The Tribes, Colours, Baobab Tree Forest and Honeymoon lions – Tanzania

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Riding through Arusha, Northern Circuit Safari parks, Bagamoyo, Dar Es Salaam, Zanzibar, Morogoro and Iringa, despite of the seemingly endless poverty, dry and dusty winter land, riding the terrible 140km road work from hell from Tanzania across the border to Karonga in Malawi, and unpleasant encounter with local corrupt police who stopped us and asked for a “gift”, I have taken away some amazing memories from the eleven days in Tanzania.

The colours and Maasai tribe in Tanzania

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Dry fields, dusty roads, Maasai warriors herding their stock, school kids running back home, women dressing beautifully in their traditional clothes, locals carrying goods on their heads, all sorts of colours, noises, objects and daily chores were mixed together in a chaotic yet natural way. There are more than 120 tribes in Tanzania. Riding through Tanzania was quite a challenge as the road condition was generally poor. We passed through seemingly lawless land dotted with Maasai tribe villages and markets. The Maasai way of life is mysterious, tough and fearless, warriors carrying heavy spears herding large herd of cattle along dusty roads, Maasai boys in the process of being recognized as men and warriors wearing distinctive clothes and face painting.

Riding 480km from Arusha to Bagamoyo was a very challenging ride indeed! Through the whole journey, we were hit with the bustling and chaotic local daily life, and the vibrant colours: local people’s colourful clothes, red, yellow, purple, black and white, there is no such a thing called colour co-ordination; and the colour of the blood-red soil and the yellow and brown muddy, thatched and tin huts. There was shocking poverty along the road. Many people mostly women carried goods on their head, which gives them a straight, upright, somewhat elegant and statue-alike posture, which has become one of the typical scenes of this African trip.

Northern Circuit Safari Parks

We spent three days in Tarangire National Park, Lake Manyara National Park and Ngorongoro Crater.

There were many elephants at Tarangire National Park and we spotted a family of 12 elephants walking in a straight line to look for water. When they got to the water hole and found the dry river bed, the leader of the group trumpeted and summoned the group to gather and leave. Elephants are such intelligent animals that possess extensive knowledge about resources, such as the location of water or regions with seasonally available food as well as knowing how to make appropriate adjustments to these routes in the event of changes in the environment. It is particularly note-worthy in their ability to mourn their dead. Recently deceased elephants will receive a burial ceremony, while those who are already reduced to a skeleton are still paid respect by passing herds.

Ngorongoro Crater, the world’s largest inactive, intact, and unfilled volcanic caldera, forms stunning vast backdrop to abundant wildlife. When we were descending into the crater, it felt as if we were entering into another planet, misty, dry, dusty, vast and empty. How can anything survive in this harsh environment! Maasai tribe can still herd in the crater. There were a Maasai warrior and his junior herding cattle in the crater and the only weapons guarding them against predators were spears! They are a truly tough race.

Over the years, wildlife here must have got used to safari trucks which they don’t associate as source of food. Among many lions spotted, there was a lion couple on honeymoon enjoying each other’s company and ignoring passing safari vehicles, and there were a few lions walking very close to our vehicle. If any of them had wanted to jump to reach the top of our open truck, they could do it. The feeling of a wild powerful beast walking right next to our vehicle, hearing their breathing, the smell of lions and the urge of touching it, it is exhilarating!

Riding along the foot of Uluguru Mountains, there was a baobab tree forest covering miles of the land. They are in all sorts of wonderfully weird shapes. Its toughness to survive in such a hostile environment where most plants and trees can’t grow, its leafless skeleton outlining clearly its trunk and branches and its pride to stand alone against the skyline make them spiritually uplifting.

We stopped at Zanzibar for a few days where Freddie Mercury was born. A culture walk through the Stone Town was a good way to get into the history of this island. The architecture has a mixed touch of Arabic and Indian style. The Arabic style architecture is soothing and calm, simple yet classic. We walked through the spice, meat and fish market and the meat market was a challenge to observe. The slave trade museum tour was touching, shocking and the wounds left by this part of cruel human history are hard to heal. One of the photos we took was a hole in the ground where a few slaves’ statues stand being chained together.

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We were getting close to the Malawi boarder and there were more and more people walking on the road. Almost immediately after we crossed the border into Malawi, more bicycles started appearing. Malawi seems poorer than Tanzania with less aggressive hawkers and more friendly locals. People just waved at us with big smiles and seemed just happy to see big motor bikes passing through their villages. Two days in Malawi, then Zambia.

Could do better next time:

  1. We couldn’t get our yellow fever vaccine from our local hospitals and found out that we could get it from the airport clinic inside of the Bangkok airport international arrival terminal. It was quite a journey and process to get there from the international departure terminal. If you need an emergency vaccine for traveling, it is worth trying to contact the airport where you depart and remember to leave plenty of time.
  2. If you prefer toiletries in your familiar brands, I’d bring along enough supply as long as it doesn’t exceed your luggage weight limit. The price of foreign toiletry brands is costly in East African countries.
  3. If you ride a motorbike or drive in Tanzania, be aware with the local road police. Be prepared if the local police asks for a “gift”. This happened to us a few times, but never when we rode in Malawi, Zambia and Botswana.
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