Crossing into Tanzania
We drove through the rest of last night to reach the Zambian border at 05:30. Mostly the roads were fast and empty, with just the occasional high-speed trucks and buses squeezing us from the opposite direction. A couple of night-time memories for me stand out: seeing the stars and Milky Way more clearly than ever before during our driver changeovers, plus driving alongside the bush fires at the edge of the road in the pitch dark. Both amazing sights that will stay with me.
We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves for reaching the Tanzanian border well ahead of time. All the visa paperwork went smoothly; however with just the car documents to complete we were informed that the man in charge of vehicle paperwork wouldn't be at work until 08:00. Such frustration to loose all of the time we'd gained. Rainer (the master of fixing African problems) set to work to try to find a way of solving this and ended up getting taken to the missing official's house to wake him up to get the paperwork completed!
With two hours lost at the border, we had hoped to be able to make up some lost time. Sadly Tanzania's roads are the most congested we have encountered so far. After 48 hours of remote and empty landscapes, Tanzania by contrast feels much more busy. People are everywhere, shopping, walking to church, talking in cafes, washing their cars, or just watching the world go by on a Sunday morning. The small motorbike taxis (bobabodas) are everywhere; we've seen them carrying families of 5, carrying 3m wide poles sideways across their bikes, or wobbling along overladen with market produce. As traffic in the bustling towns we've passed through only creeps at walking-pace, I guess the bike taxis are a good idea here.
It's not just the roads that are hurting our average speeds here in Tanzania. In the four hours we've been here so far, we've been stopped ten times already by local roadside police. A handful of Tanzanian Shillings passed over, and miraculously whatever problem there was seems to disappear and we're allowed to get back on our way. Until the next town...
The landscape has changed yet again with rolling hills dotted with small huts and farms everywhere you look. It seems more fertile than the previous areas, with banana tress and sugar cane plants covering much of the land. The Tanzanian people, although clearly desperately poor, appear to me to be noticeably happy, socialble and healthy.
Up and down these hills, the road presents us with another new challenge. The endless heavy trucks have worn massive grooves into the hot tarmac as they plod slowly up the steep hills. These grooves are often around 10cm deep which makes changing lanes to overtake quite a challenge. Luckily the mighty Touareg, with its Goodyear Wrangler reinforced all-terrain tyres is soaking up all the punishment we can throw at it.
We will be crossing Tanzania all morning today, via the capital Dodoma. Our next update will come from the North of the country this afternoon,