HELLO + WELCOME as we drive from Sydney to London, overland via Africa. Right now we are 14-months on the road.
In this post we enter Tanzania after blissing out in Malawi for weeks on end.
It’s Kirsty writing today.
Driving into Tanzania was a shock to the system. It was our most dramatic change brought by a border crossing yet.
As we crossed the border the World turned green and we drove through highlands patterned by tea and coffee plantations. The bicycles of Malawi were replaced by motorbikes and grass thatching was replaced with metal roofs. People were immediately rounder, plumper and their clothes had less holes. Tanzania’s people were noticeably not as impoverished as Malawi’s. Tanzania is also our first predominantly muslim cultured country and so we saw this in the bright head dresses flowing from the sides of roads.
A small town in Malawi would have a couple of tiny stores and would usually sell the same small goods. Think: soap, mobile vouchers, crackers, coca colas, eggs, tomatoes. The shops were often built of sticks and occasionally concrete. But here all the stores were in concerete or sturdy shipping container style sheds – and everything was for sale.
Driving into the country we saw people lugging huge piles of bananas and avocados on their heads. And tonnes of carrots begging bagged up. Immediately the roads became busier and we rolled along with the windows wide open sucking back the fresh mountain air and change. It felt wonderful.
The border crossing into Tanzania is spoken about by overlanders as a bit of drainer. We were lucky because we crossed in under an hour. On the way through we were keen to get our hands on some Tanzanian Shillings as we knew our third party insurance was waiting to be purchased on the Tanzanian side. When the Malawi exchange bureau said they didn’t carry Shillings we thought we might have to do a careful changeover of cash with the black market guys, but then the money gods delivered us an ATM! After swiftly organising passports, vehicle permits and the Carnet we turned our attention to the bloke who had been trailing us for 40-minutes attempting to build rapport in order to sell us insurance.
We left the Troopy in ‘no-mans-land’ and walked across the border to negotiate a price in his bare walled office. He started at 200,000 Shillings, we laughed and entered some hardcore negotiation – props to G! He agreed on our price without saying he agreed and had his lackey draw up the papers. He then hilariously pretended to talk on his mobile – he is clearly a busy guy – and wished us a great stay in Tanzania.
Within the first few kilometres across the border we we were greeted by Tanzania’s infamous police just past a 50km speed sign. We were asked for insurance “CHECK!”, warning triangles “CHECK!” and a fire extinguisher “CHECK!”. All of which are required to drive legally in the country, not that they tell you this before crossing the border. “We have everything we need madam” we said with a cheeky smile. First police passed “CHECK!”
:: The roads in Tanzania welcomed us with smooth tar and radar wielding police ready to enforce 50 zones
:: Crossing the border into Tanzania brought a dramatic change of scenery. Which was: green, green, green!
:: Tea, coffee, bananas and avocados are grown in this region
:: Going bananas
Our first night in Tanzania cost us just $11. Including $6 for camping in a christian mission and $5 for dinner. We camped in one of our first carparks and felt very safe with four massive dogs running around all night and a guard who took his job very seriously. In the morning we woke to find our back doormat chewed to bits. This first night also brought our first stinky crouch toilet of the trip – although I was surprised it had took us this long – I needed to breathe out the feral-ness when I got back in the Troopy. See pic below
:: Tanzania, a crouch toilet nation
:: Breathing out the feral toilet experience. I swear I burst into laughs a few moments later … but sometimes you just need to take a moment
:: Remnants of our back door mat after the guard dogs got to it. We are still using it!
:: Carpark camping at a christian mission – we had the place to ourselves before the workers rocked up in their cars the next morning
As it happened we had a lovely first night in Tanzania. After so long in Malawi everything felt so new and exciting! Across the road from where we stayed was a local market and late in the afternoon light we meandered around. Taking in the remaining produce, chickens and suprised faces of locals. The cool mountain air felt so refreshing and the quiet vibe of the mission put us in a chilled mood.
The next morning we turned our clocks back an hour. Found ourselves some mobile internet at the efficient Airtel centre – good thing we arrived at 9am, as there was very soon a line. Drove the wrong way down a one way street – helpfully whistled at by a local and an armed guard to turn around. Had a photocopy made of our $60 piece of paper COMESA insurance. And asked the first ‘rich’ looking guy we found where the best supermarket in town was. When we found the supermarket I was followed around by a local guy asking me my opinion on products “Is this a good energy drink madam?”
Impressed with achieving this all within an hour or so, we rolled out of town patting ourselves on the backs. Unfortunately the students of Mbeya chose that exact moment to march down main street for half an hour. This is where we quickly became acquainted with Tanzania’s famed traffic as we all battled to pass one another.
:: Tanzania’s palm trees were brought by arab traders many moons ago
:: Local market shopping down backstreets
:: Chickens for sale
:: Although I’m dying to get my hair done the Bright Salon was closed
:: The road between Dar Es Salaam and Mbeya is a major trucking route as it leads onwards to Malawi and Zambia, we met a few along the way and Gareth did an incredible job of navigating it all. It really does take just the right amount of agression and patience! There’s a lot of phrases people who visit Africa like to say i.e. “This is Africa” (this makes my skin crawl!) and “Africa’s not for pussies”. I have to agree with that one when it comes to driving.
As always thanks for being here guys. We really love having you along for the ride.
Tanzania is the ninth country on this expedition and some days we still can’t believe we are really doing it! When we were stuck in traffic that morning trying to get out of town we kept saying to each other ‘Gee we really are in Africa aren’t we!…’
Next post coming soon. In the meantime we are about to announce a really cool product we have found in Africa that we are going to start selling. Land Rover lovers will love it! To hear about it sign-up to our newsletter through the links in the side panel.