Day 175… Wednesday 13th September
At the border crossing into Tanzania and after explaining the situation to the immigration officer, he said he could process my visa in 4 minutes if I paid 100 US dollars in cash. No choice and no refund offered on a visa rejection. Infuriating! Exchanged Malawian kwacha into Tanzanian Shillings. Terrible exchange rate but no choice. US dollars also accepted in Tanzania and prices are often in US dollars. A temporary import permit was needed where they don’t accept the carnet but still happy to stamp the document. Stayed at Utengule coffee lodge north of Mbeya. Bad traffic through town and the road off the main road was in terrible condition. Friendly staff and a warm welcome. Our camp pitch for the night had beautiful views and the bar/restaurant was a welcome respite.
The day started promisingly and went down from there, thankfully to be brought back up by a decent camp site at the end of the day. We knew we needed to get some money out and change it into US dollars to pay again for Rachael’s visa. So, stopping off in Karonga there are several banks where we were sure we could get money out. Seeming all very familiar from another visit to these banks 10 years ago the first one we attempted had a bureau de change, success. When we asked the chap at the counter he said he could provide us with the exact amount of dollars asked for at an acceptable albeit slightly poor exchange rate. Happily we accepted and proceeded to do a card machine transaction only for him to give us Malawian Kwatcha in return and then to say he had no US dollars…. sigh. I stomped out of there in a huff since this chap was clearly a buffoon. At the next bank they had a forex counter but the chap had no money and had to call his friend, all very African. After (I think) about 40 minutes we finally got our US dollars although at an even worse exchange rate. Anyway… onwards we go.
We get to the border, and have the usual fixers pester us. I got bothered by a Malawian customs official who was trying to go through my paperwork I was holding looking for something at which I told him to buzz off, and then for him to explain to me that I had a manually completed road tax form and not a computerised one. I told him I couldn’t care less, I’ve paid my dues, and if he had an issue to take it up with the other border. So… on we go to the Tanzanian side which is presently being built but they’ve decided to half open it for some reason. We quickly got Rachael’s visa sorted but then began another customs faff. The people working the counter were very slow and not entirely sure what they were doing, they were speaking to the fixer (who we didn’t want but was lingering around) rather than me which really set me off, and then we had to go on a treasure hunt to change up money into shillings, find an ATM, pay for our ripoff charges (I can’t even recall what they were now) at some sketchy looking bank outside even though there was a bank inside the border post.. This set me off and I was properly annoyed by all of this nonsense. 10 years ago this border post was mildly efficient but now it is a shambles. Good work Tanzania.
Once we left we got through to Mbeya okay but then had to sit in lots and lots of traffic. This town has grown massively since 2013.
I visited the coffee lodge we were staying at 10 years ago almost to the month on the way up to Dar Es Saleem with Jane, and our Canadian friends Adam, and Aneesa who we had picked up in Zambia. I thought it would be amusing to get Rach to recreate one of my favourite photos from that trip, with Adam casually giving a thumbs up.
Also, heading further north the sun is getting stronger and my lorry driver tan is coming back. Time to cover up a bit more I think!