Off the beaten track trip report – June/July 2013

Lindsey and John write:
We live in Kampala, Uganda. Over June/July 2013 we drove to our previous home in Malawi via Tanzania, and thought the notes below may be of interest to your readers.

OUTWARD JOURNEY – June 21.

 

Kibondo – Sanjere Guest House.  OK rooms, nets and hot showers.   There are two buildings, the Sanjere and the New Sanjere Guest House.  We stayed in the New – TS20,000.

Kigoma – Jacobsen’s Beach, camping.  Lovely camp site.

Note – new TANAPA rates came in force from July 1, offering East African residents/ex-pats reduced rates.

We visited Ujiji and enjoyed the lecture by the caretaker, exactly as you described, except his opening gambit was: “which country are you from?  UK?  Do you know Michael Palin?  I know Michael Palin.  He sent me a copy of his book.”  We found the museum and the caretaker both charming and informative, though the mango trees seem to be three generations descendants of the original.

Driving from Kigoma via Uvinza to Sitalike, the road is now undergoing a major Chinese improvement.  Some parts were still 4 x 4 only but soon it will be easily navigable.  We understood this was to help open up the agricultural produce of this western part of Tanzania to markets across the country.

Katavi National Park.  The TANAPA staff only offered camping next to the staff houses – no remote campsites at all.  And they were not at all interested in being helpful.  In fact, we found them unwelcoming, in contrast to the staff at Riverside Camp, right beside the entrance just after Sitalike town.  The camp is on a lovely setting, with hippo and a vast range of birds watching the campers.  The staff provided buckets of hot water, as the showers could only run cold.  TS15,000 per person per night.

You comment on the tsetse flies was an understatement. Our daily drives into the park became almost unbearable so we cut out stay short.

We saw no big cat but did see the many pods of hippo and a huge herd of buffalo way in the distance.  More disturbingly, we also saw a local woman not in TANAPA uniform and way from any posts/housing wandering on the riverside, obviously out looking/inspecting something.  She was not disturbed by being watched.

Lakeshore Lodge and Campsite, Kipili.

If there is anywhere close to paradise, this must be it.  On the entrance wall, the South African hosts Chris and Louise Horsfall have painted ‘come as guests leave as friends’.  That is exactly their philosophy.   We camped and were delighted that the campsite was finished to the same high quality as all the other accommodation.  The sinks were under a huge, shading mango tree.   The 100% home cooked food was excellent and good value.  Louise has taught the locally employed chefs, bringing employment and income to the local village.

We dived in Lake Tanganyika and just enjoyed the atmosphere.  People were also using here as a base to travel to Gombe (on the Liemba). HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

From here we planned to visit Kalambo Falls from the Tanzanian side but our gps and our map belied the reality.  We followed some roads which ended in the middle of villages, not at Kasanga, and we hit the border post at 5.55pm on a Sunday evening completely by mistake.   It seemed completely deserted as the sky darkened.  Then three men emerged.  They were the immigration and customs officials of Tanzania and immigration for Zambia.  So, with a few friendly admonishments, they completed our paperwork and we were on our way, in fact with huge cheers from a large group of children who had just emerged from a community church (we think).   We were the first car for three days.

However, here, yet again the Chinese funded roadworks were very apparent and the border road was undergoing major improvements… not so on the Zambian side, which was one of the worst on our trip!

 

RETURN – MALAWI to UGANDA July 25/29

We’ve stayed a few times in the Lake Hill Lodge in Singida (approaching from the south turn right at the roundabout crossroads, then first? left) and find it excellent value for the rooms and the food.

This time we wanted to see if the ferry to Port Bell, Kampala, had restarted so we drove to Mwanza.  Here we made a big mistake.  We found there were no boats direct to Kampala so we eschewed the option of Bukoba and decided to drive.  We caught the ferry to Kamanga.  Oh boy, the roads on the other side were HORRENDOUS in their hard ruts.  In fact the most direct route from Kamanga to Sengerema was blocked with a drift bridge down about two-thirds of the way down!

We should have retraced our route to catch the ferry to Busisi, as those roads are tarred.

Anyway, we made it to Geita very late at night, found some very expensive but only moderately equipped guest houses but got lucky with Kilimanjaro Motel and annex apartment , Plot 25, General Tyre Street, GGM Road (0282 520463/0784 364876).

Just north of Muleba we’ve also stayed at Paradise Lodge, on the main road, (0282 224077) which again offered good quality basic accommodation (nets and hot showers and a good breakfast).

 

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Morogoro to Mwanza by road

Morogoro to Singida. Road in good to excellent condition except for 2 stretches of bypass tracks just north of Manyoni. One of about 30 km is only in preparatory stage for building so will probably not be ready till next year. The other a little further north is about 7km long and in appalling condition, not passable by non-4×4. The road next to it should open by end of April 2010. Later there are patches with potholes but generally of limited extent. Note: we found the Traffic Police particularly diligent on this stretch and were stopped several times.

Paladins cave in Dodoma is in a bit of a time warp. Lots of sweets in jars and huge selection of ice cream and toppings at escalating prices. Coffee was black only so had vanilla ice cream to add flavour. The owner could make so much more of the place but I do not think he has the desire.

Stayed at Stanley Motel (18,000Tsh double), rather small rooms but lovely cotton sheets, comfortable beds with nets. Dark restaurant but reasonable food. The bar next door had the loudest bass amplifier in Africa, which could be useful for military ultrasonic warfare: it was Friday Night!

The J 4 Singida Motel is closed for renovation .

They are building a hotel on the western shores of the Lake and another on the road out to Nzega that looks over the Lake.

Road to Mwanza in good / reasonable condition with more potholes and repairs the closer you get to Mwanza.

Stopped at Nzega Hotel for a coffee at about 11 am. Place full of people drinking beer but the staff did oblige us, having sent a runner to the ‘duka’ to get a tin of coffee.

Mwanza. Stayed at Tilapia Hotel. Very well appointed rooms, banda for $90 double, everything worked! Nice to go for a swim and good restaurant. Plenty of customers (Saturday night)

Rupert Gude

Musoma, Mwanza & Butiama

Tembo Beach Hotel was full of overlanders (3 large trucks) camping, as was Afrilux so stayed further up road from Afrilux at quite reasonable, cheap B and B called G and G (?), 22,000 for double.

Back to Tembo Beach Hotel, a firm favourite. The situation is unbeatable, sitting on the lakeside watching the sun set on Lake Victoria. Had lovely room with window looking over Lake with waves lapping shore just 10 metres away. They have smartened up the shoreline, planted more palms and extended the beach east with sunloungers under the trees and are constructing 8 bandas right on the shoreline. Being a Sunday the place was full of Musoma people having a great time and there was a buffet. At 16,000Tsh double it is extraordinary good value.

Went to Mwanza for the day. Good road all the way with occasional pothole, but still took us three and half hours each way.

To Butiama to visit Nyerere Museum. Turn left 35 Km south of Musoma and the road is sealed all the way. The museum is on the left just after a road sign ‘Butiama’ as the road rises up a hill. $5 admission/6500Tsh. Very attractive building with some good content, worth the detour.

Serengeti Stop Over. Pleasant adequate bandas. Restaurant a bit basic and staff relaxed (?boss away) . 100,000Tsh double seemed a bit expensive.

Serengeti. We hired a Toyota Landcruiser and tents to spend 2 night in Seronera and one in Ngorongoro Crater from Serengeti Expedition of Mwanza +255 282542222, +255 28 254000, +255 787319801, info@serengetiexpedition.com website:       http://www.serengetiexpedition.com They were the cheapest of 3 Mwanza quotes (Fortessafaris.com and Dolphintours –mainly self drive) and they were very good, experienced and professional. The cost of 3 people for 3 night camping was $1600 plus park entrance fees. Kiroyera tours of Bukoba were about $1000 more.

Rupert Gude

Mwanza to Bukoba by road in early 2010

Very useful trip report here from Rupert Gude:

I have just done the Mwanza-Bukoba drive in an aged Rav4 going about 80-90kph when possible and it took 8 hours driving. Below are times (not including stops)and journey distance in (km).
0.00 Take Shinyanga road south, reasonable road,turn right at Usagara (26)on relief road, reasonably graded, besides new road that should open in next few months
0.45 Arrive Ferry to Busisi(36) Tsh 5,000 for car, 300 per person and 500 council tax
1.00 – 1.25 ferry takes 25 mins , left at half past the hour.
2.30 to Geita,(120)via Sengerema, excellent new road , still working on sides.
On right at beginning of Geita 2 new hotels
Goldbelt Hotel with large ‘beer garden’, fenced reasonable,clean doubles for 20,000. +255737804811,+255759904400
Also AGIF Hotel
3.10 Bwanga, (183) still excellent new road,turn right. unpaved road to Biraamulo is straight on
3.55 Chatto (237)a few pot holes but still generally excellent condition.
On the right(after NMB bank)is a new pub with thatched roof, did not stop but seemed good place
4.05 Nyamirembe (259)
4.25 Muganza (278) This is the new landing and setting off place for Rubondo. There is no where secure at the port to leave a car so our tour operator last year left his at a church about 2 km before the port.
5.05 (315) the road goes to to top of the escarpment and immediately after 7 concrete upended culvert section is a flat area to turn right and there ia a fabulous view point over the Lake and islands ( vies with irente view point!). It is on the left just after the 2 chevron signs coming the other way.
At the bottom of the hill over the first bridge over the side ditch and down a lane (unmarked)towards the lake is a small RC mission which has sodas, beers sometimes and patch of grass besides the lake to sit under an umbrella. It may develop into proper place as road improves.
The road skirts around the east and north edges of the National park going through the park for a few kms.
5.15 Join Biharamulo to Bukoba road (330). This road is unpaved and in poor condition to Muleba
However can be negotiated by ordinary car.
6.45 Muleba (362) new road opened in last month in middle of town, stretch north due to be opened in next few weeks.
8.00 Bukoba (435) excellent road with only one pot hole.
The road from Chatto to the top of escapment and from Muleba to kemondo Bay is stunning. It has virtually no traffic and looks down on the blue blue water of Lake Victoria. It reminded me a bit of the road down the Adriatic coast in Croatia or by an Italian Lake except no traffic.
North of Katoke on has on the left the Rubya/Ndolage escarpment on the left with the Ngoni valley at the base and on the right Lake Victoria with the islands scattered all over. One of my favourite roads in all TZ.
By the way Muleba ia the administrative HQ of the distict,has NMB bank but no port. The port is at Kemondo Bay about 25 km south of Bukoba and the ferry calls there about an hour before or after Bukoba. On the trip bukoba mwanza it is well worth while staying up to watch the loading of the bananas (matoke). The MV Victoria is covered from bow to stern with bananas.
The coffee trade has petered out due to low price.