Our last newsletter was from Dar Es Salaam in Tanzania and we were getting
ready to head over to Zanzibar - an island off the coast of Tanzania. Wendy
and Mal couldn't wait to hit the sand and the beach so they went over a
day earlier. On the morning Dave, Geoff and Kienny were to leave for Zanzibar,
we arranged for secure parking at Silver Sands Resort (if you can call
it that) and proceeded to wait for the shuttle bus to the port to catch
our ferry. Alas! Our shuttle bus never turned up. Kienny put pressure on
the management and was able to negotiate a ride in the resort's Landcruiser.
The owner said that there was no way we could make the ferry in time. The
driver took this on as a challenge and gave us the ride of our lives going
at great speeds, dodging potholes, bicycles, roadworks, people, animals
and trucks. We arrived at the port a few minutes late however the ferry
was still docked. The ferry left moments after we boarded much to our relief
as Mal and Wendy were waiting for us in Zanzibar.
We arrived two and a half hours later and checked into the Dhow Palace hotel which Wendy and Mal had booked for us. The hotel was decorated with period furniture and lovely Persian carpets gracing the hallways. This is the first time we've not slept in our rooftop tent. It was a lovely change to which we quickly adjusted - CNN on TV and the airconditioner on full blast. Walking through the streets of Zanzibar was very interesting with narrow alleys and the smell of spices in the air. There were hawkers selling fresh fruit, vegetables, samosas, satays, art and curios. This reminded us very much of Asia and the Islamic market in Cairo, quite different to everything we've seen in Africa so far.
We took the Mitu Spice Tour which we thoroughly enjoyed. We saw some history of the island and where the different spices such as ginger, cloves, turmeric, pepper, cinnamon and cocoa grow, along with fruit trees such as jambu, jackfruit, starfruit, durian, coconuts, pineapples and bananas to name a few. We enjoyed a delicious curry lunch using the locally grown spices. We finished our tour with a swim on an idyllic beach with crystal clear blue water and coconut trees swaying in the breeze. Later that evening we took a walk along the waterfront and sampled the local culinary delights and combed the craft stalls. Su-lin especially enjoyed the freshly squeezed sugarcane juice.
After being spoilt for two days on Zanzibar, we parted company with Wendy and Mal and caught the hydrofoil back to Dar Es Salaam and were pleased to find Troopie safe and sound. We then headed for the biggest Supermarket in Dar to stock up on supplies. We were shocked to find a small minimart stocked with western foodstuffs at around four times Australian prices! Everything in Tanzania is very expensive. Diesel costs over A$1.00 which is almost 40 percent more than we were paying in Southern Africa.
The next morning we headed north towards Mount Kilimanjaro. Once again subsistence farming was evident. Plenty of corn, cassava, pineapples, mangoes and the odd chook. There are many roadside market stalls from which to buy cheap, fresh fruit and vegetables. There were large sisal plantations which is used to make ropes.
We decided to visit Usamburu Mountains which is a beautiful picturesque
area some 1000 meters above the local plains where the mountains are extensively
contoured for cooperative farming. We camped at the Lawn Hotel in Lushoto,
owned by a Greek born Tanzanian resident. At 1200 meters the cool mountain
air was a welcome change to the heat and humidity of Dar Es Salaam and
Zanzibar. The next morning we drove to a viewpoint which provided a breathtaking
view over the plains below. Here, two local enterprising brothers have
set up a campsite and we were disappointed that we had not been told about
this campsite by the Lushoto Tourist Information.
On Christmas Eve we arrived in Arusha. On the way we saw Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa, but were disappointed that thick clouds obscured the summit. Arusha is a dusty town and the streets are a maze of potholes and have to be seen to be believed. This is the gateway to the Ngorogoro Crater and Serengeti NP! We had a quiet Christmas and enjoyed the Plum Pudding we had brought from Australia. We camped at the rear of Le Jacaranda hotel and Su-lin made friends with the French owner's daughter. They had a great time playing minigolf.
Next we headed to Ngorogoro Conservation area. On the way we stopped
for a toilet break and noticed a small oil leak coming from Troopie's transfer
case. When we arrived at the Safari Junction camp just outside Ngorogoro
we checked the transfer case oil level and found it full so obviously the
leak was very small. As the Ngorogoro park fees were very expensive (US$105
per day) we arrived at the entrance gate just before the 7am opening time.
We could have slept in another thirty minutes as the rangers arrived late.
We paid our fees and picked up our compulsory park guide and went down
into the crater. The crater was very impressive. After a steep drive down
the crater rim we saw an amazing number of animals in such a small confined
area. We saw wildebeests, cape buffalo, zebra, hyena, warthog, gazelle,
elephants, hippos and lions. There was a fantastic thunderstorm which added
to the excitement. Mid afternoon we ascended to the top of the crater and
dropped off our guide.
The roads in Tanzania are mostly bad, however nothing can prepare you for the roads between Ngorogoro and Serengeti NP. It is amazing that such a world renowned NP can have such bad roads. The roads took their toll on Troopie’s roofrack and once again the front passenger roofrack mount fractured. We had a fantastic time in Serengeti NP watching six young male lions basking in the setting sun on the side of the road. They were having a great time rolling around playfully, four legs in the air. On the way to our campsite near the Seronera River we passed lots of hippos, zebra, wildebeests, giraffe and waterbucks. The campsite cost us another US$45 which was outrageous considering there were no facilities.
We enjoyed our two-day visit through Ngorogoro and Serengeti NP. They are the best game parks we have seen in Africa. We would have liked to have spent more time but the cost was prohibitive. We left Serengeti via the western gate and followed the edge of Lake Victoria to Mwanza. Lake Victoria is the second largest freshwater lake in the world. The last 15km into Mwanza was dusty and it was quite tiring negotiating the enormous potholes. The campsite listed in the Lonely Planet was closed but we managed to camp in the Iko Hotel carpark.
Kienny has always wanted to go on a cruise (ha! ha!) so the next morning
we bought tickets for the ferry across Lake Victoria to Bukoba. As we had
to fill in another night we decided to spend the night at Sukuma Bujora
Cultural village 15km north of Mwanza. The village is very active in encouraging
cultural exchange and education in the Sukuma culture and way of life.
We were delighted to hear the children sing and dance to the beat of locally
made drums. While there, a truckload of Indians arrived for a picnic. We
were caught between two cultures as the Indians were playing their loud
Tamil/Hindi pop music in contrast to the Sukuma drums and singing - quite
The following afternoon we arrived at the Mwanza port at 4pm as requested. The port was a hive of activity with people loading all sorts of cargo. It was like stepping back in time one hundred years, everything from cement to mattresses was loaded manually. We had expected that Troopie would have been driven onto the ship, however we were horrified when we learnt that Troopie was to be lifted onto the ship by crane. Loading continued till 10pm and we were becoming concerned that there would be no room left for Troopie. Finally we were asked to drive Troopie alongside the ship. The crane had a five-ton lifting capacity. The lifting harness was attached . However, when the crane tried to lift Troopie the front wheels lifted but the back wheels wouldn't lift off the ground. The ships engineer had stern words to us because unbeknown to us vehicles loaded onto the Victoria are not permitted to carry luggage. In contrast, Troopie was loaded to the hilt with 180 litres of diesel, 70 litres of water, two spare tyres, food, roofrack and tent, tools and spare parts.
At first they wanted us to unload Troopie which of course was impossible and impractical. Fortunately the ship's captain was on our side and eventually Troopie was precariously lifted onboard. Troopie was the last thing to be loaded sitting precariously on six wooden planks above the cargo hold. What an amazing sight it was amongst the cargo and 800 passengers. As soon as Troopie was tied down the third class passengers rolled out their mattresses all around and under Troopie and laid down to sleep. We had delayed the ship and all its passengers by over an hour. The captain's bridge was right above Troopie so we were satisfied that she would be safe and secure. We retired to our first class sleeping cabin after a long day. We were amused at the cargo pricelist. Vehicles cost A$75 whilst the cheapest consignment was a corpse which cost a mere A$7! Our first class sleeper cabin cost us A$28. We found out later that there are two ferries that cross Lake Victoria. The other ferry was called the Serengeti and it was a vehicle ferry. If only we had been told this when we booked, we would have saved ourselves a lot of worry.
We arrived at Port Bukoba at 8:30am and Troopie was the first to be unloaded. Again, this caused a lot of hassle and concern as the crane had problems lifting Troopie. Whilst on the ship, we met two Kalgoorlie sisters backpacking through Africa and decided to give them a lift. We crossed into Uganda later that morning. The border proceedings as usual were straightforward. Kienny is getting very used to officials. They asked us what gifts we had brought them from Australia. Thus far we have been able to engage corrupt officials in other topics of conversation, so much so that they get tired of Kienny chatting and couldn't wait to wave us through.
We stayed our first night in Uganda just south of Masaka. Not long after we set up camp, an amazing thing happened. A Dutch couple arrived on a motorbike. Upon introducing ourselves, we realised it was Gertjan and Rita! We met Gertjan whilst touring Thailand on motorbikes in 1991 just near the River Kwai. A month later he visited us in Alice Springs. It was just so amazing to meet up with them in Uganda and spent the night exchanging trip notes and catching up with each other's travels.
Next morning we set off for Kabale and dropped off the two Kalgoorlie
sister who managed to get a booking to see the gorillas at Bwindi. We spent
New Years Eve by Lake Bunyonyi. The lake surrounded by mountains is beautiful
and has a tranquil atmosphere about it. We watched otters swimming in the
lake and people exploring and fishing the lake in canoes. Next day we drove
to Kisoro through some of the most stunning countryside we've seen. Churchill
described Uganda as the "Pearl of Africa". The countryside is lush green
with acres of bananas, palms, coffee, mangoes, pineapples and gum trees.
At times the gum and eucalyptus trees makes Africa feel just like home.
The roads are a welcome change after Tanzania.
We stopped to buy one and a half kilos of beef at one of the villages. The butcher had a side of beef hung up and he used his machete to hack off the amount of meat we required. At first we were concerned about buying meat that was covered in flies but to date we have not had any problems. We just make sure that we cook the meat well. As a result we have been eating meat all through Africa.
On the way to Kisoro at a military checkpoint, we picked up a Ugandan soldier with his AK47 rifle and two sacks of Maize flour. We had an interesting time talking and learnt that he has two wives. For each wife he had to pay five cows for a dowry. He was amused when he learned that Geoff paid one pig and a sum of money for Kienny. Yesterday we saw a convoy of UN trucks coming back from the Congo (Zaire) border. He told us that the Congo border officials had turned them back. We dropped him off at the soldier's camp not far from the borders of Rwanda and Congo.
After Kisoro and another night’s stay at Lake Bunyonyi it was time to head for Queen Elizabeth NP which borders Congo. It was different country again as the park is very much dry veld with candlelabra cacti everywhere. Most of the wildlife was killed off during the war however they are gradually returning. We managed to see quite a few elephants, bush pigs, impala, waterbuck and warthogs. At Mweya campsite in the QENP overlooking Kazinga Channel which connects Lake Edward with Lake Gregory, a hippo wandered in just as we were cooking dinner. It was a real treat to see our first hippo on land as they are usually partially submerged under water. As we ate, the hippo grazed near our car with six warthogs tagging along.
Next morning, we drove along the Queens Pavilion to view the craters. These craters are impressive. Some are heavily wooded, some are grassy whilst others are full of water. The drive was very scenic. Coming out of the QENP we crossed the Equator into the Northern Hemisphere. Shortly after, a UN vehicle with four French nationals trying war crimes in Rwanda, pulled up. We did an experiment and we were able to observe the water draining in different directions in the north and south hemispheres. We camped the night in the grounds of the "Mountains of the Moon" Hotel at Fort Portal overlooking the Rwenzori Mountains.
Next morning we headed for the Murchison Falls National Park. There were tea plantations everywhere. It was an interesting road from Hoima to Masindi as we passed through little villages from which we bought eggs, pineapples, bananas, tomatoes, cabbage, rice and potato. We arrived at Murchison Falls just as the sun was setting and made bookings for a boat ride along the Albert Nile to view the falls, and turned in for the night. During the night we heard hippos grazing through our campsite.
The Albert Nile is a graceful river, wide and fast flowing, with reeds on either banks. It supports an abundance of wildlife such as hippos, crocodiles, elephant, buffalo, storks and fish eagle. The Murchison Falls have been described as the most spectacular thing to happen to the Nile in its 6700 km journey.
After lunch we drove to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. We camped at
the Red Chili hideaway, run by an English couple who have just finished
their contract with the British High Commission in Kampala and didn't want
to return to London. We were their sixth client having only been open two
weeks. It is a nice campground with beautiful green lawns, good views,
good water and secure. We stayed two nights in Kampala as we had the roofrack
welded and the transfer case seal replaced at the Toyota dealer in town.
Next we headed for Jinja - the source of the Nile. Jinja once had a very large Chinese community but most left or were killed during the war. We ate at a Chinese Restaurant - one of the few times we have eaten out. The meal was very good. We camped at Bujagali Falls just out of town. It was a lovely campsite and we were lulled to sleep by the soft thunder of the falls. Unfortunately these falls and the campsite are soon to be flooded as part of a large hydro-electric project.
The following day we headed for Kisumu in Kenya. The border crossing was very easy, as usual, and took about one hour. We had to pay for a Kenyan VISA which cost US$150 for the three of us. Fortunately this is only the second VISA we have needed for our journey so far.
In Kisumu we met up with Mal and Wendy who had rented a 4WD from Nairobi. Together we travelled through the Eldoret, Rift Valley, Nakuru through to the Masai Mara NP. Unbeknown to us Mal and Wendy had also met up with Gertjan and Rita and they had arranged to meet together for a game drive through the Masai Mara NP. We really enjoyed the NP and we saw lots of lions, elephants, giraffe, buffalo, hippo and crocodile. We had an amusing time watching two male lions resting in the shade of a tree. One of them stood up and started dry wretching. He eventually vomited his meal (furballs?) and lay back to rest. It was the funniest sight. We hope the lion will be alright. We had a lovely day together and later camped at a Masai campsite just outside the NP.
After saying goodbye to Gertjan and Rita again we drove to Chanai Falls at Limuru just outside Nairobi. This area is very pretty, hilly and green with tea plantations, pine forests and horse stables and is reminiscent of the English countryside. It is here that we said goodbye to Mal and Wendy. Tomorrow they fly to London. Dave Young is still with us for another week. In the meantime we intend to travel through the Kenyan highlands around Mount Kenya.
We are still having a great time in Africa. We have been keeping amazingly well. We hope to send another newsletter from Nairobi in ten days time.
Hope you are all well and had a good New Year.
Geoff, Kienny and Su-lin Kingsmill
Grant and Shelly provided the following update :-
The Yacht Club in Mwanza is a good place to catch
up with the local expats and to get the latest information.
The Serengeti vehicle ferry has ceased to operate and the Victoria passenger ferry only takes small vehicles - no 4WD's.
There is now a passenger and vehicle ferry which runs between Mwanza (Tanzania) and Kampala (Uganda).