Dar to Mtwara - Meeting the Boss

Trip Start Dec 16, 2005
Trip End Jun 12, 2006

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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

A busy day. First the Belgium Embassy to pick up a guidebook on Southern Africa that Rolland and Myriam had kindly left me. Next it was off to the MV Safari office to try to book a boat to Mtwara. Unfortunately the schedule had changed and Tuesday's boat now went on Saturday! A tour agency office tried to sell me a bus ticket for 30,000, but I knew their game and took a Dalla Dalla (minibus) to the bus station and picked up my own for 18,000. My guidebook said it would be at least a 24 hour trip in a rickety old bus on dirt roads!

Back into town and I had to photocopy a few pages from my guidebook, burn a couple more CDs and get a phone cover as I could hardly read anyone's text messages anymore due to the plastic on the phone cover being all scratched up.

Once the CDs and the book were photocopied I was ready to send a package home to England. It took my over 90 minutes in the post office to go through the whole wrapping process and procedures with customs.

Of course the power was also down so it took a good while to hike around to places to find ones that had a generator. The noise made by all the generators around the cities is pretty deafening.

I caught someone trying to open my bag at one point and very bravely or stupidly grabbed hold of them and confronted them. Of course they denied it, what could I do!

The heat that day also seemed more repressive than usual so I was happy to try a coconut from some guy on the street, after he lopped the top off with his machete I was able to enjoy the refreshing milk inside.

I was in bed very early ready for the 4:30am bus ride. Someone called me about 11pm, I though it was my alarm clock going off on the telephone to wake me up for my bus and promptly cut them off.

Up to get to the bus station for my 5:45am bus. Amazingly it leaves on time but after one hour in traffic jams we stop for 1 hour for no apparent reason! Back on the road and the inspector comes around and throws 2 people off - one literally. It seems like they did not have enough money.

Had an early stop at a small village after what smelt like a fuel leak. The first of 5 stops that day for minor repairs.

I met a guy who said he was christened with the name Boss Kamara who bought me a tea and gave me some of his bread, pastries and laughing cow cheese. The guy had all sorts of stories, not too sure which ones were true but he was definitely a talker. He was from Guinea and this trip was taking him from his home in Nairobi down to Mozambique to buy some uncut gems that he would take over to Thailand. This apparently was a trip he had done numerous times in the past but not via this particular route into Mozambique. I was rather unsure just how wise it was to befriend him, but hey, I'm here for adventure so why the hell not! He was also very load and outspoken and caused the locals to laugh out loud as he barked orders at people or made comments on the bus.

The route started out on what could be described at the palm tree coast. Coconuts, papaya, bananas and some other palms although no sea on sight for the whole of the day, we must have been inland for a few miles.

The road eventually changed from palms to some green plains and after lunch we got forest for the rest of the day. We spotted a good number of baboons and the locals were very excited so see them. It's funny because I just assumed they would see them all the time. I guess the local enthusiasm is a positive sign for the future preservation of wildlife in Tanzania.

Managed to pick up a corn on the cob some time before lunch and then for lunch I had some fish that looked well dodgy due to all the flies buzzing around. There were lots of street vendors selling the fish and it turned out be very taste indeed. It was very salty and it seemed like it had been slowly cooked over the fire so it was almost dehydrated.

After the lunch in Nangarukuru we kept on going and I found out the trip wasn't going to be 24 hours after all but that we would get there some time that evening. Apparently the road had been improved since my book was written and they had put black top in some places. Where there wasn't tarmac the road was still terrible. As we got further south it became obvious they had some serious rain here earlier. There was plenty of it left in the road and we came to a muddy dip in the road where a truck with 2 trailers had jackknifed. It took a few hours before that truck got pulled out and a few others in the line of waiting traffic that also got stuck got pulled out. Our bus finally got through. Boss Camara did his best to oversea the whole operation though. In between time I listened as Boss has a chat with a guy who was a 'believer'. Boss was telling him how he was going to find a girl once he got to town. The 'believer; told Boss how his preacher had told him that he could get HIV from a girl even if that girl didn't actually have HIV!

The guy next to me was a politician but hardly spoke any English. English is usually the third language in Tanzania after a local language and Swahili. I really wish I'd been able to communicate with him and some of the other locals more.

As it got dark I though to myself the traveling on the local transport part of travel, although frustrating at times, was probably my favourite part of the whole travel experience. When it comes to documenting all my travel experiences I think I write the most when I'm on the road as this is when the most interesting things happen. At this point in time I could see fireflies outside to my left and right and the Southern Cross up in the sky.

I'd managed to leave the photocopied pages of the Lonely Planet guidebook inside the book I'd mailed home! I had no idea what my options were when I arrived in Mtwara at it was going to be late. I was glad to have Boss and 'the believer' around to negotiate taxis and arrange a hotel room once we did get there at about midnight, 5 hours ahead of schedule! I had heard though that another bus that had left Dar at the same time as mine had got in at 4pm that afternoon. It must have missed the road blockage!

Last night in Tanzania and a final few thoughts. Tanzania really had exceeded expectations. It wasn't on my list of the top 3 countries I'd wanted to go to as I though it would be quite touristy but everything had been fantastic. The safari, Kili, the Usambaras and the streets and beaches of Zanzibar. These also were all every different experiences from one another.

The only bad thing about Tanzania was the touts or Papsi (ticks in Swahili) as they were called locally. There was some hassle from them but I had also being expecting that which made things easier. Besides them the other people I'd met were some fantastic people. I'll remember Juma, my 'drunken' guide from the Usambara Mountains and the guy from the fish BBQ and all his worries about the type of woman he wanted to find and settle down with.

In the three main countries so far what has been great is the diversity. Each one has been a totally different experience and I've been extremely happy with my choices of countries so far.

Mozambique and the rest of the countries have a lot to live up to!
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