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October 4, 2003
|We left Malawi and struck across Tanzania's southern border. Then our marathon began into the untamed western frontier...|
First stop in Tanzania is Mbeya, its biggest landmark a rhino statue, and this is the most developed town we'll see for a few weeks as we explore western Tanzania. From Mbeya we rode a bus to Sumbawanga.
Public transportation ran out at Sumbawanga. Hitch hiking became our sole option. Truckers deliver supplies and mail to the western region. To hitch a ride, we found the town's petrol station (the only one within miles) and waited for a truck. The first one arrived at 3:00 PM and for a few bucks we sat in the cab while the co-driver jumped onto the flatbed. After an hour of maintenance work, we left on the only road that ran north, our destination: Katavi National Park, 200 kilometers away. The broken road restricted our speed to 13 miles per hour and bumps always hit some part of the long flatbed, sending shivers over the vehicle - a slow, vibrating, sleepless night. Even without the bumps, could you maintain your sanity in a vehicle traveling 13 miles per hour? At dawn the truck rolled by Katavi National Park. We staggered away into park headquarters.
Our truck acted as a mobile center of commerce and communication. We delivered mail by handing envelopes to the first villagers we encountered, trusting the community to sort out its own mail. We delivered food off the flatbed, then bought and traded more goods to carry further down the line.
Off the beaten track, our guidebook barely refers to this area of Tanzania. Why? Because nothing's out here.