Although we were not convinced that taking our pumpkin would be such a good idea – see previous posts for reasons why – we decided against hiring a local vehicle and set off south after much prayers and preparations.
Problem is that Katavi is a dry-season park. Given that we were visiting at the end of the rainy season, tall grass and ample amounts of water meant that animals were scattered across the very large park and therefore a bit difficult to spot. But what you manage to see is truly amazing because it is just you and the game in a vast plain.
The fun bit is that you are allowed to drive yourself in the park, which makes for memorable experiences when your guide tells you to cross over a pool of water where a family of 25 hippos is resting less than 10 meters away, or when the track you’re following takes you insanely close to a herd of 200+ buffalos looking like they’re about to charge your car. We did see an incredible amount of giraffes, impalas, bucks of all sorts and colourful birds. Sadly no big cats or dogs, although we were guaranteed that we’d get great sighting had we only come in the dry season.
"dont' worry", said our guide, "they're just teasing you - you can safely drive nearby..."
The 200+ buffalos we disturbed during their morning stroll. Not a happy sight.
A giraffe summit
As we drove home, the last bit between Kigoma and the Burundi border proved to be epic. We opted for a shortcut which we were told the Chinese were about to finish building. Unfortunately torrential rains poured for 3 hours the morning we left, soaking the thick layer of dirt the Chinese had laid just days before. The 15km up to the border turned into a vast lethal mud swamp, through which it was only possible to manoeuvre by driving in 1st gear, with the car swaying dangerously by 180 degrees each side. Never in my life have I been driving in such tough conditions. At one point, the car fell into a ditch and it took 2 hours and locals with their hoes to get us out of it. Needless to say we provided a much-welcomed attraction to the nearby villagers who cheered and clapped as the car was finally extracted.Five hundred kilometres later, another 2 punctures and a renewed trust in our amazing car we reached the safe grounds of Bujumbura, tired but crowned with an Indiana Jones aura, and with a few more stories to tell than we’d have ever bargained for...
the pumpkin is safely back home