Tuesday, June 10, 2008

10 June Update

Day 52 – In Livingstone’s church

It’s Sunday and we all attend a church service in the Livingstone Church. This church has a special significance for Kingsley as it was the last place that
David Livingstone body was kept before being shipped to England for burial in Westminster Abbey. Kingsley is generally known as the modern day
Dr Livingstone and has spent his entire life retracing the journeys of this famous missionary.
Kingsley donates a hundred nets to the church in remembrance of Chuma and Susi the two black unsung heroes who carried Livingstone’s sun dried
corpse from Lake Bangweru where he died, to Bagamoyo. (A distance of over a thousand miles)
Brad a South African who runs a safari company in Arusha and friend of Bruce joins us in his Landy and decides to travel with us to Mtwara.
He is full of fun and has a mean sense of humor.
When we reach Dar es Salaam Engen Tanzania generously offers to fill the Landy’s with diesel. When we are finished we are asked us to park the
Landy’s under the Engen sign for a photo shoot.
Apparently it had rained very heavily the night before and in no time all the Landy’s are stuck in the soft green grass. Everybody has a good laugh
but its rather embarrassing to travel on the worst roads in Africa and then to get stuck on an Engen Garage’s lawn. I’m sure Getaway would
love to get their hands on those pics.Protea hotels generously give us rooms for the night but the drink and food prices are not within our budget.
We decide to buy pizza up the road and get into big trouble with the hotel management for bringing food into the hotel and we are nearly evicted.
Kingsley saves the day as always.

Day 53 – Stolen Cell phone

We collect nets from the harbor and on the way back Ross and Annelie are robbed of a cell phone on the side of the road.
William, Ross and Bruce run after the thieves but they disappear into the crowd and are no where to be seen.
This is sad as this is the first time that Kingsley and I in all the time that we have traveled on this expedition encountered any crime.
We cross the harbor on the ferry and the cell phone is soon forgotten when we find a beatifull campsite on the beach.
Deon a South African friend of Kingsley arrive from the airport and we eat biltong for the first time in two months.
We have a great evening. It’s good to be by ourselves again, out of the city and away from all the people that have
been around us during the last couple of days.

Day 54 – Across the Rufiji

We try and stick as close to the sea as possible on our way to Matwara but eventually we can’t go any further.
Kingsley decides that we will have to take the tar road further inland. Only one problem how do we get there?
We follow goat tracks and drive thru rugged bush.
How the Landy’s cope is sometimes amazing.
We really hammer them and its low range with diff lock most of the time.
Each vehicle has about two tons of supplies and we cross deep ravines and very steep embankments.
Just as well that we all have upgraded suspension systems I’m not sure that the standard issue would have lasted.
It’s lunch time that we eventually get to the tar road.
The road is good and we are hoping to make it to Lindi Bay by night fall.
We cross a beatifull new bridge that spans the Rufiji River and just as I’m thinking that we will easily make Lindi at this pace the tar road just stops.
This can only happen in Africa one minute we are on a highway and the next on a goat track
The road is terrible. We stop 100km short of Lindi and camp in an old quarry next to the side of the road.

Day 55 – The evening is closed

We arrive at Mtwara and see a convoy of cars with blazing lights and hooting.
We pull over to make way for the procession but to our surprise they are there to collect us.
Our hosts a Canadian Gas company treats us like royalty and we are allowed to camp in the CEO’s garden and use the facilities at his home.
We hand out nets all day in some of the remotest and most beatifull forests that I have ever seen.
Dinner is at the local hotel. The food is good, but the speeches long and tiring.
We are all relieved when the mayor eventually announces, “The evening is now closed”

Day 56 – No ferry

We rise early, stock up on supplies and fill the Landy’s and all our jerry cans ahead of us lies a formidable Outside Edge challenge
The only way across the Ruvuma River (that separates Southern Tanzania from Mozambique) is on a dilapidated old ferry called the MV Kilambo.
Rumors are rife. Some say it’s not running at all, others say that it only runs a few days of high spring tide. Another informant tells us that it’s stuck on a sandbank.
We camp on the beach outside one of the gas plants of the company that hosted us in Matwara.
Just as we are getting ready to prepare dinner a Land Rover arrives with a grill and a bucket full of meat.
Richard the catering manager who is a friend of Kingsley and he has decided to spoil us with a braai.
We have a great meal and later while having a couple of Captain’s we discuss what our options are if the ferry does not arrive.
We have one of two options. A 1000km detour through Malawi or we hire a couple of the local fishing boats strap them together and build a platform that can accommodate one vehicle at a time.
No matter which option it will still take us about seven days to accomplish any of them.
The problem is we cant afford to waste seven days as Deon and I both have to catch flight’s home from Pemba and a group of journalists and sponsors are arriving on the same flight to spend a couple of days with the expedition – we stumble into our tents with the knowledge that the success of this section of the expedition hangs in the balance.

Day 57 – A close shave

Despite our nervousness about the ferry Kingsley insists that the humanitarian work must continue.
We spend the morning handing out nets to some of the villages and head for the river at noon.
The good news is that the ferry is working (sort of) the bad news is that it is stuck on a sand bank awaiting the tide.
Eventually it floats off, engine belching diesel smoke it shudders to a sideways halt swept downstream by the river but at least on our side of the bank.
They off load the other vehicles and after long price negotiations we load ours.
The ferry and ferrymen are both in bad shape and when Kingsley suggests that we seal our passports and money in plastic packets I wonder if we are doing the right thing.
Halfway across the ferry springs a leak in the one of its ballast tanks. All the ferrymen jump into manholes and start bailing water.
I’m thinking of what I should take out the Landy in case we sink but in a situation like this nothing really matters but trying to get to the other side.
With the ferry taking water fast the ferrymen decide to dock at the nearest point on the opposite bank.
This creates a problem as the embankment is steep and difficult for the vehicles to get up.
After two hours we have dug out enough of the embankment to drive the Landy’s out but unfortunately we snap the drive shaft on Bruce’s Landy in the process.
We stop at the border post (where no one can speak English) and with all clearances done and nets distributed to a long line of moms we are now officially in Mozambique, the land of Cerveja beer, Pau, Prawns, Peri – Peri and flat chicken.
It’s slow going from here onwards as we have to tow the broken Landy through thick mud and dense jungle.
We are cautioned against driving off the road as there are still many unexploded landmines.
Its not only landmines but the villagers in this area have been plagued with Lions and there are tracks everywhere.
I have a restless night.

Day 58 – Pemba

Its slow going as the broken Landy only has front wheel drive and on the steep hills we have to tow her.
Northern Mozambique Cabo Del Gado is really beatifull and must rank as some of the most untamed wilderness still in Africa.
Massive Inselbergs (granite outcrops) dot the skyline while thousands of tall coconut palms make avenues of trees that we travel through.
We are now six vehicles as Richard Chapman his son Warrick and John Wells have joined us as malaria warriors from KZN.
They left from Nandos in Batlito and were given a Peri Peri send of by Cesar and his KZN Nandocas.
Their two vehicles proudly carry the Nandos Logo “Help Nandos Fight Malaria”
It’s rather incredible that a South African family and friends took up this challenge at their own expense to join us in improving and saving lives in Africa.
We hand out hundreds of nets at villages and for the first time people run away from us when we stop to help them.
For the first time on our journey we see landmine victims with missing limbs.
This area is still dotted with thousands of landmines and few people travel here.
We reach Pemba by late afternoon and set up a base camp at a beatifull camp site with a white sanded bay called Brenda’s Place.
The expedition team will be here for two weeks as most of the sponsors are flying in for a visit.
We pick up the directors from Grindrod Shipping (a sponsor) and do a net distribution in a small church on the walls of which artists have depicted the bible story, complete with men in uniform carrying AK47’s
For dinner Willy prepares a Nandos evening (brought by Grindrod) it’s a big surprise for the team and everybody eats themselves into oblivion.
It’s my last night with the expedition (I’m flying home for two weeks) and I try and sneak away early, Kingsley catches me in the act, drags me back to the fire and sticks a mug full of Captain in my hand.
I know its going to long flight home tomorrow.

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