23 December 2008
Well, that was a hell of a start to our expedition. Three countries
and 2,227kms in three days. Serious driving. As Max notes, we'll
cover close to ten percent of our six month expedition distance in
the first four days. We're racing to the beach on the Tanzania-Kenya
border, around Tanga, for Christmas. From then on, it will be a
gentler, more measured pace.
Sunday 21st Dec 756 kms/13 hours
05.15 at the junction of Harare Drive and 2nd Street (05.35 in the
case of the Adams/Harford car - sorry Le B's. It won't happen again)
A fast blast across the desolate abandoned farmland of poor, sad
Zimbabwe, down the Zambezi escarpment past wrecked trucks that have
fallen off the road, caught fire, lost brakes, or simply gone to
sleep at the wheel, to the vast Zimbabwean border post at Chirundu,
designed for thousands of visitors but currently dealing with, well,
We have a short delay while the police wait for their office to be
disinfected for cholera by a thin lady in a pink housecoat and a
matching pair of industrial rubber gloves. Then across the new
Chirundu bridge to Zambia, where the customs post is brightly lit,
air conditioned, and extremely efficient. And where the Zambians
politely pity us for coming from Zimbabwe.
Then through torrential rainstorms to Lusaka, where we stop for a
photo on Cairo road, to mark the great dream of the Cape to Cairo
route; to Kapiri Mposhi, onto the Great North road, and finally,
after 13 hours on the road, we roll across the dam wall to Alice and
Hugo Firck's Druadan farm, a thousand hectares of tobacco and maize
in the Makushi farming area.
Ali and Hugo were kicked off their farm in Mvurwi, in Zimbabwe,
during the first wave of the land invasions in 2001. After a few
years on the eastern Cape, they are back doing what they do best, and
love most - farming in Africa. They've just built a huge new semi-
mechanised curing barn, which Hugo showed us round - a claustrophobic
crouching run under the drying tobacco leaves into the 78 degree
Celsius heat, a thick, sweet smell, and you can feel the moisture
leaching from the leaves all around.
Max and Jake chill on the trampoline with Hugo and Alice's daughter
Zoe, and twin boys Dima and Ivan. Xander, Ben and mump-ridden Max Le
B run like puppies on the lawn in the dark, then we all sleep like
we've been coshed.
Monday 22nd Dec 854 kms/ 13.5 hours
Up at five, to find Ali making pots of coffee and ham sandwiches for
the road. Check the cars - I don't think I'll ever not be excited
checking out a vehicle at first light before a long journey - and
rolling just before six, Hugo leading us through the manicured
farmland of the Makushi block. Then hours and hours of rolling,
wooded land through Zambia, north and east to the Tanzanian border.
Zambia must have one of the lowest population densities in southern
Africa; apart from charcoal burners along the roadside, we hardly see
a single person all the way to the border.
Tunduma, the border town, is a maelstrom of touts and trucks. We
negotiate customs and immigration as a massive storm breaks across
the land, thunder and lightning and torrential rain, weave out
through the chaos, refuel, then drive a miserable, brutal hundred
kilometers to Mbeya, where we fall into the grotty Green view hotel,
eat bacon and pasta, drink a couple of beers, and sleep in mosquito-
Tuesday 23rd Dec 617kms/ 10 hours.
Tanzania is such a beautiful country, We roll today across lines of
hills, drop down through a valley full of baobabs, and come into
Morogoro under the mountains on a hot clear afternoon. We pitch camp
at the Morogoro hotel, where the children swim while we set up camp
for the first time on this trip, new tents and bedrolls and sleeping
bags unpacked... Now we sit over a cold Tusker, writing our diaries,
a gentle breeze off the mountains, stars overhead.
Tomorrow we have 400kms to go to the beach at Pangani, where we will
stay for Christmas and boxing day.
It's really begun now.