tanzania-1

Eat. Pay. Love

Tanzania 31/05 – 03/06/2012

Save your money. Tanzania wants your blood, sweat and tears. It wants you cash-drained and on the next plane to wherever you came from. This vast country boasts stellar safari destinations, a tropical archipelago with some of the best diving on the planet and the highest peak in Africa. We craned our imagination at Ngorongoro, explored Serengeti behind eyelids wide shut and climbed Kilimajaro in our dreams. But to enjoy all that, and afford to travel around the world, you’d better own the Internet. Now, we decided we would not be bitter about that, ‘cause you know, best things in life are free. The plan was to ride some dirt, see some lake, sail some sea and have a ball while not thinking about the fact that we had arrived at the peak of wildebeest migration across the Serengeti. We exited Mozambique and crossed into Tanzania the same way we had entered, o a bridge. This time, a proper one.

And encountered another cutie. I think we’ll start a Chameleon Hall Of Fame

Arriving at African borders with the visa regulations for your particular nationality well researched: always a good idea. This officers were super friendly, but their border documents stated that we needed to purchase a visa. It helped a lot that I was sure we didn’t, so even if it took 2 hours, we sorted out our documents money free. And there was even wifi on the premises!

Straight off the bat, we knew we had hit a foodie jackpot with new country. While in Mozambique the options were minimal, in Tanzania on the other hand, good time appeared to be all about food: selecting it, frying it, eating it, even paying for it. Swahili time meant the day had just begun, so there was indian spiced tea (chai) with milk and chapati for breakfast in this local joint.

Plus our first taste of a national favorite that was to become an unavoidable, but filling staple for us. Ana hates chips, but for the next 20 days she would learn to enjoy them as Tanzanians do: chipsi mayai (omlette with chips inside). We had a feeling we would not make much use of our stove here, with all the cheap street-side bonanza.

Spicy pilau, mishkaki (kebab), sweet potato, fried cassava…

Octopus, squid, curried potato dumplings…

And passion fruit sold in 10 liter paint buckets for less than 2 euros (to briefly mention what is on offer in markets and with hawkers)

After sleeping in a field, next day we drove to Dar Es Salaam.

 

As we found the campsites in Kitumbue to be noisy and pricey, and the city, well, a city, we camped 70 km north, in Bagamoyo.

bagamoyo-tanzania

This was the place where all those 19th Century pioneers – Stanley, Grant, Burton, Speke – set off to explore the interior of the continent. For David Livingstone, it would be the start of his African journey and the last stop in life: he returned there only dead, his body carried 1500 miles by his porters from Lake Bangweulu in Zambia. Already famous for centuries, the town had been known as ‘Bwagamoyo’ (‘crush the heart’), the place where thousands of slaves who had marched eastwards out of Central Africa awaited to be shipped to nearby Zanzibar, and then towards their final destination somewhere in the Gulf, across the Arabian Sea. To preserve what remains of the former German administrative centre isn’t a priority at all: most crumbling coral-brick buildings are used to dump rubbish or to empty ones bowels. Even if the architecture and details are just as interesting as in the famous Stone Town of Zanzibar island.

At night we went out for a beer

Some days one just got to live and maybe venture out of their league. Zanzibar, we knew too well, was not a destination for budget travelers. But we wanted to go there anyway, at least to meet the family of our Zanzibari friend from Lubumbashi. We needed a plan. Air travel was out of the question, so sea travel it was. In september 2011, a ferry carrying 800 passengers from Uguja (the main island in the Zanzibar archipelago) to Pemba capsized, and over 200 people died. And dhows had long been forbidden to take foreigners on board. That ought to give anybody considering a sea voyage across the Zanzibar channel some food for thought. Then we met Daudi, captain on a traditional Omani dhow, who, for 15,000 shillings (7,5 Euro, but already three times the price a local would pay) would take us to the archipelago (call him at +255713334674 to arrange your journey, minimal swahili recommended). Later we would be appalled to learn that a ferry ticket would have costed US 35 for one way. Was our decision to take a wind-powered, medieval style wooden dhow potentially dangerous?

In some respects, it was: there were no life jackets on board, we didn’t know the captain, all we could do to was leave our Romanian mobile no. with the campsite where we had parked the motorbike. Taking our Tenere across would have been possible, but we wanted to avoid any customs entanglement in the semiautonomous Zanzibar. We figured Chams’ folks would fetch us a donkey or something to ride about. While the tide was still low, we carried our stuff (including our tent) onboard. Camping is supposedly illegal on Zanzibar, but this is in Africa, nobody cares. On the beach men actioned the catch of the day and women cooked it.

The tanzanian version of chai-wallas sold bite-size groundnut cookies with black coffee at 50 shillings a pop. We thought about how even the poorest of the poor can, and does afford to enjoy a sweet moment.

For Daudi, this trip was all about cargo. Besides the jovial 4 men crew and the two of us, there was just one more passenger squeezed on top of tomatoes, bell peppers and mattresses. We watched Daudi steering the age-old vessel. The unfurling of the sail gave us a full body buzz of excitement – we knew were embarking on one of those journeys one doesn’t easily forget.

Over 30 years ago my mum was determined have her New Year’s bash. She was about to pop her second child, but she made it through another 3 days of fun and dance, eventually giving birth on the steps of the maternity, basically on the backseat of my grandfather’s Ford Taunus. Being born in a vehicle sealed my faith. I spent my childhood near motorized machines, creeping around my grandfather (who was a mechanic), begging to be allowed to temper with the tools and steal some secrets of the trade. Rocking it on the sea though, was a whole other ball game. Halfway through, if we squinted really hard, we could see both the mainland and Zanzibar. That’s about when I became so seasick, that I was ‘come on, stomach, don’t fail me now’. Nothing left to do but lay on top of those tomatoes and try to snooze.

4 hours later we arrived in the harbor near Stone Town, where Nassur picked us up. We would stay at his sisters’s place, Neyfuu. We were lucky again to spend time with local people and this time our karma had brought us to another happy home, filled with Zanzibari beauties and kids.