Travelling Africa on a KLR

Month: March 2017


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.

Pangani Beach

Beach Crab

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.

Mount Kilimanjaro in the Haze

Wildebeest Migration

Servil Cat

Pride Rock

Leopard and Cub

Sunrise on the Serengeti


Black Rhino


Lions Enjoying the Baby Zebra they just Killed

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.


I get an early start from Chipata, Zambia and get to the border around 8:30. The border crossing is fairly organized and quick to check out of Zambia and check in to Malawi, which is nice as I was afraid it was going to be like Kazangula again.

After crossing the border I went through numerous police checkpoints on my way in to Lilongwe where I was looking for the Kawasaki dealership to see about some parts that were damaged in Botswana. There I meet Zihar who owns the dealership. He invites me in to show me his shop. He has only started the business a year and a half ago and as such does not have KLR parts as Kawasaki stopped importing KLR’s in 2013 so Malawi doesn’t even have old ones.

That night I ended up staying in a non-luxurious expensive hotel as I decided I would rather pay than ride around in the thunderstorm.

On Sunday I rode up the coast of Lake Malawi to Nkhata Bay where I spent the next week snorkelling, canoeing, kayaking, and learning to scuba dive.

Sunset in Nkhata Bay

Sunday night I met Aaron, Nick, and Yuri, three American’s travelling from Malawi to Tanzania and was to play Settlers of Catan, which is one of my favourite board games, so I was excited.

Settlers of Catan by Flashlight

On Monday I met Liz who is volunteering with the Peace Corps in Zambia and visiting Malawi for a few days R&R on a snorkelling trip. When we get back from snorkelling we discover her friend Margo has become severely dehydrated and needs to go to the clinic in Mzuzu. Just as they are leaving the third member of the group Erin arrives so I am left to entertain Erin for the next day. Tuesday morning we had a massive rainstorm.

The rain this day reminded me of the scene in Jurassic Park where Nedry dies

On Wednesday I started my scuba diving lessons and passed my PADI Open Water Dive course and completed a deep (30 m) dive and a night time dive. The night dive was very cool as we ‘guided’ dolphin fish to the cichlids with our dive lights.

I tried to take pictures of the fish with my action camera but have subsequently learned you need the special dive case (not available on this continent) otherwise it will not focus underwater. As I do not have any pictures, you will have to trust me that the cichlids that can be seen are amazing. To back up my statement BBC filmed Planet Earth here.

Local artists Sovieto and Simple J adding some Malawian style to the bike

After leaving Nkhata Bay I rode north to Karonga and met a Hungarian riding a Royal Enfield from Egypt to Cape Town over twenty five days along the way so we had a quick chat on the road side about road conditions, police checkpoints, and border crossings.

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