Tanzania, take 2

Me and my friend Lucy decided over a champagne breakfast back in September in the Icelandic countryside to meet up and travel thru Africa for a month. From November 4 until December 10th, the tentative plan was Dar Es Salaam to Luanda, Lilongwe, or Lusaka. Luanda was quickly dismissed because no traveler in their right mind feels like over-landing thru all of Angola, with the prices of things, remoteness of places and language as pretty big barriers. Lilongwe would have required us to overland thru northern Mozambique, which is somewhat unstable and has terrible infrastructure, so the obvious choice became Lusaka. Lusaka itself isn´t much of a destination city, but it´s a green and tidy, spacious city (especially for African standards), full of malls, worth a stop on the way to Livingstone, and so Livingstone became our final destination.

Lucy and I

Our decision meant we´d have about 2 weeks in Tanzania before heading to Malawi and Zambia for 10 days each. Two weeks in Tanzania barely lets you scratch the surface, and the actual overland part from Dar to Malawi was only a couple of days, since we made a lot of friends in Dar, zigzagged north and south along the coast and spent over a week island hopping in the Indian ocean. We were prepared for a lot of long, bumpy, bus rides and super-slow ferries, but some boat trips literally felt like overcrowded refugee boats with a 50% chance of making it with everyone alive. The bus trips always turned out okay, especially if you were lucky with your seat choice, but the number of car accidents, with cars, motorcycles and buses, that we saw on nearly a daily basis always made us count our lucky stars. A few breakdowns or flat tires on the way were then never anything to complain about, especially after we witnessed first-hand the fatalities some of those accidents caused.

Dhow boats, a daily sight

I arrived a weekend earlier than Lucy and had no idea what I´d do for the first few days. I found a last minute couchsurf host that lived in a half-finished house, so there was electricity but no water, and a toilet but no shower. One night later I was relieved to find out I actually had a friend from London who had recently moved to Dar, and staying in his guest room with air con, a private bathroom, and cleaning lady to make my bed felt like 5 star luxury. I was also lucky enough to coincide with the Bagamoyo Karibou Music Festival, and me and London guy roadtripped up there to boogie in the rain and buy lots
of mishkaki (meat on a stick), bbq´d plantains and chips maiai (French fries panfried into an omelette). I was also happy to coincide with avocado season, and buying perfectly ripened avocados the size of grapefruits for cents on the side of the road hasn´t been done since my 2010 trip to Colombia.

Kaole ruins

Bagamoyo was much more memorable for the Kaole Ruins, fish market, and the dozen or so ex-pats I met. I listened to their stories of where they were from and why they were in Tanzania, the benefits of having ‘blue’ and ‘green’ plates (UN and diplomatic) and also managed to meet up with two local friends I had met thru couchsurfer guy at a film
screening at Goether-Institute, a German initiative, in Dar.

Lucy and Olli at the entrance to the cave

Later, one of those local guys Olli invited us to visit his parents’ village in Kilwa, and we traveled there by public bus with a 25kg sack
full of shoes and clothes to give away. His cousin was randomly our bus driver and his toothless uncle hosted us in his home. We hiked to an incredible cave whose name I may never know, and literally crawled thru bat shit to get to some deep, dark, depths, only to find eels, frogs, prawns, and crickets living, totally devoid of light, in the underground streams and puddles.

Crawling out from the bat poop

We carried on to Kilwa Masoko and Kilwa Kisiwani, an island full of ruins similar to Kaole, and an historically important link between Great Zimbabwe, the slave trade, gold coins, the spice route, and the Middle East.

Olli at the Kilwa ruins

We returned to Dar, which seemed to be the very inconveniently located center of things, and spend a couple of days at Kipepeo Beach. We ate the best breakfast I´ve had in Africa at Salt in Dar Es Salaam, attended a birthday party at some Brazilian/Swiss ambassador´s house, had sundowners at Slipway, partied at Q Bar and East 24, drank some legitimate coffees at a few cafes, and swung in hammocks with locals at Cocoa beach. From Dar, it was time to go to Zanzibar, and it would become a very different, far-away experience from Dar. My first, or second rather, impressions of Tanzania were not what I expected, random and disconnected, but still fell together perfectly for another novel, African adventure.

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One thought on “Tanzania, take 2

  1. Great! I still need to visit the whole Africa basically.. on my list for this year! 🙂

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