Day 35: Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania – Big Brother’s African Brother

Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania

Day 35: 1 September 2002 7:30 pm

Not everyone in the group are overjoyed at being reunited on the truck as it does not take long for reality to set in. Two new truck mates join like lambs to the slaughter. And it’s nomination day again!

It was time for our Mwenge adventure and to most it was a pathetic, little
journey, but for us it was a chance to finally negotiate Africa on our own.

The YMCA kindly stored our bags secured in Pac Safes, a fantastic invention
for securing backpacks and we easily hopped onto a dalla dalla (local
minibus) outside New Posta. Dalla dallas work on the principle that when
they are full up, i.e. someone hanging out the door, they will leave.
Listening to groovy East African radio, we trundled up to Mwenge and paid
Tsh 150 for the privilege – this was the local fare.

Next task was to locate the ebony wood carving market without a map – all
the stalls we came across were fruit and veg. It turned out that it was off
the main road and what an Aladdin’s cave the market was. Approximately 100
stalls laden with pieces of far superior quality and variety to the carvings
in Zanzibar. Men were working laboriously in the centre of the market on
their carvings.

I was so pleased that we had made the effort to find the market ourselves,
having all the time in the world to browse and choose, rather than being
rushed back onto the truck. If you haven’t guessed by now, we are ardent
souvenir buyers and love purchasing any old tat to take home, often
wondering where an earth it will go. We had set our hearts on buying a
‘tree of life’ ujamaa carving, overwhelmed by the choice we had. These are
designed almost like a totem pole of detailed, interlaced figures piled on
top of each other.

Tom was impressed by a collapsable ebony table – the legs were elephants
or giraffe, but we were horrified by the price – far too expensive for our
wallets. The first ‘tree of life’ we chose to haggle over turned out to be
an extortionate US$150 starting price. Of course it was the ‘antique
special’ carving we had chosen. Undeterred, we found a carving with the
ebony bark still intact and parted with US$45. Tom then spotted a
unique ‘shetani’ carving, depicting an artist’s impression of the underworld
spirits, death or the devil. We fell in love with it as we could not find
anything else like it and coughed up a hideous amount that I’m too ashamed
to state. I keep telling myself it is ‘art’ and a ‘unique piece’ so I don’t
have to think about the money we parted with.

Our last purchase was a small hippo but unlike the smooth hippo carvings
found everywhere else, this hippo had detailed features and rough skin on
its back. We happily spent three hours in the market before returning to
the YMCA.

We had a picnic lunch while the locals gathered round to watch a cheesy
episode of "Miami Vice". I’d almost forgotten how awful the pastel suits,
Jan Hammer music and huge Eighties hair were. Tom wrapped the carvings
and loaded me up like a pack horse – I only just made it to the truck before
collapsing under the weight. I was promised Nando peri-peri chips and
popcorn in return.

Two new truck mates had appeared – Amelia and Wanda, sisters from Arizona in
the U.S. and both as wholesome as apple pie. Roberta and Beth had returned
bronzed, henna tattooed and partied out. Beth has splurged US$25 on having
hair extensions braided into her hair and it had taken a mind boggling four
hours to achieve. Roberta, Belinda and Amy had stocked up on Tinga Tinga
paintings (not to our taste but a good souvenir).

Once back on the truck with the group it was like we had never left for
Zanzibar. Back to no freedom, talking in whispers on the truck and in our
tent, worried that my travelogue would be discovered, drudgery of chores,
never leaving anywhere on time, mozzie infested showers, early morning
starts… the list seemed endless.

I was on cooking duty at Mikadi camp site and talked Tom into buying me
one last slushie (the trip is enough to turn anyone to drink), distracting
myself from deshelling and beheading an enormous bag of tiger prawns.

We heard less than complimentary comments on the Vuga Hotel in Stone Town
(the hotel that our beloved tour leader had recommended) – she had tried to
talk us out of staying on at Narrow Street Hotel yet we had had a lovely
stay there and they had really looked after us. Amy had her maglite stolen
from her room and Tamsin had a massive argument with the owner over paying
for her accommodation. They said she hadn’t paid and she said she had.

Roberta was up to her old tricks again and had managed to blag her way into
an all-inclusive five star resort on the North beaches of Zanzibar,
demolishing an all-you-can-eat dinner buffet, before leaving without paying
the bill. She decided to try it again, I think this was really pushing her
luck and they threw her off the premises.

We retired early due to the 5:00am start tomorrow, but I found it so hard to
get to sleep – I’d forgotten all about the hard ground, constant noise, the
sprint to the toilet block in the dark and I longed for a proper bed again.
I’d obviously become quite spoilt on Zanzibar.

The showers and toilets were infested with mozzies and I discovered that I
had a few other unexpected guests lurking in my toilet – a miniature
scorpion and a giant leech.

I tossed and turned, finally drifting off to sleep, only to be rudely
awakened by two macho overland truck drivers, saturated with alcohol, egging
each other on as to who could drive onto the beach. Of course, the
inevitable happened and both trucks got stuck in the sand. We were then
treated to half an hour of engines being revved and yells for shovels going
unanswered – I silently cursed them and buried my head in my sleeping bag.

Nominations: This week I feel that our tour leader deserves a nomination
for causing such a fuss over carrying a copy of Lonely Planet around with us
and for nearly fainting when we told her we wanted to stay in the YWCA.

My next nominee is from the Aussie vet truck. General consensus of opinion
is that Bradley, a raging alcoholic, needs to be evicted. His legendary 12
hour drinking binge on the truck from Arusha to Dar Es Salaam was the final
straw. His time spent on Zanzibar had two objectives – alcohol and sourcing
charlie. How dear, quietly spoken Petunia puts up with him, I’ll never
know.

Well, it’s a close call but the tour leader has to go!

Positives: At least our souvenirs made it back onto the truck.

Negatives: Well, we’re back on the truck and it’s sheer torture.

 

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