Arusha and Life With A Honey Badger

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Arusha and Life With A Honey Badger

There are three of us on this trip (besides old “somebody”); believe me, Miss Honey Badger can throw her weight around and cause havoc . She appears all gentle and chilled but has a will of her own and lets us know all about it if she doesn’t have her way. She will not be ignored.

Much of our trip is determined by the Honey Badger; e.g. we’ve had to make detours to the following towns determined by a truck. Springbok, twice, Swakopmund, Vaalwater, Tzaneen, Dar es Salaam, Arusha, Lusaka, Mumbwa and now Livingstone.

Like a petulent teenager, this Honey Badger takes no $h!t.

We have had to replace, mend, fix, and install the following items for various reasons: tyres on our bikes,  the bike rack, five new truck tyres, two new rims, two sets of steps, two new solar panels, new geyser, a battery for one bike, three regular truck services, brakes check, steering gadget replaced, Tule storage box, mosquito nets, invection plate, tyre monitor system, were on our fourth set. As I write our indoor gas plates are  out of order, the shower head has given up the ghost, one drawer’s locking system was replaced. The shower door was hanging by a thread after a particularly bad road. Fortunately Butch could get it back on its tracks. Oh, and she's  been clamped, for a parking violation. On two occasions she ran too fast and got speeding fines. 

Out of frustration and to minimise future damages Butch took it upon himself to do a pre-trip check of all lockers, doors, windows, locks, bolts and latches. When he gives us the thumbs up I buckle up and we set off.

Much of this seems simple, you might say "just a service" or "Ugh, only new tyres?" Not so. We depend on recommendations and hearsay. Not only are we in foreign countries and cities, but language is also a difficulty. Keep in mind, English is a foreign language in most parts.

Making payments in a foreign country to a foreign account has its complications with SWIFT, ATM restrictions and the Internet.

Speaking of which, we have found; South Africa’s data is the most expensive and gets gobbled up the quickest and inexplicably. Mozambique has been the cheapest, and connectivity was fast and constant. Malawi was affordable, reliable and relatively easily accessible. Namibia is a nightmare; we could only buy 3x3G coupons to use within a week, and there was no alternative option. Tanzania’s internet system was good. We could purchase Data cards at the border (a bit dodgy because the seller is the registered owner of the card.) It is advisable to buy from a registered shop, they’re not easy to find. Vodacom and other networks are available.

Zambia – We were advised to buy an MTN card and an Airtel SIM. The service agents at MTN at the border were clueless. It took two attempts and three hours to register one data card. Since then, we have had to replace our modem; the new modem can’t be unlocked and is incompatible with any other network anywhere in the world. Bizarre.

To buy data in all these countries, one must buy from a local agent, (there are thousands of agents), or from someone who buys on your behalf on their App and then loads the data to your number. One could write a book.

Besides replacing our modem, we’ve also installed a booster aerial. In Zambia, it is often found wanting presumably because there's a lack of any signal. Tanzania's signal coverage was excellent.

Several important parts have been replaced on the truck, e.g. the stairs, steering gadget and now new rims and a new tyre monitor system, had to be imported,  from South Africa. To get the items to the relevant cities takes time and effort. We have been fortunate that many acquaintances and friends with local knowledge have referred us to reliable truckers and hauliers to get the goods up here, through customs and then delivered to a service station or customs office.

DHL, Post Net, and other courier and trucking companies, who, under challenging conditions, the roads and border posts are a nightmare with thousands of trucks cooling their heels waiting to cross borders, have delivered our goods safely and in perfect order. 

To be convincing, we have branded the truck, effectively advertising that we’re not a commercial vehicle but a motorhome or “motorised caravan”. The maps and logos have helped tremendously, and we’ve never been required to weigh at the many weighbridges. All road officials have been courteous and chatty, often letting us pass without any hassle or just a show of our documentation will be sufficient to wave us through a police blockade.


But, the madam she was insisting we go to Arusha. For a while, Butch found the truck veering to the left and had a slight wobble on the steering wheel, which he was uncomfortable with.



Arusha is a girl's name meaning "red" and is known as a diplomatic capital and “The Geneva of Africa” and was the host of the International Criminal Tribunal of Rwanda in 1994.

Unfortunately, there’s no Isuzu garage in Arusha, but Isuzu in Dar es Salaam recommended we see Yash, the manager of ART Arusha Garage.

We met Yash, who immediately inspected the truck, removed the wheels to check the brakes and found a part on the steering that needed to be replaced. After much investigation, he reported that the part had to be imported as there was no stock in Tanzania.

A dealer in the UAE could supply the part which was in stock. He’d get onto it immediately and assured us the Honey Badger would be good as new within two weeks.

While the technicians were busy with the truck and Yash was busy sourcing and ordering our parts, Butch and I walked to a Village Market, to stocked up on our store cupboard goods, filled the fridge with delicious cheeses, silky yoghurts and crispy lettuce, fresh mushrooms and a pawpaw.

We hailed a bajaj to take us back to the workshop, where we were informed that the job was taking longer than expected, and Yash suggested we spend the night in their showroom’s yard. Butch does not like driving at night, and late afternoon traffic picked up, so we accepted his offer.

We pulled in and made ourselves comfortable as soon as the showroom closed. The night watchman introduced himself and assured us we’d have a peaceful night under his watchful eye.

While I busied myself with supper, Butch stretched his legs and enjoyed a sundowner in the parking area while watching the traffic. Sunset is a favourite time for photography, my photos this time speak for themselves. 

The traffic was something else. Bajajis, bikes, motorbikes, trucks, carts, pedestrians, ambulances, police vehicles, clapped-out cars and new swanky ones, game viewers and battalions of Toyotas  of every description spewing diesel fumes and other noxious gasses.

A relentless barrage of hooters, whistles, sirens and a cacophony of voices passed our gate, which we thought would end after nightfall. It didn’t. Like endless waves crashing on a rugged coastline, the noise ebbed and flowed all night.

After supper, we were surprised by Yash arriving with a delivery of coffee. Coffee beans are produced on the family estate, he told us. What a spoil. We slept fitfully, managing to block the noise out at intervals.

The following day, we reported back to the workshop, where Yash, assured us that we could continue our journey quite safely while waiting for the part to arrive. He was not keen to have ours “repaired”.

Treats are called for when the going gets tough, and having a good meal is a good enough treat for us. We found and were recommended the Taj Restaurant, which served the best Indian Cuisine since our visit to India. Pani Puri, for starters, was an eye-opener; if the chef can master those crispy fried hollow balls, he knows his Masala.

Inauspicious, with ordinary décor, plastic tablecloths and ’70s furniture, we knew we would get the real deal. They’ve been around for a while. We enjoyed our meal so much that we returned and ordered takeaways for the deep freezer. The waiter remembered us and asked why we hadn’t ordered Pani Puri, we did!

Relieved, we could leave Arusha and explore the areas around Kilimanjaro. We decided to visit a highly rated and recommended campsite at the foot of Kili called Simba Farm Lodge for a night or two before moving on to the Enduimet Game Management Area.


And we were off. Once we were on a lower escarpment, the landscape changed from the wet, misty rainforests to a more arid climate. Mount Meru, always in our sights, became more evident as we moved away from her orbit. Farming changed from banana crops to wheat, mealies and sunflowers. Commercial farming intermingle and co-exist with subsistence farmers.

I was happy to pull off my puffer jacket, roll up my T-shirt sleeves and get my arms into the sunlight.

The soil turned from a mulch-rich black to ochres and terracotta, then lighter to a clayish golden blonde. Herds of cattle appeared with herders trailing behind their charges chewing the soft yellow ends of long blades of dry grass. The cattle were left to their own devices. These cattle have been doing this route for decades and know the way home. 

Revisiting my photographs, I am reminded of the Swartland: rolling hills, ripening wheat, blue skies and cottonball clouds. Like the Swartland there is most often than not a mountain, and  near Malmesbury, Table Mountain is a landmark. Here Mount Meru features in many photographs pointing the lost stranger in the right direction.

It was midday when we turned off the main road and slipped onto a red dirt road leading up to the Simba Farm, a nostalgic reminder of my Oupa’s Kalahari farm.

A long bluegum-lined lane leading to the farmhouse. Cattle kraals, wheat fields, sheep roaming, occasionally looking up to see what the fuss was about but unperturbed when it’s a vehicle making clouds of dust and then lowering their doe eyes to continue baaing.

The farmyard was a mess of tractors, trailers, ploughs and a conglomeration of farming equipment. barns and silos. I couldn't wait to sit under a tree and listen to familiar farm sounds.

While Butch parked the truck, I searched for the receptionist to make our acquaintance and hopefully get a camping spot.

There were ample camping sites; we could choose any spot, and once we were settled, we could amble up to the house for lunch on the veranda, she said. Our prospects were looking better and better.

I’d just stepped out to tell Butch the good news when a friendly man with a toothy grin, turned from his guests on their motorbikes, and asked me whether I was in the Isuzu Overlander.

With a puffed-out chest and pride before the fall, I said yes, with an equally toothy grin.

“Well,” he said, “you’ve just reversed into my Diesel pump and bent a steel pole.” Aghast, I looked at him disbelieving. I’d not felt a jolt nor heard anything. “Not to worry, the pole I’ll straighten and the pump looks fine, but I think you need to check your bicycles.”

“Bring on the smelling salts!” I thought. Butch had not arrived yet. Making haste to find him, I scuttled off to give him the bad news. But not before checking myself. Indeed, the pole was bent, fortunately the bowser looked okay, but the bikes were not standing at attention as they should have been.

Butch spotted me in our rearview camera and came around to find me tugging at my bicycle’s front tyre. Did he want the good news or the bad news? The good news was that we could enjoy a three-course luncheon on the veranda overlooking the farm.

The bad news was that a rim on each bike was damaged and needed to be repaired by a professional. The thought of being unable to ride our bikes was disheartening, but returning to Arusha to have them repaired was devastating.

Butch, ever the Cool Hand Luke, can compartmentalise and suggested we enjoy our lunch, settle and then figure out the bikes. Good idea.

Our table for two with a view over the garden was in deep shade under the overhanging veranda roof. Butch ordered a cold beer (in Tanzania, beers are often not refrigerated, and one must ask for a cold beer.)

A delicious soup, a clear broth with cubed vegetables, and fresh bread and butter was served. After a few sips, I felt my energies returning and soon put the bicycles to the back of my mind. When my coffee was served, I had forgotten our present predicament. Butch was right.


Davin, the owner,  allowed us to finish up before coming over to discuss our bike options. He suggested we call ABC Arusha Bicycle Company in Moshi to send out repair technicians.

We were sceptical, but he assured us they would. Butch did as he was told; sure enough, two technicians would arrive within the hour he reported back.

An hour later, we heard the vroom of a motorcycle in the distance, and a while later, the distinct potato-potato-potato of the Indian Lee Enfield knock-offs popular in Tanzania.

Two guys with rims slung around their necks and backpacks filled with all the necessary tools alighted the speedster and soon had our bikes stripped, their instruments out and as the sun set, they finished their gruelling task.

When I’d returned from photographing the golden hour in the wheat fields and the blue hour darkened the sky, Mount Meru pulled her duvet over her head and disappeared. The two men packed up their goodies, bid us farewell, and went off puttering on their bike. We watched them until their lights faded and hoped they’d be safe.

Butch and I were gobsmacked. We would make a turn at the main shop in Arusha to compliment and sing their praises when we returned. Guys, you were angels on a rescue mission and we will never forget your good humour, patience and the professional yet relaxed manner with which you went about your assignment. Asante sana.


We decided to spend two nights at Simba farm. I’d catch up with some housekeeping and unzip my laptop to do a blog. Butch said he was going nowhere and would spend the day reading. We needed a day of R&R, he suggested and I agreed.

To add burning coals onto our heads for having a lazy day, we spotted two cyclists pedalling up the road. They were not on a jaunt. These bikes were their mode of transport.

Up went their tent, and that was our last sighting of our neighbours until the following day when Kurt and Darina came around to say Hi.

Darina, Irish and Kurt, Swiss, have been cycling around Africa for a year. We seem to think they started in Cape Town, made their way up the West Coast, ventured east through Botswana, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and probably Kenya, and would be going east from here to Zanzibar.

Fiesty, adventurous and exuberant, these almost retirees are an example of living life to the fullest. Darina, informative, chatty and vivacious, is an excellent photographer and videographer (GoPro) and has a faithful following on Instagram. I follow them religiously, too. I love their posts.

They’re fit and healthy, with glowing skin and clear eyes. That’s what exercise does. With the minimum weighing them down, they pack their panniers and saddle up. With no care in the world, they spin off and away to circumnavigate Kilimanjaro and on to Dar es Salaam.

Their sturdy, bright green, luminous bicycles have stood the test of time and travel. I wonder how they manage breakdowns. Probably better than we do. I think the Honey Badger would agree, these two are Honey Badgers.


Karina, of Dutch parentage, is the second generation on Simba farm. Her floriculturist father immigrated from The Netherlands to Tanzania with his wife and children to settle and develop an African farm.

Early records, taken from a soil sample record book, date the farm to the early 1900s when the farm was called “Simba Estate” and was owned by a German family. Sometime between the 1950s and 1970s, the name changed to “Simba Farm”.

Simba Farm is a working farm, Lodge and campsite. Keeping with tradition, Karina still grows vegetables, which can be perused and purchased daily in reception. I filled my baskets with fresh fruit and vegetables and threw in a traditional Maasai Kikoi from a pile in the display cabinet, replacing my favourite torn one.

Their mission statement “This farm is more than land and Crops. It’s our families’ heritage and future.” rings true. This farm is not only a productive working farm it is also the home of a second generation family bringing up the third generation. Children's toys lie scattered in the sandpit. It's colourful, messy and nuturing. A  safe haven for three busy bodies to grow up joyfully. 

Our two night stay was far too short to do this wonderful stay any justice. There are hikes and walks and cycling trails all around the farm, we didn't do one. The farm is the perfect starting point before a Kilimanjaro hike or to relax afterwards. The farm kitchen serves delicious meals and guests can choose full board or enjoy one or two meals like we did. Karina and Davin are a salt of the earth couple with three delightful children and a managerie farm animals. Karina's Dutch origins are evident in her colourful, overgrown, wildly peaceful garden. One should stay a week.

We set off with a paper map directing us to the main road and Enduimet Wildlife Management Area.

35km later, we spotted two cyclists and we could give Davina and Kurt a final wave as they went by. Check out their Instagram aaccount gonebikeabout 


One day we'll admit we are not the best navigators, with our GPS guiding us, Davin's map clearly penciled and Kiran's verbal instructions we got hopelessly lost and passed Davina and Kurt going the other way! We had to find the reservation chief our passenger said, I had my doubts. Eventually not even a Maasai village chief could get us on the right  track. We had to backtrack and reroute.

We made it to our next destination against all the odds.

Honey Badger don't care.


"We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us"  unknown. From my friend Louise, who knows.