Tanzania Part 2: Bring on the dirt

We were very excited about this next leg in Tanzania, firstly because we both had never been there before and secondly the fact that we planned on seeing Lake Tanganyika. The border crossing was easy as we unexpectedly had become accustom too, so we made our way towards to south western side of Lake Victoria to a town called Bukoba. It was descending into Bukoba where the Tuk Tuk got its first speeding fine surprisingly! Turns out Tanzania has a rather sophisticated speed trapping system. One man will stand a number of kilometres up the road hiding very sneakily in the bush trapping people, then once he has caught a juicy one he can send the photo evidence to the cell phone of the police officer down the road who promptly pulls you over and proceeds to fine you. We were caught travelling 65km in a 50km zone, which in hindsight could have been a lot worse as the Tuk Tuk at some point on that hill was travelling 80km speeding down that hill. The cop wouldn’t budge and we were forced to pay the fine but we weren’t too upset about it. We thought the whole thing was hilarious and were actually quite chuffed we could add this to the many achievements Bruski (The Tuk Tuk) has managed to pull off. ‘Bruski’ has been the name of the Tuk Tuk since day one but we were advised people might get the wrong idea about the name, hence we have been referring to it as the beast or just the Tuk Tuk. We believe it is a very suitable name and wish to explain it so people don’t get the wrong idea. Bruski is a way to talk to a good mate of yours when addressing him, and can be used as follows; ‘Howzit Bruski’, ‘Good on ya Bruski’ or even ‘Hey Bruski fancy a brewski.’ Just thought we would mention that because its not fair on Bruski that we don’t refer to him with his real name when he is really the main man in this expedition.

The next morning, we faced huge showers as we began to make our way south west towards Lake Tanganyika which lasted well into the afternoon. We made our way through the Burigi and Biharamulo game reserve, unfortunately not seeing anything besides a cool chameleon before entering Biharamula town looking for a place to stay. We stumbled upon a guest house which was really well priced so we decided to stay. After parking our vehicles within the gates, we entered the main area where a bunch of guys were drinking ‘Konyagi’ (Local Gin) which they immediately offered us. After a while chilling with these guys, of which the language barrier was huge, it seemed as though a party was starting outside as a DJ started bumping tunes and a man was cooking up a storm. It started to dawn on us relatively quickly after this that this place might in fact be a brothel of some sort. It might have been the guy trying to offload several girls onto us that tipped us off but regardless we weren’t going to stick around that party very long at all. We retired shortly after we had our fill of chips and beef on a stick.

We didn’t go very far the next day before we turned off the tar road and stared along this rugged looking dirt road. Starting from the town of Nyakanazi we now had a 300km + of consecutive dirt road on the T9 till we reached Kigoma on the coast of Lake Tanganyika. This road was rough, relentless and darn right brutal on both Bruski and the Landcruiser. Corrugations, potholes and torrential rain made life quite difficult out in the middle of nowhere. We kept trucking on at slow speeds doing the best to avoid potholes and the rampant buses speeding past us almost pushing us off the road with no respect. Despite the road conditions the surrounding nature was absolutely beautiful and we were gobsmacked by the lush green trees and grass. It was the third day on this gruelling road that we noticed something not sounding to great in the Landcruiser. At first, the gears were struggling to shift and eventually wouldn’t change at all. Then a tapping sound started coming from the engine which we thought could be a piston. If so we were potentially in some big trouble. We decided it best to not drive the cruiser anymore to avoid potential seizer and fortunately for us we had stopped right next to a red cross outpost. We parked the cruiser there and made our way 20km to Kasulu where we were forced to stay and try organise to get the cruiser towed and fixed.   

We were able to organise someone to come out and tow the cruiser back to town where we then tried to find a trustworthy mechanic to fix the problem. It turned out that the bearing in one of the pistons was absolutely shattered and we were a bit nervous if we would be able to sort a part. Thankfully Africa is full of spares for Toyota’s so the part was found and the cruiser was running by the end of the day. We now had the last 100km of road before we would reach Kigoma on the coast of Lake Tanganyika, so we hauled ourselves out of bed early to push on. Closing in on Kigoma we were blessed with a tar road easing up the pressure on our arses and backs for a brief moment. Our first glimpse of the lake was breath taking and the weather just right for us to see across the lake to the Congo which was a spectacular sight. We spent our first night camping under a small boma right on the beach and waking up in the morning to such a view put us in high spirits for the coming day.

We went to the neighbouring town of Ujiji, famously know for the mango tree where Henry Stanley first met Dr Livingstone with the renowned phrase ‘Dr Livingstone I presume.’. It was a warming experience to witness such a historical site, and rumours of an old whisky bottle buried somewhere in the surrounding area made for a very intriguing experience.

We left the next day to follow south almost parallel to the lake where we expected more dirt roads to confront us. After a brief amount of tar, we were back in the thick of dirt roads but yet again the scenery was mesmerizing. Beautiful valleys with fluorescent green bush and orange roads with incredible rock structures made this road one of our favourites so far. We made camp right in the middle of the jungle, surrounded by tall trees and grass whilst we cooked some tasty tuna pasta. The next day saw us driving through Katavi National Park where we were welcomed by a huge amount of hippos bathing in very shallow, grubby water. Unfortunately, these were the only animals we encountered before being brutally attacked by horse flies. This was a battle we wish to never re-live as the horse flies relentlessly came at us. In Bruski alone there must have been over 50 flies buzzing around all trying to get a piece of the poor fella inside. The only protection we could organise was to wrap ourselves up in blankets to avoid getting bitten, however with temperatures above 35 degrees we were filling the vehicles up with sweat. This had to be done to avoid the shear agony of being hammered by these flies. Thankfully the war only lasted about two hours and Bruski was now filled with blood and remains of these devil creatures.

It wasn’t too long after this we were blessed with tar road again which took us most of the way to the border with the exception of 50km dirt road to the actual border post. Western Tanzania is most certainly rougher than the more developed east but miles ahead in terms of beauty. It will remain one of our favourite sections of travel on this trip and would recommend this route to anyone looking to get off the beaten track, as long as you come prepared with food, diesel and windows that close to avoid the horse fly attacks.