speed until there was an end sign, and if there was not (often) I would stay at that speed until I was sure I was out of the village. So it was a slow trip. The fast sections I am flat out at 75kmh.

The T1 highway eventually got really good. There was probably 200km of excellent highway, to South African standards. It was probably the best highway I had driven on since South Africa. So there were many many Police stops. I probably got stopped 5 times up to Kisolanza, and was waved through another ten. However the Police were fine. No asking for bribes. I try to be very friendly, and generally they are friendly back. I make a big thing of being Australian, and I think they appreciate that as being a bit different.

About 50km out of Kisolanza I went through tens of kilometers of pine plantations. It was about 1600m, but it was surreal being 8 degrees from the equator and driving through pine plantations.

I got to Kisolanza about 5:30pm. I was the only guest, but it was a nice campsite, it had power and hot showers. The English owner came over later after dark to see how I was. This campsite used to have 80 people some nights, including overland trucks, and now they were down to the odd person like me. They had reverted to being farmers, and opening a couple of roadside shops. They were surviving, but they wondered whether tourism would ever come back to what it was before. It hasn’t in Australia, and it hasn’t in Africa.

I haven’t quite got used to the timezone and sunrise in Tanzania. In Malawi it was getting light at 5:30am, and the sun was up by 6am. Here in Tanzania a timezone further east, the sun gets up at 7am. So I wake up at 5:30am like I did in Malawi, but its still very dark. I really need to go to bed later.

I got going by 8am, I didn’t have any working internet. Internet is not very good in Tanzania. Its either non-existent, Edge (the old GPRS) or overloaded 3G. Its only in the large towns does it seem to work. I was headed to Iringa, a town about 50km north. iOverlander said it had a western style supermarket. So I got into Iringa, which was a bit crazy, as they had multi story buildings. Outside the supermarket were a couple of Australian lads loading a Troopy, headed for a National park west of here. I think they had not planned for the paucity of choice of food in Africa. They had loaded all sorts of stuff including a couple of dozen eggs that I told them would probably not survive the roads. The problem was they had only driven on the good road from Dar es Salaam, and they had yet to experience true African road horror. So I got some supplies at the supermarket, including a small bar of cadbury chocolate. I have not seen cadbury chocolate for quite a while.

I left Iringa and headed east. Eventually I started descending down the escarpment down a winding road. This road had, monkeys running around on it, broken down trucks, very slow moving trucks, and buses doing suicidal overtaking of slow trucks. It was 8km of African entertainment.

I got to Camp Bastian at Mikumi about 4pm. I debated going further, but I was tired, and I had done 240km.  Camp Bastian is pretty good, and has 3 safari tents set up, with people staying in two of them. They offer “full board” for $US25 a day which is accommodation and breakfast , lunch and dinner. So I am guessing the people staying in the Safari tents are backpackers. I am a cheapskate paying 23,000 TSH (Tanzania Shillings) about $A15 a night.

Tanzania is much, much richer than Malawi. Tanzania is the richest African country I have been in since South Africa. Its not South African standards, but peoples houses are bigger than Malawi, people have cars, motorbikes. The buses transporting people are actually buses. In the high altitude regions there is lots of intense agriculture.

Pine trees growing at 2300m
So cold I needed gloves to drive with, its not that I am a wimp, I have no heater
A picture of the houses and street at 2300m
Downtown Iringa
The fruit and Veg market in Iringa, where I got potatoes, carrots, peas and bananas
Broken down trucks on the 8km descent down the escarpment
Monkeys playing on the road between the trucks on the 8km descent
Forests of Baobab trees on the lower ground
Camped at Camp Bastian





Beach Chamber Lodge Malawi to Unyamwanga Tanzania

I got woken up early, 5:30am by about 100 people gathering by the Lake near the hotel. I really don’t know what they were doing, but eventually it ended up as just clothes washing. I had to prepare for the border crossing. Get out by border crossing clothes (vest with lots of pockets to hold all the things). US dollars, all my Malawi currency. I am meant to have a copy of my drivers license and passport as well, so I dragged out the printer and plugged it into the 12v inverter to print extra copies of both. There was no power because it was Sunday. Why is there no power on a Sunday? Because on Sunday they do maintenance on the power network in Malawi, as Sunday pays time and a half.

I got going, weaving through all the people at the market up the road, and having a group of local kids chase after me. It ws 46km to the border. I knew when I was close because a couple of kms out the roads are jammed with trucks parked at the sides. I went through Immigration fairly easily, then it was handing over the TIP. There was a problem with this, because among the many mistakes customs did on the form when I entered Malawi, they put the exit as the same border post as I entered on. This required bureaucratic finagling, which they didn’t seemed to fussed about, but took another 30 minutes. Then I could leave. So I queued behind two trucks at the gate, and eventually after having my name written in yet another big book, I officially left Malawi. Except I didn’t.  The exit gate and road was not big enough for two trucks, so the line I was in sat stationary for 30 minutes until there was room to leave.

Then the Tanzanian side. Immigration first. They accepted by vax certificate with no problems (some people had problems in the past). Then I had to pay $50USD for the visa in USD. Of course they are really picky about the notes. I don’t want this one, its got a tiny tear in it, I don’t like this one its too old. You have to carry another currency with you just to pay for these visas, and that US currency has to be in pristine condition.

The it was customs for the TIP (temporary Import Permit). I handed over the registration, then its this long process of the person entering it in the computer, while interrupted every minute by someone else wanting some other piece of paperwork. It took about 30 minutes or so, then it was off to the Bank ATM to get some Tanzanian Shillings to pay the 57,000 fee (about $A35).

Fee paid, trudge back to the TIP guy to get it approved and stamped and I was free to go to the third party insurance guy up the road to get insurance. I have found the insurance for East Africa confusing. I should have COMESA insurance, but I could never figure out how to get it. So much stuffing around and confusion I go back to the insurance guy to get third-party insurance for about $A75. It is now 4pm (lost an hour to time zones crossing borders). They can’t do the insurance because their internet is hopelessly slow, so they write me a letter, and say they will Whatsapp me the receipt tomorrow (I hope this works!). So I have picked the closed wild camp (in fact any camp), and its 80km away, and it gets dark in about two hours. I make it to the wild camp next to a river near Unyamwanga just before dark. Its close to a village, but it has good reviews on iOverlander, and seems quite enough. Its pretty high though, 1300m.

So I did 120km today and a long border crossing, always unpredictable.

My printer, used many times as a printer or scanner for some piece of paperwork that is required at a border
The 30minute wait to leave Malawi because the road is not big enough for two trucks to pass.
Getting a Tanzania sim
The only ATM in town, on the back of a truck. The guard said it had been there for 4 years.
Wild camp on the edge of Unyamwanga, next to the river. It was close to the village, but actually quiet and isolated.




Kings Highway, to the Mushroom Farm to Beach Chamber Lodge

I packed  up but not completely at Kings Highway, because I had to get started, and I had problems at Ngala Beach. So I tried to start, and the cranking battery is flat. I think this is because I use the battery charger to charge the cranking battery, and then use the DC-DC converter to charge the storage batteries. I think the charger just doesn’t charge often enough and the DC-DC charger eventually flattens the cranking battery. So I try charging the cranking battery, but the charger keeps cutting out at too low a voltage. I try connecting to the storage battery, but that doesn’t work. So I drag out the folding solar panel, drag it out to the least shady section and run a long cable back. Its cloudy so I will not get much power. The solar panel puts 18V at about 3amps and in about 20 minutes I am started.

So its about 2km down the road to the turn-off. Initially I thinks its not right, the road is so narrow, but its right, its a narrow zig-zag road up the escarpment. It probably takes me more than an hour in first gear to get the 10km up the road. It is precipitous at times, cliffs above the road and cliffs below. I get to the Mushroom farm at around 1pm. The Mushroom Farm would look perfect in Willunga South Australia. Its hippy central. Yoga on the cliff, hot massages, Veggie burgers, and several backpackers. I decide its another excuse to eat out, so I order myself a Veggie Burger for lunch. It is an excellent burger. I camp on one of the camping areas right on the top of the escarpment.

After lunch I walk 3km to the Waterfall. I get close and a guy who just happens to be walking down the road offers to guide me. We settle on 2,000Kw ($3), and we turns of a little track that runs between the houses and in 2 minutes we are at the waterfall. Its pretty good waterfall considering its the dry season. I thank him and head back to camp.

Next day I wake up at 5:30am (I go to bed too early..). I have a really good sunrise looking over Lake Malawi way below me. I get packed up but I am ready for another starting problem. However Clancy starts first time, probably because I have not been using the DC-DC charger (no power).  Then its down the hill, hoping again I don’t meet anyone coming the other way, because there is no room to pass.

I get to the M1 and head north. A couple of police stops and one military stop, and I get to Karonga. I find a supermarket, but the only thing worth buying is a loaf of bread. I then walk around and find the central market, and get all sorts of vegetable delights. I get some potatoes, peas (!) and bananas.  Then its 5km up the road to Beach Chamber Lodge. Its a bit run down. They allow me to plug into one of the rooms (which has non-working plumbing) for power and I park on the beach in front of the Lodge. Its costs me 5,000Kw (about $A5).

Crawling up the zig-zag 4wd track to the Mushroom Farm
Camped on the cliff edge at the Mushroom Farm
The waterfall near the Mushroom Farm
Hippy Heaven, the Mushroom Farm, perched on the edge of a cliff



Camped at Beach Chamber
Sunrise looking down onto Lake Malawi
My Veggie haul at Karonga markets



Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve to Kings Highway at Florence Bay

I woke up early to see if I could see anymore animals at Vwaza, but alas the Hippos were already in the water, and I could not see anything else. I  heard the Hippos during the night, but I don’t know if they were close or not.  I had breakfast and headed off. It was about 30km of dirt road back to the bitumen. Eventually made it to the M1 that headed north. I got pulled over at an immigration checkpoint where I had to show my passport, the first time since crossing into Malawi. The it was a long decent off the plateau.  The road down was windy, many potholes, lots of broken down trucks. Difficult overtaking of very slow trucks on corners.

Around 12 noon I got to Kings Highway camp, back on Lake Malawi. It is a very nice camp, with the best ablution block I have seen in Africa. I am staying here two nights.

My Aldi ramps, used many times on this trip levelling Clancy
Camped at Kings Highway
Looking down to the beach at Kings Highway
A fishing canoe at dawn on Lake Malawi
A local walks past at dawn on Lake Malawi


Ngala Beach to Mzuzu to Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve

I got packed up at Ngala Beach by 9:00am, which I thought was impressive considering I had been there 8 days and had completely spread everything out. So I started Clancy, drove up to the restaurant to pay Dan and Trish what I owed, said my goodbyes, and went to drive off. The car wouldn’t start. It took two hours and a jump-start from Dan to finally get going. My suspicion after all this, is that the battery terminal has not tight and clean enough. The next few days while show whether I am correct.

So at 11am I headed north towards Mzuzu, getting there at around 3:00pm. I went to the Shoprite, the first one since Chimoio in Mozambique. Somehow Dan and bought me more Pearl Barley in Mzuzu, but I could not see it for sale anywhere. A bit more searching and it was 4:30pm so I headed to Macondo Camp, about 5km north-west of central Mzuzu.

It was cool overnight. Mzuzu is at 1300m so it has much milder weather than near Lake Malawi. In the morning it was 16C, which for Africa weather adapted me is freezing….. I headed of to a couple more supermarkets looking for the elusive pearly barley, but no luck. So I tried a couple of servos to see if they would take a credit card, finally on the way out of town I found a third one that would. I got a minimal 30l. When I was at Ngala Beach talking to my neighbors, they told me fuel is cheaper in Tanzania, so I only want enough to get out of Malawi. I have to leave Malawi by Sunday 24th July, as that is when my insurance and TIP expires.

So north out of Mzuzu, three police stops, where gradually they taught me how to pronounce Vwaza.  The I turned west of the M1 and made it to  Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve. It cost me 27,000Kw, camping and entrance. They are not really set up for camping, you just camp in front of a Chalet, and use the toilet and shower. I can see hippos already.

Camped with the Hippos
Enough Monkeys?


Ngala Beach

I think I have been in Malawi too long. I get up in the morning ands it 21C, and I think its cold. At sunset it gets down to 23C and I think its cold. Adelaide at the same time is having maximums of 14C.

I have been at Ngala for 6 days, I have ten days left on my TIP (temporary import permit), so I think I will stay here for at least a few more days. I have the mozzie net pretty well set up. The shadecloth extensions help, and as well I pile up boxes to block the holes.

The last two nights had an overland truck visiting. There were 18 Spanish people who were spending 25 days driving around Africa being paid for by a rich Google employee. They were nice enough, but it was all a bit of a shock, as the previous 4 days it has just been me. There is one other overlander couple staying now, so things are quiet again.

Dan who runs Ngala with Trish made a 150km (one way) shopping run into Mzuzu and got me some supplies as well. He most importantly got me some more Pearl Barley which I am starting to run out of. It was most appreciated.

I have been up the 400m to Ngala village a couple of times to buy bread. I went today and met Issac, a boy of maybe ten, who spoke really good English. He helped me find a couple of things. So on the way back to the camp he followed and asked if he could have money for books. I though this was a pretty good ask, so I gave him 2000Kw or about $A3. Now another overlander had told me that the daily average wage in Malawi was 1800Kw. So on a whim, I thought later, I had given this ten year old a days wages for an adult. Like giving a random kid in Australia $A200.

Spread out and relaxed, sunset at camp Ngala Beach
The monkeys that occasionally invade
An angry crab, that got lost near my camp
The beach chair put out every day
Supplies brought by Dan
The bread shop opens in Ngala every few days
Issac with his friend
Ngala working using a slingshot with rocks on the Monkeys

Cape MacClear to Nkhotakota to Ngala Beach Camp

Finally after 7 nights at Fat Monkeys at Cape MacClear I got moving again. It was 259km to the next decent campsite, so I was on the road before 9am. I managed to get out of Fat Monkeys’, but the village tracks are confusing, and I have no idea if I went the right way. It was 20km down to Monkey Bay where I picked up some supplies I knew I could get at one of the shops. Then it was of along the semi potholed road to meet up with the M5 heading north.

I was aiming for Salima, which had supermarkets, from which I hoped to top up my supplies. I found the supermarket, from the vast array (not) I got some canned baked beans, canned tuna and very surprisingly canned blueberries, plus a 5l container of water. Outside I found a seller selling some very nice apples, and from someone else I got a big bunch of bananas from. I also found the ATM and got another enormous wad of money out of, being about $A150. I tried about 3 service stations to buy diesel with a credit card, with no luck, but at the 4th I managed to buy 30l with a credit card.

Then onwards north. At around 4pm I got to Nkhotakota pottery, highly rated on iOverlander, but their camping was full. Now its 4:15pm and dark is less than an hour away. I head back to the highway looking for Fish Bay, I come across a sign to Nkhotakota Safari lodge, that also might be Fish Bay, so I head down. My GPS sends me down a side track, but local kids tell me I am wrong. I decide to take their advice. I get about 200m from Nkhotakota Safari, and there are 100’s  people milling about the road into the Lodge. This concerns me, because I think it is some sort of protest or demonstration, that I don’t want to be involved in. I speak to a couple of people standing around, and they sort of convey that they will let me in. The guy at some sort of temporary gate waves me over and lowers the gate. I gingerly squeeze amongst all these people, and I emerge into – a football game. The guy at the gate was probably charging people.

I arrive at Nkhotakota Safari lodge, and I get a campsite in their small camping area on the beach. They have no other guests. Next morning I leave at 7:30am, and go to pay the 6,600 Kw for camping (about $A10) . I give them 8,000Kw, but they have no change. I point out that they have this huge lodge but they cannot give me 1,400Kw change (about $A2). Eventually even though there are about 8 people working at this lodge they manage to scrape together 1,000Kw change.

I head into Nkhotakota town and stop at the local supermarket but they don’t have much to choose from. Then up the road I find a bakery and get some bread rolls for 900Kw ($A1.50)

More shops should combine bakery and fishing….

Then it was on the road heading north again. The road was narrow with broken edges. I often had to leave the bitumen to let trucks pass, carefully picking the spot to get off the road. It rained as well for a few minutes. I got to the turnoff to Ngala Beach and made myself at home, and one of the best campsites I have stayed at in Africa.

There are lots and lots of bicycles in Malawi
Roadside food stall
There are mobile phone airtime sales booths in every village
Lots of bicycles carry passengers
Dried Fish for sale
Camped at Ngala Beach