Longest Lake in the World Complete

Tanganyika Paddle Expedition Dispatch

Some of you may be aware that I set out a five weeks ago to try and kayak the length of the longest freshwater lake in the world, Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania.

What started out as a desire to explore this fairly remote eastern shoreline of Lake Tanganyika, has turned into more than I could ever have imagined. I am pleased and relieved to let you know that after 25 paddling days, and a distance of approximately 750km, I have completed the lake from south to north.


As far as I’m aware, the full length has been completed by four men, so it is very possible that I am the fifth person and first woman to do so by non-motorised water transportation.

2016-08-20burundi-61I started the journey with a fellow South African, Simon Dunshea, who paddled with me from the most southern most town, Mpulungu in Zambia, up to Kigoma in Tanzania. From Kigoma onward, I had the pleasure of paddling with Tanzanian guide, Gaspar Kazumbe, to the most northern point, Bujumbura in Burundi.

I am fairly used to planning expeditions, but anyone who has joined me in this undertaking will attest to the fact that best laid plans almost always go awry and the true measure of a successful expedition is how one deals with shortcomings and finding alternate plans when all seems lost.

2016-07-18tanganyika-127This couldn’t have been more true on this journey, and just a week ago I was still being denied access into Burundi. Sometimes taking a small risk and seizing an unlikely opportunity makes all the difference and I honestly feel that the drawbacks and delays that I experienced over the course of the expedition triggered alternate plans which worked far better than initial arrangements.

I have so many people to thank – people who have gone out of their way to ensure that I have the best possible chance of success, friends who have assisted with contacts, opened up their homes, encouraged me from near and far.

2016-07arusha-7Thanks so much to Niall McCann and Jason Lewis for your guidance on long distance paddling expeditions, Lev Wood and Leon McCarron for essential satellite navigation and tracking equipment, Kingsley Holgate and Bruce Leslie for much needed encouragement and for crucial insight into Burundi in particular, and to Roy Watt and Brad Hansen for opening up their homes to me.

But the biggest thanks need to go to my parents, Margi & Barney Dillon (UK), Luke & Chloe Davey (Nairobi, Kenya), Louise & Chris Horsfall (Lake Shore Lodge, Tanzania) and Ingrid and Oddvar Jakobsen (Kigoma, Tanzania) who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to assist with logistics, contacts and so much more. They have invested their time and energy into making, what is largely a very selfish venture, possible and I can’t thank them enough.

For anyone who wishes to read more about the journey, I have a blog which I will update over the next few weeks. I will also be submitting a report to the Royal Geographical Society for their archives. Please let me know if you would like a copy of this report and I will be happy to forward it on to you.

I trust you all are well and hope to see some of you very soon back in London.

Onward in the quest for an adventurous life,




Lake Shore Lodge – Kipili, Tanzania

Nomads Greystoke – Mahale, Tanzania

Lupita Island – Kipili, Tanzania

Isanga Bay – Mpulungu, Zambia

Jakobsens Beach – Kigoma, Tanzania



Palm Equipment Paddling Gear

Overboard Dry Bags 

Rail Riders Clothing

Osprey Backpacks

Tracks4Africa Navigation

Nothing Ever Goes to Plan

13th July 2016 – Lake Shore Lodge, Tanganyika

We’re at the tranquil little piece of paradise that is Lake Shore Lodge, near Kipili on Lake Tanganyika. Three years ago, I had driven through Tanzania on my way down to Cape Town and had stopped by to see South African owners Chris and Louise Horsfall. I had the most wonderful few days there, and knew I’d be back.

Lake Shore Lodge just happens to be a place where I feel completely and utterly relaxed. Chris and Lou are the most incredible hosts and can’t do enough to make my stay a pleasure every time. What’s not to love about this…

Chris is also my main source of information for the expedition as he has lived on the lake for seven years and has paddled from the south up to Kigoma himself. He is also my emergency contact if anything goes wrong…

After transporting the blue and green kayaks down from Nairobi atop my trusted Land Cruiser, I had planned to leave the vehicle at Lake Shore but we still needed to get the kayaks to the very bottom of the lake, 200km south. I had timed this to coincide with the schedule of the MV Liemba ferry; an old WWI gunship that is still in service and runs up and down the lake between Kigoma in the north of Tanzania, and Mpulungu in Zambia at the southern most point. The ferry only goes every two weeks and timing was essential.

“You guys are going to have to paddle out at about midnight and wait. She could be early, she could be late. I’m guessing you might be on your way at about 3am,” Chris informs us. I’m not looking forward to the mozzies…

As we’d received the kayaks a day before leaving Nairobi, Lake Shore was the first opportunity we would have to experience a little paddle before departure. We had one day to get everything together and haul ourselves onto the MV Liemba.

I’m not a paddler. Sitting in London in the months leading up to the expedition, I had no idea what kind of boat I should be looking for, and had no idea how far I would be able to paddle daily. It was all guess work really. But here is my rationale for my boat of choice.

I used a company called Fluid Kayaks – they were the only outfit I could find with a dealer in East Africa (Kris Collyer) who could arrange to get them to Kenya from South Africa for us. My choice… a flat bottom, plastic, sit-on-top kayak.

Most paddlers recoil in horror when I mention these three keywords in succession. In their minds, for long distance paddling, it just doesn’t make sense. But this was no ordinary paddling expedition.

  1. Flat bottom vs sleek hull – Lake Tanganyika is notorious for it’s fierce storms and waves which measure up to 20ft or 6m in height. I had chosen my season carefully and we weren’t due to meet any storms in the months of July and August. But one can never be too careful. I was also slightly concerned about hippo coming up from under the boat. Stability won over speed…
  2. Plastic vs fiberglass – you can just imagine the state of the kayaks after four days of corrugations on back country Tanzanian roads, and pulling them up onto rocky bays and beaches daily. Durability won over weight…
  3. Sit-on-top vs sit-in – if one capsizes in a sit-in kayak, you kick free and the kayak fills with water. I’d assumed we would be crossing bays that may be kilometres from shore at times, which would mean a rather long swim to shore, towing the boat. With a sit-on-top, you fall over the side, right the boat and climb back on top. Dorky won over cool…

Simon and I set about getting supplies packed into the boats, ready for our paddle out that same evening when Chris comes around the corner, looking slightly distressed.

“I have some bad news for you.” he says, hand on hip, “The Liemba is undergoing repairs in Kigoma and hasn’t left yet. They’re skipping this cycle and will resume in 2 weeks time.”

If you’ve ever met Chris Horsfall, you will undoubtably know that he is the biggest joker south of the equator and so my natural reaction was to tell him to bugger off.

Sadly, it was the truth and our transport to the bottom of the lake was no longer.

After much debating about what to do, we put aside the idea of Chris taking us down in his boat (fuel costs would have been horrendous) or driving us down (long round trip for him), we settled on finding a local fishing boat that could carry us and the kayaks down to the starting point, almost 200kms south.

It’s a squash, there’s barely enough space for the kayaks. Simon and I are perched on top of our kayak seats, and three local guys hop on – the driver, the bailer and one more for the ride…

What should have taken the better part of a day turns into a two day ordeal. We’re going at 10km/h. Saving fuel I’m guessing. We’re fortunate the waves aren’t too bad. Psychologically though, we’re undoing the entire first quarter of our trip. Watching the shore pass by without having to lift a finger, time seems to drag on forever and I a feeling of dread sweeps over me. Have I bitten off more than I can chew here.

This is a VERY long way, and it’s only a quarter of the lake…

After two cramped and lethargic days aboard, we reach Mpulungu in Zambia and pull into the port market get some last minute supplies before setting off for a further hour to the very southern most tip of the lake.

We’re finally here. The GPS confirms it. We’re greeted by the few villagers who live here. As we’ll come to discover, very few local Africans have seen a coloured plastic boat and so we’re swamped from the word go which makes the final pack fairly difficult.

It’s with an equal mix of wild anticipation, nerves and dread that I get into my kayak for the first leg. Simon isn’t far behind. “Asante sana,” I call back to our crew of three.

Let the expedition commence!



Across East Africa with Two Kayaks

9th July 2016 – Kenya and Tanzania

I touch down in Nairobi and step off the plane. I have the unmistakable smell of dust filling my senses and the warm wind on my face. Embarrassingly, my rusty Swahili causes me to mumble through my greeting with the customs official and I make a mental note to brush up before I head off into one of the remotest parts of East Africa. Steven is waiting for me outside the terminal. He’s never late. I catch his eye with a wave, heave my luggage onto my shoulder and move through the throng of taxi drivers with their handwritten signboards.

“Twende Steven”, I say. Let’s go.


Luke & Chloe – my Nairobi support crew.

I am in Nairobi for a couple of days while I wait for my paddling partner, Simon Dunshea, to arrive from South Africa and am staying in Karen with my good friends Luke and Chloe Davey.

Simon is a friend of my cousins’ in South Africa, and has decided to join the expedition very recently. Initially I had hoped to do the expedition on my own, but the sound of a practically minded farmer on board, didn’t sound like such a bad idea…

With me based in London and Simon in South Africa, everything had been arranged over the phone and we’d only just managed to squeeze in transporting his kayak up from South Africa with mine in time for our departure.

Our journey out of Nairobi and down to Tanzania should have been completed in no time at all. However, on rounding a bend only a stone’s throw from the border of Namanga, I see a large official-looking figure step into the road. Hand raised.

It’s a sight you grow to despise seeing in Africa because more often than not, you know you’re in for a tedious battle between standing your ground and paying a bribe to get on with your journey.


View of Kilimanjaro from Arusha

“These things,” he starts, tapping the blue kayak with his baton. “these things are too big. As you can see, they extend over the windscreen. You may not transport them in this manner”.

I’ve lived in Africa most of my life and know very well that carrying two kayaks on the roof doesn’t even begin to compare with the precarious loads we see on some vehicles.

“You can pay me now, or you must return to Nairobi to buy a trailer”. His oversized fingers beckon me out of the vehicle. I can’t help but notice his rotund frame. Too many years of sitting lethargically under an acacia tree with nothing to do except stop passing cars.

Knowing that the kayaks on the roof are well within acceptable limits and weight, I spend half an hour smiling and nodding at the insistent traffic officer who, without actually asking me for the bribe outright, is talking in roundabouts about my ‘overloading’.

“Sure I’ll pay you now, but I need a receipt.”

“No, you will have to appear in court if you do not pay me now.”

“If this law exists, I have already told you I will pay the fine Mr Traffic Officer, but I would merely like a receipt.”

“You will have trouble in Tanzania if you don’t pay me now.”

“Well, why don’t I take my chances and see what they say.”

And so it goes… for 45 minutes. He gets bored with my simple remarks and smiling face. This is one battle I will not lose. We set off again. Onward to Arusha.

I am due  to spend the evening at Brad Hansen’s place. He’s an old friend who runs his Safari company from Arusha. I generally stay here on my way through Tanzania and more often than not, I spend the evening looking after his forlorn dogs on my own as Brad is always on safari or expedition, and is seldom home.

As it happens, it’s not Brad’s dogs we spend the night with, but adventurer Kingsley Holgate and expedition team member Bruce Leslie.


Holgate Expedition on their way up to Ethiopia


What a night. Kingsley Holgate is an absolute delight to be around. He is large in presence and even larger in personality. Copious measures of Captain Morgan loosens the tongue and we discuss parts of Africa we love most, talking deep into the night about adventures, past and present. Bruce has us all in hysterics, recounting stories about expedition members and their antics, and then in horror when he opens up about his stabbing out at sea on the horn of Africa by Somalie pirates. All these experiences blow me away – the lengths the team will go to to really explore Africa is incredible.

“Isn’t life a great adventure” Kingsley writes in my book as we get ready to leave Arusha.

It certainly is.

Two more days of dusty driving though the back roads of Tanzania and we pass through Tabora, and onto Katavi National Park.

Katavi is one of Tanzania’s least visited national parks but is probably one of the most wonderful. It doesn’t exude grandeur on the same scale as the Serengeti but when you’re there, you feel like you’re the only person in the park. Sadly, we had to push on and only had time to drive straight through, passing by the notorious hippo pool next to the road. There was more water here than on my previous visit where the hippos were so tightly packed, one couldn’t see the water at all…


Onward to Lake Shore Lodge, my Tanzanian home away from home.

My route was largely the same as my trip in 2013. For a map of this section click here.

Expedition 2016: Tanganyika Paddle

PLEASE NOTE – I have just returned from this expedition. Blog posts will be out from Monday 27th September. Please do subscribe to the blog if you wish to receive information or check back in a couple of days. You’ll not want to miss it!  Shara

Yes folks, it’s expedition time again. For years I have dreamed about getting a water expedition under my belt and have settlied on paddling the length of the largest freshwater lake in the world – Lake Tanganyika.


I fell in love with this lake after spending a very brief couple of days on it’s shores at Lake Shore Lodge near Kipili during my London2Cape expedition in 2013. The owners, Chris and Louise Horsfall, were the most incredible hosts and moments spent with them, and the crew that were there at the time, ranks highly in my list of epic memories from the journey.

It’s going to be far tougher than anything I have done before. I have done a few multi day expeditions on water, but they have been guided and pretty tame, never paddling for more than 10-20 kilometers per day. This is a little more challenging as I’ll be paddling 30-40kms per day in a single kayak which also limits what I can take on board. Unlike a river journey, there is no flow and so most of the 673km of water will be physically pulled past me with each stroke. Because of the remote nature of the region, I have to be completely self sufficient and will rely on trading with people in the fishing villages for food and supplies.

With no power supply, I will be relying solely on solar panels and will attempt to update my Facebook page Under African Skies, with with short messages where I can using the sat phone.

I’ve been waiting for this for so long and can’t wait to get onto the water.

Onwards to Africa!

Island Kids

Photo Credit: Mat Ward



Chasing the King to Tanganyika – Tanzania

Facebook has all the photos for this stretch of the journey – click here to check them out.

Nairobi & Naivasha, Kenya

15th – 18th November 2013

What Accident?

Complete overhaul… what accident?!

After flying from Diani to Nairobi, I collected the Beast from the garage in Karen. Luke Davey had been dropping in every now and again to keep an eye on progress and update me with photos, but seeing it again after three months, I couldn’t believe how good the Beast looked. Not a scratch, not a dent, it had simply been restored to it’s former handsome self.

After the crash and whilst waiting at Mikey Diesbecq’s place in Naivasha, I had stripped the Beast down entirely before sending it off for repairs in Nairobi.  You know things grow legs here in Africa – so best not take that chance. (I later caught the security guys at Toyota Kenya draining my 80l of diesel…)  The roof top tent, side awning, every box, every tool, books, cooker, gas stove, spares, recovery gear, clothing, shoes, batteries – every removable item had to come out.  We stored everything under a massive plastic sheet in Mikey’s workshop along with his assorted collection of various vehicle and motorbike parts.

I was back to reload, restock and say farewell for the final time, to my Naivasha crew.

Getting expedition ready with Mikey in Naivasha

Mikey, being a mechanically minded young man, cast a quick eye over the Beast. We found a couple of things hadn’t been screwed in properly or bolted down and so cracked on with tightening up all the loose ends. With much heaving and sweating under the harsh Kenyan sun, the farm workers Nino and Albert helped us get the roof top tent back up, load the recovery gear onto the roof rack under canvas, tightened nuts and bolts and fill the jerry cans with water. Boxes went back into their respective drawers, leisure battery connected, camping gear arranged on the side and the fridge was re-stocked with what drinks and food remained after a three month stint in Mike’s fridge – there wasn’t much…

As always, I had a great evening catching up with the Carnelleys at their camp next door. Sadly the visit was short lived and I was chasing a visa deadline. I put my foot to the floor, and after a short stop in Nairobi (thanks Luke and Chloe for the use of your home… again!) turned south for the Tanzanian border of Namanga.

Saying goodbye to the fabulous Lovat, Chrissie and Mikey

Arusha, Tanzania

18th – 19th November 2013

Whilst living in Diani, I had met a young Zimbawean in the waves off Tiwi.  Lesanne Dunlop, had been photographing lodges around East and Southern Africa and was staying at Kenyaways in Diani at the time. The lovely Monique had befriended her and brought her down to surf with us one afternoon. Lesanne was on her way to Tanzania, and I had kept in contact with her on the off chance our plans would coincide at a later date.  We were both going to be in Arusha at the same time and so I offered to come and pick her up, and we’d go through Tanzania together.

Spiral Cable Repairs, Arusha Tanzania

Before I could put pedal to metal and get out of the streets of Arusha, I had a couple of things that needed to be done on the Beast. I had started to notice a tractor-like noise when overtaking or exerting the Beast. I had also lost the use of my hooter on the way down from Nairobi, and I found myself in heightened state of alert at the prospect of dopey beasts of burden or inadvertent humans wandering into the road at any given time.

Arusha is a hot and heaving mass of traffic and people.  There is very little space for all the modes of transport and hawkers and people and animals that wish to use the same space.  Pedestrians, donkeys, cars and boda bodas ebbing and flowing, jostling for an inch more pavement or road. Women with babies slung to their backs selling fruit, men pushing carts, kids and dogs running all over the place. Driving with no hooter is an experience I choose not to repeat.  I got the Beast to Toyota in Arusha (and as usual, Toyota were useless and told me the noise was fine). I organised a fixer to ride with me for the day and help me sort out the rest of my affairs. I needed a new hooter, tinting on my drivers window and possibly a new tyre (my front drivers side had a bulge – patched up from the accident no doubt).  No one could help me with the tractor noise coming from the engine…  Driving back and forth fixing this and that took almost the entire day – thank goodness for fixers!

With buddy Justin in Arusha

Whilst waiting in Diani, I had been in touch with my good friend Brad Hansen.  A Natal boy now living in Arusha, Brad has his own exclusive company – Hansen Safaris – and I had been trying to get some bush time out with him. I missed a few fantastic expedition opportunities the month before as the Beast wasn’t quite ready, and when I did manage to roll into Arusha, Brad was out on a safari of his own. Despite not being there, and typical of what you’d expect from a nice Natal boy, Brad had offered to have me stay at his place whilst I was in Arusha. His flatmate Justin would be at home and here was his number.

After days of failed attempts get hold of Justin, I picked Lesanne up from Arusha Backpackers and just turned up at Brad’s house, climbed over the gate and walked into the living room.  “Hey Justin! Been trying to get hold of you and did you know we were coming to stay?”.  Turns out Brad had given me Justin’s old number and the dear boy had no idea.

Lucky for us, JT is a welcoming and awesome host. “Karibu” he said, and opened up his home to his new and unexpected guests. Over the next few days, Lesanne and I set about planning the trip through Tanzania.

Through previous discussions with Brad I had learned that Kingsley Holgate was making his way up on the Mozambique coastline, through Tanzania and up to Thompson Falls near the Abadares in Kenya, following in the footsteps of the Scottish explorer Joseph Thomson.

This trip was also a personal journey for Kingsley and his son Ross, as they were carrying the ashes of their late wife and mother Gill “Mashozi” Holgate. The journey took Kingsley up to Thomson Falls and down to the Ololoolo Escarpment on the Maasai Mara where they scattered Mashozi’s ashes from the escaprment under the spiritual blessing of the Maasai warriors around them. You can follow Kingsley’s expeditions and see the work his foundation is doing here – Kingsley Holgate Foundation.

Brad & Kingsley – Thomson Expedition [Photo Credit: http://www.facebook.com/kingsleyholgatefoundation%5D

By the time I had rolled into Arusha, Brad had joined Kingsley on his journey back down towards South Africa and was near Rungwa Game Reserve on the south western side of the country.  I was hoping to catch up with them to join the travelling party as they made their way down towards Zambia.

Planning Sesh

Route Planning – bring on the maps, books, compass, GPS – we need them all…

Lesanne needed to get to Lakeshore Lodge on Tanganyika to do a photo shoot and we had about four days to get across Tanzania. We both needed to get to just about the same place, but choosing how we were going to get there was the next problem… The safest option was to double back east and drive in completely the wrong direction, past the roads to Tanga and Dar es Salaam, to Morongoro, Iringa, Mbeya and up to Kipili on Lake Tanganyika – this route would see us do a clockwise route of the country from – safer roads, smooth tarmac but it would take the longest time and over 1800km.

Another option would be the 1500km drive via Dodoma road towards Malawi and then hang right to Lake Tanganyika – but on closer inspection this was completely out of the question as we’d heard that the roadworks along this section caused the flow of busses, trucks, cars and everything else, to crawl at a tediously sluggish pace over corrugations and through air thick with dust next to the actual road, taking days to complete even short stretches. Errrrr… next?

The only option left was to cut south west through the country directly towards Lake Tanganyika on roads less travelled.  We tried researching this route but found no information on any overlanders’ blogs or any mention of this trail in any guide books. We had no idea whether the roads were safe, tarred or were even passable in this, the start of the rainy season.  A couple of local people in Arusha had told us that they knew the stretch to Singida had been recently tarred but after that, not even the Tanzanians seemed to know what lay beyond.

Time to find out, and do a bit of trailblazing for anyone else wishing to venture off the beaten track…

Word from Brad, he Holgate party is in the Rungwa area… WAIT BRAD AND KINGSLEY – I’m on my way!

Early morning drive out of Arusha

Road Arusha to Tabora, Tanzania

20th – 21st November 2014

Lesanne had a contact in a small town in the middle of nowhere.  Tabora was en route and so we had decided to push on through to stay with Roy, a Zimbabwean tobacco farmer.  Tabora was almost 400 miles from Arusha… and 400 miles on small Africa roads is not like 400 miles anywhere else on the planet.  We set off nice and early with high spirits, and after an initial 50kms of roadworks outside Arusha, we were on good tar all the way to Singida.  Now when I mention “roadworks”, I refer to this in the loosest term possible. There could be a perfectly good tar road ready to be driven on but the workers have left rows of rocks across the width every 10m to deprive you of this convenience, forcing you to churn dirt on some made up gravel track along the side of the perfectly good road – avoiding rocks, under low trees, thumping over corrugations and detouring around the odd hut.  If you so happen to get stuck behind a slow moving vehicle, you grind on blindly through plumes of dust and diesel fumes. There is no passing lane on this made-up-dirt-track-along-the-perfectly-good-tar-road, so with patience wearing thin and my sense of humour waning there were times when I chose to overtake lumbering vehicles and plough through the bush taking out termite mounds, crashing through ditches and ramping over rocks to get ahead of the pack.  The road from Singida to Tabora was patchy gravel for most of the way and the journey took over 10 hours.

Buggered and in need of a good feed, Roy welcomed us with open arms and told us we were going to the local club to have dinner.  Bare in mind, this is a small African town, so my idea of having dinner at “the club” conjured up thoughts of loud music, plastic chairs, checked wipable table cloths, ugali (sadza/pap) and goat stew for dinner.  Turns out we were headed for the Tabora Hotel, the old colonial country club I expect, and to my delight we were greeted (with double vodkas and cokes thrust into our hands on arrival) by no fewer than 15 Zimbabean tabacco farmers.  Ayyyyeeeee, we ate, we drank, we laughed, we played pool and we had sore heads in the morning…

Tabora’s Zimbo Tobacco Farmers

The Beast was in need of attention After Toyota Arusha telling me the intermittent trumpeting was “usual”, the resounding noise now roaring from the engine made the Beast sound less like a thoroughbred Land Cruiser and more like an old tractor with emphysema.  It had become progressively worse over the past day and the noise was unbearable.I had spoken to some of the guys the night before, a few rally car drivers/enthusiasts who had all put in their thoughts, and I was to see the local garage man in the morning.  The workshop had the Beast in for a full day and found that the sound was coming from a missing exhaust manifold gasket, which had come loose and fallen away. Their verdict on hearing the Beast had been rebuilt in Nairobi: it hadn’t been screwed on properly. Their solution: put an asbestos replica in it’s place until I find a garage that stocks my part (I changed this in Harare, over 3000kms later – no problem!). Good job by the garage team in Tabora!

Repairs in Tabora, Tanzania

This manifold affair, along with the broken spiral cable in the hooter (fixed in Arusha), and the bolting on of the winch that was just sitting in it’s slot (which Mikey found and fixed in Naivasha), was just the start of things that I found wrong with the Beast on leaving the workshop in Karen, Nairobi. After almost three months of waiting, I had put pressure on the workshop to have the Beast completed and it was only when I started sending Luke Davey to check on the proceedings and to take photos, that things started happening.  But it had been a hasty repair in the final weeks before I needed to leave. It was no wonder the owner (name withheld) was a little brusque with me in Nairobi.  Knowing I had a visa deadline and needed to be out of Kenya, there was no way of me coming back to have him fix these issues.  [There were a few more incidental episodes following the hasty repair of the Beast further on down the line… keep reading.]

Slowing us down by a day didn’t help Lesanne but she called ahead to Lakeshore Lodge to let them know we were delayed.  We spent the next day catching up with the wives of the farmers, some of whom Lesanne knew from Zimbabwe. It’s times like these you appreciate even a simple lunch of fresh bread, pickled onions, salami, ham, tomatoes and cheese. Thank you Esmé Blair, it was heavenly!  We met everyone at the club that evening for a more civilised evening, everyone feeling a little less inclined to follow the previous night’s antics.

Who would have thought, in the arse end of nowhere Tabora, that we would find this wonderful group of Zimbos?  We can’t thank Roy enough for his hospitality and for looking after us. Also, massive thanks to Garth and Jane Pereira for all their help and contacts throughout Tanzania.

Word from Brad, the Holgate party are near Rukwa Game Reserve…  WAIT BRAD AND KINGSLEY – I’m on my way!

Road Tabora to Katavi National Park, Tanzania

22nd November 2014

Tabora runners out for an early morning run.

Stocked up with a few luxuries from Roy (steaks, tinned mussels, crackers and additional surprises), Lesanne and I set off. Before leaving Tabora, we just so happened to be driving behind a morning marathon training session – what looked like the entire male population of Tabora was out on a pacey morning jog in a peloton pack.

On our way out of town, we were stopped by a fat cat in uniform.  With his hand in the air – I wanted to drive up and give him a high five, but thought best not.

“Eh, you ah going down a one-way street”, Mr Official slurred whilst reaching for a pen and his booklet of fines (aka, notepad void of any written receipts whatsoever)

I looked around. I saw no one-way signs. In fact, I saw no signs at all which is why we were a little lost, and we were on a dirt road so there sure weren’t any road markings to forewarn us of this violation in the first place…

“I’m sorry, I didn’t see the sign, and which way to Mpanda kind officer?”

“You are going down a one-way street. You need to pay a fine”

Lesanne leaned over, elbowed me in the ribs slightly and started talking so fast I could barely keep up, “Hello Shamwari (uh, Lesanne that’s Shona and he’s speaks Swahili…), we need to get to Mpanda and are lost, and please can you show us the road that will lead us out of town, and we’ve got far to go and people are waiting for us to arrive, and what a nice day it is, and we’re in a hurry, and which way again?”

We threw a joke in the mix and forced a laugh, it’s amazing how quickly one can distract a fat cat… he gave us a series of turns this way and that, I put my foot down and thank him with a hand wave as I speed off.

The road through the Tanzanian heartland.

The road to Mpanda and on to Katavi was the slowest and most arduous journey of my entire trip.  We were headed into the real unknown, a place very few people venture.  We probably overtook one car that day and passed another four or five trucks coming towards us.  The road was poorly maintained and progress was extremely slow, barely breaking 20km/hour at times. We descended into thick woodlands and passed up to six of broken down trucks.  Worried about ambushes in such a remote area, we didn’t take any chances, kept our speed up, our distance round the rigs as far as we could and our eyes peeled. The track varied from full on graded dirt road to single lane track, and the ground rose and fell under the Old Man Emu suspension.  Dodging fallen trees and weaving my way around pitfalls, constantly having to choose the best line and having to slow down every 30m made for tedious driving.

We pass a few small villages on the way and stopped to buy some local food and drink.  The kids stared and we waved. Lesanne took photos and they all ran inside.  Mostly I think the kids are happy to see us but with so few muzungus ever coming out this way, let alone stopping at their particular village, we must have been something of an anomaly.  I’m guessing we must look like two albino humanoids with with long wild hair, our faces covered with black plastic across our eyes, how can we possibly see? Lifting the sunglasses, waving and shouting “jumbo toto” (hello kids) makes all the difference, and suddenly they all want to come out and dance!  At another village, we passed a run down hut with the sign “The Hilton Hotel” painted on the wall.  I wondered if they might have a concierge service out here?

As we were driving past, Lesanne pointed up high in the the trees to what I can only describe as rectangular boxes hanging on rope. We wondered what they were for. Later we did a bit of research and found that they were for bees and it was the local communities’ form of bee keeping and honey harvesting.  We also happened upon a dead hyena to the side of the road and stopped to have a look. At first it seemed like everyday road kill but on closer inspection, we realised that the bloated hyena’s ears and paws had been severed and it’s eyes had been taken, for more sinister intentions perhaps? In Africa, hyenas are mostly viewed with fear and contempt as well as being associated with witchcraft, as their body parts are used as ingredients in traditional medicine. We got the hell out of there…

Wild muzungus of the forest – on our way to Tanganyika.

It took all day to complete the 275 miles and by the end of the day the sky had darkened so much that it seemed night had came early.  It started to pour with rain and we drove into the Katavi National Park Offices only to find that it was extortionately expensive to spend the night in the park.  Weary from a heck of a long day’s drive, we just paid the park fees and drove towards the camp site on the river.

Katavi National Park, Tanzania

On crossing over the river and into the park we came across something that I doubt I will ever see again.  We stopped the Beast on the bridge and grabbed our cameras for this unique photo opportunity.  A heaving mass of hippos lay as thick as the river was wide. At first glance this might look like a bumpy road, or old lava flow, but it’s nothing short of unbelievable. Hippos side by side and nose to tail as far as the eye can see. During the wet season there is a vast wetland area, but in the dry season the rivers reduce down to paltry muddy streams. The hippos converge and jostle for space, it’s a sight to behold.  You’ll find crocs in the mix – often tucking into the bloated, swollen bodies of hippos that have died in amongst the masses – nice…

Hippo Huddle – Katavi National Park, Tanzania

We camped on the Ikuu River’s edge, a short distance from the ranger’s post.  Lesanne made a good fire and we had Roy’s steaks for supper.  Without too much light about, and with night upon us, we had to cook and keep sentry at the same time.  Hippos rule this part of the land and we had a couple of inquisitive cows saunter right past our camp.  We were the only vehicle in the area and were on our own if a bold individual decided they didn’t like the look of us.  We fell asleep to the rain and heard them grunting all night long……………

Word from Brad, the Holgate party are near Mbeya…  WAIT BRAD AND KINGSLEY – I’m on my way!

Road from Katavi to Kipili on Lake Tanganyika, Tanzania

23rd November 2014

Bleary-eyed from all the nocturnal riverside commotion (worse than a Saturday night in Clapham) and in need of strong coffee, we took almost two hours to get sorted out before heading off on a short game drive on our way out of the park.  From the previous night’s rain, things were strung out to dry and this gave us the opportunity to attend to general overlanding living chores. Today we were headed for Kipili on Lake Tanganyika – with just under 100 miles to go, we were ok to take things at a slower pace.  The road out was all dirt track but we journeyed on through heavy woodland with mostly green velvety carpet. Passed some rural villages and stopped for a quick bite to eat on the side of the road.  The rains had come, the land was green, the cows were fat and the children were happy!

On the last stretch, the road takes you down the most incredible escarpment road down towards Lake Tanganyika. You’re in thick lush forest and with the winds and bends, you can just about see the lake at times.  It was on one of these lovely hairpin bends that I felt something wrong with the steering.  I could feel a jolt when I turned the steering wheel at a certain point and could hear a faint thunk at the same time.  I mentioned it to Lesanne but didn’t want to make a bit deal of it and came down the rest of the way at snail’s pace.

Road through Katavi and on to Tanganyika, Tanzania

On arriving safely at Lakeshore Lodge at the bottom of the escapement, I parked and had a look under the steering wheel to find that all but one bolt and a few washers come away from the steering arm into the engine bay and were lying in my footwell.  With a few shakes of the steering wheel, everything came away and I was left with a free spinning steering wheel… thinking about what might have happened winding down the escarpment at speed, and having the bolts give way, just isn’t worth it.  Once again, the Beast held out until we were safe before letting go.

Sadly, I believe this too was probably the fault of the workshop in Nairobi not getting everything bolted down tightly and with care, and we’re just incredibly lucky it didn’t happen on that escarpment track or on a busy road.

Word from Brad, the Holgate party have crossed in Zambia…  ahhhhhh man… the King has left the country and all my hopes of me joining my favourite modern day explorer were dashed.

Things work out for a reason, and I stayed at on at Lakeshore with Lesanne instead – turned out to be one of the highlights of my trip!