89 – Destination Mombasa

Tues 23rd Feb, Tana Guest House, Mombasa, Kenya

Today was another full day of travel, with me blitzing through the towns. From Zanzibar to Dar Es Salaam, by boat, we arrived at 6am. The nice Zanzibari guy from the boat helped me flag a city bus bound for Ubungo bus station. Once there, i was hassled by many touts, and i just went with one. Being “spoken for” meant everyone else leaves you alone. I got my ticket from the counter. His demeanour completely changed when he noticed me writing my muslim name on the tix. He took it as his responsibility to take me safely aboard my bus, even telling the bus conductor he better take care of me. The bus company was Tahmeed (25000 TSH), one that i was completely unfamilar with. It was a smaller bus too, and i worried when we traveled on the bumpier stretch between Tanga and the border. The center of gravity was obviously higher on this bus and speeding might just flip it over. Thankfully that did not happen.

It was a 9 hour bus ride from Dar Es Salaam, stopping for lunch in Tanga (fish, yummy samaki, since its near the coast now), before heading on to the border at Lunga-Lunga. The Kenyan immigration was really getting suspicious as to why this fella was travelling to and fro so much. “Business?” “No, tourist”. He gave me one week, but i asked for two since i needed that much before going home.

The bus ride culminated in the ferry crossing at Likoni. All the vehicles went aboard a barge. Pedestrians followed suit and the whole retinue was transported across the channel. Prior to that, the bus conductor told everyone to go to the back of the bus. I was wondering why, but found out later when Security got everyone off the bus during the crossing. Going to the back of the bus was to hide so we won’t be asked off. Hahaha.

It was near dark when we reached Mombasa proper. There was no time to really do much, so i got my ticket to Lamu (Tahmeed again, 800 KSH, 8am departure, 7 hours – but theres a 10am departure too) and went to draw cash from the Barclays bank. I got myself some fried fish to eat with my home cooked pasta. And i got a much needed shower, after almost 48 hours in stinky sweaty clothing.

86 – The Streets of Dar Es Salaam

Sat 20th Feb, Kibodya Hotel, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Dar Es Salaam is the unofficial capital of Tanzania. The administrative capital is in boring Dodoma, but Dar is where everyone else comes to for everything else. Today’s agenda was simple. Go to the northeast of the city centre to soak in the Asian quarter around India and Mosque street, try to get connected online, and pick up ferry tickets to Zanzibar.

But first, i moved to a cheaper room in the hotel. Less jazzy, no mosquito net, no aircon, and i see cockroaches. What a big difference. The tv is there though, and the hot shower was working, so i’m set.

Wandering the streets of Dar, i noticed the locals are multi-ethnic. Sure, there were the east africans i’ve seen elsewhere over the past 3 weeks, but here were also ladies clad in indian saris, masai dressed tribal people, kanga clad ladies, kids with arabic features.This, as well as all the towns along the coast, were the result of centuries worth of trade along the Indian ocean, intermarriage and migration. The Swahili coast is where i will be spending the next week or so, and this is going to be very interesting.

As for the buildings, they were grand structures, and each proudly stated which year they were constructed.

I cannot find an Internet joint anywhere, the few shown in the 2008 revision of LP have all closed. I finally found one, the post office. Old machines, with no working flash drive slots (i didnt bother asking if i could plug in my laptop). But there are wireless connections elsewhere, i found out later, and i think everywhere you could get connected by paying a subscription fee.

Next i walked down to Sokoine Drive, parallel to the sea, where the rain of touts immediately fell upon me, asking me to buy from their ferry ticket shop. I ignored them and looked for the Flying Horse office, the cheaper option taking 4 hours, instead of the many faster 1.5 hour ferries. The Flying Horse (20 USD, locals pay less) departs from Dar daily at 1230 pm (arrive early so you don’t get squashed). Despite ignoring the touts, i still got conned. I paid 25 USD (LP says 25!) instead of 20 USD. When i asked why the ticket was handwritten 20 USD, i was told 5 USD was port tax. This was true, but it was inclusive! That will teach me not to completely trust guidebooks.

Dinner was self-catered. By now, i am so well equipped i could do a pasta dinner with cream of mushroom. One last thing, the coast is hot and humid. I am drenched with sweat the whole day, and i don’t know what to do with my shirt. I’ll keep on wearing them since changing into new ones will mean that new shirt will need washing again.

85 – Saying Hi to Mount Kilimajaro

Fri 19th Feb, Kibodya Hotel, Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

And so the story goes, at 2am on this Fri morning, a sleepy traveler boarded the bus bound for Dar Es Salaam. He read that the journey takes 12 to 14 hours, therefore reaching Dar at 4pm or so, perfect in that there is enough of daylight left to hunt for suitable lodging and get oriented with the city. (2am)

The road from Nairobi to the border was bumpy, but since it was dark, the traveler could not make out the terrain outside. Instead, he did his best to make himself comfortable and get some much needed sleep. This was next to impossible since he was jolted awake each time the bus passed over a particularly high hump. So it was with much good fortune, he thought, when the bus stopped suddenly. He could finally get his desired rest. (4am)

It was light when he woke up. The bus was stationary, and there was a commotion outside. The traveler peered from bhind his window curtain and saw to his surprise, numerous trucks and buses on the road in front of and behind his bus. All were not moving. He was to later discover that the road was blocked. Continuous rains over the past few days meant that the sandy road was now mud, and a huge container lorry had sunked in and blocked the entire path. Other smaller lorries had tried to navigate around and similarly got themselves into trouble. No one was going anywhere. (7am)

The traveler thought to himself “Let them sort it out” and proceeded to read his book back on the bus. He had spent enough of his traveling life on long distance buses and nothing fazed him anymore. Eventually a giant JCB tractor came along and pulled the lorry out of the way. Getting the tractor to the scene was an effort in itself. Cars and buses and lorries had to make way for the tractor. It was like playing those block puzzles where you had to shift the blocks around limited space to form a picture. (9am)

The bus chugged along the bumpy road (why such a well-trodden route was not tarmacked the traveler could not understand) to the border.  The immigrations officers started to ask the traveler questions about his constant ping-ponging between countries, but let him through all the same. (10am).
It was bad road all the way after that, but the scenery was spectacular. Like the traveler mentioned elsewhere before, Tanzania has the best clouds. And along the way, the bus route took the traveler to Arusha, skirting the regal Mount Meru in the process. And beyond that, to the town of Moshi, where the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, loomed in the background, its summit hidden completely by clouds. The traveler was contented to see this spectacular mountain up close (a lack of time and budget prevented him from attempting to summit the peak). (3pm)

The bus company, Kampala Coach, included a meal with it’s ticket price. The traveler stopped for dinner at 6pm, by which time he was utterly famished. He suspected that the dinner was actually lunch, but we only arrived in the evening. It was more travelling by night, and the traveler kept himself occupied with his copy of Newsweek. (7pm)

On reaching Dar Es Salaam, the passengers were dropped off at Ubungo bus terminal, an inconvenient 8km from the city centre. It was 12am. Not wanting to travel anywhere on foot by dark after previous unsavoury experience, the traveler engaged the assistance of a Kampala Coach mechanic to hail a cab. The price was exorbitant, he bargained it down from 150000 to 10000 TSH, and instructed the driver to Kibodya Hotel. (12am)

Accomodation is always more expensive here in Tanzania, he thought to himself as he forked over the 24000 TSH for the nicer rooms, since the basic rooms were full. He had a tv and airconditioning, both unnecessary since his laptop and the fully blasted ceiling fan are able substitutes. He would change to the cheaper 16500 TSH rooms when they are available tomorrow. (2am)

Photos below are from previous day