We exited Zambia at the Zombe Border Post under turbulent skies. The border post was small, remote and time consuming on the Tanzanian side. As we finished the border post administration a large downpour began, leaving the roads muddy and hazardous.
Trucks were unable to climb the slippery mud roads, luckily we could sneak in between these bogged down giants and get where we needed to go.
We eventually made it to our destination of Sumbawanga, our first stop in Tanzania, which directly translated means “throw away your witchcraft”. Our route through Tanzania was a straight one for a change, where we made good progress North, in a shortish period of time as you can see from the route below.
Our next stretch was up through Katavi National Park, we stopped just before the park in a section of woodlands that had been dug up to create a portion of the road through the park. We ended up having a lovely small grouse – still warm and in prime condition, roadkill- for dinner. African Bush Cuisine cooked in an Asiatic style by Tom with ginger garlic onions and chillies, rice and fried eggs. It was a lovely meal done on the fire, under the African stars. This was not the case in the morning as the rains had arrived, we got rained in for two days!
Katavi National Park was beautiful and even though we were only on the main bus route through the park we still managed to identify several species of animal, including: Impala, Zebra, Giraffe, Buffalo and two female Lions that crossed the road 50 meters in front of us while we stopped for a drink of water. Possibly the most interesting of the animals were the massive amounts of Hippo’s that had all congregated in a tiny pool on the northern border of the national park. There is massive competition for water sources toward the end of the dry season.
Another interesting animal we noticed as we entered Tanzania was a new species of cattle with colossal horns, these seem to be the dominant species around this central African Great Lake area. They are a breed unique to Africa (Bos taurus africanus) and are likely to have been domesticated in the area on the west shores of Lake Victoria.
Tanzania was full of incredible and vast landscapes with wilderness and forests, we managed to hit the country directly in the rainy season so the roads were muddy and the scenery green.
Our next stop was Mpanda, to pick up supplies and recover, during this portion of our trip Mike had caught malaria, Tom had one or two days down with stomach issues as well as wounds that would not heal. Istene was also down with a stomach bug. Thus, we spent several days at a little local hotel (White Rose Lodge) and mended.
Once we were ready we departed for Uvinza, The road there was one of the toughest and muddiest of the trip. I crashed due to my rear wheel slipping out and bent my crash bars, Mike also managed to slide out around a corner. Mike came out in a bit better shape than me but luckily we were just a little bashed up and could continue travelling.
Luckily the road was full of mushrooms and incredible scenery. The picture below is how our motorcycles looked by the time we arrived at Uvinza.
Once again we pushed north, to the town of Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, the town is 10 km from the historical town of Ujiji where Richard Burton and John Speke discovered the lake as well as the spot where Henry Stanley found Dr. David Livingston and reputedly uttered the famous words “Dr Livingston I presume?”. The area is rich with history, both colonial and Arabic, Ujiji was an Arab settlement and is the oldest town in western Tanzania. We paid a visit to this historical town to see the museum as well the mango tree that Stanley met Livingston under (a graft but same same).
In Ujiji we walked down an old cobbled street with very little going on, you can see the main economic activity of the area has shifted toward Kigoma. Once the main economic activity in Ujiji was the slave and ivory trade, until the slave trade was officially abolished in the area in 1873 (but continued on secretly into the early 20th century.) The museum was expensive but luckily open to negotiation. There was a tour guide that took you to the historical spots and gave a fairly knowledgeable account of the happenings of the era of colonial expansion in the area.
After we were satisfied that we had seen and learned as much as we could we took a walk down to the current waterline of Lake Tanginika, some 500 m away from where it was in Livingston’s time. This is due to King Leopold’s reign in the Congo, where he apparently opened the outlet to the Lukuga River which flows into the Congo River. This was done to increase the volume of the Congo River to make it more accessible to steam boats. Thus, increasing trade opportunities deeper into the Congo.
We returned to Kigoma and enjoyed a meal on the beach where Alex decided to take a nap while still in his chair.
We managed to meet an epic Latvian named Aldus who owns a boat that ferries businessmen from the Congo to Kigoma. We were lucky enough to stay with him, enjoy a few whiskeys and catch a Sunday Booze Cruise on Lake Tanganyika with his luxurious boat.
Once we had done the mechanical Nitty Gritty’s (services, accelerator cables etc.) in Kigoma we made our way toward a tiny little country named Rwanda.
The western areas of Tanzania are wild but well worth a visit for a view of pristine(ish) African wilderness. You cannot access the lake at many points due to the geology and vegetation. However, the thick woodland areas are busstling with hundreds of edible mushrooms, giant trees, incredible mountains and waterfalls.
& The Nitty Gritty Nomads
All photos and videos by Tom Da Silva