Katavi National Park – Difficult to get there but amazing
Rainy season finished. The good news is we can continue. But first I had to repair my shoes. Took a motorcycle taxi to town, to go to one of the numerous guys sitting at the road side repairing shoes. The Muslim guy looked ok, so I gave him my shoes. Gluing is 1000 Tsh, which is about 0.60 US$. He did quite a good job, had to go to the ATM to get money to be ready for the journey. Back at the campsite we said farewell to Guenther and Rea for the second time, was a bit sad, as we spent a lot of evenings together and we came along quite well. We started in the early afternoon, as it was just 100 km to Uvinca, and all of them were tar. But it took us again more than two hours because of the numerous road bumps. You have too slow down to 3 km/h and our heavy Land Rover needs quite a long time to get to speed again. In Uvinca we wanted to try a different guest house but there was none, so I had to turn, and the Land Rover made a strange noise from the right front side, which I had to Check at the Guest house. We parked in the yard again, this time different room, but not better and our dog again did not feel comfortable as she does not like guest houses. No grass no view nothing. And the slippery tile floor is hard for her, because she is old and weak on her legs, so it is difficult to walk. I inspected the noise from the Land Rover and saw, nothing serious, there is a bolt which stops the steering to prevent the wheel from scratching the leaf springs. This bolt was heavily bent, obviously during our last drive in the mud. So I had to be just careful when steering. Relaxed we had dinner in the room and went to bed early.
We managed to get on the road early, which was good, because the piste last time was just awful and we were not 100% sure if it would be dry already. So we started, landscape amazing, no other vehicles on the road. Although luckily dry it nevertheless was bumpy and we had to stop to organize our load inside the car in a different way. The road was partly quite ok, allowing 50 km/h speed and for long parts it was just 5 km/h.
We managed to get to Mpanda after 6 hours. In the town we fueled up. Quite annoying at the petrol station a guy approached me, „I want to talk to you“. I told him that I am ready if I have finished the money transaction with the lady from the petrol station, but he could not wait and went to the car to bother Alexandra. When I came he said he was an immigration officer and he wanted to check our passports, because we might be illegal in the country. That made me angry and I told him, after checking his ID that we are tourist and our passport is in the hotel. „No problem, if we are tourists“ and the whole action was finished. When we left Mpanda we thought we might withdraw some more money so we turned back and my big mistake, I did not see that mighty road bump. The Land Rover crashed against the bump, took off, and after the bump it crashed down on the road again. I checked the vehicle, luckily no damage, but I hate this stupid bumps. There is no sign and if they are in the shade of a tree you easily miss it. There were still 30 kms to drive, we were already very tired and suddenly we had a puncture. That was exactly the thing we missed. We stopped, but could not open the nuts of the wheel, because last time a black guy fastened it, and they fastened it so tight, that even by our wait we could not open it. Luckily there was a guy on a bike, looked quite strong, so we asked him to loosen the nuts. Nothing is free in Africa – 1000 Tsh (0.60 US $), and we could change the wheel. Completely exhausted we drove on, had to stop at the roadside, because the presidents convoy was coming and you are not allowed to drive while the president passes. Late we arrived at Hippo Lodge and campsite. The lady asked 33.000 Tsh per night (about 20 US $), which is quite a lot, but anyway we had no choice. When we got to our space, the view at Katavi National Park was just wonderful, directly at the river, hippos bathing in the water, some crocodiles, and we could hear the elephants in the distance. At the lodge there was a safari driver, quite a helpful guy, who wanted to get us a tube the next day from Mpanda and would fix the tire for us. There were two choices of tubes, one Kenyan brand and a Tanzanian brand, I decided for the more expensive Kenyan one, because they have products from India, which are quite good and it had the shorter valve which fits better our rims. I gave the guy the money (50.000 Tsh about 30 US $) and we settled at the campsite. The Lady opened a bungalow for us to have hot shower (ohhh yes, hot showers are rare in Africa) and for a proper toilet. We sat down enjoyed the evening watching the hippos and the African night.
The night was a bit chilly, we had slept in our Land Rover, which is quite comfortable, we are really happy about how we made the interior, with comfortable bed. We stayed in bed quite long drinking coffee and discussing how we would continue. We liked the place quite a lot, so we wanted to stay a few nights here but the price was really high. So when we walked to the village to have breakfast, we made the lady an offer, that if she lowered the price to 20.000 Tsh (about 12 US $) per night we would stay 5 nights. She agreed. We wanted to make a day off from our work so we walked to the village to charge the battery of my camera (no power at the campsite) which we could do at a Mpesa Shop. We left the battery there and meanwhile we walked to a „cafe“ where we could eat chapati and have tea while we waited for the battery to be charged. The cafe was quite ok and we ordered Chicken and French fries for the following day in the evening. We walked back and enjoyed the day watching the hippos. In the afternoon the guy came with our tube and some tools and we started to take the wheel off. It turned out that not the valve seating was broken, as I supposed, but it was just an ordinary puncture, which could have been repaired in the village. But akuna matata, no problem, because I anyway wanted to change from tubeless to tube tires, because they can be repaired everywhere in Africa in contrary to the tubeless tires. So we fitted the new tube, and the puncture I planned to bring in the village to repair next day, anyway it is good to have a spare. Again a perfect evening at the river.