August 07, 2017
Narrated Audio Blog
Told in the collective first person, jointly from Stu and Janell Clarke's perspective.
We crossed from Zimbabwe on the seventh of August and no sooner were we in Zambia and Janells beloved GS was on a truck again, 250km to Lusaka where we could get assistance and parts. It was actually Stu who had broken down this time and after a few hours of tinkering on the roadside he discovered his fuel injector was broken. We decided to swap injectors around on the bikes and see if we could at least get to Lusaka. We probably got another 20km and then Janell's bike stopped (with Stu's faulty injector). Our travel angel sent us Matias. Matias saw that we had broken down and pulled over to see if he could be of assistance. He was returning from dropping off produce to a supermarket near the Zimbabwe border and his truck was empty, he quickly suggested that we load the bike into his truck and he take it to Lusaka where we'd find someone to make the repairs. A group of local guys helped us load the bike. Stu followed behind the truck with the dogs on board and late that night we arrived in the Wanderers Hostel and Campsite in Lusaka. It was too late and we were too tired to properly thank Mathias so we invited him to return the next day and we'd shout him dinner and drinks at the campsite restaurant.
The repair to Janell's bike was not difficult, we simply needed to get our hands on an injector and we'd be good to go again. There was a Bosch dealer in Lusaka, but they didn't have our injector. They would have been able to order it in but could not give us a timeframe. They said that the injector could be cleaned if we could find an ultrasonic bath but weren't too optimistic about our chances. They did however give us a few leads to start with. We didn't actually know what an ultrasonic bath was but a quick Google search educated us. An ultrasonic bath uses cavitation or tiny bubbles to agitate a fluid (the bath) and force tiny particles (blocking the injector) to move. We rode around Lusaka trying to find someone with such a piece of equipment but it was looking unlikely. Eventually we found a workshop who assured us that a college he works with just outside of Lusaka would have one. This workshop was located a half hour to the south and we were told it would be easy to find so we set off. The workshop was indeed easy to find with the instructions given and after leaving the injector with the owner for a couple of hours it was as good as new, or at least good enough. Fingers crossed it would get us back to Europe.
Lusaka was a lovely city, people seemed happier than a lot of the cities we'd been to in Africa. We tried out a few of the local restaurants, popped into a very modern shopping centre and enjoyed cooking in the camp kitchen with the other campers. And this is where we met Chris from London. Every year he spends two weeks in Lusaka, completely voluntarily, as part of a program to help train and improve nursing practices in Zambia. Our stays only overlapped a few nights but it was fun sitting around the campfire in the evening chatting over a beer. In fact, Chris drank them out of the local beer! Well that's how our story goes.
From Lusaka we rode North West. One of our first stops was with Janet at Lowden Lodge. We camped for a night and then carried on to Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage. We didn't really have any way of contacting the organisation and were unsure if we'd be able to enter with our dogs so we took the risk of turning up and being turned away. To our great surprise and thrill we were very welcome with the dogs and had the honour of staying with Sheila Siddle and her daughter Sylvia, founders of the orphanage. Sheila saved her first Chimpanzee in 1983 and subsequently created this home away from home for refugee Chimps with her husband, David, and family. But her home has been open to many animals including dogs and hippos. One person with a dream can make a difference. Sheila wrote an excellent book of her accounts called In My Family Tree. If you make it to Zambia please try to visit the Orphanage, if not then do read her book.
Turns out Sheila was a motorcyclist back in the day. She reflected with such pleasure on her motorcycle days that we offered to take her for a spin if she wanted. Well it took no convincing her at all, at 86, next day she hopped on the back with Stu and the dogs and went for a ride on the tracks around the property. It was a great day and we'll never forget it.
We stayed 3 nights at Chimfunshi and spent some time with the Chimps as well. For 1000 Kwacha per person we did the Chimpanzee bush walk. You enter the sanctuary of the Chimps and literally go for a walk with them through the bush. Some will hold your hands, Janell gave one a piggy back and they give you a coconut shell by the pond so you can fetch them water to drink. An absolutely out-of-this-world experience.
Time to move on, we headed back along the same road and stopped in at Lowden Lodge again. Janet treated us to 3 nights staying in the lodge. We turned up to camp but she persuaded us to sleep in a real bed (that's not hard). This treat also included meals by her cook, Emanual who made 5 star mouth watering meals with lots of the produce grown in their own gardens. We had dinner with Janet the first night and mentioned our love of football. She informed us of a big game being played in a nearby town and to look into tickets. We absolutely did! Zambia was playing South Africa in Ndole, 20km from the Lodge. We got out early and queued for tickets at the local supermarket, Shopright. The cheapest tickets were available from $1.50, we went for the second most expensive ticket at $15. Zambia won 2-0 and the crowd went wild. Lowden Lodge is a quick 20 km from Ndola, if you're in the region try to schedule a few nights at her lodge.
Our final stop in Zambia was for a few nights at Lake Tanganyika Lodge. We had heard of a ferry that could take us from Mbala, Zambia, all the way up to Kigoma in Tanzania. We went to the port and saw the ferry. It was going to be a really expensive experience which would have been fine if it was nice but it was grotty and old. We've done enough of these sort of trips so we decided to continue on land to Tanzania and then on to Rwanda. The few days on Lake Tanganyika were glorious and definitely worth the visit. We hired a hut with a bed. There was no electricity but the sunsets were amazing and we went swimming in the day. The girls enjoyed the break and time to just walk and sit and do not very much really.
We moved from Zambia to Tanzania in late August. As we had been investigating a boat trip up Lake Tanganyika we were close to the Mbala border crossing but with the prospect of facing gravel roads for some time on this route we decided to back track and head to the Nakonde/Tunduma border post.
The landscape changed very quickly from flat to hilly but the road was remaining at around 1,500m in elevation. We were only a few degrees from the equator but the days and nights were cool. On our first night we camped about 85km from the border at the ICC Hotel and Guesthouse Mbalizi (-8.927439,33.304009). It was a great spot with good facilities and very welcoming of our dogs. Food was a bit pricey but it was really good and with vegetarian options dinner from 5,000 shillings per person, and the same for breakfast. We camped for 15,000 shillings per person after negotiations. They had asked for much more but we said our friend Roger (who we found through an online review of the hotel) was there a month earlier and reported that he paid 15,000 shillings. They seemed happy enough and so agreed. Oh the tricks we play to save money.
As travelling vegetarians we found we ate a lot of fried or boiled eggs and some form of Chapati bread in Africa. The name changed in each country and the bread thing would also change slightly but it was more or less the same. But in Tanzania we discovered an equally deliciously unhealthy street food alternative called Chips Mayai. It was served as a hot/warm dish in a plastic bag consisting of fried potato chips in egg with a tomato and onion salsa on top. We carried our own forks to eat it but otherwise just get your fingers in there and shovel it into your mouth. A perfect compliment to wash it all down is a refreshing drink of fanta. Your mouth is watering right! You can spot a vendor anywhere, they set up on the street with a glass fish tank on wheels filled with precooked chips.
Most overlanders will take the coastal route of Tanzania for the beaches, bars and restaurants. We decided to take the inland route to avoid the immense and hectic traffic of the coast. It was also much cooler and better conditions for Weeti and Shadow. But even in the cool we need to take regular breaks for them to drink water, have a snack and go to the toilet. It can be tiring for the girls riding all day and they need to keep their energy up with treats, or so they tell us.
Our route through Tanzania to Rwanda had to include a stop in Moshi to see the highest mountain in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro. We booked a room in a home through Airbnb for a couple of nights. The owner, Sam, turned out to be a mechanic and a biker. We really enjoyed our stay with Sam. He took us for a ride around the base of the mountain, being a local he knew the best dirt roads to take and cafe's to stop at. It was fun and we had to work hard to keep up with him (he slowed down a lot for us but was very humble about it). Unfortunately on the way home Janell's motorbike had oil spitting out the top of the reservoir. We hadn't touched the oil in a while so it wasn't that there was too much. Sam took a look at it and suggested it wasn't pumping around the system properly. Hoping it was just an anomaly we did an oil change. Interestingly there were quite a few bits stuck to the magnet on the sump plug so perhaps there were particles blocking the system at points. In which case an oil change was a reasonable response and should reduce the problem.
Sam was also passionate about four wheel drives. He showed us his bar on wheels. It was the best photo we took in Moshi because we certainly didn't get a view of Mount Kilimanjaro while we were there. Sam told us it can be quite illusive. We did get a great view of Mount Meru which is four places below Kilimanjaro and far enough away at 70km that the sky was clear there but cloudy at Kilimanjaro.
We had 1000km to get from Moshi to the Rwanda border. The roads crossing Tanzania were good with little traffic but seriously dangerous truck drivers. We saw a number of trucks overturned on the sides of the road and we had a few hairy moments when oncoming trucks were overtaking and completely disregarded our right to our side of the road. Definitely the worst truck drivers in the world. But we made it to Rwanda in one piece, and enjoyed the semi-arid scenery of crossing central Tanzania where life for locals must be a lot harder than those on the coast with easy access to water and supplies.
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