The Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater, Zanzibar, and Arusha
Jan. 8 / Feb. 4, 2015

Michael J. Ferguson

Journal Index


1  Introduction
2  Montreal to Arusha, Thurs. Jan. 8 and Fri. Jan. 9
3  Arusha, Sat. Jan. 10
4  Arusha, Sun. Jan. 11
5  Arusha to Meserani Snake Park, Mon. Jan. 12
6  Meserani Snake Park to Karatu, Tue. Jan. 13
7  To the Serengeti, Wed. Jan. 14
8  The Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, Wed. Jan 14 to Fri. Jan. 16
9  Karatu to Marangu, Sat. Jan. 17
10  Marangu to Lushoto, Sun. Jan. 18
11  Lushoto, Mon. Jan. 18
12  Lushoto to Dar es Salaam, Tues. Jan. 20
13  Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, Wed. Jan. 21
14  Zanzibar, Spice Tour, to Northern Beaches, Thurs. Jan. 22
15  Northern Zanzibar Beaches, Fri. Jan. 23
16  Northern Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam, Sat. Jan. 24
17  Dar es Salaam to Arusha, Sun. Jan. 25
18  Arusha, Mon. Jan. 26
19  Arusha, Tues. Jan. 27
20  Arusha, Wed. Jan. 28 to Tues. Feb. 3
21  Arusha to Montreal, Tues. Feb and Wed. Feb. 4
22  Google Earth Map of Tanzania, 2015

1  Introduction

In September Travelzoo had a notice that KLM was having a seat sale for early 2015. Kilimanjaro was the most interesting exotic place in their list, so here I am.
Although the airfare was quite inexpensive, I discovered that the land arrangements were not. Normally I like to ride between campgrounds and wild camp if I don't make it. However, I decided that wild camping in Tanzania was too wild for my liking. In addition, I discovered that you were not allowed to walk or ride in the national parks. This meant that a safari was required. There were bicycle safaris but they were rather expensive ... $4000.00 for 8 days ... and included some mountain biking, which is not my style. Doing their route on my own was too risky. They were being van-assisted and in one place had arranged to camp in a school yard.
I did find a relatively inexpensive safari The Road to Zanzibar that started in Nairobi and came through Arusha on its way to Stone Town in Zanzibar. I will pick it up at the Meserani Snake Park Campground just outside Arusha.

2  Montreal to Arusha, Thurs. Jan. 8 and Fri. Jan. 9

Jerry drove me to the airport where I was able to check-in with no problems. I worked very hard to keep both my bicycle and new, homemade trailer under the 23 kg limit. It was easier because the new trailer is lighter than my Bob trailer. They accepted both with no questions or hassle.
Just after we boarded the worries began. I only had a two hour connection in Amsterdam and we left Montreal two hours late. The first 45 minutes was due to the air crew having an traffic accident on the way o the airport and the second due to de-icing. However, we actually landed in Amsterdam on time, by saving two hours due to the jet stream making a seven and a half hour flight into a five and half hour flight.
Everything arrived in good shape at the Kilimanjaro International Airport and there were plenty of taxis ready for the flight. I took one to the, would you believe, Green Mountain Hotel, which the driver found with some difficulty.
It was an uneventful flight.

3  Arusha, Sat. Jan. 10

My goal for today was to find an ATM machine, the one at the airport did not work, and some camping gas.
I found many ATMs in town, but almost all of them rejected both my credit cards. After reducing the amount of money to about $100, I finally found one that accepted my Visa and a second one that accepted my Mastercard. However none of the ATMs that I tried after them worked. Hopefully Bank of Montreal can fix it, and soon.
Lonely Planet's discussion area said that Shoprite had camping gas, but they have recently gone out of business and the new store did not carry it. After a few questions at hardware stores I was directed to a Puma gas station that had some Campergaz 200, the puncture type, canisters. When I arrived, they had four. Two were bought while I was waiting so I bought the last two. I may only use one, but it reduces the risk.
On the way back, I passed the Clock Tower, one of Arusha's landmarks and then stopped to relax in a small park.

4  Arusha, Sun. Jan. 11

Today I tried, and failed to buy a ticket for my return trip from Dar es Salaam. I found the Kilimanjaro Express office but all they could do is give me the address of the office in Dar es Salaam. After that I just rode aimlessly on my way back to the hotel.
The first surprise was a tower that seems to have been put up by the Arusha Water System company.
Then I found a park, at the end of dirt roads where the boys were exercising and playing soccer. Most of the small side streets in Arusha are dirt.
After an uninspiring ride, I arrived at the Green Mountain Hotel.
A relatively large commercial is on both sides of Old Moshi Road and Moshono near the hotel. I went for a short walk just before the rain came met a wave of people coming out from mass. Sylvia and her grandson stopped to talk to me and I met them again when I stopped again to have barbecue at a stand near the hotel.
This is not a tourist area. It has a large assortment of merchants and I don't think anyone was selling trinkets.
The Dalla Dalla is the workhorse bus and I also finally saw the Green Mountain

5  Arusha to Meserani Snake Park, Mon. Jan. 12

I thought about taking a Dalla Dalla to the snake park but felt that the logistics were too complicated and it was impossible to take my bags, so I opted for a taxi instead. I arrived at about 10:30 am, and convinced the reception of my mission. I spent most of the day observing birds and taking pictures of flowers.
Later I went into the snake park itself and found the snakes behind glass making them impossible to photograph. However there were other birds and crocodiles that were sort of fun.
At about 5:15, the Intrepid bus arrived. I thought that would be set of small busses, but was obviously wrong.
Fortunately the afternoon rain had stopped so it was dry when the tents were put up. I had already set up my tent, and much to the delight of my potential tent-mate, was allowed to used it. This will be quite convenient.

6  Meserani Snake Park to Karatu, Tue. Jan. 13

Our intermediate stop was the small village of Mto wa Mbu ... Mosquito River in Swahili We begin the day by packing the tent and all our stuff well before dawn.
After passing miles and miles of huge termite towers, we arrived at Mto wa Mbo at about 9:30 am. This was to be a day dedicated to a cultural tour. In the past three years it was free, but now it has an additional charge. I was not looking forward to it anyway and this convinced me I didn't want to go. Instead, I started to explore town, aiming to catch up with the main group later.
The Masai Central Market, was in the centre of town and seemed to interest a woman in our group as a source of a particular Masai souvenir. It was also mentioned during the orientation of the cultural tour group but I was not certain what was meant. I started in the opposite direction, passed a number of art galleries - they were everywhere - and then turned around an started into town.
Just inside town I passed a police check point, which according to my driver to the Snake Park is used primarily to extract bribes.
The Flame Tree reminded me of Hawaii.
It was a common sight to see goats and cows being herded down the sidewalk/bicycle path.
Bananas are a common crop and the bicycles transporting them made me feel my bicycle was never heavily loaded. Sometimes the rider was too tired.
After about a half hour I caught up with the cultural group as they turned down a lane, At the end of the lane. two men were constructing a modern Masai house.
There was a small store at the entrance so I bought a bottle of lemonade and stopped to wait. After a while, it occurred to me that they may be coming out in a different place, so I started to walk again.
After a few minutes, a motorcycle stopped beside me with Julius, our group leader on the back. He told m that the cultural group was going to be picked up at the Masai Central Market at 1:00 pm so I finally knew where I had to go. I arrived at the market at about 11:00 am, bought a Stoney and some hand made? potato chips and went outside to sit down and wait. Stoney is a tasty Tanzanian ginger beer.
I attracted, of course, an incredible number of vendors selling tacky souvenirs. One was so persistent the he eventually labelled me as Mr. No. I also discovered that the woman in the Mini Super Market had been asking her customers if they had met Babu outside. This may become my nickname because the Julius also started to refer to me as Babu .... Grandfather in Swahili when we camped that night.
At about 12:00 pm, the truck arrived and I knew I was safe.
Tomorrow we are going to the Serengeti, and will leave the truck and transfer to 4WDs. The ordinary tents will be left behind, and we have to pack lightly. The campground is not fenced and we were told we must be very careful. After some discussion, Julius decided that my tent was big enough and it should be pitched in the centre of all the other tents. A little like encircling the wagons.

7  To the Serengeti, Wed. Jan. 14

On Wednesday, we drove through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, past Masai villages that were busy getting ready for some tourists.

8  The Serengeti and the Ngorongoro Crater, Wed. Jan 14 to Fri. Jan. 16

These three days were, without a doubt, the highlight of the safari and my entire trip. It started out with a beautiful sunrise.
I wonder if the girls will be impressed?
Other birds are not so big, but have much more charm.
We own this road.
The Wildebeast are not really very concerned.
The gazelles have to be wary ....
However the lions own everything.
Leopards are rather rare, and quite cautious. No lions please.
I don't know if the Jackal is really as fearless as he looks.
The elephants have little to fear, but the trees take a lot of abuse.
Hippos are rather rare, but clearly unafraid.
Apparently Zebras have never been domesticated because their backbone is too weak for carrying loads and they are too smart.
Warthogs may have had a starring role in the Lion King but they are not really very charming.
Rhinos are rare but not the Cape Buffalo.
Others are cuter and quite a bit smaller.

9  Karatu to Marangu, Sat. Jan. 17

After picking up supplies in Arusha, we continued to the Amani Centre for Street Kids just outside of Moshi. This centre is supported by Intrepid Tours and we all contributed from our safari kitty to the centre. We had a tour and played with the kids for the last half hour.
From there we continued up the hill to Marangu which is in the rain forest in the foothills of Kilimanjaro. Our truck was left at a hotel in Marangu and we took several small 4WD trucks up an incredibly steep and narrow dirt track up to the Chen Chen campsite. It is a beautiful location in the forest on the side of cliff. It would have been impossible for me to get here by bicycle.
With luck, it will be a clear morning and we will see Kilimanjaro. Unfortunately I missed the morning call.

10  Marangu to Lushoto, Sun. Jan. 18

We walked through the rain forest, past a waterfall Chen Chen in Swahili, and eventually down to Marangu, where our truck was waiting. It was nice not to walk to the hotel where we started.
From there we drove about seven hours, with a long climb up a switch-back road to Lawns Hotel Campground in Lushoto.

11  Lushoto, Mon. Jan. 18

Today, almost everyone else went on a 14km trek but I stayed around camp, communing with the resident doggy and watching him eat grass.

12  Lushoto to Dar es Salaam, Tues. Jan. 20

This was a long drive, through many small towns, to Dar es Salaam. We passed many charcoal sellers but the charcoal was not always in the right place.
We arrived at our camp just south of Dar in the middle afternoon, watched the waves and set up our tents. There were only four. The rest of the people opted for room upgrades.

13  Dar es Salaam to Zanzibar, Wed. Jan. 21

We started packing at about 4:30 am to get ready for our local ferry from the south side of Dar es Salaam harbour to the north side. There was an incredible deluge of people pushing their way through the small gates. It is wonder no one was crushed.
On the north side of the harbour we took a small bus to the Zanzibar ferry terminal where we boarded. Zanzibar requires foreigners to fill out an immigration form and a health form. If you have come from another East African country you needed to show a valid Yellow Fever Vaccination certificate, I was exempted because I had entered from Canada.
It was an easy, comfortable, and calm ride of about 2 hours to Zanzibar Town. We walked from the ferry terminal to our hotel, the Safari Inn in Stone Town the jumbled heart of Zanzibar Town. It is a melange of architectures, but mostly a maze of tiny winding streets, some slightly wider than your shoulders.
We arrived about noon at our hotel, and after a briefing, scattered around town. I walked towards the port, where I bought a beef/chicken Tandoori stick and a Stoney, and sat down in my chair on the sidewalk to observe. The cars continually used the sidewalk to sneak around slower cars on the road but, mercifully, missed my feet. The greatest dismay of the day came when a truck tried to drive around the traffic circle and at least six bales came crashing onto the ground. Each bale they hoisted up required them to rearrange the load on the truck.
The streets were the most charming and confusing.
The plazas were quite bare, and totally empty. Occasionally people wandered through.
Security was taken seriously. Virtually every window had bars, even on the third floor. There were also bars behind the shutters.
These, apparently, are some of the simplest carved doors.
The stores were quite small, not always well stocked.
The children were playing everywhere, having a great time.

14  Zanzibar, Spice Tour, to Northern Beaches, Thurs. Jan. 22

Today's highlight was our Spice Tour. We walked out of Stone Town to pick up our mini-bus to go up to the north of the island. The bus was shear luxury. It was air-conditioned.
On the way we learned that Zanzibar means The island or country for black people. It was under the control of Oman for many years, and, apparently, the Arabs practically enslaved the blacks on the island. Harsh Conditions was almost a compliment.
Our Spice Tour was a two hour walk forest of plants that is attached to an agricultural research station. The chickens seemed to spend all their time rooting, with great energy, in the dirt for food.
In addition to the spice trees, we also got another demonstration of the incredible head balancing ability of the women.
The girls were given a woven frog as a souvenir,
The men were given, much less impressive, woven ties.
I knew most of the spices but had never seen any of them in the wild. Turmeric is a root, and is prized here for it's medicinal purposes, such as treating diabetes.
One of the more unusual ones was the Zingifuri Anatodye also known as Zanzibar Lipstick.
After fruit tasting, and an obligatory stop at the spice stand,
we continued to the north of the island where we will spend two days on the beach. It is not my style, the others are very excited.

15  Northern Zanzibar Beaches, Fri. Jan. 23

Today was a lazy day, with most of our group going snorkeling and getting badly sunburnt. I stayed and just watched the girls on the beach.

16  Northern Zanzibar to Dar es Salaam, Sat. Jan. 24

The early mini-bus took five of us to the Zanzibar City Airport and then dropped me at the ferry terminal.
I sat down near the gate and used their free internet to check my email. I almost got on the wrong ferry, but a nice family beside me warned me, and after seeing my ticket, they said I should follow them. I was near the beginning of the line so had a choice of seats. This noon time ferry was much less crowded than our early morning ferry coming to Zanzibar, and I had a vacant seat beside me.
It was a smooth trip but I couldn't see much because of the spray and dirt on the windows.
After walking a gauntlet of taxi drivers I walked to my hotel. after checking in, I walked to the Dar Express ticket, and with some local help on the final closure, found it and bought my bus ticket. This is not a very exciting part of town so I just walked back to my hotel.

17  Dar es Salaam to Arusha, Sun. Jan. 25

The Ubungo bus station is a long way out of town so there is no choice but to take a taxi. It is almost as much as the bus ticket. My DAR Express bus is at 7:00 am and should take about nine hours. The ride to Ubungo was quite fast, but the final closure took forever. It was so slow that the driver waited with his engine turned off/
The station is pure chaos, and really is just an open field.
The taxi has the advantage of driving you to your bus. Even in the taxi, you are unmercifully hassled by people trying to get you to go someplace on their bus. One time the driver shouted, "He already has a ticket!".
The 7:00 am bus took almost a half hour to negotiate its way out of the station, but once we got started, it was a reasonably pleasant trip. I had an empty seat beside me until we got within 150 km of Arusha when the Express became a Local bus.
I arrived in Arusha about two hours late to a rather distressing incident. When I looked in the compartment that I had put my backpack, which also included my computer, it was not there. I had carefully examined that compartment whenever we stopped and, as far as I knew, it was not taken out. It appears that as the compartment got filled, the bus attendants pulled the original bags over to the other side to make room for the new bags. It was rather scary. The taxi driver that accosted me at the first stop said it was on the other side. Much to my relief it was. I arrived back at the Green Mountain Hotel at about 6:30 pm. It was good to be back with everything intact.

18  Arusha, Mon. Jan. 26

Today I finally found an ATM they would accept my Mastercard. My problems were not unusual. Just out side of Dar es Salaam, a Swiss girl in our tour tried three different cards until she finally got one to work.
After that, I sat in the shade on the narrow sidewalk that surrounded the Clock Tower round-about. This separated me from the hustlers on the sidewalk across the road.
Although, I was not readily accessible, both Canadians and Tanzanians stopped to talk, and some even jumped out of their cars to take pictures of me. One drove around three times before he was satisfied.

19  Arusha, Tues. Jan. 27

Today I got some more supplies and potential presents, sat in my favourite park, and then rode along the Old Moshi Road towards the airport. Unfortunately, it soon became a rough dirt road, and I crashed and bloodied my knee. It then became paved again for a short distance, but I had had enough, and decided to take a side road over to the main highway. It was an even worse dirt road so I stopped and sat down. After some time, two women came by and were very concerned about my knee. They phoned for a cab, and the driver put my folded bike in the trunk and drove me the 12.3 km back to my hotel.
Tanzanian Zebu cattle are quite different. This was the first time I could photograph them from my bicycle.

20  Arusha, Wed. Jan. 28 to Tues. Feb. 3

I spent the rest of the week riding and sitting around Arusha. I contemplated riding up into the mountains, but the thought of rough dirt roads dissuaded me.

21  Arusha to Montreal, Tues. Feb and Wed. Feb. 4

Unfortunately, I flew in and out of Kilimanjaro Airport at night so there was no chance of seeing Kilimanjaro. Maybe there will be a next time. Although the flight was about thirty hours, it was largely uneventful. A new snowfall greeted me on my arrival in Montreal. I had definitely left Africa.

22  Google Earth Map of Tanzania, 2015

This is the Goole Earth Map going from the Kilimanjaro International Airport to Zanzibar.

File translated from TEX by TTH, version 4.03.
On 24 Feb 2015, 12:20.