Worst Border crossing ever
I slept well at the Forest camp, but it was cold in the morning. I packed up and went to start the engine, and no start, battery problems again. This cranking battery is on its way out, the cold temperatures have weakened its cranking power. So I know how to fix this, and luckily it was sunny, although the sun was only just over the horizon. I got out the folding solar panel and connected it to the battery. Within about half and hour and some starting spray I had the engine going.
It was another 400m climb until I got to the top of the escarpment, with Clancy crawling slowly up the steep hills. I passed another truck accident, a dump truck on its side. Then it was a windy road down into Mbeya, with good views over the city. I tried to get fuel with a credit card at the Puma but no go. I tried to find a KCB bank which does not charge extra fees, but no go, so I went to and ATM and withdrew 400,000 Tsh (about $A250). Then stopped for fuel. I knew I was low, it took 67l, so I was down to my last 8l.
Then off through the crazy traffic in Mbeya, and the road to the border, which was about 80km away. The road to the border was crammed with trucks. Long conveys of trucks crawling up the hills, nose to tail so they are very difficult to overtake.
I had read lots of accounts on iOverlander about this border, and how complicated it was. I had decided that I would try to do it myself, but if I got into trouble I would call on Robert a fixer mentioned several times by iOverlander users. So as soon as I got to the roundabout to turn into the border crossing I was surrounded by fixers. I told them to go away, So I entered the Tanzania building, but I was soon completely confused. Someone told me I had to go to the Zambian building, which I wasn’t even sure where it was, so I went outside again to be surrounded by fixers. As it turns out one of the fixers was the famous Robert. So I engaged his services. We went through all the fees I would have to pay, and he seemed fairly reasonable. So we trudged from place to place, getting different pieces of paper. He left me to do the immigration part. So I got stamped out of Tanzania (where they wanted to scan my vax certificate – why?). Then it was getting a visa for Zambia. They had dropped the price of Zambian visas to $25USD. I had $80USD in 4 $20 notes. You can only pay for a visa in USD. They would not accept and of my 4 $20 USD notes because they were not pristine enough and suggested I go onto the black market outside and see if I could get “better” notes. So I find a dealer who will give me (under pressure) $28USD for $40USD of slightly better notes, including 8 $1 notes. So I go back with my $25USD including 5 $1 notes to get told by immigration that they don’t take $1 notes. I must have made such a fuss, that they gave in and took my $25USD.
So back with Robert, more bits of paper, until we have almost everything (we are about 3 hours in by now). We just have to drive to the gate park and he will hand over the Tanzanian road tax paperwork. So the gate area is jammed with trucks, Robert gets me to maneuver past a truck to park, and I hit a raised edge of the road, Clancy tips and I clip the side mirror of a Mercedes Benz truck, and breaks it. All my fault, but what a pain. So is a security guard, a police woman, the truck driver, the truck drivers boss and 4 of 5 other hangers on. So much discussion in Swahili about what to do. I must say it was all very civilized, and with Roberts help they decide I should pay 1,200 Kwch (about $A110). This seems reasonable to me so I hand over the money, and everyone seems happy, if not somewhat embarrassed that I paid any money.
So by now its about 30 minutes from dark. I say goodbye to Robert and head down the dreaded T2 of Zambia. The road is a terrible mix of potholed bitumen and dirt. I stop at the ABSA ATM about 1km down the road, but with two attempts I cannot get any money out of the ATM. I am down to about $A50. I have 50km to get to Kings Highway and its about 15 minutes from sunset. I overtake a truck past some pot-holes and hit a pothole really, really hard. I hear a crunch from Clancy in the back. I stop to look, but I cannot see anything wrong so I continue.
So here I am again. Don’t drive in Africa in the dark, driving in Africa in the dark. The road is terrible for a few kilometres then it becomes road works. The Chinese are building a new road, but of course its all diversions and dirt and bulldust and everything else. So its a slow (40kmh) drive to Kings Highway, and it is a welcome sight when I get there. Its a nice camping area, and I have a nice solar powered hot shower. I then notice power cables hanging down the right hand side rear wheel, and realise my pot-hole collision has caused more damage.
The next morning I find that the fibreglass wheel well, has broken as the wheel hit it, and it ripped four power cables in the process. I decide I am going to have to stay another night to be able to fix everything. I ride into the village and get a sim card, which all goes well.
I spent all day fibreglassing and fixing cables. That’s why I carry 2 litres of epoxy with me. I am 50/50 if I can leave tomorrow. I have to reconnect cables. I have this problem of running out of money, and its at least 50km to the nearest ATM.