The waiting game at the Tanzanian border

The gate from the campsite slides open, but they are having a hard time in getting the heavy gate out of the way. The wheels made from steel are rolling with some difficulty on the rusty rail. When we drive out, we immediately drive into town. We squeeze the car through the low hanging branches of a mango tree and can hear the unripe, green mangos hit the roof like hail. A sandy track leads us to the city centre and back on the tarmac. We get in line behind some cars waiting for the fuel station and spend our last Malawian kwachas on diesel because we are leaving Malawi today and head into Tanzania.

Tanzania is mostly known for its Wildebeast migration, the Serengeti, the Kilimanjaro, the coffee production, but also for its friendly people and different cultures which hope to write about in the next few weeks. The tarmac starts to heat up, the morning chill slowly disappears and the car starts to warm up on the inside. It’s early in the afternoon when we leave Malawi, we sign out at a dilapetated office which houses the immigration, customs, bank and sellers of tomatoes, mangoes and other local products. A stamp in our passports and a stamp on our Carnet is enough to continue our travels and move on through the gate. When we drive through the gate we temporarily find ourselves in No Man’s Land filled with car wrecks before we get to the border with Tanzania. We are immediately pulled over by a lazy looking cop getting out of the shade to stop us. Like well behaved schoolchildren we do as he says and I jump out of the car to fill out my name under in a book in which I can’t even read the previous entries. It seems enough though. I’m allowed to continue and we quickly reach an empty customs office. We’re lucky that we don’t have to wait in line as we did at previous border posts. We change 100USD for 2 visas on a flimsy brown piece of paper and a stamp in our passports before getting in the next line. A friendly, but very slow officer starts the procedure of temporarily importing our car. Even though we are traveling on a carnet, he seems to have to fill out all sorts of forms and to start everything up takes so long that by then I have read almost all of the notices hanging around the office. It takes us two hours before this lovely guy finally finishes all the paperwork, we paid our fees and we can enter Tanzania. Later someone tells us that it probably should have worked if we had given the officer some money, it might have shortened our waiting time from 2 hours to 10 minutes. But then, you never know and we don’t pay bribes. Our first impression of Tanzania: green. In comparison to Malawi, Tanzania is much greener. In large quantities they are growing tea, coffee, mangoes, pineapples, corn and potatoes in this area. We also get less attention then we did in Malawi. The people seem to be more used to seeing white people around. The road is of good quality and in a bit of a hurry drive east, towards Dar es Salaam.Our first impression of Tanzania turns out to be a bit of an illusion. Our view becomes more and more dry and dusty, just like Malawi which is anxiously waiting for the rainy season. The road also changes from well maintained to one where we actively have to dodge the potholes and oncoming traffic. Roadworks make large sections of the road impassible and instead we find ourselves on dusty dirt roads parallel to the soon to be finished tarmac. It is getting dark and it is yet another 70 km before we get to the next campsite. Fully dark now and we are trying to find our way over dust and holes where too many heavy trucks have driven before us.A moment I remember well is when a motorcycle carrying two people, with a large front light, passes us on the narrow track. And we thought we were driving fast over this potholed dirt road! A few bends later and we can see in our beams that same motorcycle driver picking up his motorcycle from the side of the road. We reduce our speed to see if he needs any help and at the same time we can see his passenger’s head sticking out from a sand hill 20 meters away. The poor guy was launched from the motorcycle by the impact, but luckily the sand broke his fall. Fortunately, both men are wearing helmets and sturdy outfits, which is very rare to see here in Africa.The dazed look on the man’s dust covered face is kind of comical though. Both men can still walk and the damage to the motorcycle also seems to be not too bad. By now it is completely dark outside, and since we not yet speak any Swahili, we decide to continue driving. We heard some stories where Muzungus, white people, were held responsible for road accidents they had nothing to do with and we don’t want to be in that position. The road is busy enough that other people might lend a hand to the two guys when necessary. An hour later we arrive at a deserted campsite and set up camp. 

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