13 November 2015
We rode from Kenya into Tanzania on the day of the Tanzanian federal election and had been told there could be some unrest between rival supporters. We didn’t know what to expect, but from our perspective, things seemed calm enough. In the town of Arusha, it was interesting to see cues of Masai warriors standing alongside people in collared shirts and slacks at the poll booths.
As it turned out the incumbent Government won the election however on the Island of Zanzibar there were allegations of vote rigging which resulted in street protests and clashes with police. This forced the local authorities to annul and postpone the election. We were due to arrive on Zanzibar in 2 days
We watched all this unfold on the TV while camping in the cool Tanzanian mountains. It had been a spectacular day riding through mountain twisties and passes. Jack our tour guide, spent the evening trying to find out as much information as he could before deciding whether it was safe for us to travel to the island. At that stage it didn’t look promising.
The following day we rode to the old slave trading port town of Bagamayo on the outskirts of Dar Es Salam (the departure point to Zanzibar), later that night, Jack was told Zanzibar seemed safe and a ferry would leave at 0700 the following morning. That meant a 0300 wake up and bus ride to the ferry terminal.
It was a rough ferry crossing and we were pretty tired, but stepping onto the shores at Stone Town was worth it as it was like stepping into the middle of a Jamaican, African and Arabic cultural fusion it was fascinating. We watched children summersaulting into crystal clear water; fisherman hauling in their nets; we ate dinner at the open-air food market and walked through winding back alleys where time seems to have stalled.
From Stone Town we travelled the length of the Island to Nungwi and relaxed on white sandy beaches for a couple of days ate seafood drank beers and were generally enjoyed being beach bums, all the while being treated to amazing sunsets. This was beginning to feel more like a holiday than an adventure!
After a few days or rest and relaxation we were itching to get back onto the bikes and back on the road. From Dar Es Salam we rode towards Malawi. On the way, we stayed at Makumi Wildlife camp where we were joined by a herd of elephants drinking from a water hole overlooking our dinner table. Africa really is like no other place in the world.
The following day we rode through the national park, avoiding the abundance of wildlife wandering on and off the road. There were even signposts stating the price of animals if you kill or injure them. Warthogs were $450, lions $5,500 and elephants $15,000.
The border crossing from Tanzania into Malawi was straightforward and before we knew it we were riding on Malawian roads. The change was immediate. From crowded pot holed streets filled with lorries, buses, cars and bikes roaring around at breakneck speed, to a place of calmness, minimum traffic and well paved roads. Malawi was looking good.
Even the topography changed. The almost sub-tropical Tanzanian region leading to the Malawian border changed to flat, dry and sandy coloured plains with almost no vegetation. The Malawian people themselves are very friendly and seem genuinely interested in us. They call Malawi “The warm heart of Africa” and it’s easy to see why.
But the jewel in the crown of the country is Lake Malawi. Covering an area of over 19,000 square kilometres, we spent the next few days riding along side it, camping at magnificent lodges along the foreshore. It was great to swim in the crystal clear fresh water, while being mesmerized by the sunrise and sunsets.
We are currently at Nkhata Bay and this is our last day on the lake. Some of us take the opportunity of having a final early morning swim before heading off. The next country we are due to visit is Mozambique, but first we need to organise our visas. To do that we need to visit the Mozambique embassy in the capital city, Lilongwe which is about 400kms away. It should be a fun ride, we’ve been told the roads are some of the best so far, and we’ve been on some pretty good bike friendly roads so far. Everybody’s itching to get going.
From Mozambique we will travel into Zimbabwe. With so much controversy over the past decade, this is one place we are all pretty keen to check out.