4th March 2013 – Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
We have just had three nights in Stone Town on Zanzibar island, we have been revelling in not having to cook and having a bathroom that doesn’t involve an outdoor dash, its been a little “holiday” from travelling and staying in Landy.
To give an idea of what its like here I thought I would just describe our last 6 hours, just the time it took for us to travel from our hotel on Zanzibar back to Landy, that was left on the beach (at a campsite!) in Dar.
After our few days in Stone Town we were pretty confident we could navigate haphazardly through the maze of alleys and narrow roads in-between the old buildings to the ferry. We set off slowly, knowing we would soon be sweating buckets in the humidity, passing between black stained white-washed walls, old and new heavily carved wooden doors with large pointed brass studs on them, hugging the houses avoiding cars and mopeds chugging down the very narrow lanes. We took one of the alleys off the ‘main’ road, the houses and shops crowding in on each side, just a narrow slice of sky trickling in between the overhanging roofs and balconies, I’m sure people could pass stuff from window to window across the road if they wanted to. On our way we had a couple of jobs to do so we headed for a sandwich shop we had eaten at before to grab something for the ferry trip, while we were inside the heavens opened, rain drumming the pavement outside and pouring from the roofs high above as if lots of mini waterfalls were gushing into a narrow gorge. The alley was soon transformed into a river, with rapids and whirlpools at every corner, people fleeing as soaked cyclists splashed through the torrents. We gulped and looked at each other hoping it would clear up soon, and thinking of all the muck and swill being washed along in front of us. The rain eased a little and we decided to make a dash to our next stop, the old arabic fort on the way to the ferry where we had seen a carved picture frame that we wanted to pick up to remind us of a fab few days exploring the alleys, shops and food here. We picked up the frame and headed on through the spitting rain towards the ferry terminal trying to avoid the more putrid smelling puddles.
We made it to the ferry with only a bit of splatter from the passing cars, and settled down in the waiting area for the ferry to arrive. We tried to keep cool, not sure if we were wet from the rain or our sweat, and enjoyed watching the mix of people milling around, the colours of Africa mingling naturally with black head scarfs and henna’d hands and feet, all waiting patiently. We were impressed with the valiant attempts of a single ferry worker trying to stop everyone clamouring onto the wharf at once, queuing or waiting for your turn here is not natural, he did very well but he has his work cut out for the next couple of hundred years before it catches on! We found a couple of seats on the ferry (a really nice, pretty new one) and were suddenly in another surreal world, who knew that there are hundreds of people ploughing back and forth across the sea in Tanzania watching screens on a ferry showing Mr Bean goofing around Paris, quite a change wandering through flooded streets then sitting in a comfy seat with Mr Bean teaching Tanzanians about these crazy muzungus.
We glided into Dar Es Salaam, and it was on, everyone piling out in a big rush for the doors, it suddenly clicked, this is exactly how people drive around here, if there was the slightest gap in front of me then the people behind wanted to get around and into it , and it didnt matter how they did it, the small women seemed to be the worst, head down and into the gap! We got off the boat and through the scrum of taxi men and people selling things and headed on our way. We knew from our trip to Zanzibar we needed to walk along the water to catch our small ferry crossing across the river to south Dar. We weren’t hassled and didn’t feel uncomfortable as we weaved our way through the throng of people walking home after work, avoiding cars mounting the kerb to get into that vital position in front of someone else. The rain came down in lashings again just as we got our tickets and waded through to the waiting shed for our little ferry crossing, the shed filled and filled and the ferry arrived disgorging a line of cars while the foot passengers refused to get off until the rain subsided a bit. The gates were flung open on the shed and we all ran down the slipway to the boat, wanting to get out of the rain. The breeze was lovely as we crossed, and we spotted a dalla dalla (tuk tuk) taxi who was crossing, I went over to see if he could take us onto our campsite on the other side, and we jumped in ready to roll when the ferry docked. A short putput around cars and parting a human sea of passengers saw us heading back to Landy, enjoying the wind as we flew along and bumped our way back.
Zanzibar and Dar are so colourful and vibrant, we had such a good holiday away, but its great to be ‘home’ again in Landy and tomorrow will be another day on our trip once more.