12th, 13th & 14th September
Back to Iringa to stock up. We met a lovely lady, Amanda who kindly put us up in her house for a couple of nights and introduced us to the “local scene”. There’s a a colonial style club we visited for dinner & drinks and full of characters with plenty of tales to tell.
Stopped overnight on Saturday at the Mbeya Hotel. The bar was bussing with footy fans. The local team were playing the Tanzanian Champions and managed a 1-1 draw. Afterwards they all piled into the bar to watch the Premiership game………..which just happened to be Everton v Chelsea. When they learned I supported Everton, they became honorary Evertonians for the day and raised the roof when we scored. Nice!
Shake, Rattle and Roll
The long and bumpy road to Sumbawanga. There are huge stretches of road building going on in Tanzania from East to West. It’s an arduous route, mainly dirt with plenty of corrugations and bumps. This is very rural Africa, dust, dust and more dust………… and the dust gets into places where I didn’t know I had places. We found a little hotel, Mbezi Forest Hotel, very basic but we’ve been made so welcome by the staff. Seems the Muzungus are quite a novelty in this town.
Katavi National Park
Well, the third day on the road just getting to Katavi…………….and by far the worst! The last 180kms took us over 5 hours, roads rutted and in bad shape. We eventually reach Katavi, Ikuu Ranger post and campsite – Hallelujah! I just hope it’s worth all the effort to get here.
We were greeted by Simon, a Park Ranger. He quickly became our personal guide, assistant, armed guard and friend. The Campsite is situated on what can only be described as “Hippo Hang Out”. This is prime real estate for Hippos, the Mayfair of Hippoland and they’re packed in like sardines.
You see, there is a permanent natural spring providing fresh water. So, as the rivers dry up at this time of year, the Hippos still have plenty of smelly mud to wallow in here to keep them going until the rains arrive. It’s amazing how close you can get to them. We have been sitting no more than 3m on a slightly raised platform and they don’t give a damn. We lost count at around 200.
There are also masses of Crocodiles, some very large ones that you can get close to from the bridges and pools.
Next morning we go for a drive to the Chada Lake Plains and Paradise Island. Katavi is living up to its reputation as “Africa’s unspoiled Eden”. It’s so remote, there are a handful of lodges and you’ll see more Lion than people. We’d heard there were huge herds of Buffalo on the plains. And that’s how it is, they must number in the thousands, although getting close isn’t easy as the plains get flooded in the wet season, meaning no roads on the plains. We also saw a Leopard in the morning and a single Lioness in the afternoon.
Katavi is quite diverse. A mix of riverine with huge Borassus palms, huge plains areas covering vast distances, dotted with herds of Zebra, Buffalo and Topi but strangely no Wildebeest. The Flora is also diverse; there are these large white trees that I’ve never seen before and most of the tress and bush is surprisingly still quite green.
Uh Oh the Gremlins are back – Car trouble again! There is oil spewing out from the back wheel – looks serious and seems like the same problem we experienced in Chirundu all those weeks ago. We decide to carry on and get the Landy to the Park’s garage in the Western side of the Park in a couple of days. Once again, the Park staff come to our aid. When we arrive at the garage, they immediately down tools and take the wheel assembly apart to find out what the problem is. The good news is that it’s nothing serious, just the oil seal. The bad news is that they don’t have spare parts for LR’s and doubt we’ll find anything from the nearest village – 40kms away. Looks like we’ll need to hole up around for 3-4 days for a spare to arrive. In any case, the boss of the garage sends two of his guys out with me to try and find the spare part in Mpanda (the nearest village). After going to about 7 different spares shacks and getting the same shake of the head, we find an oil seal that will fit. Lady Luck is on my side. When we get back the mechanics stay late to get the job finished and we’re on our way again. Now that’s service! And there’s no bill! I pay them what I think is a fair price and they’re well chuffed. Everyone’s happy. Let’s hope that’s the last of the car problems.
On the Western side of the park, at Katavi Plains, there are Pelican colonies and again huge herds of Buffalo. We managed to intersect one Buff herd and got between them. Never seen so many Buffalo. There is also Eland out this way, but shy as they always are (they’ve been a fave for the pot for millennia – not surprising!).
On our last afternoon drive, we come across a school bus, full of young kids, stuck on the sand road leading to the plains area. Not sure how long they’d been there. It’s an old bus and the driver is doing exactly what you shouldn’t do when stuck in sand; spinning the wheels! And digging himself in deeper. Thinking they were lost, I asked the leader “where are you going?”. To which he replied “to see the Simbas”…………..well of course, how stupid of me! These are deep sand tracks and you need a proper 4WD vehicle to get around this area – and here’s this bus, all of 40 years old, everyone in it totally oblivious, just excited to go on a school outing and see the Simbas. They had no recovery gear and I don’t suppose any notion of what that meant, so…………..Muzungus to the rescue! Fortunately we had our sand tracks with us and so I got the kids to dig out under the wheels, stuck the tracks under the wheels and managed to get them free and out on terra firma. They were all so grateful. The kids shrieked and laughed with delight, jumping up and down. Then they all instantaneously burst into song. I think it was meant as a thank you for us as they all came running up to us when it was finished, smiles as wide as the sky.
22nd September – 26th September
It’s time to leave Katavi and the bush for a while and head for Lake Tanganyika and Lakeshore Lodge.
LL has a beautiful setting and very high standards. The Lodge buildings and rooms are funky African and stylish, the food divine and there’s all manner of water sports and lakeside activities if that takes your fancy. Chris & Louise are a South African couple who own and manage the lodge, they are very hospitable and treat you as a friend. They’ve built everything from scratch and have done a fab job.
We’re just going to chill here for a few days before we start Episode 2. – the long road home!
We have now decided the route. We’ll be entering Zambia at Mbala Border crossing and taking the Great North Road all the way to Lusaka. We’ll stop at The Africa House en route and after Lusaka head for Livingstone and Victoria Falls. From Vic Falls, we’ll head to Kituma Mulilo in Namibia. We plan to stop at Mamili in the Caprivi and then take the road west all the way to Etosha Pan. After Etosha we’ll head for Namib-Naukluft and the sand dunes. From there to Kghalaghadi – enter at Mata Mata in South Africa and exit in Botswana. Easy Peasy!!
Sumbawanga – Mbezi Forest Lodge
A three and half hour journey back to Mbezi Forest Lodge. Lunch and dinner at the Soviet Gulag style Morovian Centre (another religious outfit where the food is a burnt offering!). Up at first light to make tracks to the border with Zambia.
ZAMBIA – Kasama Lodge
We crossed the border at Mbala. The smallest and friendliest border crossing to date! However the road from the border to Mbala won first prize against potent competition for worst road in Africa! After arriving at Mbala , we needed to travel another 25kms to Mpulunga on Lake Tanganyika to the Customs office to get the Carnet stamped.
Stopped the night at Kasama Lodge – Cheap and cheerful motel style lodge.
28th September to 1st October
What a pleasant surprise! We had planned this as a one night stopover but were so impressed we’re staying 3 nights. It has natural hot springs at 40C which are translucent green and so rejuvenating to wallow in after the long drive. Beautiful gardens, swimming pool overlooking the Mansha river, great food, stunning bird life and of course Mark the owner, as characterful and colourful as the place itself.
Kapishya is connected to the Shawa N’gandu estate, better known as The Africa House of Sir Stewart Gore-Brown fame. Mark is the grandson of the late Gore-Brown. I’m not going to give a history lesson but suffice to say it’s one of Africa’s fascinating stories.
We will visit Shiwa tomorrow, en route to Lusaka, it’s just 25kms down the road.