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July 13, 2013 / samwilson60

Goodbye Tanzania

Back at Chogela, we spent the afternoon identifying all the wildlife we weren’t already familiar with and in the evening further developed our still slightly far-fetched plans to deliver a car to the NGO based there. It was great fun but turned into a much later night than expected and when we dragged ourselves up in the morning we were in desperate need of some sustenance.

As luck would have it, we were heading back through Iringa, where we knew for a fact we could find all the hangover cures we needed before continuing south to the farm we’d already visited for more of the usual faff. On the way we were stopped at a checkpoint and accused of having “defective” tyres. We were so genuinely offended by the suggestion, the policeman was a little taken aback and soon let the matter drop.

Once at the farm we were joined by the overlanding equivalent of Come Dine With Me – eight or so identical, heavily branded and brand new Ford Rangers full of South Africans. We later learned that they were competing to win one of the cars by best organising their appointed legs of the trip (8,000km through 6 countries in 21 days).

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Even at our most sociable, this would be too close for comfort. Plus, there were another half dozen out of shot!

The competitive element explained a lot of things as we reflected on it but despite our curiosity we were glad to see them go. We had another night at the farm, this time with the entire campsite to ourselves and we treated ourselves to another fantastic meal (we’re going soft, clearly).

From the farm we broke new ground by turning south before Mbeya, heading straight for the Malawi border. We wanted to save the border crossing for the following morning but clearly wouldn’t find anywhere suitable for wild camping, so when we saw a signpost for Bongo Camp about 20km before Malawi we had to give it a go. Although the setting was beautiful, we weren’t expecting much in the way of tourist infrastructure. The campsite was as basic as expected but so much more characterful, complete with wayward calf and full of thoughtful touches. There was no running water but the manager was forever boiling water for bucket showers – we must have been particularly smelly because she seemed to want us to have at least three each in the short time we were there. It was a village initiative and there were loads of things going on, mostly financed by the very reasonable camp fees, so we felt a little bad using it as a stopover. We were bang on schedule for meeting Chris at the airport in Lilongwe in a few days’ time and couldn’t justify another night, but we did at least stay for breakfast. It was an eclectic platter but each thing in isolation was delicious.

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Stomachs full, yet again, we set off for the border. The drive down there was lovely – right through the rolling hills and without a truck in sight. That, we later learned, was because every large vehicle in circulation was blocking the border post. Between them and the money touts we really didn’t see this one going well, but the officials were lovely. For once they were actually the saving grace.

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