Tanzania immediately lays down the law. After the border the road climbs almost 2000m. An unbelievably lush and green scenery. Everywhere there are tea plantations and bananas grow in abundance. On the other side of the mountain range it is already remarkably dryer. For some days I cycle at 1500-1800m. In the morning it is actually quite cold and for the first on this trip I have to cycle in long pants. Those last 800km to the east coast are real nice and very divers. I cycle through dense pine forest then the road drops and I pass through a valley with a huge forest of Baobabs. After Mikumi the road goes through a game park for 50km. For practical reasons they just put a huge sign next to the road with the price list for a road kill. An elephant will cost you 15'000$ ! Ok I will drive carefully…

There are not a lot of bicycles on the road anymore but all the more heavy trucks and busses driving very aggressively. Sometimes the road is also very narrow with deep ruts making cycling quite dangerous. The last days are very hot and humid. I sweat unbelievable quantities. I am glad when I reach Dar es Salaam. The fact that Obama is also visiting the town the same day does not really improve the traffic chaos on the way into town.

A very persistent companion I can finally get rid of here in Dar. Since turning east in northern Namibia I had been cycling against an often very strong head wind!

With a ferry I go to Zanzibar. After a first shock about the prices (food and accommodation prices are about three time what they are on the mainland) I soon like the island. It is a very unique melting pot of Persia and Africa. In the 8th century already, merchants from Persia came to Zanzibar and brought with them the Islam, still the predominant religion. Soon its trade was flourishing with spices, ivory and slaves. Later the Sultan of Oman resided here and the island was later even an own republic for a short time. Today there is still a customs at arrival and you get a stamp in your passport.

I could wander for hours through the narrow, winding alleyways of Stone Town, where you can always find a new interesting corner and markets. Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen was born here on the island by the way.

On the east coast I relax some days on a beautiful beach with swimming in the Indian Ocean, playing beach volleyball and meeting other travelers.

Back on the mainland I cycle north along the coast. Through the Saadani NP I am allowed to cycle. In one village a crowd of people have gathered. When I get closer I can see a 5m long monster of a snake lying dead next to the road. Holy smoke! But I don't really cycle here to see animals. It is more the route that I can so follow. Just before Dar I was for some time on quite busy roads. Here I can now cycle for 3 days on a dirt road with hardly any traffic at all, passing many small villages. That's how cycle touring is really fun. In the evening I am always very dirty because of the dusty road and the high humidity. So I am quite happy when the road leaves the coast and I am heading back to higher and cooler grounds.

The climbing get immediately serious on the way to Lusotho. On a fantastic dirt road I then ride all across the Usambara Mountains and enjoy a break at the Mambo Viewpoint Lodge with spectacular views of the Mkomazi plains. The steep and very rough downhill down there is quite a challenge. My fingers burn from constantly pulling the brakes when I arrive 1400m lower.

Now the road heads straight towards Kilimanjaro. I constantly scan the horizon in search of the mountain that first hides in the clouds until I can finally see the snow covered summit. Of course I would like nothing more to do then climb it. But paying 1500$ for climbing a mountain has very little in common with my idea of mountaineering. So I let it be and instead circumnavigate the mountain on a great road. 

In Arusha I can stay with Erik, an American who has hosted many Africa-cyclists already. He can help me to find some spare parts and provides me with good information about my next detour. West of Arusha are the big well known game parks: Ngorogoro crater and Serengeti. Of course I am not allow into those with the bicycle. But there is a road that closely follows the park boundaries. I get warned several times, that it would be extremely dusty now in the dry season, but of course I go anyway.

About 120 tribal groups live in Tanzania. The Maasai are only one of them, but with their typical clothes and colorful bracelets they are easy to recognize. In the region where I am now, there are particularly many of them. I often meet them along the road with their big cattle herds and stop for a short chat, or see their simple huts.

The further north I get, the remoter it gets. When I reach the volcano Oldoinyo Lengai, I leave the bumpy dirt track. Following some trails, I continue straight across a beautiful grassland. All around I am surrounded by volcanos and on the plain I can see lots of animals: big herds of zebras, wildebeest and antelopes. But the warnings were justified: the ground consists of nothing but a little bit of grass and dust. Cycling is impossible. In contrary, I have to push the heavy bike for hours through 20cm deep dust. That the bicycle is still working after that ordeal is a little technical miracle. When I reach the next village and a gravel road, I am more then relieved. Crossing the Muriatata Hills where I see again lots of animals I go back to the main road and head north to the border with Kenya.

Comments