2017-02-27 to 2017-03-13
As I am leaving Malawi the GPS has no idea where the actual roads are and is constantly stating that it is recalculating the route. Little do I know this will also be the annoying case for all of Tanzania. Do not buy Garmin East Africa Maps, the rest have been fine but these are terrible. Exiting Malawi is fairly easy once you figure out that you go in the door with the bank sign overhead and speak to the people at the unlabeled counters not go to the immigration area. The Tanzanian side of the border is much better labeled but takes a little time as they need to fill out temporary import paperwork for the motorcycle.
The first day I ride to Mbeya, then the next day Iringa, then Chilenze as I head to the coast. Tanzania is easily the most frustrating place to ride so far. The roads are in poor condition with four inch deep ruts in the asphalt from heavily loaded trucks. The roads are also very busy compared to the countries I have been so far. None of the numerous trucks are able to maintain more than 15 km/h on the uphill sections but the ruts are too deep to pass in many areas. Like Malawi the speed limits here are also 80 and 50 km/h in the rural and town areas. Unlike Malawi the towns are no more than five minutes apart and with numerous speed bumps and police officer checkpoints (more on that later) one should not expect to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time. It is unlikely I have averaged more than 40 km/h here. In addition to the frustratingly slow pace the traffic has very little regard for motorcycles and oncoming traffic will occupy both lanes forcing you into the shoulder or the ditch. But enough negativity for now.
On the fourth day I finally make it to Pangani on the northern coast where I take a ferry to the lodge I am staying at. When there I get the opportunity to take a boat out to a nearby reef and do some snorkelling. The fish and coral are quite beautiful but easily the most impressive and unexpected sight was the sea turtle we saw just off the reef in the deep water. The water is incredibly hot in this area, definitely not a refreshment from the 35 degree weather.
After Pangani I headed toward Moshi to see Mount Kilimanjaro. Along the way I am pulled out of traffic at one the police checkpoints. My suspicions are immediately raised when he asks to see my passport (I have since learned it is illegal for a traffic officer to request a passport) instead of my driver’s license which is the usual question. I oblige and hand over my passport, the next question he asks is to see my yellow fever vaccination certificate (this is a common scam by officials in Tanzania as it isn’t actually required unless you have been to a yellow fever country which I have not) I have mine in the pannier and offer to get it, which he says yes, as soon as I start unlocking the pannier he says to stop and then the real question comes. Do I have a gift of money for police officers? I respond no as I do not support corruption unless my own personal well being is at risk. He then asks me why not? At this point (as he still has my passport) I call over the officer working the other lane of traffic, the officer isn’t two steps toward me before I am handed back my passport and told I am free to go. At the next checkpoint I stop to inform the officer in charge of what happened at the previous stop. I do not think I could have met anyone who cared less.
The natural beauty of the country is unfortunately tainted by the complete disregard for the environment by the locals. If you are following behind a bus garbage is constantly being thrown out the windows, taking the ferry at Pangani approximately half of the people threw plastic bottles into the river despite the fact a garbage can was present, the majority of the country is covered in a light haze and smell from people burning garbage (which I guess is the governments fault for not providing proper removal), the reef I went snorkelling on had massive scars from dynamite fishing. While none of this is new to me after going through many countries this is easily many multiples worse than anywhere else I have been so far.
This blog comes off as a negative review of Tanzania, and I normally do not write about the negative aspects of my experiences but I felt like it in this post. In reality I had a good time and met some very nice people in a beautiful country.