Entering Tanzania through the Negomane border was very stunning on its own. The two countries landmarked by the Rovuma river have a big bridge connecting each other. Unlike most other African bridges this one doesn’t get used by endless traffic and overloaded trucks. It actually looked pretty decent, it even had giant elephant tusks as decoration on the entry and exit of the bridge.
The border crossing itself was very slow. Instead of waiting in waiting lines and queues, this time we had to wait for the border officials to actually show op. After several phone calls, the right people showed up in state like you just woke them up. We probably did. Unlike most sources describe on the internet, it actually is possible to get your visa for Tanzania on the border. Seemed straight forward and it was the normal price. We already picked ours up in Harare.
Driving into Tanzania country through the back door made a few standard things of life pretty hard. Like we couldn’t change any money on the border and it seemed that every decent town on the way north had no working ATM or there was a giant queue of people. I don’t know what these people do at the ATM but it takes ages. Do they have Facebook on these machines? After waiting one hour in the sun beating down on me, moving up only two spots in the queue and not being sure the VISA card will working here, I gave up and decided to go to the next town. We had to drive 500 kms and wait one day in Songea to be able to take some money out.
Tanzania being used to fly in fly out tourism, this has had a big effect on the prices of the National Parks. Even the smaller parks would set us back at least 150 dollars. Our budget was really set for these amounts, so we ended up driving through Tanzania without seeing much. Driving northwards we stopped at several markets. One market I will never forget. It was near Mdori village getting closer to the massai area. Most of the locals were dressed in the traditional way as how you would expect it. It was strange to be amongst these people as they were as normal as you and me. Except they chose to wear their traditional clothing to show their pride of their culture. It was beautiful to see and I can see why they would choose to wear this instead a t-shirt and some pants. Most of the pictures you see in the magazines and on TV are made in villages where they would dress to earn some money from the tourists, but here it was different. Making pictures of these people didn’t seem very suitable at that time, do you make pictures of people at your market? We left it as an unforgettable experience.
The one thing we had to see was Mount Kilimanjaro. After doing some minor repairs to a bush on the front axle in Arusha, we set off to the biggest mountain of Africa. We decided to take a small route on the eastern side of the mountain allowing us to cross into Kenya. Driving along the route there were plenty of markets selling fruits and vegetables, but nowhere could we spot the top of the mountain. It was too cloudy and there were too many trees to be able to look up and see the mountain, it was time to leave Tanzania.
We crossed into Kenya and it was pretty much straight forward. On the Kenyan side they wanted to take our fingerprints in a machine just like we know it in Europe. Unlike in Europe we white people look all alike. So they used Jasmins passport to scan my prints, and the next time vice versa. Lucky for us, we noticed this on the last minute. The man behind the machine had no idea how to use it, so another person had to be called in to reverse the whole process. 1 hour later it was done and we could move on to the next office. We had never heard about some road tax in Kenya, so when they were going to charge us 40 dollars for a month we just thought they wanted some pocket money as we are used to. After some words here and there, they managed to produce some old handbook where it actually said that foreign registered vehicles had to pay road tax. Luckily for us it also said that up to a week it would be for free. So we said that were only going to stay for a week. (Later we found out that this might give you problems at other major border crossings, but us taking a small one to Ethiopia, it was no problem)
After all the bureaucratic nonsense at the border we wildcamped about 50 kms further down the road. The next morning this delivered us a very nice view of Mount Kilimanjaro waking up in our beds. Jasmin made me pancakes too. Perfect morning in Africa. The same day we even saw a wild giraffe and a group of zebra’s. Our first wildlife since Zimbabwe!
When we got to the highway towards Nairobi we also joined the traffic. A two lane highway full of trucks climbing up hills or racing down from it. Accidents are very common here, as there were wrecks everywhere next to the road. Arriving in Nairobi we were looking for the famous Jungle Junction (JJ’s) for a while as we had the outdated coordinates of the place. It appeared the campground had changed 3 years ago to a different side of the city. Luckily the traffic wasn’t too bad when we arrived as it only took us 2,5 hours to find it. But once we found it, we also found our spot to stay for the coming weeks to apply for our Ethiopian and Sudanese visas. This would prove to be a challenge as for the Ethiopian visas we had to send our passports to Brussels and Stockholm from Nairobi.
When we arrived at JJ’s we had the fortune of meeting Connie and Alex, whom were going through the same process. Except they were a week ahead of us. We were able to receive all the details from them. It was also a little rest in mind to see the DHL actually worked as they had received their passports. Unfortunately for us they proved to be a bit more of a pain in the ass, as they lost my visa fee and kept forgetting to pick up Jasmins passport. That the money would get lost was expectable. Never send money in an envelope in Africa! In this case it was impossible to do otherwise as the Ethiopian embassy in Brussels (nearest to the Netherlands) only allows cash payments. The many phone conversations I had with the Embassy in Brussels were not friendly I can tell you. Eventually they allowed a bank transfer, after speaking to the financial manager of the Embassy. To receive the details for the bank transfer alone, was a big process. This manager kept sending his replies to the receptionist which had forwarded my emails. Therefore I would never receive them. Very professional.
Two weeks after sending our passports away, we received them again with an Ethiopian visa in them. An expensive package, in total 330 euros(not including our stay in Nairobi) for a little sticker in your passport. What has this world come to?
The Sudanese visa application was very easy in Nairobi. 3 working days and 50 USD each.
Three weeks of Nairobi was much more pleasant than we expected. We actually enjoyed the rainy days at Jungle Junction and very much liked meeting all the other travellers coming through this overlanders hub. The biggest bonus was the fastest internet in Africa! Nairobi itself had a bit of a traffic problem, but the traffic was very predictable. Always at the same time and place. Once we got to know the traffic, it was very easy to get around and we started to really enjoy this city. Nevertheless it was time to go.