We are almost at the end of the first leg of our world tour, which is southern of Africa. From here we head to Southern America. If you are traveling for a long time, what do you do with your mobile line? Do you disconnect it, throw it away and plan to get another line when you return home?We have no idea how much life can depend on your mobile line in other countries but we can tell you how important that line is for a Kenyan, even when you are miles away from home.
This is because a mobile line is basically our money management tool and information center. We receive bills, text from banks, and other important information on this small piece of card. We pay for everything using our mobile lines.
M-PESA is KING in Kenya.
You know or must have heard of M-PESA? If this is your first encounter with the word M-PESA click here for more. M-PESA is KING in Kenya. Besides us, many other people will tell you as much. Articles have been published by many regarding M-PESA. One Alexander Oswald said this on his TEDx talk in Vienna.
As Kenyans traveling the world and with two teenagers back in Kenya, we have to pay bills and send money every month. You must wonder how we do this from the road, or you may have some experience with it. From Kenya we have now traveled through nine (9) countries with different telephone service providers, good and poor connectivity depending on which part of the country we are in. We also have limited access to internet as in most countries we haven’t had local SIM cards which could help with data on the road. So, we basically wait till evening and look for accommodation with WiFi.
Our options for sending money and paying bills are: –
Bank transfer – everyone must have a bank account or a mobile number.
M-PESA transfer – our lines must remain active throughout our travel.
THE INTRICATE WEB OF MONEY MANAGEMENT.
We had no idea how complicated this is going to be when we left home. This is what we are talking about.
1.Our daughter must have a national identity card, MPESA or bank account!
Our daughter who is 18 going 19 had just cleared her year 12 two weeks before we left. She was going to be applying for her national identity card, get an MPESA account, PIN and get a bank account after we had left. Three months later, she has only managed to get the national identity card and no success with MPESA and bank account. She lives on her own and has to basically manage her own life and money. Before she got her national identity card, we had to always send money to other people to withdraw it on her behalf and get it to her. They too, have to look for her as they can not M-PESA her. That means time and money to meet for this handover. Then she got her ID and could receive cash on her line and withdraw but not send to anyone or pay bills. Payment of bills still remains our responsibility. That takes us to the next complication.
2. Our lines must be active to be able to use MPESA services!
If we want to use M-PESA, whether using the SIM toolkit or the App, our lines must remain active.
We have to pay bills such as water, electricity etc. We receive these bills through texts on our mobile phones that we had earlier registered with the utility service providers. All these bills can only be paid through M-PESA or bank transfer. For the bank transfer, you pay directly to the Pay Bill number, which again, is M-PESA integrated into the bank App. For either of the two (MPESA and Bank payment), our lines have to remain active. You might wonder why?
3. Why our lines MUST remain active!
If we are setting up beneficiaries on the online banking platform, we require an OTP (One Time Password) which is only sent to your registered mobile number.
When we use our Visa cards, we receive a text on our lines which is a form of security. Incase our cards are lost and used by someone else, we will get a text and can quickly get them blocked. We hate to imagine what would happen if we lost our cards and cannot receive texts on usage as this is the first level of notification.
If we need to receive the bills, we must have our lines active.
If we want to transfer money from the bank to a mobile number, our lines must be active.
To keep a line active, if it is on pre-paid plan, you have to keep loading airtime to ensure it remains active. You will need the line active to be able to buy airtime from your M-PESA.
For a line that is on post paid plan, the line will remain active but if you don’t pay your monthly bills (which payment is through M-PESA), some services will not be accessible. Services such as mobile banking on USSD.
WHAT HAS BEEN OUR EXPERIENCE SO FAR!
Using M-PESA worked perfectly well in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zanzibar on both the App and the SIM toolkit. From Malawi down south we mostly used the bank App to get money directly from the bank and send it to an MPESA account. We had no signal in Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Namibia .
It is until we reached South Africa that we had challenges using both the App and the SIM tool kit. We could receive the Vodacom signal. We could also receive text but could not use the M-PESA services. We sort help from a friend back home and were informed that for us to be able to use the services, we have to activate roaming. 😱 our faces when we think roaming charges. We activated roaming and are now happily using M-PESA 🤩
IS AFRICA THE END OF M-PESA JOURNEY WITH US?
There is only one way to to find out, follow us to our next destination ANTARCTICA
Because you are definitely coming to Botswana by the time you are done reading this blog. Lets first get you on the right track. The border process. Why? touring in Botswana is best and only best by road. If you choose to fly in, please land in Gabz – (Gaborone), then hire a camper and enjoy this beautiful country. Otherwise, bring your bike down because the bikers community here is awesomely amazing.
We crossed the border from Zambia through Kazungula border. We mostly choose to cross borders on Sundays as they are less busy. This one especially has many trucks crossing to either side of the countries. The crossing is on river Zambezi and it is the shortest ferry crossing distance you will ever do. Interesting it is also where four countries borders meet. Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia. The ferry is small and only takes two trucks plus one or two cars depending on their sizes. The cars may increase by one some times. We had two trucks, one car and two bikes and it was full.
Crossing through this border is better on a less busy time (early morning) or Sunday. Its quite busy.
However, they are building a bridge which will make the border crossing such a cup cake affair.
We cleared with Zambia side first – of cause. To note; don’t throw away your tax payment papers until you exit a country. At the Zambian side they actually had a good look at those receipts. May be because we always keep them in the Carnet booklet but we could imagine if they asked for them and we had already shredded them. They scrutinized the documents more than other exit borders we have passed through.
Crossing the Botswana border once you clear with Zambia is a supper quick and efficient process.
City Council Fee exit Zambia – Kshs 400/- for both bikes
Ferry crossing to Botswana – Kshs 1,000 for bikes and us.
Bike permit, Road permit, Road fund – Kshs 6,420 for both bikes.
We are now in Botswana, woohooo, so excited about all the animals we are going to see by the road sides, the good roads, the sandy ones too and all the places we are visiting. Lets NduThis. We are also excited about meeting up again with our travel family in Maun. We parted ways with Bahar at the border to reunite in Maun.
We started off and on the first day we had the spectacular cat-walking by two elephants. This ones we even got to take pictures. We enjoyed the road which are a spectacular tarmac. Our first day we rode 310 kilometers and slept at a small town called Nata. Nata is a village located in the Northern part of the central district of Botswana. It lies along the Nata River which carries its seasons flows to Makgadikgadi salt pans. We did not go to the salt pans something we terribly regret. Anyway, the good side of this is that, thats a firmed up trip back to Botswana. Please don’t be us. Don’t miss the salt pans.
The following day, we left for Maun. We were looking forward to the Okavango Delta and meeting up again with our friends. It was another 302 kms. From Nata, there is about 20 kilometers or slightly more of extremely bad road. It is a tarmac section that has completely been washed off and is now just loose gravel. After that section, it is all very good tarmac road all the way to Maun.
We had a rare moment when some two ostrich on the road side decided to have a race with us. Unfortunately we were not able to film this. 🙁 . They were either scared or did not like the sound of the bikes and the more we got close, the faster they ran, so we decided, well – its an Ostrich vs BMW race. Epic.
We are notorious for not making any prior bookings for our stay but on this one we already had David and Chris in Maun and since we were going to be camping, we only needed a camping space oh and mattresses. We arrived in Maun early and headed straight to the Old Bridge backpackers. Thanks God the road was tarmac with just a small section of deep sand that we managed to walk the bikes through 😉
We get our camping space at Kshs 1,800 per day for both of us and an extra Kshs 600/- per day for two mattresses since we have never bought mattresses. We have been lucky to get them at camp sites for free and laxed on the purchase bit. This price was ouch!!!. We settle in the lounge. Bahar has also arrived and we all gather there for a drink and planning for the following day.
THE OKAVANGO DELTA
We are finally about to tour this long awaited delta. Chris and David have already booked a package. Bahar has a deal through her host which saves us 50USD each and we go for this one. However, we all meet at the mokoro departure point for our individual packages. Bahar and the tour organizer arrive on time but Dos and I are still not ready (bah!). We quickly fix some sandwiches and grab some fruits to carry as our snacks and lunch.
The Okavango Delta is a vast inland river delta that covers about 18,000 square kilometers. It is known for its sprawling grassy plains that flood seasonally becoming a lush animal habitat. Dugout canoes known as “Mokoro” are used to navigate in the delta where wild animals such as hippos, elephants, crocodiles, buffalos oftenly graze. Domestic animals such as cows, goats, horses and donkeys also graze in the shallow areas of the delta.
While David and Chris took a power boat from the backpackers to the Mokoro area, we drove to the place. The drive was quite an adventure. There are no roads. Where there is a road today could be a flooded area tomorrow. There is very deep sand in the dry land and some places you have to drive through the swamps. You therefore need a good 4WD car and a local to take you there. Otherwise, doing this on your own is a recipe for getting lost and stuck in the swamps.
It takes about 5 hrs on the waters in the Mokoro with an hour break for lunch and a short hike to stretch your legs. There are many small islands and that is where you do the hike. Your guide will chose one island on your ride and stop there for the lunch and hike. If you take the tourist packages, lunch is included but if you go for an option like ours, you have to bring your own lunch. If you don’t bring it with you from home/hotel/backpackers, you can always purchase something at the departure point. There are many vendors with various foods from home cooked to sandwiches, sodas and water available.
While at the Old Bridge backpackers, we met with Ivan and Jan who are on a world tour using their two Triumph scramblers. Their world tour is scheduled for two years and at the time of this blog they had already celebrated their first year on the road. They have been to North America, Latin America, South America, Africa and heading to Australia then Europe.
It was really great exchanging notes on the routes and SIM cards (yes SIM cards 😉 ). Looking forward to another meet up and a ride. Coz travel buddies paths will always cross again.
We had an amazing time in Maun, we even had our laundry done. For Kshs 500/- we got all our clothes machine washed and had a day to see more. It’s time to hit the road again. Next destination Ghanzi.
It is 277 kms to Ghanzi from Maun. The distance not one to wake us up early and so we had an easy morning. The road is pretty good and we had even figured where to sleep courtesy of iOverlander. We get to Ghanzi and look for the entrance to our camp. We had chosen this particular camp because it was stated they sell game meat and we had planned on a “game meat feast night”. Having had a light breakfast and no meals in the day, we were looking forward to the game meat.
Our first turn to the camp, according to google maps was wrong. We did not know till we rode on gravel and then got in to really deep sand. A bukkie pulled right next to us and the family asked us where were going. We gave them the name of the camp and they told us we were on the wrong road plus its extremely bad for our bikes even if we had wanted to use the long way there. We turn back and use the given directions. We get to the entrance gate and hardly 500 mtrs in, the sand is as deep. We debate whether to go further and find out if it gets better or to look for an alternative. After consulting with each other, our hunger and time, we decide to get back to the tarmac and look for an alternative.
We head to the town center and get into the Kalahari hotel.Walking in with our dirty gears, sweat, tired faces, we inquire for a room. The lady at the receptions tells us, they are fully booked and so is every hotel in town because of the annual “Kuru Dance Festivals”. She asks if that is what brings us to town and we say no, we are on transit to Namibia. She is so nice and she start calling everyone she knows to see if she can get us a place. At this point we tell her. We have a tent and all we need is a camping place. Her face lights up and she says, we have space for one tent left. We tell her we need mattresses as well, she say, we don’t have those unfortunately. We set up our tent and went to the shopping mall to look for camping mattresses but found none. For two nights, we were to reshape our bodies by sleeping on the hard surface. Wamuyu used to wake up asking if her hips are still there. 😉
Our plan was to spend one night and head to Namibia the following day. However, on this evening, a couple of cruiser bikes pulled in to the hotel parking. Their sexy loud sounds getting almost everyone in to the parking. Dos was one of them. He meets with the moto girls on the bikes and calls me. I reluctantly walk there thinking, well, more guys and no girls but you can imagine my face when I saw three girls. All the screams, dance and begging to stay for another day. After a chat, we get invited to their charity event the following day and my begging to stay another day is sweetly approved.
Two events happened on this day. One was the biker’s charity event and because we stayed for an extra day, we got to attend the Kuru dance Festivals.
Two biker clubs Three Chiefs MC and YOLO MC had come together to give prescription glasses to about 50 students of Ghanzi Senior Secondary School under their annual charity ran “RESTORE VISION, SECURE THE FUTURE”. The charity is geared towards ensuring students with vision impairment are not disadvantaged in school. It was such an honor to see the fruits of a long process that involved getting an optometrist to check the students eyes, diagnose, prepare prescriptions, glasses and eventually have them handed over to the students. With some of the students scheduled to sit for their high school final exams this year, you could see their faces light up with a ray of hope.
Halfway a sumptuous lunch prepared for us by the school, we were informed that the President was on his way to the town and we needed to meet him immediately at the airport. We had to bolt and leave. On our bikes and off to the airport, we left. His security team was surprisingly easy and we were let it in a few minutes and briefed on how to proceed. It is during the introduction that he asked how the Kenyan traveled to Botswana and he was told we rode our bikes from Kenya. The rest is history, he asked to see our bikes and signed both of them.
We landed in Zambia from Malawi on 12th August 2018 through the Songwe border.
Country No. 6
12th – 19th August, 2018 (Day 41 – 48)
If it’s not called Mosi-oa-Tunya in Zambia, it is called Mosi-oa-Tunya 😉 😉 Just remember that.
We like to always highlight this as it is very important information for all the travelers. You will note our blogs will always start with the border experience. In Malawi we paid for road access fee. In Zambia we paid for Tar Levy of Zambia Kwacha 70/- (Kshs 700/-) per bike. Please don’t ask us what is the difference in road levy and Tar levy, we too don’t know but you have to pay it anyway. Whether you understand it or not. Since we had the carnet and the COMESA insurance, that was all we had to pay. The process was first and efficient.
NOW IN ZAMBIA
We left the border for our first stop over for the night at Petauke. Having come from Lilongwe on the same day, our mileage for the day was 322 kms. We had looked at the map and thought the best place to sleep was Petauke, not because we wished to cover that kind of mileage but because we thought Chipata may be a very small center and might not have accommodation. Its very near the border as well which could have given us the impression as other centers close to the border have been small and without accommodation. To our surprise, Chipata is a well established town with street lights, malls, petrol stations and you can find very good accommodation. If you leave Lilongwe and cross the border late, you should not worry about driving/riding far to find accommodation. It’s only 107 kms from the border and good tarmac road all the way. We however had enough time to get to Petauke and therefore did not spend any time at Chipata.
Our way of finding accommodation is either by using iOverlander, asking from the locals or using referrals from other travelers we meet as we travel. We have been so fortunate not to end up sleeping by the road side because we did not make bookings in advance. Something we don’t do. Once we arrive at our destination for the day, the first thing we do is top up fuel for the bikes and if we need help with the accommodation, we always ask the people at the petrol station. So we did that at the petrol station at Petauke and they all pointed to a lodge right opposite the station. We were tired and just rode in to the lodge called Chimwemwe lodge. We got ourselves a cottage as they did not have camping option. It’s a very touristic lodge just by the main highway. We are so used to our tent and being in a place that is social. That is why we love backpackers and camp sites. Everyone talks to everyone. This turned out to be our movie night. Thanks to the TV in the cottage.
it took us two days from Lilongwe to Lusaka. From Petauke to Lusaka it is 403 kms. One thing to note is that the roads are really good. From the border, for the first time we had a road without pot holes, bumps or cops. In all the other countries, we had at least 2 out of the 3 on each road. It is also a very long stretch with nothing much to see only big farms and good vegetation. Zambia is very green. We however enjoyed driving through the Lower Zambezi National Park and crossing a very beautiful bridge with an amazing view of river Luanga.
We arrived in Lusaka and we had already picked our new home from iOverlanders as the Lusaka Backpackers. We went in and got our beds in the dorm. We always take a decker. It’s fun whispering to each other like we used to do in high school. I know, you are wondering how a couple sleeps in a dormitory. Our best experiences have been in the dormitories. We love them. They are also very pocket friendly but the best of all is making friends. Our dormitory had 5 beds. This one had no deckers though so we were all on the same level. We were three of us in the dorm and did not meet the third dorm-mate Bahar till later in the evening. She is from Turkey and was traveling solo. We would end up having dinner and drinks together and became travel buddies for the next couple of places.
THINGS TO DO IN LUSAKA
We had a day to spend in Lusaka and all three of us spent it together. We avoid the very touristic activities as they cost more. For example, you can pay a guide to take you for the Lusaka town tour which will include the museum and the Kabwata cultural village for USD 30. A friend from Lusaka organized transport to take us around Lusaka town. After some errands at the Levy Mall and one of the best salads we have had since we left home from Living Healthy outlet, we left for the Museum and Kabwata cultural Village.
Entrance fee – Zk-50/- per person for none residents. (Kshs 500/-)
No pictures allowed inside the museum. The museum covers the history and culture of Zambia. It has emphasis on the colonization and independence history of Zambia. Opened in 1996, it has a modern layout.
THE KABWATA CULTUAL VILLAGE.
If you have been to Maasai market in Kenya, then, the Kabwata cultural village is similar to Maasai market. The only difference is that, it is set up as a village. It was a nice experience being here as they have items that we don’t have in the Maasai market but largely the paintings, carvings and some accessories were similar. They have the gemstones and old money (Zambia and Zimbabwean) which were quite interesting to see. You can also buy it there.
We left in the morning. Bahar took the bus because we could not fit her suit-case on the bike, otherwise we really wanted her to seat at the back of one of us (perfect pillion). She had told us how she has never thought she could ride a motorcycle but the more we talked, the more we felt she is going to get one some day. Destination, Livingstone. We were all looking forward to the Vic Falls experience. We arrived at Jollyboys backpackers and booked our space in the dormitory. We found Christine and Virginia in the dorm and our traveling family had two more members. The dormitories here are very well designed. Each bed comes with personalized amenities such as own light, own charging point, own locker and the design gives you the comfort of some privacy in your own little space. Here we were also meeting Chris and David who we have been traveling together from Malawi. It was going to be a big happy reunion.
As soon as we all linked up and were now happy to be together again, we spent a really amazing evening together. We were to part ways again the following day as Chris and David were leaving to later link up in the next countries but not without helping them make a tough decision on their next move in their adventure. Their transport out of Zambia was complicated and was going to affect a part of their travel. After a tough deliberation, they sort our help in making the decision. This was made by tossing a coin which Dos would be in-charge of. Turned out to be the best way to make a difficult decision. After hugging each other and Chris and David leaving, the three of us sat by the pool side.
We heard the roaring sound of a bike and like little kids, we ran to just see. There was a cute yellow BMW 1150 and a very knackered gentleman. We said hello and welcomed him. Chuchi joined our amazing traveling family and the four of us would spend the day at the Vic Falls the following day. He even named Bahar “Chingololo” (her Africa name now) and got us gifts.
We have met and made friends with the most amazing people in this world. We have been blessed.
We spent the rest of the day talking and sharing our travel experiences, advices and any information that would be helpful to each other on our different adventures. Chuchi was really helpful with the roads in Botswana and what to expect. The border crossing and planing as he has traveled this route several times on his motorbike. The best advice was on how to handle the world animals which occasionally cross the road randomly and more especially the elephants. That was really helpful.
THE REAL MOSI-OA-TUNYA (The smoke which Thunders)
If you are still wondering what “the real Mosi-oa-Tunya” is, don’t worry any more. This name means “The smoke which Thunders” and refers to the Victoria Falls.
You can view Vic Falls from Zambia and Zimbabwe as well. However, we preferred the Zimbabwean side. It was more epic. You can walk across the border to each country and view the Vic Falls. If you need visas to both countries, you need to factor in the cost of visas as you have to pay it with each entry. However, you can get a multiple entry in to Zambia and only pay extra for Zimbabwe if you would like to view the falls from both countries which is possible in a day. For countries that don’t need visa into the two countries, you only need to pay for entrance fee.
Kenyans – No visa required in to Zambia and Zimbabwe
Zambia entrance fee – USD 25 P.P
Zimbabwe entrance fee – USD 30 P.P
If doing both countries, give yourself the whole day and a walking distance of about 14 kms in total. If doing only one side, give yourself about 3 hours. You may need to hire a rain coat at the gate if you are afraid of getting wet. We did not, we loved the showers of Mosi-oa-tunya. Have proper and comfortable shoes for walking otherwise you end up with your legs in the cold pool in a cold night like Wamuyu. Carry some drinking water, there are coffee shops and restaurants for a meal on your way out but you can pack your own lunch. We packed our own lunch and had a picnic lunch in there which was really lovely. They have places you can eat with nice benches and dustbins.
If you stay at Jollyboys like us, you get free transport to the Vic Falls and only need to get transport back to the backpackers. Taking a taxi by yourself will cost you Zk 60 but if you take a shared taxi, you pay Zk 10 and get dropped at the museum which is right across the road and walk to the backpackers.
There many shops and vendors where you can buy souvenirs at the Vic Falls. There is even a small shop inside the park where you can buy water and snacks. There are very clean toilets and will only cost you Zk 2 to use, which ticket is for multiple use. The entire place is really well organized and worth every penny you spend.
We entered Malawi on 2nd August, 2018 through Kasumulu border.
2nd – 12th August, 2028 (DAY 31 – 41)
We are not the only ones who use this phrase “Malawi the warm heart of Africa”, many people do and there may be a book titled that too as well. The people of Malawi are very kind, welcoming and loving to everyone. The make the country earn this title.
Our last night in Tanzania was spent in Kasumulu (you can read all about our last night in Tanzania here) This was border no 5. Getting through immigration and getting passports stamped for both exit and entry has basically been the same process everywhere. What has varied so far is clearing the bikes at the customs.
What you need to know about the border crossing in Malawi.
All borders will demand to see your insurance. COMESA insurance is the easiest to have as it covers several countries down south to South Africa. It is best to purchase it before departure as this will save you a lot of time at the border. However, not all countries are covered and you need to check that when clearing your bike at the borders and purchase insurance for the country not covered at the border. It is illegal to drive without an insurance.
Malawi is covered by COMESA insurance but you have to pay “road access fee”of $20 per bike. This amount is only payable in dollars and you have to deposit it in the bank and present the deposit slip with the paperwork at the customs. The good thing is, the bank is in the same hall. There can be a long wait as everyone crossing the border with a vehicle has to go through the process. The bank is semi-automated and therefore each transaction takes a bit longer as most of the transaction involves quite some paperwork. There is a forex bureau right next to the building so if you don’t have dollars you can change some money there. And that means you have to have some cash on you as there is no ATM at the border. Same rules about dollar notes applies here, only dollar notes from 2006 will be accepted. We found a very helpful customs official who came to our rescue when our 50 dollar note was rejected as it was a 2004.
Another thing you need to know is, there is a bit of paper work at the Malawian border at the customs. Whether you have a carnet or not, you will be required to fill up some paper work. In essence, plan your time very well for early arrival and to allow for the paperwork and custom process.
RIDING THROUGH MALAWI
This is very important for everyone who plans to overland through Malawi. Riding or driving, please take time to read through this blog.
Malawi is very very beautiful no doubt about that. Lake Malawi is the main tourist attraction and therefore almost everyone will be using the M1, M5, M14 and M12 roads. We entered Malawi through the Kasumulu border coming from Tanzania.
FUEL AND CASH ACCESS.
From the border, the next town with a petrol station or ATM is Karonga and it is 45 kilometers from the border. Make sure you top up fuel in Kasumulu and get some cash as well. If you miss topping up fuel and cash at Kasumulu, you can top up in Karonga but it would be a risk for cash as ATM’s are down sometimes or won’t accept foreign bank cards.
From Karonga, the next town that you can find a petrol station and an ATM is Mzuzu which is 218 kms from Karonga. We did not have this information and we left Karonga without topping up fuel thinking there would be a petrol stations along the way and we could get more ullage in the tanks to take up more fuel. We also did not have enough cash on us and we had no idea what the costs are like. Our first two nights were going to be in Chitimba 160 kilometers before Mzuzu. We stayed at a really nice backpackers called Hakuna Matata, where we took up two beds in a dormitory. Fortunately or unfortunately, we were the only ones in the dormitory and so it was just like we had our own room. There were other travelers though in the rooms and we ended up making great friends and traveling together for some time. The owner Mr. Willies was really helpful and he helped us get some fuel from a local vendor that was very clean. No problems at all. There is always a way out ;).
After two nights at Hakuna Matata, we left heading for Nkatha Bay via Mzuzu. We had ran out of money too. We actually even owed the camp some money. We needed to get cash. Here is our other new experience. All Malawian banks will only dispense a maximum of 80,000 Kwacha (Kshs 10,600/-). Our daily budget so far is at Kshs 6,000/- (we are hoping to bring it down to Kshs 5,000). One maximum withdrawal only takes care of one day as we need fuel, accommodation and food. The other surprise was that most of the banks don’t accept foreign cards for withdrawal, only Malawi National Bank accepted all cards. The bright side of this is ATM withdrawals at Malawian National Bank cost ZERO. The ATM’s down time is also high and most of the time we would find ourselves waiting for a long time, or walking from one ATM to another hoping it’s working. Our first experience was in Mzuzu and we were stuck in the town for sometime but we eventually were able to get some money. Mzuzu is 50 kilometers from Nkhata Bay and therefore easy to ride to the ATM.
This remained the experience throughout Malawi and it is very very important to plan and budget well otherwise you ran out of cash and fuel with no access.
We also noted that most places do not accept credit/debit card payments. We were not able to pay for fuel using the cards at all and the only place we used the card was in Shoprite supermarket at Mzuzu and Lilongwe.
Fill up your tanks and if possible carry reserve fuel depending on your route, distances and tank capacity.
Carry enough cash at all time. Only cash payments in Malawi. Foreign currency (Dollars and Euros) are accepted in most camps but not in shops and fuel stations.
Malawi National Bank is your best bet for ATM withdrawal but you may be lucky with others depending on your bank and type of card.
All main roads are good tarmac other than a section after the border where the roads are being repaired. This should be done in a couple of months. Towards Mzuzu there is also a section with many potholes but doable.
Most of the roads to the campsites are sandy with sections of deep sand. For bikers, you need the right tyres although we made it with street tyres. 4X4 vehicles are perfect for these roads.
BACK PACKING IN MALAWI.
There are some hotels along lake Malawi but we do not have the data at all. We never checked for hotels while planning our stay in Malawi. Reason being, they are beyond our budget. However, there are many lovely backpackers along Lake Malawi all the way from the North to South Malawi. Very affordable, awesome community and just the traveler heaven.
We have used dormitories, rooms with shared bathrooms as well as rooms with private showers. You can never compare the prices to those of hotels whatever choice you make. Backpackers are way cheaper and are just the perfect community, amazing family set up and the best way to meet people, make friends, exchange information about travel and have an absolutely good time.
We have made friends and continued to travel together. Some for a couple of places and others a couple of countries.
If you would like to follow our route, below is where we stayed.
CHITIMBA – HAKUNA MATATA CAMP
Hakuna Matata is a small camp site. What we loved about this place.
The bathrooms are really nice and the designer put some good attention to details. The showers comes with a drying area which is well designed for all your items (a bench you can place your toilet bag and hooks for clothes and towel) The water is hot throughout the day. The sinks are well placed with mirrors and enough space as a shared bathroom.
Cleanliness – the camp is very clean, rooms and compound alike. We stayed in the dorm. The dorm sleeps five and has single beds and no deckers.
Warm and homely set up – Willies the owner of the camp hangs out with the guests and is very knowledgeable about the Malawi history as well as the rest of Africa. He will seat with guests over breakfast and dinner and gladly share information about Malawi and entire Africa. Just ask him anything and he knows something very helpful.
Food – They have a small kitchen where you order food. They serve breakfast and dinner but if around for lunch, there is always someone to fix a light meal. Their food is freshly prepared and very delicious. Make sure to try the butter fish while there.
Accessibility – The camp is about 1 kilometer from the main road. The road is a mix of shallow and deep sand. Our bikes have street tires and this was not easy, however, if you ride slowly you will make it in and out. We did, but the right tyres are better.
Activities – Enjoy the view of the Malawi “table mountains” from the beach, the sunrise and sun set is really beautiful as well. Take a trip up the Livingstonia mountains to the Mushroom camp, museum and more.
BUTTERFLY SPACE – NKHATA BAY
Butterfly Space is build on a hill or can we call it a cliff ? It extends down to the lake. You have rooms and bathrooms on the cliff and down at the lake there is a nice bar with the most amazing music. Not forgetting the reception right in the middle and the kitchen with very delicious breakfast.
The pub is managed by young guys with an incredible collection of good music from all around the world. We actually borrowed some and they gladly shared. You also get to play a game of pool and Bao with them. Your nights will be spent listening to the sound of the waters of Lake Malawi hitting the stones as if to sing a lullaby for everyone.
The bathrooms and toilets are all compost since you can not build septic tanks on the cliff and they are eco friendly as they are keen on maintaining a clean lake and environment.
We traveled down with our friends from Hakuna Matata and made new friends at Butterfly space. We had some really fun nights at this camp till we extended our stay.
Access to Butterfly space is all tarmac. The only one we saw that was tarmac all the way.
We spent one night at Kande beach. We were unfortunate to be there when there were no other guests. Its really popular for over-landing trucks. A relatively modern camp. The road to the camp from the main road is mostly deep sand. If riding, please make sure you have the right tires. Otherwise, you will make it, we did.
We spent two nights at Cool Runnings and met Samantha who runs this amazing cozy and very homely lodge. There are en-suit rooms, dormitories and camping available (both own tent and their tent). Talk of attention to details everywhere, this place has every bit of it well thought for your comfort. Very very beautiful we must say.
Samantha runs a number of community projects and has volunteers coming in from all over the world. The most amazing bit is that if you are staying there and would like to volunteer for a day or more, that is possible and very welcome. We decided to take a day and just volunteer. We ended up having such a great time with everyone and learning so much. We made more friends and loved this place a lot.
Accessibility – about 800 mtrs from the main road. Partly sandy road.
MABUYA CAMP – LILONGWE
Our stay in Malawi was sadly coming to an end. We were a bit behind schedule and we decided not to go down to Cape Maclear and Monkey Bay. Lilongwe was going to be our last town and stay in Malawi. We were here for two nights and stayed in a en-suit room. When we called to book, we were given the price of 30 USD per night but we got charged USD 45 a night which we were not happy about. The backpackers is conveniently located walking distance to town. We were able to walk to the shopping mall and do our shopping. It’s tarmac road all the way to the camp. There is a swimming pool, self catering, restaurant and a bar. Although located in town, you have everything within the backpackers and will not need to think of a night out in town not unless that’s really what you would like to do.
OUR FAMILY GREW IN MALAWI
We made the most friends in Malawi and have continued traveling together. Malawi is beautiful, incredible, indeed the warm heart of Africa and the connection country.
We loved Malawi, we left filled with so much love from everyone we met and we now have a big loving fun family.
WHAT TO DO IN LAKE MALAWI
Snorkel and scuba
Explore the villages
Drink Malawi gin
Soak in malawian warmth
Eat lots of fish
Try out the mice delicacy
We are looking forward to answering many questions because we know yo are already planning your trip to Malawi.
This post is going to include Zanzibar too. We got a stamp of entry in to Zanzibar but we don’t separate it from Tanzania.
BORDER CROSSING NO. 3 -RUSUMO BORDER
We left Kigali at around 9:00 am with a plan to ride to Kahama in Tanzania and cover 460 kilometers in a day crossing through Rusumo border.
We arrived at the border around 12:30 p.m. We had lost some time on the stretch between Kayonza and Rusumo due to the bad roads, however, we were still in good time for Kahama if we got cleared in good time.
The border was relatively busy as we arrived with a few other groups of over landers. We got our way to the Rwanda section for exit stamps and clearing the bikes with the customs. This was pretty easy and fast. We were done within no time. Next was Tanzania immigration for the entry.
Entering Tanzania was different. First, they scan everything, by this we mean, you have to pass through the scanner for body scanning, then bring your luggage for scanning before going to the immigration. This process takes time and depends on how many people you find and their amount of luggage. We had to off load our dry bags to take through the scanner. Fortunately, they agreed to check the panniers from the bikes, but this meant opening our panniers in front of everyone and they also asked that we open the little bags like toilet bags and day bags which carry an easy access set of change of clothing inside the panniers.
Once we scanned our big bags, they identified metal and we had to open and pour out everything. We tried to explain that those were the tools but that did not work. The process of re-parking took some more time off our schedule and was not very interesting.
TO NOTE: –
Scanning is mandatory.
Make time for this process since the time you spend here largely depends on the number of people you find. Arrive as early as you can.
We eventually got our entry approval and stamp at the immigration and quickly headed for the customs to clear the bikes. By this time, it was past 1:00 pm and the officers had taken their lunch break. There was no alternative but to wait till 2:00 p.m for the officer to return from his lunch.
In essence, we spent two hours at the border hence losing some precious time for the remaining part of the journey.
RIDING TO DAR ES ALAM
Our plan was to ride all the way to Dar es alam covering a distance of 1,439 kms in four days. The plan was to do:-
– Kigali to Kahama – 460 kms
– Kahama to Singida – 306 kms
– Singida to Dodoma – 232 kms
– Dodoma to Dar es alam – 441 kms
We ended doing the distance in 5 days. Travelers don’t make plans, right? Continue reading and see why?
THE INTENDED RIDE TO KAHAMA.
At the border, we asked a few other drivers how the road to Kahama was and they told us it was bad but doable. That did not exactly define how bad but of cause everyone was using this road. Some people told us it was about 50 kms but we found out it was way more.
We left the border at 2:30 p.m ready to cover another slightly more than 300 kilometers. The truth is the first 40 kilometers were fine, just an old good road. Then, the rest was really a tough ride.
There were sections of former tarmac road now just potholes, there were long sections of diversions that were full of gravel, fine deep soil or sand. The road has many trucks from and to Rwanda and therefore in the dusty sections there was zero visibility at times due to dust and all we could do is wait for the trucks to pass and the dust to settle.
We arrived at Nyakananzi at around 5:30 p.m having covered only about 115 klometers in 3 hours. Our maximum speed on that road was 60 kph if we got lucky. At Nyakanazi there is nowhere to sleep. We stopped to fuel and we could see a very good tarmac. We asked if there were any more diversions ahead and were told only a short one about 500mts long. We hit the road at about 6:00 p.m ready to get to Kahama but hardly 10 kilometers ahead, we got in to the first diversion with many other trucks. This one turned out to be about 2 kilometers but we were so happy when we saw the tarmac again. We pushed the bikes as though to recover all the lost time and get to Kahama but 12 kilometers before Uyovu, we got in to another diversion. At this time it was dark. The best speed we could do on this stretch was a max 40kps. There were many trucks and that slowed us down too. It got worse when we lost visibility, and our only option was to follow the trucks as they seemed to light better and had a better visibility. We eventually arrived at Uyovu at 8:30 p. having covered only about 50 kilometers.
We looked for a place to stay and found a small lodge. We asked the lady working there to help us get some food and she gladly got us some chips mayai. We were finally in Tanzania. What a welcome.
And this is how our 4-day plan became a 5-day plan.
ACTUAL RIDE TO KAHAMA.
The following day we were pretty tired and decided to just do a ride to Kahama and have some good rest. We covered the 145 kms pretty well and first. The road was all good, but the winds get tough sometimes.
RIDING TO SINGIDAM- DAY MILEAG 306 KMS
We spent a night at Kahama and left the following day for Singida. This was going to be 306 kilometers ride. Wamuyu had been to Singida before, and we were excited. We went back to the same PHB hotel she stayed at, a year ago and was really amazing seeing everyone again. We took a walk in the beach just like she did one year ago. One night at Singida and we left for Dodoma.
Hotel are not expensive here and we did not see any backpackers. With Tshs 30,000 (Kshs 1,500), you get a very good room with private bathroom and double bed, AC, TV and fridge. The price includes breakfast too. We highly recommend visiting Singida. Its really beautiful by Lake Singidani.
RIDE TO DODOMA – DAY MILEAGE 232 KMS
Let’s just give this a name! The windy start.
West Tanzania is mainly dominated by a large central plateau and covered with grassland and plains. We had experienced winds before, but they were not as bad. We left Singida in the morning. The first 30 kilometers were really bad. The winds were just crazy, they had been the same the whole of the previous night and we had been warned. A few kilometer into it, we stopped for a wind 101 chat ;). From here on the ride was really good and uneventful.
FINALLY GETTING TO DAR ES ALAM
Woohoo we finally getting to Dar and we going to have some rest.
You have no idea how this feel …
We had a really nice ride and only got hard about 25 kilometers to Dar es alam due to heavy trucks traffic. Please don’t make this mistake like us. Use the Bagamoyo route to Dar and while on that, please stop for a night and day and Bagamoyo. This small town is so beautiful.
DAR ES ALAM HERE WE COME.
We were welcomed to Dar es alam by our very good host and the Dar Bikers.
We parked the bikes and we were not to touch them again until the departure day. 😉 We had a few activities in Dar before leaving for Zanzibar.
We took a day to experience Dar es alam. We also met up with Diana our friend from Kenya and experience Dar together. We took a walk in the beach, had fish for lunch and some drinks at a local beach restaurant. After getting ourselves stuffed, we decided to take a boat ride to Mbudya island.
– A boat ride to the island takes about 45 minutes.
– It cost us Tshs 50,000 (Kshs 2,500/-) for a return trip. The boat guy waits around for you to enjoy the place.
– There is park fee paid at the island and we paid Tshs 46,000 (Kshs 2,300/=)
To note: –
We highly recommend you eat before your trip to the island or pack a picnic bag. Carry your drinks and water. The place is very beautiful for picnics. There is a small restaurant in there but not a reliable one.
Don’t leave your swim suit behind, the beach is beautiful and a jump into the ocean is well worth it.
There are no clean changing rooms, so wear your swim suit inside and have enough time to dry up. Carry your lotion, sunscreen and a good pair of flip flops.
MEETING THE DARS BIKERS AND FRIENDS.
We had been in contact with Mrusha and Hussein of Dar Bikers way before our arrival in Dar. We were also meeting our long time friend Salim. They gave us a very warm welcome and spent time with us. Mrusha and Hussein organized a dinner meet up with Dar Bikers. These three gentlemen made sure Tanzania truly is “Unforgettable”. They took us around for many lunches and dinners. Ensured we were well taken care of. We can never thank them enough.
Zanzibar is known for honeymooners, white beaches and good food. Initially, Zanzibar was not in our plan until the last night in Rwanda. We looked our next days of travel and route and we changed all that to add some excitement to the trip. We settled to do Zanzibar. We were in Zanzibar for four days and spent the entire time in Stone town. We were so lucky to hook up with our friends from back home.
Zanzibar can be expensive and requires some good planning and budgeting. Besides hotels, there are Airbnb and couch surfing options too. The hotels range from 5 stars to budget hotels. We stayed in Abuso Inn hotel in old town.
We visited prison islands while there, did a tour of the stone town, ate different types of foods at the Forodhani Gardens and our favorite restaurant at Stone town was Mash Allah restaurant. Great food, ambience and service.
We returned to our host Joseph after ending our holiday in Zanzibar. We really did not want to leave Tanzania. It had become home, and we were having lots of fun. At our host place, we met other travelers. We met Tracy and Katherine. We however had to leave. On Sunday, we packed up and Mrusha and Hussein came to see us off. We rode with Mrusha to Bagamoyo where we were to have some coffee as we say good bye and continue to Dodoma.
There was the Bagamoyo annual marathon happening on that day, but what caught our hearts is when we rode through the small-town heading to Firefly backpackers for our coffee. Bagamoyo is really beautiful and when we parked our bikes at Firefly, it took us just a couple of minutes to know we were not leaving the town that day. We had our coffee and headed out for a walk and see the beautiful Bagamoyo town. We also walked to where the marathoners were gathering having a relaxed time after the run. It is here that we were fortunate to meet the Minister for Natural Resources and Tourism – Hon. Dr. Hamisi Kigwangala
If in Dar, please spare time to visit Bagamoyo. It’s only 50 kilometers from Dar and definitely worth a visit.
After our day and night in Bagamoyo, we were back on the road again, heading to Malawi. This would take us through Dodoma again, onward to Mikumi national park, Makambako and eventually Kasumulu border. Another 4 days before we enter Malawi and a total of 887 kilometers.
We enjoyed riding through the Mikumi National park. A stretch of about 100 kilometers within the park and it is all tarmac main road. However, you cannot stop or take pictures in this section as its dangerous to do so coz of the world animals. We saw buffalos, monkeys, baboons, giraffes and zebras. The buffalos were the highlight of the ride.
We stayed at a lodge called Bastian and we recommend this place highly. The staff are very welcoming, the ambience so good, the food is delicious, and the campsite is very clean and well maintained. We camped at their tent for USD 25 per person full board and we even got a lunch box each on our departure day. Their tents come with a bed, matress, bedsheets, warm blankets, a small balcony or veranda with two seats. We were able to park our bikes right next to the tent. The bathrooms and showers are very clean, spacious and with hot water. We were grateful we found this place after the place we had been recommended to was full.
At Makambako we stayed at a nice budget hotel and the following day rode to Kasumulu. We had checked on a place to stay on iOverlander app and found one Mara Green backpackers. We don’t recommend this place although we made our own party and made our stay memorable. We arrived there at around 4:00 pm together with one other cyclist riding his bicycle around the world. In total we were three people in the entire backpackers which looked more like a deserted place. Nothing works anymore, ran and managed by one elderly man, no kitchen, no bar, no nothing but an old place of what may have once been some nice backpackers.
The gentleman was kind enough to help us order some food from the nearby town and was later delivered by a boda boda rider. The three of us, ate together, enjoyed some drinks and danced ourselves to bed.
And this marked our last night in Tanzania. A party out of Tanzania.
Keep it here for our experience and fun in Malawi – turuuuu
We have no other better way of describing Rwanda. Rwanda is simply amazing.
We entered Rwanda on our Day 12 of the ride. It is the same day we left Kabale in Uganda which was our night stop before crossing the border.
This might end up winning the award (if there is one 😉 ) for the country we rode the least. We only did about 314 kilometers in total.
BORDER CROSSING 2 OF THE TRIP.
We had spent the night only 18 kilometers from the border. We arrived at the border early which was a really good thing. Kabale to Kigali is about 115 kilometers. So, it was a pretty short ride for the day.
At the border, Uganda immigration and Rwanda are very separate but not far apart. Being in the morning, we did not find many people but there was more than we found at Busia. There are people who cross the border from either of the two countries (Uganda and Rwanda) for work and have to go through the immigration although their paperwork processing is different. There were also trucks that had arrived early and a bus or two had arrived as well.
We cleared with Uganda side for exit and then went down to the Rwanda side. We joined the line for the immigration desk and as soon as we were done, we headed for the customs. Cleared the bikes and went to the security desk to get our gate pass. Make sure you pick a gate pass to exit the border as you enter Rwanda. There is a barrier and the security will not let you out if you don’t have the gate pass.
THE SURPRISE MOMENT.
In Rwanda you drive on the right side while in Kenya and Uganda you drive on the left. So, picture our brief moment of surprise. You must be wondering why if we already knew this – right? Once you pass the barrier to enter Rwanda, you do not switch from left to right immediately. There is about 500 meters you drive on the left then have to switch to the right. Wamuyu was leading and although she was aware of the short distance, a truck just appeared from downhill and there were instant breaks right there. Anyway, he gave us way and we switched lanes. And that was our welcome to Rwanda moment.
RIDE TO KIGALI
After switching to the right lane – right side, we were all ready for the 97 kilometers to Kigali. It was going to be a slow ride. From the border to Kigali is all down hills. No climbing but descending.
The speed limit on the road is maximum 60 KPH and lowest 40 KPH. There are blind corners and sharp bends almost every 800 meters to a kilometer. Our estimate may be wrong but that was the feeling we got on the road. That explains why the speed limits are set that low. In Kenya we have 50 KPH within cities, towns, shopping centers, near schools and hospitals. The road is very good tarmac and very scenic. Kigali is a city of a thousand hills and you can imagine the feel going down the hills with a magnificent view from the top. It took Wamuyu a longer time to get used to the right-hand side driving and every time a car showed up from a corner. She freaked out. Otherwise the ride was smooth all the way till we got in to the city and were welcomed by a roundabout. A pretty confusing moment right there and we almost made a serious mistake. Luckily, a motorist right in front of us noticed our dilemma and stopped. He offered to lead us and even blocked traffic for us. Once he made sure we were in a safe place, he stopped and asked where we were going. We informed him we were meeting someone at a particular place in down town. He called the gentleman on our behalf, confirmed the location and offered to pay a boda boda to take us there. God always sends angels your way.
WELCOME TO RWANDA BY REUTERS MEDIA HOUSE.
A night before leaving Kabale, we received and email from Reuters saying they would like to cover our stay in Rwanda. We got it just right on time. The “someone” we were to meet at a particular place is the very kind Reuters journalist in Kigali.
We arrive at our meet up point and in a short time him and his colleague arrive, and the interviews begun. Once the interview was done, it was time to go to our hotel which we had earlier been recommended. Unfortunately, everyone we asked said they don’t know it including the journalist. He was kind enough to recommend another hotel. He took us there and also negotiated for a good rate for us. This was really very kind of him.
Once we settled in to our very cozy room, we planned the rest of the interviews and coverages for the next couple of days were going to be in Uganda. There was going to be a cricket match and Kenya was playing and that was one of the events we really wanted to catch.
GETTING AROUND IN RWANDA.
When we think of Kigali roads, we have the image of a web in mind. First, you drive on the right-hand side and besides that, the road network is like a web. We went to many places but could still not figure out the route back to the hotel. We therefore decided we were not going to ride in Kigali. A decision that we did not honour to the full. Once a biker always a biker.
In-case you visit Rwanda and find yourself in a situation like ours of getting lost in Kigali don’t be worried, the boda boda’s in Kigali are the perfect alternative. There is not Uber, Taxify, Little cab or any of those taxis you find on an App. Sorry . There are the yellow line taxis but very few and not easy to find. There is also public transport but to specific areas.
The Boda Boda’s of Kigali are not your usual boda guys – no, scrap that. They are organized, clean, have helmets for passengers and only carry one passenger at a time. If you are two people and stop a boda boda, he stops a second one and the price is agreed before you leave. They also confirm that the other boda boda rider understands where the passenger is going and also knows the route there.
The rider and the pillion MUST wear helmets and they follow traffic laws to the letter. If driving in Rwanda, NOTE – you cannot have your wheels touch the zebra crossing. That is a traffic offense.
MEETING THE RWANDA BIKERS.
The love among bikers is an envy for many. Kudos to the world-wide family.
While in Uganda, we got in touch with the President of Kigali Bikers (Cedric). Cedric spoke to us on daily basis and ensured we were comfortable and progressing well. He organized a meet up over the weekend. We had the Friday night out and on Saturday we rode to the cricket match after which Cedric hosted us to a sumptuous lunch at his house. Whoop whoop! Kigali is such a blast.
Reuters covered this Saturday ride, the cricket match and the lunch. We understand this particular coverage was aired on K24
TO MEETING AND MAKING LIFELONG FRIENDS.
Have you ever met someone, and the feeling is more like, where have you been brother/sister? You feel like you have known them all your life but one of you have been hiding from the other? We found ourselves in the situation. That was the feeling when we met Naledi and Godfrey. A couple that rides together too. From the first day we met during the Friday night out, we connected and spent amazing time together during our stay in Kigali. We are a bit emotional writing about this right now. These two made our stay the most amazing experience we have had. They accommodated us, fed us, gifted us, spent loads of time with us, took us to places and we can never thank them enough for their kindness and generosity.
THANK YOU SO MUCH NALEDI AND GODFREY, MAY GOD RICHLY REWARD YOU, MAY YOU NEVER LACK.
THE GENOCIDE MEMORIAL.
We all along knew we were going to visit the genocide memorial. There is no amount of preparation that will have you ready and comfortable for the experience. It was the first place we visited in Rwanda and we are grateful we did that because, you get to understand the cultural context which makes it easy to travel the country and understand the people. Entry is free and the only thing you pay for is the audio guide equipment and taking pictures inside the memorial.
– The audio guide equipment – USD 5/=
– Taking pictures inside the museum – USD 10/-
– Taking pictures outside in the compound i.e. grave area is FREE.
This should be a MUST visit for everyone who visits Rwanda. Carry enough soft tissues or a number of handkerchiefs. The experience is going to initiate a mix of emotions. You may lose faith in humanity, you may appreciate what you have, you may be filled with bitterness and will cry most likely through the entire time at the memorial. One thing that is for sure, you will leave there changed. Spare about 2-3 hours for the visit to the memorial. Brave yourself for wall displays of photos, video footage, weapons used during the genocide, human skulls and bones and the most heart wrenching children’s memorial.
The outdoor exhibit has the mass grave sites and some beautiful gardens that seem to offer some peace after the heart-wrenching experience. People from Rwanda come here every day to mourn and reconnect with their families – one of the Rwandese told us. “We bring flowers, we have quiet moments with our families here”. We saw baskets of flowers, roses and some single ones too. Visitors are also allowed to place flowers to honour those that died.
There is then the black marble wall etched with the names of those who died.
There is a coffee shop in the memorial which is a nice way to calm down and relax.
Make sure to make a donation. The memorial relies on monetary gifts to maintain it.
We decided not to share pictures of the memorial.
, VISITING THE KENYAN HIGH COMMISSION.
We paid a visit to the Kenyan High Commission. We walked in without an appointment and we were really fortunate to be able to get some time with The Ambassador John Mwangemi from his busy schedule.
Like we told you in our previous post, Embassies are for the people. There is so much to learn. We think we converted the Ambassador. We look forward to the ride soon 😉
THE RWANDA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTER.
This is basically like our KENYA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTER. Why does it make for a tourist attraction site or place to visit? It’s simply a good, well thought, well planned, well executed piece of Art. Opened in 2016, you can be sure it comes with some of the very best modern technology. It is dome shaped and has very beautiful lighting in the night that changes to multiple colours.
We had wanted to see this place so much both in the day and night to just enjoy the lighting. However, there was another important reason that we had to go to the conference center. We were meeting our friend, fellow Kenyan biker lady Kui Bett. You have no idea what it is like to meet people from home when traveling, or maybe you do, and you understand how important this was.
VISITING LAKE MUHANZI
The most popular lake to visit in Rwanda is Lake Kivu which is between the DRC and Rwanda. We however did not visit this lake. Our friends Naledi and Godfrey suggested we go to Lake Muhazi and they actually drove us there. It’s about 40 minutes to an hour’s drive. There is a section of the road that is not good, but this is being repaired or they are putting a brand-new road all together. The Lake is in the Eastern province of Rwanda.
There is a nice restaurant by the lake and lunch is served by the lake shores if you like. We took one of those lake shores tables. We had whole fish and chips ;). The fish is big, and the chips portions are large so just make sure you are hungry enough when going there. It’s a great place for relaxing and we enjoyed the sunset. This marked our lovely stay in Rwanda.
Our plan was to leave Kigali and ride to Kahama on this day as there was nowhere else on that route to stay. That was going to be a cool 539 kilometers in a day. We started early for the ride, had Reuters cover our ride out and we must say that was a wonderful escort.
The ride was all good till we go to Kayonza. The road constructions begun. We had been told it’s a short section but turned out to be all the way to the border. There were sections of scraped off roads, tarmac with potholes and dug up sections. This was one hot, dusty and long day. In the end, we could not make it to Kahama and only covered 307 kilometers in more than 8 hours.
Keep It here to hear about the border crossing at Rusumo, and the rest of the days experience.
We bid farewell to the coolest kid in Africa – Rwanda
Uganda was the first country we entered after leaving Kenya. We spent 8 days in Uganda. This is from entering the border at Busia to exiting Uganda at Katuna border. Just writing these two sentences we are asking ourselves “why did we rush through?”
We however had eight awesome days in Uganda. First, we have family in Uganda and it was really important that we spend some quality time together as we will be away for 3.5 years.
We crossed in to Uganda through Busia border. This our first border crossing and true to your thoughts we were excited. The feeling was more like – “yeah, the adventure is really happening!!!”.We had our passports and carnet in hand ready to get into Uganda. We found a parking spot at the border and everyone outside there walked to us. Can you imagine the feeling when we heard several people discuss who we are??? Kind of a brief celebrity moment right there. Majority had watched the departure coverage by KBC a few days before and they were excitedly telling everyone who didn’t know about our adventure. Greeted guys, answered a few questions and then we headed to the immigration.
The Busia border is newly built. We have no idea how it looked before the new beautiful buildings. Both Kenya and Uganda immigration offices are in the same building, something that makes the process pretty easy and fast. So, we headed to the Kenya immigration counter first for exit out of Kenya. The process is, you first get cleared and get the stamps on the passports before going to the customs to clear the bikes or any vehicle. After we got the “EXIT” stamp on our passports, we headed to customs to clear the bikes. The process is straight forward with a carnet and pretty fast. At this point, we are in no man’s land till we get the ENTRY stamps in Uganda which is the same process, first get the passports stamped and then clear bikes at the customs. The custom officer however asked to physically verify the bikes and so we walked with her to the bikes and she looked at a few things like registration and condition of the bikes before giving us a pass in to Uganda.
In total the whole process took us about 30 minutes. We were lucky there were no people waiting and therefore we did not have any waiting time. It may not always be the case especially if you find buses crossing in to Uganda or Kenya. We arrived there around 2:00 pm and this could be a good time as most buses cross early morning or later afternoon. Important to note is check the busy hours at the border and cross at the less busy time. Also align this with how much time you need to get to your destination.
THE SURPRISE MOMENT
At the border, we decided to change all the Kenyan money we had in to Uganda shillings. Between us we had Kshs 3,565/-. We walk to the forex and ask the exchange rate and it was 1ks to 36.5 Ushs. Once we changed our money, we instantly became rich. Surprise number 1. We now had Ushs 130,122.5. Our heads registered the riches but did not move from our Kenyan currency. In our heads, it was now Kshs 130,122.5. From the border we stopped at the petrol station and of cause, we thought we had so much money only for the pump to read Ugsh 85,000/-
What a nice welcome to Uganda. 😉
First stop in Uganda was Jinja. Why Jinja? Well there are several reasons including it is on the way to Kampala 😉 but for us it was important we stop in this town for the following reasons: –
It is the source of River Nile – River Nile is the only river in the world that flows north.
Experience the historical town.
Plenty of water sports available too.
We had a recommendation for a place to stay by our biker friends in Kisumu and we just rode to Signature Apartment hotel. This place is really beautiful in all means. Service, food, rooms, garden, location all in one word – GREAT! We felt right at home and we were concerned we may not want to leave. Check out why in the images below.
Mr. Grace Kigenyi – the owner of this place is also a biker, and this was just another plus. We were with family.
The following day, we rode to the source of River Nile. It’s only 1.3 km’s from Signature Apartment Hotel, which is another plus for staying there. There are charges for accessing the source of River Nile.
– Ugandans and East African community pay the same fee of Ushs – 10,000 (Kshs 274/=)
– Vehicles going in are charged too. We paid Ushs 1,000 for the bike (Kshs 30/- or less by a shilling or two).
There are licensed tour guides in uniform, so it is very easy to identify them. They are very organized and so you don’t have so many of them running to you each one asking if you could take them. We loved that so much. We got our guide and walked in. There is a restaurant right by the waters. Our guide took us through the options, the prices, what we would be able to do and see. He was very professional. He asked if we wanted to place an order for food so that when we finish the boat ride we can have our lunch. The organization is amazing.
The options include:
Half an hour ride,
He explained that speed boat though the more expensive option would not allow for good bird watching, seeing the monkeys and all because it’s too fast and not able to access the edges of the river well. We settled for the option that would give us the best in terms of how much we can see and that was the regular boat.
THE BOAT RIDE:
The boat ride was slightly over half an hour even though we paid for half an hour. There is so much history on the lake/river. There are some small islands on the river that are man-made. They have been washed off in to very small islands and others totally gone. The smallest is right where the mark for the source of River Nile is. Its submerged but has a small curio shop built on it. There were some toilets that are no longer accessible because the waters have raised so much, and they are just on river not submerged but inaccessible. There are plenty of birds, monkeys and lizards. They are right at the edges and the reason a speed boat does not make a good option if you will like to see them.
The history of how the “source of River Nile” was identified is just another amazing reason you should make that trip. We aren’t telling you, smell the flavor and go fetch the food yourself. 😉
NEXT STOP, KAMPALA
After two days in Jinja, we left for Kampala. We regret not doing the water sports in Jinja. This was a terrible mistake – but please don’t judge us. We have many more opportunities ahead. Our consolation.
The ride out of Jinja was really nice till we got to Mukono. Jinja to Kampala is only 82 kilometers. The first 60 kilometers were super good, then we got into traffic. We forgot to remove our thermal liners from the jackets and the weather was hot. We also ran out of water. This was traffic, heat, no water!! The next 26 kilometers were a real test, but we made it to Kampala.
We were received by our sister, bought lunch and we took off to go home, park bikes and rest. And this is where the traffic test changed to worse. Kampala has really heavy traffic. It beats Nairobi and New York. We made it home in one piece to a beautiful reception by Christian and Clarisa. We also swore we are not taking the bikes out again till the departure day. We kept our word and opted for driving. Thanks to Collins and Pri for allowing us to use your car. Geeez just realized we never topped up the fuel – shame on us – how ungrateful!!! We are really sorry Collins and Pri.
KAMPALA BIKERS ASSOCIATION.
Before we left Kenya, we contacted Morrisons of Morrison’s Leather (the best biker’s gear shop in Uganda). We know a few people from Kenya who have bought gear from him and he doesn’t disappoint. He is able to ship anywhere in East Africa too.
Morrison organized a meet up with the Kampala Bikers and we had brunch together on an easy Sunday morning. Kampala Bikers are very organized, a close-knit family and just one happy lot. It was really lovely sharing experiences. There was also a surprise for us – we got to meet Grace Kigenyi of Signature Apartment hotel and Angie, the only lady who rides in Uganda with her beautiful baby – Suzuki GSX R-1000. After the brunch, we rode together to Morrison’s shop. This shop is one you go to when all your bills have been paid otherwise you leave all your rent and more there. The quality of the gear he sells is worth it and not very easily available at the price he sells it. So, Dos became a victim — no, he became the lucky one to find a jacket that fitted perfectly well and was way better than what we had bought for the adventure. Don’t ask for the other jacket, it has already been donated ha ha ha. For the next 4 days we just soaked in to family love and enjoying every minute of it.
MEETING WITH KENYAN HIGH COMMISSIONER IN UGANDA
After a day well spent with the Kampala bikers, we made a courtesy call to the Kenyan High Commission in Uganda. Embassies are meant for the people and if you have ever thought that it is hard to get in to your embassy, scrap that now. It’s pretty easy. Just walk in.
We arrived and were received very well right from the gate. The Ambassador was not in at the time and so we met the Consular Mr Macharia and the rest of the staff. We had a really good time with the staff who are very friendly. As we were just about to leave, the High Commissioner, Amb. Maj. Gen. (Rtd) Geoffrey L. Okanga drove in. To our surprise, he is also a very friendly and jovial person. The mood at the embassy is one very happy family. He invited us for, yet another cup of coffee and we could not resist. The cup of coffee ended up being close to two hours of a very impactful and informative session with the Ambassador.
LEAVING KAMPALA HEADING TO RWANDA
After a great time with family and friends, it was time to go. We left Kampala with another “we don’t wonna leave”feeling. It felt the same way it did when we were leaving Nairobi. Family is hard to leave.
We had 405 kilometers to cover in a day to Kabale. Kabale is the last town before Katuna border. Exiting Kampala was easy as we were not going to pass through the city and so no traffic. We were staying in Kajansi area which is out of the city. There is a new bypass that goes direct to Busega. We missed the sign that motorcycles are not allowed on the bypass and found ourselves on the wrong side of traffic police at the toll station. There were also a few other riders who had been stopped. We begged them to allow us and gladly they accepted. So, the whole lot of us like 15 bikes were let in. We all zoomed and looked like someone blew the start whistle and there is a ribbon waiting at the other end.
The rest of the ride was uneventful. We arrived at the Equator and had to stop and take pictures. For the first time we were so far from each other yet so close. One in Northern Hemisphere while the other in the Southern Hemisphere. We still could hug though ;).
We also met and made friends with a lovely couple who lives in UK. Traveling is the best way to make friends.
We arrived at Kabale in good time to get a place to stay and relax for a night. Wamuyu had caught a terrible cold and we needed to keep warm and have a good rest. Kabale is also colder than anywhere else we had been in Uganda. The area from Mbarara to Katuna border is hilly, green and very scenic. The road is very good tarmac all the way from Kampala but the twisties and bends from Mbarara all the way to the border are just what a biker wants on the road. Now you know. ;). Gear up!
It’s good to note that if you are going to Rwanda by road – overlanding like us. Kabale is the last town before the border and the best place to sleep if you don’t have enough time to cross the border and get to Kigali. Its only 18 kilometers to Katuna border and you find some really good B&B.
The following day we woke up and left for the border. It was time to say good bye to Uganda and Hello Rwanda.
July 2nd 2018 came and although we had been anxiously waiting for this day, the sad reality that we are leaving home, and not just home but our country set it.
LEAVING FAMILY AND FRIENDS
Then there was mom, sisters, brothers, aunties, uncles, cousins and the rest of our extended family. Our mom was hardest hit by the adventure. It was very hard breaking the news to her and so she got to know about it after everyone else. She has gone through a hard time accepting. Something that affected us too. We needed her blessings and we kept assuring her all will be well. Our sisters helped in reassuring her too. A month to departure, we paid her a visit and this was the best moment as she told us she has accepted and gave us her blessings. This is when, we knew we are leaving. It was quite a joy knowing we are not doing this against her wish. She came for our prayers day and flag off too. Watch the video above.
Family goes beyond blood and we have always considered our friends as family. Between us we have a lot of friends who have stood by us and encouraged us as we planned the adventure. We rode together, ate together, spent loads of time together.
LEAVING THE COUNTRY.
We left and set off towards Uganda as our first country to enter. However, this was not an express ride, we made stops to enjoy our country before exiting. We have always known we love our country Kenya, but the experience of exiting was similar to that of leaving our family and loved ones behind.
“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us, or we find it not.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
From Nairobi to Nakuru, we rode with friends and that was an easy ride. It was the first time we were riding our bikes fully loaded and so we were also getting used to the weight and the new width of the bike so we were not in a hurry at all. We got so much love along the way. Like the staff of Shell Sigona who welcomed us, signed our bikes and wished us journey mercies. We are proud V-Power couple!
We stopped at Dalamere Golf club for lunch in Naivasha. We could not believe we had never heard of this place. We even tried the mini golf.
We arrived in Nakuru to an amazing surprise from our friend Edu. He had booked us at Ole Ken Hotel in Nakuru. We bumped in Dos’s friend from campus and had an amazing evening.
Though the traffic from Nairobi to Nakuru was medium heavy, we had a lovely first day of our adventure.
We continued receiving kindness and generosity along the way.
On our day 4 we headed to Rusinga Island and ended up at Rusinga Island Lodge. When we got to the gate, we automatically knew that that we could not afford to stay at the 5 star lodge. We were so tired and it was really hot. We went in anyway, hoping to be able to negotiate something good or at least get referred to a place we could afford. We met Mr. Ondongo the manager. He set us up a tent at their camping area for only Kshs 1,500 per person. We were so glad we did not dismiss the place at the gate. Their camping area comes with charging pots with adequate sockets, good lighting in the night, hot showers and it is right next to the lake. We were able to watch the amazing an popular sunset. Their tents come with two beds (you need to bring your beddings), what I call a balcony*, two chairs and a table. They have one of the best fish dish, so eat at the restaurant. Food and drinks area bit expensive though.
We left Rusinga Island the following day. It was really hard to leave but we needed to keep our time in Uganda. Leaving Rusinga we used the ferry from Mbita to cross to Luada and head to Busia. You should take the ferry. Its a 45 minutes ride on the waters of Lake Victoria and was a breathtaking experience. As we were waiting for people to disembark from the ferry and we can load our bikes, a group of girls from Bunyore girls were the last to get out of the ferry. The minute they saw the bike, the said “we watched you on NTV” and that is how our conversation started. We answered their questions and had a brief chat with them. We left knowing, in them, there are travelers.
EXIT KENYA – ENTER UGANDA
We arrived at the Busia border at around 1:30 p.m. This was really a good time for us to be able to get to Jinja in good time. Busia border has been rebuild and its all a very modern and clean border with Kenyan immigration, Ugandan immigration, customs for both countries in one building. This makes the clearance very very fast and efficient. It took us 30 minutes including waiting and we were off. If you are heading to Uganda with a car or motorbike, we think this would be the best border to us.
And just like that, we left home and left Kenya. We miss you.
The D-Day finally came and believe us, we were as excited as you. Lot’s of emotions too. We started planning this adventure back in June, 2016. Then we were talking of two years to come. June 2018, we were busy getting the carnet, the South African Visa, putting our items together. The bikes had arrived in January, 2018 and we immediately started getting used to them.
We had a very warm and emotional flag off. The presence of our family and friends was more than we could ask for. It was not easy leaving home on 2nd July, 2018. That is when all the questions bombard you in the head and it is very easy to develop fear, jitters and doubts.
We were very excited that with God’s blessings we were finally leaving for our adventure.
We would like to say a big THANK YOU to the following.
BAVARIA AUTO LTD – for organizing the breakfast for us and our family before the flag off. They also managed to service our bikes before departure. From when we wrote our first email to Mr. Michael De Souza – Brand Manager at Bavaria Auto Ltd back in July 2017, we have received extra ordinary customer service and support. Jamba and Kenia arrived well.
KBC Television (Sports Desk) – for the media coverage of our flag off directed by Mr. Burckley.
The thought of doing a world tour was born in June 2016 and since then, we have been planning. Nothing prepared us for the amount of work, time, emotions or changes that we would go through with the process. It has been an exciting and a learning process for us as well.
We have also been asked a number of questions by friends, family and fans regarding this trip. We want to answer them here to the best of our capability hoping that this may help another adventurous person in the future.
To be honest, the only thing that has remained constant are the questions. However, the answers change and will keep changing as we keep learning and rediscovering ourselves during this adventure. Same questions one year later, may not bear the exact answers here because, we will have learned some lessons, figured out other things and feeling very different from how we feel today. We however, are going to make our answers as honest from our hearts as possible. Our honesty remains the same.
What Inspired you to do the adventure?
We both have done a bit of travel and some of it on our motorbikes. At the time this thought came up, what followed was, there has not been any black African who has done this before. Bragging rights you would say, setting a record too or even pulling a first one. All these are potentially true and we cannot blame you for thinking that way. However, we will not only be the First Black Africans to do this, no, we will be Kenyans first and will remain Kenyans. The biggest inspiration came from our country. A country so beautiful, a great travel destination, with lovely loving people, rich culture, peaceful, mother of the champions and warm and welcoming. Enough has not been said about our country “Kenya”, it has not been given the due recognition out there and we are just going to deliver Kenya to all the seven continents. We are inspired by our country Kenya.
What is the adventure all about?
Three words describe our adventure; DREAM | EXPLORE | INSPIRE
We would love to inspire as many as possible to take up their dreams, explore them and inspire others.
How are you funding the trip?
We are taking our savings, quitting our jobs, selling everything we have and taking off. This is not enough for the three years for sure and we are exploring other ways and means of raising funds towards our adventure. For example you can buy our T-shirts and bracelets or simply donate through clicking the support button at the TOP LEFT of the website which money goes to supporting us during the trip. Thank you for your kindness.
What or how does your family and friends feel about it?
It was not easy breaking the news. Family is the last you want to make feel worried or uncomfortable. We had to discuss this over and over again. It was different ways of breaking the news to different family members. Parents, kids, sisters, brothers. We knew each one would receive the news differently and so we chose to tell them at different times taking into consideration their own personal feelings. We are glad today we can say we have crossed the difficult part of dealing with the news and we have lots of support from our families and friends.
Do you have children? If so, what are you going to do about them?
We have two teenagers. They will be 18 and 15 years when we are leaving on 2nd July, 2018. This is one question that our answer is met with many more questions spoken or silent. For those bold to ask more or share their concerns, it has always been “Isn’t three years too long to leave the kids behind?”. Yes and No. Yes because we will miss each other dearly and No because we are giving them much more that the three years apart. We haven’t also come through without deep thoughts about this. It is sometimes emotional and a draw back as much as we believe and see the deeper good. In mommy’s blog #243 why i am riding the world, she has addressed this.
How prepared are you?
You are never prepared enough for anything in this world. However, that is not to say that one should wake up and walk blindly and hope that all will be well. We will be covering the preparation for the adventure on a separate blog post. We however would like to say that our first and ultimate preparation is in Joshua 1:7 : “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go”. Our God is our best preparation.
Who else are you travelling with?
The entire trip will be the two of us. We however, have what we call “Travel buddy spots”. We are going to publish the countries we are visiting, cities, towns and activities we will engage in. We are inviting anyone who would like to join us to do so. You do not have to be riding. For example, if you have always wanted to visit Colombia, you can visit when we are there and join us for the ride in Colombia. The invites are open to anyone and everyone.
Is your husband/wife Kenyan?
This is usually the most tickling question. When we meet people separately, they will always ask about the other partner being white or Kenyan. Of cause we understand that this kind of adventure is more done in the west than in Africa and are honoured to be doing it right from KENYA – AFRICA. Anyway, to answer this, we are both Kenyan, 100% so.
How will you sustain your finances for the three years on the road?
Do we have an answer you can take to the bank or rely on? NO. We actually have nothing more than FAITH. FAITH that we shall not lack, FAITH that all shall be well, FAITH like just in the bible – John 20:29 “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” We are however looking to work for you. We will write for your magazine, review hotels, review brands (gear, clothes, equipment, food) and if you are a Kenyan Tour and Travel company we can send you clients as we travel. Trust us and we won’t fail you. You will then pay us and that is how we sustain our finances for the three years on the road. THANK YOU.
Why are you doing this?
We were first asked by an 11 year old boy what inspired us to ride around the world. We gave this young smart chap a 3 minutes response, feeling so sharp, confident, on point and all and then he looks at us, shakes his head and says, doesn’t sound real…. And then we are there tongue tied, embarrassed, wondering what? Does he mean we are lying or we don’t know why we are doing this? The Auntie came to our rescue and said, “Go change that story, he is not convinced and may be many are not”. The truth is:
We first got inspired by our own love for travel. Then we were inspired by our kids who said, “Go for it!”, Then there was you who has never stopped cheering us – “go go go go”, and the ULTIMATE REASON we are doing this is: “TELLING THE STORY OF KENYA TO THE WORLD”
I hope this answers most of your questions but, if you still have a question about why we are riding around the world, please feel free to drop it in the comments section and we will definitely answer you.