377 km Ruaha to Udzungwa Mountains NP – Hondo Hondo Camp
8 649 km trip to date
We exited Ruaha NP during late morning and tackled the corrugated gravel road to Iringa. In Iringa we went to a bank to exchange some US dollars for Tanzanian shillings, as we realised that everything is Tanzania is paid in shillings and not USD. The national parks quote in dollars and we obtained enough for all our visits, but they only accept credit cards. We have enough shillings for our fuel, but we began to dig into the stash for everything else as well, including buying from small shops, fruit vendors and paying for overnight camping. We went into a local Tanzanian bank in Iringa. We offered USD50 notes as well as USD20 notes, and apparently they have different exchange rates for the different denominations. Then they could not work out how to enter that on their system. They began to question the fact that we are not TZN citizens and the valid visit period on our passport stamp. After more than an hour we walked out with our USD notes and across the street into a Barclays bank. Ten minutes later we walked out with our shillings.
Then we had to stock up on water, beer, cooldrinks, bread and vegetables. If you ask where you can buy beer, they point you to a bar. Next to the fresh market in Iringa we found a dark small shop (less than 30 sq m) stocked with everything – Clover long life milk, Cadbury chocolates, South African wines, Cheese, Castle light, Nestle hot chocolate, Omo, etc. A corner bakery as big as a bathroom sold loafs of bread. The fresh market was an experience. It was loud and fully packed with every vegetable you can think of, dried fish, huge bunches of bananas, etc.
On the Zam-Dar road we travelled another 100 km to Crocodile Camp through the best scenic drive we have had so far on the trip.
A steep pass down the Kibondo mountain kept us at 10-30km/h behind trucks and buses for 8 km, but it offered great scenery. Most spectacular of all was the well-known, very long Valley of the Baobabs – huge boabab trees in the valleys between the mountains for approx 20 km. At its peak density there must be a baobab every 25 sqm. The Great Ruaha River, flowing strong here, courses for a long distance on the eastern side of the road.
Crocodile Camp is located next to the busy road with trucks passing through the night. It still was safe and a bit noisy, and good for an overnight camp. Driving further on this road towards Mikumi town, the scenery gets more beautiful.
We turned south at Mikumi and passed through one long (40 km) never-ending village located along the cane fields of the Illovo Kilombero sugar factory before and after Kidatu town. This is the first commercial agriculture we had noticed on this route into Tanzania.
And if you want to see the worst of Tanzanian rural lifestyle, drive along this road. Dirty, rubbish everywhere, 90% of the buildings in ruins, but still occupied – one cannot describe the degree of filth and neglect that is visible when passing this area. We later read in a book on Udzungwa published in 2015 that more than 70% of the population of the Kilombero valley are migrants from all over Tanzania working in the sugarcane fields. This could explain the circumstances in this area, as we have covered more than 1 000 km through TZN and nowhere else the villages are in this poor condition.
On this side of the Udzungwa mountains there are no camping or roads into the park. Only hiking trails up the mountain. We stayed at Hondo Hondo Camp on the fringe of the forest and the purpose of our visit was to see some different primate species. From the bar and restaurant area we had excellent view into the large trees of the forest bordering the camp.
Late the afternoon we noticed movement in the trees and we could clearly see some Blue Monkeys as well as Red Colobus Monkeys playing around in the trees.
Red colobuses are highly sensitive to hunting and habitat destruction and have been referred to as probably the most threatened taxonomic group of primates in Africa.
The blue monkey is classified with the Old World monkeys and are large. They have coarse orange-brown hair on their backs.
We were very fortunate to see these monkeys and enjoyed watching them playing in the forest trees.
Next: to the Tanzanian coast (Bagamoyo) through the Mikumi National Park…