We had planned to drive south to Lindi but a Danish doctor we met in Dar who was working in Lindi said the road is still difficult. Most of it is paved and is easy driving. Just south of the Rufiji River there is about 40 km in building. About 2 km is often under water and cars often get stuck. Though one may be pushed out for 10,000 shilling there are some reports of thieves relieving stuck occupants of wallets and phones.
So we went to Mbeya. The road is in good /excellent condition for most of the way. There are road works and rebuilding in the Ruaha Gorge and on the plateau before Iringa. Very little traffic and very enjoyable drive.
Mikumi NP. We love this park, small and neat with all one wants to see.
Stayed at Tan-Swiss Inn, 58,000Tsh double, comfortable, clean rooms and good food, friendly staff.
Staff at entrance gate at Mikumi were laid back and seems we were a bit of a nuisance. They had 12 NP bandas at $50 per person with chai. However in a rather dull part of the residential area of the park HQ and what with admission charges probably not worth the cost since driving in from Mikumi village you see game as well.
Mikumi Wild life Camp. We stopped for coffee at 11 am and the two staff sitting at the restaurant table found this very inconvenient. Eventually conceded they had some water and milk, ‘but we were very late’. Tablecloths dirty, floor unswept.The toilets were not well tended and the cost at $120 FB per person seemed excessive for the poor service. The situation, however is lovely. Seems classic way that low occupancy leads to poor service. The Manager who turned up later said Selous was much more expensive! I think he has lost contact with the reality of the tourist trade.
Neema café in Iringa. A welcome stop for Wazungu, excellent cakes and coffee and great, fast Internet connection in the Internet Café (sorted by a local VSO).
The cemetery at bottom of the hill is actually at British War graves cemetery with at least 50 graves of mostly South Africans with some Rhodesian and Nyasaland soldiers. There are about 12 graves of Germans. (I did not count at the time). Also some more recent graves from the 1960s and 1970s expatriate community. The gate is padlocked with a combination lock. The combination can be accessed by phoning (Nairobi, I think) in working hours. We slipped over the wall and wandered about.
Iringa Info very helpful and got a good discount on a Ruaha camp. There is a newly opened Bookshop next door. However almost entire stock was fiction and not really of much help to the average Tanzanian, seemed to be aimed at the growing expatriate community — a result of the huge road building projects.
Iringa to Mbeya, easy drive of 5 hours.
Mbeya Hotel was full so stayed at Rift Valley Hotel. 20,000Tsh twin, 30,000Tsh double. Seems as time has passed this hotel by. The rooms were tatty and we had to see 5 rooms before finding one habitable (shower not working/ toilet not working/ toilet leaking/ no light bulb in central light. I retrieved a mosquito net from a previous room as I thought it might prove difficult for staff to contemplate doing it.) We were the only guests and breakfast seemed to be a bit of an imposition for the waitress.
It reminded me of travel in Eastern Europe in previous times. It is a pity as the structure of the hotel is perfectly decent.
Could not find Babukuwa or Chinese Dragon restaurant so eat at Sombrero. Reasonable food but heavy with the oil. All in all time seems to have passed Mbeya by and there seems to be much more going on in Iringa.
Wonderful road down to Kyela, smooth, great scenery and little traffic. Road Kyela to Matema Beach in reasonable graded condition but took one and half hours. Coming by bus etc a couple took all day to travel Mbeya to Matema.
Stayed at Lutheran Beach Guest House, lovely, small octagon banda 10 metres from Lake (25,000Tsh, other bandas 15,000Tsh). It was basic but clean and beautiful breeze. The evening meal of fish and rice was excellent. The fish was huge, more than two of us could eat and the vegetables were first class.
Matema Resort (drive right through Lutheran settlement) had very pleasant large airy rooms for 40,000Tsh and smaller semidetached cottage rooms for 30,000Tsh. It now serves cold Serengeti beer! So we walked down there for a meal, not spectacular.
Walked up river towards waterfall but abandoned trip after one and half hours. (I had my only trainers on and as it meant wading through water and I needed dry trainers next day). Some young Germans did it next day and said it got steeper and more difficult. They had to climb a steep rocky slope with rope, but there was a lovely pool at the base of the waterfall to swim in.
Lake Malawi a delight to swim in, clear and cool. Visited local Lutheran hospital and found it very clean and well organised.
Now returning to Iringa we stayed at Mufindi Highland Lodge. Delightful situation, comfortable bandas looking down the valley, tea brought to banda before breakfast and excellent food sourced from their farm. The communal area is extremely pleasant with views over the valley and log fire inside. We know Geoff and Vicky Fox so declare our ‘interest’. However still very enjoyable.
Mwagusi Tented Camp. Amazing situation with fabulous tents. The design and artistic touches were superb and we relished the luxury. The food was excellent, the best we have had in Tanzania. The main problem was too much food!! Coming independently by car we found it difficult to find as the NP signposts directed us over the Mwagusi River, which happened to be flowing, and we did not know of the bridge further down stream. However eventually found it at 7pm. Guide on our game drive seemed to be the most knowledgeable we had encountered, friendly and courteous.
Returned to Morogoro, 10 hour drive as took 4 hours to get to Iringa.
In the Ruaha Valley the Crocodile camp asked 2500Tsh for a small soda (declined) and the Baobab valley camp is closed and in disrepair.