Road reveries in Tanzania
As beautiful as Lake Tanganyika is we can not stay here forever, or can we? After much deliberation and pondering, we decide to head off in the opposite direction. Let’s go to Kitavi Park, yes, it is bloody far and the roads are awful but it sounds rather exciting. We seem to have shed our trepidations about breaking down in the middle of nowhere, in fact, we discuss it and come to the conclusion that we like the feeling of uneasiness that being in the middle of nowhere brings. So off we go into even wilder territory.
The drive to Katavi Park looks short enough on the map. As usual it turns out to be a very long way! The road is so bad that after 20ks we both wonder if we should perhaps turn back. Of course not, let’s continue, silly idea, maybe the road will improve. Well, it does not improve at all and it takes hours to cover a few ks. It is beautiful though and deserted. Geoff is fretting about petrol, as per usual, I tend to drive way past the reserve light is flashing. We stop at a small village and get some petrol, they always seem to have some in plastic containers which is handy. People come to see us and gather around, probably wondering what on earth we are doing there, covered in dust and without petrol. Still, they are friendly and helpful and I enjoy trying to talk to the women who just giggle and laugh at me.
On we go. We give a lift to a man who appears to be stranded next to his broken motorbike. He is young and very friendly but not long after we start driving he starts sobbing and sobbing. Unable to communicate due to language barriers, we continue and hope that he is not a mass murderer as he is sitting next to the kids. When we finally drop him, he stops crying and will not stop thanking us. Eventually we manage to “get rid” of him and feel rather relieved. What was that about?!
Arriving in Sitalike feels like a victory and the car is still in one piece. There are two places to stay so not too hard to decide. Both run down and lacking in facilities so we choose the one closer to the river and the hippos. It is a beautiful location and our host, a Tanzanian woman from Moshi, is so welcoming and helpful that we fall in love with the place. She cooks really good food too which makes us very happy and at night she lights a fire for us by the river. Our little cabin is by the water’s edge and we can see and hear the hippos. Flora assures us that they are not dangerous and that the fire will keep them away from us. I agree that they do look extremely cute and cuddly but do some research anyway and find out that after the mosquito, the hippo is the second most dangerous animal in Africa and is responsible for more human fatalities in Africa than any other large animal. I also think that being so huge they are probably slow but I later observe that they are bloody fast! So sitting out by the fire in total darkness (there is no electricity here) is not so relaxing after all. I still think they are cute though. At night we can hear them walking about and making their incredible calling noises.
From this base we explore Katavi Park, Tanzania’s third largest national park. It lies in the remove southwest part of the Tanzania within a truncated arm of the Rift Valley. It is isolated and seldom visited and a true wilderness. We spent two days in the park and did not see anybody apart from one safari car with a couple of people. We got lost as the only track often disappears and the map was useless but eventually found our way back. The park is beautiful and has two distinctive areas. One area is mainly lake and has thousands of hippos, the other area is drier and has huge crocodiles, giraffes and elephants. Funnily enough when we went into the park, the rangers failed to warn us that the elephants are dangerous and not used to humans so that when they see a car they either charge or run away. We found the first to be true. I love elephants so was rather excited, as usual, when I spotted a family. They, however, were not so pleased to see us. The large male proceeded to waft its massive ears and trumpet. Ok, I know you are not supposed to run, or in this case drive off very fast, but that is what we did. Further encounters with elephants were rather scary from then on!
After so much wilderness we are ready to hit the big city. Mwanza here we come! The second largest city in Tanzania and we are excited. There will be shops, restaurants, stuff! Mwanza turns out to be big, busy and chaotic. We find that we are craving the wilderness shortly after arriving. We settle in a “posh” hotel with a pool to try and create some sort of balance. The hotel is nice enough but we do not like being in a city. We explore the town. The market is a nightmare of people, stalls, very narrow passages, barging, noise…. We feel like screaming and go looking for a supermarket instead where we heard you can buy interesting food. I get excited at the sight of Golden Syrup. Odd as normally I would not give it a second glance. I also buy garlic salt and biscuits. We hike up to Capri Point where you get wonderful views of Lake Victoria and Mwanza and chill by the lake with a drink. Two nights feels more than enough and we decide to go on to the Serengeti. Onwards…
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