What you need to know:
- His love for classic cars drove him to purchase the vehicle that had stayed for decades without turning a wheel, its engine was not working neither did any other parts of the car when he bought it, but he was hellbent on getting it back on the road.
By Anganile Mwakyanjala
Daniel Mlabwa has travelled around most corners of Tanzania working for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). His work obliges him to.
But on the flip side Daniel has been a road trip enthusiast since 2018. Tales of his experiences on the road are documented on his blog and on X, “formerly Twitter” account. He has driven to the most exhilarating views of Tanzania’s beauty.
But his motorhead days started as a coincident and a personal challenge. “During my travels, I noticed a lot of beautiful places across our country, and nothing much was said about these places or being documented,” he said.
So his quest to travel and write about the natural beauty in the country began with the aim of bridging the information gap. The most notable possession Daniel has is a remodeled old-fashioned Mercedes Benz.
His love for classic cars drove him to purchase the vehicle that had stayed for decades without turning a wheel, its engine was not working neither did any other parts of the car when he bought it, but he was hellbent on getting it back on the road.
“I wanted a car that will make me unique when I do my travels, something that is not expected to be on the road,” he said.
His expeditions did not start right away. Getting the car fixed was a humongous task, costly and not for the light-hearted.
The daunting task would cost him millions of Tanzanian Shillings by the time he could start the engine, and even then, millions more would bleed out of his pockets along the way as he discovered more broken parts he had to fix or buy. “I stopped counting when I had spent over twelve million fixing the car,” he laughed, but the challenge was well worth it.
Daniel’s expeditions started in Kigoma, where he went to Mahale and Gombe national parks, famously known for the Chimpanzee sanctuary, “To a normal eye all the chimpanzees look the same but the guide told us they are different,” he said.
Kigoma, although famously known for the human’s distant cousins, also has hiking trails, for those who love a little physical adventure and Daniel took advantage of that. He also visited Lake Tanganyika.
“The lake probably has the cleanest beaches because they are protected,” he mentioned.
He has so far driven his classic Mercedes Benz to more than 20 regions across the country, defying all the critics who doubted the old car would even make it on the road.
Daniel got wind of an old lady living in Kinondoni selling the decommissioned Benz. The lady had sold it before to someone who couldn’t renovate it. The going price was just one million Tanzanian Shillings,
Anyone else would have been alarmed at the low price, but Daniel was enticed, and he took the gamble. “I just bought it and if everything would work, it would be to my advantage if not it would be my loss,” he remembers.
His first long-distance road trip was from Dar es Salaam to the capital city, Dodoma. The drive would normally take ten hours but on his way to Dodoma Daniel ran through a speed bump, and the water pump in the car was damaged. Otherwise, the trip was fairly smooth.
He would later go to Udzungwa Mountains National Park in Morogoro Region, and witness many bird species, he saw the rare Iringa red colobus and the Sanje crested mangabey.
He went hiking a therapeutic experience walking through the rain forest as the birds chirped, The scenery was breathtaking to the highest peak, and seeing the Sanje waterfalls’s amazing beauty in real life is ineffable.
He would also drive to Mtwara, Mikindani, and Lindi region and after that, he would take considerably shorter trips to Bagamoyo, a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) world heritage site and once an important trading port and capital for German East Africa as well as the slave and ivory caravans stopover.
The old city still attracts numerous tourists from across the world who visit the old buildings and the beach, uniquely Germans travel to Bagamoyo to trace the history of their country as well as old churches that were implanted there more than a century ago.
His longest route was from Dar es Salaam to Kigoma. He intentionally took the longest road possible. He later went to Songwe Region, visiting the Mbozi meteorite. “It's a true celestial heavyweight weighing 12 tons and measuring 1.2m high, 1.6m wide and 3.3m long. It is one of the 10 heaviest in the world and 2nd heaviest in Africa,” he documented
Tanzanian roads are mostly tarmacked and though it is a big development from decades ago. This has come to have fatal accidents mostly by overspending drivers, Road accidents are more frequent and Daniel has been in a few, one of the accidents when he was traveling to Mtwara was bumping into a lorry that was illegally parked on the road with no reflective warning signs to alert the oncoming traffic.
To avoid deadly road accidents Daniel prefers not to travel at night and also avoid the busiest roads ” The busiest road is from Dar es Salaam to Zambia,” he cautioned.
He also advocates enhanced defense driving skills, and whenever he drives he makes sure he drives with a friend who helps him to be on the lookout and alert on the road, mainly from the big buses that are always speeding.
“I have to remind myself that I am in no rush,” he says, adding: “Never be competitive on the road.”
Daniel likes to travel slowly and carefully so that he can enjoy nature and that’s another reason he doesn’t travel at night.
By now, he has a strove of articles and pictures of places the old Mercedes Benz has taken him. Looking back, every family member and friend vehemently urged him not to buy the car. Daniel owned a Mini Cooper, a cool nice car but once he laid his eyes on the old Mercedes Benz it was love at first sight, and he immediately put the mini cooper on sale so he can raise enough money to bring the Benz back to life.
Daniel top dream is to travel to every attraction in Tanzania, from national parks, waterfalls, mountains, and lakes. He aims to achieve this by 2030. His escapades are well documented in his daniwander.com website.
He plans a small but vital part as a young Tanzanian to reveal the hidden beauty that this country has been bestowed with and hoping that more young Tanzanians will do the same.