Mwanza - (Feb 25th - 27th by Paul)
Leaving the gorilla's we decided we would head back to Tanzania, having dropped Dave and Kaz at the Ugandan border as they wanted to head that way to check out another country, we'd meet up with them somewhere along the way again.
After a long sleep in we headed off. After a bit of research the night before we wanted to head for a place called Mwanza located on the shores of Lake Victoria, however we knew that it was too far to go in one day and we weren't able to find anywhere in between. We decided we would stay in a small town near the Rwandan/Tanzanian border and we would head into Tanzania the next day. This meant only a couple of hours drive, we stayed in a nice little place and decided to head off early the next day to give us as much time as possible to get to Mwanza as we weren't sure how the roads would be.
Crossing the border went reasonably well, although slightly frustrating because the immigration officer didn't want to take our 100 US$ note because it wasn't new enough! We had heard that this can be a problem but didn't check the age of the note before the border, we eventually got through after getting a newer one out of the safe.
Initially the roads were very good, just as all other Rwandan roads had been before. We knew we had to turn off the main route eventually as we decided to go the shorter way rather than adding on several hundred kilometres to keep on the main road. Soon we were cruising on good gravel roads and as we approached the town of Geita, which is a large mining town, we hit a nice stretch of new wide tarmac and so were making very good time. I was thinking that since this town was a big centre and Mwanza was the 3rd largest city in Tanzania this could continue all the way, how wrong we were…
As we left Geita the road turned into a nasty gravel road, obviously there was a lot of traffic on this road and the gravel was so corrugated it was unbelievable. The corrugations made Kal fish tail as it hit the really bad patches with the back end sliding out quite dangerously, it all got a bit scary. That slowed us down dramatically and it was extremely frustrating and neither of us liked it, but there wasn't much we could do other than plodding along slowly. It seemed that other cars didn't have as much of a problem as us and several cruised right past, but anytime we tried to go faster the same thing would happen. At one point I noticed something drop down from the roof, so stopped, which didn't take long because I was going so slowly, jumped out and found a small washer on the ground. Not a nice feeling that something had worked loose on the roof. I checked all the nuts and bolts and that I could see and everything seemed fine. We kept the washer and headed on.
We knew that we had to catch a ferry across a river before we got to Mwanza, there were 2 different ones, one that was more direct into Mwanza and a longer one. The guide book indicated that quicker one wasn't as regular and finished earlier on a Sunday so we played it safe and opted for the not so direct route and kept struggling along the bad road. Eventually we could see the lake and I'm sure it looked beautiful but by this stage we were both too tired and frustrated at the slow going that we didn't really pay much attention.
Finally we arrived at the ferry port, but not in good fashion. Just as I pulled up we hit a nasty patch of bumps and to the amusement of the locals Kal started bouncing and it was so severe I'm sure the rear wheels were bouncing off the ground. Something definitely wasn't right! We had just missed the ferry so waited for its return. I was getting late in the afternoon by now so we knew the chances of reaching Mwanza before darkness arrived was very unlikely.
Eventually the ferry arrived back and we loaded on, with a lot of other cars and big trucks and busses and headed across the river as the sun set. When we reached the other side it was dark and as they started to unload a bus broke down, there was just enough room to squeeze past it and we started to head off into the dark. The road hadn't got any better but we knew after 15km we would hit Tarmac into Mwanza. Luckily we were going so slowly because 2 badgers ran out in front of us, but thanks to our sped there was no way we could hit them. As we drove in the dark with the spot lights on we could really tell how much of the rear of the vehicle was bouncing along, and it was clear that something was wrong with the shocks.
We eventually limped into Mwanza and thankfully found a nice hotel for the night. The restaurant was still open so we headed down for dinner. Susan was busting for a shower so we ordered food and she headed off to have a shower. We had a very friendly waiter, who pulled up a seat and started chatting to me. We were joined by another couple who were staying at the hotel. Finally the food arrived and we chowed it down as our new friends watched on. We were ready for bed after a very long day on the road, but our new friends were quite happy having a few drinks with us, but eventually we made it out and called it a night. The next morning our friendly waiter was there again, ready for a chat.
The priority the next day was to get the car looked at. Luckily the guidebook had a Land Rover garage so we wondered along to see if they could take a look at the shocks. We found it easily enough and they did have some new shocks in stock, some Monroe's that the guy said were the best to have and he also let us know that he could get it done that day. The garage looked good and the guy was nice so I asked about getting a full service done because it was long overdue. He said that they could also fit that in today so off we went to get Kal. We dropped it off and they said that everything should be done by later that afternoon. We headed off for some lunch, did a few odd jobs and headed back late in the afternoon. It was all done, shocks replaced, he showed us the old ones and they we really done in, moved up and down like a bike pump. He also questioned where they were fitted, because he said that were installed upside down and the bolts had been cross threaded so the brackets had also need to be replaced. Front brake pads were also replaced with the service. It felt good to have Kal fully serviced and we were ready to head for the Serengeti the next day. We stayed another night in the same hotel and then headed out of Mwanza the next morning.
We were heading for a camp ground just outside the gates to Serengeti called the Serengeti Stop Over. As we set-up camp and popped up the tent it became quite obvious where the washer had come from, part of the tent had come apart. Luckily we still had the washer and the nuts had stayed inside the tent cover so it was easily fixed, it was a relief, that we hadn't lost the washer and bolt and also that we knew the source of the washer!! The camp ground was quite nice, but we would head into the park the next day and hopefully see loads of wildlife!