The tarmac quickly turned to gravel as we made our way down the West side of Tanzania along the borders of Burundi, the DRC and Zambia all of which share Lake Tanganyika. There are parts of this country where there were hardly any human inhabitants. So much so that if you rode past two vehicles in a day you would be lucky. In parts of our journey the locals would hide in the bush until you made a friendly or non threatening wave hello. The people we met were all good.
We timed our journey well to coincide with the rainy season. With the temperatures still being relatively warm the rain was only a minor annoyance as the road was made a bit more of a sticky challenge. It was on a dry day that I managed to slide out from under my bicycle and get some dirt firmly lodged into the right side of my body. A bit of scrubbing, an antiseptic and some time to heal sorted it out.
It’s only once we were back on the black stuff when we remembered how much easier it is to cycle on. I caught up with the guys working for Aarslef and Bam who are working on the joint venture, constructing the new road on the other side of Sumbawanga. They put me up in my own chalet with down duvets and a hot shower. After a few beers, dinner, breakfast and all round good conversation they sent me on my way. The time with these fellow construction workers did make me think quite a bit about similar and some very different challenges I was facing some six months on my construction projects.
It was at Katavi National Park where I met a Dutch couple on a road trip. Ian-Peter was an Engineer who was working on the construction of a 100km stretch of road from Sumbawanga, his girlfriend had come out to visit. I was trying to figure out how to cross the National Park without being eaten by lions. The National Park forbids cycling through the park even though the main road runs straight through the middle. Without alternative transport it would be impossible to continue. Ian-Peter kindly offered me a lift but I rather opted to spend some more time in the park on a amazing safari trip. Juma was an excellent guide who helped me pile my bicycle into the Land Cruiser and after an awesome day dropped me on the other side of the park. The park is quite amazing and boasts the big four – please donate to save the rhino – It’s amazing that all the animals know where the park border is as there are no fences. Even the Tsetse Flies stopped biting just before the imaginary border.
The Rift Valley is a truly beautiful area to explore. The climate is also perfect for growing coffee. It was at Utengule Lodge where I had the best coffee that I’ve ever had. It’s a lodge on a coffee farm and It’s not surprising that it is being run by an Italian couple.
It was without regret that we decided to visit this less populated challenging section of our journey. If anything, the fact that there were less people meant that we had more time to enjoy the scenery and reflect on the journey so far.