Off the beaten track in Tanzania
This is Emily’s latest report from the Tour d’Afrique bicycle expedition:
It felt great leaving the city buzz and the traffic of Nairobi behind us. Now fully stocked with clean clothes and some city luxuries in our pockets we were suddenly back on the open road again. As scenes of Massai herders dressed in their bright blue and red traditional cloths, sharing the plains with herds of zebras unfold, everyone is in good spirits. To make things even better we had a gentle tail wind pushing us across the border, to a beautiful lunch spot at the foot of Mt Meru and…of course the famous Kilimanjaro with its head in the clouds, as our back drop.
Arusha had lots to offer and as staff got on their way cleaning and stocking up for the next stretch, most the riders disappeared on safaris in the Serengeti and Ngorogoro crater. As the great migration was in full swing, all clients came back super excited with most having spotted the great 5 on their first day on safari. It seems some encounters were just to close for comfort, as stories of Tim running in his underwear in the middle of the night, “screaming like a girl” as a big elephant bull strolled into their camp and decided the grass was greenest around his tent, made its way around camp.
I have traveled around Tanzania quite a bit, and have always thought it is a beautiful country, but this last stretch blew my mind. This is as off the beaten track as one can get! Leaving Arusha we soon had to leave a lot more behind, aka tar roads, mobile phone reception and cold drinks as most of the small villages we passed through had no electricity. However the beauty and serenity of the completely unspoiled forest of the Rungwa Nature Reserve and the charms of the simple life made up for all that.
Cycling on the bumpy clay roads, canopied by huge trees, hopping over puddles and fixing my flat tires on the side of small streams, I felt as care free as a child! However not everyone was taking it as easy as me, the sweep right at the back. This was tough riding…and riders came into camp well knackered and tricky sand patches made for quite a few grazed knees and elbows…luckily nothing serious.
With not a drop rain for the whole week (very unusual for this time of the year), we got lucky as it made the roads much easier to manage then previous years, and gave the local entrepreneurs a chance to make a buck on selling bucket showers to some very dirty riders.
The last day cycling into Mbeya had all the riders working real hard for the cold beer waiting at the end. With a good 2130m to climb, we cycled on the highest road in Tanzania, and were rewarded with spectacular views of the Great Rift Vally, before descending into the city.