Getting ready

TanzaniaPosted by Espen Wed, April 10, 2013 17:38:51

We’ve now been on the road for almost three years. There have been two longer breaks, one for about three months in Patagonia when we flew in to work in Antarctica, and a second break, for about 5 months when we signed up for another season in Antarctica earlier this year. Other than this we’ve been more or less on the move, and we have driven about 100 000 kilometers since we set out from Florida, US, in 2010. The Patrol has been great! No major problems and only “standard” maintenance as a few bushes, and oils and filter changes. Still, sometimes we need to get some new parts, and that is for some reason much easier to take care of when we are in Norway or when we get “visitors” from home. This time we have packed the bags full. So, here is a quick update on things we have to do before starting our last leg through Africa.

The Optima batteries gave me some headache the last couple of months on the road. It seems they don’t charge properly, and the length of the relatively small cable combined with the Patrol’s infamous low charging voltage (about 13,9, probably 13,6-7 on the aux batteries in the back), I believe this to be the problem. AGM batteries (and gel) should have 14,4 volts, and this will now be fixed with a CTEK DUAL250 dc to dc charger. This is also an intelligent charger that will switch to a different charging program when the battery is closer to full. A nice bonus is the built in solar controller that also feeds the intelligent charging programs so that it switches to maintenance charging when the battery is full. A very nice piece of equipment that I really look forward to install and try.

Next up is a new set of lights. My old ones have literally been shaken to pieces, so now we’ve picked up two 60 W xenon high-beams that should take care of the dark roads in the late afternoons driving north.

The compressor that we “fixed” epoxy glue down in Malawi is up for a set of new valves.

Our trusted Garmin GPS died on us just before we left Africa. The contact for the USB plug (and thereby charging) has vibrated off the motherboard, and refused to accept charging. A new Garmin Nuvi 2595 was purchased in Norway before we left, and all maps should now be loaded and tested. We’ll see if it performs as well as the old Nuvi 255w. It would be nice with the 3590 for multi-touch, but it cost more than 100 bucks extra. Maybe next time if Garmin wants to be a sponsor…

Something we’ve been looking for a little while are new bushes for the rear control arms. Leaving Norway three years ago, I had new third party polyutherane bushes in the arms (they came with my new adjustable arms). These were gone after about 40 000 km. I looked for new Patrol bushes in Bolivia, but they were sold out, and I decided to install some Nissan Pathfinder bushes instead. These have the same inner and outer diameter, but significantly less rubber in them as the Pathfinder is a much lighter vehicle than the Patrol. These have now done about 60 000 km, but I’d like to change them before setting out north from Kenya as these roads will probably be the worst so far on the trip. And as this is a pretty remote area, I’d like everything to be in perfect order. I found a press in the garage where we stored the car.

Another thing that needs to be looked after every now and then is our water purification system. It is always a little disgusting to remove the old one…

These cartridges have been hard to find outside Europe and North America, but then we only need to replace them after 4000 liters or 9 – 12 months (some change after 6 months, but we have been fine). Not a huge problem as they don’t take up much space, but our challenge was that we never intended to be away this long. We had to order one from the UK, and it ended up being ridiculously expensive as shipping costs and the Norwegian value added tax is quite steep. If you have a filter system for your water, stock up on cartridges when you can, and hopefully a place where it is cheap. We also brought with us a new tap as the old one show signs of leaking after three years of abuse, and also a few meters of plastic hose as the old one looks, well, old.

The Patrol has now been parked for five months, and we will of course change all the oils and all filters before we start driving north. We have some spare fuel an oil filters in the car, and we also picked up an extra fuel filter in Norway so that we don’t have to drive around and look for this in Tanzania. We should have all the spares we need for the drive across the Sahara and back to Europe. I hope…

There are multigrade syntetic oils to find in Arusha, so the “normal” 5w-40 (or 10w-40) that I prefer to put in should be available. I also thought I should change the oil in the rear diff as this is the one that gets most of the mileage. And talking about the diffs, I really hope that the seal we had some problems with in the front axle is still holding. We’ll see.

Other items that came with us in our bags are a stack of guide books to see us through Northern Africa, Middle East, and Eastern Europe, and also a long static rope for a winch extension line. The rainy season in Eastern Africa is just about to kick off, and we’re going to have to drive through it. Would be really nice with a new set of 37 inch BFG Mud Terrains for that job, but they wouldn’t fit in the bags…

More soon!


Just changed the oil in the rear diff. Ouch…

What was I saying about wanting to have everything in perfect order before we start driving north? Well, I filled it up with new oil, and I’ll inspect it again in Nairobi about 1000 kilometers from here. As everything has gone so smooth until now, maybe it is time with some excitement. Can we cross Sahara with this set of ring and pinion…?


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Break break

TanzaniaPosted by Espen Tue, October 30, 2012 13:24:39

Same procedure as last year… Some of you already know, there will be a short break in driving, and we’re flying to Antarctica for a few months work.

We found a place that we both thought looked good in Tanzania, and the Patrol, our home for the last two and a half years, are parked next to quite a few other overland vehicles waiting for their owners and new adventures.

Some wax will hopefully make it easier to wash away months of African dust. Of course it is the last night, and of course I had the whole week...

It feels strange and sad to leave the Patrol behind, but we’re not too worried. When the travel account has been refilled, we hope to continue north towards Europe and Norway.

When we’re on the ice in Antarctica we don’t really have access to Internet and to the forum, so until we’re back in February there will not be posts on our thread and blog.

We do however manage to get some tweets out (we think), so you can follow us on Twitter or check in on unurban.no as the tweets also will show there.

Hope you’ll check in on us when we’re back!!!


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Usambara Mountains

TanzaniaPosted by Malin Tue, October 23, 2012 08:29:21

Usambara Mountains is in the North East of Tanzania not too far from the border to Kenya. One of our reasons to visit the area was because we had heard about Irente Farm and that they produced cheese. Travelling in countries far away you sometimes miss food items that you are used to from home. On the top of our list of food items is good bread. After weeks of eating white toast bread the homemade bread from Irente Farm tasted amazing, and put homemade cheese on that slice of bread and it was even better.

First night in the mountains we stayed at the Irente Farm at their campsite, but for the next day we wanted better view and the moved to the Irente View Point Lodge.

At the lodge/hotel they let us camp at their parking lot in front of the hotel with incredible view over the landscape hundreds of meters below us. The view was breathtaking, but I did not really relax camping there because we were in front of the hotel. I could not really understand why they let us camp there at all, because they did not really make money on us since we paid 10 USD for a night. Quite a few other guests arrived and if they wanted to see the view from the front of the hotel they had to walk past us to get to the garden.

One group was really interested in our vehicles and stopped by Georg and Andrea to have a peek into their Toyota.

Driving through the Usambara Mountais we got a different feeling of the area than other places we have driven through in the low lands of Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania. Farms and villages seemed more organized and well looked after. Some people had painted their huts and even decorated them, which we had not really seen anywhere else lately.

Potatoes were harvested in a few fields, but most of the fields were getting prepared for the start of the growing season.

The road was winding through villages, up and down. A couple of places we got out of the vehicle to check a bridge we had to cross, just to make sure it would take the weight of the Patrol, and no problem.

On the northern end of the mountains we camped a couple of days at Mambo View Point Lodge and we had again some amazing views over the low lands below us.

This photo is taken from a view point below the lodge. If you look on the top of the cliff you will see some white buildings, that are some of the huts at the Lodge. The lodge has a spectacular location.

At the Mambo View Point Lodge there was also a few other visitors like these two chameleons. Their camouflage is a lot better than Espens.

The drive through the Usambara was amazing and it must be the best drive we have had since North Western Namibia.


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TanzaniaPosted by Espen Wed, October 17, 2012 01:57:16

The paradise island off the coast of Tanzania that you find in all the nice and cool travel magazines. I had high expectations, and could even be persuaded to leave the Patrol at a beach resort on the mainland for more than a week. How we were supposed to get out to the island had been discussed for a few days, and the first plan was to park the Patrol close to Dar es Salam, and then take one of the big ferries. Then we got an email from Georg and Andrea (toyotours.com).

At a nice and quiet beach resort a full day driving north of Dar, they had found a way to charter a small fishing boat. Malin was VERY skeptical in the beginning, but after some research we decided to drive up there and take a look. The weather was nice, to trip should take about 4 hours, weather forecast was good, and people arriving back from Zanzibar on this boat told us it was quite nice. We went for it!

We landed on the norther tip of Zanzibar, at Nungwi, and it really is a paradise.

But what most people don't know, is that at most of the beaches on Zanzibar swimming is a high tide only activity...

As soon as the tide go out, the locals start harvesting seaweed and dig for mussels.

Another thing that is worth remembering if you plan to go there, is that this is a muslim community, the religion spreading south along the coast of Africa with trading long before the Europeans arrived a couple of hundred years ago. They ask the tourists to respect the local tradition and culture by dressing properly.

After a couple of days on the beach we headed south to Stone Town, the main city (only "real" city) of Zanzibar.

A charming town with lots and lots of small narrow streets. It was really nice to just wander around with no other purpose than just wander....

The decorated doors are a Zanzibar speciality, and you see these amazing doors all around town. I couldn't stop wondering how many hours it would take to make one. Never got around to ask, though...

As soon as the sun went down the night market came to life. I think most of the tourists in Stone Town went here in the evening, to look, taste, and eat.

Our favorite was the Zanzibar pizza, and make another mental note about the lobster. It is not really lobster on those sticks, and we're not even sure the fish they sold as tuna really was tuna... Anyway, it was a fascinating place and the fish (no matter what it was) was fresh!

For our last days on Zanzibar we rented a SUZUKI!!! What can I say... it was cheap...

And it took us to Bwejuu on the south east coast where we spent the last two days on the island relaxing on the beach.

Next, we drive from sea level and almost 2000 meters up into the Usambara Mountains...


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Dangerous driving

TanzaniaPosted by Malin Sat, September 22, 2012 18:46:56

After a couple of days at Utengule we were ready to hit the road again. From Mbeya to Iringa on road A 104 and from Iringa to Dar es Salaam the road A 7. This is the main road from Dar es Salaam to Southern Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia, and it was as much traffic as expected. On the first stretch of 280 from Mbeya to 50 km south of Iringa, we passed 16 police check points and maybe half of them had speed guns. We were lucky and were only stopped twice, and that was not for speeding. They wanted to check driver’s license, car papers and if we had first aid kit, fire extinguisher, safety triangles etc. When we showed them all the right papers, fire extinguisher and first aid kit they realized we were prepared and didn’t want to see the rest. One police officer then pointed to the crack in our windshield and said “this is a problem, so how should we solve this?” He hopes we will give him a bribe to solve the “problem”. Espen quickly told him that this is NOT a problem. The car was inspected at the border two days before and they said it was okay. The Patrol was not really inspected at the border, but a white lie would be no harm. As soon as the officer heard this he waved us on. So a cracked windshield is not really a problem.

We can understand that the police have speed guns to make the traffic slow down through the villages where there is mostly a 50 kilometer per hour zone. Most normal cars slowdown to 50 and so do most trucks, but not the large buses. They drive at least 80 kilometers per hour through villages, and we seldom see them stopped by the police. Do the bus companies regularly bribe the local police so they can keep their schedule? The worst driving we saw on the main road in Tanzania was by long distance buses, and we were really happy we had our own transport. But the most accidents were with trucks involved. Here is collection of accidents we saw during two days on Tanzanian main roads.

"In God we trust"- I do not know if it is enough to only trust in God when it comes to safe driving.

The main road A 7 goes through Mikumi National Park and we hoped to spot some African wild life again. In Mikumi the owner of the campground we stayed told us that we had to be careful taking photos or stop while driving though the park. Tourists that have stopped or taken photos have been taken in by the park rangers and given a fine to first pay the entrance fee to the park, $ 35 per person, and then a fine of $ 150. Pretty incredible when the main road goes through an area and you are not allowed taking any photos out of your window. We did actually see quite a lot of animals and it was really nice, but we have no photos to prove it.

Besides being threatened with fines for stopping and taking photos, there are also other reasons why we do not always stop along the road. In Africa (except from Botswana and Namibia) there are people everywhere. Mostly this is fine of course; it just depends on the size of the crowd. More populated areas combined with a major road junction often looks like this if you stop.

Next stop Zanzibar.

Apologies to Espen for using the road accident photos in this blog and not in his through the windshield series smiley


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