Browsing Tag

Dar es Salaam

Africa, Destinations

Modes of transportation

December 31, 2008 • By

Happy New Year’s 2009

As it is not always easy for me to individually respond to everyone, I will take a few minutes to answer more questions.  Zanzibar is a very beautiful island and by most Tanzanian standards a very rich place and the people for the most part are educated.  It has remained very isolated despite the mainlands hold on it.  Each election things get very dicey in Zanzibar as half the island wants its independence from the mainland and half do not.  Sounds a bit like Quebec right?  I did have a very nice time on the island but it’s quite hot.  I mean I really contemplated staying and opening an ice cream store because my hours of searching for something sweet and cold produced nothing but an island wide black out. Should your worry about my talents with regard to fixing the power I would like to add I can be quite helpful assisting others.  Since September 11, I pretty much always have a flashlight near by.  My handy dandy 6-incher proved a big help in getting the SECOND generator at our hotel up and running.  Karima at our hotel says she can go back to Holland equipped with many talents she did not otherwise have….plumbing, electricity.  Me on the other hand….I will keep that for the hired folks.

I did arrive in Dar es Salaam safely and picked another hotel on the budget plan.  This one did have AC but was still lacking in the amenities department.  It did have a nicely soiled sheet with about 50 stains of I don’t know what on it which means I used my fleece as a pillow and my towel as a blanket.   The only Royal thing about the Royal Mirage  Cable TV and a fantastic episode of Dirty Sexy Money.  I do so love my American TV shows.  What am I missing on Gossip Girls?

Before lights out, I contracted a taxi to take me to the bus station for the 6 am bus to Arusha.  This entire day is a bit Bridget Jones like so I thought I would share.  My very nice taxi driver takes me to the bus station.  Picture this….about 75 buses all with crazy names like Promise Bus, Buffalo Bus, Shaedy Bus, Islam Bus, and so on and so on.  I think what about the bus called, “One Piece Bus or “No Accident Bus?”  As I am searching for my luxury liner, Dar Express, I am literally swarmed by men offering me a host of other buses but my favorites are the ones they said would not break down or the bus that had fresh bread  —Mind you women are everywhere offering loaves of bread– I buy my Dar Express luxury ticket from the “conductor” after we bargained on a price.  Yes no more Mr. Nice girl and I a ruthless bargainer.

We board at 6 am for what I naively think will be an on time departure.  We leave at 7:09.  Did I mention I skipped breakfast thinking I was going to a bus depot and not a stadium size parking lot of buses?  Thank gosh for those remaining South Beach bars.  We are on our way….My seat mate a very nicely dressed businessman is in a suit and tie.  Does he know something I don’t know I ponder as I play around with the AC buttons which the “conductor” told me would work.  Yep not so much.  In Tanzania, they must have a very different definition of the word luxury.  I quickly try to prepare myself for 10 hours on a bus with no AC and no toilet.  First assessment, I am fucked and I will definitely piss in my pants. (I know I know it’s always about the toilet with me.)  Second assessment, I am on the bus for the scenery and I need to sit back and enjoy and stop panicking.  That lasts for 15 minutes and I start to think I must serioulsy be nuts.  Why would I take a bus with locals on a holiday  I already can guess how they live and it’s awful so why did I need to experience it. 

Anway, the best is yet to come…. Three hours into our journey we come to a sudden stop.  We had been making a few stops here and there but this one seemed different.  About 15 men get off and my seat mate as well.  I sort of look outside the window and realize this is my long awaited pee break.  Running off the bus and into the “bathroom,” I realize I am walking past many moving targets and I need to hurry past as to not get hit.  I find a cute bush that looks like it needs the fruits of my labor.  Mission accomplished!

Back on the bus, my seat mate has just purchased water from the sellers underneath the windows (picture 10 people throwing stuff up at the windows as the bus slows and starts up –water, plums, newspapers, peanuts and batches of pineapples).  After he is finished with his water, he just pitches the bottle out the window like it’s nothing.  I literally had to stare at him the first time and then the second time I just sort of accepted it as life over here.

One last story about the bathroom and I swear I will move on.  We make a lunch stop for 15 minutes at some place that was 300 degrees and it seemed to be where the locals make stops as well.  I try to use the facilities.  It occurs to me there is no line and women (big women) are pushing me around.  I move in and take charge and commandeer a stall.  Opening the door, I see my favorite type of toilet the hole in the ground and I think it’s ok I can do it.  Nope not a chance.  The wave of whatever hits me instantly, my mouth starts to water and the gagging comes quickly.  Out of the bathroom I go.  Once outside, I take inventory of my surroundings and see a spot on the side of the building with chairs and I think this looks much better.  Yes I prefer the great outdoors to bathrooms in Africa.  Down go my pants and as I am about to let loose some quacking ducks come up and start nipping at my ankles.  WHERE DID THEY COME FROM?  Clearly I was on their territory and had no idea.  Pants back up, back on the bus and no toilet for me.  TRUE STORY!

Now the bus it pretty hot as the afternoon sun is beating on us.  I have a window but for some reason the seat behind me is getting all the wind.  Every time I try to open the window more, this girl (guessing from some Scandinavian country) keeps tapping me on the shoulder that the window is bothering her.  I can’t help it I say back to he, ” listen I am sweating. my pants are wet and I am happy to switch seats but I am not shutting the window.”   Ugh!  I feel guilty after I look back and see her face blown straight  and shut the window half way.  Now I have beads of sweat pouring down my face.  As if it cannot get worse, it starts to rain and everyone on the bus shuts their window.  PLEASE rain is not going to kill you when it’s 100 degrees and we are literally on the equator.  Did I mention the equator is making me insanely hot?   Five hours later I arrive in Arusha soaked and cramped and I make another note never to take the bus again in my life.  I mean I don’t take the bus in New York why did I think it would be fun in Tanzania? 

I will however admit that the scenery was incredible and the pineapple bushes and palm trees plentiful.  Scenery I would never have seen otherwise and neighborhoods and people’s faces that are ingrained in my memory.

Africa, Destinations

What $60 gets you

December 24, 2008 • By

Hi everyone:

Before I report on today’s trip, let me answer a few questions about the safari many of you asked me.  I was indeed in the wilderness but I stayed at two beautiful “camps” which consisted of screened in huts with mosquito netted beds.  They did have running water, toilets, showers  and a couple of lights but more or less they had a ton of amazing fresh food and even more bugs.  It was not camping by any means but it was roughing it for me.  Being greeted by impalas(type of antelope) and baboons and monkeys is not typically what I wake up to every morning. 

It was also the most clean part of the world I will probably ever experience seeing.  It made for the most colorful sunrises and sunsets and it was refreshing to be in a place not touched by pollution.  The last few weeks have been the fancy part of my trip and I would like to refer to them as vacation.  I am now on a budget which is where my story begins.

I decided to head to Tanzania straight away to make sure I got all my favorites in first.  Now my budget excludes flights and I have a splurge fund set aside if I want to do something crazy like climb Mt. Kili or take another safari.  But I am trying to keep it under $100 a day and the goal is to come in around $60 a day. 

I last left you in Jo-burg at my beautiful fancy $47 a day airport hotel.  I hopped a plane to Dar es Salaam and here is where we will begin.  My flight was at 2:55 pm.  After 6 yahoos decided not to get on the plane, we had to wait an hour for security to take their bags off the plane.  I was frantically emailing hotels in Dar es Salaam to get a room for the night and I finally got a response right before take off that the Palm Beach Hotel could accommodate me at $60 USD.  My lonely planet said it was clean and nice so I went for it. 

Upon arrival in Tanzania(Tan-Zain-ee-a to the locals), I had to purchase a VISA.  All you folks from the States keep in mind what we do on to others they do back to us.  The visa cost $100 ($50 for everyone else) and they wanted cash not older than 2006.  Well what do you think I had on me….of course $50 new dollars and $200 old dollars.  In a line with about 10 other frantic Americans, we headed to the ATM which did not give out any money and the nice man at the currency exchange refused to exchange our traveler’s cheques.  What did I do?  Improvised.  I had been talking to some 23 year old South African boy about the visa process for Americans so I went back to him and offered to give him Rand (SA currency) for his US dollars.  It worked and I was on my way.  Crisis averted.  Next I had the opportunity to be singled out by the customs man for being weak.  Does he really know me?  I was just trying to smile and be friendly since it was now 8 pm pitch black in Dar es Salaam and I was sweating my ass off.  He wanted a bribe because he said I was weak.  What the hell does that mean?  As I stared at this other American girl in bewilderment, the man finally left me alone  took my $100 and my passport and then disappeared.  I was fairly convinced I would be sleeping on the floor but after another 45 minutes he produced my passport with the needed visa.

I finally get in a cab.  Let me reiterate.  It’s pitch black.  I am in a strange city and one the books  specifically say not to go out at night.  Therefore, I’m convinced I will now die in this cab.  Jill liked to make fun of the fact that I always had an exit plan whether any would actually save me it didn’t matter I always had that plan.  As the cab started moving and I demanded he lock the doors, I realized I was probably safer in the cab than jumping out of it moving onto the streets of Dar es Salaam.  Alas, we arrive at the Palm Beach Hotel which is anything but visions of grandeur.  Mr. Cabbie takes my bags out of the car and is now demanding 25USD when we had agreed upon 15USD.  I give up quietly and just say take it.

Once in the hotel, I am greeted by a completely rude woman who literally just takes my name and shoves a key at me.  I enter my room.  I’m beat and in need of a good shower (again).  Imagine this….cell block six with a TV.  One twin bed with likely used sheets, a pillow which smelled of musk and smoke and I don’t know which I preferred, an overall smell of septic throughout the room.  I had given Jill my sleeping bag so I had no choice to suck it up and pray the bed did not have fleas or bugs.  I tried to go to bed but the “warden” walked the halls with heels every hour and I was in the cheap room so I heard various trucks and noises every minute.  I was so convinced there were cockroaches and other “mites” that I kept turning my flashlight on and shining it under the bed. 

I made it through the night and figured I needed to get the heck out of Dar es Salaam.  After being ripped off by the ferry guy and an entire scheme of “ticket” brokers I met a very sweet girl from Holland and we chatted the two hours before the ferry and the 2 1/2 hours on the ferry.  I finally made it to ZANZIBAR. 

Zanzibar is beautiful.  It’s an island off the coast of Tanzania and it’s slam duck in the middle of the Indian Ocean.  My first impressions are that there is a very large Islamic population on the island.  It sort of reminds me of Casablanca in a way.  Open fruit and meat markets, the zesty smell of stale fish and of course the rundown Medina with reminders of history’s greatness.  In its heyday, it was famous for spices now it’s summer tourist spot for Africa’s elite. 

I am here for 3 nights celebrating Christmas.  Not to worry this hotel is $100 a day and while there is still an abundance of flies it has AC and a pool.  I bargained with the GM this morning so I got a room down from $235 to $100.  I was like buddy listen I will book 3 nights and you are clearly not going to fill it on Christmas but $235 does not work for me.  I’m off to the pool.  I need some relaxation before I stuff myself with their fancy Christmas dinner.  I’m hoping to meet some fellow travelers but it seems there are many honeymooners on my proposed itinerary.  I mean seriously are they trying to kill me.

Now you are wondering just what 60USD gets you.  Here is my thought.  It doesn’t get you much…maybe a bed, a shower a sheet and definitely not purified water.  What that does not kill you makes you stronger.  I guess I’m not that strong if after 2 nights I was bargaining with a GM at a fancy hotel.   

STAY WARM I hear it’s chilly in the US.