Lifts with petrol tankers!

Trip Start Aug 31, 2005
Trip End Aug 25, 2006

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Flag of Tanzania  ,
Saturday, December 24, 2005

As always, the journey to our destinations is half the fun and triple the hassle. Despite HAVING to pay for 1st class for the ferry back to Dar because of the colour of our skins, our seats were not, by any means first class, but we did manage to get a few hours kip before arriving in port at 6am. We scurried off in search of a bus bound for Mbeya (near the Malawi border) knowing full well that most buses leave before was going to be a tight one!

We walked for half an hour in the heat with our backpacks on around town, refusing taxis all the time. Of course, as always at the end of our stay in each country, we were EXTREMELY short of cash and had to save every penny we could - we only had $20 between the two of us to eat and try to leave the country. No luxury of taxis for us! The first bus station brought no joy - buses were sold out until Christmas day - so we caught a dalla-dalla to the main bus station outside of town and set about finding a bus, any bus, heading to Mbeya. Again, we were told that because of the Christmas rush that they were all full, but that if we were to fork out double the real price, then we may be able to find you a seat on something to somewhere. We weren't having any of this - and couldn't afford it anyway, so tried (in vain) to find a bus heading to Iringa, the closest big town to Mbeya. Running out of options, we jumped on a bus heading only 200km down the road to a place called Morogoro.

We arrived at Moro bus station, dodged the touts, and found that we could get a bus from there to Iringa at 3pm for decent prices. Sick to death of buses by this stage and not really wanting to wait around for another 3 hours we decided to stand on the road side and TRY to hitch-hike and see what would happen. Lo and behold, within 3 minutes all forms of transport were screaming to a halt, all wanting us to join them. We decided to take the first vehicle to stop - a petrol tanker bound for Congo! The driver and his mate made room for us in their beds behind their seats. We settled into comfort, bought out the speakers and chilled as our petrol tanker crawled along. The guys were great - they entertained and fed us and generally made our journey a lot of fun! It was an extremely slow pace but oh-so-much-more-fun than public transport.

The guys agreed to take us to Iringa - only a few hundred km up the road, but it took all day and most of the night. We eventually crept into a petrol station on the outskirts of town at 1am. The guys, most kindly, offered us their beds to sleep in (surprise surprise! but really, no conoctations involved) but we wanted them to get some sleep before they headed into the Congo so instead got out our sleeping mats and bags, put up the mosquito net, and found some space on the petrol station floor! We had a great couple of hours sleep before getting up at the crack of dawn, ready to try to make it into Malawi in time for Christmas.

Not quite knowing how to proceed in getting a lift we woke up the boys and said our goodbyes. The mate insisted on helping us out (as if they hadn't done enough already!) and walked up up the road to the nearest police check point, explained our situation to the police, and made sure that the police put us on the next bus heading to Mbeya.

We were well done with buses and so set about getting another lift with a private vehicle. Within 5 minutes, yet again, luck was with us. A pickup truck with 3 guys our age turned up, bound for Mbeya. It was Kirsty's turn to sweet talk, and what a job she did! We jumped on the back, finally Mbeya bound!

After countless police check-points and the boys having to pay bribes to get through everytime (corrupt Africa....) we eventually made it to the outskirts of Mbeya. The boys promised to try and join us in Malawi after Christmas, and dropped us off at the minibus station where buses were headed to the border.

For the first time EVER in Africa we were scammed on the buses. We negotiated the correct price for the journey but got scammed as we had to change buses halfway through the journey - the first minibus didn't tell the second minibus that we had fully paid up until the border. We were seething until we got to Lake Malawi and found that every other traveller had also been scammed on the Mbeya side, and that our $2 was a pittance compared to all their other stories! All part of the fun and adventure!

We crossed the border with no problems, changed some money, and set about finding a ride to Mzuzu. We had by this stage all but given up on arriving in Lake Malawi before Christmas, and had to settle for Christmas day instead.

Once again it didn't take long to find a ride. Coming through immigration we noticed a lot of cars waiting to get released to enter into Malawi. I spotted a Mzungu (white person) in one of the cars, tapped on his window and asked him politely if we could get a lift. No problem, I was told. They were the owners of a orphanage, importing cars into Malawi from Tanzania and would be more than happy for us to join them. We waited next to the cars, waiting for their release, chatting to the many drivers about us. After about an hour or so, one of the Malawian drivers came up to us and said they were leaving and told us to jump into their cars. We sped away, destination: Mzuzu. It wasn't until we were an hour into the journey that we realised that we had actually caught a ride with ANOTHER group of people importing cars into Malawi. How confusing!!

I slept most of the way, completely exhausted from our 3 day epic adventure. Finally, at about 10pm on Christmas Eve, we arrived in at Mzuzu and were delivered to the local backpackers.

Here, we met our travelling companions for the next few days - Will and Karina, a mad couple from Australia, and Mark and Linda, all lovey-dovey, from the UK. Mark magically whisked out a bottle of Southern Comfort and a cigar and we chatted and enjoyed the early Christmas morning festivities. Merry Christmas everyone!!!
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