Dar es Salaam to the Malawi Border
We arrived back in Dar after a fast ferry ride from Zanzibar. We headed for the campsite south of the city where Thiemo had been camping and looking after the cars. The others had stayed there before going to Zanzibar, but this was our first time there as we had had other things to distract us!
The minibus that picked us up was supposed to be big enough for 9 people but only seated 6. The driver insisted that we could indeed fit if we sat 4 to a row instead of 3. We were not impressed, and neither was Debs - but hey this IS Africa where they can squeeze 21 people into a matatu built for 14 - and she insisted that we be supplied with 3 taxis instead. She is very persuasive and won.
The camp was right on the beachfront and there was a breeze to mitigate the heavy tropical humidity. We were reunited with the Land Rover and all our gear - we had survived on the few things we had thrown into a bag to take to Nairobi. The showers were salty but hot, and our familiar beds were welcome.
We drove out through Dar heading west, a long couple of days driving ahead. Dar is not the capital but is the biggest city in Tanzania and a bustling centre. Amongat the peak hour traffic were hand drawn carts piled up with pineapples, potatoes, bananas and bags of charcoal. Strret stalls lined the road and in one section there was a selection of lounge suites on the verge along with a solitary lawn mower for sale. The matatus are called daladalas here; they are bigger than we have seen before but they still pack the bodies in and they still drive as recklessly as we have seen elsewhere. There is evidence aplenty of this as all the roadside barriers are scraped, dented and broken - the vehicles are in much the same condition!
Once out of the city, we started to climb into the Southern Highlands. The region seemed more sparsely populated than other parts of Tanzania we had driven through. Most of the land was uncultivated scrub with occasional plots of maize or bananas. Masaai walked cattle along the roadsides and along ephemeral river beds. Later the land was planted with hectares of Aloe plants with flower spikes reaching over 4 metres high and looking like triffids in rows.
As we drove on and up, the villages became further apart and smaller. Sometimes the only indication of a village somewhere was the goods for sale by the road - charcoal in bags secured by grass lashed over the top of the bag; buckets filled with hand-crushed white quartz; woven hats and baskets arranged on propped up dead trees.
We passed through Mikumi National Park on our way and looked out for game. But we only saw a few baboons, some giraffe, impala and buffalo. Soon we were in a more mountainous region where swift mountain streams paralleled the road and the mountainside were cloaked in quite large trees, with the ubiquitous thorny, flat-topped Acacia the most common. Then a treat - we entered a valley with enormous Baobab trees everywhere. Some really old ones sat on the ground like fat Buddhas with their arms stretched skywards. Quite a sight.
Again we climbed; this time up the eastern escarpment of the Rift Valley - again! The steep road was narrow and trucks coming down past us left the distinctive smell of burning brakes behind them. The top was an undulating plateau with huge granite outcrops. Villages nestled amongst the boulders and used them as natural billboards. The smooth surfaces of the boulders were expertly painted with advertisements for soap powder and cigarettes. In one town was the "Panic Security Company", in another was the "Lord's Acre Orphan Centre".
And so after two days' driving we reached the Malawi border.