Back in Jungle Junction, the campsite became very crowded with several 4x4 and overland lorries arriving, and the biker dudes had left. Boring. I had finished my bike so it was time to go - even though it had started to rain. It's not supposed to be full rain season yet, but it's a warning of the arrival of the wet. I have replaced the front tyre with a second-hand one that Chris had in stock. Not great but still better than nothing. The rear tyre, although much worse for wear, will have to do another 5000km or so.
Because of the rain I'm thinking of taking the main highway through Tanzania, which goes through Dar Es Salaam on the coast and then down to Malawi. But 1500 km of tarmac is just too boring, plus I don't want to visit Zanzibar or hit the beaches so I have no reason to go to Dar. There's a road straight south from Arusha to Dodoma, the capital, on the map it looks like a major road but the reality is often different. What the heck, let's find out. The gravel road starts soon after leaving Arusha, and there wouldn't be tar until the junction with the Dar highway south of the country. It starts OK, but quickly deteriorates quite badly with a lot of potholes and some road construction that makes it more difficult. The road is almost dry, so it's slow but OK. I have no reason to rush it and I stop before Dodoma in a small town that's not so interesting, besides having a petrol station.
The next day I get through Dodoma, which is the administrative capital of Tanzania but feels like a small provincial town. There's no reason to stop, and I quickly find a very good gravel road all the way down to Iringa. I must admit that it feels good to switch to 6th gear and open up. The landscape is quite nice, the road is bordered with baobabs. Arriving in Iringa it's already quite late in the afternoon, and the clouds are building up rapidly. I find a small hotel not far from the highway and check in. That was a good idea, because I just have time for a quick dinner before the sky opens and an incredibly powerful storm drenches everything.
Next day is an easy half day to the Malawi border. Easy... only that I forgot a detail: we Swiss are among the only few who need a visa for Malawi. And they're not available at the border. F.....ck, I knew I forgot something! 1000 km to Dar and back to find an embassy ? not in your dreams. I would rather go around through Zambia (although I had already been stamped out of Tanzania..). Finally, after some discussion with the arrogant custom officer, we find a solution: he gives me a temporary "laissez-passer" so that I can get to the next immigration office and get a visa there. Pfewww, that was close.
That town is Mzuzu, but today being Saturday I have to wait until Monday. I find a backpackers managed by a drunk British where I can pitch my tent for not too much Kwacha - although the food is pretty expensive so I prefer to cook for myself and only get cold beers from them.
With my visa secured (70$, ouch!), I move on to Lilongwe to get things straight and request a Mozambique visa from the embassy. That turns out to be very easily done, the same day for about 40$. The camping is inside Lilongwe and a bit noisy (because of the road, and because of the overlanding truck that had arrived). There I meet a german guy on an Africa Twin and we do some maintenance together. I've noticed that my chain has some slack, the first time I have to adjust it in 35'000 km, that's not too shabby I have to say.
In Malawi, you just have to check the famous lake beaches. Cape McClear seemed nice, and there's a campsite I've been told about
: Fat Monkey. Supposedly there are many overlanders, but when I was there it was pretty much empty. The beach is really nice, though, so I enjoyed it a lot. Bilharzia ? yeah, sure, but you take the pills and you should be OK.. time will tell. A lot of dudes were hanging out on the beach, waiting for the few tourists to start their sales pitch: boat ride, key rings, etc.. not interested, but I asked this local artist to have a go at my tank. Not too bad.
The beach is Ok for 2 days but it's a bit too quiet and boring so I leave and head south to Mozambique. The border crossing is very easy, the only thing is that they don't acknowledge the Carnet so I have to pay a temporary import duty. And an insurance, as the country isn't part of the "yellow card" insurance system I purchased in Ethiopia. Ok, except that I didn't check closely enough and the guy made me pay for a car instead of a bike. My fault really, I should know better by now.
Mozambique ? it's OK, but somehow I wasn't so much fond of it. Maybe it has to do with the language (all speak Portuguese but only a few speak English), or the lack on roadside café and restaurants. Although the north is supposed to be better, but I didn't go there because of the rains and bad roads. Of course, the beeches on the Indian ocean are nice, and arriving in Vilankulos I barely had stopped the bike that I was jumping in the sea. Tofo in the south boasts the best beaches in the country, and fortunately it was pretty quiet, because it is a major holiday destination for the South Africans. Not that I don't like South Africans but when they come with the caravan, the kids and the dog it can be quite too much.
Finally I arrive in Maputo, very close to the South African border. There I was hosted by friends of the family, who happened to be a retired Prime Minister. With his help I tried the first attempt at securing an Angolan visa. The Angolans make it extremely difficult to come visit their country, so I have to take every opportunity to try and get one. First off, they only speak Portuguese. Of course this being a Portuguese-speaking country, it doesn't help. Then they would only take applications by local residents. This was cleared by my friend calling the ambassador directly. Finally, the visa once granted has to be used within 60 days, so it was too early for me: I would enter after 3 months. After some phone calls the ambassador said he would write me a letter of introduction for the consulate in Namibia; I'm not sure if it would help, but it's worth trying.
So I went to the embassy every day for a week, filling papers, leaving my passport, trying to explain to the office workers that I was expecting something from the ambassador himself. Basically they don't' give a damn about me and after a couple hours of waiting just tell me to come back the next day. Meanwhile I'm getting very bored in the nice house, Maputo is very dully and doesn't have the vibe of other African cities. The only excitement came when a driver forgot to brake and ran me down at a red light. The car rammed into my right pannier which was threw the bike and myself down in the middle of the street. It hurt but I had nothing broken, even though I was not wearing ATG ATT. I got up and looked up at the car: the driver was shitting himself, thinking he had killed someone and he didn't even dare coming out and help me. I picked up the bike, and fortunately it seemed unharmed except for the ripped off pannier and bent carrier. Not too bad considering that the bike at been thrown onto the back of the preceding car, badly damaging the bodywork. I strapped the pannier back onto the bike (why was I riding in the city with panniers ?) and we all went to the police station to fill out the report. That of course took all afternoon, and a bit confusing as nobody spoke English.
The next day I went to the insurance company to sort out the damage report with the offender and the other affected car. It turned out the brain-dead driver was working for a company owned by a Portuguese. That guy spoke English and was comprehensive. I found out that it may take several weeks for everything to be fixed by the insurance. The Portuguese proposed me a deal: I would come to his workshop and they would fix my bike there. There wasn't actually much damage to the bike itself, only a broken rear footrest. The problem was the pannier rack, it wouldn't hold the pannier anymore. I took us the whole day with the help of 2-3 guys to straighten and weld all pieces so that it could be put together again. African-style of course so I had to lead ll the work. At the end of the day the pannier was fitting again on the rack, and almost as before. The guys paid me the broken footrest in cash and I left. It could have been worse.