“There are three things which if one does not know, one cannot live long in the world: what is too much for one, what is too little for one, and what is just right for one.” (Swahili proverb)

The sky is definitely bluer on the east African coast. Here the wind blows in off an ocean and not out of a desert, which is often the case throughout much of west Africa. Even as far south as Cameroon that Saharan wind – the harmattan, caused the mountains to become lost in a dust-filled haze and the sun to disappear long before it reached the horizon. Well not anymore. That cleansed azure sky should be over me all the way south, assuming I follow the coast into Mozambique and don’t encounter a rainy season. The wind direction might be more of a concern though.

The small road I mentioned at the end of the last post was well worth the extra kilometres and bumps – all the mountain scenery without a climb basically. In fact I was going downhill much of the time.

Road to Tanga

Leaving the Pare mountains

Sandwiched between the Mkomazi Game Reserve that stretches to the border with Kenya on my left, and the 2000 metre+ Pare and Usambara mountain chain to my right, I was out there alone. One of those roads that sees a bus or two a day servicing the small villages that no-one really visits.

Behind the Usambaras

It was a biker’s road, and I guess other mzungus on two wheels with time on their side might have passed this way. But then I don’t mind the dirt tracks. In fact I seek them out, whereas some like to stick to the smooth stuff, even if it means sharing the road with a lot of the 4-wheeled enemy.

Leaving the Usambaras

For the first time in a very long time I set up camp alone in the bush – a mine-field of 4-inch thorns waiting to make a mockery of those Schwalbe XR tyres and my new thermarest mattress. I got away unscathed, but I imagine a lot of wild-camping spots in months to come will present the same inhospitality.

Bike and baobabs

Maize field at sunset

I’m sat next to a white beach under swaying palm trees now waiting for a boat. There are many worse places to be waiting I know. The only scheduled boat travelling between Tanga and Pemba (the neighbouring but much less-visited island in the Zanzibar archipelago) leaves on a Tuesday morning.

Dhow on Kigombe beach

Although that might have changed now. After I wrote the initial draft of this post I received news that is now making World headlines. Sobering. It’s not the boat I was planning to be on, but even still. I cannot imagine there will be too many ferries operating between the mainland and the islands at the moment. The Tanzanian Government has declared three days of national mourning. Perhaps better to look for a local boat that isn’t going to be over-loaded.

I assumed that with all the Dhows that ply up and down the Swahili coast it would be easy enough to find or enquire about local transport between the mainland and Pemba. Well perhaps I’ve asked the wrong people or haven’t found the right place. Nothing in Tanzania seems to happen very quickly you see. Tanga, Tanzania’s second busiest port, still seems to be languishing in post-Ramadan stupor, but I think the atmosphere is always pole pole here.

Dhow at Sunset: Tanga

Just under 100 years ago the British attempted to seize control of the then German-administered port and colony in the Battle of Tanga, but were apparently chased off by wild bees rather than a much weaker German army. Tanga is left with a mixture of German and British era buildings, but it’s a long time to spend a week in.

Battle of Tanga

Bananas at the market

So I’ve migrated 30km down the coast to Kigombe – a small village where the pace of life is even slower. I’m camping under a palm-thatched shelter, which does a good job at keeping the sun and falling coconuts off my tent. It’s very much pass-the-day–in-a-hammock territory, which I guess many spots in Pemba and Zanzibar offer, although I’m also hoping there is a good network of roads to explore on two wheels, assuming I make it out there. My thoughts at the moment go out to all the poor families here in Tanzania who lost relatives in the recent ferry disaster.

Kids on the beach

Girl on out-rigger

Tongoni beach