Travel Report from Tanzania (23 February 2004)
Jambo from Tanzania!
Tanzania is the last Swahili speaking country on our route, and it was a memorable time for different reasons. Having left Tiwi Beach behind, we continued along the coast towards Dar es Salaam exited Kenya at Lunga Lunga, and entered Tanzania at Hora Hora.
At the border station in Hora Hora, Christian was required to purchase a visa, and we realized only once we had left the border post, that although his passport had been stamped with an entry stamp, mine had not. Christian was certain I that as I required no visa, I also required no stamp. Again, both borders were extremely quick and efficient. In fact the only inefficiency we had in terms of border crossings were all in Northern Africa and the Middle East.
We arrived late in the evening in Dar es Salaam, which means ‘Haven of Peace’. We renamed it “Haven of Heat”. The temperatures and humidity made sleeping impossible. The only thing one could really do comfortably was swim. Our first night was at the Silver Sands Camping lodge, which although an attractive location, is a rather soulless over landing stopover. The following day we relocated to the YMCA in Dar es Salaam and explored the city. Dar es Salaam is an attractive harbour town full of German architecture which would look more at home in the Black Forest. The people are busy, energetic and friendly and have a super sense of humour. The most commonly sold commodity on the streets is cashew nuts, and they are very good! Here the Matatu’s are called Dalla Dalla’s. We followed up on the Matatu dispute in Kenya and learnt that the Matatu’s which are still running have now tripled their prices, much to the outrage of commuters and government protest. In addition, the fixtures that the Matatu’s are required to have by government decree are not available for Matatu owners to purchase – the governments poor planning playing a role.
We left Dar es Salaam for Zanzibar where we enjoyed a week’s break from driving. Once the Zanzibar ferry arrived in the Dar es Salaam harbour, the officer in charge, without a glint of humour, ordered the people queuing for the ferry to divide into ‘the mama’s and the papa’s. The people wearily obliged, and women filed onto the ferry and were followed by the men. Well, they all learnt from the best – it was a German colony. Once in Zanzibar I was almost refused entry because I did not have a Tanzanian entry stamp in my passport, but eventually I was granted leave to remain.
Two things were immediately apparent upon arrival in Stone Town a). As it was not a German Colony it is devoid of German architecture and b). We were back to the Muslim dress code, squat toilets and poorer hygiene. One impressive difference is the dress code of the women. Just as their counterparts in the Middle East, they wear black, and either a headscarf or the full veil. But, their black robes are swishy, sheer and light and cover more colourful garments underneath which appear through the folds of the black gown every now and again when they walk. Robes and dresses end above the ankle, and shiny high heeled shoes are worn. Toe nails and fingernails are brightly painted, and intricate henna patterns decorate feet, ankles and hands, in either black or red shades. Make-up is worn, and the black robes are edged in sequence. On the young girls the effect is positively glamorous! And certainly far more daring than anything their counterparts in the Middle East would allow.
Stone Town is full of interesting architecture and interesting history. As the center of slavery it has a darker past, often reflected in the Zanzibari Wooden Doors, which are edged in carvings of chains symbolizing the slave trade. Architecture is predominantly Arabic and English. We enjoyed sundowners each evening in the famous Africa House, over looking the sea. We did meet an elderly Dutch tourist though who had lived in Stone Town as a young man. He was horrified to see that Africa House had turned into a tourist booze zone. In his day it was the English Club and only jackets and ties were allowed. It was here that we witnessed Tunisia winning the African Nations Cup, much to the bitter disappointment of the Zanzibarian’s who were all supporting Nigeria. Further along the beach front are the famous Forodhani Gardens, where fresh seafood is grilled by Zanzibarian’s every night until midnight. You will find everything there – lobster, crayfish, periwinkles, prawns, fish of all types, crabs, meat, vegetables and sweet banana’s all served with either chilli or coconut sauces. Very tasty and very cheap!
Whilst in Stone Town we hired a motorbike and drove south to the Jozani Forest Reserve. Here we explored the Red Mahogany Forest which is on a coral floor as Zanzibar was once covered in water. We also walked along the mangrove swamp boardwalk and planted a baby mangrove, and we saw the red colobus monkey which is endemic to Zanzibar. We also joined a Spice Tour which was great fun! Not only is it interesting to see what the spices look like before they reach a spice bottle, we were also able to try them and various exotic fruits, eat a typical Zanzibari meal (coconut sauce is imperative) and snorkel along some beautiful and deserted beaches. Interestingly enough, cloves still comprise the government’s largest source of income in Zanzibar.
From Stone Town we left for Nungwe on the North Coast of Zanzibar. Christian was here 5 years earlier and described it as a deserted beach retreat. The beach now is crowded with ugly concrete hotels, built virtually on top of one another, enormous, airy restaurants and is a package tourist paradise of the worst cheap and nasty variety. Wherever you go, you are surrounded by hoards of Swedes, Italians, German’s, Brits and Ozzies, wearing the correctly coloured armband doled out by their respective hotels. The development is all foreign and has neither involved the local community, nor does it support the local community. So, you see nothing of the local community, unless they happen to be your waiter. This creates the impression of a reserve – us in and them out. The food is not local as it caters for the average packager, so you are up for bland fare. And then there was also that touch of the commonwealth yob factor: ‘Where’s the fuckin’ chicken Ronald Macdonald? There’s just fuckin’ lobster, lobster, lobster on this fuckin’ menu! Taxi! Christ, I’m so fuckin’ drunk…’ This in the Fat Fish restaurant – Canadian owned and decorated with Canadian flags, and smaller flags of the world, hanging from the ceiling). The beaches are beautiful, but the rest is to be avoided. Sadly, tourists will realize this too, and having trashed the place will cease to come. And the local community will grow even more desperate. To make matters worse, Malaria again dealt me a fell blow and kept me in bed for days on heavy medication and under medical attention. The only plus being I could avoid the goings on outside.
Once back in Dar es Salaam, we set about trying to obtain visa’s for Angola, and were told that we could only obtain these in Germany and Ireland (Irish passport) respectively. Only East African residents can obtain Angolan visas in East Africa. We left Dar es Salaam for the Zambian border and passed through the Mikumi National Park. This was a super drive and we saw many elephant, giraffe, wilderbeest and baboon. We stayed on the edge of the park next to a snake park with a fascinating and very aggressive variety of snakes. The park also had resident crocs; the only thing between them and us and our sundowners was a low wall. Our last night was spent in Mbeya, which is a pretty little town, typical of those we saw in Tanzania. All are brightly coloured with many little shops and stalls displaying beautifully and imaginatively arranged produce and goods. The women wear Kanga’s, which are brightly coloured clothes edged with a Swahili Motif, the men are tall and proud. We stopped for a delightful roadside lunch and were served skewers of meat on bicycle spokes, and chips. It was the best food we had in Dar es Salaam. Otherwise pickings are slim and limited to South African chains such as Steers and Debonairs. We left Tanzania at the Tunduma border where the official didn’t bother to look at my entry stamp for Tanzania and promptly stamped me out of the country! Those pictures we have not sent with this mail will be posted on our website: crossingafrica.de. There are some good ones there!
We hope you are all well and will be in touch again soon!
Julianne and Christian.