Neither Sickness Nor Tanzania Can Stop This Alfa’s Journey Across Africa
Photography by Jethro Bronner
Following my respite in Zambia, and after a week away from the road altogether, I was eager to keep moving. I had been dreaming of the beaches of Tanzania: white sand, clear waters, coconut trees, and a blue sky. So I packed up my camp and pointed the little blue car out of the Kapishya Hot Springs’ long and bumpy driveway and headed back towards The Great North Road. It was only a few hours from Kapishya to the Tanzanian border, where I did the by-now standard passport, customs, insurance dance with the officials on both sides once again.
From Tunduma, the border town between Zambia and Tanzania—also serving as the border between Southern and East Africa—the drive to Dar es Salaam is 600 miles of busy, bumpy, single lane roads. I’ve been getting used to this little by little, but it isn’t getting much easier on the car… The traffic police were out in force, stopping anyone breaking the 30 mph limit in built-up areas, which are not always sign-posted. I was caught once between the border and Mbeya, and twice on the way to Kisolansa on the second day of my cross country sprint to the beach.
On the third day’s morning, I packed up my camp at Kisolansa at 3am and went hell-for-leather through the dark while the truckers and traffic police were asleep. The Alfa’s spotlights were blazing: full rally-mode activated. By the time the sun was up, I was just outside Morogoro, and within striking distance of Dar es Salaam.
After fighting the stop-and-go city traffic in 45-degree heat—that’s celsius—down the length of Barrack Obama Drive to the ferry port (where I was stuck for an additional half-hour, and next to the fish market, of course) I caught the old car ferry across the harbor to Mikadi Beach. I parked right on the beach beneath a mangrove tree, and put my tent up on the sand not 30 feet from the Indian Ocean. Sitting in traffic and bouncing along over rough roads had built up the beaches of Dar es Salaam in my mind as some sort of paradise, and I wasn’t disappointed. Mikadi has become a go-to destination for travelers and over-landers for a reason.
I went on to spend a couple of happy and relaxing weeks on the beach meeting people, making new friends, and swapping stories from the road. I even took a short trip to the Island of Zanzibar. It was only a short boat ride away and it was nice to do some traveling while the Alfa rested for once, though it did feel a little strange not to have the trusty car with me.
After this extended rest, I was again continuing north, this time on my way to the historic town of Bagamoyo, an old settlement on the coast 50 miles north of Dar, and the old capital of German East Africa. Between the main street and the beach lies the Firefly Lodge, another veritable paradise by the sea. I spent my time chatting with Jo, the owner, and reading by the pool as the tropical rains fell around me. After the bustle of Dar, Bagamoyo was a nice change of pace: quiet, calm, and secluded. I had been in Tanzania for a few weeks, and there was only one stop between me and and the border with Kenya—I left Bagamoyo hoping to reach Arusha by the end of the day.
The road on this leg of the journey changed from brand-new tarmac to construction to dirt and back to tar more times than countable over the course of the day. I doubt it was the surface inconsistencies, but halfway to Arusha I started to feel ill, and developed a terrible headache that soon got so bad that it prevented me from driving much further that evening. I found a dirt track (noticing a trend yet?) leading away from the main road towards a river and found a spot in the wild to set up my camp; I had only enough energy to set up the tent before collapsing inside it. I figured that the morning would reveal whether I had food poisoning or Malaria, so I spent a rough night in the middle of nowhere just hoping for the best.
The morning did eventually come, and, not surprisingly, I still felt pretty awful. My headache had faded just enough so that I could drive again though, so I got back on the road and finished the trek to Arusha where I thankfully found a pharmacy. After some much-needed anodynes, I met up with a friend who was in the area too and spent a couple more days trying to recover from whatever it was that had made me so sick. “I leave you alone for a week and you almost die” was the only consolation I got.
After a couple days hanging out feeling ill in Arusha—it rained non-stop—I decided to head for the modernity of Nairobi, Kenya. The Kenyan border was only 65 miles away, so I made a run for it, hoping to find somewhere to fully recover on the other side.