Forward Unto Dar! (Part 2)
The dark night, full of the sounds of an Afrian city, gave way to another wonderfully blue morning, full of light and possibilities. It’s always easier to be optimistic in the bright light of the morning. I had spent the night at a church in Mbeya, on the western edge of Tanzania.
The night before I met a young guy from Switzerland, sitting on the stairs outside the rooms. It seemed we were just about the only people hanging around. I joined him or breakfast and he told me that he was also heading towards Dar es Salaam, and that he was a backpacker. I had been in Cape Town at the same time as him, and I had just missed him at Kapishya. I wasn’t surprised we ran into each other eventually. He was taking the train into Dar, as he said that the traffic on the roads was deadly. And going by the previous day’s experience, I thought he was right. I told him that I was heading to Mikadi Beach, and showed him on my map where it was, on the south side of the harbour. “Well, I’ll see you at Mikadi” he said. The train would take two days to get there.
Day two of my mission to Dar would take me from Mbeya to Kisolanza, between Mafinga and Iringa. That is not too far but the roads are busy and often disrupted by the police, so I expected to spend the whole day on the road. After breakfast I set off. I hadn’t noticed on the drive in, but Mbeya sits in a beautiful golden valley. I enjoyed the scenery on the way out, and even took some blurry photographs as well.
I stopped soon after departing for a splash of fuel. I could only hope that the Tanzanian petrol was better than the awful stuff they sold in Zambia. I still had a full tank of the stuff in the boot that I hadn’t touched on my run from Lusaka.
I set my iPod for the trip and settled down into the drive. In Zimbabwe and Zambia I could lose myself in the drive. I could drive for hours, enjoying the scenery and the feel of the car. I love watching the instruments and feeling the thin, delicate wheel in my fingers. Here, it seemed the traffic was enough to keep me from that blissful state, and worse than that was the police.
I hadn’t gone far before I was stopped. I had learned my lesson about speeding the day before, and I was careful about keeping it under 50 in the speeding zones. But even then, I was pulled over every time by the police. I think the car stands out too much to get through a road block.
They checked my paperwork and license. They asked me where I was going and where I was coming from. Then they let me go. It was never more than half an hour before I would be pulled over again, and asked the same questions. After a few hours on the road I arrived at a permanent road block, where a fat toad of a man wore white flowing robes, like some sort of priest or cleric. He asked me the usual questions, but then he asked for “money for friendly” and I told him that I had no money for friendly. He asked why not, and I said that he had not been friendly. Friends don’t check friends’ paperwork. He looked a little disappointed but sent me on my way.
Later on I was stopped by two female police officers, who are always better than men. They’re always nicer, and more professional. Their questions were different; Was I married? And why not? How old was I? 22? That’s too old not to be married? Don’t I want to marry her friend? I managed work my way through this as tactfully as I could. They wished me a pleasant journey.
The scenery changed dramatically as the day progressed. The mountains gave way to flat plains with plantations of trees, which reminded me of Hilton quite a lot. After Mafinga, where the trucks have to stop for a weigh bridge, the traffic thinned out, and so did the police.
The overnight spot was a farm called Kisolanza, I had chosen it from a glance at my paper map of Tanzania. I didn’t know what to expect. I spotted a sign at the turning for a dirt road reading “Kisolanza Farm, Camping”. So I started with my first section of Tanzanian dirt roading.
The farm seemed to be strangely isolated, but what I found was a very pleasant and professional operation. I was shown a spot under a lovely thatched roof, where I could put up my tent, and nearby there were clean loos and hot showers. at the office I met a lovely English girl named Rhiannon, like the song I think. I was a bit taken aback at first, what this English beauty was doing in the middle of the Tanzanian bush was beyond me.
When I told her I was aiming to make it to Dar es Salaam the next day she took a deep breath through gritted teeth, in that way that people tend to do when I tell them my overland vehicle is an Alfa Romeo. “That’s a big drive” she said. “Most people take a few days to do that”. She also told me that most of the people coming from “South” (Did you know that further up in Africa South Africa is just called South? Who knew…) took about two months to reach Kisolanza, and I had taken just two weeks.
After Rhiannon’s warning about the drive to Dar, I decided that I would once again do an early morning run, to get a jump on the day. I settled into camp early, made a cup of tea, and sat down to plan the epic last day to Dar.
After a hot shower I got an early night’s sleep, as the next day was bound to be the biggest day so far. The road to Dar was a legendary challenge. And Dar itself is said to be of the worst cities in the world to drive in. I certainly had my work cut out for me…
Next time: Part 3, The Last Day to Dar.