Friday, August 23, 2019

Our Tanzania and Malawi Safari

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Czech Republic | Kenya | Tanzania and Malawi

We departed our Zanzibar beach resort at 4:30 AM with a breakfast box.  We had said goodbye the night before to some of our Dragoman group who were ending their segment at the beach.  We were now a group of 19 driving through the dark in route to Stone City in time to catch the 7 AM ferry back to Dar es Salaam.  Immigration and customs was quick…honestly, we could probably have walked right past the agents and on to the boat…it was that relaxed.

The ferry ride was a quick two hours with enough swells to get half of the boat sick.  Landing in Dar es Salaam we were met at the terminal by Mash and Ronald, our driver and cook.  A short walk got us to our trusty overland truck that would be our home for the next 15 days.  

It was early morning and Dar es Salaam was just starting to wake up as we headed west out of the city.  It took well over two hours to get out of Dar es Salaam and it’s surrounding suburbs; there was an endless city of homes, businesses, with little break.  Thinking Tanzania would be flat plains, an extension of the Serengeti, we were soon surprised by the rolling hills, and then towering mountains.  For the next eight hours we climbed mountain passes, traversed gorges and valleys, and finally reached a region of seemingly endless plains reaching to the horizon.  It was warm, and then hot..and of course dusty most of the way. 

Our group of traveling companions was a pleasant mix of older and younger members.  A couple from Australia, Brendan and Lisel, led the humor, a couple from England, Mandy and Byron, were much more serious.  There was a Canadian couple, Steph and Greenie, who were free-thinkers and so much fun.  The "kids" ranged from 19 to 32 and included Ben, fresh out of school and on a graduation trip-a really sweet boy with an innocence that was totally refreshing.; Alex. the playboy, quite handsome and a really, really nice and helpful fellow; Sarah, the playgirl, the epitome of an Irish leprechaun and as pretty as a fine porcelain doll.  They became couple on the second day of the trip and were a cute together as you can imagine.  Then were the "adults":  Andrew, a professional on a dad holiday: Maureen, a single mom on a mommy holiday, Claire, a language teacher from England who had an impressive world travel list for her age; and Kate, the one no one seemed to know anything about,   Then there were the five senior citizens and I'll leave their names to your guessing.

Comfortable seating, some with a table, and large windows.  Room to roam a bit as well, although it as better to stay seated and belted as the potholes could easily through one on their ass without notice.

 A typical street scene heading out of the city.  This went on for well over 50 miles.

Eventually we reached the Baobab tree forests with thousands of these magnificent trees.  Splendid in so many ways and just different enough from those we saw in Australia to make their sighting a whole new experience.

Soon we were also in the Mikumi National Park where the main road wandered through the southern most region.  Although we did not stop, there was plenty of wildlife to see…giraffes, elephant, impala, warthogs, and lots of birds.  

Nearing dusk, we reached out tented camp just before dark, and in time to pitch our tents for our first camping night.  The cook team assisted Ronald in preparing a hearty and filling dinner and we retired early, tired and dusty, looking up at a wonderful starlight night.

We had a delayed start the next morning…something of a treat as we would soon learn, and did not depart camp until nearly 10AM.  Once on the road, we encountered more mountains and valleys, dozens of small adobe brick villages, and lots of local folks waving at us as we passed through.  We reached the Malawi border at Songwe mid afternoon.  The immigration process was surprisingly quick and we were through and on our way to our first lake camp within a few hours. At   

We reached the shores of Lake Milawi and set up camp shortly before dusk.  It was a nice campsite.  We would only be here for one night and once again enjoyed a great meal prepared by Ronald.  During dinner Jose, our Dragoman crew chief, learned there were to be huge political protests the next day in route to our next campsite.  The previous Dragoman truck has been overrun and the passengers and crew robbed…so at the last minute we opted to depart at 4AM to get past the city where the protests were to take place. 

Sleepy and a bit tense, we hid our passport and cash in the on-board safe and approached Muzuzo,  the northern regional capitol of Malawi shortly before 8AM.  The streets were quiet and our plan worked as we quickly got through the city and continued along the mountainous ridgeline between Malawi and Zambia.  We arrived a bit after noon at Kande Beach Resort and were met by a pleasant troop of Malawi attendants who welcomed us with huge smiles and kind hearts.  We would be at the beach side resort for three days and plans were presented for our time there.

The tour manager, Robert, who uncannily looked like Chris Rock, presented several options for our time.  We opted for a village tour and a mountain hike.  The lake beckoned with waves and water to the horizon and a quick dip did not disappoint those who opted for a swim.  Since we had not been able to stop at the main shopping spot in Muzuzo, we were short on supplies, and enjoyed meals prepared by the camp.  Freshly made wheat bread buns were available at lunch for sandwiches, we had a dinner of fried fish from the lake, and on one of our evenings we were treated to a goat roasted over an open fire.

Our village walk introduced us to the Tonga people, the local ethnicity, and for three hours we toured their clay quarries where they make bricks to build their homes, wandered through the casaba fields and learned how they plant, cultivate and harvest this primary food staple.  We toured a local primary school and were given an introduction to their educational system.  Our tour ended with a visit to the maternity and immunization clinic where a male midwife talked about contraception, the AIDS/HIV and Malaria threats, and showed the delivery room.  The later being in need of a lot of soap and water and a good scrubbing.

Kathryn taking a shot at the Canadian wellhead.
 A local Malawi beauty.
 Kids who met us at the school house.  So cute.

Casaba field.  From shoot to full plant in six months, each plant delivering enough tubers to feed a family for a week.  Thousands and thousands of plants grown on raised mounds.
 Typical residence.

 Clay quarry.

On our way to the school, we were met by a group of kids, later we learned were orphans, who held out hands and walked with us to the compound.  Several showed sign of malnutrition and we were later informed that our suspicions were founded.  They were from very poor families, or orphaned and being only moderately cared for by others...our guide was a bit embarrassed to admit this...truth has a way of showing itself in the children.  The school served 1500 students in 10 classrooms, grades 1 to 8.  Teachers were vocationally trained...holding 4 to 6 month qualify them for the task.  The head teacher did not have a degree as well.  The school was funded by the government, but as might be expected, only marginally.

The following day we departed early in the morning for a four hour hike to the top of a nearby mountain.  The trails wandered through the village, and casaba fields and then up the mountain for some nice views of the lake.  It was a pleasant hike, a bit dicey in places, and we were rewarded with some great exercise and the company of our charming guides.  At the top of the mountain we met two local ladies who were singing prayers and enjoyed listening to their lovely voices and melodic chanting.

Our last afternoon the resort was spent swimming in the lake, doing laundry, and a long afternoon nap.  Once again we enjoyed a wonderful dinner prepared by the local chef.  We were up again very early, and departed at 5AM heading to the Zambian border.  The drive was pleasant on decent tarmac roads and we were followed by the rising sun bathing our backs as we headed off to our next adventure location.

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