I owe my trip to Tanzania to Anja Blue and Carsten Weisner .When Anja and Carsten started planning their riding tour from Kenya to South Africa, we agreed on riding together in Kenya from Naivasha to Lake Baringo. My plans changed and i was not able to meet them for this ride. They left Kenya while i was in Nyeri and i was so indebted. I proposed to meet them in Kigoma- Tanzania and did not give this proposal much thought. I just wanted to be with our friends and say a nobble good bye.
PREPARING FOR THE RIDE.
The first preparation i had to do was psychological. I needed to be sure am psychologically fit to do the trip. I had never ridden that long (distance and days) on my own. There were going to be many “new” experiences for me in this trip.
I picked the route to Kigoma entering Tanzania through Namanga and exiting through Isebania. I downloaded the App Here drive and was able to download an offline map on my phone which was really easy to follow.
CROSSING THE BORDER.
I was traveling by road using my motorbike and ride it through Tanzania. There are legal requirements for doing this.
- As a person: You will need a passport or the East African pass and a yellow fever jab which must be taken at least 10 days before travel. The yellow fever card must be presented at the immigration with your passport as evidence for the jab.
- The Bike:
- You require a permit to enter the country with the bike. This permit also referred to as “Authority letter” or “Temporary exportation/importation of road vehicle” permit is issued from Kenya Revenue Authority. You are required to write a letter to Kenya Revenue Authority – Customs department stating the following: –Type of motorcycle or vehicle (its same process for the cars too). Country you are traveling to. Date of departure and return. Border of entry and exit. Attach original log book. They retain the original log book until you return to the country and can collect it with proof of having returned the vehicle to the country.
- You will require copies of your log book and passport at the customs office at the border so make enough copies and carry them with you.
- COMESA INSURANCE to be able to ride/drive through the country. COMESA insurance covers the following countries and you can apply one for all of them. Burundi, DRC Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Malawi, Rwanda, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Zambia as indicated on the insurance Yellow card. The minimum duration you can pay for is a month and it cost me Kshs 3,666 which includes Kshs 400 for medical cover. This amount is for motorcycle, i don’t know how much it is for bigger motor vehicles. For countries not mentioned in the COMESA insurance, you will need to buy the insurance at the border.
- Don’t forget to carry your driving license and ensure its valid. I was able to ride through with my Kenyan one.
I was only travelling for 10 to 14 days max but ended up just doing 10 days. A lot of people asked me how i managed to pack everything in my bag which was not even full. See the blue bag on the bike. Below is my packing list.
- Clothes: – 5 t-shirts mostly dark colours, toilet bag, my intimates, 5 pairs of socks, 1 pair light pants, 1 pair leggings for sleeping, 1 pair slippers, 1 pair canvas shoes, 1 hoodie that i layered with everyday and also used it in the evenings, my riding gear that i wore everyday (helmet, balaclava, jacket, reflector jacket, boots).
- Equipment:- I had a back up phone in case i lost, broke or anything happened to mine. My phone served as a camera too. A selfie stick – yes, when travelling alone you need it. GoPro camera, a torch, tool kit for the bike, pen knife (comes in handy), pain killers, insect repellent and something for a running stomach just in case.
- Food and biting – I got some dates which were perfect for energy when riding. I avoided heavy meals during the day. I packed water and a soda too every morning. I had a good breakfast and dinner and just water, dates and sips of a soda during the day.
I used guest houses during this trip. However if one is going to be on the road for longer than a few days, guest houses can be expensive and one would need to look for cheaper accommodation.
I never made any prior bookings. I planned my trip to be in the next town in good time to be able to find a place to sleep. May sound risky but worked perfectly well. Tanzania has nice guest houses with en-suit rooms, WiFi, hot shower and a comfortable beds for Tshs 30,000 to 35,000 (which is Kshs 1,500 to 1,750). In all the places i stayed at, there was secure parking for my bike. In Kigoma, i stayed at a very nice camp site with my friends for Tshs 20,000 a night (Kshs 1,000).
OTHER ACTIVITIES IN TANZANIA.
Between Arusha and Kigoma, there are many national parks that one can visit. The Tangire, Serengeti, NgoroNgoro etc. I practically rode everyday other than one day – Sunday which was meant to be my rest day. Though i really needed that rest after four days of riding, the best rest is doing something different. As the saying goes “a change is as good as a rest”. On this day we went to the nearest National Park – Gombe National Park. Gombe is the smallest national park in Tanzania, with only 20 square miles (52 km2) of forest running along the hills of the eastern shore of Lake Tanganyika. The terrain is distinguished by steep valleys, and the forest vegetation ranges from grassland to alpine bamboo to tropical rain forest. The park is most famous as the location where Jane Goodall pioneered her behavioral research conducted on the chimpanzee populations. The Kasakela chimpanzee community, featured in several books and documentaries, lives in Gombe Stream National Park. It’s a nice hike up there watching the Chimpanzees, the lake from the peak and then as you come down, you pass by a waterfall and its amazing.
This park is only accessible by boat. We took a 2.5 hours boat ride on Lake Tanganyika from our camp (Jacobsen Camp). To get to the park in good time to register, pay and get assigned a group and guide, we had to depart the camp at 5:30 a.m. It was chilly, beautiful, fresh and we met lots of fishermen.
It took me four days from Nairobi to Kigoma. A total of 1,365 kilometers. From Nairobi to Tabora is all very good tarmac road. The roads are well marked with animal crossing, zebra crossing, speed bumps, locations, directions and even kilometers to your next town. This was impressive. I never needed to look at my map. There is almost zero traffic on the road and i got to enjoy riding like a “President”. All the way it’s a spectacular view of mountains, plains, valleys and very beautiful. Be sure to stop for many pictures.
The adventure begins after Tabora. On asking about the road to Kigoma, everyone told me the road is “very bad”. The images formed in my head by this statement was one very terrible road. Something that i only watch on you tube. Here i was with a 400 cc caferacer bike and roads meant for big adventure bikes ridden by pros. This combination was one that kept me praying most of the night. I had no prior experience on off road or dirt road exceeding 2 kilometers from the main road to my mom’s house in the village. And these 2 kilometers has no sand, deep fine soil or loose gravel. The truth is, the road is bad, but not as bad as i had imagined. Between Tabora and Kigoma, there are three sections of bad road. First section has lots of sand and that was very scary for i had lots of near falls. Second section is a very clean dirt road with no soil or sand and was fun ridding through. Third section had lots of loose gravel and that was my last before Kigoma. Slowed me down alot. A total of about 120 kilometers of dirt roads.
The roads were to get worse from Kigoma to Nyakanazi. On this section i did 350 kilometers of now what i would say very bad roads, but still better than the images created in my head by the descriptions i would receive of the roads. Very fine deep soil, loose gravel and rocks is what i had to ride through. Besides the bad roads, this region is so beautiful. I got to a place called Kasulu that was hard to leave. Beautiful mountains.
From Nyakanazi its all tarmac to Isebania. However, from Kahama there is a shorter route to Mwanza which is dirt road, but i was too tired to try it. I chose the longer tarmac route. Tanzania has spectacular rocks all over which are said to be as a result of a huge earthquake 25,000 years ago. They are so many and so beautiful i could fill this blog with the pictures. They even serve as Bill boards in some places with huge adverts.
Riding through the Mara and crossing River Mara was the best part of this section.
After The Mara, i was now heading home through the Isebania boarder where i was received by Musyoki, Warush and Job. They rode all the way from Nairobi for me and i will never be able to thank them enough. God bless you guys.
From Isebania we rode to Kisumu where we were well taken care of by Jason, Diana, Joel and Ngiri David. Waking up in Kisumu and not being able to go to the lake was hard but i am sure coming back.
We rode to Nairobi the following day riding through the beautiful Muhoroni. I am definitely riding to Western Kenya again.
This place is so beautiful. At the end of my trip, i did 3,100 kilometers and learned many lessons.
Am I ready for the 3 years motorcycle adventure? — the answer is YES!!!! This ride helped in a big way to prepare me for the BIG RIDE.
Thank you all for your prayers and well wishes.