The nicest thing about being in southern Africa was the lack of hassle from the traffic police. Since entering Tanzania two days ago, we have been stopped no less than 15 times! We have not been speeding or driving dangerously – these are simply routine stops to check you have driving licence, insurance, fire extinguisher, warning triangles, first aid kit, that your lights all work, etc etc. This morning we got a fine for the light over the number plate not working. Meanwhile real crimes are happening but the police are too busy getting money from us “rich tourists”. Tanzania is pushing their tourism in foreign media currently, but after the way the police have ben speaking to us (the one this morning was shouting at us because we wanted to go to the court to check the fine was genuine) how can we recommend people to come if they will get treated so rudely?
That’s my rant over, now onto the nice aspects of our week travelling. We said farewell to our guests in Livingstone, but before starting the journey home we had to spoil ourselves just once. Francis and I went to the Royal Livingstone Hotel, the most expensive hotel in Livingstone. It sits on the Zambezi River just at the top of Victoria Falls and you can sit on the sundeck sipping a cocktail while the sun sets over the water. One cocktails cost more than our typical dinner for both of us, but that wasn’t important at the time!
The next morning we started the long drive back to Nairobi. We decided to take it a bit easier than we had on the way down, so our first stop was Bridge Camp on the banks of the Luangwa River. The border with Mozambique is on the other side of the river here and reports are that they will be tarring the road between there and Livingstone through Lower Zambezi National Park. When that is complete, it will be a great new route – much more interesting than following the main highway through Lusaka.
We continued into Malawi, the land of missing speed limit signs but plenty of police with speed guns. I was told there by a policeman that I “should not use my thoughts” and to just follow the signs. So because many signs were missing, I thought we were passed the village and we were safe to go at speed again. But the speed sign was still to come, unbeknownst to anyone. I explained that other signs had been missing so I assumed this one also was because there were no houses around to slow down for and I had been stuck doing 50km/h for about half an hour earlier waiting for the signs that never came. That’s when he said I shouldn’t think and just need to follow the signs (that don’t exist??!!). Are there any questions about Malawi’s lack of development if the man in the uniform tells me I should not be thinking??
We stayed at Flame Tree B&B, run by the lovely Maggie. It was a surprise to find such a place in Mzuzu, which had previously struck me as a market hub but not worth spending much time in. The food was excellent and we met an English couple who have spent many years in Malawi and had recently set up a charity working on improving agriculture and supporting education. Normal farming practices mean that during the rains, all the topsoil gets pushed away taking all the nutrients with it. The charity was teaching farmers methods to keep the precious topsoil and thereby improve their harvests. And they are enjoying success.
We were almost glad to be back in Tanzania (or East Africa), although we discovered that on our way down the officials at Namanga had cheated us on some taxes. But we found a great guesthouse, had a reasonable dinner and continued through the dozens of police check points the next day. We got as far as Morogoro before continuing into Dar Es Salaam yesterday. We had two missions in Dar: meet Investours and learn about them, and buy new tyres. New tyres are fitted now and we are really excited to start introducing Investours into our itineraries. They are an NGO that ensures tourism dollars are actually getting to the local population. It started in Mexico, but now has a branch in Tanzania. An excursion with Investours only involves a day and you visit two entrepreneurs who have applied for a micro-loan and by the end of the day you are to decide which of them gets the money that you have paid for the tour as their loan. You are also taken to the Woodcarvers Market to meet some entrepreneurs who have benefited from the program and a traditional lunch with locals is included, providing those women with some income as well. The entrepreneurs who are qualifying for the micro-loan must live under the poverty line which is a measly 950 shillings per day (approximately 65 cents). They receive a $200 interest-free loan to be paid back in three months – this ensures they pump the money into their business and work hard to grow it so they can meet their obligations. Investours is planning to expand to Arusha and Moshi, opening up opportunities for entrepreneurs in those towns and also enabling visitors to Kilimanjaro and Serengeti to participate in this fantastic program. We cannot wait to start supporting this organisation, so we hope some of you will also get excited about it as well!
And now we are on our way to Moshi and Arusha where we will be researching all the good accommodation, updated prices of Kilimanjaro climbs and Serengeti safaris and maybe have a little relaxation with some friends before getting back to Nairobi. We heard it’s raining in Kenya, so I’m not in a super rush to leave the sunshine down here.