March 2, 2014, Ibo-Quionga
The hottest night ever, and not a hint of a breeze. It must be 35°C when we get up before sunrise to make the high tide boat to the mainland. By the time we have lugged our excessive baggage through an awakening Ibo we are truly desperate for the soft seats and the A/C of our car. Before we can leave with the tide rushing out there is a bit of a commotion and confusion, we were told there is no regular service that early and so we booked a boat for ourselves – but now a good dozen villagers would like to board, too – much against the will of our captain, who I plead in my desperately lacking Portuguese to let them join. He refuses – it’s not his day, and we’re probably overpaying him already.
Through the sunrise and early morning calm, including some far-away dolphins, we have a suitably magical boatride back to the mainland, where the car is quickly packed and we depart for a much enjoyed A/C cooled but otherwise uneventful drive North to the border.
The road, once on the main highway, is great or will be great soon, but a lot of construction means that in the end, about 180 km of the 350 km are on dusty, bumpy dirt. We arrive in the border village of Quionga where we camp on the community campsite under the curious eyes of the assembled children of the village. We enjoy our first camp since Lake Malawi and we realize how much airier and less confining camping is. Next to the campsite team Quionga 1 plays team Quionga 2. The whole village is watching and we join the crowd, quickly becoming a secondary attraction. Rarely have we been so openly gazed at, with fingers pointed and mouths gaping. It’s a bit tiring, most so for Matti and the female part of the family. We retreat to an early (though somewhat repetitious) meal of pasta with tomato sauce (not much else to buy), and by 19.15 it is lights out for the kids, with us grown-ups joining them not much after.
March 3, 2014, Quionga – Mueda
Our first night in the tent for along time is unpleasantly eventful: Kathrin comes down with an ear infection, and we have some of the hardest rain ever. We are thus very proud to rock up ath the 25 km away border for the ferry both dried and early. We are not rewarded: the ferry is not operating, understandably the river is in flood and has been for the past two weeks…
So we start on a slight detour of 1000 km over the Unity Bridge deep inland, not recommended by anyone because when the bridge was built by presidential fiat from Mozambique and Tanzania, no plans were made for access roads…
The first leg of our last option to drive to Dar takes us to the grubby, mountain town of Mueda, back through the now soaked, soapy-slippery construction sites where we power along in low-range for hours.
We move into a dubious room in a dubious pension – the only one – have lunch, are greeted by the resident kitchen rats and while Kathrin rests and the kids entertain themselves in tense edginess coming from too much time in the car I deploy my rudimentary Portuguese across town to find out more about what lies ahead. The police say there is no passing, the fuel station attendant has heard of people passing and knows it is 170 km on a very, very, very bad road. The only encouragement comes from the bush taxi driver who drives the route to the bridge with his landcruiser. He says he will go tomorrow, leaving at 7 am, and depending on the weather it will take 5-10 hours (it will take us 7 to the border and 4 more to the next town, and yes, we will make it, just…). So I make the decision to leave before the taxi tomorrow, to know a savior behind us in case we get stuck.
Then I organize chicken and chips in a backyard restaurant – no one feels like rat-infested goat and rice anymore – and we finish off the day watching Pirates of the Carribean (sunshine ahoi!) for the umpteenth time while outside descending fog and darkness with consistent rain promise a real frontier experience for tomorrow.
March 4, 2014, Mueda – Masasi
In the morning once on the road it was not as bad (at first). But once we got stuck, luckally we could drive out of the mud by ourselves again.
Then it started to rain, there were thousands of tsetse-flies and we were almost always slipping. Once we almost fell on our side trying to miss a tree trunk. Also once we had to do a river-crossing. Then came the tar road. On the tar road we drove to the border. There we spent 2 hours trying to get through, once in Tansania we drove for a bit (editor’s note: that little bit was over 4 hours!). Then stayed in Holiday Motel Masasi for the night – rice and goat again.
March 5, 2014, Masasi-Mikindani
After a breakfast serfed bay someone who never ate it befor, we loaded the car. Then we drove two houers to Mikandini, or so, it seemed a short drive. We arrived there befor lunch, and after a quick shower against the heat, we had a nice chapatti-lunch. After school, we went for a walk in town, and we relaised that we’d have to think about were to do our shopping!
March 6, 2014, Mikindani
Yes, we finally managed to experience a rather bland and boring day! It was much needed, though… The healthy ones (all except Kathrin, still the ear) wanted to go snorkeling, but it turned out that this is rather expensive here and when it started to rain no choices needed to be made. So we had lunch in Mtwara, a non-descript sprawling town. Then we tried to buy some essentials, with moderate success. One Indian shop was actually of the walk-in-supermarket-kind, with two tiny shelves to circle around! The others were all still of the old-fashioned sort, where you stand at a counter, squint into the darkness and guess what products from the rear wall you could possibly need. This is the district capital.
Probably charming, if the downpour would stop. But to be honest – we are actually enjoying doing nothing! ☺