just another blog, written by Finja Charlotta Ohm

Motorcycle Trip in the South of Tanzania #1

view from a hill in Ndanda

It’s been three years since I lived in Tanzania and almost one year since my last visit there, and this website still isn’t up to date and doesn’t nearly capture even half of my experiences during my time there. But to bring my blog alive again (at least to try to bring it alive again) I am going to start right where I left off, with the help from my old travel diaries. Trying to catch up on my experiences while volunteering in Tanzania and bringing my posts up to date again, to more than three years after volunteering in Tanzania.

To start off let’s go back to my very first pikipiki (motorcycle) trip in Tanzania back in February 2019. It was a weekend trip to a small village called Ndanda, which is about 160 kilometers west from Mtwara. In total, we were fifteen people on this trip divided onto eight motorcycles. Six volunteers, including me, each with their own designated driver, two photographers/ videographers and Lukas, the founder of Aflii Foundation, which is the partner organization in Tanzania that I was volunteering for. The total drive to Ndanda took about four hours. We stopped halfway through for a lunch break in Mingoyo, where we were able to rest, and eventually continued the road to our destination. The drivers had their fun racing each other, driving double the Tanzanian speed limit, giving us quite the adrenaline boost. Luckily, I just had to sit behind my driver and was able to “relax” during the drive. Therefore, I was able to completely grasp the beauty of Tanzania for the first time since arriving, taking in the absolutely stunning green landscape surrounding us. Though, I must confess that not being used to sitting on a motorcycle eventually took a toll on my body. My back and legs started to hurt quite a lot from my heavy backpack and from sitting on the motorcycle for so long and I was more than glad once we finally arrived in the early afternoon.

line-up of all drivers at the gas station
a small video from the first day on the road

After arriving in Ndanda we first got to our guest house, moving into our rooms for the night. We each got our own room, which felt kind of lonely and bizarre at first, since we were all used to sharing a room in the volunteer house. The rooms were furnished quite simple and scarce, though they had power outlets and actual electricity, a luxury that we did not have in the volunteer house. It really is the little things that can make your day, when living as modest as one does in Tanzania.

But our first day did not end there with just the road trip to Ndanda. Instead, we immediately were up on our feet again, discovering the village. We drove up to the St. Benedict Ndanda Referral Hospital and the Benedictine Abbey. They were built by German missionaries and date back to the beginning of the 20th century. Generally, the whole village was heavily influenced by the German colonialization, which can still be seen today.

view from the top of the hill

From there we walked up a small path for about 30 minutes, leading up to a hill with a cross on the summit. Unfortunately, luck was not on our side that day and the perks of the rain season followed us, leaving us completely drenched and frozen from the heavy rains. The already very muddy paths turned into small creeks, and we had to be extremely careful not to slip and fall, but we continued our way upwards. Finally reaching the summit we were rewarded with the most amazing view on Ndanda and its surrounding villages, mainly characterized by green forests and palm trees. Even the rain eventually stopped, and the sun made small appearances, so that we were able to dry and warm up a little bit and enjoy the view from the cross. We stayed up there for about one hour, enjoying the view, taking pictures, resting from the hike up and flying around a drone to film the view.

the summit cross

Back in the village, we enjoyed our evening and ate traditional Chipsi Mayai for dinner, reminiscing about the experiences of the day. The next morning we ate breakfast in a small bakery and used the time for small repairments on the motorcycles, that did not quite enjoy the roughness of our drivers. The bakery, which mainly offers local meals, turned into my favorite restaurant in Tanzania over the last few years. I went back to Ndanda countless of times, as my ex-boyfriend’s family lives there, and always enjoyed a nice meal with the absolute best tea for breakfast there!

inside view of the Ndanda Abbey

To not get too off topic, let’s get back to the trip. After breakfast we got a small tour through the church, the Ndanda Abbey, which was quite impressive. Then we drove up to the so-called Ndanda springs, the source of the majority of our drinking water. A guide showed us around the original spring and to a building where the water is collected before being filled up into bottles, leading us on a path through a forest that reminded me of a small jungle.

in the middle of nowhere on the Makonde Plateau

In the afternoon, we continued the second leg of our trip with the drive onto the Makonde Plateau to our next stop Kitangari. To reach the top of the plateau, we had to drive up a very steep muddy road, which turned into quite the adventure. Some drivers managed that drive very well, whereas others – including my driver – failed miserably. I ended up having to walk the majority of the way upwards, to not fall down from the motorcycle. Up on the plateau we drove through small paths alongside tiny villages with very curious residents. I guess we made quite the spectacle, driving through the middle of nowhere with seven “wazungu” (white people). Though, again we were met with heavy rainfalls, negatively impacting my mood, despite the untouched and beautiful nature surrounding us. In the late afternoon, we finally reached civilization again with the first tarred road of the day. We reached our stop for the night in the early evening hours and finally had some time to relax from the adventurous ride. A highlight from my dinner was, that it came packed in a single plastic bag – no need for boxes or aluminium foil – which was quite the interesting way to eat take-out and couldn’t better describe the innovative ideas of Tanzanians. The rest of the night we were just hanging out and went to bed fairly early, tired from the trip.

one of the worst roads from the trip (though this picture doesn’t do its justice)

The next day was already the last day of our weekend trip. We used the morning hours to drive to Tandahimba and used the time during breakfast to leave the motorcycles once again in a garage for repairments. The drive back to Mtwara took longer than I expected, even though our drivers once again had their fun speeding over the road. The road itself was one of the wider main highways, though it was in the middle of constructions, causing us to drive on the sides of the construction sites through muddy paths full of bumpy gravel. We finally arrived back at the volunteer house in the afternoon, exhausted from the whole trip.

the middle of the highway to Mtwara – here: just a construction site

In total, we drove over 400 kilometers within three days, getting to know many smaller villages and remote areas in the South of Tanzania, driving on everything between the smallest paths in the middle of nowhere, muddy gravelled roads to tarred highways, between sunshine and heavy rainfalls. We experienced anything that an adventurous and memorable trip could have possibly given us within these few days. Even now, three years later, I can still vividly remember the races between our drivers, the really miserable roads we came across and the beauty of Tanzanians landscapes that we were able to enjoy during the trip.

See you soon,


a picture of me on top of the mountain – taking pictures as always

P.S.: As mentioned, we were accompanied by photographers and videographers. One of them filmed a little vlog, linked below, which gives a few more impressions of our tour.

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