TANZANIA - BEACHES & BEASTS

  The border crossing at Tanzania was a might bit more complicated than the other borders, but only because we required visas and the people that we needed to talk to about bringing the vehicle in took a while to find.  But, once we made it through the gate and won the chicken match we had to play with the trucks on the one-way road, we set our clocks to Tanzanian time (1 hour later) and we were on our way. Entering Tanzania we immediately noticed more towns, more "business" and more people.  The Tanzanians were still friendly, but they also seemed to have a bit more of an aggressive nature to them than the Malawians.  We were also a bit surprised to find that it seemed as if we ran into more Tanzanians that didn't speak English then we did in the other countries we had already passed through. Driving past Mbeya and towards Iringa we stopped at a small camp ground with nice facilities for lunch.  Unfortunately the bread was mouldy so we couldn't have the grilled cheese sandwiches that Mike and Matt were looking forward to, but the ham steaks and baked beans were as appetizing if not more. After lunch we continued through Iringa and stopped at the Baobab Valley Campground that was recommended by theCape to Cairo book that we'd been using as our trip bible.  The Baobab Valley was awesome. it is right along the Ruaha River and littered with baobab trees.  The drive in was nice as we were all tired from the long day and before we set up camp we walked down to see the river and stopped in at the bar to have a drink. where we met Sven. Sven, originally from Sweden, runs the Baobab campground and offered us some great advice on what to do when getting to Dar. where to stay, where to leave the vehicle when going across to Zanzibar and how to find our way around the city. Sven was a big help and we spent an hour or so talking with him about traveling and working in Africa before dinner, a glass of port and an early night. The next morning we were off to Dar.  Arriving in Dar Es Salaam, we went straight to the airport to see if we could sort out Matt and Shannon's tickets back to Joburg.  When we got there, we were told that the printer was down so we would have to go into to town to get that done.  Since it was about 1:30pm we decided to grab some lunch at the airport because we weren't sure if we'd get a chance (depending on how easy it would be to find the SAA office in Dar and sort out what we needed to do).  We ate quickly at the Flamingo Cafeteria (a place where Mike had eaten before on one of his work trips up to Geita Gold Mine), changed some money and then started back to the city to find the SAA office. Finding the SAA office turned out to be pretty easy and getting the tickets issue was even easier. parking was, however, a bit of a problem so Mike and Cathy circled the building in the truck with the minibus taxis while Matt and Shannon sorted out the travel details.  Once that was sorted out, we started putting into action Sven's recommendations for Dar Es Salaam and we headed straight for the ferry to Dar's South Beach.  The stench of rotten fish was a bit much to handle, but getting on the ferry turned out to be straight forward and in a fairly short period of time we were heading across on the 600m ferry ride to the South Beach.. 8km later and we were at the Kipepeo Beach Resort (recommended by Sven) with a place to leave our truck for the week organized plus our transportation for the next day all sorted out. Kipepeo looks out over the Indian Ocean and has camp sites that are literally feet from the beach.  We set up camp quickly so we could head for a swim before dinner and packing for the next leg of the journey (Matt and Shannon to Canada and Mike and Cathy to Zanzibar). The next morning Mike and Cathy caught their taxi to the Zanzibar ferry at 8am while Matt and Shannon finished packing up their stuff before catching their taxi to the airport for their flight at 3pm. Click here to read about Mike and Cathy's visit to Zanzibar Dar to Moshi. In an attempt to accommodate the website message board suggestions, the following write-up summarizing our experiences between Dar Es Salaam and Moshi will be written without mention of the food we ate or the interesting menus that we encountered. .. Unfortunately, it makes for a short write-up. . OK, we'll do what we can.   Mike, Cathy and Jim arrived at Kipepeo Beach (where we left the vehicle for the week) burnt from the wind and sun of the front deck of the Zanzibar to Dar ferry.  The ride was uneventful but almost turned tragic when we decided not to purchase the digital watch from the on-board hawker walking the seats in "foreigner class" (a real class of service for the Sea Bus ferry) with ringing phones, alarm clocks and various paraphernalia draped over his arms and neck.  We only really wanted to know the price of the watches, but were inadvertently roped into a negotiation process for something we didn't really want.  After negotiating the talented hawker down from 10,000 TSh to 5,000 TSh, we ended up settling on paying nothing for nothing. and we then spent the greater part of the negotiation explaining that we didn't want the watch. Kipepeo Beach was packed with people on this particular Sunday afternoon and the three of us enjoyed a swim in the ocean after verifying that everything was OK with the vehicle. (Normally we would use this space to insert information about the food and drink that we had for dinner.) The next morning, we were back on the ferry from South Beach to Dar and on the road to Pangani on the north cost of Tanzania. we had heard and read a number of horror stories about this road - most of the horror stories had to do with the dangerous bus drivers that frequented the route and the police road blocks yielding radar guns that look more like hairdryers.  The information about the police road blocks was quite over-exaggerated, but the bit about the insane bus drivers was right on the money. We only ended up encountering one speed trap that had luckily pulled over one of the insane bus drivers in front of us, so we were able to pass on by without any problems - only to be overtaken by the same bus driver again a few miles down the road. Interestingly enough, all of the maps, tourist books and Cape to Cairo information that we had was wrong about the best way to get to Pangani from Dar. but, we did our best and ended up getting to the Peponi Campsite unscathed and ready for dinner (sorry, the dinner at Peponi was really good and it deserves a mention).  Mike and Jim both had surf and turf and Cathy had clam fettuccine.  The beer also went down well (again sorry) and we enjoyed a night cap with Dennis Roberts (the owner operator of the Peponi camp site).  At the bar at Peponi was a great information book with a whole bunch of journal entries from fellow travellers documenting their experiences with travel in Africa.  We took down a few bits of advice about traveling through Sudan and Egypt (and a few other places that we'll save for another trip). This was a great camp site which included the option for dhow snorkelling trips to the reef as well as sleeping in enclosed bandas (huts in Tanzania) if you wanted.  We, of course, chose to camp and rested well in one of the beach front camp sites. The next morning we left around 9:30AM on our way to Moshi to drop Jim off and pick Matt up at the KilimanjaroAirport.  The drive was pleasant and uneventful and we made it to Moshi in time to find a place to stay for the night. Originally we wanted to stay at the Springlands Hotel which is where we stayed last year before and after our Kilimanjaro climb.  But, it turns out that you can only stay there if you are already booked on a Zara (travel agent) safari or mountain climb.  So, we ended up staying at a nice hotel called Bristol Cottages for the night. We went out for dinner at a roof top restaurant above the Kindoroko Hotel down town in Moshi (ok, now this food mention is important to maintain the integrity of the journal).  Since the Bristol Cottages was a bit upmarket for the Jackson (Downtown came Uptown for Jim), we decided to change hotels for the next night, we wanted Matt to reacclimatize to Africa as quickly as possible after returning from Canada. So, the next morning Mike dropped Jimmy off at the airport and returned to pick Cathy up at the Bristol Cottages to make the transfer to the (lower-end) Kindoroko Hotel.  The rest of the day was spent cleaning out the back compartment of the truck and washing the fridges. Picking Matt up at the airport went well. it was good to get Matt back on the trip.  The fact that he returned clean shaven was over shadowed by the Chunky Kit Kats and Reese's Pieces that he packed in his luggage!!! Moshi to Kenya. It has been an amazing week to say the least.  In the last 7 days we have:

  1. Been face-to-face with lions
  2. Rescued motorists from a car wreck
  3. Discussed high finance with researchers from Time Magazine
  4. Watched as two thousand migrating wildebeest (less one) successfully crossed the Mara River
  5. Broken at least one international law

It's been a full week.. After a nine day absence, a wifeless Matt returned from Canada via South Africa and Dar es Salaam.  As expected, Shannon stayed behind in Canada to be with her family as her father went in for some surgery, with plans to reunite with the tour in a few weeks time. Determined to "keep on keepin' on", the three remaining Jackson's left Moshi for Ngorongoro Crater.  After taking some time to appreciate the views of Mt Kilimanjaro (which is much easier to do knowing that we won't be climbing it as we did last year) and stopping for some supplies in Arusha, we made our way on some very good roads towards the crater. Very good roads, that is, until we made it to Ngorongoro Conservation Area where the roads quickly deteriorated into some of the worst we have encountered - making it clear that none of the US$200+ entrance fees we were charged went toward road maintenance. That said, we were all very happy to be in the crater, which is a world heritage site and one of the most interesting places inAfrica to view wildlife.  The crater itself is the remnant of a now inactive volcano that erupted for the last time thousands of years ago.  What makes it so interesting is that it is a comparably small area with a high concentration of game, as many of the animals that migrated down into the crater over the years have (understandably) decided not to make the long and steep climb back up. After a cool night at the local campsite (the first night that we've needed long pants and sweaters since the trip began), we headed down into the crater and were immediately rewarded with an excellent lion sighting (again a trip first).  We were tipped off that there were lions in the area by a collection of hyena that were camped out just down the river from where the lions had made a kill. Although they had moved the kill into the long grass where we couldn't see it, three of the lions (including a decent sized male), hung around the river trying to warm up and rest from a long night of hunting and eating.  The light was perfect which made for some excellent photo opportunities. Fresh off our first lion sighting we drove the precarious ascent road out of the crater and made our way further down the rough road towards the Serengeti.  After a quick stop at Olduvai Gorge, where the Leakey's discovered evidence of the earliest humans, we raced to make the Ngorongoro exit gate before our permit expired (and we were charged for an additional full day in the Park, as the rules decree). After barely making the exit deadline we passed into Serengeti National Park.  The name "Serengeti" is derived from a Swahili word meaning "endless" and refers to the seemingly infinite stretches of grassland that dominate the Southern portion of the Park.  The landscape here truly is spectacular and is no doubt the model used by Hollywood to represent the African savannah. The trip from the Serengeti gate to our campsite was an eventful one to say the least.  After a short drive we came across our second lion pride of the day, lounging in the shade off the main road.  The lions drew quite a crowd of spectators which probably wasn't too peaceful for them.  So, after a few minutes they walked across the road into some thicker bush to get a little more privacy - stopping to look directly into one vehicle and chase another down the road as they went. Just a few miles further down the road we came across another interesting sighting - a Landrover Defender on its side in the middle of the road.  After making sure everyone was uninjured, we went to work to right the vehicle.  Excited at the prospect of using our recovery equipment and winch (and relieved that it was not to rescue our own vehicle) Mike and Matt jumped at the chance to help. While Matt did some off-roading to position the vehicle, Mike set about attaching the equipment and winching the vehicle back into position.  In a matter of just a few minutes the vehicle was back on its four wheels and we bid farewell to a very relieved and appreciative driver. After a well deserved beer at the local lodge, we made our way back into the wilds and to our campsite.  Here we met Will and Sonja, two researchers taking a break from working on a story for Time Magazine.  The piece they are researching focuses on the success of the local economy over recent years and highlights the Tanzanian Stock Exchange, which consistently provides returns in excess of 16%.  Sounds pretty impressive until you learn that the Exchange only has 8 listed companies and that the stocks are tracked using a whiteboard and dry erase markers. The next day we headed to the North end of the park in order to position ourselves to cross into the Masai Mara (Kenya) directly from the Serengeti (Tanzania).  However, we first checked with the Tanzanian authorities whether such a crossing was even possible as we had heard reports that the border between the two Parks had been closed.  After being assured that it was possible (although not common) we headed North for one last night in the Serengeti. The next morning we awoke excited to be moving into the Masai Mara, as this is where we expected to come in contact with "the migration".  If you have ever watched a nature documentary on Africa, it probably dealt to some degree with this incredible natural phenomenon.  Every year, a million wildebeest and two hundred thousand zebras make a circuitous journey between the Serengeti and the Masai Mara.  During the dry months they move Northwards where there is ample ground water to support their thirst.  As the rains approach they move Southward, back into the Serengeti where the grazing is better.  At this time of year, the migration is starting to make its way Southward and we were hoping to encounter it as we moved into Kenya. Only one problem - turns out that crossing the border into Kenya from the Serengeti isn't as easy as we had been lead to believe by the Tanzanian officials.  We arrived at the gate, to find out that this border post had "officially" been closed since 1976.  Luckily, "officially closed" doesn't necessarily mean "actually closed" and there were provisions made to allow tourists to cross between the two parks - exactly what "provisions" was unclear but we were able to leave Tanzania without any problems nonetheless.  We got our passports and import documents stamped, paid our departure fees, and were on our way, as per usual. Here is where the proverbial wheels fell off. The difficulty comes not from leaving Tanzania, but rather 20 kms down the road where you would expect to encounter the Kenyan immigration officials.  As it so happens, there are no Kenyan immigration officials in the Masai Mara.  Instead we were met by Sam, a police officer with a nice little business, helping tourists with their newly acquired immigration dilemmas. Sam informed us that we had two options.  The first was to return to Tanzania and drive 300+ kilometres to an official border post where we would receive the usual passport stamp, import permits and third party insurance documents.  The second option (and the one Sam was pushing) was to engage his services to enter the Park here.  As it turns out, his services did not include stamps or official documentation.  What Sam's services did include was permission to enter the Park after signing a registration book and the advice to make our way to another immigration office upon leaving the park.  His services also included assurances that we would not be pulled over by any of the numerous police roadblocks along the way and we would not be questioned as to why we did not have any of the legal documentation required to be in Kenya (how Sam knew all of this remains a mystery however).  All these fabulous services were offered for the low price of US$50, a pack of cigarettes and a Fanta Orange (after some expert negotiating by Mike).  As Sam would say "a small price to pay in comparison to the fuel and inconvenience of the other option - eezn't it?" So we entered the Masai Mara as explorers without a home.  We had officially exited Tanzania but would not officially enter another country for two days.  We were on the lam.