Up early in the dark to bus which left substation at 7 and 4 km out to main bus station where we headed out of town about 7:45 on a 4 lane blvd. highway, really quite un African from our previous travels. It looks like the city expanded into what were once coconut palm plantations, driving for almost half an hour before we were truly away from them. By 10 we’d reached mtns/valley and small plots, low ground growing rice the rest planted in red onions, corn, cassava, tomatoes etc. passed 2 large pineapple plantations as well. Lots of stick/mud & tin/thatched roof huts. Hand hoeing in the fields, most women, clouds all around, rain occasionally…town Morogoro.
Entered Mikumi NP and bus slowed for a group of 30+ giraffes cossing the road, also saw Grant’s gazelles, and black faced monkeys. Then we entered the Kilombero Valley where we encountered huge numbers of baobob trees and giant ones at that, up to 10’ in diameter plus lots of acacia in a wild area with red, red river flowing all along the roadway(now only dbl lane for quite some time tho no potholes). After lunch stop we headed up the Makambako Gap, a steep mtn pass where I saw 2 bicyclists coming down w/ 5 gal plastic water cans strapped on the back – no brakes, dragging sandled feet and looking(to me) quite terrified. Tractor trailor trucks going up & down this pass were only travellling 5 mph…at least a 7% grade w/ switchbacks, 2 narrow lanes for 2+ miles. Rocky slopes, untouched jungle like landscape on both sides.
Now in S. Highland plateau, land is cleared totally – growing corn, sunflowers, millet – villages Ilula & Mafinga. Here more brick houses, some mud stuccoed over…I never mentioned before but all of these houses/huts are pretty much standard size everywhere we go no more than 20’ X 12’ and most somewhat smaller. Most in this area have metal roofs but we see many incomplete. A PCV on the bus says the explanation she has gotten is that the ‘owners’ ran out of $$, my own thoughts are that with so many that are in various stages of completion some just lacking a roof yet have weeds growing inside so obviously it’s been awhile, I think many are the result of AIDs deaths. The problem in this part of Africa is quite widespread and rampant so it would not surprise me that locals would tell a foreigner that ‘they ran out of $$’ to cover for the real reason!
In these higher plateaus we ride thru major pine and eucalyptus plantations - hundreds of acres. Closer to Mbeya I see 2 waterfalls in the distance high in Mt Rungwe, considerable rainfall in this elevation. Raod has been great, much evidence of patching potholes, even saw 2 crews doing just that along the way. Arrived about 6:30 ended up at Mbeya Peak Hotel altho the PCV recomended Sombrero Hotel but they wanted 40,000 shillings and since we are very short on $$ anticipating the border crossing we opt for 32,000 triple w/ mattress on the floor($11 US vs $9 US per person). We eat at the Sombrero Restaurant which is just 2 blocks away.