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Monday, August 1

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Brett: The road from Kilwa to Dar es Salaam was much worse than expected with all the road works – long stretches have been dug up a long time ago to build the road and the detour dirt roads have not been maintained. This added a few uncomfortable hours to the trip and got us to Dar in the dark on the busy, narrow roads.

We used Dar as a base to organise things. We stayed at Kipepeo Beach & Village ($5 pppn camping) which is a great spot on the beach. The LP gives it a bad review for being noisy and full of overland trucks - there are lots of overland trucks using this as a base while their guests are at Zanzibar, which means a bit noisier, but it is a very sociable campsite with lots of useful tips from the leaders and drivers.  In general we have found the reviews in the East Africa LP to be even more unreliable than normal – it appears to be written for a different type of trip, as it has a weird mix of information bottom end public transport, but then often recommends expensive luxury accommodation as its preferred choices.

We drove into Dar for the day and got to experience the shocking traffic – the queue for the Kigamboni Ferry took 1.5 hours and then we got stuck in traffic (in 38 degree heat), which seemed to ease when the traffic police went off duty. We filled up our Cadac gas at Chikus and then drove around the diplomatic mansions in Msasani Peninsula. The area has quite a blank, excessively luxurious feel. There were some shopping centres there too, and Mary was hoping for something like Rosebank Mall. Instead it was a collection of the most useless shops filled with expensive tourist junk, so we headed for the Shoprite in the centre of town to stock up. Heading back, we were caught again for 2 hour in the queue for the ferry. It is chaos, with taxis jumping the queue and hustlers prowling round - the cars board the ferry, followed my a seething masses of humanity trying to get home – exciting stuff if you don’t have to do it every day. Other than the traffic, Dar has a great feel.

 

Mary: I was feeling exhausted & run down when we reached Dar so the campsite seemed particularly luxurious, having electricity and pretty fast internet. We had loads of chores to do including mountains of washing, and we got a lot done in the first 2 days. Dar itself is so vibrant and has a nice feel. There are hasslers and hustlers but they were generally less persistent than we expected. The city has a kind of buzz to it. One day when sitting in traffic outside a few tiny shops, a crow swooped down onto the pavement maybe two meters away from us and picked up a huge dead rat. It hovered for a while, then flew away slowly, struggling with the weight of the rat, and headed over the rooftops. It was actually a strangely beautiful sight, but I couldn’t get the camera out in time. A few short k’s away we found a Steers and tucked into the most amazing burgers and chips I have ('n’t) tasted in two months, and we posed for photos at the counter like the tourists we are.

After a few days of recuperation we were ready to head to Zanzibar, although we didn’t plan it very well….

 

Back in Dar: (after Zanzibar)

Brett: We went to some of the small electronics shops in Dar on the way to Bagamoyo, searching for a few useful goodies. We were parked in the street with Mary inside the car while I went into a shop for maybe 5 minutes, when some guys came to hassle Mary. They had (fake) identification cards and were saying to Mary they are from the city council and we should go with them to the office to pay a parking fine. Fortunately Mary kept the doors and windows closed and told them to wait for me to get back. When I got back a minute later, the two guys followed us and one jammed his foot in the door and leaned his whole body in the car, and I was a bit concerned he would try to grab the keys out of the ignition to prevent us from driving off. I wasn’t sure at first if it was a scam so just stayed polite and calm. I insisted we would only pay a fine at a police station and suggested they follow us to the nearest one. They were saying that because they are from the city council which is separate from the police we would have to go to their offices instead. At first, they were very convincing, but we remained insistent on going to a police station to sort it out and as the second guy started to look a lot less confident it soon became apparent that it was a scam. The first guy was still leaning in the car with his foot on the door so while I kept talking, I started the car and reversed. He had no choice but to get out of the way and we drove off.

We headed off to Shoprite to stock up and cheer up but even the delights of a good supermarket didn’t stop Mary feeling upset. Even though it worked out fine, the bad experiences are just exhausting and definitely take their toll.

 

Car Stuff:

Brett: I did a full service on the car - oil change, oil/fuel/air filter change, spark plug change checking gaps (plus the more regular fluid, bolt and tyre checks). Third gear had started to jump out occasionally, so following some advice from the hilux4x4.co.za forum, I decided to try to replace the bush at the bottom of the gear lever that acts as the pivot against which the lever works – the part is easily replaced by removing the gear lever from the top (gear box in place) – the part was badly worn with a few old pieces lying in the way which explains what we have been feeling and a $10 and 30 minute fix is definitely worth trying before looking into anything else inside the gear box. I took the wheels off to check the brakes and found the handbrake self adjuster had sheered off in the left rear drum and had been chewed doing a few rotations which we had felt in the brake pedal – no damage to the drums or pads.

I cycled into the city, across the ferry (easy on a bike) to Toyota to buy the gear lever bush. They really struggled to understand which gearbox part I was looking for because it was so worn, but eventually managed. Toyota didn’t stock the handbrake adjuster from the SA built model so they suggested a few places in town to look. One of the recommended places took me to a slightly dodgy part of town where I had to ask for directions to Master Card (a parts shop) and kept having to explain that I was looking for a shop rather than a lost credit card. I couldn’t find the part in town (new or used parts) so I guess no handbrake on the one wheel until I can find a replacement part – no big loss though because the handbrake is notoriously rubbish anyway. Cycling the streets was a lot of fun (my favourite way to see a place) and I was completely ignored by the touts and beggars. After replacing the part, the gearbox feels like new.

I didn’t have much of a reference to compare our dual battery system with and most people I had spoken to were having trouble with theirs. I carefully measured the voltages at several points with fridge/lights etc on or off and eventually found that the earth between the alternator and battery was not connected properly - there was enough voltage to charge the main battery, but when the second battery was connected, the voltage would drop below the 13.5V threshold required by the National Lunar Solenoid, causing it to disconnect again. I connected the earth properly and after some testing, the dual battery system is now working very well – about 2 hours drive is enough to charge the batteries to keep the fridge going (when full and at 2 degrees) for 2 days. The charging voltage our regulator outputs is 13.8V, which is good enough to not mess around with it, but for modern batteries and especially deep cycle the ideal voltage is 14.6V to charge the batteries up to 100%. I have learned that it takes a lot of expertise to get a Dual Battery system to work properly and any problem with the cables/connectors/regulator/alternator/battery can cause big problems and be difficult to diagnose if wrong. I also bought a mains power cable for the fridge (something I forgot at home) to take the load off the battery charger when we are camping for a few days without driving.

While we were camping, we had a lot of people coming to ask us about the vehicle (completely ignoring the land rover parked near to us) – most of them were American and considering doing something similar to their trucks back home.

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