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  1. #61
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Here is what we wrote about our time at Mikindani.

    Rain is a Blessing
    Tanzania, 2-6 December 2014

    apparently, but we found this quite hard to recognise up on the Rondo Plateau. We are, however, very thankful that we got out of Mozambique when we did or we might be like the broken-down truck we heard of in the DRC whose drivers, when asked how long they had been waiting for a spare part in the middle of the jungle, replied “Oh, about a year”.

    We spent two splendid nights at the Old Boma in Mikindani. This is now a training hotel for young Tanzanians. The youngest trainees are all absolutely terrified, but are doing valiantly at introducing themselves and asking what guests need. Any non-routine answer, however, produces a look of panic. It is all very sweet.

    We have been asked what a boma – German or otherwise – is or was. Boma is the Swahili word for a cattle enclosure/thorn stockade, and was taken into use by the colonial authorities in East Africa, predominantly in German East Africa, for a fort which then became the administrative headquarters. In German East Africa (now Tanzania), a number of bomas were built, and some of these survive to this day in varying states of decrepitude. So, it was very nice to see one that had been properly restored. We can’t think of an example from British East Africa (Kenya) where the word was used for an administrative headquarters, but the Kenya Girls’ High School in Nairobi was known as the “Heifer Boma”.

    Here at Mikindani, we were back in the footsteps of David Livingstone: this was where he started his last expedition. So, we have seen where he started, Ujiji where Stanley found him, Tabora where Stanley left him, and the Bangweulu swamps where he died. Obviously, the German Boma was not there then – it was finished in 1895.

    But we couldn’t just lounge by the pool sipping Gin and Tonics as we had things to do: recharging my Tanzanian SIM card, and changing our leftover Mozambique Meticais. After a good start on communications, we found the bank wouldn’t change Meticais and didn’t have any cash in the ATM. Feeling in need of fortifying at this point we repaired to a cafe across the dusty square: No coffee. This was becoming a very African experience, but, fortunately, our logistics contact assisted with the cash. Re-supplied with cash, we headed off to Msimbati where an eccentric old Englishman had tried to form an independent sultanate in the early 1960s: he wrote countless letters to the United Nations – and anyone else he could think of – but was eventually deported from the independent Tanzania in the late 1960s. This peninsula is now part of a marine reserve, but a huge pipeline has been laid through it. There was, however, a lodge marked on our map and we rolled into this rundown place. We were assured by a Belgian man and his Congolese French-speaking wife that we could have lunch. So, we had a beer in the shade overlooking the beach, and waited and waited. An hour and a half later, we left without lunch. Back at the Old Boma at Mikindani, the attentive staff served us a delicious dinner which made up for missing lunch.

    The following morning, it was raining. As we headed North, we were in two minds as to whether to stay on the coast, or to risk some higher ground inland on the Rondo Plateau. We compromised by going to Lindi first, where the British had had an important administrative headquarters, and there were some rather atmospheric abandoned residences strung along the back of the beach, and a mix of completely ruined and abandoned offices and some still functioning government agencies. All in all, we rather liked Lindi in its decrepit, somnolent way.

    As the weather was looking slightly more cheerful, we decided to go on up to the Rondo Plateau. Here, we understood, was an Anglican Seminary founded by Trevor Huddleston when he was the local Bishop of Masasi. It all sounded rather intriguing, with some nice scenery and potential birding. We found the Seminary okay, and it was indeed a lovely spot, perched on the edge of the plateau with stunning views. The church had been constructed with panorama windows either side of the altar, with stained glass above. The whole effect was very striking, albeit all the clear glass on one side had disappeared. This was indicative of the state of the rest of the Mission, which was clearly still functioning. We were kindly received by various clergy, and shown a nice place to camp at the very edge of the complex, beside their guesthouse, the ablutions of which were made available to us. This guesthouse had probably been the principal’s house at one stage, but was now in a sad state of disrepair. We set up camp and then observed with some nervousness clouds and rain gathering across the plateau and seeming to be moving our way. Sure enough, it hit us, and golly, it came down. For the next two hours we could only take shelter from the torrents as thunder played around. All was drenched, but fortunately the inside of the tent remained dry. We did, however, find a disconcerting leak in the back of the Land Rover which had dripped on to the briefcase with all the important documentation. The process of mopping, clearing out the external gutters, and slapping on some sealant occupied our time until the rain stopped. Despite the rain, we had a good night in this intriguing destination and, the following morning, packed up a wet camp and headed back down to the coast.

    We zoomed northwards to Kilwa Masoko where we went to look at a potential campsite. At the lodge cum campsite perched on a headland overlooking a bay, we were warmly welcomed and had delicious grilled prawns for lunch. The campsite, however, had little shade and no breeze and was a short hike up from the beach. We decided to go and look at another hotel and found the delightful breezy Kimbilio Lodge. We decided to forsake camping for a banda right on the beach – ten steps from bed to sea – for a birthday treat for Hugh. Six years ago, we came to Kilwa to visit the historic Kilwa Kisiwani, so we are back in known territory. Kilwa Kisiwani was, in the Middle Ages, the most important trading city on the East African coast with links to Great Zimbabwe, amongst other places. So, having seen the fascinating ruins on the nearby island before, yesterday we went to see Kilwa Kivinje – which replaced Kilwa Kisiwani in the mid nineteenth century, but now languishes in tropical decrepitude. The Germans built a boma there overlooking the small harbour: there was some work being done on the crumbling building, and sitting amongst the debris was a splendid cannon. It is now little more than a fishing village, but there are some other atmospheric ruins from both the German and British colonial periods including a terrific German memorial. Apparently, it is to two Germans who were killed by locals after an altercation about a dead warthog and Muslim sensibilities.

    Tomorrow we are heading north again to Dar-es-Salaam, although we are dreading the notorious Dar traffic.

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  3. #62
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Quote Originally Posted by CalDriver View Post
    New post is up, Busanga Plains in Kafue. A video is in there too.
    Video: https://youtu.be/0qn4D13UKmQ
    Post: https://stuckinlowgear.com/escape-fr...usanga-plains/
    Busanga was really great, what a unique environment.

    Thanks again for a wonderful instalment and video. These evoked so much nostalgia!!!
    The longing to get out and about into Africa is becoming agonizing.
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    http://www.4x4community.co.za/forum/...e16?highlight= from post 315.

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  5. #63
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Thanks for the Busanga update. Certainly another venue to add to our growing list of must do parks when we return to Africa. Your excellent videos are giving us itchy feet, can't wait to get back.
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  7. #64
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Weakley View Post
    Thanks again for a wonderful instalment and video. These evoked so much nostalgia!!!
    The longing to get out and about into Africa is becoming agonizing.
    Thank you again Stan. By the way we are re-reading your blog, again, for our upcoming leg, thank YOU for your efforts.

    I hear you the itch to get out there. With all the omicron news I can't tell if we are lucky or stupid, but just taking it one day at a time now. We have heard now of three travelers similar to ourselves that have contracted covid. Mary was one, and two others as well, though that may have been on their flight. It does give us pause. Are we doing something different? Are we just lucky? Maybe both.
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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  9. #65
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    We are about to leave Lakeshore Lodge, enough getting spoiled for now, so I've been working on getting the blog a little bit more up to date. So, next post is up. In this episode - McBrides and to Lusaka - Pete and Melissa survived Africa! Or maybe more accurately, survived Africa with us, ha.

    https://stuckinlowgear.com/mcbrides-camp-lusaka/
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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  11. #66
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Just finished reading your post about McBrides. Are you able to do any self drives around McBrides or are all viewings done with the McBrides or their staff?
    John 2021 Toyota Prado GXL 2.8 (in Australia) and 2014 Toyota Hilux 4x4 3.0 D4D (in Africa)
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Quote Originally Posted by Wazungu Wawili View Post
    Have you thought about going to Kitulo Plateau NP in the Southern Highlands to see the famous flowers? It is known as the “Garden of God”. The only unfortunate thing is that the flowers are out during the rains (in November and December)! I haven’t been and I am told that one of the roads up to the plateau is quite intrepid and is known as Hamsini na Saba (which means 57 and is the number of switchbacks). However, there might be another way up from the Mbeya side. I have a great yearning to go to the Garden of God and to explore the Southern Highlands, but I don’t like travelling in the rains!

    Were you intending on going from Ruaha to Kilwa via Dar - or via Songea and Mtwara?

    Another tip, if you venture via Songea and Mtwara, do visit the lovely Old Boma at Mikindani just north of Mtwara. It is the original port and town and where Dr David Livingstone started his last journey.

    You might need to treat yourselves to a night there if you do take the Songea-Mtwara road. We treated ourselves to two nights at the Old Boma Hotel after having driven from Mozambique via Unity Bridge as the rains were starting in December 2014.

    Safari njema!
    You are onto us! Chris suggested the same thing, to go south. Apparently that road used to be appalling in the rains but is now good tar. He is putting us in touch with a friend in Mbeya who drives this way often.

    We will keep Kitulo in mind. We were looking at it and trying to figure how to mix it in there without doing too much backtracking. That road looks windy! Do you know if you can camp in/at the park?
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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  14. #68
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedx2 View Post
    Just finished reading your post about McBrides. Are you able to do any self drives around McBrides or are all viewings done with the McBrides or their staff?
    You can self drive at McBrides. Combined with a boat trip, walking safari, etc I think it makes a unique stop. The territory available for self driving isn't humongous, but there are quite a few small tracks to take. Ortelius might comment more, I think he has been to McBride's several times. We only did game drives on the way in and out.
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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  16. #69
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Quote Originally Posted by CalDriver View Post
    You are onto us! Chris suggested the same thing, to go south. Apparently that road used to be appalling in the rains but is now good tar. He is putting us in touch with a friend in Mbeya who drives this way often.

    We will keep Kitulo in mind. We were looking at it and trying to figure how to mix it in there without doing too much backtracking. That road looks windy! Do you know if you can camp in/at the park?
    This link attached to the TANAPA website says there is camping inside the park. https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories...7f80848a17ae4f

    Someone on this forum has stayed outside in a rustic guesthouse. I’ll try and find his trip report.

    It looks like the road to Kitulo via Mbeya is much easier than the Hamsini na Saba road.

    Brilliant new blog post. Thank you.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2021/12/05 at 02:58 PM.

  17. #70
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Here is the trip report I mentioned. Albert Ross.

    https://www.4x4community.co.za/forum...t=#post3722238

  18. #71
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedx2 View Post
    Just finished reading your post about McBrides. Are you able to do any self drives around McBrides or are all viewings done with the McBrides or their staff?
    As mentioned, no problem self-driving around McBrides - get Chris to draw you a sketch map of the tracks.
    Re Ruaha - windy.com (our go-to weather site for very accurate weather - zoom in to your area) shows some reasonable rain coming this week, so even if the river is low, it will be a bit wet.
    Great trip reporting, asante sana.
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  20. #72
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedx2 View Post
    Just finished reading your post about McBrides. Are you able to do any self drives around McBrides or are all viewings done with the McBrides or their staff?
    John,

    You can certainly do your own drives around McBrides, especially during the dry season. As CalDriver and Tony mentioned, the area is not a huge one, and there are not that many tracks near the river area, but perfectly doable on your own. No technical challenges either (again, referring only to the dry season - don't try it on your own if wet, spell the "black cotton soil"!). Doing the self-driving there is fine for about half a day. However, given that Chris and Charlotte's prices for their activities are quite affordable, it is highly recommended to partake of them too. Especially a bush walks with Chris!
    24 hours in a day.... 24 beer in a case.... Coincidence?
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  22. #73
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Thank you for another excellent blog post. Reading your account on McBride´s just seemed to be listening to him and his contagious love for everything in the bush. A well of knowledge and passion. Also good to know that he is still going strong and energetic since our visit two years ago.

    Foo keep safe and well.

    Safari njema.

  23. #74
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Quote Originally Posted by Tedx2 View Post
    Just finished reading your post about McBrides. Are you able to do any self drives around McBrides or are all viewings done with the McBrides or their staff?

    John,

    I do agree with Ortelius regarding self driving at McBride´s. The tracks around camp are not that extensive. I guess that your best option would be to get in and out of Mc Bride´s by two different approaches, as there are/ were there different access routes to Camp (all three clearly marked on the road). Coming from south / Mumbwa, we took the second access to camp (the most direct, I believe), and left camp through the third approach (the northern approach - Lubungu pontoon road).
    At the time I remember Chris telling us we should have taken the first approach road to the left as we could have seen some more game, as it descends towards the river and follows it towards camp. A close inspection on T4A will show it.

    Nevertheless I believe this will hold while on the dry season, as there is terrible cotton soil that may prove difficult to drive through.
    Last edited by apfac; 2021/12/05 at 07:38 PM.

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  25. #75
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Thank you for all the responses to my query. In our 2023 plan we are wanting to spend 4 nights with the McBrides, probably late October/early November. Whilst we would be happy to partake in their activities for part of that time, we would like to mix that with some time adventuring on our own. It appears that this is possible, provided there are no early rains.
    John 2021 Toyota Prado GXL 2.8 (in Australia) and 2014 Toyota Hilux 4x4 3.0 D4D (in Africa)
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  26. #76
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Quote Originally Posted by CalDriver View Post
    You are onto us! Chris suggested the same thing, to go south. Apparently that road used to be appalling in the rains but is now good tar. He is putting us in touch with a friend in Mbeya who drives this way often.
    There is nothing like us armchair travellers - trapped as we are due to the wretched pandemic - living vicariously through your blog!

    I had a look on Google Earth and the road from Songea to Mtwara, albeit a long winding road, looks like new Chinese tarmac. I could even see painted lines on the satellite imagery - wonder of wonders!

    I had a friend at school in Nairobi who lived in Njombe, southern TZ. She told alluring tales of weekends on Lake Malawi as well as life on tea and wattle plantations. We had an extraordinary chance meeting with her on the Zomba Plateau in Malawi in 2014. I hadn’t seen her for more years than I care to admit. We had a wonderful reunion in the forests of Malawi. She and her husband were returning from visiting her brother in TZ. It is a very small world.
    Last edited by Wazungu Wawili; 2021/12/06 at 01:20 AM.

  27. #77
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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  29. #78
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Asante sana! Fabulous.

  30. #79
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    We are loving following your blog, so well written
    John 2021 Toyota Prado GXL 2.8 (in Australia) and 2014 Toyota Hilux 4x4 3.0 D4D (in Africa)
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  32. #80
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    Default Re: 11 months to E. Africa and back and...plans and updates

    Okay, here we go, a new post is up: https://stuckinlowgear.com/cheetah-a...bill-tracking/

    Since this adventure we have managed to slow down the mayhem a little bit, so I think I will pick up the pace of the blog somewhat. It is funny that this post is only ~36 hours of our trip, yet seemed so incredibly full to us. To give a short preview of what we've been up to, from Bangweulu we have:

    -wandered through a few waterfalls of Zambia
    -across the (not) closed border post Zombe/Kasesya
    -to Lakeshore Lodge
    -Visited Katavi National Park
    -Doubled back, meeting up with an expat who scooped us up and showed us around the sights of Mbeya and surrounds
    -Visited Ruaha National Park, with some excellent sightings, all via Kisolanza
    -taken the southern route via Songea to the coast. We got hooked up with another expat in Lindi, who set us up with a burgeoning beach bar/bungalows there,
    -and now find ourselves in Kilwa, going to see the ruins tomorrow.

    We're planning some down time at Pagani (Peponi) for the holidays, and then meeting friends in Arusha after that. From there the plans are much less firm.

    WW - we didn't get to Kitulo, paritally because we used up our extra days at Mbeya, waiting out a holiday to get the car serviced, and at Kisolanza because we needed a break. But also because we asked around and locals told us that due to the unseasonably low rainfall to date that we might be early for the flowers. There is much concern over the low rains in the south, as we herd from many.
    Blog of our African travels: stuckinlowgear.com

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