Day 14, 15: Surviving 'Bongo' or just getting around Dar

We wake up to an unpleasant surprise: Our new, used spare tyre is flat -- it burst while parking outside the Safari Inn we stayed for the night. Seems the tyre decide to take us to Dar and give up life straight after that. At least we made it here and can look for a spare... another one. The search begins, through Dar's many shops, mechanics and even the labyrinth of the notorious Kariakoo market. After being sent from a shop to another for hours, we find a local brand that has our size -- not tubeless, but at least it fits. Another ordeal with a roadside mechanic and a day later we're back on the crazy one-lane highway heading out of Dar. We don't make it far, however. The tyre bursts AGAIN... this time some 40 km outside of town. It's obvious the weight of the two of us, plus our luggage and fuel are too much for the piece of rubber... especially in the suffocating heat of the Tanzanian coastline. We find a motorcyclist with an engine smaller than ours with a trailer big enough to fit our two wheeler and us. It feels like a scene from a sad movie: leaving Dar in all excitement, to return on the back of a motorcycle trailer just a few hours later. How's that for a deja vu? Our patience is slowly but surely running out. Will we ever manage to leave Dar? The next day the search for a tubeless tyre resumes. And we might get lucky today. One of the Indian shops seem to carry them -- unfortunately slightly wider than the one we need, but it fits nevertheless. Off we go, AGAIN. There is little of Dar we get to really enjoy. Its vibrant nightlife, the many cultures that compete for prominence, the tasty samosas we smell while roaming around the streets and the coconuts we only get to see from a distance become just a hazy memory of a place we vow to come back to. Maybe on foot next time. The rugged inner-city hub dominates with its freighters and tankers in the harbour, upscale suburban neighbourhoods in the north, filled with air-conditioners and electric fences, colonial gems next to glassy high-rises of banks, and the masses of people, on foot, tricycles and behind tainted windows of cooled four-by-fours. Dar is nicknamed Bongo -- meaning 'Brain' -- and it took some wits to get around this urban melting pot. We even unexpectedly meet friends of friends in this East African metropolis! It's hot and humid, and the parties along Coco Beach look way too inviting... We get stopped by the police three times -- each time when I was behind the wheel. "Can we see your driver's license, ma'am," they ask each time. They even ask Alberto if he trusts being ferried around by a woman!

Day 13: Elbowing our way into Dar

The day starts with a nerve-racking drive through the Mikumi National Park. There is nobody around to tell us not to enter the park so we go ahead -- although the 'Danger' sign at its entrance keeps us (well, at least me) anxiously looking left and right every now and then. Be it as it may, we don't get to see too many wild animals today. Some impalas and baboons cross our path and we see the trunks of elephants sticking out from behind the bush, but giraffes we only spot on the triangular warning signs on the side of the road. The road after the park gets increasingly busy as we push through our last 250 km to Tanzania's economic powerhouse in Dar.

Day 12: A pricey, used spare tyre and the manual we don't have

We get off to an early start but to no use. There is no tyre that will fit our scooter in the whole of Iringa. The Chinese imports on the market have a bigger wheel, almost double the size of the Vespa. Alberto follows one of the locals around town all morning looking for a possible replacement, but nothing can be done. A local mechanic promises he will be able to organise 'something', but we are doubtful. After all, the country's economic centre is still hundreds of kilometres away and our schedule is tight. But miracles happen...

Day 11: Iringa to ... well, IRINGA!

The day started on a rather pleasant note: woke up near the river, a hearty breakfast, good company from some Swahili-learning volunteers and the nice British pensioner who nostalgically pondered with us about his own crazy, good ol' scooter-days... There are many activities on offer at the camp -- from horse riding, to river walks or swimming in its current -- but the road is calling us. A 2 km manoeuvre on the off-road track back to the highway and we hit the asphalt again. The road is idyllic today -- at least the first 15 km.

Day 10: The hanging tree and racing on the Cape Town-Nairobi highway

Mbeya is one of those place you won't rush back to... yet it has its purpose nevertheless. There is not much to see, although the Loleza and Mbeya peaks are looming graciously over the town. The semi-colonial town centre is bustling with life this Wednesday morning. People are crowding around the local market and the garages in town. We scooter around looking for the 'hanging tree' -- according to our guidebook believed to have been used by the Germans during the Maji Maji uprising to execute opponents of their oppressive rule. Yet here ends our sightseeing. (And we never manage to find the tree either). The locals we ask only think us mad. Trees don't hang, after all, they say.

Day 9: Wazungu, pikipiki and Tanzania's greener pastures

East Africa, here we come! We get two nicknames the moment we pass the border: "mzungu" (or wazungu in plural) as they tend to refer to any white person walking around and "pikipiki" as all two wheelers are being called. Our Vespa feels right at home with scooters seemingly the preferred mode of transport in this part of the world. We cross the border at Tunduma and get sucked into a row of green hills and valleys straight after that. The views are stunning! If it was not for the speed bumps that pop up out of nowhere around every curve, we might have even enjoyed it. Zambia's neighbour, yet the scenery changes immensely.

Day 8: A state-subsidised bed in the heart of Zambia

Every day we plan to leave early to either cover the maximum distance... or to at least be able to stop in between to give our sore behinds a break. But every day the story is the same: it takes forever to fit everything back into our bags (it seems our stuff is multiplying even though we've been steadily depleting our food supplies); the scooter is getting less stable by the day while we try to pull the straps around its frame (or maybe it's just that we lack the energy to keep it straight)... then the getting out of bed seems such an impossible task!

Day 7: All roads lead out of Lusaka...

As in the case of Rome in Europe, all the roads in southern Africa seem to be leading into and out of Lusaka. One may not describe the urban trading hub with many superlatives, but the mishmash of dusty streets, bustling markets and sleepy charm in its many side roads has an attraction of its own. A colourful anti-AIDS campaign lining up murals along Cairo Road is leading us north out of Lusaka. We follow the long road of trucks, donkey-led carts and bicycles overladen with fuel, wood and sweets.

Day 6: Sliding in mud and rain all the way to Lusaka...

We start the day at Wonder Bake, a local bakery that sells huge muffins and many other unidentifiable sweets and savouries. The cappuccinos taste yummy, even served in the tiger-pattern cups and saucers. At the next table all sorts of trading and money exchanges going on, with one hand passing the bills under the table, the other gently raising the cup of tea for another sip.

Day 5 (later on): The mighty falls

At Livingstone, we head straight for Victoria (or Vic) Falls. Somehow, once again, we end up at the Zimbabwean border post instead. They tell us we've driven past the turnoff to see Vic Falls on the Zambian side. How did we miss that? Weren't these falls supposed to be huge?