Dragoman - Niarobi and Dar es Salaam

Dragoman - Dar es Salaam and Livingstone (ZDL) - 2010

16th May - Mikumi National Park

Up very early (5am) and heading for Malawi. Today we did 550km and were on the road for 12 hours. The trip was broken up a little by driving through Mikumi National Park. We saw some wildlife, some elephants, giraffes, warthogs and lots of baboons. Overnight we stayed at the Kisolanza Farm campsite in Iringa. Really nice place. All run on solar, wood burners and lanterns. We had a traditional meal, meat balls, beans and ugali, a sort of dumpling made from flour and water.

Some stuff on the Mikumi National Park. It is situated at the foot of the thickly wooded Uluguru Mountains and is home to large herds of elephant, buffalo and giraffe, as well as lions and leopards. It is Tanzania's third largest national park.

17th May - Chitimba (or that was the plan)

Another travel day, 12 more hours on the road planned including the border crossing into Malawi. Another 510km, another long day. Up until now hasn't felt like one of my usual off-the-beaten-track holidays. Up at this time, breakfast at this time, lunch, dinner, the setting up, the washing up. the flapping. (Dragoman doesn't use tea-towels bad for the environment so every night we have to flap all the washing up dry!) The trip has resembled more of a school camping trip than an overland adventure. Everything has been too organised and gone too much to plan.

But today it all changed. Not sure anyone else will agree but the last 36 hours have been real adventure and I've loved it.

We were up at 6am and soon on the road for our expected 12 hour drive. All went according to plan until about 2pm when we stopped 5km shy of the border to change our money. The money changing was fine but as we pulled off again a couple of kids throw some stones at the truck. The next thing we know we here a big crunching, grinding noise and the truck is going nowhere. The truck has just pulled out of a service area and is on the quite busy by Tanzanian standards main road on a long, fast straight. We are blocking off one lane and even straddling into the other. We all jump off and Ollie, Kim, Dougie and Arthur investigate. By now it's a really hot day the sun is beating down. We sit on the roadside using the truck to shelter from the sun. The crew think maybe brakes, maybe transmission, gear box, basically have no idea what the problem is. So for the next 3 hours they remove each of the 4 sets of rear wheels one at a time to check out the brakes. No luck and the truck still won't move an inch. We can't even get it off the road.

At around 3pm the schools close and we are obviously on the way home for many of the kids. We end up surrounded by 50 or more of them, this is obviously the most exciting thing that's happened here for a while. I have fun with them taking pictures and showing them to them. About an hour later their teacher comes down the road and as soon as they see him they scatter. This came as a welcome relief, they were great but entertaining that many kids in scorching sun when you don't understand a word they are screaming is hard work. By this time Ollie and Kim are getting very hot, very sweaty and very greasy. Luckily right opposite where the truck has stopped there is some open land. Negotiations lead to us pitching camp for the night, the kitchen is set-up and we're sorted. There is a big tree for a bit of shelter, enterprising locals bring drinks for us to buy and at the rest area 50 yards back down the road there's a basic toilet. We have been very lucky, it's home from home. We could have been stuck in the middle of the Namib Desert. They bring us some wood and we set-up a camp fire and we're sorted.

Kim and Ollie continue to work on the truck trying to at least get it off the road. Eventually at 11:30pm after removing the whole drive shaft they manage to push to back to the rest area.

18th May - Kande Beach

This morning we just hung around the new Mzungu (white person in Swahili) Refugee Camp. All the locals who hadn't come to check us out yesterday came for a look today. Once again it's hot, so lucky to have a big leafy tree right in the middle of our impromptu camp site.

Kim and Ollie spend the morning on the phone trying to organise some transport for us to continue and a tow truck to get the truck to a garage. All seemed very frustrating. Calling a friend of a friend of a friend who may know someone who can help. Kim and Arthur head 5km up the road to try to get a mini-bus for us at the border. After a lot of negotiation they manage to get a Malawian bus and get permission from the border authorities to let it cross into Tanzania to pick us up.

We load up the mini-bus and pack it all in tight. 13 people, all our bags, tents, food, kitchen equipment everything. As always it's amazing what you can fit into a vehicle if you try. At 2pm we set off. We cross the border and head south. We are missing the camp site we were supposed to be at last night and heading directly to Kande Beach on Lake Malawi. We gain an hour as we cross the border but still don't arrive until 10pm. Another long, long day. But a lot of fun.

19th May - Kande Beach

We've heard that Ollie managed to get the truck towed 90km to a garage and they are to start work on the truck, well try to find the problem anyway. But hey, if I was to pick somewhere to be stranded in Africa Kande Beach would be quite high on the list.

After the last few tiring days on the road, at times literally today was a total chill-out day. Lazing on the beach (the tan is coming on leaps and bounds), having a few beers in the bar over looking the water and reading. Lovely.

20th May - Kande Beach

Ollie has sent through a text to say that some of the teeth on the gears or shorn right off so the truck is going no where unless they can find spares. Mercedes trucks are common in Africa so they should be able to get it fixed relatively quickly. Oh well, never mind, another day on the beach. In the morning we went out for a walk through the local village, Kande. Everything seems so relaxed and friendly. We went into the local school and met the kids, they are used to Mzungu popping in now and again but we still caused great excitement. They learn English here from a very early age and from the age of 8 all lessons are in English so communication wasn't a problem. We read stories, played catch and generally hung out and had fun. They kids then walked along with us for a while holding our hands. We also popped into the local Government run hospital.

In general the village is self-sufficient, growing all the food it needs and because of tourists both buying souvenirs and giving donations the village is quite prosperous. The head-teacher at the school said the school has some of the best results in the country.

After all that exertion in the morning I spent the afternoon lying on the beach reading my book.

21st May - (Still at) Kande Beach

Another lazy day at the beach. Truck has still not been fixed, they can't get the parts. Although I think they now have the high gears working so Ollie may try to catch us up and get it fixed somewhere along the way.

Another overland truck from another company has arrived here and it is quite empty so there may be a chance that we will them to get to the next camp and give us a chance of making Livingstone on the 24th.

22nd May - Lilongwe

We're on the move, not in the direction we intended to go in but we are moving. We have all jumped on the Africa Trails truck which has taken us to Lilongwe in Southern Malawi. We were meant to have gone into Zambia today, but Lilongwe, the capital of Malawi is good.

The plan now is to get coach from here to Livingstone with an overnight near Lusaka. We should arrive in Livingstone on the day we are meant to. At the same time a fresh truck will drive up from Cape Town to Livingstone and we will use that for the rest of the trip. Interesting times.

10pm update. The bus company have said they can't get the bus across the border on a Sunday so we will be staying in Lilongwe for an extra night. Sounds good to me, time to explore the city. But Monday will be a long day. All the way from here to Livingstone in one day. 10 hours, maybe more.

23nd May - Lilongwe

A free day in Lilongwe. Time to explore. This is the first real free time we've had to just go out and do our own thing in a city. Take a look around, met some real locals who don't just want to sell you something. So 4 of us heading down into town, the camp site is quite central, nice to be able to walk down and feel completely safe. First stop the flea market. A huge permanent market which is where most of the locals buy most of their stuff. One side of the Lilongwe river was all meat, fruit and veg. We then crossed across some rickety bridges to the other side which sold everything. Although most of it just resembled a huge jumble sale.

After I headed off on my own to explore. A couple of hours walking and I think I'd seen most of it. Big business and bank headquarters, shops fair too expensive for most people to shop in and some nice big supermarkets. One strange thing today in the whole of Malawi the power has been off for most of the day, no idea why. It gave the place a strange feeling. Shops were very dark, food outlets had very limited menus and many places were closed altogether.

24thMay - Journey to Livingstone

What a day! We had had some long travel days before, maybe 10 or 11 hours but today was something else. All the way from Lilongwe, across the border into Zambia then right across Zambia to Livingstone. 1150km in total.

We packed ourselves up into a mini-bus and left at 4am. It took about an hour and a half to reach to border. Hand over the visa money and we're in Zambia where Ollie met us with the partially fixed truck. There were some gears missing and they were all in the wrong places but Ollie passed it fit for travel so travel so travel we did.

We stopped for half an hour for breakfast at about 7am, then we drove. We hit Lusaka at 4pm. Lusaka is the first real modern city with we've seen on the trip. We hit a huge supermarket SuperSpar, there was a Subway and there are traffic jams. Big new cars everywhere. But e just had time to pick up something for dinner and were off again.

Drive, drive, drive. It got dark, drive, drive some more. At 10:30pm I saw a sign, it had Livingstone written on it. But then I saw, Livingstone 200km!. About 40km from Livingstone the road which had been good all day turned terrible. Rough, bumpy, basically under-construction.

We eventually reached camp just before 2am. 22 hours on the road. But we are now back on schedule and we should have a new truck when we leave here in a couple of days time.

25th May - Victoria Falls

Because of the late arrival last night, this morning as a quiet one. Just lazing in the sun on the banks of the Zambezi, beer in hand, the roar of Victoria Falls in the background. In the after noon we headed down to the falls. We area at the end of the wet season so the Zambezi is at its fullest and the falls at their wildest. There's a huge cloud of water rising from the falls. We entered the falls area and did the walking paths. We got very close to the top of the falls and then walled around to see the front.

Next we walked down and across a bridge. I'm sure when the river levels are lower this gives a great view, today it was just a fog. We all got drenched, it was the heaviest rain I have ever experienced. I'm sure Victoria Falls is spectacular but we could only see a small part of it. But the noise is immense. A huge, rumbling roar. The power of the water is beyond belief. Definitely a must see, even if you only see a part of it.

26th May - Zimbabwe

Today the others were walking with elephants (done it in Thailand, Laos and Nepal) or bungee jumping (done it in Auckland) so I decided to do something different and get another country under my belt and headed into Zimbabwe. So I got a lift down to the border and set-off. Signed out of Zambia and walked across the bridge past the bungee station. At the other side, paid for yet another visa, got the passport stamp and walked into Zimbabwe.

First stop the Victoria Falls Park, I was a bit disappointed with the lack of a great view of the falls yesterday but I'd heard the view was much better from the Zim side so I paid my $30 and took a look. Whoa. From the Zambia side you can see jump one small horseshoe, the falls are 10 times bigger than this. The further I walked the more it opened up (and the wetter I got).

Victoria Falls Video

After Vic Falls I walked up into the town of Victoria Falls. A town based purely around tourism. Loads of shops selling the usual carvings, paintings and tee-shirts. But also on sale (I don't think legally) are million, billion and trillion Zimbabwean Dollar notes. A must have, the highest value note I managed to get was 100 trillion dollars! Now in Zimbabwe they only use the US Dollar. I talked to quite a few people which was very interesting. It's amazing how many really bad things have happened to so many innocent people just for living in the wrong place or being in the wrong tribe.

Next part of the trip: Dragoman - Livingstone and Cape Town