On leaving the border post at Nakonde, the road is slightly pot-holes on the way to Mbeya, where one can change money at the bank - which generally offers a better rate than at the border post. From Mbeya one continues east on an excellent tar road, which only suffers from corrugations on steep hills. This road passes through the Mikumi NP, which is worth spending some time viewing from the road (don’t enter unless you are really rich) - but I continued as this was another full days' drive. However, several Bare-faced Go-Away Birds were seen.
Passing Iringa, I continued another 20 km to reach the new Riverside campsite, which has hot showers and a great riverside setting. Ross's Turaco were heard calling in the morning. The campsite has been started up by David Moyer, who heads the Tanzanian office of the Wildlife Society. I spent a couple of hours chatting with him, and making sure I had all the necessary information for my (probable) next trip, which will be to the eastern arc mountains of Tanzania. As a small sideline, David is currently involved in setting up tours that will cover all the endemics, so is the expert on the birds of this area.
Wednesday 1st December 1999
Another lengthy days driving was ahead, so it was yet another 06:00 start. Soon after leaving the campsite one drives along the northern boundary of the Udzungwa Mountains NP. On the few times I have driven along this road, the most common bird to be seen is the Ashy Starling. However, if one has the time, there would be many more specials to find.
Continuing eastwards through Morogoro to Chelinze, the road remained excellent. From here one must turn north towards Tanga, and on reaching Segera, turn north-west towards Arusha. Along this road I had noticed several policemen, but only one stopped me for doing 61 km/h in a 50 zone. Many others were caught speeding - they have very efficient radar traps - but I had no problems talking my way out of this one..
Before reaching Moshi, I kept my eye out for suitable weaver habitat, but nothing was visible. I suspect that to see the very localized Taveta Golden Weaver, one actually needs to take the road east to Taveta.
From Moshi the road is quite heavily used, and progress slows considerably as one approaches Arusha. Also, on entering the town, a significant number of potholes appeared - although to be fair, they had all been repaired by the time I returned. The road to the excellent Masai campsite remains in terrible condition, but it is well worth putting up with. The campsite not only has good hot showers, but an excellent "fast food" restaurant. Invariably you will find two or more overland trucks - but I have never experienced any of the problems normally found with them at this campsite. What I was able to do was to talk with about 10 different groups of people who have travelled extensively throughout eastern Africa. Here was my chance to find out about the current situation in northern Kenya and Ethiopia. However, no-one present had been there, or even heard of anyone travelling there recently! However, it was still an excellent chance to meet new people and discuss current travelling experiences.
Thursday 2nd December 1999
Again I left at 06:00, but from hereon I was able to start bird-watching, although this was to be another day requiring a lot of driving. Apart from a (temporarily) badly potholed road for a few km north of Arusha, the road returned to a good tarred surface. Here the acacia bush seems to hold a greater number of birds than comparable habitats elsewhere I have visited, and Pied Wheatear, White-headed Buffalo-Weaver and Purple grenadier were quite common, while a single Mourning Wheatear was also seen.
Since I had no idea of what arrangements I needed to make for the convoy through the northern Kenyan deserts, I continued without stopping to the border at Namanga. Again the only delay was the walking between the various desks - which seem unending. However, it probably took less than 40 minutes.
Once in Kenya, the roads are no longer pothole-free - just the opposite. It is necessary to reduce speed as it is impossible to dodge them all. Continuing north from the border, one reaches the main Mombasa - Nairobi road, and turns left into Nairobi. I doubt it is possible to get through the traffic jams here in less than an hour, but in the end (with the aid of a decent map) I was able to get onto the Thika road, and continued north, keeping to the west of Mount Kenya. Along this stretch of road many birds were seen including the local race of Eastern Chanting Goshawk, Red-rumped Swallow and Northern Anteater-Chat, but not the few target species I was looking for (Jackson's Whydah, Grasshopper Buzzard, etc).
I was able to reach Isiolo by 16:00, giving me time to continue to the road-block. Here I was able to find out that on payment of 1 000 KSh, I would be assigned a soldier, who would travel with me right through to Moyale. Although I didn’t need to join the convoy, it was suggested that I do so for greater safety.
An Ethiopian trip: 27/11/1999 to 17/01/2000Giles Mulholland 31 January 2000