Danielle Murdoch & The Hippos, Katavi National Park, Tanzania

Welcome (back) to Tanzania

| Tanzania

Dust is engulfing my motorcycle and me. My eyes are stinging and I feel my energy has sapped as I hit another invisible pothole, which throws up yet another cloud of sandy dust. It has been a long three days, and now it is pitch black as we arrived into township of Mbeya and check in to the mission guesthouse – dirty, exhausted and very hungry.

Three days ago, we entered into Tanzania. The country almost feels like home for the both of us, we know some of the language, we know the culture and we know what the food is like. The only unknown thing for us was what the road condition was going to be. We set out from Kigoma the most northern town on the edge of Lake Tanganyika, which is the longest lake in the world and we decided to travel down the only road that runs parallel with the lake.

On our first day, we hit the dirt road full of energy and excitement. The road was in fairly good condition, we could travel at decent speeds, which not only kept us cooler in the hot temperatures but also our engines.  Half way through the day, when stopping for a break, I noticed I was lacking a shoe. It normally sits under my elastic net with its brother. However, I could only see one. Deciding there is no point in carrying the other, I dropped it on the road, hoping someone finds them and reunites the two shoes once again.

It was still a long day in the sun, we arrived into Mpanda late in the afternoon, my bike was running on the smell of an oily rag. Pulling into a petrol station, we saw the attendants shake their heads, no fuel. We drove on to a guesthouse and we checked in. Lacking my own shoes, I slipped on a pair of hotel sippers and went in search of some new flip-flops and something to eat.

Not long after dinner, we crash into bed and didn’t even wake when a storm hit and drove rain straight into the room drenching everything within a 1meter radius, including us in our bed! In the morning, we went in search of fuel. Every petrol station was empty. We eventually struck a deal with the local motorcycle taxi drivers, paying twice the normal price. But who knows when the next tanker would come to town and we only have a 15 day transit visa, therefore we don’t have the time to hang around waiting for fuel to arrive.

Not long after leaving town, we came to the start of Katavi National park, when I took a quick glance into the river, I thought it was just full of rocks, but on second glance, I realized it was actually hippo’s wallowing in their own filth! I’ve never seen so many hippos in one place. Just as I got started taking pictures, Mike spotted a sign – NO stopping the vehicles and NO photography or you have to pay for the park entrance fee. I looked around and spotted a man walking towards us, we quickly packed up and started driving into the park. Mike is was the lead and I spot buffalos hiding amongst the trees, I didn’t want to stop and worry Mike that I’ve disappeared so I carry on behind him. We both spotted some more, but stopping the bikes we realized we were surrounded by tsetse flies and were forced to move on.

We tried to make several stops in the park, but tsetse flies forced us on. Eventually we found a spot just outside the park. That is when Mike told me he felt his suspension break. Looking at it, we could see he was right, the seal had popped and oil was everywhere. We carried on, travelling slower hoping it will help the shock last longer. Eventually we arrived into Sumbawanga and checked into a mission. We looked at the shock and decided it can travel the next 300km on asphalt to Mbeya where we will tend to it there and decided what we should do.

We were both tired, and needed a day off the bikes, but since the GPS and our map told us it is going to be asphalt we pressed on to Mbeya.  Within a few kilometers from the township however, the road turned into a major construction site. There were trucks everywhere, the road snaked from one side to another, vehicles acting crazy, as their drivers are confused about where they are meant to go.  Potholes, bull dust and these drivers were pushing me to the limit. What was meant to be a short 330 kilometer drive was turning into an all day mission.

Stopping for a break, we got speaking to an Indian road construction worker, I had to laugh after I told him, this was a terrible road, and he said, “No, this is a terrible place. I came all the way from India for this!” This made me feel a lot better, as I was never going to do this stretch of road again in my life, whereas this poor Indian man had to do it every day.

After topping up my motorcycle oil levels, I put everything back in its place, or I thought. A few kilometers later, my bike was feeling strange. I couldn’t accelerate properly and I felt a tugging to one side. I let another kilometer slip past as I tried to work out what was going on. But before I could do so, I felt a huge tug and then I heard a bang. Stopping my motorcycle as fast as I could, I leaped off to investigate. As it turned out I had forgotten to re-attach my bungee cord and it had wrapped itself up in my axel and disk break. Even though I was annoyed at myself for not being more careful, and putting myself at some risk. I was glad it wasn’t anything else more serious.

Mbeya is a small town, but it fulfills our needs. I have just came down with a cold and need to have some rest days. We found Mike a new 17-Inch tire, we changed our oil and my brake pads.  Then Mike wrapped strips of rubber around his suspension shaft to help support it as we knew we wouldn’t be able to find a replacement until South Africa.

This also changed our plans, originally we had planned to head into north Mozambique and spend some time in the desert there, but with Mike’s broken suspension, we think it will be better to face Malawi instead and tackle its problems of lack of fuel. I prepared my motorcycle with adding an extra two 5-liter containers filled with fuel on top of the four-liter bladder I normally carry. Now I am set for Malawi.

Want to see more pictures – click this link to be taken to Flikr to see the whole lot!

On another note:

I want to introduce two websites:

Created By Danielle  & Amidst Journeys

In a nut shell my savings have run out, therefore I am trying to do the impossible and that is to work and travel at the same time.

As you know I have a few bits a pieces for sale and have recently made a new website for all the beautiful things as you can see here at Amidst Journeys. The other site I want to introduce is Created By Danielle. This is my portfolio as a graphic designer and website builder. Please consider me for you next project as I am “Cheap as Chips” but can give you amazing and quick results. Thanks a lot, Danielle