Lushoto to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania
Day 29: 26 August 2002 8:30 pm
Tom and Penny are reprimanded by the tour leader (Big Brother) for openly carrying a Lonely Planet guide in public.
Yet again, I had to remind myself not to plunge head first over the edge of
the mountain when I stepped out of the tent this morning. I was teetering
on the edge at one point in the murky darkness, as we were packing our tent
away at 5:30 am. I’d had a terrible night’s sleep due to the incessant
ramblings of the night watchmen. We were meant to leave at 6:00 am, but our
group is half an hour to an hour late from any departure and this morning
was no exception.
Yesterday, there was a great debate about our itinerary as the other truck
drove straight to Dar Es Salaam to get an extra night on Zanzibar. There
was talk of a silent vote but in the end our tour leader made the decision
that we would have an extra night in Zanzibar and a night in Lilongwe
(Malawi), instead of two nights in Zomba (Malawi). We would also be fitting
in a trip to the ebony market just outside Dar Es Salaam. We were not too
keen to spend an extra night on Zanzibar as accommodation is expensive and
those nights are not paid for by our kitty. I spoke to a girl from another
truck that had already visited Zanzibar and she was of the opinion that you
spent money like water even if you tried to stick to a strict budget.
I was fed up this morning as we were not keen on the itinerary change and
our tour leader did not tell us that there was a charge for the walk
yesterday. Lack of information strikes again.
Edina continues to fascinate everyone. Not only is she living on cornflakes
(without milk) and raw carrots, but she confided that she had been ripped
off to the tune of US $300 in Nairobi on her first day there. She hired a
taxi from the airport to the hotel and then the taxi driver suggested that
he showed her the sights of Nairobi for the day and charged her that amount.
Didn’t she bother reading a guide book before she came out here? I know
I’ve done stupid things in the past and been ripped off but never by that
extortionate amount. I’ll get back in my box now.
Back on the truck, mountain scenery gave way to lush green vegetation,
tropical palms and paddy fields. However, the weather was abysmal; wet,
damp and grey – just how I remember October back at home. I hope I have
dispelled the myth that East Africa is roaring hot and dry. At least I had
my Maasai blanket to keep me warm.
As we neared Dar Es Salaam, the clouds lifted and it was hot and sunny. Our
tour leader had painted Dar Es Salaam as a den of inequity, ever since we
had voiced our idea of coming back a day early from Zanzibar to explore Dar on
our own and visit the ebony market at Mwenge. Her horrified look when we
mentioned staying at the YWCA (something we did in Kuala Lumpur) should
have been framed for posterity.
On reaching Dar Es Salaam, I realised it was a pleasant, compact city
without the pollution of Asian cities. It even reminded me of Manila in the
Philippines. Dar Es Salaam has a population of around two million and is the
capital of Tanzania in all but name (Dodoma is the capital).
We sneaked off the truck at the earliest opportunity, when everyone else was
changing flights and using the ATM. Armed with our trusty Lonely Planet, we
checked out the YWCA. It was perfectly respectable and charged Tsh 10000
per night for room with bath. I was quite impressed with Dar Es Salaam as
it had an interesting harbour area, shops, streets to explore and the food
options looked good.
We found a Nandos and indulged in a portion of peri-peri chips as Tom is
starving all the time due to lack of food. They tasted heavenly. We bought
some banana cakes to keep us going and headed back to the truck. Our tour
leader reprimanded Tom for carrying his Lonely Planet in public. We were
told that "it drew attention to us and we would be prime targets for
mugging." I’ve never heard such a load of old poppy cock in all my life!
The very fact that we are ‘muzungus’, i.e. white, is enough to draw
attention to us wherever we go. We have always carried Lonely Planet guides
round with us when travelling independently and we’ve been fine.
As punishment, we were placed on truck security duty while the cook group
bought fish and prawns in the fish market. We had a lovely little chat to
Natasha and discovered that she has been feeling the same as us and has
considered jumping truck a couple of times. We are relieved that we are no
longer the odd ones out. She confided that it often feels like a school
trip and we are never treated as grown adults. She also said it was
‘difficult to do your own thing’ (don’t we know it). Heaven forbid if you
have any freedom of thought. Natasha was one of the few that stayed behind
when the others did the guided walk in Lushoto. Again, she felt she needed
some solitude and time to chill out away from the group. We told her about
our YWCA investigation and how our tour leader had chastised us for even
thinking we could return from Zanzibar one day early.
To reach the Mikadi Beach camp site, the truck boarded a small ferry in Dar
Es Salaam to Kigamboni. It was only a five minute journey. We camped on the
mozzie infested beach and ordered slushies at the bar (a potent mix of
frozen passion fruit, rum, gin and vodka. After two slushies, Tom was
forcibly dragging me away from the bar as I was on washing up duty and had
to be sober enough to work out how to put my marigolds on. We had a great
chat with Tamsin, a Kiwi, who is one of the new truck recruits. She has
travelled independently before and finds the truck restrictive. She was
looking forward to Zanzibar, as she was dying to get off. Hurrah – another
person that hasn’t taken to truck life like a duck to water.
Positives: We are no longer the odd couple that long to buck the trend.
Negatives: This really has turned into a ‘Big Brother’ experiment, where any
freedom of choice is openly frowned upon. We are seriously planning to abscond.
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