It’s been a while since my last proper post but there is a very good reason for that, which I’ll explain.
Tanzanian holiday post part 1…
I was in Tanzania for a holiday during Christmas and New Year. It began with an epic coach trip from Lilongwe to Dar es Salaam, which took 32 hours! Compounded by me being ill, it was a truly terrible experience. Cramped, hot, sweaty, hungry, rushed toilet stops, very loud (and bad) Chichewa and Swahili movies and music videos, and generally no idea of what’s going on or going to happen next!
After boarding the Taqwa coach in Lilongwe at 7 pm on a Tuesday night (and having to pay an extra 1000 kwachas because the prices had gone up since I bought my ticket a week before), I crossed into Tanzania at the northern Malawian border town of Songwe. Eventually arriving into Ubungo Bus Terminal in Dar es Salaam at 1 am on Thursday morning. Where my first misadventure began.
Being the only azungu on the whole coach, I was given “special” treatment and was directed to a local taxi driver by a Taqwa staff member. I asked to be taken to the Econo Lodge, where my Filipino VSO volunteer friends had recommended I should stay. Immediately after leaving the bus terminal, the taxi driver says he wants 50 USD and half the money upfront! Saying it’s really far and he needed fuel etc etc. I had my smartphone on with Google Maps running and knew it wasn’t far at all. He also had a quarter tank of fuel left. So he drove on after I said I’m not paying him 50 bucks and he needs to take me back to Ubungo. Despite realising that I had GPS running, he proceeded to take me on a massive detour around Dar. So by the time we arrived at the Econo Lodge, we had done 15 instead of 5 miles. I paid him 30,000 TSH (Tanzanian Shillings), which was already over the normal price. A mini argument ensued but he soon left, looking for his next rip-off fare no doubt. I said “special” treatment earlier because I’m pretty sure the taxi driver was the bus guy’s mate and they were colluding to rip me off. He was just way too nice. #TINSTAAFL.
Welcome to Tanzania. Specifically, Dar!
Because I was ill and ill-prepared, I had made the mistake of not booking the Econo Lodge in advance and they were actually fully booked that evening. Thankfully, the night shift manager, Sarum, was very helpful and offered me the couch for the night, which I was extremely grateful for. He went further and offered me the room of the first guest who checked out early in the morning so I could have a shower and rest properly. He then even offered me breakfast, free of charge! Some genuine kindness, which I was hoping for and just what I needed.
I was due to rendezvous with Nat and friends on Thursday. They were travelling from Zambia via the TAZARA Railway. But since we lost communication and the train is normally delayed, I made my own way to Zanzibar to meet another friend who was doing some short term volunteering there. I originally met Eliza, who’s from Australia, in Lilongwe a few weeks before and we said we’d try to meet up in Zanzibar.
Since it was quite late on a Friday, the ferry was fully booked. So thanks to my (different) taxi driver, Yousuf, who called ahead to his travel agent friend. I caught a small charter flight to Zanzibar instead. Quite a cool experience (they held the plane until I arrived) and great views of Dar and the coastline. I had to laugh at the sight of the co-pilot who was quite a cool dude… he had a cigarette tucked away behind his left ear. Not your average co-pilot! More like “Mad” Murdock from The A-Team.
We rendezvoused in Stone Town where Eliza was volunteering. Chilled out on the beach watching some young guys do somersaults and acrobatics late in the afternoon. Before hitting the famous night market, which is a collection of stalls selling all sorts of street food. Including “Mr Incredible Jumping Position’s Zanzibar Pitza“, which was the best thing there in my humble opinion.
I had arranged to stay the night at Eduardo’s place in Kizimbani. He is a fellow VSO volunteer, from the Philippines and based in Zanzibar, who I had never met before. He is a friend of my fellow volunteers in Lilongwe. But it was late by the time we finished the night market. So there was no public transport and Kizimbani is 15 km from Stone Town! I also managed to get myself lost in the maze of Stone Town (which reminded me of the closely packed buildings and alleyways of Morocco) while retrieving my backpack from Eliza’s lodge. But this actually helped me because whilst asking for directions, I made an acquaintance from one of the posher hotels. Salim helped me retrieve my backpack and I paid him half a taxi fare to take me to Kizimbani on his Vespa scooter. Neither of us knew where in Kizimbani we needed to go and it was an adventure struggling to get up steep hills in the pitch dark (no streetlights) and avoiding massive potholes on dirt roads. But we eventually found Eduardo in the middle of nowhere (very rural), waving his flashlight at us. Eduardo was a great host and looked after me that evening. Salamat po, Eduardo!
The next day, Eduardo took me back into Stone Town. Then I met up with Eliza. She showed me the sights and we had a fantastic lunch at the Archipelago restaurant, complete with an awesome view of the Indian Ocean of course. Great recommendation, Eliza!
To be continued…