Even though I have been working on the site for almost ten years now, it is still very much work in progress. Here you’ll find what’s new on theonearmedcarb.com (and when I added it).

  • After my years in Tanzania I briefly visited Zimbabwe and Botswana, for which I also put some memories and pictures together. Mostly pictures, really (March 2021).
  • I spent a few weeks sorting out old, now-digitized slides from my years in Tanzania, and wrote up some distant memories, on the East African Memories page. Apart from a, related, Tanzania page, I also created pages for Rwanda and Malawi (Feb. 2021).
  • Having been back to Italy in October 2020, I expanded the Italy page, and also included a Northern Italy page to list the relevant travel blog entries. In the process, and for completeness sake, I decided to add a San Marino country page, which is nothing more that the blog entry (Nov. 2020).
  • Following our trip to the Czech Republic in July 2020, which is described in the Czech Republic blog, I also created a country page Czech Republic, under the SE Europe section (Sept. 2020). The locations on this page link directly to the blog entries of these towns.
  • From the start of this site I have created the attic, with the intention to post items for sale that we have collected over the years, but have no space for anymore in our home. Instead of using theonearmedcrab.com, I have created two satelite sites, the ethnic attic and the artworks attic, where I have uploaded a few pieces already, and to which I will be adding in the – as yet vaguely defined – future.
  • Sorting through my old photos I came across the pictures of a trip we did in 1992 to Egypt and Jordan. Which I turned into an Egypt page and a Jordan page (both May 2020), both mostly photos because the memories are limited after such a long time.
  • And then I also put some reading material for Haiti on the site (April 2020, and an update May 2020).
  • I transfered the Back to Haiti blog, initially published outside this site, to theonearmedcrab, and whilst I was doing that, I also added the experiences and observations from three earlier years in Haiti (2000-2003), as The Haiti Diaries (March 2020).
  • Inspired by friends who went to Guatemala, I added the Guatemala page and filled it with our own experiences, from 2000-2003, when I traveled there frequently for work, and occasionally took some time off. A couple of locations, and also the exciting Semana Santa processions in Antigua Guatemala (Dec 2019).
  • Whilst on the Iran page, I added a Dutch language article I wrote some years back, just after we returned from Iran, about Ashura, the mourning for the profet Hussain (Dec. 2019).
  • I also added locations to the Chile, the Peru, ánd the Iran page, something I had not done earlier. I also added some slider photos to the latter. So now you can directly click through to a specific location we have been to, without first accessing the blog (the locations do refer to the blog entries, though) (Nov./Dec. 2019).
  • After our Caucasus trip of September/October 2019 I rearranged the blog, Travel in the Caucasus, on a dedicated page. I also created pages for the Caucasus, for Azerbaijan and for Georgia, with links to the blog and to the individual locations. And I added a short reading list for the Caucasus. (Nov. 2019)
  • Following our Chile and Peru trip I share a short reading list of the books we read on the way, and afterwards. (July 2019)
  • I wrote an entry on Trento, in Northern Italy, which we visited in August 2018. (June 2019)
  • After our Chile & Peru trip I have rearranged the travelogue for easy old to new reading, and called it Costa Pacifico (April 2019). And I created country pages for Peru and Chile (April 2019) – I still need to add some photos here, though, and the locations.

If I didn’t remember a lot about Zimbabwe, I even remember less about my three or four days in the Okavango delta, in Botswana, at the end of 1989. The Okavango delta is probably the only delta in the world that doesn’t reach a sea: the Okavango river, which originates in Angola and mostly drains the summer rains, just ends in the Kalahari desert, the delta being mostly swamp land, and the water ultimately evaporating entirely. Which creates a unique, fabulous ecosystem, attracting not only lots of game, but also numerous birds.

I took a small plane from Victoria Falls to one of the camps inside the delta, all very comfortable, and spent the days touring in a small canoe – powered by a peddling guide, no engines – through the various creeks, large and small. Watching birds, mostly, something I had never done before, but enjoyable enough, in the peaceful silence of the delta. Occasionally we met some fishermen, or a few huts in the dryer parts of the delta, but mostly it was me and my guide, and the kingfishers – and all the other birds we encountered, and of which no doubt my guide told me all the names, which by now I have completely forgotten again. Luckily, I still got some of the pictures; slides, some of which have discoloured before I had the chance to scan them. But they come in handy.

the water of the Okavango delta, under the brilliant sunshine
the delta from above, mostly flooded terrain
although parts are dry enough to support roads, and the occasional village
containing round huts with thached roofs
this was the type of narrow creeks we negotiated with the canoe
sometimes, wider creeks, always under a brilliant blue sky
hidden in the reeds, a kingfisher
finding birds, disturbed by our presence
a fish eagle hunting
also in the delta, fishermen checking their nets
obviously already having been succesfull
more colourful birds
even in full flight
some of the kingfishers were just waiting to be photographed
many water birds, obviously
some just walk on water, it looks
and lots of sunsets – that I remember
never got enough of them

At the end of almost three years living and working in Tanzania (1987-1989), I took two weeks for a short trip to Zimbabwe and Botswana. A fabulous experience, of which unfortunately, I took no notes, and only a limited amount of photographs – this was the analogue era of photography, in which you were still limited by the amount of film rolls you carried. So what follows is a no doubt incomplete, and quite possibly inaccurate account of that trip, based on distant memories and discoloured, scanned slides. Still, worthwhile including here, I think.

Zimbabwean landscape, with lots of granites
the conical tower at the Great Zimbabwe ruins


The capital of Zimbabwe was, at the time, a small town, quite orderly and organised. Things worked, there was good public transport, and other facilities. Although the country had been independent for more than 20 years, and majority black-governed for almost 10, some old colonial tendencies prevailed: when I entered the bar of a posh hotel, I was asked to put on a tie and a jacket, and when it transpired that I had no such attributes with me, I was allowed to borrow this from the wardrobe, which was specially kept for this purpose.

The most impressive element of Harare culture was the Shona sculpture scene. Several upmarket galleries exhibited and sold the most fabulous stone sculptures from Zimbabwean artists, made in a variety of styles from often brightly-coloured ‘soap stone’ (real name?). But the success of some famous artists had also bred a whole range of followers, who produced anything from cheap tourist stuff to quite accomplished works of art, which were being sold in lesser galleries, or along the streets. In the end I bought only one piece, an owl where the artist had made brilliant use of the outside oxidised properties of the rock, creating reddish wings on a green body.

a game park

rhinoceros in one of the game parks

The photos prove that I also went to see a game park in Zimbabwe, but I cannot remember which one it was – definitely not the Huangwe National Park, the country’s biggest. What was special, compared to the game viewing experience from three years Tanzania, was that in Zimbabwe had many more rhinoceros, not only the ‘black’ variety that we occasionally spotted in Tanzania, but also the rare ‘white’ one (equally dark grey coloured – the difference is in the upper lips).

zebra, same game park
and an ostrich, another animal not very common in Tanzania

Great Zimbabwe

The Sub-Saharan part of the African continent is not rich in ancient stone structures. Great Zimbabwe is the notable exception, believed to have been constructed from the 11th Century AD onwards. The most eye catching elements are the Royal Enclosure (Great Enclosure), with walls up to 11 meters high and 5 meters thick, and the Conical Tower, an 9 meter high structure inside the Royal Enclosure, of which the meaning and role remain enigmatic. A lot else also remains a mystery, like the reasons for its demise in the 16th Century; perhaps due to climate change, or the exhaustion of local resources. In the same complex are more structures, one of which is the Hill Complex, reached by stairs in between solid rock: a perfect defence mechanism, I would think.

Almost predicably, the early European colonisers couldn’t believe that such a structure had been erected by black Africans, so speculated on a Portuguese, or even a Carthagian origin, a view that was maintained even throughout the early years of independence, under Apartheid-style white rule. By now, it is widely accepted that this is indeed a pre-colonial construction, build by the ancestors of the Shona people, the now-dominant tribe in Zimbabwe. In fact it is only the largest of some 200 similar compounds in Southern Africa, except that these are much smaller and often less well preserved.

When I visited, in 1989, it was misty. Which created a spooky atmosphere, somehow quite fitting for this impressive, yet mysterious monument.

bright red aloe and yellow grass, to provide some colour
the approach to Great Zimbabwe
impressive Hill Complex, ancient fortification
access to the Hill Complex
steps leading to the enclosure
and the view from inside, well, except for the fog, of course
the decorated wall of the Great Enclosure, from the outside
the conical tower, an enigma
inside the Great Enclosure
same thing, here the narrow passage between two walls
here, too, a bit of colour, at least
probably tomb stones, inside the Great Enclosure

Khami ruins near Bulawayo

Khami ruins, with stairs up the platforms, which are decorated

Bulawayo is one of Zimbabwe’s oldest towns. It was – and no doubt still is – even smaller than Harare, although its main roads wouldn’t seem so: they were built so wide that a horse-drawn wagons could turn in one go (horses not having a reverse gear).

The main attraction in Bulawayo, for me at least, were the Khami ruins, second only to the Great Zimbabwe ruins. Khami is slightly younger than Great Zimbabwe, originating in the 15th Century, and abandoned 200 years later, when it was ransacked by other tribes. The constructions included several platforms, walls and cattle pens. Many of the walls were intricately decorated with geometric patterns. Within the complex, I remember, you could identify the relative age of the constructions, the most perfect walls being from the heydays of the kingdom, whilst the later walls were much less carefully constructed, with large variations in block-size, for instance.

another skillfully constructed platform with decoration
stairs and walls of the Khami complex
a platform wall in more detail
some stucco remains, as well as the holes for wooden poles that may have constituted a later bulding
a newer, less elaborate wall construction
some of Khami’s impressive stone platforms
further walls in the Khami complex
a rock dassie (I think)

the rock paintings

Another unexpected, but very interesting Zimbabwean attraction are its rock paintings – at the time not mentioned in any of the guide books I had, and not signposted anywhere. Obviously, rock paintings were not considered part of the national heritage, they were not from the dominant Shona tribe.

Actually, it is now firmly established that Zimbabwean rock paintings are of San origin – bushmen -, who have left Zimbabwe territory at least a thousand years ago. Which makes them unique, because San paintings elsewhere in Southern Africa may have been painted as recently as less than 100 years ago, or as early as 10,000 years ago, they are notoriously difficult to date.

One of the richest rock painting sites are the several caves in the Matobo Hills, south of Bulawayo. I remember finding some kids in a local village to show me the way to, first, the so-called White Rhino Shelter, my first real rock painting experience (except for the rather primitive paintings in Malawi), scrambling up a fairly steep hill. Not having expected the artistic finesse, the wealth of subject matter, the bright pigment colours inside the dark cave, I was immediately sold. And not only because of the paintings; there was something magic in looking out over the plains below, from the high vantage point in front of the cave. Imagining that others would have sat here a thousand years ago, seeing exactly the same.

White Rhino Shelter: buffalo outline and running hunter
White Rhino Shelter: buffalo and three hunters
Silozwane Cave: same, woman figurine

for more pictures of these exciting paintings look in the individual entries, of Silozwane Cave and of Nswatigu Cave and of Pomongwe Cave,

I spent a full day seeking out more caves with San images in the Matobo Hills, once again mainly aided by young kids. The average adult Zimbabwean couldn’t care less about these fabulous treasures. I found three more locations, Pomongwe Cave, Silozwane Cave and Nswatigu Cave, full of exciting images, of animals and hunters, and sometimes of domestic scenes. Unfortunately, I spent far too few film rolls on photographing these. But I also vowed to come back to Southern Africa, to see more of this unique and exciting art form, which for obvious reasons you won’t find in any museum.

Silozwane Cave: overview panel with hunters, giraffe and domestic scenes
Nswatugi Cave: beautifully depicted running animals

Victoria Falls

No visit to Zimbabwe is complete without a visit to the Victoria Falls, locally named Mosi O Tunya – ‘the smoke that thunders’. And walking around the area, that is exactly the impression you get, for much of the time you only see a cloud of water spray, and hear this incredible noise. Until you reach the falls, and are suddenly confronted with a mile -wide river that somehow disappears in a narrow gorge of the Zambezi River over a hundred meters lower. Spectacular, of course, and spine chilling, as you see lots of local people walking across from one side to the other, just above the falls, to Zambia, in fact.

the falls from one side, note the deep canyon beyond
and the other side, large meandering river on a plateau
no wonder this is the smoke that thunders
and once more, the cloud – spraying so much water that immediately around the falls, a tropical mini-jungle has formed
the canyon at the bottom
and these people are just walking to the other side
the wall of water – it is impressive!
lots of rainbows, of course, with so much spray in the air

The Nswatugi Cave is located in the Matopo Hills in Southern Zimbabwe. It is famous for its main panel, which is dominated by a wide band, on which animals – kudus, perhaps – walk, surrounded by people, likely the hunters. There are also very colourful images of giraffes. Like other sides, here, too, is a little climb involved, although the cave is quite accessible.

see also: https://zimfieldguide.com/matabeleland-south/nswatugi-cave

Nswatugi Cave: overview of the main panel
Nswatugi Cave: detail of overview; large animal on white band, surrounded by hunters
Nswatugi Cave: more detail, continuation of previous photo
Nswatugi Cave: beautifully depicted running animals

Located just outside the Matopo Hills National Park, is Silozwane Cave. This cave, a steep half-an-hour scramble up the hill to a granite shelter, has one of the most varied and beautiful panels I have seen, with hunters and animals, but also with several domestic scenes. Really nice! I couldn’t get enough of this one, also because of the view from high up across the Matopo Hills.

Silozwane Cave: overview panel with hunters, giraffe and domestic scenes
Silozwane Cave: two hunters
Silozwane Cave: detail of the overview, domestic scenes
Silozwane Cave: same, in even further detail
Silozwane Cave: same, woman figurine
Silozwane Cave: same, perhaps a camp fire
Silozwane Cave: hunters and a beautiful giraffe
Silozwane Cave: tall man

This is a site in the Matopo Hills, south of Bulawayo. Some of the paintings, unfortunately, have been damaged in the 1920 or the 1960 – sources disagree on the timing, but not on the damage, with linseed oil, in a failed attempt to improve the painting’s visibility. I haven’t got much from this location, just a few pictures.

Pomongwe Cave: hunters and deer
Pomongwe Cave: panel with people and animals
Pomongwe Cave: various animals, including giraffe

Having reached the southwest of Tanzania, it was only a short hop across the border, into Malawi. Except that you had to have your hair cut in advance, because long hair – for men – was forbidden in Malawi. Oh, and women wearing trousers, also a no-no. You would just not be allowed entry into the country. In those days, the late 1980s, the laws, made by Hastings Banda, president since the 1966 independence and president-for-life since 1971, would be rigidly enforced. And that is also my strongest memory of that country, for the rest I cannot remember much of the trip.

photo: Malawi country side, and an African infrastructure one could only dream of in the 1980s

impressive rocky outcrops in the Malawian countryside

Lake Malawi

fishing youth and their impressive canoes

The dominant feature in the country is Lake Malawi, then called Lake Nyassa, which forms about 2/3rd of the country’s easter border. The southern-most African rift lake, up to 700 meters deep, was a major tourist attraction, especially for South Africans who couldn’t go anywhere else in Africa, shunned as they were because of their apartheid-based politics. Thus there were lots of comfortable resorts along the lake, unthinkable on the other side, in infrastructure-challenged Tanzania or civil- war-torn Mozambique.

village at the edge of the lake
same village, in close-up – the lake is big enough not to be able to see the other side!
cattle being herded along the fringe of Lake Malawi

Small villages along the lake had another feature: the African doctor. I hate to think what treatment would have been like, but they actively promoted themselves through billboards, and obviously enjoyed some local popularity.

pointing towards the African doctor, for traditional healing
more country side, less infrastructure
abundant tea on one side, village on the other side of the road
public transport

Mwala wa Mphini

the Mwala wa Mphini – geology protected

There is not much of historical interest in Malawi, so an odd-looking local rock, Mwala wa Mphini – translated as the Rock of Tribal Face Scars – is a major tourist attraction. It has long been speculated that the grooves that make up the pattern on the rock face were expressions of early tribal artists, but most would agree that they are nothing else than the erosion of a geological fracture pattern.

Chongoni rock paintings

Of more historical significance are the rock paintings at Chongoni. In all honesty, I have seen much better rock art if Africa, notably in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, but these, apparently are unique because many of them have been made by agriculturalists, even well into the 20th Century (others, older, originate from hunter-gatherer tribes, more common amongst the rock artists, but still relatively rare in Central Africa).

antropomorphic and zoomorphic, clearly
the rock paintings of Chongoni
and more animals, and dotted patterns

Zomba Plateau

In the south of the country, towards Blantyre, is the town of Zomba, base for trips into the Zomba Nature Reserve, a beautiful mountainous area, with high peaks, dense forest and lovely streams and waterfalls. Zomba itself was a nice little market town, of which, once again, I don’t remember much other than what I can see on the photos.

mountains and forest in the Zomba Nature Reserve
and a mountain stream, same Reserve
the market in Zomba, with a tomato focus
more market, in Zomba
rice and pulses, and the pots to cook them in
market women
destroyed house, just inside Mozambique

What I do remember vividly, though, was my reluctance to step across the border into Mozambique. At some place the road we drove formed this border, illustrated by bombed out houses on the Mozambican side. I could have easily set foot in Mozambique, a country then involved in a brutal post-independence civil war, if it was not for the numerous mine fields that reputedly had been laid, to keep insurgents from crossing into Malawi. And me from stepping across.

Having been to all the game parks in Tanzania – where I lived in the period 1987-1989 – I also travelled to Rwanda during this time, to what was touted as the ultimate safari experience, a visit to the mountain gorillas in the Parc National des Volcans – with its Belgian colonial history, the lingua franca is French here. This tiny little country, wedged in between Tanzania and Congo (then called Zaire) had seen its share of ethnic violence, of course, but was, in 1989, not yet badly tainted by the genocide that occurred five years later, in 1994, and that changed the world’s view of Rwanda forever.

Parc National des Volcans

A safari to see the gorillas was not as straight forward as any of our Tanzanian safaris, which were essentially getting in a car and driving to the game park. For starters, you needed to make your advance reservation, for a specific day, with the Rwandan Tourist Office; turning up at the park was not done. Once you had your reservation, you needed to get to the park, early in the morning, to join your group, at the time a maximum of eight or ten people, or so.  In the absence of public transport, we had rented a car and a driver.

From the park headquarters your group  would depart to one of the four gorilla groups that were known to roam the mountain slopes, at the time. The guides would normally know where to go, or at least where the specific group you are targeting would have been the day before, anything between one and four hours scramble on slippery and dense overgrown terrain, often steeply uphill, too. The guides, with machetes, would go in front, to clear the way. Exciting adventure – but no guarantee that your group would actually find the gorillas, of course.

a gorilla in the Parc National des Volcans
on our way to the Parc des Volcans
a bamboo forest inside the park, obviously attractive to gorillas
our guides chopping a way through the forest

So we took off, through dense forest and bamboo, an uphill struggle of several hours – it was probably raining, too (it almost always rains, here). Occasionally, we got a view, across the mountains, some of the seven volcanos that make up the parc. Very impressive, but before long we got back into the rain forest again. Constantly looking around, you never know. And lo and behold, after a while we suddenly spotted out first gorilla, behind us! Soon we reached the whole group, maybe 10, 15, 20, I cannot remember. All of them involved in consumption, one way or another. Lots of bamboo, that much I know. Some of the smaller ones playful. And the big ones, especially the alpha males, the so-called silver-backs, marching in between, occasionally threatening the visitors – that would be us! But we had been instructed: if they charge, it is usually only to threaten – ‘usually’, what does that mean, in this context, these animals are much bigger than I am. Just stay calm, don’t stare them in the eyes but stay low, look down to the ground. Submissive. Right! I have to admit, this was one of the few times I didn’t question instructions!

eating is the main activity
a young gorilla, relaxing
an alpha-male silverback
just stay relaxed, look down to the ground, and all will be all right again

the rest of the country

here, too, you carry your stuff on the head
wooden drill bit, one of the more curious items in my African artefact collection

Having come all the way to Rwanda, we were not going to return after just one day seeing gorillas. So we toured around, spent time in Kigali, the capital, which I remember as a small, peaceful provincial town. It was here that I, employed by an oil company, bought perhaps the most curious of artefacts from my Africa collection: a wooden sculpture of a drill bit, those that are being used in oil well drilling. And indeed, several oil companies (but not my employer) had recently been exploring for oil in the East African Rift Lakes of Rwanda, Uganda and Congo (then called Zaire). Which makes this one of the few wooden artefacts that can be accurately dated!

One of the lakes – although I am not sure whether this was subject to oil exploration, as well – is Lake Kivu, one of the smallest African Rift Lakes.

The Rwandan countryside was tightly packed with agricultural plots, this being one of the most densely populated countries in Africa, with a constant need for more food. But almost nowhere was it flat, so all those plots on the hill sides required lots of terracing. And lots of people working the fields, of course.

Lake Kivu, Rwanda-side
densely populated Rwanda
as well as densely cultivated – every hillside
tea plantations
that ubiquitous African product, bananas, carried to the market
proud young boy protecting the herd
busy market in a small village along the way
pygmies dancing and singing, earning a little money from the tourists

It is only in the sparse rain forest areas that one finds fewer people. This is where the Twa live, a pygmy tribe that has its home in the Rift Lake areas, but mostly tries to avoid the other inhabitants, by whom they are being discriminated – to the effect that they also suffered badly during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. When we encountered them in the forest, five years earlier, they were earning some extra money by playing music, and singing and dancing, for tourists. A sad state of affairs.

Parc National de l’Akagera

Apart from the Volcanos National Park, with its unique gorilla population, there is also a more mainstream National Park, with the other African animals, comparable to the Tanzanian parks. We spent a day or two here, nothing different from what we were used to, except that we witnessed a kill by a group of lions: seeing them prepare, encircle some innocent gazelles, pound on one of them, and then devour the spoils, is in fact a sensational experience. On par with seeing the gorillas, I would say.

satisfied lions, just having started their meal
an elephant in the Akagera Park
the view from the park, direction Tanzania
elegant wild
lions observing their potential prey in the Parc National de l’Akagera

So overall, a week in Rwanda had been quite special, indeed.

I don’t remember a lot from the journeys further inland, mostly in south-western direction. But a few highlights stand out, just because I have some photographs left. I went to Dodoma once, to visit the Geological Survey and analyse core data from earlier oil exploration wells. The Geological Survey had been relocated already, because Dodoma had been designated the future capital of the nation, thanks to its central location. Yet, it was, at the time, not much more than a dusty provincial town in the middle of the plains – and as far as I know, not much has changed in the past 30 years, and Dar es Salaam is still the capital, just like in 1987. Not sure, though, whether the Geological Survey has already been relocated, back to Dar…. Oh, and the other claim to fame was Dodoma Red a undrinkable wine, and the only one produced in Tanzania. I should have visited the estate, of course, just for the experience.

the core shed of the Geological Survey, in future Tanzanian capital Dodoma – not yet the most modern facilities

Ruaha National Park

Ruaha National Park, for more rocky than other parks we have seen so far
beautiful birds high in a tree, no idea what they area

Past the regional hub of Iringa, another dusty provincial town like Dodoma, was the Ruaha National Park, one of the least-visited national parks in Tanzania. Because it was far away – over 600 km from Dar es Salaam -, and because there weren’t a lot of facilities at the time. The attraction was not only the game viewing, which wasn’t much different from other Tanzania parks, but the temperature. At well over 1000 m high, it was a lot cooler here than in sweltering Dar es Salaam, or Mikumi National Park, for that matter.

Altitude comes from mountains, of course, so the natural scenery was also quite different, lots of rocky outcrops, and the Ruaha River valley. Also, large herds, of elephant, for which the park was famous, and of buffalo, quite impressive actually. Another common animal here was the kudu, of which I, somehow, have an inordinate number of photos.

the kudu
crossing the road
gitaffes also move in groups, but they need more individual space
allowing room for others, in between
impressive herd of buffaloes – you’d like to stay out of their way, even in a four-wheel drive Landrover
he is taller than you think


Near Iringa was the Isimila Stone Age site, a place, fenced and all, with caretaker, where hundreds, if not thousands of prehistoric stone adzes had been found. I think it had been speculated that this used to be a lake, where people would throw their used adzes in during some kind of ritual; how else to explain the enormous amount of pieces in one place. I somehow ended up with one of those, which I still have in my collection – totally irresponsible, of course.

the Isimila Stone Age site, with fence and caretaker, and a mountain of stone adzes

Brook Bond’s Tea Estate

tea, and the local workers, in Mufindi

The higher, and cooler, plateau towards the south-west of Tanzania was also a good place to grow tea. And one of the nicest outings was a long weekend to the Brook Bond Tea Estate, near the town of Mufindi. No game viewing here, but walks, in the mountains, and in between the tea: a nice and fresh atmosphere, a big contrast with the heat at the coast. I recall that we stayed in small cottages, equipped with a real fire place, a necessary attribute at night!

hamlet in south-west Tanzania

The South-west was a lot poorer than what we were used to see in and around Dar es Salaam. Small villages, mostly mud houses and thatched roofs; small children that didn’t go to school. And everywhere the ubiquitous baobab trees, some of them huge.

the main road between Iringa and Mbeya, highway to the Southwest
children fetching fire wood
the local rice market
same main road, populated by cattle herding tribes people
the regular market, a colourful affair in a small town along the way


Every guide book I had, at the time, said that there was very little to do in Mbeya. Yet, we ended up there, on our way to Malawi. And found it a lovely little town, at the time, with as undisputed highlight its market for clay pots, called Kisi pots, characteristically decorated with orange bands and geometric patterns. There were hundreds, if not thousands of them, far more I would think then could ever be absorbed by the local society. Somehow, I also have one of those, in my collection, still surviving after more than 30 years.

the market for Kisi pots, only a small part of it
the highest point of all roads in Tanzania

Above Mbeya was another local attraction, sign-posted and all: the highest point of the entire public road network in Tanzania, at about 8000 feet altitude. Really!

a little house on the prairie, underneath a huge baobab tree
magnificent tree, against magnificent sky


In the 1980s I was much less of an avid traveller then I am now, although even in those days I already had lots of plans that most of my colleagues at work thought were ludicrous. I wanted to cross the Masai region in Northern Tanzania, an area difficult to negotiate, and with very few facilities. Which we had to cancel because one of the compatriots for the trip became pregnant, and didn’t want to risk it anymore. I also planned to go to Lake Turkana in Kenya, where nomadic tribes of the same name were still dressed in their fabulously colourful gear – I had seen pictures. And I even wanted to drive back from Tanzania to Europe, through Kenya and Sudan, only stopped by the never-ending war – already then – in the south of that country. And by the reality of working life, which didn’t allow for such time consuming adventures.

the only Masaai we did see, in the end, but not in Northern Tanzania
Mount Kilimanjaro, from the plane

The one thing we could easily have done was climbing Mount Kilimajaro, Africa’s highest peak with 5894 meters. Lots of people did so, it wasn’t very difficult, was well organised, piece of cake really. At the time I thought it was highly overrated, now I regret myself I didn’t do it. The closest I got was flying over by commercial airliner, early morning one day returning to Dar es Salaam. Luckily, I had my camera handy – this was long before the smartphone era.

the game parks

We did get to almost all of the game parks in Northern Tanzania, though. There were the smaller parks, Tarangire and Lake Manyara, the latter with its famous tree climbing lions – which, however, eluded us every time we visited here. And then there was the biggest one, Serengeti, which continued across the Kenyan border as the Masai Mara, a huge expanse of plains that facilitated the wildebeest trek every year. Somehow, we were never there at the right time, so we never saw the spectacularly large herds of wildebeest, but we enjoyed the safaris here, nonetheless. Unlike the parks further south, like Mikumi and the Selous, there were far fewer trees here, which made spotting the animals a lot easier.

The real gem was – still is, I suppose – the Ngorongoro Crater, a 20 km wide extinct volcano, at the base of which it is teeming with animals, the herbivore grazers and the meat-eating hunters. You can actually camp at the crater floor – another regret, something I never did -, but most people stay at one of the lodges at the crater rim, and descent in the morning, along a steep and narrow track, which I remember as quite a frightening experience. Luckily, there was a one way system in and out of the crater, the way up equally steep and frightening, so at least you didn’t have to deal with oncoming traffic. Once at the bottom, though, total bliss! Spectacular environment, great game viewing, and definitely the best safari experience we had in those years in Tanzania.

Mind you, if you ever contemplate a safari yourself: a safari is good fun, but after three or four days you have seen what you came to see, time for something else. Even in the Ngorogoro Crater and the Serengeti. You’ll understand, after too many safari photos!

The last entry on Tanzania is on the southwestern part of the country.

young cheetahs on the plains of the Serengeti
view from the rim, into the Ngorogoro Crater
Tarangire National Park
Manyara National Park
the lake at the bottom of the Ngorogoro Crater
lone jackel, having giving up on all that flying prey
it is busy along the lake
a genet
also willing to look in the camera
windebeest, not on a trek this time
also on view, colourful birds
Thompson’s gazelle, one of the most elegant animals
a herd of Landrovers, inside the crater, meant there was something to see!
indeed, a rhino
and the small ones
far more difficult to spot: the leopard
the monkey tree