The two-day drive to Dar es Salaam started with a predawn breakfast at our Chitimba campsite on the shores of Lake Malawi. A bright light illuminated our outdoor breakfast, tricking various large bugs that it was daylight so that us bleary-eyed travelers were periodically startled by dive bombing insects. Continue reading “Tanzania Part I: The Long Road to Dar es Salaam”
The sun had already set as we wearily finished putting up our tents on the banks of the Luangwa River. We had just completed a 9-hour drive from Lusaka and were looking forward to a cold beer at the bar. Suddenly a tree full of baboons next to us went crazy with barking sounds, quickly joined by anxious calls from birds and nearby vervet monkeys. I’d spent enough time in the bush to know they were alarm calling and this could mean that some of them had spotted a predator nearby.
We had pulled over on the side of the road minutes after crossing the border into Zimbabwe. The cab of the truck was surrounded by police who were collecting a fine from our driver for an infringement. Except there was no infringement and this was a bribe not a fine, something that everyone including the police were well aware of.
As a spectacular dawn broke over the vast red desert plain I was making my way back from the bathrooms, toothbrush in hand and keeping a sharp eye out for snakes and scorpions. We were at our campsite near Sesriem for two nights meaning we could take a break that morning from packing up our tents but we still had to hit the road early as we had a couple of hikes ahead of us and wanted to finish them before we got caught in the searing heat.
The final few days of my trip had arrived. In some ways it felt like I’d only just landed in the US and in others it felt like I’d been driving for a whole year. My goal was to see the famed Avenue of the Giants before heading to Sacramento to complete the final preparations for my upcoming rail trip through Russia. I’d then make a final drive to San Francisco where I’d catch my flight over the Pacific. I had five days to complete this last leg of my road trip and started out from Yreka, California.
As I drove away from Glacier National Park in Montana I had a feeling that my road trip was winding up and that perhaps I’d seen the last of the wonderful sights I experienced on this trip. Once again I was wrong.
I don’t know about other people but I always get stressed when I’m asked where my favorite place in the world is. There are so many variables that it is impossible to answer accurately and I don’t want to give a half-assed answer to such an important question. For example, the Lake District is one of my favorite parts of the UK for scenary, but I hate it when it is crowded with tourists. Morocco is my favorite exotic country but I hate shopping there as I get harassed so much on the streets. London is my favorite place for shopping but not on weekends and only for clothes. And so it goes on.
I crossed the state line into Wyoming after a fabulous day of driving through the prairie grasslands of the Dakotas and a visit to Mount Rushmore. I quickly found myself in high desert on wide sweeping roads bordered by sagebrush. It was late afternoon and I’d been driving since 6am so I was trying to get to the closest town in Wyoming with cheap accommodation and ended up in Gillette.
The name did it. As long as I was driving on something called the Beartooth Highway it didn’t really matter what it was like. All I knew was that it was listed as a key Montana/Wyoming scenic byway and that it was closed for much of the year due to snow so I figured it must be at a fairly high altitude. It turned out to be one of the best drives I’ve ever done but it wasn’t for the faint hearted.
I regret that I didn’t do Yellowstone with a friend. Not because I was lonely (there is no chance of that there) but because we would have exchanged knowing looks for the rest of our lives and whispered ‘This is Yellowstone all over again’. We would do this whenever someone was rabbiting on about something nobody else cared about at a completely inappropriate moment, forcing everyone to politely smile and listen all whilst awkwardly knowing that a social faux pas was taking place. You see instead of doing my usual solo driving I decided to take a day tour to Yellowstone and that meant the presence of other humans that were not of my choosing.