This morning we intended to leave by 11am but at 7am we had the odd drop of rain on the tents and had to pack quickly to prevent packing in the rain. Fortunately the rain waited and we could enjoy a relaxing morning overlooking the lake. Very very peaceful here and one can easily spend a few days just to unwind. The owner of Chitimba Camp has found 2 owl chicks under a tree which was chopped down. He saved them and they are the most adorable things ever. Soft, fluffy and huge eyes. One was even so tame to sit and pose for a photo on my hands.
At 10am we decided to venture into the rain and head out along the scenic lake drive to a town called Karonga, got rid of all our remaining money by buying fuel with it. The border post affair was quick and painless again. Getting into Tanzania was also quick and very efficient. We only had to pay US$5 for Road Tax and US$20 for Foreign Vehicle Tax (a lot cheaper than the R850 border crossing from Botswana into Zambia with some 5 different taxes!).
And if you think Malawi is green, it is a desert compared to the drive from the border to the first major city, Mbeya. We started off at 500m above sea level and within a few minutes we were at 2300m. Everything is green even the telephone poles are in blossom!! Well, nearly. Bananas, pineapples, plums, tomatoes, potatoes and even tea can be found in abundance. The hills are running into the never-ending green distance and this is one of my personal favourite parts of Tanzania. We got plenty of rain but it did not deter us from enjoying the landscape. Lots of people as well and finding a break between the stream of people to answer the call of nature, is quite tricky. We got to Mbeya and it was bucketing down. Decided to splash out for the night and staying at Utengule Coffee Farm, a place I always visit with the motor bike groups and they gave us a slight discount. Nice to sleep warm in a proper bed and with food being prepared and no dishes. Lovely view from the farmhouse as well.
Tomorrow is D-Day. We heard the road is a real shocker, so we hope to do the 1000km stretch to Kigoma on Lake Tanganyika in some 4 days. Hopefully some internet connection there again.10 December 2010
Total Distance: 5658km
Distance covered today: 476km
We started at break of dawn at 5am and heading south-west on an excellent tar road to the border town with Zambia called Tunduma. This is an extremely busy town with hundreds of little tuk-tuks (those little Chinese three-wheelers) buzzing through the town, even more trucks parked all over the roads waiting to get through to Zambia and thousands of people all over the road. In the town we had to turn north-west towards Lake Tanganyika and right outside the town we hit the mud with all its fun-fare and we made it barely 10km out of town when the whole muddy road was blocked from side to side by a long truck that got stuck. We backtracked a few hundreds meters and literally had to drive through a little village on a makeshift track to pass the truck. The road was slow but neither are we in a hurry, so it did not matter. Our average speed was 40km/h as the road was rough, sometimes muddy, sometimes potholed but it gave us the chance to enjoy the scenery. Apparently they are going to tar this road and should be finished by 2013. That is African 2013. The first part of road was soft rolling hills covered with many cultivated land and low bushy shrubs. We got to a biggish town called Sumbawanga, refuelled and head out again. Every now and then, we would get at a river crossing and 100m on either side the road was tarred including yellow and white lines! We realised we will not make the park Katavi before dark and made a little detour straight to the lake to a tiny village called Kipili. The scenery changed to long lines of hills studded with massive tall acacia trees. We passed one line of hills when the scenery changed dramatically again to a type of wooded montane vegetation with forests as far as the eye could see. The road was getting better and better and could even get to 5th gear. The scenery was out of this world and drove through thick forest for some 30km with not a soul in sight. The road hair-pinned down the mountains and spilled out onto a flat plains where people farm between the mountain range and the lake. And suddenly there was the lake it all its glory. The longest freshwater lake and the second-deepest in the world. Its depth is over 1400meters!!! It is quite narrow and across the shores one can see the mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Kipili is a picturesque village and we are met with lots of waving and laughing kids. We got to our camp called Lakeside Lodge and my goodness, what a setting. We are going to stay 2 nights (pity not two life-times!) It is truly heaven on earth. Mango trees are all over the gently slopes and right behind the small beach is the main thatched restaurant with doors and windows all opening up to the lake. Next to it is a line of Robinson Crusoe style separated bungalows. Well, Robinson Crusoe, eat your heart out, because we are sitting on the shore with the sun setting across the bay over the mountains and islands.