Lake Tanganyika – We tried to make it during rainy season.

Along Lake Tanganyika we wanted to head to Zambia

An Italian/German couple arrived with their BMW 800 motorbike at the campsite. They have been traveling already for 18 month, started in South Africa and were heading North – back to Germany? -they were not sure. They came from Zambia on Lake Tanganyika by a ship called Liemba. Günther and Rea are photographers, so they spend all the day taking pictures. In the evening we sit together until the early morning hours.

Land Rover on the Beach
Land Rover on the Beach
Lake Tanganyika: Günther
Lake Tanganyika: Günther
Lake Tanganyika: Rea
Lake Tanganyika: Rea

In the morning we said good-bye to the couple and left. We wanted to travel along Lake Tanganyika. In Kigoma we stopped plundered the ATM and did some stopping. We wanted to get as far as Uvinca, which should not be an issue as it is 100 km tar road. The landscape as usual was amazing, little villages with very traditional people. Short before Uvinca, there was a police check point, where they checked our documents. We asked for the way to Mpanda, which we wanted to start the following day. They officer told us, that the road was very very bad, but with the Land Rover we could manage it, but it will take us at least 5 to 6 hours.

That was exactly what we expected, so we drove on into the village to stop over for the night to start early the following day. We checked in at a guesthouse called Sleep Lodge. The lady could not speak English, but we managed to know the price 10.000 Tsh for a room, which equals to about 6 US$ per night. The room was rather basic but clean, had theoretically a private bathroom, but neither the flush, nor the shower worked. So the lady brought a bucket with water, that is the way we were already used to take a shower. We ordered some chips and eggs, which they lady had to get from a nearby vendor. While waiting, I tried to buy beer, outside there was a guy, who joined me, for translation purpose. So we found a shop, only warm beer available for 2500 Tsh each ( 1.50 US$), rather expensive, but the area is very remote. We early fell asleep.

During the night there were heavy thunderstorms, so we were a little skeptical about the route. We quickly prepared coffee to get on the road. After the village we turned off and dirt road started immediately. Not to bad, about 200 km to Mpanda, we should make it in 6 hours if nothing happens. The first part was quite good, allowed speeds of up to 50 km/h per hour, leading through dense forest. Eventually it got worse and slowed us down to 25 km/h per hour, with the occasional water filled potholes, obviously the rain had been heavy. Suddenly there was a deep water/mud hole. We stopped to check the situation. My clever wife had discovered a little path through the wood, which she explored and it was perfect to get around that big mud hole. The road winded through mountainous area, rocky underground, but good to drive. The further we came the more the road got wet, it started to get muddy. Eventually we came to a spot, where a truck had made deep tracks in the soft muddy road. We could not drive on top so we had to use the tracks of the truck. Low range, 2nd gear, the water splashed but the Land Rover managed bravely to get through. We passed a refugee camp and descended into a valley, where the mud got worse and worse and we had to stop several times to wade through to find the right track. We managed to get some more kilometers, when we met a huge overland public bus, coming from Mpanda. When he saw us he pulled aside and immediately he got stuck. The passengers got out, we asked them about the road conditions, they told us it is as bad as at this spot, still 130 km to Mpanda. So we would not make it this day, as it was already 12 o’ clock. What to do. We discussed things and eventually decided to turn back. There was no realistic chance to continue during the rainy season. So we turned, and while turning we slipped into a ditch and got stuck. Some of the passengers pushed so we got out, of course we had to pay for their help, nothing is free in Africa. The bus got free as well, so we hurried to stay ahead of it, because it would definitely make the tracks deeper, thus it would be more difficult to drive. After a few kilometers we lost him, but luck was not on our side and it started to rain heavily. There were still 70 kms back to Uvinca. There were some spots we were afraid of, because it was already difficult to drive without rain.

Quickly the water everywhere got deeper, the long passage with the deep tracks was now flooded and not enough a bus was coming from the other side. The driver forced me to push back, so we had to do so for several hundred meters. Now and then I tried to get to the side to let the bus pass, but there was no chance, whenever I tried the ground was so soft, that we would have sunk immediately. Eventually we came to a spot where we could stop. The conductor, when passing, reached out his hand showing his middle finger, what a stupid asshole I thought. So we had to continue at this difficult passage a second time and it did not take long, when we met a truck. We wondered where suddenly all the traffic came from.

The truck driver had more brain, so he stopped at a dry spot so we could pass. We had to go through deep water filled ditches, raining heavily, and at every crossing the water entered through our doors. A few kilometers before Uvinca we reached a spot with black soil and the surface was like soap. We slipped to all sides, but managed to get to Sleep Lodge without damage. Getting some beers and discussing what to do. Waiting until the next day, hoping the weather getting better or going back to Kigoma the next day and waiting there until the rainy season stops. We decided for the second alternative, as we had visa until mid of June, so we were not in a hurry.

In the morning we left again for Kigoma, only tarmac, so no problem, and got there at around noon. At Aqua lodge again, we decided to camp this time, directly at the beach, which was fine, as at the lake the climate was hot, except for occasional thunderstorms. Rea and Günther were still there, they were happy to meet us again. At the beach we pitched up our tent, which we had not done for more than half a year, and made a comfortable camp under palm trees. Now we waited for the rainy season to come to an end.

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