Saturday 23rd October
We’re ‘upping sticks’ and heading out of Mwanza- for the week that is. It’s half term (mid-term) break and co-inciding with the election as it does makes it an excellent time to escape Mwanza (an opposition (Chedema) stronghold where some folk may not take kindly to losing). It was a good day to get up and leave town early as in the last day of the campaign the President, an ex-President and the man who would be president were coming to town to campaign for the governing party (CCM).
We were out at 4:30am packed for a week in Kigoma on the shores of Lake Tangyanika. It’s a long journey estimated at 10 hours but in reality more like 16 with stops and this time unlike our journey from Lake Victoria to Victoria Falls we’re taking the car.
The journey takes us from Mwanza to Shinyanga and on to Nzega and Tabora where we turn right and head across country to Kigoma.
Our early start allows us to make a good pace out of Mwanza, though the road is not good to begin with. Once into open country we cross the plain towards Shinyanga and the road improves, though the frequent villages mean we need to keep switching from 80kph to 50kph at regular intervals. None of this seems to deter the coaches one of which regularly passes us at 100 kph only to be overtaken by us when it stops, as it does regularly, on the route.
We stop for Chai and Chapatti at a local stall just south of Shinyanga – so far no police have stopped us (a regular pastime seems to be stopping car drivers and demanding money for a spurious infringement whether it can be justified or not).
Beyond Shinyanga we are surprised to find they are building a new Tarmac road – this is the first road building program we have seen in Tanzania -at first the road is slow as the surface is newly gritted but soon we are zooming along. It is the first time we have taken our car (ANA Gari) on a long trip, but newly serviced ‘she’ is behaving herself. The road takes us all the way into Tabora and on out towards Kigoma. This is so much better than we had expected and we make excellent pace, fewer villages and 100kph limits really help eat the miles.
We get about a quarter of the way from Tabora to Kigoma before the road stops and we are on a mud road. This has been graded and although the rippled ridges give it the feel of driving on a washboard we are able to travel well, though oncoming lorries and coaches tend to hog the road and we share it with bicycles and pedestrians many of whom tend to meander the roadway as they seek the best route.
We cross the railway line many times on our route and on one occasion this passes nearby a market where we are able to source some provisions (we are self-catering this week). We also grab some late lunch at a local cafe (beans and rice and meat followed by banana).
The road is dusty and the aforementioned lorries kick up plumes which gets everywhere and coats everything. We travel like this for an hour then suddenly the road diverts and we see the next phase of construction of the new road alongside for many miles.
Finally we are allowed on and we have the luxury of Tarmac. This road lasts a long while but suddenly reverts to mud. The road keeps swapping from mud to Tarmac to mud over the remainder of our journey in 20-30km stretches. One such piece of Tarmac is possibly the best road we’ve been in here an excellent stretch which ends quite suddenly after Kikwete Bridge (named after the current President). We imagine this was built for him so the bridge could be opened before he returned by helicopter. This excellent road both starts and finishes in the middle of nowhere.
Talking politics we encounter numerous rallies along our route representing Chedema, CCM and a third party ACT which seems stronger in this region than elsewhere.
The land either side of the road is jungle forest but there is evidence of mild deforestation – the people here ‘harvest’ the wood and burn it to make charcoal- there are bags of it along the roadside and these enormous sacks are loaded onto bikes and pedaled off.
Late afternoon dust turns to mud on the muddier road as the aftermath of rain take its toll – we have had little rain ourselves but there’s been a lot. Then it’s back to Tarmac and the last leg of our journey into Kigoma.
This takes much longer than it seems on the map – that last stretch of a journey always does. In the pitch black we arrive in Kigoma and sought out Jakobsen’s Beach – not the easiest place to locate in a the dark. After a couple of lost turns and a little more luck than judgement we finally stumble on the road to our accommodation. This road quickly becomes a dirt track which almost disappears into a ditch at one point – we persevere and finally find our place. We’re here for a week in a bedded tent, self-catering. Untypical of recent holidays we’re not going far but after a 16 hour journey to get here- not that I’m complaining.