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Eighties Overland: Part 6


Words & Images Peter Middleton

We couldn’t wait to explore Tanzania, so left the border before dawn, planning for Dar es Salaam and palm-fringed beaches. First stop was Mbeya, where we managed to find fuel and a black market transaction that was very successful at $1 = 120/-(shillings) – a full six times the bank rate! At that rate we could actually explore.

The landscape here was both densely populated and cultivated, as we drove through mist-shrouded tea plantations. On the climb up the escarpment, the old Landy missed a beat, then another, until we were struggling with fuel starvation. I cleaned the carb yet again but it was no better for 10 kilometres until − ‘whumph’ − it was back to normal, and we took off like a scolded sloth. Watered fuel again?

We passed hundreds of Baobabs while descending a steep pass before Mkumi National Park. The main road to Dar passes right through it, so we decided to stay there, as it was getting late. This
turned out to be impossible – US$ cash payment only, at $55 each plus $75 for the truck, no camping, and (although it was now dark) no driving after dark, either. We got it: we were trapped. Curse ’em. I switched on the four spotlights: “Not dark now, is it?” We drove off and found a little dirt road to hide and sleep.

On Monday 16.6.1986, we excitedly entered Dar es Salaam. The Arab/Muslim influence was obvious – as were the beatup roads, broken traffic lights, peeling walls and mad driving. We potholed out
to the impressively-named but dilapidated Rungwe Oceanic Hotel to park on the flour-white beach.

Cold water, warm fridges − but the ’phone worked! A telephone is a remarkable instrument, which apparently allows you to talk to someone a long way away. I called the Austrian Embassy to leave a message for Klaus, who clattered in with Isobelle two days later, to find the beers waiting − we had recognised his diesel from miles away. We gorged on the world’s cheapest lobster, cooked over driftwood.

The next morning, a plan was hatched to visit the game reserves on BM shillings, and not the prohibitive dollar rate for foreigners. Klaus was nagged into having false TX (Tanzania ex pat) number plates made up in Dar.

Then it was on to the harbour, to compete with the shouting auctioneers for prawns, fish and crabs − which we quietly negotiated directly off the fishermen. I also queued for two hours at a call shop, and (bundled into a little cubicle) managed a reassuring phone call to SA; but not without drama, as it was clear my request had been reported.