The last border, the last camp and unexpected wildlife

We slept well and given we were close to the border didn’t get up super early, a decision we regretted when we got there to find it quite busy. It is though the main Kenya-Tanzania crossing given it’s proximity to Nairobi and Arusha. Because of that we thought it would be an easy crossing but it wasn’t. Our visa for Tanzania was single entry so we needed to get another however there were no forms and no window appearing to do that. In the end we queued and the immigration officer took our evisa from the first time and re-stamped us in. Typically African and for once in our favour.

The vehicle was a different issue. There was no sign of anyone at Kenyan customs. When a woman finally turned up she didn’t want to stamp us out. Tanzania customs were adamant that while they didn’t need to do anything (as it was a Tanzania vehicle) there would be problems next time the vehicle crossed if it wasn’t stamped out. We tried 3 times to insist it was stamped out, but she was equally adamant we didn’t need to. We gave up, we’d tried and the next time wasn’t our problem.

We had to walk all the way through the terminal building and back to the car park. Then a police officer told us we had to go and scan our bags. Emma set off with both, Marie stayed with the vehicle and got a marriage proposal from the police officer and chatted to our overland tour driver. It was relatively hot and Emma wasn’t thrilled to have to walk all the way through the terminal and back to the vehicle.

We left the border with no hassles. The road was surprisingly quiet and surprisingly our Tanzanian sims only had reception as we passed through settlements. We were only going a relatively short distance, we planned to spend our last night outside Arusha national park. It didn’t take too long to find our turning onto a dirt track. Rough and winding it was perfectly African countryside, we loved it.

Eventually we came to a sign for the turning of the camp we were headed to. A tiny rough track we then got lost and had to ask a local. When we found it there was just a couple of staff and a Italian student volunteering (it was an eco camp owned by a local Masai). They had a couple of options of where we could camp – in the tiny carpark (which was flat but had no view) or a few hundred meters back up the track with a lovely cactus tree with scenery and mountain views. After attempting to show us another option which involved crossing a natural ditch that we really didn’t think the vehicle could do, we settled for being out on our own with the views.

The main camp building was really nice to hang out it. With an open side and big comfy couches looking at nature and a patchy wifi signal (we’d lost cell coverage), the cook made us a pot of coffee and we hung out there. When the owner returned we had a good chat about the area and our campsite (apparently the guard would periodically wander up and keep an eye on us overnight, but we weren’t to leave anything outside, particularly shoes as the local school kids would likely make off with them). We arranged to have dinner with them and we checked out the Kilimanjaro toilet, a composting toilet in a lovely bathroom on the edge of camp it had half an open side which in clear days gave a view of the mountain. We weren’t lucky enough to see it.

We headed back up to our campsite and made camp. A hot afternoon we also did our washing, and hung it out. But mindful of the warning not to leave anything out we moved it to a line in the vehicle before we went down to shower. The showers were bucket showers that they fill with hot water. With no ceiling it felt very open air. It was bliss.

Back up at camp some firewood turned up for the marked out fireplace just in front of the cactus. It was magical as the sunset to have the fire going and to be in the wilds with views of mountains.

We had dinner with the Italian volunteer, the chef had obviously made dinner for all of us, but the two staff waited until we had our fill first.

We headed back to camp tired but happy and enjoyed sitting next to the fire. The wind started to pick up and by the time we called it a night the tent was flapping so we tightened all the straps before bed. African rooftop tents are not made for wind, they just catch it and we went to bed with a noisy tent, we tried opening the sides a bit to let the wind run through but realised it would blow dust in and it hadn’t made any difference to the noise anyway. It wasn’t the best nights sleep.

The next morning all was calm again. We made breakfast and boxed up all our left over food and things we had bought and no longer needed. As we started to pack down the tent Emma called out from the rooftop, to our amazement there was a wild camel just up from our camp. As we stood watching it more came over the crest of the hill, until we eventually there were 5. A Masai goat herder walked right through the middle of them, neither bothered about the other.

We said our goodbyes and hit the dirt road. It was a long drive out but knowing it was our last dirt road and that we were only an hour out of Arusha we enjoyed it. We found a young guy with a herd of goats gave him all the food and things we didn’t need. He was more speechless than grateful.

The drive into Arusha was straightforward. We first drove to our accomodation and dropped our bags off and then set about rinsing off and sweeping out the vehicle. It was covered in red dust and we wanted to give the impression that we’d looked after it. Not that they’d ever taken the bond from us that we were supposed to pay. It took quite a bit longer than we thought to rinse off the layers of dust and we created red puddles all over the yard, not that our hosts were bothered.

On dropping it back we regaled the manager with some of our stories and gave him info on the borders we’d crossed so he was more informed for the next people that went that way. We planned to walk the short distance to the main road and get boda bodas (motorbike taxis) back but as we came to leave the manger said he’d get someone to drop us back and called one of the guys over to get a vehicle, so which turned out to be the one we had hired, ‘for posterity’ he said. It felt weird to be driven in it by someone else.

We walked to get coffee then spent the night cleaning things and repacking our bags. Just like that our East Africa adventures were over.

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