Sunday, 13 May 2012

On the road: Day 2

The following morning we were meant to be met by what the guidebook described as ‘possibly the best breakfast in Tanzania’. Mmmmmm, if you like weak coffee, bread, jam and cheese of various consistencies, well then it might at a pinch tick that box…now I don’t want to come across as fussy so I wont! To take a quote from the film ‘Blood Diamonds’, DIA (Dis is Africa) and so it is, breakfast was a bit of a let down but DIA.

It had rained most of the night so 4 wheel drive was engaged so we could get out of the mountains without too much ado. This was going to be one of the longest car days as we hoped to cover all 500km down to Mikumi National Park and Swiss Tan Lodge…I stopped looking in the guide book or asking what it was recommended for.

We seemed to chase the rain clouds as it poured, reminding Zanner that England beckoned and were it not for the unbelievable views we could have been on any A road in the UK. Well that was until a rather rotund police officer (here rotund is a sign of wealth not bad diet and lack of exercise) pointed his speed gun at us. Now speed here is a rather curious thing, as it doesn’t really happen other than on the road, where everybody is in a rush. I suppose they are desperately wanting to get somewhere so that once they are there they can slothfully meander through the rest of the day!

Anyway the point is we travel at around 100km an hour on the road, which is fine until a sign jumps out and says 50kmph wherein a police man is usually ten yards up the road with his speed gun. Now I can’t vouch for accuracy but I think of the three times I have been stopped thus far whilst here the gun seems permanently fixed on 106kmph, call me cynical but those kind of coincidences are Wildean, to say the least. Ah yes the story, so our jolly police man, lets call him Ollie soon had his mate Stan accompanying him on his act, ‘We are sorry’, ‘You were breaking law’, ‘please to pay 30,000Tsh’, ‘Need give you receipti’. Now I have learnt how this works it all took very little time, ‘Thanks guys, I don’t want a receipti, let me give you 10,000Tsh and we can just get on with the day?’ Yesses all round and no doubt a few more beers in the Laurel and Hardy fund.

I have to admit though speed is an ever-present killer here, in part due to the appalling standard of driving, but compounded by the poorly maintained vehicles. The issue was brought into stark reality after a couple of hundred kilometers when we came upon an horrific crash. Two articulated trucks look to have hit each other head on and it was clear from the carnage that there were no survivors.

New Acropol waiting competition 
Our next stop was to grab a rest break at Morogoro in the foothills of the Uluguru Mountains. This town sits upon the old town of Simbamwenni (The Lion King) described by Stanley on his travels to meet Livingston. Alas nothing of the town exists which is a shame. Suffice to say it is a ‘colourful and thriving city’, but a pain to get round. We eventually found what Zan told me was an excellent place for coffee (guide book) So we made our way to the New Acropol Hotel, which initially looked deserted in the same way the beautiful old French colony building in Laos look. In fact they had more staff than you could shake a stick at and all looked willing to take our order in double quick time. Well soda’s for the boys and of course some of this wonderful coffee, I was told by the waitress they did cappuccino so why not. Well why not is simple really…you have to wait 40mins for it! By which time your kids are fractious and you’ve notice you have a puncture in your rear tyre.

No coffee later, off to the tyre fitter we go. I say no coffee but in truth when I was paying it was brought out and I was told they had forgotten. The reality was having had a sip it was not coffee anyway. I read the guide whilst I was sat waiting, it said…’their Arabica from Utengule, near Mbeya, is excellent’…no its bloody NOT.

Service with a smile

We found a tyre fitters, by that I mean shed behind a petrol station, and the heavens opened. This did not put off our Barcelona supporting fitter from smiling throughout the whole process of removing the tyre, fixing the puncture and removing the nail all for the equivalent of £4:50, “you can’t get better than a Kwik Fit fitter”…yes you CAN. 84 Km later we arrived at Tan Swiss Lodge, our little oasis for the next two nights.

Tan Swiss is a swinging place.
I don't have a caption as this picture is too bizarre!

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