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June 16, 2013 / samwilson60

Next stop, Tanzania

The Tanzanian side of the border was simple too.  Immigration and customs were loosely coordinated (we initially thought it might end up being the same man) and all our fees were receipted. No one offered us any car insurance unfortunately, and the customs dude was the first of the whole trip to ask to see inside the roof boxes. He gave up before he got to the tobacco one!

The dirt track on the Tanzanian side was far better than its Zambian counterpart but it was still frustrating. Normally the back road into a country is great, but when there’s a brand-new (unopened) tar road right alongside it. Driving through the centre of a large Saturday market was quite a novelty – slightly treacherous but it livened things up no end and it had been a while since we’d been so in the thick of it.

Eventually we rolled up in Sumbawanga, and later still we found a cash machine that would accept our cards. With our pockets full of Tanzanian shillings, we set off to find somewhere to stay and something to eat. We ended up at the Moravian Church Convention Centre, the only place we could get the Tinker Beast inside the gates. It was cheap and clean and the people were nice, the effeminate receptionist especially so, but we had to pretend to be married so we could share even a twin room and we felt altogether rather out of place. After a thoroughly confusing shower (effectively sitting on the floor under a cold tap), we hit the town for a more relaxed atmosphere, some novelty beers (Safari, Serengeti, Kilimanjaro) and a plate of overcooked but beautifully garnished pork. It was a fun night out but by (Sunday) morning we were no less comfortable at the church guesthouse so we made a break for it after only one cuppa, eager to get back on the road.

From Sumbawanga we had one of the most frustrating day’s driving yet. It started on a mediocre dirt track, running alongside yet another pristine, closed tar road. The related road works and dust were unbearable at the best of times (i.e. when it was just us) and most of the time we also had a multitude of trucks to contend with. Stuck behind them, you were blinded. Trying to overtake, you were blinded. Drive too slow to avoid the dust, they overtake you/run you off the track, and again you’re blinded. Eventually we hit the tar for real (wahoo), only to intersect a village every 10km at most, each one filled with the most ludicrous speed bumps known to man (boo, hiss). On top of this, we knew full well that we’d have to pass through the middle of another border town with no insurance, having legged it from Sumbawanga on a Sunday. We had to make it to Mbeya before the serious, Monday morning checkpoints opened but the slight fear of being caught uninsured was the only thing that kept us going.

IMG_9536

The first, and last, photo of the day. It was all downhill from here.

We persevered and were rewarded with only one police barrier on our entire route, where we were waved straight through. We found a cheap and friendly ‘campsite’ in Mbeya and instantly felt better, until we noticed the mosque next door. Loud speakers aside, we were happy enough. The grass was luxurious for camping on and the place was central enough for exploring town the next day.

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