11-Sep-2005 -- On our way to Katavi National Park and the Rukwa Game Reserve (Sitalike, Mpanda) for an Inauguration Ceremony of the new Headquarter on 14 September 2005, and for delivering of some papers to the towns of Sumbawanga, Namanyere and Mpanda, we left Dar es Salaam on Saturday, 10 September. We passed the DCP near to Mbeya (9S 33E) and later also visited 7S 31E in the Katavi National Park.
With the intention to learn more about the area of the Rukwa Region and Lake Rukwa we decided to drive on Sunday, 11th only up to Sumbawanga starting from Mbeya, and to cross the Escarpment of the Mbizi Hills to get to Lake Rukwa. Planning our journey we identified the Confluence 8S 32E to be in the area of Lake Rukwa, possibly in swampy area, but this time we were likely not to have too much water due to the dry season.
Halfway between Tunduma and Sumbawanga, we left the main road as we found a smaller road in eastern direction. Always asking some people on the road for the next village that was indicated in our maps, we assured to be on the right way to reach the area of Lake Rukwa. After some few km we found ourselves on a road leading over the escarpment in serpentines with a very dusty/sandy underground. A new experience: 'dust-planing' (instead of the more commonly known aquaplaning). These kms leading through the mountains crossed different vegetation, trees with unrealistic colourful flowers and a great view. The track we reached at the bottom only showed bicycle tracks, making us wonder if this way would lead us anywhere. Our only hope was that as the marks of bicycles got denser and with the conclusion that from somewhere these villages would get their supply of the seemingly very common and often indicated by advertisement-signboards 'Coca-Cola', there was a bigger road somewhere ahead of us and that there was at least some possibility to get there.
Even more we felt better after a pickup loaded with crates of soft drinks turned up and we could follow his tire marks that also seemed to have taken this way, leading across dry riverbeds and rivers, as some bridges were no longer in place and at some other bridges it was unclear how much longer they would last.
Passing the villages and looking for some possibility to get close to our intended point, we were only able to reach as close as 10.9 km. But as the area seemed to be a dense woodland and bushy and we were not prepared to walk some 10 km to the Confluence (and return...), we decided to look for the next possibility to cross the escarpment. One of the ways indicated in the map turned out to no longer exist, and the one we finally used was even more adventurous than the way down.
Glad to have reached the top, though with an incomplete Confluence but an enormously interesting journey which we highly recommend (only during the dry season), we took a last picture of the day and continued to Sumbawanga.
Story continues at 7S 31E.