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The Road to Ruaha - Blog #13 (Tanzania)

After leaving Lakeshore lodge we knew we had 3 longs days of travel ahead of us. (see Blog #12). Thankfully our energy levels had been restored else I am not sure I would have coped with the days ahead .....

Date: 26 February 2021 – Lakeshore Lodge to Tunduma - DOUBLE whammy kind of a day!

After about 2 hours of driving we stopped in Sumbawanga to refuel and I noticed that our 2nd spare trailer tyre was missing AGAIN. (See blog post) This time it had definitely fallen off and not been reappropriated. Aaagh. Anyway we had 1 spare and could sort out a new tyre when we arrived in Mbeya later that night.

Shortly after this we heard an almighty noise coming from the trailer and saw we had had a blow out. But on closer inspection saw that the left shock on the trailer had literally ripped off the trailer body and in turn shredded the tyre. Dev had to hacksaw the shock off the trailer and we then changed the tyre. The kids sat a little way off the road under an unbrella whilst trucks and buses zoomed past. We now had no spare tyre and realised it would be silly to drive 3 hours with no back up. So we backtracked 40mins to Sumbawanga to try get our trailer tyres sorted. We came right and finally left at 2:30pm - It had been a long day already! There was no way we would make our planned destination so shuffled plans and stayed in our Bollywood hotel at the border town of Tunduma again.

That night “Gods must be crazy” movie was our family entertainment and the laughs were great after a testing day.

Date: 27th February – Tunduma to Makambako

We left at 6am as wanted to get to Mbeya (a big town) by 8am to get the trailer shocks welded back on, tyres100% sorted and a small grocery to resupply. On arrival at Paul’s house, a friend of Louise and Chris (Lakshore lodge) who we were meant to spend the previous night with, told us the shops would only open at 10am as it is “clean up Saturday” - the entire country focuses on cleaning up litter and rubbish around their homes/shops. Awesome idea but frustrating for us now losing more time. But such is Africa!

But amazing Paul had the kettle boiled and bacon and wors rolls prepared for us.

When the shops were finally open we dropped the trailer off and were told it would take an hour to weld and fix. ( we thought maybe 2hrs). We then went about getting the rest of our items sorted and ticked off. Paul being incredible and taking us to every shop we needed to go to. Once again we were blown away by people’s immense kindness to us strangers. After about 3 hours the trailer was still not sorted. It was somewhere around this point that we went to draw cash and as I was going into the atm and the metal door slammed onto the back of my Achilles’ tendon and I literally burst into huge crocodile tears. But as always with me, tears shed somehow relieves the pressure and the day could carry on.

Finally after killing hours at the greasy car workshop we could hit the road again. (3:30pm!) Once again there was no way we would reach our planned destination so instead found another cheap but perfectly fine hotel in Makambako. Dinner took over an hour to arrive and it was with exhausted tired heads that we collapsed into bed.

It is at this point that I really should mention the frustrating Tanzanian roads. Oh my word driving here is infuriating!!! So the speed limit on these bigger good condition roads is 100km/hour. BUT BUT BUT one cannot and should not get excited about this double luxury (speed allowance and good roads) .... there are villages and villages and more villages which come with such high frequency that it is impossible to ever drive for more than 3-4kms at the lovely 100km till you are forced back down to 50kms/h to get through the village. Then yay the 100km sign.... for 3kms... I was so frustrated that I timed how long I was able to drive at 100kms for.... the max time was 4mins35 seconds!!! Aaagghhh

Date: 28th February: Makambako to Ruaha.........Ruaha is in sight.....!!!!

We woke up with good spirits and after some tea and Chipata hit the road. Josh calls them "chi-pancakes"!

Ruaha is the largest national park in Tanzania. Pronounced "Roo-Aaaggh-Haa"! It is a little bit “off the beaten track” as most tourists usually only focus on Serengeti/ Ngorongoro/ Kili.... but we had heard so much about this park and it was one place we knew we had to visit. Baobabs, palm trees, riverine forests and vast open plains .... we hit another gold mine .... in more ways than one!

28th Feb - 3rd March - Jabali Ridge, Ruaha National Park, Tanzania

As per my previous Blog Dev's friend owns/managers the Jabali Ridge Lodge in Ruaha and they happened to be in TZ and invited us to join them..... what a massive spoil. We arrived at Jabali Ridge and were immediately blown away by the sheer luxury of this lodge perched on top of a mountain ridge and snuggled amongst massive boulders. You gaze over the baobab forests down to the plains below whilst sipping ice cold hibiscus tea. The staff are so friendly and welcoming - what amazing people the Tanzanians are! From the moment we arrived we were treated like royalty - from our own private villa with our own pool overlooking the baobabs, to game drives, to sumptuous Boma lantern lit dinners, to sundowners and swims in the Mwagusi Sand River, to adventures of being stuck in the mud :), to exploring this scenically beautiful park, to making friends with these wonderful people. Ruaha is so stunning and each area is vastly different scenically to the next - from forest ravines along the sandy Mwagusi river, to areas with insanely tall palm trees, to the massive baobab forests, to open plains dotted with Baobabs along the gushing Ruaha river. We had incredible sightings of lions (including a little cub), breeding herds of ellies, tons of new birds we had never seen before ( I think Dev got 10 new birds in 1 game drive!!!) and then a magical 40 minutes with a male leopard as he walked right by our car and we followed him for ages. The whole time we were the only people with these amazing animals.

One day Jabali packed us a delicious lunch and freezing drinks and we headed down to the confluence of the Mwagusi and Ruaha river.... what an awesome drive and the picnic site was totally overgrown so we took our shade and picnic and sat on the river bank! That will be something that will be remembered for years - what an experience! Once again we were so sad to leave but park fees are steep in TZ so sadly had to pack our bags and head for our next destination... Iringa Town perched on top of a mountain and an unexpected gem of a town!

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